Gerald Regan's 'amazing' victory
For generations, Nova Scotia's politics were a largely predictable affair that saw the Liberal Party serve in virtual dynasties that lasted in excess of 40 years. That all changed in the 1950s, when voters' loyalties to the "party of their parents" ended and the Progressive Conservatives began to emerge as a viable alternative. CBC Archives takes a look back at the decades long tug of war between the Liberals and Conservatives in "Canada's Ocean Playground."
• Affable and charismatic, Regan was a popular student at Saint Mary's University and Dalhousie University in the late 1940s and 1950s. Regan also worked as a hockey promoter, a talent scout for the National Hockey League and a radio reporter covering provincial politics.
• In 1954 he was admitted to the Nova Scotia bar and began working in Halifax as a labour lawyer.
• Thanks to his work on high-profile cases Regan quickly became one of the province's best-known lawyers. In 1957, he defended workers who had staged a strike against the Canadian Gypsum Company in Windsor, N.S.
• Regan's early attempts at entering politics were unsuccessful. Between 1956 and 1962 he ran, and lost, in three provincial elections and one at the federal level.
• Regan's bad luck ended in 1963, when he won a seat during the federal election.
• Two years later, he returned to provincial politics after Liberal leader Earl Urquhart retired. Regan came back in style, running and winning the leadership in July 1965.
• The Liberals lost the 1967 election, winning only five seats compared to Robert Stanfield's Conservatives, who secured 41 seats. Several months later Stanfield resigned to run for the leadership of the federal Conservatives.
• Over the next few years Regan earned a reputation as a ruthless opposition leader. In 1969, he led a 14-hour filibuster in the legislature in an effort to derail the Tory government's move to raise sales taxes. (He was unsuccessful).
• His two-fisted approach was both loved and loathed. Tory MLAs nicknamed him "Gabby" and dismissed him as a self-promoter.
• In September 1970, Premier George Isaac Smith, who had replaced Stanfield, called an election.
• The Globe and Mail reported that the campaign was largely uneventful. It "was remarkable in only one way – it was one of the quietest and least controversial in Nova Scotia history, which made the result even more surprising."
• When Nova Scotians went to the polls on Oct. 13 they handed the Liberals a minority government, with 23 seats to the Conservatives' 21. The NDP won two seats.
• According to J. Murray Beck's book Politics of Nova Scotia, the 1970 election was the closest in the province's history with the PCs winning 46.9 per cent of the popular vote to the Liberals' 46.1.
• The race was so tight in some ridings that Beck calculated a shift of just 41 votes would have swung the election in favour of the Tories.
• At 41, Regan was one of the youngest premiers in Canada at the time.
• By the end of the year, Regan set up a provincial ombudsman, revised the labour law to prevent court injunctions against picketing and established a grant program for housing.
• In 1974, Regan won a second term and his first majority government. The Liberals lost the next election in 1978 to John Buchanan's Conservatives.
• Regan remained leader of the opposition until 1980, when he ran and won the federal riding of Halifax for the Liberal Party.
• He served several cabinet positions under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, including Minister of Labour, Minister of Amateur Sport and Secretary of State, before the Liberals were defeated in 1984.
• In 1993, the RCMP announced they were investigating numerous accusations of sexual abuse and assault against Regan that allegedly took place over his 22-year political career. In March 1995, he was charged with 16 sex-related offences, which included rape, statutory rape and abduction.
• In December 1998, a Nova Scotia judge acquitted Regan on many of the more serious charges involving abduction and rape, but stayed charges involving inappropriate kissing and physical contact.
• The province's attorney general challenged this decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which decided in 2002 that the case could go to trial.
• In April of that year, the province announced it would not proceed with the case based on the wishes of several of the accusers.
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 1970
Guest(s): Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Marilyn MacDonald, Gerald Regan, Jack Webster
Host: Fred Davis
Writer: Gary Lautens
Last updated: January 17, 2012
Page consulted on March 25, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
Premier Angus Macdonald leads his Liberals to their fourth election vi...
Robert Stanfield urges voters to judge him on his own record.
Robert Stanfield talks with CBC Radio about his Tory majority win in t...
George Isaac Smith addresses the 1967 Conservative leadership conventi...
Tory leader G.I. Smith, NDP leader Jeremy Akerman and Liberal leader G...
Fresh from his Liberal Party's surprise 1970 election coup, Premier Ge...
A look back at the political career of George (Ike) Smith, premier of ...
A fringe candidate from Cape Breton livens up an otherwise uneventful ...
Liberal John Savage ends 15 years of Tory rule.
Voters reject minority government and hand John Hamm and the Tories a ...
Hamm falls two seats short of majority and returns with a minority gov...
34-year-old Rodney MacDonald is elected the new leader of the Conserva...
On June 13, 2006, the N.S. PCs keep their minority government, but the...
For generations, Nova Scotia's politics were a largely predictable aff...