Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta

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Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta
Leader Jim Prentice
President Jim McCormick
Founded September 1, 1905 (1905-09-01)
Headquarters 9823 103 Street
Edmonton, ABCoordinates: 53°32′11″N 113°29′49″W / 53.5363°N 113.4969°W / 53.5363; -113.4969
Suite 340
999 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB
Ideology Progressive conservatism
Red Toryism[1][2]
Political position Centre-right
Colours Blue, orange
Seats in Legislature
72 / 87
Politics of Alberta
Political parties

The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (often referred to colloquially as Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta) is a provincial centre-right party in the Canadian province of Alberta. The party has formed the provincial government, without interruption, since 1971 under premiers Peter Lougheed (1971–1985), Don Getty (1985–1992), Ralph Klein (1992–2006), Ed Stelmach (2006–2011), Alison Redford (2011–2014), Dave Hancock (2014), and Jim Prentice (2014–present).[3] This is the longest unbroken run in government at the provincial level in Canadian history.


Origins and early years[edit]

The party was created from the Northwest Territories Liberal-Conservative Party that existed from 1898 to 1905. Unlike its predecessor party, who formed government during its entire existence, the Alberta Conservatives were a marginal party for most of the first 60 years after Alberta became a province. In the province's first election, the 1905 election, the Conservatives, led by future Canadian Prime Minister Richard Bennett, won only two seats and were barely able to improve on that in subsequent elections. The main policy difference between the Tories and the Alberta Liberal Party was over the Tories' belief that the province should control its natural resources, which the province had been denied. However, those concerns fell on deaf ears in the midst of an economic boom. Additionally, the Liberals had the advantage of incumbency; they were in office on an interim basis pending the first election.

On the political sidelines[edit]

In the 1913 election, the Tories achieved a breakthrough, winning 18 seats and 45% of the vote. Despite this result, and an even better result in the 1917 election, they were still unable to beat the Liberals. The Tories then split into 'traditional' and 'radical' camps. The party collapsed, and was unable to run a full slate of candidates in the 1921 election. Only one Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) was returned to the Legislative Assembly in this election, in which the new United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) defeated the Liberals, and took power.

For the next 45 years, the Tories were unable to elect more than a half dozen MLAs. The party was marginalized after the UFA was able to negotiate the province's control of its resources from Ottawa, denying the Tories their major policy plank.

In 1935, the UFA collapsed. The Social Credit Party of Alberta took power on a populist and Christian conservative platform. Social Credit attracted conservative voters for decades, particularly after the party moved away from its radical social credit economic theories, and embraced fiscal conservatism.

The party in the 1940s and 1950s[edit]

In the late 1930s, the Conservatives and Liberals formed a united front in an attempt to fight Social Credit and, as a result, no Conservative candidates ran in the 1940 election, the 1944 election, or the 1948 election. Supporters of both parties ran instead as independents.

The failure of the coalition strategy led to the reemergence of separate Liberal and Conservative parties in the early 1950s. The Tories only nominated five candidates in the 1952 election, only one of whom won election. The Conservative Party was led in the general election of 1959 by William J.Cameron Kirby, Member of the Legislature for Red Deer from 1954 to 1959.

The Tories became Progressive Conservatives in 1959 in order to conform with the name of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The party continued to be unable to improve their fortunes, and lost their only seats in the legislature.

The party under Peter Lougheed and Don Getty[edit]

In March 1965, Peter Lougheed became leader of the party, and began transforming it into a political force by combining fiscal conservatism with a modernist, urban outlook. This approach was in stark contrast to the parochialism and rural agrarianism of Social Credit. In particular, the party started gaining support in Calgary and Edmonton. Social Credit was slow to adapt to the changes in Alberta as its two largest cities gained increasing influence.

In 1967, Lougheed's Tories achieved an electoral breakthrough, electing six MLAs. Lougheed became Leader of the Opposition.

In 1968, Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning resigned after 25 years, and was replaced by Harry Strom. After 33 years in power, Social Credit had grown tired and complacent. Albertans, particularly those associated with the booming oil industry, began to turn to the young and dynamic Lougheed Tories, who were very active for an opposition in a Westminster system. Over the next four years, Lougheed saw his small caucus grow to 10 members as a result of two by-election wins—one of which was Manning's old Edmonton seat—and two floor-crossings.

In the 1971 election, the Progressive Conservatives campaigned on a simple theme--NOW!--symbolizing their goal of increasing Alberta's clout in Canada. On August 30, the Tories won power for the first time in Alberta's history. They finished only four percentage points ahead of Social Credit. However, they swept Edmonton and took all but five seats in Calgary. Due to a quirk in the first past the post system, this gave Lougheed a strong majority government, with 49 of the 75 seats in the legislature. He won a second term in resounding fashion in 1975, reducing the opposition to six MLAs (four Socreds, one New Democrat and one independent) in total. During the Lougheed years, Alberta became a virtual one-party state, with the PCs carrying almost all the seats in the provincial legislature. Indeed, the 1975 election would be the most opposition he would face during his last three terms. The Tories have governed with fairly comfortable majorities for most of the past four decades, though nowhere near as large as the ones Lougheed had.

In power, the Progressive Conservatives fought a long battle with the federal government over control of Alberta's natural resources (particularly oil). The oil industry provided the Alberta government with large revenue surpluses that allowed it to maintain Alberta as the only province or territory in Canada without a provincial retail sales tax. Alberta experienced a large development boom, particularly in Calgary, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lougheed retired in 1985, and Don Getty, a former longtime cabinet minister under Lougheed, came out of retirement to succeed him. Getty was unable to match Lougheed's dominance in the provincial legislature, but he enjoyed large majorities nevertheless.

The party under Klein and Stelmach[edit]

Logo until 2012

While the popularity of the Tories sagged somewhat under Don Getty, it was revived under Ralph Klein, who succeeded Getty as premier in 1992. Klein moved the party sharply to the right, and under his watch the Alberta Tories were one of the most right-wing provincial governments in Canada. In contrast, under Lougheed and Getty, the party was considered a classic example of a Red Tory government. The party's rightward turn came at the same time that the Reform Party of Canada replaced the federal Tories as the dominant party in Alberta's federal politics. Reform and its successor, the Canadian Alliance, dominated the province's federal politics until 2003, when it merged with the federal Tories to become the Conservative Party of Canada. The Alliance's first leader, Stockwell Day, was a cabinet minister under Klein.

The party was reduced to 51 seats in the 1993 election, but gained stronger majorities in 1997 and 2001.

It was viewed as unlikely that a centrist or left-leaning opposition party (the Liberals and NDP, respectively) would be in a serious position to challenge the Conservatives for power in the 2004 general election. The Liberals, New Democrats, and a new right-wing party, the Alberta Alliance, all campaigned aggressively against the Tories in 2004. The Klein government was re-elected, but lost a dozen urban seats. Many pundits expected losses in Edmonton, the traditional heartland of the provincial Liberals; indeed, the Conservatives were cut down to three seats in Edmonton (but subsequently gained a fourth on a recount). However, the Conservatives unexpectedly lost three seats to the Liberals in Calgary, where the Tories had previously held every seat.

The Alliance did not seriously challenge the Tories' majority, but it was competitive in several rural districts that could formerly have been described as Tory bastions. For instance, the one seat taken by the Wildrose, Cardston-Taber-Warner, in the southwest, had been an ultra-safe Tory seat for 30 years. This has led many pundits to conclude that although the Alliance gained less than ten percent of the popular vote in 2004, it was potentially a position to launch a more serious challenge to the Tories in the future.

On April 4, 2006, after receiving a 55% vote of support from his party, Ralph Klein issued a press release expressing his intent to retire.[4] A number of candidates stepped forward as possible replacements for a leadership election in late 2006. Klein officially resigned on September 20, 2006. The first round of voting on November 25 eliminated all but three candidates - Jim Dinning, Ted Morton and Ed Stelmach. None received the required 50% of the vote, so a second round was held on December 2.[5] In the second round, Stelmach was declared the winner. He assumed the premiership on December 14.[6]

Stelmach would go on to stun pundits and even his own supporters when he led the Tories to an increased majority in the 2008 general election, winning 72 of 83 seats including 13 in Edmonton, their highest total in the capital since 1982. The Tories lost modest ground in Calgary, winning 18 seats to the Liberals' five. The Liberals were nonetheless reduced to nine seats and the NDP two, and with the Tories re-taking Cardston-Taber-Warner from the renamed Wildrose Alliance in a close race.

The party under Redford[edit]

On January 25, 2011, Stelmach announced his intention to step down as party leader and Premier prior to the next provincial election as a result of a dispute with his finance minister, Ted Morton, over the provincial budget.[7] Stelmach formally resigned in September 2011. Justice Minister Alison Redford won the following leadership contest on October 2, 2011, and was sworn in as Premier on October 7, 2011, becoming Alberta's first female Premier.

Most polls from 2011 onward showed the PCs losing badly to the Wildrose. However, Redford defied expectations by leading the PCs to a 12th consecutive majority government in the 2012 provincial election. The PCs won 61 seats, a loss of only five.

On June 18, 2013, the Alberta PCs passed their Ontario counterparts as the second-longest running provincial government in Canadian history; the Ontario PCs spent 42 consecutive years in office from 1943 to 1985. In 2014, the Alberta PCs passed the Nova Scotia Liberals as the longest-serving provincial government in Canadian history.

With her approval rating at 18% and growing caucus discontent, including the resignation of two MLAs from the caucus, Redford announced on March 19, 2014 that she was resigning as Premier effective March 23, 2014.[8][9]

The party under Prentice[edit]

On September 6, 2014, former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice was elected leader on the first ballot with more than 76% of the vote.[10]

On October 27, 2014 the PCs swept four byelections, electing Prentice and 3 other PC candidates.[11]

On November 24, 2014 Kerry Towle, (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), and Ian Donovan, (Little Bow) crossed the floor to join the PC Party's caucus giving the turmoil within the Wildrose Party, uncertainty about official opposition Wildrose Party Danielle Smith's leadership and confidence in Prentice as reasons for their move.[12] They were followed on December 17, 2014, by Smith and eight other Wildrose members — Rob Anderson, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Jason Hale, Bruce McAllister, Blake Pedersen, Bruce Rowe and Jeff Wilson — also joining the Progressive Conservative caucus, with Smith saying "Under Premier Prentice’s strong leadership, I believe we can work together to lead Alberta with a renewed focus on the values and principles that we share.".[13] The defections were termed "an unprecedented move in Canadian political history" [14] and reduced the Wildrose Party to just 5 seats, tied with the Liberal Party.

Party leaders[edit]

Northwest Territories Liberal-Conservative Party

Alberta Conservative Party

Alberta Progressive Conservative Party

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kleiss, Karen. "Alberta election pits PC’s ‘red’ versus Wildrose’s ‘blue’ conservatives, experts say". National Post. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Hébert, Chantal (April 24, 2012). "National Columnist". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "List of MLAs". Pc Alberta. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Too late, Ralph does right thing". Edmonton Journal. 2006-04-05. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  5. ^ "Alberta Tory contenders face off in televised debate". CBC News. 2006-12-01. Retrieved 2010-09-24. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Stelmach sworn in as Alberta premier". Canwest News Service. 2006-12-15. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  7. ^ "Conservative showdown prompts Stelmach’s resignation", Globe and Mail, January 25, 2011.
  8. ^ Cryderman, Kelly (March 19, 2014). "Alberta Premier Redford to resign, effective Sunday". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Tory caucus to meet; could select interim leader". Edmonton Journal. March 20, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Alberta PC leadership vote: Jim Prentice wins on 1st ballot". CBC News. September 6, 2014. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Premier Prentice to run in Calgary-Foothills in October byelection". Global News, September 29, 2014.
  12. ^ "Two Wildrose members crossing the floor to join Tories". The Globe and Mail. November 24, 2014. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Nine Wildrose MLAs bolt for Alberta PC Party". Metro. December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  14. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Social Credit Party of Alberta
Governing party of Alberta
Succeeded by