Nelson Clarke was one of the main founders of the FMTA. Born in Regina in 1914, he was the youngest person elected to City Council in Saskatoon.
He attended the University of Saskatchewan, where he edited the university newspaper, The Sheaf and worked for the CNR. He became a high-profile member and organizer for the Canadian Communist Party. After the party was banned during the Second World War, it ran candidates under the name Labour Progressive Party (LPP). Nelson ran as an LPP candidate in the Saskatoon City riding in the 1944 provincial election and was the leader of the LPP in Saskatchewan from 1946-1957. In 1950, he booked fifteen minutes of radio airtime to make a speech, but CFQC radio cancelled his booking, on the grounds that it was allegedly critical of Canada’s involvement in the Korean War and called for support for the controversial Stockholm Peace Petition.
In 1953, he ran unsuccessfully in the federal riding of Moose Jaw-Lake Centre. He moved to Toronto around 1957 at the behest of the Communist Party, where he both he and his wife, Phyllis, were party organizers. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor there in 1972. He also edited the Canadian Tribune, the party’s weekly newspaper. In his later years, Clarke became an advocate of tenant’s rights in Toronto.
In the year of his passing, the NDP moved a private rental bill to extend rent control to buildings built after 1976. Speaking at Queen's Park, NDP MPP Philip said the following:
"Yesterday I attended the funeral of a man I have disagreed with politically. I did not agree with his choice of political party, but very few people I have met have done as much for tenants in this city. Nelson Clarke was a man who devoted a large amount of his energies to working for those people. It was tragic that he passed away on the weekend.
I found some of the eulogies a little -- what shall I say? -- to the left of the political philosophy I might adopt, but none the less he was a man who had devoted his time and energy to try to educate all of us. Maybe his work on behalf of tenants might be well served -- and I cannot help but think he would appreciate it -- if at least one of the bills which he approved of and which he urged on this government were passed in this House. That would be a memorial to a man who I think was misguided politically but who was certainly very sensitive, very intelligent and very perceptive about what was needed on behalf of tenants. Perhaps better than any eulogy, the passage of this bill would be a tribute to Nelson Clarke."
Currently any housing built after 1991 is exempt from rent control.