Front page challenge

Parsing paper’s provincial post-election headlines

Rest assured, readers —there will be no DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN gaffe in the Winnipeg Free Press’s coverage of today’s provincial election. This isn’t our first time covering an election, after all.

Rest assured, readers —there will be no DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN gaffe in the Winnipeg Free Press’s coverage of today’s provincial election. This isn’t our first time covering an election, after all.

In fact, we’ve been covering provincial elections in this province longer than anyone else. Here’s a look back at how the Free Press has handled some of the more dramatic provincial elections on the front page the day (or two) after…

Dec. 18, 1879

Manitoba’s fourth general election, held Dec. 16, 1879, had 24 seats up for grabs — six were taken by the Conservatives, two by the Liberals, five by independents and 11 by folks with memberships in a variety of other parties or affiliations.

The paper, published two days later, notes results are "known up to the time of going to press" —things didn’t move so quickly back then. It also features a fine rendering of a rooster (?) and proclaims "Local Elections!" and then "Victory! Victory!!" — a punctuation situation that would send shudders down copy editors’ spines today.

July 19, 1922

The United Farmers of Manitoba (UFM) took the province’s 17th general election, held on July 18, with 28 of 55 seats — the first of two elections they’d win in the province. Winnipeg residents voted in 10 members using the single transferable ballot system, while all other members in the province were elected via first-past-the-post.

After the election the UFM caucus met and chose a leader to be premier — they hadn’t anticipated winning — settling on John Bracken after Robert Hoey and Thomas Crerar declined.

The "Dixon" mentioned at the top was F.J. Dixon, a popular politician in Winnipeg and a key figure in the city’s labour movement. He topped the city’s single transferable ballot list in both 1920 and 1922.

This election also marked the first time the province was governed by a party other than the Liberals or Conservatives.

May 15, 1959

The May 14 election saw Duff Roblin, the "Happy Warrior" pictured above," become premier, leading the Progressive Conservative party to a win of 36 of 57 seats.

It’s also worth noting the "Slain in Bank" story refers to the criminal as a "bandit," a term which brings Charlie Chaplin-era films to mind:

June 26, 1969

Ed Schreyer led the New Democratic Party to its first provincial victory, claiming 28 of 57 seats. The Tories dropped to 22 seats, while the Liberals fell to just five seats — their poorest showing since 1927.

Also of note: federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas was obviously happy, whooping it up in Ottawa; Jean Chrétien was presenting a new deal offer to "Indians;" Schreyer is referred to as "Yesterday’s Boy Wonder of Manitoba politics."

April 27, 1988

You might not think it by looking at this front page, but the Tories actually won this election.

Howard Pawley’s NDP government was swept from power, reduced to just 12 seats from their previous 30. The NDP’s loss was the Liberals' gain, with Sharon Carstairs (previously the only Liberal in the legislature) joined by 19 other colleagues from her party. They’ve not even had half as many seats since.

It was Gary Filmon and the Tories who took the top prize that year, albeit with a slim 25-seat minority government. They grew that number to 30 and 31 seats in the province’s 1990 and 1995 elections, respectively.

Regardless, Sharon Carstairs looks... excited.

Sept. 22, 1999

But the electorate giveth and the electorate taketh away, and in 1999, the voters took it all away from the Grits save for one seat — leader Jon Gerrard. And while he was joined by Kevin Lamoureux for some years, Gerrard heads into tonight’s election as yet again the only Grit with a seat. Will that change? We’ll see.

Regardless, this election saw the beginning of the current NDP reign in Manitoba, which it appears will come to an end this evening. Gary Doer and his party took 32 of 57 seats, a majority that would grow to 35 in 2003, 36 in 2007 and…

October 5, 2011

The NDP’s fourth consecutive victory in the province saw the party returned with its largest number of MLAs yet — 37 of 57. Greg Selinger was already premier going into the election, having taken over for Doer in 2009.

Tory leader Hugh McFadyen stepped aside, Jon Gerrard was busy Jon Gerrard-ing, and all seemed well for the NDP.

What could possibly go wrong?

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