Why Manitoba politicians have long refused to pay for 'frivolous' air conditioning

Everybody knew what the problem was at the Manitoba Legislature: It was way too hot in the summer.

As of 1983, no one wanted to take the political heat that would come with approving such spending

The overheated legislature

38 years ago
Things were getting way too hot in the Manitoba Legislature in 1983, due to a lack of air conditioning. 1:50

Everybody knew what the problem was at the Manitoba Legislature: It was way too hot in the summer.

Why? Because the building didn't have central air conditioning — the only government building in the province lacking it, according to CBC's reporting, as of July of 1983.

And that wasn't going to change, as none of the politicians wanted to be blamed for spending the money to install the air conditioning system that could fix the problem.

"If we air-conditioned the Manitoba Legislature, there would be a lot of controversy," said Premier Howard Pawley, speaking about the hypothetical installation of an air-cooling system in the building.

"Why are politicians installing all this air conditioning for themselves?" he added. "So no government has dared venture on it. I suppose we won't either."

Manitoba Premier Howard Pawley didn't think the public would appreciate seeing the provincial government spending money to put air conditioning in the Legislature. (The National/CBC Archives)

Opposition Leader Sterling Lyon, a former premier himself, had the same view on the lack of air conditioning at the Legislature.

"We weren't a spendthrift government," he told CBC News. "We wouldn't spend money on such a frivolous thing."

The problem was more noticeable that year, as members of the legislative assembly were sitting through the summer.

As the CBC's Karen Webb explained to viewers of The National, legislators hoped to pass "a lot of laws by the end of the session," which meant they were spending a lot of time in committee rooms.

"So that means the Conservative opposition just has to sticky it out," she said, roasting those overheated politicians with a heat-related pun.

There wasn't any air conditioning installed in the Manitoba Legislature in the summer of 1983, which meant that open windows were a necessity. (The National/CBC Archives)

The Manitoba Legislature still does not have air conditioning. The province intends to spend $150 million to maintain and repair the building, The Canadian Press reported in May 2019 — but it was not yet clear whether air conditioning would be part of that work.

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