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Voices of Activism — James “Jimmie” Simpson
•  Posted on  August 29, 2023  

Voices of Activism - Jimmie Simpson

Toronto’s First Socialist Mayor

Portrait of Jimmie Simpson, 1935James Simpson (1873-1938) was born in Lancashire, England but immigrated to Canada in his teens. Simpson knew a lot about hard work. As a child, he sold newspapers at the age of 10 and worked for a grocer when he was 13!

Simpson was a strong union activist. After joining the Typographical Union strike against the Toronto News in 1892, he and the strikers went on to found the Evening Star as a strike paper. His ambitions led to a leadership role as vice-president of the Toronto and District Trades and Labour Council at the turn of the century.

In the 1930s, he ran for the mayoralty of Toronto as a member of the Ontario Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (now the NDP). It was a democratic socialist political party and was accused of being under Communist influence. But his personal popularity and support from the trade union movement made Toronto the largest city in North America to have elected a socialist mayor. That summer, Simpson boycotted the 1936 Summer Olympics being held in Nazi Germany. 

Get involved

  • Visit Jimmie Simpson Park and Recreational Centre in Leslieville. 
  • Become a steward! Contact your local executive to find out more.
  • Sign up for your union membership card if you don’t already have it — it shows you’re a member in good standing and you can vote!
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