What If Politics: Manley versus Broadbent
Political Experience: It might be easier just to list the Cabinet positions John Manley didn’t hold between 1993 and 2003, rather than recapping the full list. He is best remembered for his time in Industry, Foreign Affairs, and Finance, performing well in all three portfolios.
Close Call: Ran for leadership in 2003 against the Paul Martin juggernaut before dropping out of the race.
Rejected Endorsement: Queen Elizabeth
Rejected Slogan: “Imagine the exciting Harper/Manley debates this country could have had!”
The Biography that Never was: John Manley became Canada’s 21st Prime Minister on February 2nd, 2004. As if often the case, the road there was a long one. Manley was first elected as an MP to Ottawa South in 1988. When Jean Chretien offered Paul Martin the Cabinet portfolio of his choice following the 1993 election, Martin took his father’s advice and went to Industry, allowing Chretien to slot his first choice, John Manley, into Finance. As Finance Minister, Manley made difficult cuts necessary to get the country’s financial house in order. And as the economy recovered and the Liberals benefited from Mulroney’s GST and NAFTA, Manley was the one in the spotlight to get the credit. During this time, Manley also developed a reputation as a straight shooter and his frank, realistic assessment of the cost of separation to Quebecers was one of the bright spots in an otherwise poorly run 1995 “Non” Referendum campaign.
Following the 2000 election, Manley was shifted to Foreign Affairs, wanting to broaden his experience for a future leadership run. There, he received much praise for Canada’s strong response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
While Manley collected an impressive resume over this time, the real story of his rise to the highest office was the story of an intense rivalry between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. The 1990 leadership campaign had been a vicious one and Martin’s supporters spent much of the next decade laying the groundwork for a future bid. While Manley received praise in Finance and Foreign Affairs, Martin also did fine work in several portfolios over the same time period. Over time, the cut throat tactics of the Martin supporters became more and more pronounced, eventually leading to Jean Chretien’s resignation as party leader in 2002.
With the prospect of a true leadership race before them, many prominent Liberals decided to test the waters. This was especially true for those on the party’s left wing who feared a battle between a pair of business Liberals for the crown. It was not long before Allan Rock, Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin and handful of lower profile candidates wanting to raise their profile (such as Joe Volpe) entered the race. A long and heated leadership contest followed. The Manley supporters complained of the tactics used by the Martin supporters who in turn complained that the Manley supporters were not doing the party any favours by attacking Martin’s ties to CSL and Earnscliffe. At the convention in November, Martin’s superior ground game gave him a strong lead on the first ballot but as the other candidates dropped off one by one, their supporters drifted in larger numbers to the Manley camp, leading to a third ballot victory.
Manley decided to respect Jean Chretien’s desired retirement date, allowing his former boss to “fall on the grenade” which was the Auditor General’s report. John Manley was sworn in as Prime Minister the following February.
As Prime Minister, John Manley…
Political Experience: Broadbent was first elected to the House of Commons in 1968 and was a fourth ballot winner at the 1975 NDP leadership convention. Over the next 15 years and 4 elections, Broadbent would guide the NDP through good times and bad. Throughout the 80s, he was by far the most popular party leader in Canada (but, then again, look who he was up against) and he won a record 43 seats in 1988.
Close Call: Throughout much of 1987 and 1988, polls placed the NDP in first place.
Sure Fire Endorsement: Considering Jack Layton’s typical debate speech during the last campaign was “I know Ed Broadbent. Ed Broadbent is my friend. Ed Broadbent is NDP. Ed Broadbent, Ed Broadbent, Ed Broadbent”, I suspect he’s got Jack in his corner.
Rejected Slogan: “You’ve seen provincial NDP government – now let’s ruin a whole country!”
The Biography that Never was: Ed Broadbent became Canada’s 19th Prime Minister December 12th, 1988. His win in the epic 1988 election shattered Canada’s two party dynamic, forever changing the face of Canadian politics.
Broadbent probably never dreamed of becoming Prime Minister when he was first elected as an MP in 1968. The former University professor was, after all, a member of Canada’s third party, the New Democrats, a group which had never come close to sniffing power. In 1975, Broadbent became leader of a 16 seat party and that total did not budge dramatically in either of his first two elections as party leader. In 1984, Broadbent’s NDP won a solid 30 seats, just 10 behind John Turner’s second place Liberals.
As Canadians soured on the two Bay Street party leaders, they continued to warm to Broadbent and in the year leading up to the 1988 election, polls showed all three parties in the lead at different times. What followed was a see-saw election like one few had ever seen before. Broadbent and the NDP recognized the emotion of the Free Trade issue right off the bat and campaigned hard against it, trying to turn the election into a one issue campaign. John Turner, dealing with internal rifts in his own party and being personally undecided on the issue, hugged the middle ground, resisting the urge to campaign hard against Free Trade. As the election progressed and the voters polarized, the once mighty Liberal Party found itself being squeezed out on free trade and the election was clearly turning into one between the Tories and Dippers.
At the debates, Broadbent wrapped himself in the flag, engaging Mulroney in a memorable exchange about the FTA. Broadbent’s NDP surged ahead in the over night polls, prompting the Tories to, in the words of Allan Gregg, “bomb the bridge”. They attacked Broadbent and the NDP’s credibility hard in a series of vicious TV ads but while these commercials might have worked against John Turner, Broadbent’s personal popularity was so high that they backfired, making Mulroney look desperate.
When the votes were counted on election night, Broadbent’s NDP had been elected with a minority government.
As Prime Minister, Ed Broadbent…