What do the following things have in common: a wayward axe, a runway vintage tractor and Garth Brooks?

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Former premier Gary Doer (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Former premier Gary Doer (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

What do the following things have in common: a wayward axe, a runway vintage tractor and Garth Brooks?

They are all key elements in the untold story of the 2003 provincial election campaign.

Fortunately for political junkies, Not For Attribution will reveal all in the second episode of Manitoba’s first podcast on politics and government, with an in-depth interview with former NDP premier Gary Doer and former Progressive Conservative leader Stuart Murray.

Doer and Murray faced each other head-on in the 2003 campaign. It was the first re-election challenge for Doer, who won a majority mandate in 1999 after toiling for 11 years in opposition. For Murray, it was his first election and first as the leader of a party, having taken on the challenge of rebuilding it just a few years earlier.

In the final analysis, it was not a close race. The NDP government gained three seats for a total of 35; the Tories lost four seats, and the Liberals gained one for a two-person caucus. Doer won the support of 50 per cent of all votes cast, a commanding victory.

The 2003 election helped galvanize Doer’s legacy as a first minister. After triumphing in 2003, he would go on to win a third majority in 2007, before retiring from politics in 2009 and serving as Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

However, that same campaign ultimately destabilized Murray’s tenure. Largely based on concern about the election result, Murray resigned his post less than two years after the election, having failed to secure enough support in a leadership review.

Although the results and consequences of the 2003 election were quite different, both leaders had similar experiences on the campaign trail. Which is to say, they experienced campaigns that were challenging and, at times, unpredictable.

For Doer, his most vivid memories come from a northern swing that took him to Thompson, Flin Flon, The Pas and Cranberry Portage.

This included a rather memorable showdown with a particularly wet, particularly green log in Cranberry Portage that defied all efforts by the tall, lanky Doer to be split.

For Murray, his memories include being invited to drive a vintage tractor, only to find out that vehicles without power steering are not to be messed with.

As for Garth Brooks, you’ll have to tune in to Not For Attribution to find out how the superstar U.S. country crooner played a supporting role in the 2003 election.

Episode 2 of Not For Attribution will be available on SoundCloud Aug. 27.


Dan Lett

Dan Lett

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.