Learn more about Walter Pitman
His victory in a federal by-election held in Peterborough, Ontario in 1960 as a candidate for the New Party was a significant catalyst in the movement to refound the social democratic Cooperative Commonwealth Federation as the "New Democratic Party" (NDP).
Pitman was a high school teacher when he was nominated by Peterborough's New Party Club to be their candidate in a 1960 by-election. The by-election was called at a time when the CCF, which had been almost wiped out in the 1958 federal election, was embroiled in a debate about merging with the Canadian Labour Congress in order to create a new, labour based, social democratic] political party. The call for a yet unnamed "new party" led to the creation of New Party Clubs across the country. The by-election in Peterborough became a test for the arguments of New Party advocates that a political party with the support of organized labour would lead to breakthroughs for the left in Canada.
The CCF had never won election in Peterborough. As a New Party candidate, however, Pitman won over 13,000 votes, beating his nearest opponent by more than 3,000 votes. Pitman not only won a seat in the Canadian House of Commons but his electoral performance dwarfed the 1,800 votes the CCF had received in the riding in the 1957 and 1958 elections.
Pitman's victory energized the New Party movement, and, in 1961, the CCF and CLC formed a new political entity, the New Democratic Party.
In the 1967 Ontario provincial election, Pitman won the Peterborough seat for the Ontario New Democratic Party. As a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Pitman unsuccessfully ran to replace Donald C. MacDonald as leader of the provincial NDP. He came in second to Stephen Lewis at the 1970 Ontario NDP leadership convention. He lost his seat in the 1971 provincial election.
Following his electoral defeat, Pitman returned to education as director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and later president of Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto. Between his federal and provincial political careers, he was dean of arts and science at Trent University.
Pitman is also a former president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.