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Interview: Two Former Premiers Look at Manitoba Politics Douglas Campbell, Howard Pawley

Douglas Lloyd Campbell was first elected in 1922 as a member of the United Farmers Party representing Lakeside constituency. He went on to serve in the cabinet of the Liberal-Progressive coalition government of Stuart Garson in various portfolios before he succeeded him as both leader and premier in 1948. Following his defeat in 1958, Mr. Campbell continued to serve as leader of the Liberal-Progressive Party in Manitoba and opposition leader in the Manitoba legislature until 1961, when now Senator Gil Molgat was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba. The former premier continued to represent Lakeside as a Liberal MLA until his retirement in 1969. His 47-year term of continuous service is one of the longest in British Commonwealth history. Today Mr. Campbell, a widower, father of seven, grandfather of 24 and great-grandfather of 14 alternates between his home in the Winnipeg suburb of Tuxedo and the family farm at Flee Island, 24 km. northeast of Portage la Prairie, in his political constituency. He now belongs to the Reform Party but his grandson, Campbell Wright, 30 continues the family's Liberal tradition. He ran unsuccessfully in the recent provincial election against Tory Premier Gary Filmon. Howard Pawley was first elected to the Manitoba legislature during the NDP sweep of 1969. He served in Ed Schreyer's cabinet in various roles, including a four-year term as attorney-general and minister responsible for the newly-created Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation (MPIC). Following Mr. Schreyer's appointment as governor-general, Mr. Pawley was elected leader of the NDP in January 1979 and served as opposition leader until his party defeated Sterling Lyon's Tory administration on November 13, 1981. Mr. Pawley was defeated on March 8, 1988 and he resigned as leader of the NDP the next day. Later that year, Mr. Pawley unsuccessfully sought the federal riding of Selkirk. He also practised law with a Winnipeg firm. Today he and his wife make their home in Windsor, Ontario, where the former NDP premier lectures on federal-provincial relations at the University of Windsor. The Pawleys have two children; Christopher, 26 and Charysse, 24, who continue to live in Winnipeg. The two former Premiers were asked to reflect on their own governments, to analyze the current political situation in Manitoba and to discuss the future of the province. The interview was conducted by Christopher Guly.

How do you think the province has changed since you were its premier?

CAMPBELL: The rate of inflation and the current recession have contributed to rapid economic change. I also think Manitobans want to be part of any constitutional discussions. The vast majority of Manitobans were so conscious as to what a defective document (the) Meech Lake (Accord) was that I think that they were pleased to see it peter out the way that it did.

PAWLEY: Environment, across the board. I also think the economy is much more difficult to manage. I too think that people were disappointed with the way in which the federal government handled the Meech Lake negotiations. They were disillusioned with the whole process.

What are some of the issues you would like to see discussed in today's political forum in Manitoba?

CAMPBELL: I would like to see changes to the way in which we discuss constitutional issues. The ill-famed Meech Lake debate was so unintelligent, so divisive that it left the wrong impression across the country. I'm afraid that in Quebec they feel that the "anti"-provinces are against them. That is not the case at all.

The financial situation, federally and provincially, cries out to be addressed by somebody in a meaningful way. Here in Manitoba, Gary Filmon's (previous) minority government made some move to cost cutting. But we have to live within our means and there's a lot of room for doing that depending on the extent to which politicians have the courage to do it.

PAWLEY: The environment and aboriginal issues have to be the key concerns. My government had a land claims agreement in Ottawa which was stalled when the Liberals were defeated in 1984. With developments in telecommunications, we have to look at alternatives. Our province is also blessed with energy and we should continue hydro development.

What do you think was your most significant contribution during your administration?

CAMPBELL: Some people would say getting out! But I think that most people recognize that Manitoba had a surplus every year we were in office. We paid off the remaining debt Manitoba had. We reorganized the electrical industry, getting companies together to ensure that the province would never have a brown-out like Ontario and other provinces.

I think one of the greatest achievements was introducing more equitable representation by population than ever before. We set up an independent commission to re-draw boundary lines to ensure fair representation. It was unbalanced to think that one constituency would be composed of 8,000 residents and another up to 25,000.

PAWLEY: I think our most significant contribution was that in 1981, the economy was right at the bottom and we moved into first or second place in the country. We converted the unemployment rate, brought about investment growth, pay equity, new legislation in the area of workplace safety and health, and tightened tax loopholes. We also strengthened existing human rights' legislation.

Your most significant blunder?

CAMPBELL: I had no sense of public relations, no flair for publicity and no interest in cultivating popularity. I was hopeless in trying to get to the public to understand the good job we were doing. Succeeding governments have since demonstrated just how good we were. I usually relied on two cabinet ministers, Ron Turner and Bud Jobin (former Lieutenant-Governor) to rehabilitate a situation if any damage had been done by me.

PAWLEY: I think we were insensitive and naive, particularly during the French-language dispute in 1983 and 1984. I think it would have been better to have proceeded to the Supreme Court of Canada than to have introduced legislation.

We also miscalculated the political situation in 1986 when there was a tightness in numbers. In the Assembly we had 30 seats, the Tories 26 and the Liberals one. We did not really have a working majority considering our number of MLAs and the continued disgruntlement of one of our members, Jim Walding. It was at our own peril and it cost us heavily. We also went ahead with an insurance rate increase of 23 per cent. We had lost some contact and did not bother to communicate. It was insensitive on our part because we were pressured too much.

How do you think Manitobans remember you and how would you like to be remembered?

CAMPBELL: I was not too popular with the media but I think people will remember me as being honest and sincere and, perhaps, not too bright. If I had been brighter, I probably would have caught on to the necessity of cultivating the media to publicize me.

PAWLEY: I think it is a little too early. But I would like to think that my government was one of reforms and that we handled the economy well. We stood up for Manitoba's concerns when we lost the CF-18 contract to Quebec and over free trade. I would hope that we will be remembered as a sensitive and caring government.

What are the plusses and minuses to running a province? Would you do it again?

CAMPBELL: I still consider public service to be one of the highest callings of a citizen. It is a lot of hard work. I am sorry that politicians, particularly federally, have done such a poor job recently. There never was a time when the public has held them in lower esteem.

You sacrifice your business interests greatly and your home life greatly. Luckily, my late wife Gladys was a great help to me.

PAWLEY: The plusses were that I lived on the cutting edge of rapid change. The minuses were the limitations of being a smaller province. I saw that the federal government tends to cater much more to Ontario and Quebec. The 1980s were a time of increasing complexity and there was much more change than there was in the 1960s and the 1970s.

Yes, I would do it again and hopefully would benefit from my successes and failures and build upon them – but I doubt that I ever would! It is a pleasant change from a goldfish bowl environment, especially after 20 years.

What have you done and are doing since you left political office?

CAMPBELL: I went back to the farm but not active farming since that had passed me by. It is a different world now than when I operated it. My vision is impaired so I spend my time listening to records and hope that someone will take me out to the farm, where I'll spend a week or so at a time. There, I keep the lawn trimmed using a riding mower, do some repairs and neighbours usually drop by to see me. I just like being there. It is home.

PAWLEY: I ran federally for my hometown seat of Selkirk and lost by 3,000 votes to (Tory) Dave Bjornson. I practised law for one year with the Winnipeg firm of Baker, Zivot and Company and lectured in Canadian politics at the University of Manitoba. I am now a visiting professor of political science at the University of Windsor and absolutely love it. It's a one-year term. After that who knows?

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 13 no 4

Last Updated: 2020-09-14