Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Social Credit Party of Alberta
The party was founded in 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression by evangelist William Aberhart. It shocked Canadian political observers by winning the first election it contested in Alberta only months after its formation.
Initially, the party attempted to implement its radical populist policies, such as the issuance of prosperity certificates to Alberta residents (dubbed funny money by detractors) in accordance with social credit monetary theory. Three government bills were refused Royal Assent by Lieutenant-Governor John C. Bowen. The Supreme Court of Canada subsequently ruled the legislation unconstitutional because banking and fiscal policy is a responsibility of the federal government. Bowen also refused royal assent to the Accurate News and Information Act, would have forced newspapers to print government rebuttals to stories the provincial cabinet objected to. The government also repealed legislation allowing for the recall of members of the Legislative Assembly by petition when Aberhart himself became the target of recall efforts.
Thwarted in their attempt to gain complete control of Alberta's banks, Aberhart's government eventually succeeded in gaining a foothold in the province's financial sector by creating the Alberta Treasury Branches in 1938. The government's relationship with Bowen became so acrimonious that the lieutenant-governor even threatened to use his reserve powers to dismiss it. In the end Bowen chose not to take this extraordinary action, probably because Social Credit would likely have been re-elected in the ensuing general election. ATB has become a lasting legacy of Social Credit Party policies in Alberta, operating as of 2004 as an orthodox financial institution and crown corporation.
"Bible Bill" Aberhart died in 1943 and was replaced by another evangelical preacher, Ernest Manning. Manning's government was more pragmatic, and under his leadership, the party abandoned social credit monetary theories, and turned into a more traditional conservative party. After the war, Manning moved to purge the party of anti-Semitism, which had been an element of its Christian populist rhetoric until then.
The discovery of significant reserves of oil in 1947 transformed Alberta from one of Canada's poorest provinces to one of the country's richest with resource revenues pouring into the government's treasury.
Manning retired in 1968 and was replaced by Harry E. Strom. But after over three decades in office, the Social Credit Party had become tired and complacent. Social Credit was defeated in the 1971 election by Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives, and never came close to taking power again.
In 1986, Social Credit, Western Canada Concept and the Heritage Party of Alberta joined together to form the Alberta Political Alliance. The Alliance fell apart when the WCC left, followed by Social Credit. The APA continues as the Alberta Party.
Rekindled and under the leadership of Randy Thorsteinson, a Reform Party of Canada activist, Social Credit made a showing in 1993. In the 1997 election, the party nominated 70 candidates, and won 64,667 votes, over 7% of the popular vote. It failed to have any of its members elected.
Lavern Ahlstrom was appointed Leader of the Social Credit Party in February of 2001. Under Ahlstrom's leadership, the party has made moves toward re-embracing elements of social credit monetary threory.
The party nominated 12 candidates in the 2001 election (down from 70 in 1997) and received 5,361 votes (0.5% of the poular vote), down from 64,667.
As of 2004, Social Credit insists it is "neither a 'right-wing' nor a 'left-wing' political party", and that it opposes both "big business" and "big government". However, the party has adopted what some Albertans might consider to be centrist or even left-leaning policies. These include:
- re-regulation of energy services,
- creation of a public automobile insurance provider, and
- the use of government funds to build meat packing plants in response to the BSE crisis.
- vehement opposition to the proposed privatization of the Alberta Treasury Branches.
The party nominated 42 candidates for the 2004 election, and won 10,874 votes (1.2% of the popular vote, an increase of 0.7% from 2001.)
The Canadian social credit movement was largely an out-growth of the Alberta Social Credit Party. The Social Credit Party of Canada was originally strongest in Alberta, before developing a base in Quebec when Réal Caouette agreed to merge his Ralliement creditiste movement into the federal party. The BC Social Credit Party formed the government for many years in neighbouring British Columbia, although this was effectively a coalition of right wing and centrist forces in the province that had no interest in social credit monetary policies.
Party leaders (list incomplete)
- William Aberhart 1935-1943
- Ernest Manning 1943-1968
- Harry E. Strom 1968-1972
- Martin Hattersley (Interim Leader) 1985-1988
- Randy Thorsteinson 1995-1999
- James Alberts 1999-2001
- Lavern Ahlstrom 2001-
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