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Campaigning, northern style

From Tory blue to NDP orange and back again, with scarcely a red Liberal in sight – that's been the alternating pattern in Manitoba elections since the 1950s. Manitobans seem to prefer stability in their governments but punish a government when it overstays its welcome. Both parties have gotten the boot for stoking the public's ire: the NDP for boosting auto insurance rates in 1988 and the Tories in 1999 for a vote-rigging scheme. From Hudson Bay to the Red River, CBC Archives goes to the polls.

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It stretches 1,000 kilometres from top to bottom. Its largest town is Churchill, on the shores of Hudson Bay, with a population of just 1,000. With the bulk of the riding's voters scattered across the region in remote fly-in communities, Rupertsland is no easy place to run a political campaign. In this clip, a CBC reporter hitches a ride with the candidates as they canvass a huge region with issues like high unemployment and crumbling roads. 
• Rupertsland has long been considered a safe NDP riding. As of 2006, the party has held the seat since 1969. MLA Eric Robinson first won the seat in 1993 in a byelection after the resignation of Elijah Harper, who jumped to federal politics.
• According to the Manitoba Boundaries Commission, the Rupertsland riding had a total population of 18,206 in 1996 – about the same as many other rural ridings.

• Leading up to the 2003 provincial election, CBC Manitoba reported that 87 per cent of the population in Rupertsland was aboriginal, and half the population listed Cree as a mother tongue in the 1996 census.
• In 1999, the region had the highest proportion of people in Manitoba with a Grade 9 education or less (34 per cent). At $33,787, average family income was fourth-lowest in the province.

• The 1995 vote in Rupertsland was particularly close. MLA Eric Robinson won by just 123 votes, narrowly defeating the Liberals' Harry Wood.
• A new element for the 1995 election was the First Peoples Party, which ran a short slate of eight aboriginal candidates in rural and urban ridings. However, the party was not officially registered with Elections Manitoba, so the candidates ran as independents.

• The First Peoples' Party was founded in 1994 with the aim of beginning in Manitoba and later extending to the federal level. The party had been recommended by a task force of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
• George Hickes, an aboriginal NDP MLA, was skeptical of the party's chances, saying aboriginals would do better to work within the mainstream parties. "When you have only eight candidates you never have a chance to influence anything," he said. "It's taking tokenism to its heights."

• None of the candidates affiliated with the First Peoples' Party won a seat in the 1995 election. The party did not have a presence in the next provincial election in 1999.
• The riding of Rupertsland draws its name from Rupert's Land, a huge territory comprising much of Canada that was granted to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 by King Charles II of England. It was named for HBC's governor, Prince Rupert, who was also the king's cousin.
Medium: Television
Program: 24 Hours
Broadcast Date: April 20, 1995
Guest(s): Jerry Fontaine, Eric Kennedy, Eric Robinson, Harry Wood
Reporter: Coleen Rajotte
Duration: 7:17

Last updated: January 18, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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