Saturday, August 12, 2006

What If Politics: Manning versus Romanow

While no one has cracked 60% in round 2 voting, the closest race appears to be the political spectrum spanning matchup of Preston Manning versus Roy Romanow (a mere 20 vote gap at last check). Here's my profile of the matchup:

Preston Manning (2)

OK. Everyone together now: “Refoooooooooooorm!”

That felt good. While there are a lot of Conservatives in this contest, Manning (and perhaps Lougheed) is one of the few who represents the “true right” (or, “far right”, depending on your perspective). Manning developed a reputation as a respected, principled politician, not afraid to speak his mind, during his time as Reform Party leader. After helping to create the CCRAP Party Canadian Alliance, party members decided that they would be better off under the leadership of one Stockwell Day. How’d that one work out of them?

The Biography that Never Was: Prime Minister Manning grew up around politics, as the son of Alberta’s longest serving Premier, Ernest Manning. In fact, from his first birthday to his University graduation, Preston lived in a province run by his father.

Manning founded the Reform Party in 1987 and, a year later, ran for them in an election where his party was shut out. The Reformers got their first real breakthrough in the 1993 election, winning 51 seats. Under the unofficial “The West Wants In” slogan, Manning’s Reformers played on the feeling that Mulroney had “sold out”, while preaching economic responsibility and promising democratic reform.

Given the strong social conservative views of many in the Reform Party, it is hard to imagine Manning ever becoming Prime Minister if not for the events of 1995. Few in Canada will forget where they were when Jacques Parizeau stood up on October 31st and claimed victory by the slimmest of margins, following the Referendum campaign. Jean Chretien’s Liberals appeared completely caught off guard by the loss and, even more so, by the speed with which Parizeau unilaterally declared independence the next day. In the chaotic weeks that followed, many in what remained of Canada were wholly unimpressed with the Liberals and their chief negotiator, Brian Tobin, who appeared to give Parizeau whatever he desired. In the end, the mish-mash European Union style arrangement which was agreed upon pleased few in English Canada. Many wondered why Quebecers were being allowed to keep their Canadian passports and use the Canadian dollar if they had voted to separate, a feeling Manning’s Reformers were quick to pounce on, with their hard line approach which, at first, refused to recognize the results of the vote and, secondly, demanded an “all or nothing” resolution.

After a snap leadership convention replaced Jean Chretien with rival Paul Martin Jr., Manning’s Reformers roared to massive win in the 1996 election. Between their handling of the Quebec situation and the country’s now dismal economic state, Manning’s tough love approach to both problems seemed like the best solution to most Canadians.

On June 10th, 1996, Preston Manning became Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, Manning...

Roy Romanow (7)

Roy Romanow is unique in the final 8, in that he never came close to becoming Prime Minister (the same could be said of Tommy Douglas, although Tommy did at least lead a federal party). Despite that, he has had a long and impressive career in provincial politics.

Considering his close friendship with Jean Chretien and the fact that all NDP Premiers seem to eventually wind up as federal Liberals, it is surprising that Romanow never made the jump to federal politics. He has, however, made an impact on the national scene, first as Saskatchewan’s Attorney General during the 1981 constitutional talks and secondly as the author of the Romanow Report which was supposed to change health care in Canada (but didn’t really).

The Biography that Never Was: Roy Romanow’s rise to become Canada’s 21st Prime Minister is the story of a life long politician who would never have become our country’s leader if not for one tragic event.

Romanow was first elected to the Saskatchewan legislature in Canada’s centennial year and he served there until 1982, many of them as Deputy Premier. Romanow’s role in the 1981 constitutional talks cannot be overlooked and he deserves much of the credit for a compromise constitution being reached. In 1987, Romanow was elected leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, and he became Premier of that province following the 1991 election. Romanow was generally successful as NDP Premier, adopting the “third way” approach to keep the province’s economic books in order.

Romanow’s biography would likely have ended there if not for the tragic death of Paul Martin Jr. on September 14th, 2002. Martin had been seen as a sure fire successor to Jean Chretien but his death left the Liberal Party’s leadership race wide open, prompting 11 candidates, Romanow included, to try for the title. The tabling of the Romanow Report on Health Care in November of that year was the perfect launching pad for his leadership bid, although he did not officially declare until the following March.

At first, many in the Liberal Party were aghast at the prospect of a former NDP Premier having the nerve to run for their party’s leadership. Still, Romanow’s record as Premier in Saskatchewan had not met the same fate as that of many other NDP Premiers in Canada and his work on the Romanow Report had raised his profile among both Liberals and Canadians. Romanow also made for an appealing consensus candidate as he had been close to Jean Chretien, but at the same time had not ruffled the feathers of Martin supporters the way Rock, Manley, and Copps had. While he was only third on the first ballot, Romanow’s support grew, defeating John Manley on the fourth ballot by a mere 17 votes.

Paul Martin Jr. is today considered almost universally to be the best prime minister Canada never had. As for Romanow, as Prime Minister...

Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had - Round 2
Matchup 1
Robert Stanfield
Peter Lougheed
Matchup 2
George Etienne Cartier
Tommy Douglas
Matchup 3
Preston Manning
Roy Romanow
Matchup 4
Frank McKenna
Ed Broadbent

(view results)


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