George Hickes (politician)

George Hickes (politician)

George Hickes, MLA is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He has served in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba since 1990, and has been the Speaker of the Assembly since 1999. He is a member of the New Democratic Party.

Hickes is the uncle of Nunavut politician Hunter Tootoo, and of hockey player Jordin Tootoo. [ [ Frank Landry, "Tootoo's special to speaker", "Winnipeg Sun", date not listed.] ]

Early life and career

Hickes was born to an Inuit family near Ports Point in the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut), and was raised in Churchill, Manitoba. His early years alternated between traditional Inuit life and modern Canadian society. He caught beluga whales in his youth (a long-standing tradition in Inuit culture), and earned the nickname "coldwater cowboy" for working without the aid of nets. The descendants of whales caught by Hickes can still be seen in several aquariums throughout the world. [Ilene K. Grossman, "Speaker George Hickes", "Stateline", Volume 14 Number 1, January 2005.]

Hickes worked as a heavy equipment operator at the Tar Sands Project in Fort McMurray, Alberta in the early 1970s, and held a variety of jobs in Churchill during the same period. [Scott Edmonds, "Inuit MLA first elected Speaker in Manitoba", "Globe and Mail", 19 November 1999, A27.] He joined Manitoba's New Careers program in 1976, and later acknowledged that this decision saved him from a life of poverty. [Donald Campbell, "MLA Hickes says program saved him", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 May 1993, City Page and Alice Krueger, "Axe falls on training program", "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 March 1995, City Page.] After graduating in 1978, Hickes became a trainer and coordinator for New Careers in Winnipeg until 1984. [Treena Khan, "City heritage cite celebrates history", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 May 1994, City Page.] He later worked as executive director of the Limestone Training and Employment Agency near Gillam, Manitoba, and assisted in designing an education program for the Yukon. [ [ The Speaker of the House: George Hickes, Manitoba legislature] , accessed 2006.]

Provincial politics

Opposition member

Hickes planned to challenge Elijah Harper for the NDP nomination in Rupertsland before the 1990 provincial election, but withdrew when Harper attained national prominence for blocking the Meech Lake Accord. [Pauline Comeau, "Elijah", (Vancouver & Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1993), p. 194.] He was instead elected for the north-end Winnipeg constituency of Point Douglas, which has a large aboriginal community. He has been returned in every election since then, and received almost 75% support in the 2003 election.

The NDP formed the Official Opposition in the Manitoba legislature from 1990 to 1999, and Hickes served as his party's whip in this period. [David Kuxhaus, "New Speaker sets historic precedents", "Winnipeg Free Press", 19 November 1999, A3.] He played a prominent role in having November 8 designated as a day to recognize Manitoba's aboriginal veterans, and successfully called for legislation requiring that cooking liqueurs sold in the province have no more than 25% alcohol content. The latter measure followed a series of deaths in Winnipeg involving Chinese cooking wine with a higher alcohol content. [Grossman, "Speaker George Hickes".] Hickes supported Lorne Nystrom's bid to lead the federal New Democratic Party in 1995.

He spoke against plans to create an aboriginal political party in 1994, arguing that such a party could not effectively represent multicultural communities. Referring to his own Point Douglas riding, he said, "You have Ukrainians, Filipinos, Chinese. What happens to them . . . if you're running to represent only one group of people?". ["Aboriginal party in Manitoba would be open to all", "Financial Post", 30 October 1994, p. 6.]

Manitoba's electoral boundaries were redistributed in 1999. Hickes was challenged for the Point Douglas NDP nomination by fellow legislator Conrad Santos, whose Broadway constituency had been eliminated. He won the challenge, and Santos subsequently ran and was elected in the new division of Wellington. [Doug Nairne, "MLA leaves safe riding for run at Liberals'", "Winnipeg Free Press", 27 April 1999, A5.]


The NDP won a majority government in the 1999 election, and Hickes defeated Santos, Denis Rocan and Marcel Laurendeau in a free vote of the assembly to become its new speaker. [Kuxhaus, "New Speaker sets historic precedents".] He was the first speaker to be chosen in this manner, previous speakers having been appointed by the premier. He was re-elected speaker in 2003. Hickes was re-elected to the Manitoba legislature in the 2007 provincial election. Shortly after, he was re-elected as speaker without opposition. [Hansard volume LVIX No. 1-1:30p.m. Wednesday, June 6, 2007; "And so it begins" [editorial] , "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 June 2007, A10.] Opposition party leaders Hugh McFadyen and Jon Gerrard both indicated that they regarded Hickes as fair and even-handed. [Mia Rabson, "Speaker still has whale of a job", "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 June 2007, A6.]


External links

* [ Speaker of the Legislature]

Electoral record

All electoral information is taken from Elections Manitoba. Expenditure entries refer to individual candidate expenses.

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