Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
New Democratic Party of Manitoba
|Current Leader:||Gary Doer|
|Headquarters:||803 - 294 Portage Avenue, |
|Political Ideology:||Democratic Socialism|
|Federal Affiliation:||New Democratic Party|
The New Democratic Party of Manitoba is a social democratic political party in Manitoba, Canada. It is the provincial wing of the New Democratic Party of Canada, and is a successor to the Manitoba Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. It is currently the governing party in Manitoba.
In the federal election of 1958, the national Cooperative Commonwealth Federation was reduced to only eight seats in the Canadian House of Commons. The CCF's leadership spent the next three years restructuring the party, and in 1961 it was formally merged with the Canadian Labour Congress to create the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Most provincial wings of the CCF also transformed themselves into "New Democratic Party" organizations before the year was over, with Saskatchewan as the only exception. There was very little opposition to the change in Manitoba, although future party leader Howard Pawley was ironically one of the few CCF members to campaign against it.
The Manitoba NDP was formally constituted on November 4, 1961. Outgoing CCF leader Russell Paulley easily won the new party's leadership, defeating two minor figures who offered little in the way of policy alternatives.
The NDP did not initially achieve an electoral breakthrough in Manitoba, falling from eleven seats to seven in the provincial election of 1962. They recovered to ten seats in the 1966 election, but were still unable to seriously challenge Dufferin Roblin's centrist Progressive Conservative government.
Many in the NDP saw Paulley's leadership as a liability, especially after the 1966 election. Paulley was an old-style labourite, and could not appeal to the broader constituency base that the party needed for a stronger electoral performance. In 1968, he was challenged by Sidney Green, a labour lawyer from north-end Winnipeg.
The 1968 leadership challenge was unusual, in that most of Paulley's supporters were encouraging him to resign the following year so that he could be replaced by federal MP Edward Schreyer instead of the more confrontational Green. Some also saw the challenge as reflecting ideological divisions in the party, with Green as a representative of the radical left. While Green was probably correct in rejecting this interpretation, his supporters nonetheless tended to be from the party's youth wing. Paulley, in turn, was supported by the party establishment and organized labour.
Paulley won the challenge 213 votes to 168, and resigned the following year after making a half-hearted bid to stay in power. The party held another leadership convention in 1969, in which Schreyer defeated Green by 506 votes to 177.
Most political observers expected the NDP to increase its parliamentary strength in the 1969 election, but it still was a surprise when the party won 28 seats out of 57, and formed government after gaining the support of maverick Liberal MLA Laurent Desjardins. There were several factors behind the party's sudden rise to power, most of which related to the leadership of the province's three major parties.
The Progressive Conservatives chose Walter Weir as their new leader when Roblin moved to federal politics in 1967. Weir was a far more conservative figure than Roblin, and alienated many urban and centre-left voters who had previously supported the party. The Liberals, for their part, chose Robert Bend as their leader shortly before the election. Bend, like Weir, was a rural populist, and his "rodeo-theme" campaign seemed anachronistic to most urban voters in 1969.
Schreyer, by contrast, was a centrist figure within the NDP. He was not ideologically committed to socialism, and was in many respects more similar to Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau than to the traditional NDP leadership. He was also the first of Manitoba's social-democratic leaders who was not from an Anglo-Saxon and Protestant background. A German-Austrian Catholic from rural Manitoba, he appealed to constituencies that were not previously inclined to support the NDP.
Schreyer's first administration introduced several radical changes to Manitoba politics. It amalgamated the city of Winnipeg, introduced public auto insurance, and significantly reduced medicare premiums. Schreyer's cabinet was divided on provincial funding for denominational schools (with Green and others opposing any such funding), but resolved the issue by a compromise. The government also continued Roblin's energy development projects in northern Manitoba.
In the 1973 election, Schreyer's government was re-elected with a parliamentary majority. His second ministry was less ambitious on policy matters than was his first, though the government did introduce a new tax on mining resources. In the 1977 election, however, Schreyer's New Democrats were upset by the Tories under Sterling Lyon.
Schreyer resigned as party leader in 1979, after being appointed Governor-General of Canada. Howard Pawley was chosen over Sidney Green in a caucus vote as interim leader, and later defeated Muriel Smith and Russell Doern to win the party's leadership at a delegated convention. Green left the NDP soon thereafter, claiming "the trade union movement and militant feminists" had taken control of the party. In 1981, Green formed the new Progressive Party of Manitoba, joined by New Democratic MLAs Ben Hanuschak and Bud Boyce.
Despite these defections, Pawley's New Democrats were able to win a majority government in the 1981 election. Pawley's government introduced progressive labour legislation, and entrenched French-language services in Manitoba's parliamentary and legal systems. Russell Doern, who had served as a cabinet minister under Edward Schreyer, left the NDP in 1984 on the bilingualism issue.
The New Democrats were re-elected with a narrow majority in the 1986 election. Over the next two years, the party suffered a significant decline in its popularity. The Manitoba Telephone System made bad investments in Saudi Arabia during this period, and the government was forced to raise taxes to compensate. Auto insurance premiums also rose significantly during this period, and the government's support for the Meech Lake Accord also alienated some voters. Gary Doer would later claim that an internal party poll placed the NDP at only 6% support in early 1988. This may be an exaggeration, but the party's unpopularity at the time was real and has been confirmed by other party insiders.
Early in 1988, a disgruntled NDP backbencher named Jim Walding voted with the opposition against the government's budget. His defection brought about the government's defeat, and forced a new election to be called before the NDP could recover its support base. Pawley immediately resigned as party leader, though he continued to lead a caretaker administration until the elections were held. At the leadership convention which followed, Gary Doer narrowly defeated Len Harapiak on the third ballot. Doer could have sworn himself in as Premier, but declined out of concern for the negative publicity that would result.
The NDP suffered a serious defeat in the 1988 election, falling to only 12 seats out of 57. Gary Filmon's Tories won 25 seats, and the Liberal Party under Sharon Carstairs won 20 seats to supplant the NDP as the official opposition. Most of the NDP's remaining seats were in north-end Winnipeg and the northern section of the province. Doer was not personally blamed for his party's poor performance, and remained as leader.
Filmon called another provincial election in 1990 to seek a majority mandate. He succeeded, but Doer brought the NDP back to official opposition status with 20 seats, benefiting from a national resurgence in the NDP's popularity and a strong personal showing the leaders' debate.
The NDP began the 1995 election well behind the Tories and Liberals, but received a last-minute surge in popularity and came very close to forming government. They might have been victorious had it not been for the unpopularity of Bob Rae's NDP government in neighbouring Ontario, and concerns that Doer would govern Manitoba in a similar fashion. The party won 23 seats, with the Liberals falling to only three.
Filmon's Tories lost much of their popular support between 1995 and 1999, due to increased unemployment and a vote-manipulation scandal in the 1995 election. With the Liberals suffering from internal divisions, the NDP were able to present themselves as the only viable alternative. The 1999 election was considered too close to call until election day, but the NDP benefited from a collapse in Liberal support and won 32 seats to form a majority government. After eleven years in opposition, Gary Doer was finally sworn in as Premier.
The Doer government has not introduced as many radical initiatives as the Schreyer and Pawley governments, though it has retained the NDP's traditional support for organized labour. Manitoba has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada as of 2004, and Doer's government remains generally popular with the electorate. In the 2003 election, the NDP were re-elected with 35 seats and almost 50% of the popular vote, an extremely impressive result in a three-party system. Doer was personally re-elected in his north-end Winnipeg riding with over 75% of the popular vote, and the NDP also made inroads into traditional Tory bastions in south-end Winnipeg.
- 1. Russell Paulley November 4, 1961-June 7, 1969
- 2. Edward Schreyer June 7, 1969-1979
- 3. Howard Pawley 1979-March 30, 1988 (interim leader until November 4, 1979)
- 4. Gary Doer March 30, 1988-
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