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Megaprojects for Manitobans

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.

It's the buzzword of the 1981 election race in Manitoba: megaprojects. By building three huge new industrial projects - a potash mine, an aluminum smelter and a hydro development - Premier Sterling Lyon is confident he can create jobs. But according to Sid Green, leader of the Progressive Party, "beg-a-projects" is a more apt term. NDP leader Howard Pawley agrees, and in this CBC clip he says Lyon's megaprojects promise too much to developers. 
• In calling the election, Premier Sterling Lyon told a press conference that he needed a mandate to pursue his proposed megaprojects. All together, the three projects represented an investment of $2 billion.
• Lyon lauded his government's "prudent management," adding that Manitoba had "had a fairly flashy [NDP] government from 1969 to 1977 and it almost bankrupted us. We've got a flashy national [Trudeau] government and God knows what they're doing to us."

• The new leader of the NDP, Howard Pawley, dismissed Lyon's megaprojects. "Manitoba has been last in real economic growth, last in job creation, last in population growth," he said during the campaign. "The Conservative answer to Manitoba's economic decline has been to propose more and more resource giveaways."
• One of the NDP's major promises was to reintroduce rent controls scrapped by the Tories.

• Pawley had been a minister in the government of Ed Schreyer and was the chief minister responsible for the introduction of Autopac.
• Though he was neither as popular nor as charismatic as his predecessor, Pawley made up for it by waging a careful campaign. He travelled all over the province, addressing local problems and then offering the NDP solution for it. Lyon didn't push as hard, even taking time off from the campaign for a constitutional conference in Ottawa.

• The Progressive Party (not to be confused with the Progressive Conservatives) was a new element in Manitoba politics in 1981. Its leader was Sid Green, a disaffected NDP cabinet minister and former leadership contender who felt the party had become beholden to union interests and "militant feminists."
• The party ran candidates in 36 of 57 ridings. Two of them were former NDP MLAs who left the party along with Green; one was a former Social Credit MLA and another had been a Liberal.

• In the 1981 election, the NDP swept back into power with 34 seats. The Progressive Conservatives had won 23, and both the Liberals and Progressives were shut out.
• Lyon's defeat meant his was the only government in Manitoba history which has failed to be re-elected for a second term.
• In December 1983 Sterling Lyon stepped down as party leader. He continued to sit in the legislature until the next election in 1986, when he left politics for good.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 1981
Guest(s): Sid Green, Paul Kligman, Doug Lauchlan, Sterling Lyon, Ed Schreyer, Adele Wiseman, Larry Zolf
Reporter: Larry Stout
Duration: 8:11

Last updated: January 18, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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