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Brandon, Manitoba

On March 17, 1951, Grant MacEwan visited Brandon, Manitoba, to receive invitations to take the Liberal Party nomination for a federal by-election. MacEwan's nomination was carried unanimously. He then began to seek advice from men with more political experience. Those who supported MacEwan's bid envisioned him becoming the minister of agriculture. Word spread fast that MacEwan was indeed entering federal politics.

Phyllis MacEwan was not pleased. She was uncomfortable with MacEwan being the constant subject of criticism and attack and wondered why her husband would abandon his work at the university. She believed that Grant's skills were best used in a classroom setting. Additionally, Phyllis was not particularly keen on having to move from Winnipeg to Brandon. On April 19, 1951, Grant MacEwan was officially elected to represent the Liberal Party in the upcoming federal by-election. His opponent was the Conservative Party's Walter Dinsdale.

MacEwan had no choice but to resign from his position at the University of Manitoba, and when he submitted his resignation he received pretty harsh treatment from the university. There was no possibility of returning to the school if the election results did not go his way. MacEwan had taken the plunge from the comfortable world of academia into "the polluted pool of politics."

Most agreed that Grant MacEwan was the ideal candidate for the position. Friends and family were confident he could win, and newspapers seemed to agree. The Calgary Albertanis quoted as saying "Mr. MacEwan will without doubt be one of the strongest men in all the Liberal ranks at Ottawa including both front and back benches." Phyllis and Grant were beaming with confidence on June 25, 1951, election day.

Election day unravelled in disappointing fashion for the MacEwans as Grant was defeated by nearly 3 000 votes. Newspapers urged MacEwan to stay in politics, claiming voters were protesting the federal government's grain policy rather than voting against MacEwan. Most political pundits had seemed to overlook the quality of Walter Dinsdale. He was an able candidate whose family had been in the public service and was well known throughout Brandon.

Faced with little choice, MacEwan left Brandon in defeat, repeating the same steps as his father 36 years before. He had lost a seat everyone said he could win and, perhaps more importantly, had suffered a severe loss of prestige. What made matters worse is that MacEwan could not return to his comfortable surroundings at the University of Manitoba.


Macdonald, R.H. Grant MacEwan: No Ordinary Man. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1979.

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