Stanley Knowles Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Knowles

Stanley Knowles
Stanley Knowles.jpg
Knowles in the 1940s
2nd Chancellor of Brandon University
In office
PresidentAndrew L. Dulmage
Harold J. Perkins
E. J. "Curly" Tyler
John Mallea
Preceded byMaitland Steinkopf
Succeeded byRonald D. Bell
New Democratic Party House Leader
In office
LeaderTommy Douglas
David Lewis
Ed Broadbent
Succeeded byIan Deans
New Democratic Party Whip
In office
LeaderTommy Douglas
David Lewis
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Whip
In office
LeaderM. J. Coldwell
Hazen Argue
Preceded byTommy Douglas
Succeeded byTommy Douglas
Member of Parliament
for Winnipeg North Centre
In office
June 18, 1962 – September 3, 1984
Preceded byJohn MacLean
Succeeded byCyril Keeper
In office
November 30, 1942 – March 30, 1958
Preceded byJ. S. Woodsworth
Succeeded byJohn MacLean
Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress
In office
Serving with William Dodge
PresidentClaude Jodoin
Preceded byGordon G. Cushing
Succeeded byJoe Morris
Member of the Winnipeg City Council
In office
Personal details
Stanley Howard Knowles

(1908-06-18)June 18, 1908
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJune 9, 1997(1997-06-09) (aged 88)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Political partyNew Democratic Party (1961–1997)
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (1935–1961)
Alma materBrandon College
United College
University of Manitoba

Stanley Howard Knowles PC OC (June 18, 1908 – June 9, 1997) was a Canadian parliamentarian. Knowles represented the riding of Winnipeg North Centre from 1942 to 1958 on behalf of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and again from 1962 to 1984 representing the CCF's successor, the New Democratic Party (NDP).[1]

Knowles was widely regarded and respected as the foremost expert on parliamentary procedure in Canada, and served as the CCF and NDP House Leader for decades. He was also a leading advocate of social justice,[1] and was largely responsible for persuading the governments to increase Old Age Security benefits and for the introduction of the Canada Pension Plan,[1] as well as other features of the welfare state.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Los Angeles, California, Knowles was the third child of Margaret (née Murdock) and Stanley Ernest Knowles of Canada.[2] His father was a machinist from Nova Scotia and his mother was the daughter of a domestic servant from New Brunswick.[3] The couple married in Nova Scotia and emigrated to the United States in 1904, four years before Stanley's birth.[2] He visited relatives on the Canadian Prairie when he was 16 and decided to stay and enrolled at Brandon College in 1927. Knowles was brought up as a fundamentalist Methodist but was won over to the social gospel movement, and became a United Church minister after meeting J. S. Woodsworth at the annual conference of the Student Christian Movement of Canada, a fledgling ecumenical social justice movement founded in 1921. Knowles was ordained in 1933 after graduating from theological college.

Political career[edit]

He joined the CCF in 1934, during the Great Depression, and ran unsuccessfully for election to the House of Commons of Canada in the 1935 and 1940 federal elections and for the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in the 1941 provincial election. He was first elected to the House of Commons in a 1942 by-election in Winnipeg North Centre that was held on the death of former CCF leader J. S. Woodsworth. He became an expert on parliamentary procedure, and used his skills to humiliate the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent during the 1956 Pipeline Debate.[4] This helped contribute to the government's electoral defeat in the 1957 election.

Progressive Conservative Party leader John Diefenbaker was so impressed by Knowles's skill that when he became prime minister as a result of that election, he asked Knowles to become Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada. Knowles declined. On April 3, 1957, Knowles noted that the reason only 37 of the 259 members of the House of Commons were present at the Chamber's night session was because those not present had accompanied their daughters to a controversial concert by US singer Elvis Presley, which resulted in a non quorum situation, an odd occurrence which was never again to be repeated in Canadian history. The year after, in 1958, Knowles was narrowly defeated by John MacLean, his Tory challenger in 1957, in an election that almost wiped out the CCF. His defeat in that election has been attributed both to the landslide victory won by Diefenbaker's Tories, and to the fact that Knowles spent much of the campaign travelling across Canada as a surrogate for ailing leader M.J. Coldwell rather than campaigning in his own riding.[5] He subsequently went to work for the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) as its executive vice-president, and worked with David Lewis to devise a strategy to create a new party that would bring the old CCF together with the labour movement by partnering the party with the CLC. This new party was launched as the New Democratic Party in 1961.[4] Knowles ran as the new party's candidate for his old seat in the 1962 election, and won. He played a crucial role through minority governments of the 1960s and 1970s using the NDP's position holding the balance of power to persuade successive Liberal governments to introduce progressive measures.

Knowles was also known for his refusal to partake in many of the financial perks and entitlements available to a Member of Parliament. For the entirety of his career in politics, he boarded with the family of Susan Mann when in Ottawa rather than purchasing a residence of his own.[1] Mann herself later published a biography of Knowles, Stanley Knowles: The Man from Winnipeg North Centre, in 1982.[5]

In 1979, he became a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada on the advice of Prime Minister Joe Clark.


Knowles battled multiple sclerosis from 1946, but it was his 1981 stroke that ultimately removed him from public life. He retired from politics in 1984, but was given the unprecedented distinction of being made an honorary table officer of the House of Commons by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.[1] This allowed him to spend his retirement viewing parliamentary debates from the floor of the House, and he was often seen to do so until further strokes left him bedridden.

In 1984, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[4] From 1970 to 1990, he was the chancellor of Brandon University, and today has the school's student union building named after himself and Tommy Douglas. He also has an elementary / junior high school in northwest Winnipeg named after him. He died in 1997.[4]

Electoral history[edit]

1935 Canadian federal election: Winnipeg South Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Ralph Maybank 11,264 36.4 -7.6
Conservative William Walker Kennedy 9,382 30.3 -25.7
Co-operative Commonwealth Stanley Knowles 6,573 21.2
Reconstruction Alfred James Susans 2,642 8.5
Social Credit Arthur Brown 1,114 3.6
Total valid votes 30,975 100.0


  • Knowles, Stanley (1957). "Some Thoughts on Parliamentary Procedure". Queen's Quarterly. Kingston. 63 (4): 525–527. ISSN 0033-6041.
  • — (1959). "Business, Labour and Politics". In Greenslade, John Gareth (ed.). Canadian Politics: Speeches by F. M. Watkins, Stanley Knowles, J. R. Mallory and H. D. Hicks. Mount Allison University Publication. Vol. 4. Sackville | Mount Allison University Summer Institute conference: Mount Allison University.
  • — (1961). The New Party. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. OCLC 2187463.
  • — (1965). How Parliament Works. Education Conference of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Niagara Falls, Ontario, February 13, 1965.


There is a Stanley Knowles fonds at Library and Archives Canada.[6] Archival reference number is R6931.


  1. ^ a b c d e Corbett, Ron (26 May 2013). "Stanley Knowles: The late, great anti-Mike Duffy". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b Stebner, Eleanor J. (1998). "The Education of Stanley Howard Knowles". Manitoba History. Winnipeg: Manitoba Historical Society (36): 43. ISSN 0226-5036. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  3. ^ Frank, David (May 2013). Provincial Solidarities: A History of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. Athabasca University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-927356-23-4.
  4. ^ a b c d Mann Trofimenkoff, Susan (16 December 2013) [First published 2008]. "Stanley Knowles". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b Mann Trofimenkoff, Susan (1986). Stanley Knowles: The Man from Winnipeg North Centre. Formac Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-88780-144-0.
  6. ^ "Finding aid to Stanley Knowles fonds, Library and Archives Canada" (PDF). Retrieved 27 May 2020.

External links[edit]

Quotations related to Stanley Knowles at Wikiquote

Parliament of Canada
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Winnipeg North Centre

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Winnipeg North Centre

Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of Brandon University
Succeeded by