C-009339 | William Aberhart addresing a rally in St. George's Island park, Alberta

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William Aberhart addresing a rally in St. George's Island park, Alberta
July 1937, 20th century
This artefact belongs to : © National Archives of Canada
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Keys to History

In 1935, the United Farmers of Alberta, a radical agrarian party that had governed the province since 1921, sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of the new Social Credit movement.

Formulated by an Ontario-born school principal and Baptist clergyman, William "Bible Bill" Aberhart (1878-1943), Social Credit in Alberta was a blend of the monetary-reform ideas of a Scottish engineer, Major C.H. Douglas (1879-1952), and Protestant fundamentalism. Aberhart was dean of the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute and used radio to broadcast his evangelical message. By 1933 he was combining the Gospel with his own version of Social Credit theory.

Of his promises, none loomed larger than that of a $25 monthly "social dividend," intended to restore consumers' purchasing power. This attracted widespread support. In the 1935 provincial election, Social Credit took 55 of 63 seats, and Aberhart became premier.

  • What

    Once in office, Aberhart and his cabinet found that they lacked the means to fulfill their promises, and were forced to default on a bond-interest payment in 1936.

  • Where

    Social Credit's electoral appeal extended into the southwestern area of Saskatchewan, which was within broadcasting range of the Prophetic Bible Institute.

  • When

    Some Social Credit legislation was passed in 1937, but the acts were soon ruled to be unconstitutional. Fortunately for Aberhart, his supporters blamed the federal government.

  • Who

    When Aberhart died in 1943, his disciple Ernest C. Manning (1908-96) succeeded him, serving as premier until 1968. Preston Manning (b. 1942), co-founder of the Reform Party, is his son.