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New Democratic Party of Manitoba

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Template:Infobox Canada Political Party

The New Democratic Party of Manitoba is a social democratic political party in Manitoba, Canada. It is the provincial wing of the federal New Democratic Party,, 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 restructured the party during the next three years, and in 1961 it was formally merged with the Canadian Labour Congress to create the New Democratic Party.

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, and the Manitoba NDP was formally constituted on November 4, 1961. Future Manitoba NDP leader Howard Pawley was one of the few CCF members to oppose the change. 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 considered Paulley's leadership a liability, especially after the 1966 election. Paulley was known as an old-style labour politician, and could not appeal to the broader constituency base that the party needed for a electoral breakthrough. In 1968, he was challenged for the party leadership by Sidney Green, a labour lawyer from north-end Winnipeg.

The 1968 leadership challenge was unusual, in that many of Paulley's supporters wanted him to resign the following year, so that he could be replaced by federal Member of Parliament (MP) Edward Schreyer. Some also regarded the challenge as reflecting ideological divisions in the party, with Green depicted as a candidate of the radical left. Green's supporters tended to be from the party's youth wing, while Paulley was supported by the party establishment and organized labour.

Paulley won the challenge 213 votes to 168, and resigned the following year. Edward Schreyer entered the contest to replace him, and defeated Green by 506 votes to 177.

The NDP won 28 out of 57 seats in the 1969 election, and formed a minority government after gaining the support of maverick Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Laurent Desjardins. Although the party had been expected to increase its parliamentary presence, its sudden victory was a surprise to most political observers.

The question of leadership was important to the NDP's victory. After Dufferin Roblin resigned as Premier in 1967, the Progressive Conservatives chose Walter Weir as his replacement. Weir was far more conservative 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. Like Weir, Bend was a rural populist who had difficulty appealing to urban voters. The Liberal Party's "rodeo-theme" campaign also seemed anachronistic to most voters in 1969.

Schreyer, by contrast, was a centrist 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 province's 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 important changes to the province. It amalgamated the city of Winnipeg, introduced public auto insurance, and significantly reduced medicare premiums. Schreyer's cabinet was divided on providing provincial funding for denominational schools (with Green and others opposing any such funding), but resolved the issue by a compromise. The government also continued energy development projects in northern Manitoba.

Schreyer's government was re-elected with a parliamentary majority in the 1973 provincial election. 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, 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 as interim leader over Sidney Green and Saul Mark Cherniack in a caucus vote, 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 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. Doern, who had served as a cabinet minister in Schreyer's government, left the NDP in 1984 on the language 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 the 1980s, 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. Future party leader Gary Doer has claimed that an internal party poll put the NDP at only 6% popular support in early 1988. This may be an exaggeration, but few would doubt that the party's unpopularity was genuine.

Early in 1988, a disgruntled NDP backbencher named Jim Walding voted with the opposition against his government's budget. This defection brought about the government's defeat in the house, and forced a new election before the NDP could recover its support base. Pawley immediately resigned as party leader, though he continued to lead a caretaker administration as Premier.

Gary Doer narrowly defeated Len Harapiak on the third ballot at the convention which followed. Doer declined to swear himself in as Premier, 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 seats were in north-end Winnipeg and the north 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 was successful, but Doer brought the NDP back to official opposition status with 20 seats, benefiting from 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 popular support and came very close to forming government. The party 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 manner. 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 decline in Liberal support and won 32 seats to form a majority government. Doer was finally sworn in as Premier after eleven years in opposition.

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.

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