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John Bracken

The Hon.
John Bracken
11th Premier of Manitoba
In office
August 8, 1922 – January 14, 1943
Monarch George V
Edward VIII
George VI
Lieutenant Governor James A. M. Aikins
Theodore A. Burrows
James D. McGregor
William J. Tupper
Roland F. McWilliams
Preceded by Tobias Norris
Succeeded by Stuart Garson
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for The Pas
In office
October 5, 1922 – January 14, 1943
Preceded by Edward Brown
Succeeded by Beresford Richards
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Neepawa
In office
June 11, 1945 – June 27, 1949
Preceded by Frederick Donald Mackenzie
Succeeded by The electoral district was abolished in 1947.
Leader of the Official Opposition
In office
June 11, 1945 – July 21, 1948
Preceded by Gordon Graydon
Succeeded by George A. Drew
Personal details
Born (1883-06-22)June 22, 1883
Ellisville, Ontario
Died March 18, 1969(1969-03-18) (aged 85)
Ottawa, Ontario
Nationality Canadian
Political party Progressive Party of Manitoba, Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) Alice Wylie Bruce (m. 1909)
Children John Bruce Bracken, Allan Douglas Bracken, William Gordon Bracken, George Murray Bracken
Alma mater Ontario Agricultural College
University of Illinois
Occupation agronomist
Profession politician
Cabinet President of the Council (1922–1943)
Minister of Education (1922–1923)
Provincial Lands Commissioner (1922–1923)
Railway Commissioner (1922–1923 & 1935–1940)
Minister of Agriculture (1923–1925 & 1936)
Provincial Treasurer (1925–1932)
Minister of Public Utilities (1927–1928)
Minister of Mines & Natural Resources (1928–1930)
Provincial Secretary (1935–1939)
Minister Manitoba Power Commission (1936–1940)
Minister, Dom. Prov. Relations (1939–1940 & 1941–1943)
Religion United Church of Canada

John Bracken, PC (June 22, 1883 – March 18, 1969) was an agronomist, the 11th Premier of Manitoba (1922–1943) and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (1942–1948).[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Premier of Manitoba 2
  • Federal politics 3
  • Electoral record 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Bracken was born in Ellisville, Ontario, the son of Ephriam Michael Bracken and Alberta Gilbert, and was educated at Brockville Collegiate, the Ontario Agricultural College and at the University of Illinois. In 1909, he married Alice Wylie Bruce. He was professor of animal husbandry at the University of Saskatchewan from 1910 to 1920,[2] when he became President of the Manitoba Agricultural College.

Premier of Manitoba

In 1922, the United Farmers of Manitoba unexpectedly won the provincial election. The UFM's expectations had been so low going into the election that they had not even named a leader. They asked Bracken to become the party's leader and premier-designate. Bracken accepted the UFM's request, and won a deferred election in the northern riding of The Pas. (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. 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; he 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.

During the twenties, Bracken oversaw an increase in taxation and created the provincial income tax. He lowered expenditures in health, education, and welfare but introduced a pension for all citizens over seventy years old in 1928. Under his administration, the province created a censorship board that regulated motion pictures. In 1923, Manitoba voted to end the prohibition of alcohol. The restrictive Liquor Control Act, passed that same year, sold liquor at provincially controlled outlets, resulting in the generation of a substantial new income. Bracken worked to promote staple industries such as mining, timber cutting, and fishing, while also promoting hydroelectric power. He successfully had the Hudson Bay Railway create a branch line to Flin Flon, resulting in the opening of a copper and zinc mine there in 1926. Bracken was a vocal proponent of the provincial control of natural resources and influenced Mackenzie King's 1930 decision to give Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan control over crown lands.[3]

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, Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and Social Credit parties.

Bracken at a young age.

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.

Federal politics

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 Progressive Conservatives lost. Bracken won the rural seat of Neepawa and 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's riding was merged into the seat of Brandon before the 1949 federal election. He was soundly defeated by Liberal incumbent James Matthews, and did not return to political life thereafter. He died on March 18, 1969 and is buried in Rideauvale Cemetery at Kars, Ontario.

Electoral record

Canadian federal election, 1949: Brandon
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal James Ewen Matthews 11,263 55.27
     Progressive Conservative John Bracken 7,150 35.09
     Independent Dwight Lyman Johnson 1,964 9.64
Total valid votes 20,377 100.00
Total rejected ballots 142
Turnout 20,519 74.64
Electors on the lists 27,489
Canadian federal election, 1945: Neepawa
Party Candidate Votes %
Progressive Conservative John Bracken 6,497 46.51
Liberal Frederick Donald MacKenzie 4,624 33.10
Co-operative Commonwealth James Henry Wood 2,848 20.39
Total valid votes 13,969
Total rejected ballots 93
Turnout 14,062 82.64
Electors on the lists 17,015


  1. ^ John Bracken – Parliament of Canada biography
  2. ^ Normandin, A L (1940). Canadian Parliamentary Guide. 
  3. ^ Lower, J. Arthur (1983). Western Canada: An Outline History. pp. 196–97. 
  4. ^ "Brandon, Manitoba (1892 - 1952)". History of Federal Ridings since 1867. Library of Parliament. 
  5. ^ "Neepawa, Manitoba (1914 - 1947)". History of Federal Ridings since 1867. Library of Parliament. 
  • Manitoba Historical Society profile

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Meighen
Progressive Conservative Leaders
Succeeded by
George Drew
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