On Jan. 10, 2017, former Manitoba MLA, Saul Cherniack, celebrated his 100th birthday.
Thelma Forbes of the PC’s and Cornelius Wiebe of the Liberals are the only other MLA’s to reach this milestone.
Cherniak represented the riding of St. Johns in Winnipeg’s north end, which is the only riding to be vote in CCF or NDP politicians exclusively since the Province of Manitoba implemented single member constituencies.
The list of MLA’s who have won St. Johns in 18 consecutive elections includes, David Orlikow, Saul Cherniack, Donald Malinowski, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Gord Macintosh and Nahanni Fontaine.
In his early years, before receiving his law degree in 1939, Cherniack was involved in the New Theatre, where Winnipegger Monty Hall performed.
During World War II, Cherniak served in the Intelligence Core of the Canadian Army. Between 1950 and 1962, he served on the Winnipeg School Board, the Winnipeg Beach Municipal Council, as an Alderman for the City of Winnipeg, and on Metro Council.
In 1962, he was elected MLA for St. Johns; at the time, the third place NDP held only seven seats (six of them in the north and east parts of Greater Winnipeg).
In 1966, the NDP improved to 11 seats, as Cherniack was joined in the Legislature by his close friend, Saul Miller.
Although still in third place, the NDP took over as the real Opposition, outperforming the Liberals especially on Winnipeg issues. Of the Liberal’s 14 seats, only two were in Winnipeg. In contrast, nine of the NDP’s 11 seats were in Winnipeg.
Cherniak played a prominent role in recruiting Ed Schreyer to replace Russell Paulley as party leader. The leadership change helped the NDP win the 1969 Provincial Election.
In 1969, Cherniack became Finance Minister in the first NDP government, and was instrumental in the implementation of Unicity.
Part of this effort saw Cherniack hosting a series of public forums including a very hostile meeting of 850 people at the St. James Civic Centre. Although there was strong discontent, the merging of 13 local governments was a necessary change for the Greater Winnipeg area.
Saul Cherniack’s ability to calmly and competently handle any situation helped the NDP on this controversial issue.
Cherniack also played a significant role in the elimination of medicare premiums and the construction of the Winnipeg Convention Centre. The Schreyer government accomplished much without raising the sales tax.
After the 1977 defeat of the Schreyer government, Cherniack unsuccessfully ran for interim leader of the NDP. In 1981, the NDP defeated the one term Sterling Lyon government.
Although he did not run, Cherniack, along with Miller, did valuable work on the transition team.
During an active retirement, Saul Cherniack has remained politically active.
He supported Bill Blaikie’s 2004 federal NDP leadership bid.
He consoled Judy Wasylycia-Leis after her recent unsuccessful run for Mayor of Winnipeg.
On Jan. 21, many current and former politicians, family and friends gathered at Maples Collegiate for Saul Cherniack’s 100th birthday party. The St. Johns NDP provided a great buffet. Hon. Ed Schreyer gave a great speech highlighting the past and looking to the future.
During his own speech, Cherniack encouraged the NDP to rebuild. After all, he reminded everyone, the NDP was in a similar position in 1962.
HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, SAUL