United Farmers of Ontario

From Academic Kids

The United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) were the Ontario section of the nation-wide United Farmers movement that arose in Canada in the early part of the 20th century. The UFO was founded in 1914 by the merger of various farmers' organizations that had arisen in the previous fifteen years. The UFO entered politics by contesting the 1919 provincial election. The UFO shocked everyone, including itself, by becoming the largest party in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, with 45 seats, despite the fact that the party had no leader.

The UFO joined with one Independent and eleven Independent Labour Party Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to form a coalition government from 1919-1923 with Ernest C. Drury as Premier.

The Drury government lost the election of 1923, which returned 17 UFO members to the legislature, and 4 Labour, compared to 75 Conservatives. Drury lost his own seat, and the United Farmers were in disarray. Eighteen months following the general election, William Raney became leader of what was now referred to as the Progressive bloc of MLAs.

The 1926 election was a further setback for the group: only 13 Progressive MLAs were re-elected, along with 3 UFO MLAs and a sole Labour member. In December 1926, the UFO convention voted to formally cease running its own candidates, although some local UFO clubs continued to do so for some years. However, the UFO considered the Progressives as their party and, for all intents and purposes, the UFO and the Progessive Party were the same organization in Ontario.

Raney resigned from the legislature the next year, and in the 1929 election, only 5 Progressives, 1 Labour and 1 UFO MLA won re-election. Former UFO cabinet minster Harry Nixon emerged as their leader. Nixon and the Progressives agreed to an alliance with Mitchell Hepburn and his Liberals. A group of 4 Liberal-Progressive MLAs was elected in the 1934 election. They joined Hepburn to form a government.

In 1940, Farquhar Oliver, the last remaining UFO member of the legislature and a supporter of the Hepburn government since 1934, joined the Hepburn cabinet and formally became a Liberal.

Leading UFO member Agnes Macphail, (a Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons originally elected with the Progressive Party), encouraged the United Farmers of Ontario to affiliate with Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) when it was formed in 1932. It did so, but the UFO disaffiliated from the CCF in 1934, and, like United Farmers groups in the provinces of western Canada, decided to withdraw entirely from electoral politics to become a lobby group.

In 1944, the UFO joined with other farm groups to form the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Many United Farmers, however, joined the CCF as individuals, including MacPhail who became the first President of the Ontario CCF in 1932. She won election to the Ontario legislature as a CCF Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP)1 in the 1943 election.

1 In 1938, Members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly (MLAs) passed a motion to adopt the title "Members of Provincial Parliament" (MPP).

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