British Columbia Social Credit Party
|British Columbia Social Credit Party|
Active provincial party
|Headquarters||Unit 101 - 8091 Granville Avenue, Richmond, BC, V6Y 1P5|
|Ideology||Conservatism, Populism, Social credit|
|Colours||Blue and Red|
|Seats in Legislature|
The British Columbia Social Credit Party, whose members are known as Socreds, was the governing political party of British Columbia, Canada, for more than 30 years between the 1952 provincial election and the 1991 election. For four decades, the party dominated the British Columbian political scene, with the only break occurring between the 1972 and 1975 elections when the New Democratic Party of British Columbia was in power.
Although founded to promote social credit policies of monetary reform, the Social Credit Party became a political vehicle for fiscal conservatives and later social conservatives in BC, who discarded the social credit ideology.
After its defeat in 1991 the party essentially collapsed.
Prior to 1952, the social credit movement in British Columbia was divided between various factions. The Social Credit League of British Columbia nominated candidates for the first time in the 1937 election, but did not do so in the 1941 election.
In the 1945 election, these factions formed an alliance to field 16 candidates, who won a total of 6,627 votes (1.42% of the provincial total.)
This alliance broke down before the 1949 election, and three separate groups nominated candidates:
- the Social Credit Party,
- the British Columbia Social Credit League, and
- the Union of Electors.
Collectively, they nominated 28 candidates, who won a total of 14,326 votes, 2.05% of the popular vote in that election.
W.A.C. Bennett era 
For the 1952 provincial election, the Liberal-Conservative provincial coalition government switched the electoral system from first past the post to the Alternative Vote, The coalition was nervous about the growing popularity of the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the NDP). With the expectation that Conservative voters would list the Liberals as their second choice and vice versa, the two parties believed they'd garner enough votes between them to stay in power.
Meanwhile, the Social Credit League went into the election under the interim leadership of the Reverend Ernest George Hansell, Member of the federal Parliament for the Alberta riding of Macleod since 1935. Hansell was hand-picked by Alberta premier Ernest Manning, as the Alberta Socreds still dominated their BC sister. However, much to the Socreds' own surprise, the party garnered enough second preference votes to become the largest party in the legislature with 19 seats, one more than the CCF, while the Liberals and Conservatives were practically wiped out. The Socreds persuaded an independent Labour Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to support them, allowing them to form a minority government.
As not even the Socreds expected to win the election, they now found themselves with the task of electing a leader who would become the province's new premier. Party president Lyle Wicks called a leadership convention at which only elected MLAs could vote. The 19 newly elected Social Credit MLAs chose former BC Conservative MLA W. A. C. Bennett to lead the new government over Philip Gaglardi. Bennett had only joined the Socreds in December, doing so with the tacit support of the federal Tory caucus. The federal Tories were displeased that their provincial counterparts had sat out the previous two elections so as not to embarrass their Liberal partners.  Nine months into the new term, Bennett changed the electoral system back to first past the post, and deliberately lost a confidence vote in order to force a new election in 1953. At this election, Social Credit won an outright majority.
Although the party was ostensibly the British Columbia wing of the Canadian social credit movement, Bennett jettisoned the old ideology, remembering that the Alberta Socreds had tried and failed to implement it soon after winning their first term in government. Instead, he converted it into a populist conservative party. It became a political vehicle to unite opponents of the CCF/NDP in hopes of shutting it out of power.
The BC Social Credit Party drifted away from both Social Credit and from the federal Social Credit Party as many supporters of the federal Liberals and Tories joined it. While Bennett made sporadic appearances for the federal Socreds, their relationship was tenuous at best. Finally, in 1971, the BC Socreds formally severed their ties to the federal Socreds in order to make it easier for staunch Tories and Liberals to support it at the provincial level. 
Despite being a free enterprise party, the Bennett government formed BC Hydro in 1961 by nationalizing the province's largest private hydroelectric concern to make sure that it could not oppose the government's hydroelectric dam construction program. It also formed the BC Ferries in 1958, and established the Bank of British Columbia, which was 25% owned by the provincial government.
Bill Bennett era 
Following the party's defeat in the 1972 election by the NDP, W.A.C. Bennett's son, William R. Bennett, took over the leadership of the party, and modernized it, putting populism behind. Instead, the party became a coalition of federal Liberals, Christian conservatives from the province's Bible Belt, and fiscal conservatives from the corporate sector with the latter firmly in control. On its return to power in the 1975 election, the party, for the most part, eschewed the megaprojects of the elder Bennett (with the exception of Expo 86 and the Coquihalla Highway), and embraced a fiscally conservative program.
As a result, the party built up a small political engine that managed to win the 1983 election, in spite of Bennett's controversial "Restraint" program. This was nicknamed the "Baby Blue Machine", and consisted of political advisors primarily imported from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. It never became a major political apparatus like the Big Blue Machine in Ontario did, as Bennett decided to retire in 1986.
Bill Vander Zalm era 
Under Bennett's successor, Bill Vander Zalm, control of the party shifted from urban fiscal conservatives to social conservatives, causing the coalition to unravel. Many moderate Socreds began drifting to the Liberals, a trend that would come back to haunt the party later. This process was exacerbated by Vander Zalm's eccentricity, and the constant scandals that plagued his government. As well, Vander Zalm allowed his principal secretary, David Poole, to amass a substantial amount of power, despite being unelected. Longtime cabinet minister Grace McCarthy resigned in protest.
Vander Zalm was forced to resign in a conflict of interest scandal in 1991, and was succeeded as party leader and premier by longtime associate Rita Johnston, who became the first female head of government at any level in Canada. Johnston then defeated McCarthy in the subsequent leadership election and continued as premier. Many viewed this as a mistake, given Johnston's longstanding ties to Vander Zalm. Even NDP opposition leader Mike Harcourt admitted later that he preferred Johnston over McCarthy, as the latter would likely have been a much tougher opponent in an election.
Facing a statutory general election, Johnston was unable to make up any ground. Social Credit was roundly defeated by the NDP. Johnston lost her own seat. Furthermore, many moderate Socred supporters voted for the Liberals, who vaulted from no seats in the legislature to the Official Opposition. The combined effect was to decimate the Socreds, who were relegated to third place with only seven seats. More party infighting occurred as McCarthy was elected to replace Johnston.
Unlike their Alberta counterparts, who managed to stay in the legislature for a decade after losing power, the British Columbia Socreds ceased to be a force in provincial politics within one term of losing power in 1991. In February 1994, McCarthy lost a by-election for Matsqui, a longtime Socred stronghold (Liberal Mike de Jong won the seat by fewer than 100 votes). After that defeat, Social Credit collapsed with dramatic speed. Four of the six remaining Social Credit MLAs elected in 1991 left the party to join the British Columbia Reform Party, leaving Social Credit without official status in the legislature. McCarthy resigned as leader shortly thereafter. Larry Gillanders was elected as the party's new leader.
After that, Abbotsford MLA Harry de Jong resigned (and briefly contemplated taking up the leadership of the Family Coalition Party). In the resulting by-election the BC Liberals beat BC Reform by a slightly less narrow margin.
By 1995, the Social Credit Party was left with just one remaining MLA, Cliff Serwa from Okanagan West, which contained much of the Bennetts' former territory. Vancouver Sun legislative columnist Vaughn Palmer commented at the time on the irony of Kelowna, centre of the Bennett dynasty from 1952 to 1986, now being represented by two fringe party MLAs: Serwa and Progressive Democratic Alliance MLA Judi Tyabji.
Before the 1996 provincial election, Serwa announced his retirement. For the first time since 1952, Social Credit went into an election with no incumbents. Gillanders was included in the debate of leaders of major parties, but pulled out of the campaign just before the vote and urged all non-socialist parties to present a united front against the NDP. The party was completely shut out of the legislature, garnering only 0.6 percent of the vote. At this point, the party was largely considered a dead force in BC politics, with most of its remaining members joining the socially conservative Reform Party or the centrist Liberal Party. In 2001, at the behest of former leader Vander Zalm, the Social Credit Party merged with other provincial right-wing parties to form the Unity Party, but soon left due to dissatisfaction with the way the party was run.
In the 2001 provincial election, what remained of the party ran only two candidates. Grant Mitton achieved a respectable showing in Peace River South, placing second with 1,726 votes (17.4%). The other candidate, Carrol Barbara Woolsey, in Vancouver-Hastings, placed 5th of 6 candidates with 222 votes (1.15% of the total). Mitton subsequently left to become leader of the British Columbia Party, leaving Woolsey as de facto party leader. In the 2005 election, only two Socreds filed: Woolsey, who won 254 votes (1.28% of the total) in Vancouver-Hastings, and Anthony Yao, who won 225 votes (0.95% of the total) in Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.
After that, the party continued to exist in practice only as an infrequently updated website (which was not updated after February 2012). The party did not field any candidates in the 2009 general election; most of its constituency associations had been de-registered in 2008. In the 2013 election, Woolsey was the only Socred candidate, again in Vancouver-Hastings, receiving 355 votes. British Columbia election law mandates de-registration of parties that run fewer than two candidates in two consecutive elections, putting the party's continued legal existence in jeopardy.
Party leaders 
- Andrew Henry Jukes, 1937-48, leader of the Union of Electors faction, 1948-49.
- No leader as such of the Social Credit Party/Social Credit League emerged until the 1952 election. However, Eric Martin and Lyle Wicks were the most obvious figures of a collective leadership. At the 1952 party convention Wicks, W.A.C. Bennett and Rev. Hansell were nominated for the party leadership. Wicks and Bennett both withdrew in favour of Hansell who was the hand-picked choice of Alberta Social Credit leader and Premier Ernest Manning. Following the election, Wicks, who was party president, called a second leadership convention at which only Social Credit MLAs could vote. This was won by Bennett.
- Reverend Ernest George Hansell, M.P. for Macleod (Alberta), leader for the 1952 election.
- W. A. C. Bennett (July 15, 1952 - November 24, 1973) *
- William R. Bennett (November 24, 1973 - July 30, 1986) *
- William Vander Zalm (July 30, 1986 - April 1, 1991) *
- Rita Johnston (April 2, 1991 - March 7, 1992) *
- Jack Weisgerber (interim) (March 7, 1992 - November 6, 1993)
- Grace McCarthy (November 6, 1993 - May 1994)
- Lyall Franklin Hanson (interim) (May 1994)
- Cliff Serwa (interim) (May - November 1994)
- Larry Gillanders (November 4, 1994 - May 24, 1996)
- Ken Endean (interim) (May 1996 - March 1997)
- Mike Culos (April 1997 - April 2000)
- Eric Buckley (April 2000 - October 2000)
Eric Buckley left Social Credit in October 2000 to join the British Columbia Party. The position of party leader has been vacant since that time.
Other prominent Socred politicians 
- Kim Campbell
- Garde Gardom
- Pat McGeer
- Rafe Mair
- Phil Gaglardi
- Tom Northcott, a prominent singer, stood unsuccessfully for the provincial legislature.
Electoral results 
In the 1937 election, the British Columbia Social Credit League endorsed candidates, but none were elected.
|Number of candidates||Seats||Popular vote||%|
In the 1941 election, no candidates ran under the social credit banner.
In the 1945 election, an alliance of social credit groups nominated candidates. None were elected.
|Number of candidates||Seats||Popular vote||%|
In the 1949 election, three different social credit groups nominated candidates. None were successful.
|Name of party||Number of
|Social Credit Party||7||0||8,464||1.21%|
|Social Credit League||9||0||3,072||0.44%|
|Union of Electors||12||0||2,790||0.40%|
|Total of social credit groups||28||0||14,326||2.05%|
In subsequent elections, only the Social Credit Party of British Columbia emerged as the only social credit party, although it quickly abandoned social credit theories.
|Election||Party leader||Number of
|Seats||Popular vote||Final round (1952-53 only)|
|1952||Rev. Ernest George Hansell||47||0||19||-||209,049||27.20%||+25.99%||203,932||30.18%|
|1986||Bill Vander Zalm||69||35||47||+34.3%||954,516||49.32%||-0.44%|
See also 
- List of British Columbia general elections
- List of British Columbia political parties
- British Columbia Social Credit Party leadership elections
- British Columbia Conservative Party
- British Columbia Liberal Party
- Social Credit
- Canadian social credit movement
- Morley, J. Terence; Ruff, Norman J.; Swanson, Neil A.; Wilson, R. Jeremy; and Young, Walter D., The Reins of Power: Governing British Columbia, p. 91, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1983