New Democratic Party of Manitoba

New Democratic Party of Manitoba
New Democratic Party of Manitoba
Leader Greg Selinger
President Lorraine Sigurdson
Founded 4 November 1961
Headquarters 803-294 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 0B9
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Socialist International
Official colours Orange and green
Seats in Legislature
37 / 57
Politics of Manitoba
Political parties

The New Democratic Party of Manitoba (NDP) 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 Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. It is currently the governing party in Manitoba.


Formation and early years

In the federal election of 1958, the national Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) 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 merged with the Canadian Labour Congress to create the New Democratic Party (NDP).

Most provincial wings of the CCF also transformed themselves into "New Democratic Party" organisations 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 Progressive Conservative government.

Party leadership contest in 1968

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 an 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 provincial general election of 1969

The NDP won 28 out of 57 seats in the 1969 election, and formed a minority government after gaining the support of maverick Manitoba Liberal Party 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 democratic 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.

In power

During the years of NDP government, major tax and social reforms were carried out, a major hydroelectricity development project was launched in the north of Manitoba, while the province spent heavily on public housing.[1] 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.

Declining popularity in the late 1980s

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. Auto insurance premiums 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.[citation needed]

Early in 1988, Jim Walding, a disgruntled NDP backbencher, 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 of the leadership convention which followed. Doer declined to be sworn in as Premier after the convention.

The Pawley government's achievements included the construction of the Limestone hydro project in northern Manitoba, and the enactment of the Manitoba Human Rights Code which included, for the first time in Manitoba, protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Electoral defeat and years in opposition (1988-1999)

The NDP was defeated in the 1988 election, winning 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 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 sworn in as Premier after eleven years in opposition.

Return to government (1999 to date)

The Doer government did 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 remained 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 impressive result in a three-party system. Doer was re-elected in his east-end Winnipeg riding of Concordia with over 75% of the popular vote, and the NDP also made inroads into traditional Tory bastions in south-end Winnipeg.

Doer became the only NDP premier in Manitoba history to capture a third majority when his party was re-elected during the 2007 provincial election. It won more seats than it had before: 36. Again, support was gathered from the south and western areas of Winnipeg which were traditionally thought to be safe for the Progressive Conservatives.

After leading the party for over two decades, Doer retired as Premier and leader of the NDP on 27 August, 2009 and was named Canadian Ambassador to the United States the next day.[2][3] Following Doer's retirement Greg Selinger became leader of the party during the leadership convention in October 2009.[2] Despite gloomy predictions, Selinger led the NDP to its fourth straight majority government in the October 2011 general election, surpassing Doer's record and winning 37 seats.


Like its federal counterpart, the Manitoba NDP has historically had more long-term members than other registered parties in the province. It also has fewer short-term members who are signed up to influence nomination contests.[4]

Party leaders

Picture Name Term start Term end Date of Birth Date of Death Notes
Russell Paulley November 4, 1961 June 7, 1969 November 3, 1909 May 19, 1984 First Leader
Edward Schreyer June 7, 1969 1979 December 21, 1935 16th Premier of Manitoba

22nd Governor General of Canada
Howard Pawley 1979 March 30, 1988
(interim leader until
Nov. 4, 1979)
November 21, 1934 18th Premier of Manitoba
Gary Doer.jpg Gary Doer March 30, 1988 October 17, 2009 March 31, 1948 20th Premier of Manitoba

Present Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.
Greg Selinger cropped.jpg Greg Selinger October 17, 2009 February 16, 1951 21st Premier of Manitoba

Election results

 % of popular
2011 Selinger 37 +1 NDP Majority
2007 Doer 36 +1 200,834 47.73% NDP Majority
2003 Doer 35 +3 195,425 49.47% NDP Majority
1999 Doer 32 +9 219,679 44.51% NDP Majority
1995 Doer 23 +3 165,489 32.81% PC majority
1990 Doer 20 +8 141,328 28.80% PC majority
1988 Doer 12 -18 126,954 23.62% PC minority
1986 Pawley 30 -4 198,261 41.50% NDP Majority
1981 Pawley 34 +11 228,784 47.38% NDP Majority
1977 Schreyer 23 -8 188,124 38.62% PC majority
1973 Schreyer 31 +3 197,585 42.31% NDP Majority
1969 Schreyer 28 +17 128,080 38.27% NDP minority
1966 Paulley 11 +4 130,102 23.14% PC majority
1962 Paulley 7 +7 15.20% PC majority


  1. ^ Journeys: A History of Canada by R. D. Francis, Richard Jones, Donald B. Smith, R. D. Francis, Richard Jones, and Donald B. Smith
  2. ^ a b "Selinger picked as Manitoba's next NDP premier". CBC News. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  3. ^ Kevin Engstrom (27 August 2009). "Premier Gary Doer resigns". Winnipeg Sun. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  4. ^ Ian Stewart, Just One Vote: Jim Walding's nomination to constitutional defeat (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press), 2009, p. 5.

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