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12 weird moments from New Brunswick elections of old

We hate to break it to you, but our elections haven't always been politically correct.

From 'orgies of extravagance' to 'boodle': elections have gotten pretty exciting

A vintage newspaper ad encouraging New Brunswickers to vote in the 1978 general election. Just in time for election day on Sept 24, we look at a dozen strange moments in provincial election history - which, as it turns out, hasn't always been politically correct. (Saint John Free Public Library Archives)

Canadian democracy is a hallowed institution.

But politics —especially election campaigns — are also an excuse to indulge in creepy cartoons, hilarious headlines, and antique insults.

Just in time for 39th general election in New Brunswick, we're spotlighting 12 weird, cringe-worthy, dated, and otherwise notable moments in the province's election history.

Some you might recall — others have been forgotten by history.

In some cases, that's probably for the best.

1. Foolish females

"For the first time in provincial affairs, the full and free right to the franchise is extended to women and all registered have the privilege of voting on October 9," declares this Oct. 1, 1920 campaign ad in the Daily Gleaner for Liberal premier Walter Edward Foster.

"It is fortunate that the issues in this election are so clean-cut and clearly defined."

Despite the condescending ad copy,  Foster was able to achieve a strong second Liberal mandate in 1920.

2. Poll shows

Not to be confused with a pole show — something quite different — this television special aired during the 1987 general election. 

In 2018, readers and viewers would never see CBC advertising in the Telegraph-Journal for a television special on CHSJ-TV, which ceased to exist in 1994. 

3. Fresh faces

A 1982 campaign ad featuring a young Elizabeth Weir.

The Saint John lawyer and politician went on to become the leader of the New Democratic Party of New Brunswick in June 1988.

Weir may not have been successful in North York, pictured — but she was elected in 1991 in the riding of Saint John South — and became the sole New Democrat in the legislature from then until 2005.

4. Iconic names

Lots of familiar New Brunswick names on the Confederate ticket in 1866, which is widely considered the first election for the Canadian province of New Brunswick since it was during was during the life of this Legislative Assembly that the province joined Canadian Confederation.

This ad features a Fathers-of-Confederation hat trick: Samuel Tilley and Duncan Wilmot, and John Gray.

5. Losers

The Progressive Conservative Party designed a full-page insert in this fall 1967 edition of the Saint John Evening Times Globe urging voters in the province to "stop being losers."

With all the talk of "losers," this page reads strangely like Donald Trump's Twitter account. 

6. Creepy caricatures

Definitely having election-themed nightmares about this Tory cartoon from the Sept. 18, 1952 edition of the St. Croix Courier.

A grimacing "Liberal Machine," which resembles Pennywise, the clown from the film It, is surrounded by a whirling collage of broken promises by then-premier John McNair: neglected polio clinics, over-funded liquor stores, and "special jobs for special friends."

He's lugging a bag of "boodle" — defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "money, especially that gained or spent illegally or improperly."

7. Anti-booze ballots

A July 3, 1920 Daily Gleaner ad urging voters to "do a man or woman's part July 10" and vote for prohibition.

The New Brunswick Legislative Assembly had first passed a prohibitory bill in 1855 — which didn't do much to staunch the flow of alcohol in the province. In Prohibition or Regulation? The Enforcement of the Canada Temperance Act in Moncton, 1881-1896, Jacques Paul Couturier observes that "Moncton was, paradoxically, a prohibitionist town in which the liquor trade continued to flourish" from 1881 through the 1890s."

The 1920 election was a chance to amend to the [Prohibition] Act, said to allow for "too much latitude in the case of doctors, druggist, and vendors who have practically the dispensing of liquors within their own hands."

"Remember," the ad states. "You are Voting for Prohibition as Against a Return to the Bars."

Prohibition would continue in the province until 1927.

8. Nameless wives

Two things to note in this clipping from the Oct. 13 1982 Daily Gleaner.

One: the New Democrats had just won their first-ever seat in provincial history.

Two: the shot of acid-tongued Liberal leader Doug Young looking sad following his defeat by Richard Hatfield, the man he openly mocked as "Tricky Dicky.'

At his side through it all: "Wife." 

9. Gratuitous insults

Front page, above the fold of the the Aug. 4, 1925 Moncton Daily Times: MLA (and sitting attorney general) Ivan Cleveland Rand has "grossly insulted" the electors of Albert County by claiming that "25 per cent of people do not know where Grand Falls is."

The crowd at Hopewell Cape booed him off the stage.

Less than a week later, Rand was defeated in the 1925 election.

10. Think of the children

Get 'em young: an Oct. 11, 1967 ad in the Saint John Evening Times Globe features a cute cartoon kid wearing an oversized campaign badge.

Maybe we can bring this one back in 2020 after the referendum on lowering the voting age to 16.

Also cute: the "human hair fashion wigs" being advertised for sale at Calps, once a major department store in Saint John. 

11. Politicians and poets

Best-known today as one of the most famous Canadian poets of the 20th century — Alden Nowlan was also a Saint John newspaper man.

An Oct. 18 1978 ad in the Daily Gleaner plugs his radio chat on CKCW in Moncton, and CHSJ in Saint John, with then-premier Richard Hatfield.

12. Orgies

On Aug. 7, 1925 — alongside a steamy-looking ad for the film Necessary Evil at the Imperial Theatre — Opposition candidate for Moncton City Mr. E.A. O'Reilly, warned of an "orgy of extravagance" being perpetrated by the sitting government.

"A feature of last night's [city hall] meeting," the columnist notes, "was the large number of ladies present."

About the Author

Julia Wright

Julia Wright is a reporter based in Saint John. She has been with the CBC since 2016.