Liberal Party organization and Manitoba's 1995 provincial election

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Drummond, Robert Andrew
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Once considered almost extinct, the Liberal Party in Manitoba experienced a phenomenal breakthrough in 1988, yet in 1990 was unable to build on this success. In 1995 though, with a core of six seats in the legislature and a new leader, optimists in the party hoped for an electoral breakthrough. But in spite of its early high popularity in the polls, it suffered its worst defeat since 1986 and lost its official party status in the legislature. Analysis of this loss, using questionnaires and interviews, points to several organizational factors that contributed to the disappointing result. The party had serious internal problems, including inactive constituency associations and a weak executive. A rural-urban split is also still evident and while the party's structure emphasizes participatory democracy this is largely illusory. Because of the dominance of the urban wing, the provincial party also remained closely associated with the federal Liberals. This meant that, during the course of the campaign, provincial Liberals were seen as defending federal gun control policy. This had devastating effects on rural support. Technology also had a significant impact. The Liberal campaign attempted to supply each constituency association with a database program but this came to be regarded as a failure. The party's election readiness committee had notable success in fund-raising and candidate recruitment but otherwise failed to create a strong provincial campaign. An inadequate policy process, a disorganized leader's tour, inexperienced campaign personnel, poor organization, divisions within the party, and one way communication with constituency associations all plagued a poorly run central campaign. All things considered there were too many problems for the Liberal party to surmount during its thirty-five day ordeal.