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Gerald Regan’s ‘amazing’ victory in Nova Scotia

The Story

As a former sportscaster, NHL scout and radio reporter, Gerald Regan first ventured into Nova Scotia politics in the 1950s with youth on his side and charm to spare. Despite this, the labour lawyer would have to wait nearly 15 years before winning his province's top job in the tightest election in Nova Scotia history. In this clip from CBC Television's Front Page Challenge two months after his win, Regan discusses his reaction to his party's stunning win, which ended 14 years of Conservative rule. 

Medium: Television
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 1970
Guest(s): Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Marilyn MacDonald, Gerald Regan, Jack Webster
Host: Fred Davis
Duration: 9:17
Writer: Gary Lautens

Did You know?

• Gerald Augustine Regan was born in Windsor, N.S., on Feb. 13, 1928.
• 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.


How The East Was Won: Nova Scotia Elections Since 1949 more