Which premier has had the greatest impact on Manitoba?
When asked by the polling firm Leger, 39 per cent of respondents in the province didn't pick any candidate at all.
Duff Roblin (Conservative, 1958-67) scooped up 26 per cent of the vote, Gary Doer (NDP, 1999-2009) got eight per cent, Ed Schreyer (NDP, 1969-77) received seven per cent, and Gary Filmon (Conservative, 1988-99) had six per cent. (Premier Brian Pallister was not eligible to be chosen.)
The poll, which was conducted on behalf of the Free Press, was taken by 800 randomly-selected Manitobans aged 18 and over, between Feb. 7 and 17.
Leger executive vice-president Andrew Enns said the large chunk of non-answers was not surprising.
"I do a fair amount of public affairs research, policy issues, and I’m occasionally taken aback that people weren’t more engaged on some kind of current events and things like that," he said. "But people are busy. So you pose a question like this, and it’s very much kind of the here and now is what’s in the forefront of their minds."
Enns noted the nature of the question might also have caused some difficulty.
"It wasn’t just name a premier, but it was: name a premier who had a significant impact on Manitoba," he said.
This year is Manitoba's 150th birthday. Manitoba has had 22 government leaders since its official entry into Confederation in 1870. The list below provides the 18 Premiers who served at least one full year (excluding the current premier). From this list, please select which individual you think had the greatest impact on Manitoba.
A total of 800 online surveys were conducted in Manitoba between Feb. 7 and 17. As a non-random internet survey, a margin of error is not reported. If the data were collected through a random sample, the margin of error would be plus- or minus-3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20 in Manitoba.
"I think there’s a per cent of that 39 per cent that probably would have a really hard time even naming... a couple of the past 10 years, and then there’s some who maybe really just wrestled with it."
Those sentiments were shared by Kelly Saunders, Brandon University associate professor and chair in the department of political science.
"There’s two ways to interpret that," she said. "No. 1 is that Manitobans felt there were a number of former premiers that could possibly be ranked as the best and so, therefore, they simply couldn’t make a selection, or they simply didn’t know anybody to be able to name.
"I’m presuming it’s probably more of a case of the second factor rather than the first."
Saunders said if her presumption was correct, she found the results "a little disturbing."
"Certainly, we would like to hope that voters, citizens of any community, could name who their premiers are, who their provincial leaders are," she said.
Meanwhile, Enns said it was important to emphasize the unified response behind the runaway poll leader: Roblin.
"I maybe take the glass-half-full perspective and go, OK, those that did, the 60 per cent thereabouts, I think they actually gave it a bit of thought, and I’m not surprised that Duff Roblin came to the top in a fairly significant manner," he said.
Roblin is widely known for introducing many changes during his nine years as premier that are still impactful today, perhaps most famously the construction of the Red River Floodway. Roblin died in 2010, at age 92.
"I think if anybody could name a premier that I think many Manitobans would probably support as being one of the best premiers we’ve ever had, it’s him," Saunders said. "Duff Roblin has been identified as one of the top political leaders in the country, historically and in opinion polls, and so forth."
While the No. 1 position was well-deserved, Saunders noted the substantial margin of victory was concerning.
"It also says, 'Well, he was premier in the 1960s, right?', so what does that mean about how we feel about our political leaders, our provincial leaders, over the past 40, 50 years since then?"
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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