Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Will Alberta revert to Social Credit?

In August, 1971, Alberta had its quiet revolution. For 36 years it had been governed by Social Credit, a largely rural-based, social-conservative party led for most of those years by E.C. Manning, father of leading conservative intellectual and unite-the-right guru Preston Manning.

By 1971 Alberta, like the rest of the country, was increasingly urbanizing and Albertans wanted to join the modern world. The Progressive Conservative party, led by the very urbane Peter Lougheed, answered the call.

Social Credit was ultimately absorbed by the PCs, but a rural-urban split simmered within party ranks, the urban element generally predominating while vestiges of Social Credit periodically emerged as fringe parties. Then in 2007, Premier Ed Stelmach announced he intended to increase oil royalties. The oil industry was not amused and decided to show Ed who was boss. They poured their big bucks into the coffers of the latest fringe party, the Wildrose and turned it into a contender. It very nearly unseated the Conservatives in 2012 (and would have if some of its fundamentalist views hadn't leaked out) and currently sits in the legislature as official opposition.

The Alberta Progressive Conservatives (the "progressive" may soon disappear) have now elected Jason Kenney, a strong social conservative, as their new leader. Kenney ran on a platform of uniting with Wildrose, an almost entirely rural party to the right of the Conservatives.

He has stated he wants to create a big tent party. The big question is whether or not the urban moderates will go along. Already there have been defections. The two women candidates for the leadership both dropped out, citing personal attacks, and one has crossed the floor to the NDP. And long-time Conservative stalwart Senator Ron Ghitter has indicated Kenney's views are inimical to his and hinted that he, too, may support the NDP.

It will be interesting. If the right merges into a rural-based, social-conservative party and wins the next election, Alberta will have come full circle.

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