Sunday, February 12, 2012

Larry Desjardins

Larry Desjardins, a former Manitoba cabinet minister, died this week.  However, published obituaries (here and here) missed two moments of his political life of historic importance. 

The key moment came following the June 25, 1969 election when Ed Schreyer`s NDP won 28 of the 57 seats in the Manitoba legislature.  Efforts in the days after the election to construct a coalition between the 22 Progressive Conservatives led by Premier Walter Weir and the remaining 5 Liberals plus a Social Credit member and an independent were brought to an abrupt halt by the announcement by Desjardins, elected as a Liberal that year, that he would sit in the legislature as a Liberal-Democrat and support an Ed Schreyer led government.

This gave Manitoba its first NDP government.  Since 1969 the NDP has ruled Manitoba for almost 28 years (compared to 15 years for the PCs).

In 1970 Desjardins wavered in deciding whether to support the government`s legislation to create public auto insurance.  However, Ed Schreyer kept his support. This sustained the government during a critical period early in its life. It also ensured that a key election promise, which would prove to be very popular over time, was kept intact. This second decision by Larry Desjardins was also of considerable historic importance and deserves to be remembered.