Today in Canada's Political History - February 9, 1985: Richard Hatfield channels Arthur Meighen

New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield, who had ruled his province since 1970 as head of a ground-breaking Progressive Conservative government, found himself mired in scandal on this date in 1985. The previous fall he had been charged with possession of marijuana after a dog team searching for bombs on the Queen’s plane in New Brunswick during a Royal visit, found the soft drug in the Premier’s suitcase. Hatfield, however, had been cleared after a two-day trial.

But his problems weren’t over and a new scandal landed on his doorstep on February 9, 1985. A pair of young men alleged that Hatfield had provided them with drugs during a party at his home and later flew them on a provincial government jet to Montreal for further partying.

In defending himself against the latest accusations, Hatfield used a phrase made famous by the late PM Arthur Meighen. The latter, of course, had entitled a collection of his speeches Unrevised and Unrepented.

I’ll let the New York Times pick up the rest of the story. “On national television, two young men said Mr. Hatfield had given them marijuana and cocaine at a party at his house in 1981. Then, they said, the 53-year-old Premier paid their way to Montreal and put them up in a luxury hotel, perhaps at public expense, some newspaper reports suggested. An editorial in the Daily Gleaner of Fredericton said that Mr. Hatfield, who has held office since 1970, has ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘'should resign forthwith.'' But the Premier was ‘unbowed. ‘I am unrevised and unrepented,' he said.”

Hatfield would weather the scandal and serve for two more years in the Premier’s Office. However, these scandals contributed to his party’s defeat by New Brunswick’s Liberals under Frank McKenna in 1987. That was the year the Grits won every single seat in the New Brunswick Legislature.

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.