Gary Filmon

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The Honourable
Gary Filmon
19th Premier of Manitoba
In office
May 9, 1988 – October 5, 1999
Monarch Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor George Johnson
Yvon Dumont
Peter Liba
Preceded by Howard Pawley
Succeeded by Gary Doer
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for River Heights
In office
October 16, 1979 – November 17, 1981
Preceded by Sidney Spivak
Succeeded by Warren Steen
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Tuxedo
In office
November 17, 1981 – September 18, 2000
Preceded by District Created
Succeeded by Heather Stefanson
Personal details
Born (1942-08-24) August 24, 1942 (age 74)
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nationality Canadian
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) Janice Wainwright (m. 1963)
Children 4
Alma mater University of Manitoba
Occupation Civil engineer
Cabinet Minister 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 Manitoba politician. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba from 1983 to 2000, and served as the 19th Premier of Manitoba from 1988 to 1999.[1]

Political career[edit]

Early life and municipal career[edit]

Filmon was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to working class parents,[2] and is of partly Polish background.[3] He was educated at the University of Manitoba and subsequently worked as a civil engineer. He entered public life in 1975, being elected to the Winnipeg City Council.[1] In 1963, he married Janice Wainwright.[2] For the next four years, Filmon was a member of Winnipeg's Independent Citizens' Election Committee, an unofficial alliance of right-wing 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's 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 a disgruntled NDP backbencher voted with the opposition on a confidence motion. 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 Tories dropped to 25 seats, but nevertheless emerged as the largest party in the legislature and formed a minority government. Filmon himself was almost defeated by a Liberal candidate in Tuxedo.[2]

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 Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney). Filmon eventually agreed to a compromise deal negotiated by Jean Charest in 1990, but this 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 Canada's aboriginal peoples. See "Meech Lake Accord" and "Elijah Harper" for further details.)

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 win re-election in 1995. 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 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, 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 Gary Doer's New Democrats 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[4] 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 MTS from 2003 until his mandatory retirement in 2015 [1], the public telephone utility his government privatized after promising not to do so.

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".[5]


  1. ^ a b c d "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 0889772169. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  3. ^ "Multicultural Canada. Politics.". The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples – Poles,. Canadian Heritage. Library and Archives Canada. 
  4. ^ "Prime Minister Announces Appointments to the Security Intelligence Review Committee". Media Advisory. Government of Canada. June 24, 2005. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  5. ^ "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. 
Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Preceded by
Sidney Spivak
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for River Heights

Succeeded by
Warren Steen
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly for Tuxedo
Succeeded by
Heather Stefanson
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of the Environment
Succeeded by
Jay Cowan
as Minister responsible for
Environmental Management
Preceded by
Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs
Succeeded by
Eugene Kostyra
Preceded by
Sterling Lyon
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Sharon Carstairs
Preceded by
Howard Pawley
Premier of Manitoba
Succeeded by
Gary Doer
Preceded by
Minister of Federal/Provincial Relations
Preceded by
Gary Doer
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Bonnie Mitchelson
Government offices
Preceded by
Paule Gauthier
Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee
Succeeded by
Arthur Porter
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sterling Lyon
Leader of the
Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba

Succeeded by
Bonnie Mitchelson (interim)