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Progressive Party of Manitoba

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The Progressive Party of Manitoba, Canada, was a political party that developed from the United Farmers of Manitoba, an agrarian movement that became politically active following World War I. A successor to the Manitoba Grain Growers' Association, the UFM represented the interests of farmers frustrated with traditional political parties.

Unlike the United Farmers, the Progressive Party of Manitoba never made any serious effort to cooperate with the labour politicians. The Winnipeg General Strike was unpopular among farmers, and the Progressive Party of Manitoba was not generally regarded as friendly to labour.

A number of "farmer candidates" ran in Manitoba's provincial election of 1920. They were not an organized group, and had no pretensions of forming government; nevertheless, twelve of these candidates were elected—eight as supporters of the UFM, and four as independents. Had the UFM run a united campaign, it probably would have won the election.

The Independent-Farmers group was formed to represent the victorious candidates in the parliament which followed. This was never intended to be a permanent political organization, and dissolved when parliament broke up in 1922. The group's leader was William Robson, who did not seek re-election thereafter.

The United Farmers of Manitoba entered electoral politics in 1921, and ran an organized campaign in the 1922 election. However, expectations were still very low. They had no leader and a shoestring campaign budget, and only ran candidates in two-thirds of the province's ridings. Despite this, they won 28 out of 55 seats for a strong majority government.

Faced with the task of selecting a leader who would become the province's new premier, the UFM asked John Bracken, president of the Manitoba Agricultural College, to become party leader and premier-designate. Once in government, Bracken's followers identified themselves as the Progressive Party of Manitoba, maintaining an affiliation with the UFM.

Bracken was a political outsider, and gave the party the technocratic credentials that it desired. The UFM supported the fading away of older political parties, to be replaced by a more "management-centred" approach to government. In later years, the Progressive Party would advocate "non-partisan government" for the province, via a series of alliances with other parties.

In 1928, the UFM decided to withdraw from politics and concentrate on being a service and lobbying organization. It became the Manitoba Federation of Agriculture. Part of the reason for separating the Progressive Party from the UFM was the perception that the government had a narrow base representing only farmers, rather than all Manitobans.

Prior to the 1932 elections, Bracken's Progressives formed an alliance with the Manitoba Liberal Party. This occurred on the urging of federal Liberal leader William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was concerned that the Conservatives could form government in the province. The "Liberal-Progressives" were able to win a majority, and maintained their alliance after the election. Eventually, they would become a single party.

The Liberal-Progressive government was reduced to a minority in the 1936 elections. When early plans to bring the Conservatives into government failed, Bracken required support from the province's five Social Credit MLAs to continue.

In government, the Progressives were fiscally cautious. With the onset of the Great Depression, however, the government attempted to deal with unemployment by fostering a 'back to the land' movement, giving resettlement grants to move the unemployed from cities and town to the countryside.

In 1940, Bracken formed a wartime coalition government which included the Liberal-Progressives, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Social Credit, and Conservatives. In 1942, Bracken left provincial politics to take over the leadership of what became the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

Stuart S. Garson took over as leader of the party and premier, and was himself replaced by Douglas Lloyd Campbell in 1948.

The Manitoba CCF left the coalition in 1943. The Conservatives had renamed their party the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba due to the change in name of the federal party, and despite not having any link with the Progressives. The Conservatives left the coalition in 1950 due to dissatisfaction with Campbell's leadership.

Although the leadership of the party remained dominated by Progressives, the government was commonly referred to as "Liberal" during the 1940s and 1950s. Dufferin Roblin's Progressive Conservatives swept to victory of 1958. The Liberal-Progressives the party formally became known as the Manitoba Liberal Party in 1961.

In March 1981, former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister Sidney Green started a new provincial organization, also called the Progressive Party. This began as an "alternative left" group, though it later incorporated elements of the radical (but not extreme) right. It had no connection to the earlier Progressive Party, although it received support from Douglas Campbell in 1988.