Baseball and politics intersect again in summer of 2015

The Toronto Blue Jays found themselves in first place in the American League's Eastern Division Thursday morning, the first time they have held that position on an August day since 1993. Something else was going on during the team's thrilling stretch drive 22 years ago.

Blue Jays are in 1st, the NDP governs Canada's economic engine and an October election looms: What year is it?

Baseball and politics collided 22 years ago with Joe Carter and the Toronto Blue Jays' second championship run during the 1993 election campaign. Could history be repeating itself in 2015? (Chris Wattie/Reuters, Sean Kilpatrick/CP, Hans Deryk/CP, Adrian Wyld/CP, Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The Toronto Blue Jays found themselves in first place in the American League's Eastern Division Thursday morning, the first time they have held that position on an August day since 1993.

Back then they were the World Series champs, on their way to defend that title. But something else was in the air during their thrilling stretch drive that fall.

Canadians would soon be in the midst of a campaign for a federal election called for Oct. 25.

Bob Rae was premier of Ontario, leader of an NDP majority government elected three years earlier, much to the surprise and even shock of many Ontario voters. Many of his own candidates never expected to win.

The first-ever NDP government in Ontario was elected just as a powerful recession struck and hit that province especially hard.

Canadians had just emerged from a painful round of constitutional conferences, negotiations and a referendum. The Charlottetown Accord was defeated. A big part of that deal was a proposal to reform the Senate.

Today, the Senate is again in the headlines. This time because of scandal. Canadians are again being asked to consider reform or abolition.

And this spring, Rachel Notley led the Alberta NDP to a surprise and shocking majority win, ending the province's 44-year Tory dynasty.

Alberta is facing an oil price collapse that's hitting its economy hard, raising fears of a prolonged slump that has Canada on the verge of its first official recession in five years.

New leaders

In 1993, the Liberals had a new leader. Jean Chrétien defeated Paul Martin and Sheila Copps on the first ballot in a leadership convention vote in 1990. Chrétien, a long-time cabinet minister in governments led by Pierre Trudeau, had a populist appeal, supporters said.

The Liberals have a new leader again in 2015, Justin Trudeau. Again, Liberal strategists are hoping to capitalize on their candidate's personal popularity.

Jean Chretien led his Liberals to victory in 1993, the first of three straight majorities. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

While the Progressive Conservatives had a new leader too in Kim Campbell, they also had a record to defend after back-to-back majority wins by Brian Mulroney.

Today, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is seeking a fourth mandate, and is also defending a record of eight-plus years as prime minister.

In 1993, former PC cabinet minister Lucien Bouchard was leading the newly formed Bloc Québécois into its first election. Bouchard quit Mulroney's government in 1990 in a dispute over proposed changes to the Meech Lake Accord.

There isn't much left of Bouchard's BQ party in 2015 — but former leader Gilles Duceppe has returned in hopes of leading the party back to relevance. The future of Quebec in Canada and the question of sovereignty remains an issue in this election.

The NDP also had a new leader for the 1993 election. Audrey MacLaughlin became the first female leader of a national political party when she replaced Ed Broadbent in 1989. One of the key obstacles to her success was the unpopularity of the Ontario NDP government.

This is Tom Mulcair's first federal election as NDP leader. And, again, a key to his success in 2015 is going to be winning more seats in Ontario. But, Ontario voters have long memories. The Rae years still cast a shadow.

In 1993, the Green Party ran candidates in just 79 ridings. Starting with the 2004 election, the party has run close to a full slate, and has two incumbent MPs this time, including leader Elizabeth May.


How did it all end in 1993?

The Blue Jays won their division, seven games ahead of the New York Yankees when the regular season ended on Oct. 3. They beat the Chicago White Sox for the AL Championship in six games on Oct 12.

Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper scored a big win in 2011, winning the right to form a majority government. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The dream season ended on Oct 23, in Toronto, when the Jays' Joe Carter hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the team's second World Series title — back-to-back — with a swing of the bat.

Two days later, Canadian went to the polls and handed Jean Chrétien and the Liberals a big majority victory.

The Liberals took 177 of the 295 seats. Quebecers voted in droves for the BQ, giving the party 54 seats. The Reform Party, led by Preston Manning, finished just two seats behind the BQ, with a young Alberta MP named Stephen Harper in the fold. The NDP was reduced to just nine seats. And, the Progressive Conservatives were nearly wiped out.

It was a transformational election. The deep split on the right would take many years to heal, and helped keep the Liberals in government for more than a decade, before Harper returned to unite the right under the Conservative Party banner and win back-to-back-to-back elections.

About the Author

Bob Weiers


Bob Weiers is a Senior Producer at CBC News, primarily assigned to elections and live events. He's been covering politics since joining the CBC in 1990. His first election as a member of the CBC Core Group (the production team that travels the country setting up all that's needed to do an election night show) was in Alberta in 2004. He has worked on every one since.


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