Saturday, August 05, 2006

What If Politics: Manley versus Broadbent

The closest race of the first round has John Manley trying to knock off the number 3 seed, Ed Broadbent. These are perhaps two of the most honest and respected politicians in the group of 16 and I have no doubt that either one would have made a great Prime Minister. Here’s a look at the matchup:

John Manley

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…

Ed Broadbent

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…

Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had - Round 2
Matchup 1
Robert Stanfield
D'Arcy McGee
Matchup 2
Deb Grey
Preston Manning
Matchup 3
Ed Broadbent
John Manley
Matchup 4
George Etienne Cartier
Bill Davis
Matchup 5
Louise Arbour
Tommy Douglas
Matchup 6
Frank McKenna
Lloyd Axworthy
Matchup 7
Stephen Lewis
Roy Romanow
Matchup 8
John Crosbie
Peter Lougheed

(view results)


  • Dear Mr. Ramson,

    I contest the condorcet accuracy of this contest! People of relatively high standing have been placed against eachother, whereas relative pygmies will advance unearned. The most just principle for future contests would be to pit the highest vote getter against the second-lowest, etc. so that high-fliers are not knocked out early. Much as I enjoy your blog, this is nothing short of an attack on the Democratic ideals of this country, and of this blessed blogosphere.

    PS: I was serious in my proposal, but sarcastic in my over-the-top attack.

    PPS: John Manley in a heartbeat.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:04 PM  

  • Manley's a hack. Pro Iraq, Afghanistan, Missile Defence,... he's as much a Liberal as Mike Iggy.

    Broadbent by the depth of the universe plus a few more light years.

    Manley is not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Broadbent. Oops, my bad.

    By Blogger Peace, at 7:21 PM  

  • I second the motion to contest!

    Broadbent and Manley, clearly, both deserve to advance.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 7:23 PM  

  • Broadbent and Manley, clearly, both deserve to advance

    Same with Axeworthy and McKenna....

    By Blogger Zac, at 7:33 PM  

  • hoser; The matchups were made, based on the vote totals of the first round. For example, Stanfield had the most votes and McGee was 16th, so they face each other.

    Broadbent was 3rd, so he draws 14th place in Manley. I didn't want to subjectively set the matchups so it's based solely on their vote totals from the first round.

    For the next round, the winner of 1/16 plays the winner of 8/9. 2/15 plays 7/10. 3/14 plays 6/11. And 4/13 plays 5/12.

    It's out of my hands.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:43 PM  

  • I believe that supporters of John Manley should use their blogs to propagate all that is right and good in the world (as a fellow nerd who avoided doing most de rigeur things in high school).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:34 PM  

  • I dunno, McKenna over Axworthy in a 250ml-chocolate-milk-drink for me. (ie. a second)

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 8:41 PM  

  • Oh come on, nothing is out of your hands - you're a Liberal for Christ's sake!

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 8:42 PM  

  • I guess I do need to add one of these:


    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 8:43 PM  

  • Ah, what a better country this would be if only Ed Broadbent wasn't a complete sellout and did indeed campaign against free trade in 1988. :(

    Thomas @

    By Blogger Thomas, at 9:01 PM  

  • Ed Broadbent a sell-out?

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 9:39 PM  

  • thomas, you're sort of right. broadbent should have campaigned a bit more harder against free trade. alas...

    By Blogger bza, at 10:48 PM  

  • Hey love the alternate bios CG - I think a more plausible rise to power for Broadbent (as though it matters) would have been for the NDP to have won more seats than the Liberals in 1984 (quite possible) and then became a large opposition drawfing the Liberals in 1988, Broadbent staying on, then sailing to victory over the by then unpopular Tories in 1993.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 11:06 PM  

  • Just for the record, if Broadbent had won in 1988, he would have become the 19th, prime minister, not the 20th. (Mulroney was 18, Campbell 19 and Chretien 20.)

    That's definitely a tough choice. What could have become of Canada had Broadbent won... what could have become of the Liberal Party had Martin not rigged the race so bad...

    By Blogger Clear Grit, at 11:20 PM  

  • clear grit: I completely forgot about Kim Campbell - imagine that!

    Yeah, 19th PM - I've made the change. I could also see the NDP opposition scenario translating for them.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:33 AM  

  • "Ed Broadbent a sell-out?"

    Absolutley. Whether it was turning down Trudeau's offer for an alliance in 1982 to stop the tide of Mulroney/neo-liberalism, or attack John Turner in 1988 thus giving us the FTA, or today apologizing for Harper and calling for a German style "social democratic/Christian democratic" union.

    No wonder Mulroney gave Ed a fat patronage appointment in the early 90s. He played a big role in putting him in the PMO.

    Ed Broadbent is one of the NDP's biggest problems, and one of the many reasons I left.

    (For the record, I held my nose and voted for Manley!)

    Thomas @

    By Blogger Thomas, at 1:59 AM  

  • CG, I love the blog and love the contest. Here's hoping Manley makes a comeback in the next day or so.

    Not to nit pick, but I have one correction. The 1988 election was over the FTA between Canada and the U.S. NAFTA didn't come until 1993ish.

    By Blogger Pete, at 2:12 AM  

  • Alright, I'm going for Manley.

    I HATE this, it really sucks.

    Ideally, I'd've loved to have seen Manley as Head of Government and Broadbent as Head of State.

    So I'm voting for Beaker.

    I can't believe one of these guys is going to have to go.


    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:58 AM  

  • Hey Calgary Grit,

    I've visited your page many times before, but as I stumbled on it today while finishing my research for a 30-page paper on the election of 1988, I would like to inform you that you blatantly mixed up Turner and Broadbent. It was Turner who wrapped himself in the flag. I'm going to skip the history lesson, because I can't do it justice in this space, but ultimately, since Turner had alienated a lot of the older Liberals, for the election Turner decided that his only choice was to come out strongly against free trade to retain any support (he won the LPC convention by rallying a lot of younger, new, or 1970s Liberals in English Canada who were against free trade). He then came out in favour of Meech Lake as a compromise with Quebecers who were in favour of free trade. Also, going against free trade appealed to the masses better than "these particular aspects of this particular agreement are bad, but free trade itself is good." There is no way that Turner hugged the middle ground in that election.

    Also, Broadbent's campaign barely touched on policy until the very end. The NDP actually wanted to avoid the issue of free trade and focus instead on the ultra-trustworthiness of Broadbent. This was because the NDP wasn't seen as a good party to make economic decisions, and the party was also afraid that causing too much fear in free trade would make all potential NDP voters jump ship and vote for the Liberals to prevent the deal from going through. Finally, in the debate, only 10% thought Broadbent had won, while 46% though Turner won (Globe poll from three days later).

    Seriously, I hope you were kidding about the description of both leaders in the election.

    Anyway, love the site.

    PS: forgive my run-on sentences; I haven't slept.

    By Blogger Ottawa Grit, at 11:07 AM  

  • Really useful information, thanks so much for the article.

    By Anonymous, at 3:59 AM  

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