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Clean sweep! The 1987 New Brunswick election

The Story

Liberal Frank McKenna had expected to win, but he never expected this. His Liberal party has won every single seat in the New Brunswick legislature. A clean sweep like this has only ever happened once before, in P.E.I. in 1935. "I did not anticipate it, and I guess it really hasn't sunk in yet, as to what it means," says a stunned McKenna in this CBC news clip. McKenna must now get to work to figure out how to run a government with no opposition.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 14, 1987
Guests: Richard Hatfield, Frank McKenna, Wayne McKinnon, Brian Mulroney, David Peterson
Anchor: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Kevin Evans, Jason Moscovitz
Duration: 6:10

Did You know?

• Going into the 1987 election, there were 39 Progressive Conservative seats, 18 Liberal seats and one NDP. After the Oct. 13, 1987 election, all 58 seats were Liberal.

• The 1935 P.E.I. election saw Walter Maxfield Lea's Liberals winning all 30 seats. That was not only the first time this happened in Canada; it was also the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that a government faced no opposition in the house.

• The perception that Hatfield lacked strong morals contributed greatly to his huge loss. In the book Richard Hatfield: Power and Disobedience, authors Michel Cormier and Achille Michaud wrote, "the results of the general election in October 1987 suggest that New Brunswickers believed the old adage that where there is smoke, there is fire. Voters seemed to be demanding not only proper behaviour from their politicians, but also the appearance of proper behaviour. For many, Hatfield did not even pass the first test."

• The 1987 election wasn't the end of political life for Hatfield. In 1990, Prime Minister Mulroney appointed Hatfield to the Senate.

• Richard Hatfield passed away on April 26, 1991, at the age of 60.

• Frank McKenna was born in rural New Brunswick in 1948.

• With his eye on a career in politics, McKenna came to the conclusion that most politicians start off as lawyers, so he went to law school. He earned his law degree at the University of New Brunswick in 1974 and subsequently began practicing law in Chatham, N.B.

• McKenna won a seat in the New Brunswick legislature in 1982 and became leader of the New Brunswick Liberals in 1985.

• One year after the 1987 election, McKenna appeared on CBC's Front Page Challenge. He discussed the unique challenges involved in running a government with no Official Opposition. A whole new seating plan had to be arranged. And Question Period still existed, but in a different way: Liberal MLAs posed questions to Liberal ministers. "All the tough questions come, just the same - it's just the sharp knife isn't always in the question," McKenna explained. (See the additional clip An Opposition-free legislature?)

• On the same 1988 episode of Front Page Challenge, McKenna explained that he believed eight to 10 years was the longest anyone should stay in politics. When asked if that was a promise, he responded, "You can take that as a pledge." True to his word, he stepped down as premier exactly 10 years after taking office.


N.B. Elections: Colourful Characters, Pivotal Points more