The Origins of Autopac: An Essay on the Possibility of Social Democratic Government in Manitoba

By Blaikie, Daniel | Manitoba History, October 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Origins of Autopac: An Essay on the Possibility of Social Democratic Government in Manitoba


Blaikie, Daniel, Manitoba History


As the title suggests, this article will concern itself with the question of whether or not social democratic government is a real possibility in Manitoba. On the one hand, the question may seem odd. The New Democratic Party (NDP) of Manitoba is a social democratic party. It is currently in power in Manitoba, has governed the province for nearly twenty-five of the last forty years, and will continue governing in Manitoba for the foreseeable future. Clearly if the possibility of social democratic government were defined solely in terms of the electability of social democratic parties, the main question of this essay would be absurd. On the other hand, since the 1980s right up until today, the fundamental insight of democratic socialism--roughly, that a democratically elected government should play an active role in the economy to protect the interest of all members of society, not just a small, elite cross-section thereof--has been losing more and more political currency in Canadian society. (1) Not even social democratic parties have been immune from this phenomenon. Thus by 2001, Doug Smith argues, the NDP government in Manitoba--unlike in the 1970s, where the government "had taken over a number of manufacturing concerns"--found itself in a context where it was unwilling even to consider nationalizing the Versatile tractor plant to save the jobs of the 250 members of CAW local 2224. (2) This was true even though Gary Doer's NDP has been a strong advocate of maintaining existing public infrastructure like Manitoba Hydro, and vigorously fought the privatization of the Manitoba Telephone System in the 1990s.

This does not mean that supporters of democratic socialism have given up on the idea that electing social democratic governments holds value, but it has led to a certain malaise in the social democratic movement. (3) A large part of the problem hinges on how to reconcile the "democratic" component of democratic socialism with the "socialist" component at a time when socialism holds very little popular (and therefore electoral) appeal, and there is as yet no clear way forward. For its part, the current NDP government in Manitoba seems to hold that this question is best contemplated from the government benches--thus erring on the side of populism--than those of the opposition. In the apparent absence of any obvious and politically viable alternative, Manitoba's social democrats have typically--whether tacitly or overtly--endorsed the strategy.

There is a view, however, that says the question of how to reconcile democracy and socialism is unanswerable in principle. James McAllister, the only one to publish a sustained scholarly analysis of an NDP government in Manitoba, maintains that the social democrat faces a dilemma. She must choose either democracy or socialism because parliamentary democracy is inherently conservative and as such, cannot be the vehicle for any major political, social or economic changes. (4) The present article intends to grapple mainly with this claim, by arguing that the implementation of public automobile insurance in Manitoba by the NDP government of Edward Schreyer presents a counterexample to McAllister's thesis. (5) The aim here is not to answer the question of how to reconcile democracy and socialism in the twenty-first century, but simply to establish the legitimacy of the question.

Evidence Against Democratic Socialism

Manitoba's history of social democratic government began in 1969 when on 25 June, Manitobans sent enough NDP candidates to the Legislature to form, with the help of Larry Desjardins, a then independent, ex-Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly, a precarious minority government. With Desjardins' tentative endorsement, Schreyer's government enjoyed the support of twenty-nine MLAs in a fifty-seven seat legislature. If the NDP's victory came as a surprise to the province's establishment, one can hardly blame them.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Origins of Autopac: An Essay on the Possibility of Social Democratic Government in Manitoba
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?