Walter Pitman

Walter George Pitman OC OOnt (May 18, 1929 – June 12, 2018) was an educator and politician in Ontario, Canada.

Walter Pitman

Ontario MPP
In office
Preceded byKeith Brown
Succeeded byJohn Turner
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Peterborough
In office
Preceded byGordon Fraser
Succeeded byFred Stenson
Personal details
Born(1929-05-18)May 18, 1929
Toronto, Ontario
DiedJune 12, 2018(2018-06-12) (aged 89)
Political partyNew Democrat
Alma materUniversity of Toronto


Born in Toronto, Ontario, he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1952 and a Master of Arts in 1954 from the University of Toronto. He died in 2018 at the age of 89.[1][2]


His victory in a federal by-election held in Peterborough, Ontario on October 31, 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 in the process of creating, with the Canadian Labour Congress, a new 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 nearly 3,000 votes.[3] Pitman not only won a seat in the House of Commons of Canada but his electoral performance dwarfed the 1,800 votes the CCF had received in the riding in the 1957 and 1958 elections.[4][5]

Pitman's victory energized the New Party movement, and, in 1961, the CCF and CLC formed a new political entity, the New Democratic Party.

Despite Pitman's new found political celebrity he narrowly lost his seat in the 1962 election by 564 votes.[6] He was defeated again in the 1963 election by 804 votes.[7]

In the 1967 Ontario provincial election, Pitman won the Peterborough seat for the Ontario New Democratic Party.[8] 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.[9]

Later life

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. Robert Gardner wrote of Pitman's leadership years at Ryerson University, "He was universally admired by his colleagues. His approach to education and administration was humane, inclusive, and generous. Many of us who worked closely with him attempted to emulate his remarkable example. That was his most enduring legacy."

Pitman is also a former president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

In 1992, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was also awarded the Order of Ontario.


  • Louis Applebaum: A Passion for Culture. Dundurn Press. 2002. ISBN 978-1-55002-398-5.
  • Music Makers: The Lives of Harry Freedman & Mary Morrison. Dundurn Press. 2006. ISBN 978-1-55002-589-7.
  • Elmer Iseler: Choral Visionary. Dundurn Press. 2008. ISBN 978-1-55002-815-7.
  • Victor Feldbrill: Canadian Conductor Extraordinaire. Dundurn Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-55488-768-2.


  3. "Liberals Retain Niagara, Capture Labette: New Party Wins One Riding...". The Globe and Mail. November 1, 1960. p. 1.
  4. "Latest coast-to-coast results in Monday's Federal election". The Windsor Star. June 11, 1957. pp. 10–11. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  5. "Detailed ruslts show breadth of Tory sweep". The Ottawa Citizen. April 1, 1958. pp. 24–25. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  6. "How Canada voted". The Windsor Star. June 19, 1962. pp. 17, 20. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  7. Canadian Press (April 9, 1963). "Tories wiped out in Toronto, still win 28 Ontario seats;Grits, 51; N.D.P. 6". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 28. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
  8. Canadian Press (October 18, 1967). "Tories win, but..." The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. B2.
  9. "Riding-by-riding returns in provincial election". The Globe and Mail. October 23, 1971. p. 10.