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'Disco Dick' loses support

Power doesn't change hands often in New Brunswick, but when it does, it's usually eventful. In 1960, Louis Robichaud became the province's first elected Acadian premier. Ten years later, Tory Richard (Disco Dick) Hatfield began his remarkable 17-year run, but it ended in scandal. Frank McKenna's Liberals then made an extraordinary clean sweep, winning all 58 seats. And in 1999, PC Bernard Lord made history when he became premier at the young age of 33, but he was edged out by fresh-faced PC Shawn Graham in 2006 after two terms in office. CBC Archives explores the key turning points in New Brunswick election history since 1960.

Is Premier Richard Hatfield trying to delay the inevitable? He waited an unusual five years to call the election. Hatfield denies that he's scared, insisting he can still win next week's election. But it's looking doubtful. Public opinion of Hatfield began to take a nosedive in 1984 when marijuana was found in his suitcase on the Queen's airplane. And as The Journal reports, it seems Hatfield still can't shake his image as "Disco Dick, the free-spending jet-setter in a have-not province." 
• In October of 1984, marijuana was found in an outside pocket of Hatfield's suitcase before being loaded onto Queen Elizabeth's airplane during a royal visit to New Brunswick. He was acquitted of all charges in early 1985.
• Shortly after his acquittal, it came out that two male students claimed Hatfield invited them to a party at his home where he offered them cocaine and marijuana in 1981. Calling himself "extremely gregarious," the premier admitted the party occurred but denied drugs were involved.

• The 1992 book Richard Hatfield: Power and Disobedience summed up Hatfield's personality: "he was a non-conformist and different from other politicians. There were few places where it would have been surprising to run into him, at least once. He could be seen at a flea market or a museum, at a five-star restaurant or a strip joint. He would associate with anyone, ordinary or famous. He was sometimes sloppily dressed and was considered somewhat untidy and disorganized. He was iconoclastic and eclectic."

• Before the drug scandals of the mid-1980s, there had been other events that could have ended Hatfield's career, but they somehow didn't seem to taint his likeability. The Bricklin car fiasco of the mid-1970s was one of them. In an effort to boost the provincial economy, Hatfield's government poured millions of dollars into helping develop a stylish, gull-winged sports car called the Brickin, which was to be produced in New Brunswick. The car was a failure, and left New Brunswick with an estimated $23-million debt.

• He recovered from the Bricklin affair, but he was never able to politically recover from the drug scandals. New Brunswick no longer liked or trusted him. A pre-election Globe and Mail story from Oct. 2, 1987, said this election was primarily "concerned with jobs, the economy, and most of all, turfing out Richard Hatfield."
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Oct. 8, 1987
Guest(s): Richard Hatfield, George Little, Frank McKenna
Host: Barbara Frum, Paul Griffin
Reporter: Leslie MacKinnon
Duration: 10:36
Campaign ad: Conservative Party of New Brunswick

Last updated: January 19, 2012

Page consulted on January 31, 2014

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