Harry Enns

Harry Enns (November 30, 1931 – June 24, 2010) was a Manitoba politician. He served as a Cabinet Minister in the governments of Dufferin Roblin, Walter Weir, Sterling Lyon and Gary Filmon,[1] and was an unsuccessful candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba in 1971. A long-serving member of the Manitoba legislature, he retired from public life in 2003.[1]

The son of Reverend John Herman Enns, a minister for the First Mennonite Church, and Agathe Unruh,[2] Enns was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and worked as a rancher before entering politics. He was married to Eleanor Jones.[3] His brother Siegfried John Enns served in the Canadian House of Commons.[2]

Legislative careerEdit

A Progressive Conservative, Enns was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1966, for the rural riding of Rockwood-Iberville.[1]

In 1969, redistribution placed Enns in the riding of Lakeside, where he defeated Liberal leader Robert Bend by about 350 votes. The Lakeside riding had previously been held by former Premier of Manitoba Douglas Campbell for forty-seven years. Enns would hold the seat for a further thirty-four years, being re-elected in 1973, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 1999. After 1969, he never had any problems retaining the riding.[1]

Career as cabinet ministerEdit

Enns was appointed Minister of Agriculture by Dufferin Roblin on July 22, 1967. He retained this position when Walter Weir replaced Roblin as Premier later in the year, also becoming the Acting Minister of Highways (Enns had supported Weir in the party's leadership contest). On September 5, 1968, he was moved to the Ministry of Mines and Natural Resources.[1]

Enns found himself at the centre of a significant controversy in early 1969, when he announced that the Manitoba government would allow Manitoba Hydro to flood South Indian Lake in the northern part of the province. This announcement was widely criticized, as the plan threatened serious disruption for indigenous communities in the area. Some critics argued that the plan itself was unviable, while others argued that the government did not adequately consult with the affected communities.[4] The Manitoba Indian Brotherhood came out in opposition to the scheme, as did the Liberals and New Democrats, and the planned flooding became a significant issue in the 1969 provincial election.

In the government of Sterling Lyon, Enns served as Minister of Public Works and Minister of Highways from October 24, 1977 to October 20, 1978; Minister of Highways and Transport (a renamed position) from October 20, 1978 to November 15, 1979; Minister of Government Services from April 12, 1979 to January 16, 1981; and Minister of Natural Resources from January 16, 1981 to November 30, 1981.[1] He was not a candidate to succeed Lyon as party leader in 1983, however.

Enns was not named to Gary Filmon's first cabinet, but became Minister of Natural Resources on April 21, 1989. He held this position until September 10, 1993, when he became Minister of Agriculture for a second time (after a gap of twenty-five years). He continued to hold this portfolio until the Filmon government was defeated in 1999,[1] and was responsible for managing the AIDA and NISA files during the flood emergency of 1997.

Intraparty activityEdit

In 1971, Enns declared himself a candidate to replace Weir as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives. The contest highlighted the ideological divisions of the party: Enns, who represented its rural and conservative wing, lost to urban progressive Sidney Spivak by 46 votes.[5]

In 2000, he supported Stockwell Day for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance party.[6]

Politics and controversiesEdit

In 1976, Enns nearly derailed plans by the Schreyer government to bring a series of Russian artworks from Leningrad's Hermitage and the State Russian Museum to Manitoba, during a North American tour. His position was grounded in an opposition to Communism and the Soviet Union, though he eventually withdrew his objections.

During the mid-1980s, Enns was a vocal opponent of officially re-entrenching French-language services in Manitoba (a policy being pursued by the New Democratic government of Howard Pawley). Ironically, his seat was targeted by the anti-bilingualism Confederation of Regions Party in 1986, although this challenge ultimately came to very little.

A philosophical conservative, Enns was also responsible for weakening market board control over Manitoba's hog farms, and appears to have had similar intentions regarding its fishing industry. In 1995-96, he was accused of approving illegal fishing activities by the Spirit River Fish Company, though he denied this charge.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to Canada, was the role he played in the legalizing of industrial hemp. At a time when the public mood was anti cannabis, Harry was the first politician of power, to stand and risk his reputation, in order to help Manitoba farmers. The three experimental hemp plot trials he sanctioned in 1995, 1996, and 1997 yielded key information that convinced Health Canada to allow hemp crops to go to seed, which birthed the hemp food industry.

Later lifeEdit

Enns died following heart surgery at the age of 78.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "MLA Biographies - Deceased". Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Retrieved 2013-11-25.
  2. ^ a b "Harry John Enns (1931-2010)". Memorable Manitobans. Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  3. ^ "Harry Enns". Winnipeg Free Press. June 29, 2010. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  4. ^ For coverage of the initial announcement and critical, see Winnipeg Free Press, 21 January 1969, p. 4; Winnipeg Free Press, 22 January 1969, pp. 1, 3. During a legislative debate, Sidney Green was quoted as saying, "I submit that the denial of justice to the peoples involved at South Indian Lake will result in an inevitable erosion of the rights of every citizen of Manitoba." See Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 1969, p. 8.
  5. ^ Adams, Christopher (2008). Politics in Manitoba: Parties, Leaders, and Voters. University of Manitoba Press. p. 42. ISBN 0887553559. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  6. ^ National Post, 10 May 2000
  7. ^ Downey, Jim (July 1, 2010). "Harry Enns Called A Consummate Politician". Manitoba Co-operator. Retrieved 2013-11-25.