City & Politics, History

Today, in the past: Manitoba flushes Upper House

By: Peter Epp

If you’re a social studies teacher like me (and my congratulations if you are!), you’ll likely be used to an interruption to your lesson on the federal government that goes something like this: “Wait!  You’re saying that Canadian laws need to be passed by people we didn’t elect?”  And when you get to your lesson on the Manitoba government, you know you’ll also hear: “Wait!  How come we don’t get a senate?”

You’ll hear these questions approximately once for every 31 times a student interrupts you in the midst of the most brilliant, lucid, engaging moment of your artistically-nuanced lesson to ask: “Hey!  Can I go to the bathroom?”  That’s why you’ll know that the senate is a pressing issue for the teens of today.

If you happen to be teaching either of those lessons on this very day, you’re in luck.  Because while Stephen Harper hints at trying to dump our federal senate, today’s the 140th anniversary of Manitoba flushing its upper house.  (For the record, I highly recommend that you memorize this exact phrasing.  Students love toilet humour.  It reminds them of the one place they’d rather be.)

According to Bruce Cherney’s editorial on (weird source for history, right?) today marks the day that:

“Joseph Lemay rose from his seat in the Manitoba Legislature and to ‘roars of laughter and cries of order’ pronounced that it would be appropriate for the legislature to be adjourned for a month ‘as a token of sorrow’ to mark the passing away of the Legislative Council.”

It was a joke, and the lower house, now drunk on power without its sober second thinkers, loved it.

No doubt, the students in your room will love it too.  And they’ll try to convince you that it’s no joke.  And that you should, in fact, adjourn classes for the next month to honour history.  And hey, why not?  It might be a fun way to finally reward those few students who aren’t spending your class texting in the bathroom.  Plus, you’re just a mere appointee of your school division.  Who are you to override the decision-making of the masses?


Peter J.H. Epp teaches teens to read literature, write creatively, act boldly, talk politics, think harder about their religion, and generally hone the skills that don’t pay the bills.  When he’s not harping on professional sports, he can be found fervently enjoying its many redemptive qualities.  

You can follow him on the streets of Gretna.  Or just email him at