Gary Filmon

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Gary Filmon
19th Premier of Manitoba
In office
May 9, 1988 – October 5, 1999
MonarchElizabeth II
Lieutenant GovernorGeorge Johnson
Yvon Dumont
Peter Liba
DeputyGlen Cummings
James Downey
Preceded byHoward Pawley
Succeeded byGary Doer
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Tuxedo
(River Heights; 1979–1981)
In office
October 16, 1979 – September 18, 2000
Preceded bySidney Spivak
Succeeded byHeather Stefanson
Personal details
Gary Albert Filmon

(1942-08-24) August 24, 1942 (age 81)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative
(m. 1963)
Alma materUniversity of Manitoba
OccupationCivil engineer
CabinetMinister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (1981)
Minister of Environment (1981)
Leader of the Opposition (1983–1988 & 1999–2000)

Gary Albert Filmon PC OC OM (born August 24, 1942) is a Canadian politician from Manitoba who served as the 19th premier of Manitoba. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba from 1983 to 2000, and served as the premier from 1988 to 1999.[1]

Early life[edit]

Gary Albert Filmon was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to working-class parents,[2] and is of Romanian and Polish-Ukrainian background.[3][4] His Romanian father anglicized the family name from Filimon to Filmon when he emigrated westward to Canada.[5]

Filmon was educated at the University of Manitoba and subsequently worked as a civil engineer.[1] In 1963, he married Janice Wainwright.[2]

Political career[edit]

Municipal politics[edit]

Filmon entered public life in 1975, being elected to the Winnipeg City Council;[1] for the next four years, Filmon was a member of Winnipeg's Independent Citizens' Election Committee, an unofficial alliance of centre-right Liberal and Progressive Conservative interests in the city.[2]

Provincial politics[edit]

In 1979, Filmon won a by-election to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in the riding of River Heights, held after the resignation of former Tory leader Sidney Spivak. On January 16, 1981, Filmon was appointed Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Minister of Environment in the government of Sterling Lyon.[2]

Lyon's Tories were defeated later in 1981 by the New Democratic Party under Howard Pawley, though Filmon was re-elected in the new riding of Tuxedo. He was elected to replace Lyon as party leader in 1983, defeating Brian Ransom and Clayton Manness at a delegated convention. At the time, Filmon was considered to be on the party's progressive wing. Supporters of Ransom would later allege that Filmon's campaign team had sponsored Manness' candidacy as a means of splitting the conservative vote.[2]

Filmon's Tories narrowly lost the 1986 election, winning 26 seats against 30 for the NDP. This election was generally regarded as lacking in defining issues, and the two major parties were not seen as having many ideological divisions between them.


Howard Pawley's slender majority government fell in 1988 when disgruntled NDP backbencher Jim Walding broke ranks and joined the opposition to vote down Pawley's budget. In the subsequent election, the Manitoba Liberal Party rose from one seat to twenty, taking seats away from both the Tories and the NDP in the process. The NDP, led by Gary Doer (Pawley had resigned after the writs were dropped), fell to 12 seats and third place. The Tories dropped to 25 seats, but nevertheless emerged as the largest party in the legislature. Filmon himself was almost defeated by a Liberal candidate in Tuxedo;[2] but he survived by 123 votes. After the NDP agreed to tolerate a PC minority government, Filmon became Premier.

The 1988-1990 parliament was most notable for its debates on the Meech Lake Accord, which would have confirmed the distinct status of Quebec within Canada. The Pawley government had supported this initiative, but Filmon was initially opposed to it, and the Manitoba assembly refused to ratify the treaty (rather to the embarrassment of federal Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney). Filmon eventually agreed to a compromise deal negotiated by Jean Charest in 1990. However, he was a lukewarm supporter of the compromise at best, and it came to nothing when New Democratic MLA Elijah Harper refused to grant unanimous consent for debate before the bill's deadline.[1] (Harper objected to the fact that the Accord did not recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples.)

In other matters, Filmon was closer to the policies of the Mulroney government. He supported the 1987 free trade initiative, and worked in favour of the Charlottetown Accord (a successor to Meech Lake) in 1992.

Filmon called an election in 1990, and campaigned on the need for a majority government. Despite the increased unpopularity of the Mulroney government at the federal level, Filmon's Tories were able to win over many voters who had supported the Liberals in 1988. His party won thirty seats, and the NDP re-emerged as the official opposition with twenty.

While not an ideological conservative in the tradition of Margaret Thatcher, Filmon nonetheless presided over an austerity program of budget cuts. His government's measures resulted in a balanced budget in 1995, the province's first in 20 years. Filmon also permitted suburban regions to break away from the amalgamated city of Winnipeg, reversing the policies initiated by the Edward Schreyer government in the early 1970s. In 1993, Filmon supported Kim Campbell's bid to lead the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (Winnipeg Free Press, 13 June 1993).

Despite government cuts to social programs and urban development, Filmon's Tories were able to retain their majority in 1995, losing only one seat. This was due in part to the unpopularity of Bob Rae's NDP government in neighbouring Ontario, and concerns that the Manitoba NDP would govern in a similar manner under Doer if elected. Subsequently, the Filmon government privatized the province's telephone system, mandated balanced budgets, and took actions limiting the power of teacher's and nurse's unions. While Filmon avoided the rhetoric of Ontario Premier Mike Harris (1995–2002), there were nevertheless strong similarities to the reforms instituted by these governments in the late 1990s.

In the late 1990s, the reputation of the Filmon government was damaged by a scandal involving vote-rigging in the 1995 election. A number of independent "aboriginal issues" candidates were alleged to have been commissioned by Progressive Conservative organizers to run in NDP ridings under the banner of Independent Native Voice in an attempt to split the left-of-centre vote. Filmon was not personally implicated, but a number of his senior aides were. Manitoba also experienced increased unemployment during this period, with Filmon's popularity suffering as a result.[1]

Notwithstanding these setbacks, Filmon sought a fourth mandate in late 1999. During this campaign, he announced that his government would undertake a further right-wing policy shift if re-elected. He promised half a billion dollars in new tax cuts, while claiming that he could simultaneously re-invest an identical amount into health and education. This announcement was greeted with skepticism from many voters, and the Tories lost to Doer's NDP by 32 seats to 24 (the Liberals were reduced to one seat, as many Liberal voters from 1995 shifted to the NDP). Filmon resigned as party leader in 2000, and stood down as an MLA in the same year.

Post-political career[edit]

Filmon was appointed to the federal Security Intelligence Review Committee on October 4, 2001, which necessitated an appointment to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. He was promoted to chair of SIRC on June 24, 2005[6] following the retirement of Paule Gauthier.

Filmon has also worked as a business consultant since his retirement from office. In 2003, he was commissioned by the government of British Columbia to undertake a survey of forest fires in that province. On June 22, 2005, at the Annual General Meeting of the Exchange Industrial Income Fund (EIF.UN-X), Filmon was elected as the chairman of the board of trustees for the ensuing year. Filmon sat on the board of directors of Manitoba's public telephone utility, MTS, from 2003 until his mandatory retirement in 2015.[7]

In February 2006, Filmon was considered to replace Frank McKenna as Canadian Ambassador to the United States. In the end, Michael Wilson was appointed to this post.

In 2009, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his contributions to public office and to the province of Manitoba, as well as for his continuing leadership on numerous provincial and national boards, committees and organizations".[8]

He is married to Janice Filmon, who was lieutenant governor of Manitoba from 2015 to 2022.[9] For the duration of his spouse's term in that office, Gary Filmon was styled "His Honour".


  1. ^ a b c d e "Filmon, Gary Albert". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ferguson, Barry; Wardhaugh, Robert (2010). Manitoba Premiers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. University of Regina Press. pp. 356–383. ISBN 978-0889772168. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
  3. ^ "Multicultural Canada. Politics.". The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples – Poles. Canadian Heritage. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06.
  4. ^ Greg W. Taylor (June 18, 1990). "Local Politics. Filmon Reflects The View At Home". Maclean's. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
  5. ^ Canadian Folklore, Volume 19, Issue 2. Folklore Studies Association of Canada. 1997. pp. 89–90.
  6. ^ "Prime Minister Announces Appointments to the Security Intelligence Review Committee". Media Advisory. Government of Canada. June 24, 2005. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Governor General Announces 57 New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. December 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  9. ^ "Janice Filmon will be sworn in as Manitoba's lieutenant-governor on June 19". 23 April 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Preceded by Member of the Legislative Assembly
for River Heights

Succeeded by
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly for Tuxedo
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of the Environment
Succeeded byas Minister responsible for
Environmental Management
Preceded by
Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Preceded by Premier of Manitoba
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Minister of Federal/Provincial Relations
Preceded by Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the
Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba

Succeeded by