|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for St. Boniface|
|Preceded by||Roger Teillet|
|Succeeded by||J. Paul Marion|
|Preceded by||J. Paul Marion|
|Succeeded by||Neil Gaudry|
|Born||March 15, 1923|
St. Boniface, Manitoba
|Died||February 7, 2012 88) (aged|
Manitoba NDP (1971-1988)
Laurent Louis "Larry" Desjardins (March 15, 1923 – February 7, 2012) was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as a member of the Manitoba legislature for most of the period from 1959 to 1988, and was a cabinet minister under New Democratic Premiers Edward Schreyer and Howard Pawley.
The son of Joseph A. Desjardins and Valentine Desautels,Desjardins was educated at St. Boniface College, St. Paul's College and the Cincinnati College of Embalming. Desjardins played professional football with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was general manager of the St. Boniface Jr. Canadians and was a scout for the Montreal Canadiens. He was inducted into Manitoba’s sports hall of fame in 1990. He served in the Canadian navy during World War II. He worked as a funeral director, and was the President and Managing Director of Chapels, Ltd. He also joined the Knights of Columbus and the Canadian Council of Christian and Jews during the early years of his career. In 1944, he married Bernice McGuire.
Desjardins began his political career at the municipal level, serving as an alderman on the St. Boniface City Council from 1951 to 1954, and also serving on the St. Boniface Hospital Board for a number of years.
In the Manitoba general election of 1959, he was elected to the Manitoba legislature in the riding of St. Boniface as a Liberal-Progressive. This was the year of Progressive Conservative Premier Dufferin Roblin's first majority win, and Desjardins joined ten other Liberal-Progressives in the official opposition.
In 1961, Desjardins emerged as one of the leading parliamentary supporters of government funding for private and denominational schools. A Roman Catholic and a native French-speaker, Desjardins regarded such funding as necessary for redressing anti-francophone legislation that had been pursued by previous Manitoba governments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Roblin government took some steps on this front, but the issue was still unresolved by the 1970s.
Despite the Roblin government's popularity, Desjardins had little difficulty being returned in the elections of 1962 and 1966 (the Liberal-Progressives had changed their name to the Manitoba Liberal Party in 1961). In the 1969 election, Desjardins faced stronger than usual competition from his New Democratic opponent, Kam Gajdosik, but won by 4210 votes to 2656.
The 1969 election was a watershed in Manitoba politics, and resulted in a dramatic shift in Desjardins' career. Under Edward Schreyer's leadership, the social-democratic NDP moved from third to first place, winning 28 seats out of 57 in the assembly. This was one short of a majority, and there was initial uncertainty as to which party or parties would form government. There was some consideration of an "anti-socialist coalition", which would have brought together all parties except the NDP under the leadership of former Liberal leader Gildas Molgat. This, however, did not occur. The impasse was ended when Desjardins announced that he would offer parliamentary support to the NDP, and change his party affiliation to Liberal-Democrat.
Desjardins' change of affiliation was significant, and on some levels surprising. He had previously been known as an opponent of socialism, and the Franco-Manitoban community had not traditionally been supportive of the New Democratic Party before this time. Nevertheless, Desjardins formed an alliance with Schreyer (himself a centrist New Democrat), on the understanding that he would be able to continue to work in favour of denominational school funding on the government side.
In order to make sure this move was supported by his constituents, Desjardins organized a vote of confidence on this decision on July 8. Had he lost this vote, Desjardins would have resigned as MLA, and would have run as a Liberal-Democrat candidate in a subsequent by-election. About 1000 people showed up at the Louis Riel School gymnasium for the vote of confidence, and Desjardins received a standing ovation when he arrived in the hall. The vast majority of the attendees gave their support to Desjardins, with only 13 people opposing him.Desjardins became Schreyer's legislative assistant in 1969, and formally joined the New Democratic Party in 1971.
On December 1, 1971, Desjardins was appointed Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.In July 1972, his efforts in support of denominational schools were dealt a setback when a government-sponsored bill to permit funding was defeated by a free vote in the legislature. (The Schreyer government did, however, make administrative agreements with certain private schools to provide them with access to public monies.)
Given the lack of historical francophone support for the NDP in Manitoba, it was unclear if Desjardins would be re-elected in the provincial election of 1973, and his riding was targeted by a right-wing "citizen's" group in the recently amalgamated city of Winnipeg (which included St. Boniface). This group convinced the Progressive Conservative Party to withdraw their candidate in St. Boniface to provide a single "anti-socialist" alternative to the NDP.
Desjardins' sole opponent in June 1973 was Liberal candidate J. Paul Marion. Following a very close race, Marion was declared the winner by a single vote (4301 to 4300). This result was disputed, however, and was subsequently overturned by the Controverted Elections Act. In December 1974, Desjardins defeated Marion in a by-electionby over 600 votes.
In 1973, Schreyer's New Democrats were re-elected, winning their first majority government. Desjardins had resigned from cabinet on January 28, 1974, during the ongoing controversy concerning the St. Boniface results, but that December 23, he was re-admitted to cabinet as Minister of Health and Social Development. On January 8, 1975, he was also given responsibility for the Manitoba Lotteries Act.
Desjardins was easily re-elected in the 1977 election, although Schreyer's New Democrats were defeated provincially by the Progressive Conservatives under Sterling Lyon. Desjardins sat as a member of the opposition for the next four years.
The New Democrats returned to power in the 1981 provincial election under the leadership of Howard Pawley, and Desjardins was personally re-elected without difficulty. He was re-appointed to cabinet on November 30, 1981, serving as Minister of Health and Minister of Recreation and Sport, with responsibility for the Lotteries and Gaming Control Act. He was re-designated as Minister of Health with responsibility for Minister responsible for Sport, the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, and the Boxing and Wrestling Commission Act and the Manitoba Lotteries Foundation Act.
During the 1980s, Desjardins was a prominent supporter of Howard Pawley's efforts to expand and entrench French-language services in Manitoba.
On January 30, 1985, Desjardins was shifted to the Ministry of Urban Affairs. He was again re-elected without difficulty in the 1986 provincial election, and on April 17, 1986, he was reappointed Minister of Health and Sport (once again holding responsibility for the Boxing and Wrestling Commission Act and the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act).
Desjardins resigned from his cabinet positions on February 10, 1988, after a Supreme Court ruling that provinces could not restrict a woman's right to abortion,and announced that he would be leaving the legislature to take a job in the private sector. His seat was not formally declared vacant, but he stopped attending sessions of the legislature after this period. He then served as head of the Manitoba Health Organization until 1990.
Ironically, just as Desjardins had helped bring the NDP into government in 1969, his decision to leave the legislature in 1988 played a major role in the party's unexpected fall from power. In his absence, the legislature was almost evenly divided between government and opposition members; as such, NDP backbencher Jim Walding's decision to vote against his government's budget was enough to defeat the Pawley ministry in the House.The NDP lost the subsequent 1988 Manitoba general election, and did not return to power until 1999.
During his time in the legislature, Desjardins was known as a personable figure; fellow New Democratic cabinet minister Russell Doern once called him a "Rabelasian character". He was regarded as cautious and pragmatic, and was often more supportive of small-business interests than others in the New Democratic Party. Desjardins was a member of the federal Liberal Party for most, if not all of time in the provincial NDP. This practice is no longer possible; the federal NDP is now integrated with its provincial and territorial branches. He openly supported former Liberal MLA Lloyd Axworthy's successful bid to enter the House of Commons of Canada in 1979.
During the 1990s, Desjardins led a policy review group which studied Manitoba's lotteries system, and argued against the expansion of Manitoba's casino economy. In 2002, he wrote an open letter on health-care reform, arguing that money alone would not resolve the problems within the system. In March 2003, he participated in a discussion on health-care funding at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, in which he argued that Canada's provinces should be permitted to enact user fees and expand the role of the private sector in health-care provision. He served as first president of the Western Canada Lottery Foundation.
Desjardins died at the Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg following a fall; he was 88 years old.
The New Democratic Party of Manitoba is a social-democratic political party in Manitoba, Canada. It is the provincial wing of the federal New Democratic Party, and is a successor to the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. It is currently the opposition party in Manitoba.
Howard Russell Pawley was a Canadian politician and professor who was the 18th Premier of Manitoba from 1981 to 1988. Prior to his premiership, Pawley served in various ministerial positions after his tenure in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is a centre-right political party in Manitoba, Canada. It is currently the governing party in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, after winning a substantial majority in the 2016 election and maintaining a majority in the 2019 election.
Sterling Rufus Lyon, was a Canadian lawyer, cabinet minister, and the 17th Premier of Manitoba from 1977 to 1981. His government introduced several fiscally-conservative measures, and was sometimes seen as a local version of the government of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. He also successfully fought for the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Andrew Russell "Russ" Paulley was a Canadian politician. He served as leader of the Manitoba Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1959 to 1961, and its successor, the New Democratic Party of Manitoba, from 1961 to 1969.
Sidney Green is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He twice ran for the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba, served in the cabinet of Premier Edward Schreyer, and later formed the Progressive Party of Manitoba.
Sidney Joel Spivak, was a Manitoba politician. He was a Cabinet minister in the governments of Dufferin Roblin, Walter Weir and Sterling Lyon, and was himself leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba (PCs) from 1971 to 1975.
Gregory Francis Selinger is a Canadian former politician who served as the 21st Premier of Manitoba from 2009 until 2016, leading an NDP government. From 1999 to 2009 he was the Minister of Finance in the government of his immediate predecessor, Gary Doer. Selinger was the member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for St. Boniface from 1999 until his resignation in early 2018. His party was defeated by Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives in the 2016 Manitoba general election.
Leonard "Len" Derkach is a former politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a cabinet minister in the government of Gary Filmon, and was a member of the Manitoba legislature from 1986 to 2011.
Derek James Walding was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1971 to 1988 and served as speaker of the assembly from 1982 to 1986. Walding was a member of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba (NDP). In 1988, he brought down the NDP government of Howard Pawley by voting against his party's budget. That was the first time in Canadian history that a majority government was defeated by a vote of one of its own party members.
Leonard Salusbury Evans was a Canadian politician in Manitoba. He was a member of the Manitoba legislature from 1969 to 1999 and was a Cabinet Minister in the governments of New Democratic Premiers Edward Schreyer and Howard Pawley.
James Collus McCrae is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1986 to 1999, in the Progressive Conservative Party caucus. From 1988 to 1999, McCrae was a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Gary Filmon.
Jay Marine Cowan is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1977 to 1990, and a cabinet minister in the government of Howard Pawley from 1981 to 1988.
Bill Uruski is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1969 to 1990, and was a cabinet minister in the New Democratic Party governments of Edward Schreyer and Howard Pawley.
Victor Harold Schroeder is a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1979 to 1988, and a senior cabinet minister in the New Democratic Party government of Howard Pawley from 1981 to 1988.
Wilson Dwight Peter Parasiuk is a Canadian businessman and former politician. As founder and CEO of the Vancouver–area based Paralink Group of Companies, Parasiuk organizes private sector/public sector partnerships in the export of Canada's health care, education and governmental expertise. Paralink also provides advice on energy development matters within Canada and internationally. In his early career as a politician, he was an elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Canada from 1977 to 1988, and a cabinet minister in the New Democratic Party government of Howard Pawley from 1981 to 1988.
Samuel Uskiw was a politician and political fundraiser in Manitoba, Canada. He was a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1966 to 1986, and served as a cabinet minister in the governments of Edward Schreyer and Howard Pawley. Subsequently, he left the New Democrats and became a fundraiser for their leading rival, the Progressive Conservative Party.
Aimé Raleigh (Pete) Adam was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He served as a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1971 to 1986, and was a cabinet minister in the government of Howard Pawley.
Peter Burtniak was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1969 to 1977, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Edward Schreyer.
Rene Ernest Toupin, born in Saint Boniface, Manitoba was a politician in Manitoba, Canada. He was a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1969 to 1977, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Edward Schreyer.