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Memorable Manitobans: Mark Gerald Smerchanski (1914-1989)

Geologist, mining engineer, MLA (1963-1966), MP (1968-1972).

Born at Malonton on 1 November 1914, he was educated at Malonton South School, the University of Manitoba (BSc 1937), and the Virginia Polytechnical Institute (MSc 1938). He founded several companies, including Border Chemical Company, Thunder Bay Chemicals Limited, and Aerofoam Chemicals. He worked as a professor of engineering before entering politics, and was a member of the Canadian Institute for Mining and Metallurgy, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Pan-American Institute of Mining Engineers and the Society of Economic Geologists. In 1953, he was appointed to the inaugural Board of Commissioners of the Winnipeg Transit System.

When Douglas Campbell resigned as provincial Liberal leader in 1961, Smerchanski entered the race to succeed him and initially emerged as the frontrunner. He resigned just prior to the convention and allowed Gildas Molgat to take his place as a candidate, which Molgat subsequently won on the first ballot. Smerchanski first ran for the Manitoba Legislature in the 1962 provincial election, and defeated NDP incumbent John Hawryluk in the north-end Winnipeg constituency of Burrows. He lost his seat to NDP candidate Ben Hanuschak in the 1966 election. He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1968, defeating Progressive Conservative incumbent Warner Jorgenson in the riding of Provencher. He served as a backbench supporter of Pierre Trudeau’s government for four years, and lost to Progressive Conservative candidate Jake Epp in the federal election of 1972. He tried unsuccessfully to return to the Manitoba Legislature in the 1973 election, running in the rural constituency of Emerson.

He was involved in two controversial court cases that ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1976, the Court rejected his bid for an appeal of a $1-million reassessment of income taxes owned between 1945 and 1959. In 1982, the Court again refused to hear his appeal of a fraud conviction involving the sale of land in British Columbia that contained radioactive waste.

An active philanthropist, he founded the Holy Family Nursing Home and endowed a Chair in Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba. Two prizes, both offered by the University of Manitoba, are given in his name: the Mark Smerchanski Memorial Prize in Women’s Studies and the Mark G. Smerchanski Prize in Geology.

He died at Winnipeg on 21 September 1989.

Sources:

A History of Education in the Evergreen School Division by John C. Gottfried, MA thesis, University of Manitoba, 1965.

“Former MP, MLA draws praise,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 September 1989, page 10.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 January 2014

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