John Bracken

From Academic Kids

John Bracken (June 22, 1883-March 18, 1969) was an agronomist, Premier of Manitoba (1922-1943) and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (1942-1948).

Bracken was born in Ellesville, Ontario, and was educated at the Ontario Agricultural College. He was professor of animal husbandry at the University of Saskatchewan from 1910 to 1920 when he became President of the Manitoba Agricultural College.

The United Farmers of Manitoba (UFM) won the provincial election of 1922 but did not have a leader, so they asked Bracken to head the party and become Premier of Manitoba. (A similar situation had occurred with Ernest C. Drury when the United Farmers of Ontario won the 1919 election in that province.)

Bracken was a political outsider, and gave the UFM the professional grounding it needed. The United Farmers generally rejected the partisanship of the Liberal and Conservative parties, and favoured government policies based on independence and principles of business management. Bracken accepted the UFM's request, and won a deferred election in the northern riding of The Pas. The UFM governed as the Progressive Party of Manitoba, and Bracken served as Manitoba's Premier for over twenty years.

Bracken's government was in most respects conservative and cautious. It was dominated by rural interests, who controlled the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba through an outmoded system of representation. Labour did not fare well under Bracken's leadership; the Premier had little sympathy for the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike, and once fired a number of government workers to show his independence from organized labour.

In keeping with the UFM's "anti-party" philosophy, Bracken favoured non-partisan government. In 1931, his Progressives formed an alliance with the Manitoba Liberal Party, and the two parties eventually merged into one. In 1940, Bracken formed a wartime coalition government that included the Conservative, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and Social Credit parties.

When Bracken left provincial politics in 1943, there were only 5 opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in a 57-member parliament. His coalition remained intact until 1950, although the CCF left in 1943.

Bracken held several cabinet portfolios in addition to the office of Premier. He served as:

Despite having co-operated with the Liberals at the provincial level, Bracken was asked by a number of senior federal Conservatives (including Arthur Meighen) to take over the leadership of the weak national Conservative Party in 1942. He agreed to seek the party's leadership on the condition that it change its name to the Progressive Conservative Party. He was elected leader at the party's 1942 leadership convention. Bracken stepped down as Manitoba premier shortly thereafter, and was succeeded by Stuart S. Garson.

Bracken did not seek a seat in the House of Commons until the 1945 Canadian election, which the Conservatives lost. Bracken became Leader of the Opposition and remained leader of the Tories until he was pushed to resign in 1948.

It has been argued, with some credibility, that Bracken never succeeded in impressing his personal authority over the national PC organization. As a western populist, he was distrusted by the party's eastern establishment. There are reports that some senior Conservatives wanted him removed as leader as early as 1944.

Bracken lost his riding to Liberal James Matthews in the 1949 federal election, and did not return to political life thereafter.

Preceded by:
Tobias C. Norris
Premier of Manitoba
Succeeded by:
Stuart S. Garson
Preceded by:
Arthur Meighen
(Progressive) Conservative Leaders
Succeeded by:
George Drew

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