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Memorable Manitobans: Seymour James Farmer (1878-1951)

Click to enlargeAccountant, Mayor of Winnipeg (1923-1924), MLA (1923-1927), MLA (1927-1932), MLA (1933-1936), MLA (1937-1940), MLA (1941-1945), MLA (1946-1949).

Born at Cardiff, Wales on 20 June 1878, son of Seymour Farmer and Bessie Alexander Sander, he was educated at Cardiff. He came to Canada in 1900. Married Lydia Gwendoline Ashton, with whom he had two daughters and four sons.

He was employed at the Winnipeg Grain Exchange from 1913 to 1927, clerking at the International Elevator Corporation in 1919. He supported direct legislation, a single tax, and was an ardent pacifist. Farmer was active in the founding of the Labour Church in 1918, and was chairman of the Dominion Labor Party in Manitoba that same year. In 1917, he ran unsuccessfully for election to the House of Commons against G. W. Allan.

Farmer was one of the founders of the Independent Labor Party in 1921, and was elected Mayor of Winnipeg (1922-23) and later a member of the Winnipeg City Council. He was subsequently a CCF MLA and was leader of the Manitoba CCF from 1935 to 1949. He was minister of labour in the coalition government of the Second World War, resigning in 1942 when John Bracken became national leader of the Conservative Party. Farmer won six elections as an ILP and CCF candidate, the last in 1945.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 683 Fisher Avenue, on 16 January 1951 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.


Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

“Ex-CCF leader dies”, Winnipeg Tribune, 16 January 1951. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B10]

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 17 January 1951, page 23.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 4 July 2011

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