Howard Russell Pawley (born November 21, 1934) is a Canadian politician and professor who was Premier of Manitoba from 1981 to 1988.
Pawley was born in Brampton, Ontario, and was educated at Manitoba Teachers College United College, the University of Winnipeg and Manitoba Law School. In 1960 he married Adele Schreyer, a cousin of Edward Schreyer, who served as Premier of Manitoba from 1969 to 1977.
Pawley worked as a lawyer and educator, and was active in Manitoba's CCF and NDP organizations. He actually opposed the transformation of the CCF into the NDP in 1961, though this decision would not hurt his career in later years.
Pawley first ran for public office in the 1957, as a CCF candidate in the riding of Lisgar. He received only 443 votes, and finished a distant fourth. In the provincial election of 1958, he ran in the northern riding of The Pas and received 801 votes, finishing third. In the 1965 federal election, he ran for Selkirk and received a more respectable 4456 votes, though still placing third.
In the provincial election of 1969, Pawley was elected to the Manitoba legislature for the provincial constituency of Selkirk, a mixed urban/rural seat to the north of Winnipeg. He was chosen to be a part of Edward Schreyer's cabinet, and was sworn in as Minister of Government Services and Minister of Municipal Affairs on July 15, 1969. He stood down from the former position on December 18, 1969, but retained the latter until September 22, 1976. In addition to his cabinet duties, Pawley also chaired a committee which brought forward public auto insurance legislation for the province.
On September 4, 1973, Pawley was promoted to Attorney-General of Manitoba. After stepping down as Municipal Affairs minister in 1976, he was given the additional responsibility of administering the Liquor Control Act.
In 1979, Pawley replaced Schreyer as leader of the provincial NDP. Like Schreyer, he was from a rural part of the province and could appeal to voters beyond the CCF/NDP's traditional urban base. In 1981, the NDP under Pawley defeated the Progressive Conservative government of Sterling Lyon.
Pawley was sworn in as Premier on November 30, 1981. His government was a progressive administration, which reintroduced and entrenched French language rights that had been removed by the Thomas Greenway government in 1890. His government also promoted a number of initiatives favourable to labour, though it did not introduce anti-scab legislation. A surprisingly large number of MLAs left the NDP during Pawley's leadership, including Sidney Green, Ben Hanuschak and Russell Doern.
Pawley's NDP was reduced to a narrow majority in 1986, winning 30 of 57 seats. His government would become increasingly unpopular with the electorate over the next two years, due primarily to soaring auto insurance premiums. In 1988, a disgruntled NDP MLA named Jim Walding voted against his government's budget and caused the government to fall. Pawley resigned as party leader and Premier, and did not run in the subsequent election, which was won by the Progressive Conservatives under Gary Filmon.
Gary Doer, Pawley's successor as party leader, would later claim that the Manitoba NDP had fallen to 6% popularity in 1988. This figure may be an exaggeration, but the NDP's unpopularity at the time was real, and has been acknowledged by others within the party. The extent to which Pawley was personally responsible for this situation is unclear.
In his last years as Premier, Pawley had become a prominent figure on the national stage as an opponent of free trade,as well as a party to the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord. No longer in provincial politics, Pawley again ran as a candidate for the federal NDP in the federal election of 1988, but was defeated by Tory candidate David Bjornson.
Pawley left politics and became a professor at the University of Windsor where he taught until his retirement. In 2003, he supported Bill Blaikie's campaign to leader the federal NDP. Pawley is currently a Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.