Bill Blaikie was one of Parliament’s “God squad”
Bill Blaikie, a strong voice for peace in Canada’s Parliament, passed away in Winnipeg this week at the age of 71 after a long struggle with cancer. Bill was an MP from 1979 to 2008, representing Elmwood—Transcona and its antecedents, while holding many key positions with the New Democratic Party. I knew him personally and celebrate the important contribution he made to Canada.
After an unsuccessful bid for party leadership which was won by Jack Layton in 2003, Bill was appointed Deputy Leader, and served as the NDP’s Defence Critic in the confusing aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and President George W. Bush’s push for missile defence and the invasion Iraq.
In the citizen-based campaign to oppose Canada’s joining the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defence program, Bill played a key role as an allied politician to the peace movement, alongside NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Alexa McDonough from Halifax and Jack Layton himself as Party Leader. Bill’s important role is described in my book on the campaign, Missile Defence: Round One, published in 2006.
There have been several moving tributes to Bill Blaikie’s contribution, including Karl Nerenberg’s article rabble.ca. Karl writes:
“Bill Blaikie was a leading figure in a distinctively Canadian brand of progressive politics, one which is inspired by a humanistic version of Christianity.
“Like the NDP’s first leader Tommy Douglas, and other leading NDP MPs of an earlier era, such as Fathers Bob Ogle and Andy Hogan, Dan Heap, Jim Manly and Stanley Knowles, Blaikie was part of what he called ‘the god squad’.
“The members of the squad had been all persons of the cloth – some Protestant, some Roman Catholic – before getting into politics.
“Blaikie was a United Church minister. He, like the others, was inspired by a doctrine called the social gospel, which Blaikie defined this way:
‘Social gospellers shared a profound belief that the ideology of competition is a lie about the nature of a truly human society. They rejected the profit motive as a sanctification of vice and a recipe for exploitation. They rejected the concentration of incredible economic powers in the hands of a commercial corporate minority, and the challenge to our democratic self-image and to individual freedom that it posed. They shared a belief in the value of economic co-operation as the true expression of our life together … They were realists about the need for … restraints on human selfishness.’-Bill Blaikie
“Today we are more used to seeing demagogues of the right – who would deprive a woman of the right to choose, deny a poor person the right to a dignified standard of living, and ban books that tell the true story of slavery – don the cloak of Christian orthodoxy.
“Blaikie represented the progressive branch of the Christian tradition – although in progressive political circles these days, in 2022, one does not hear much about the social gospel. It almost seems like a quaint vestige of an earlier era.
“But there was nothing quaint or anachronistic about Bill Blaikie, as his long and successful career attests.”
- Read “Bill Blaikie, dead at 71, wielded lasting influence as an opposition politician,” by Karl Nerenberg published on September 26, 2022 by rabble.ca
1 reply added
I appreciate this tribute to Bill Blaikie. When I ran in a federal election, I was delighted that he was able to speak to my supporters. I too am a retired United Church Minister, (ordained 1985) and I very much agree with Bill’s description of the values of Social Gospellers. However, I disagree with Karl’s inference that the Social Gospel is anachronistic. For progressive Christians today, these principles are encompassed by the work for social, economic, and environmental justice; human rights for all including women, LGBQT+ gender-diversity, wherever one may live.; anti-racism and most certainly the pursuit of peace and a culture of peace; and care for the entire Creation. acknowledging that human beings are not the pinnacle of Creation but rather deeply dependent upon every aspect of Nature which should not be seen as merely a resource for us to destroy as we please. Bill’s words ‘Social gospellers shared a profound belief that the ideology of competition is a lie about the nature of a truly human society. They rejected the profit motive as a sanctification of vice and a recipe for exploitation. They rejected the concentration of incredible economic powers in the hands of a commercial corporate minority, and the challenge to our democratic self-image and to individual freedom that it posed. They shared a belief in the value of economic co-operation as the true expression of our life together … They were realists about the need for … restraints on human selfishness.’ resonate strongly with me and with those with whom I interact and advocate, while also joining with others of like beliefs whether Christian or not. The words may be different, but the beliefs and principles are the same.
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