Social Credit Party of Canada

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Social Credit Party of Canada
Parti Crédit social du Canada
Founded 1935 (1935)
Dissolved 1993 (1993)
Ideology Canadian Social credit,
Canadian Conservatism,
Right-wing populism,
Social conservatism
Colours Green
Politics of Canada
Political parties
Elections

The Social Credit Party of Canada (French: Parti Crédit social du Canada) was a conservative-populist political party in Canada that promoted social credit theories of monetary reform. It was the federal wing of the Canadian social credit movement.

A Western protest movement: 1935–1961[edit]

The Canadian social credit movement was largely an out-growth of the Alberta Social Credit Party, and the Social Credit Party of Canada was originally strongest in Alberta.

When first formed in 1935, as the Western Social Credit League, it attracted many voters from the Progressive Party of Canada and the United Farmers movement. The party grew out of disaffection with the status quo during the Great Depression. The depression hit the party's western Canadian birthplace especially hard, and can be credited both for the creation of this party and the rise of a social democratic party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

In the party's first election in 1935, it ran candidates only in Western Canada and won 17 seats, all but two of them in Alberta, where it won over 46% of that province's popular vote. John Horne Blackmore was chosen as the party's parliamentary leader.

In 1939, Social Credit merged with the New Democracy movement led by former Conservative William Duncan Herridge. However, Herridge failed to win a seat in the 1940 election, and Blackmore continued as parliamentary leader. At the party's first national convention in 1944, delegates decided to abandon the name New Democracy and founded the Social Credit Association of Canada as a national party and chose Alberta Treasurer Solon Earl Low as the party's first national leader.

Nevertheless, in the 1940s, Social Credit supporters in Quebec often ran under the name Union des électeurs, a social credit organization that had been formed in 1939 by Louis Even and Gilberte Côté-Mercier as the political arm of their religious organization, the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, and that had an on-again, off-again, relationship with the western-based national party and an inconsistent attitude towards electoral politics. The Union des électeurs electoral philosophy was that it was not a partisan political party but an organization to marshal voters to enforce their wishes on their elected representatives.[1] Even believed the party politics was corrupt and that the party system should be abolished and replaced by a "union of electors" who would compel elected officials to follow the popular will. The Union also favoured a more orthodox application of social credit economic theory, something that the western based Social Credit movement had begun to move away from at this time under the influence of Alberta premier Ernest Manning. This sometimes led to tensions with the national party. Even and his followers initially opposed the creation of a national Social Credit Party.

The Union des électeurs philosophy inspired an Ontario group, the "Union of Electors" led by Ron Gostick, to form in 1946 as a rival to the Ontario Social Credit League and run in the 1948 provincial election under the "Union of Electors" label. Even's views also led to a debate within the national Social Credit Party about whether to continue to run on a Social Credit basis or under the "non-partisan" "Union of Electors" banner.[1] In British Columbia, the movement split with both the British Columbia Social Credit League and the "Union of Electors" running candidates in the 1949 provincial election.[2]

Réal Caouette, a member of the Union des electeurs, won a 1946 by-election as a Social Credit MP and ran, unsuccessfully, for re-election as a Union des électeurs candidate in the 1949 federal election. In 1958, Caouette broke with Even and Côté-Mercier and the increasingly hostile attitude of the Union des électeurs towards elections and party politics and founded the Ralliement des créditistes which won recognition as the Quebec wing of the national Social Credit party.

In its first years, the Socreds gained a reputation for anti-Semitism. It was said of both Blackmore and Low that they "frequently gave public aid and comfort to anti-Semitism"[3] In 1945, Solon Low alleged there was a conspiracy of Jewish bankers behind the world's problems,[4] and in 1947, Norman Jaques, the Socred Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin, even read excerpts of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the parliamentary Hansard.[5] Low officially repudiated anti-Semitism in 1957[6] following a trip to Israel after which he made speeches supporting the Jewish state.[3] However, under Manning's influence, the party began purging itself of anti-Semitic influences, leading Even and his followers to break away completely in 1947.

The party was shut out of Parliament completely in the massive Progressive Conservative (PC) landslide of 1958.

Split between Quebec and English Canadian factions: 1963–1971[edit]

Beginning in the early 1960s, there were serious tensions between the party's English and French wings. In 1961, Robert Thompson of Alberta defeated Caouette at the party's leadership convention. The vote totals were never announced. Years later, Caouette claimed that he would have won, but Manning told him to tell the Quebec delegates to vote for Thompson because the West would never accept a Francophone Catholic as party leader.[7]

The party returned to Parliament in the 1962 election, electing 30 members. Caouette and 25 other créditistes were elected from Quebec, while the party won only four other seats in the rest of Canada, including Thompson's. As a result, Thompson was all but forced to name Caouette the party's deputy leader. The linguistic imbalance caused severe tensions in the Social Credit caucus, as the Quebec MPs regarded Caouette as their leader. Also, Caouette and the other Quebec MPs remained true believers in social credit theory, while the English branch had largely abandoned the theory. However, Thompson refused to stand down. Nonetheless, the party managed to pull itself together long enough to help bring down the Progressive Conservative government in 1963, forcing an election. The Socreds won 24 seats, all but four in Quebec.

On September 9, 1963, the party split into an English Canadian wing and a separate French Canadian party led by Caouette - the Ralliement des créditistes. Of the 20 Social Credit MPs from Quebec in 1963, 13 joined Caouette's Ralliement, five of the remaining seven ran in the next election as independents, and two joined the Progressive Conservatives.

Decline of party in English Canada[edit]

The English Canadian party, concentrated in Alberta and British Columbia, won only five seats in the 1965 federal election. Party leader Robert Thompson was frustrated by the lack of support given to the federal wing, while the provincial Social Credit parties in Alberta and British Columbia ran powerful political machines and formed the governments. BC's Socred Premier, W.A.C. Bennett cut off his party's organizational and financial support after the 1965 election in hopes of pressuring the federal party to reconcile with Caouette's Créditistes.[8]

Alberta Premier Manning was becoming concerned with what he perceived as the leftward trajectory of both the federal Liberals and the PCs. He encouraged Thompson to try to bring about a merger of the federal Socred and PC parties. Negotiations failed and in March 1967, citing lack of support for the party from its provincial wings in Alberta and British Columbia, Thompson resigned as leader.[9] In the fall Bud Olson left to join the Liberals. With the support of both Manning and PC leader Robert Stanfield, Thompson sought and won the PC nomination in his electoral district (riding) once the June 1968 federal election was called.

The defections left acting leader Alexander Bell Patterson leading a three-person Social Credit caucus into the election campaign. When the votes were counted, Social Credit lost its last three seats in English Canada. While BC Socred Premier Bennett campaigned actively for the federal party,[10] its internal strain, Manning’s call to merge with the PCs, the defections of Thompson and Olson, and the wave of Trudeaumania swept the Socreds aside. National party president Herb Bruch said that Patterson’s refusal to take a clear stand on whether the Socreds would support Stanfield’s PCs in Parliament was a contributing factor in the party’s defeat. Patterson expressed confidence that the party could bounce back, as it had after the Diefenbaker sweep in the 1958 election, noting the strength of the Créditistes in Quebec, and expressed hope that the two parties would be reunited.[11] The party never won another seat in English Canada, although Manning was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1970. Patterson returned to Parliament as a Progressive Conservative in the 1972 election.

Reunification[edit]

In 1971, the Ralliement des créditistes and the English Canadian Social Credit Party reunited into a single national party at a leadership convention, held at the Hull Arena. Réal Caouette won the leadership on the first ballot.

In the 1972 election, the Social Credit Party won 15 seats — all in Quebec — and 7.6% of the popular vote.

Decline: 1973–1980[edit]

Despite a modest success in the 1970 Quebec election, the provincial wing of the party was wracked continually by internal divisions, eventually splitting into two factions led by Camil Samson and Armand Bois. On February 4, 1973, former federal Liberal cabinet minister Yvon Dupuis was elected leader of the Ralliement créditiste du Québec, but failed to win his riding of Saint-Jean in the 1973 provincial election, while the party only retained two of the twelve seats they held. Under pressure and without a seat, Dupluis resigned the leadership on May 5, 1974.

End of Caouette era[edit]

In the 1974 federal election, the Social Credit Party machine in Quebec began to fall apart. Caouette was suffering from a snowmobiling accident, and therefore the powerful voice that had carried Social Credit in prior elections was silenced. When he was able to speak, Caouette focussed his attacks on the Tories and the New Democratic Party, instead of the Liberal Party, which was Social Credit's main competitor in Quebec. Two weeks before the election was called, Caouette had informed the parliamentary caucus that he would resign as leader in the fall.

Party rallies faced declining, aging attendance. Feuding within the party had accelerated: Some ridings in Quebec had two Social Credit candidates, while others — including the party's Lévis stronghold — had none. Many Social Credit MPs ran for re-election on their own strengths, making little mention of the party or its leader in their campaign materials. The party's support in Quebec was undermined by rumours that its MPs had made deals with the Progressive Conservatives during Caouette's illness.

The Socreds won eleven seats, which was considered a success in light of the divisions that plagued their campaign, but was one short of the twelve seats needed for official party status in the House of Commons. The Socreds failed in their attempts to convince Independent MP Leonard Jones to join their party. The Socreds made these attempts despite their almost complete absence of political compatibility in order to get recognition as an official party in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the House of Commons, with approval from the Liberal government, decided to recognize the party anyway.

The official party status rules provide for automatic recognition of parties that hold at least twelve seats, but they do not state specifically that a party with fewer seats is not to be recognized. This status results in access to government funds for research purposes, committee membership, and more opportunities to participate in debates.

Leadership turmoil[edit]

The decline of the party accelerated after Caouette resigned from the party leadership in 1976. Caouette had announced in 1975 that he would step down from the leadership within a year. He was hospitalized after a stroke on September 16,[12] and died later that year. The party held its leadership convention November 6–7, 1976 at the Civic Centre in Ottawa. This time, 85% of the delegates were from Quebec.

André-Gilles Fortin, the 32-year-old MP for Lotbiniere won the convention on the second ballot. Fortin presented a young, dynamic image, but campaigned on traditional social credit economic theory and supporting small business.

Social Credit was dealt a further blow when Fortin was killed in a car accident on June 24, 1977, after serving only eight months as leader. Réal's son, Gilles Caouette, was named acting leader five days after Fortin's death.

In 1978, Socreds elected Lorne Reznowski as their leader, in an attempt to revive the party outside of Quebec. Reznowski, an anglophone Manitoban, presented himself as a candidate in the October 16, 1978 by-elections and fared extremely poorly (1,204 votes, only 2.76% of the 43,572 valid votes in the riding of Saint Boniface). He resigned quickly thereafter. He was replaced as acting leader by Charles-Arthur Gauthier.

Roy's leadership[edit]

Popular provincial créditiste Fabien Roy was drafted to lead Social Credit just before the 1979 election. Under Roy, the party won the tacit support of the separatist Parti Québécois, which formed the government of Quebec. Social Credit attempted to rally the separatist and nationalist vote: Canadian flags were absent at its campaign kick-off rally, and the party's slogan was C'est à notre tour ("It's our turn"), which was reminiscent of the popular separatist anthem "Gens du pays" that includes the chorus, "C'est à votre tour de vous laisser parler d'amour". The party focused its platform on constitutional change, promising to fight to abolish the federal government's never-used right to disallow any provincial legislation, and stating that each province has a "right to choose its own destiny within Canada".

Support from the PQ was not welcome by everyone; for instance, Gilles Caouette publicly denounced what he called "péquistes déguisés en créditistes" (PQ supporters disguised as Socreds). Caouette had said that he wanted to work within the spirit and letter of Confederation: “Let us not burn our bridges. It is not the time for le Ralliement des créditistes to be separatists, but rather to win recognition for the French fact within Canada.”[13] Caouette said that he would fight for the recognition of French Canada’s aspirations within Confederation on the basis of a partnership with the other nine provinces, “but if this partnership cannot be brought about, I shall become the more ardent separatist in Quebec.”[14]

While the party did manage to somewhat increase its vote in Péquiste areas, it also lost much support in areas of traditional Socred strength, with the end result being a drop from eleven to six MPs and a slightly reduced share of the popular vote compared to the 1974 election. (See also: Social Credit Party candidates, 1979 Canadian federal election.)

Clark minority government[edit]

Joe Clark's Progressive Conservatives formed a minority government after the election. The Socreds had just enough seats to give the Tories a majority in the House had the two parties formed a coalition government or otherwise agreed to work together. Prime Minister Clark, who declared that he would govern as if he had a majority, refused to grant the small Social Credit caucus the official party status it wanted, let alone form a coalition or make concessions to the party in order to gain its votes. Clark convinced one Socred MP, Richard Janelle from Lotbinière, to cross the floor and join the government caucus. In December 1979, the remaining five members of the Social Credit caucus demanded that the Conservatives amend their budget to allocate the controversial gas tax revenues to Quebec. Clark refused and the Social Credit caucus abstained in a vote on a Motion of No Confidence, causing the Conservative government to fall.

The abstention by Social Credit on the important budget vote (while the Liberals and NDP voted to bring down the government) contributed to the growing perception that the party was no longer relevant. The resulting February 18, 1980 election not only defeated the Clark government but wiped out the Socreds; their popular vote collapsed and the party ended up without any MPs.[15]

The death of the Social Credit candidate in the riding of Frontenac, Quebec, resulted in the postponement of the election in that riding to March 24, 1980. Fabien Roy sought to return to the House of Commons in that by-election, but lost to the Liberal candidate. Roy resigned as leader on November 1, 1980. The party would never again win a seat in the House of Commons.

Denouement: 1981–1993[edit]

After Fabien Roy's resignation, the party chose Martin Hattersley in 1981 as interim leader over Alberta evangelist Ken Sweigard. Hattersley was an Edmonton lawyer and former British army officer.

In the May 4, 1981 by-election in Levis, Quebec, the party nominated Martin Caya. Caya placed 6th in a field of seven candidates, winning 367 votes (1.1% of the total), ahead of renegade Socred John Turmel. Turmel, running as an independent, won 172 votes.

In the August 17, 1981 by-election in Quebec, party president Carl O’Malley placed 5th in a field of eight candidates, with 92 votes (0.2% of the total). Turmel won 42 votes, placing last.

Hattersley resigned in 1983 when the party overturned his decision to expel Jim Keegstra and two other Albertans accused of anti-Semitism from the party.

In June 1983, Sweigard was elected interim leader by means of a telephone conference call of 19 party executive members, with nine votes to five votes for party vice-president Richard Lawrence. Quebec party member Adrien Lambert was nominated, but could not be reached by telephone. He nonetheless won two votes.

When the call began, two candidates were in the race: professional gambler John Turmel of Ottawa, and tractor dealer Elmer Knutson of Edmonton, the founder of West-Fed, a western Canada separatist movement.

Turmel's candidacy was rejected on the basis that his membership had been suspended. Turmel subsequently formed the Christian Credit Party, and later, the Abolitionist Party of Canada, both based on social credit principles. Knutson failed to win endorsement because he was not well known by the members of the executive. Knutson subsequently quit the party to form the Confederation of Regions Party.

The meeting decided to appoint an interim leader until a leadership convention could be held in September 1983. This convention was deferred until June 1986, and Sweigard remained as interim leader until that time. Also in 1983, Manning retired from the Senate after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, ending Social Credit's representation on Parliament Hill.

In the 1984 election, the party nominated 52 candidates in 51 ridings, and collected a total of 17,044 votes (0.13% of votes cast in all ridings). Two candidates ran as Social Credit candidates in the BC riding of Prince George-Peace River. The party's strength remained in Quebec and Alberta, but also ran candidates in BC, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick. See also: Social Credit Party candidates, 1984 Canadian federal election.

1984 election results
Province № of candidates № of votes
British Columbia 8 3,479
Alberta 13 5,193
Saskatchewan 1 772
Ontario 6 865
Quebec 22 6,633
New Brunswick 1 102
Total 51 17,044

Sweigard resigned as leader in 1986. The party's leadership was subsequently won by the socially conservative Ontario evangelical minister Harvey Lainson, who defeated holocaust denier James Keegstra by 67 votes to 38 at a delegated convention in Toronto. Lainson's campaign focused on gun rights and an opposition to abortion and the metric system. (He was not affiliated with the anti-Semitic groups that endorsed Keegstra.) After becoming party leader, Lainson rebranded the party as the Christian Freedom Party of Canada. For official purposes, it was still listed as the Social Credit Party.

The party nominated Andrew Varaday as its candidate in the 1987 Hamilton Mountain by-election. He won 149 votes (0.4% of the total), placing last in a field of six candidates, which included John Turmel (166 votes).

In the 1988 election, the party nominated nine candidates: six in Quebec, two in Ontario, and one in BC. These candidates collected a total of 3,408 votes (0.02% of votes cast in all ridings). The BC candidate, running in New Westminster-Burnaby, won 718 votes (1.3% of the total). Although the party did not nominate the 50 candidates required to obtain official party status, the Chief Electoral Officer agreed to put the party's name on the ballots for the nine candidates on the basis of its historical status as an official party.

In 1990, the remnant of the federal Social Credit party was taken over by social conservative evangelist Ken Campbell. He continued to describe the party as the Christian Freedom Party in public appearances, although he also retained the "Social Credit" name on official documents for tax purposes.

In 1990, the party nominated two candidates in by-elections, each of whom won 96 votes. In the February 12 by-election in Chambly, Quebec, Emilian Martel placed last in a field of six, winning 0.2% of the total vote. Party leader Ken Campbell placed 7th out of 10, winning 0.4% of the total vote in the August 13 by-election in Oshawa, Ontario. John Turmel placed last with 50 votes in this race.

After changes to the election law required a party to nominate at least 50 candidates in order to keep its registration, Campbell scrambled to nominate at least that number for the 1993 election so he could officially relaunch the party under the Christian Freedom name. However, it was only able to nominate 10 candidates and was deregistered by Elections Canada on September 27, 1993. Its candidates in that election appeared on the ballot as non-affiliated candidates. Campbell later ran as an unofficial "Christian Freedom Party" candidate in a 1996 by-election in Hamilton East, appearing on the ballot as an independent.

Social Credit has not attempted to run candidates on the national level since then, but continued to exist as an incorporated entity in the form of the "Social Credit Party of Canada, Incorporated" under which Campbell, until his death in 2006, published political advocacy material in order to preserve his ministry's status as a religious charity.

Election results (1935–1988)[edit]

(These results do not include those for Union des électeurs, Independent Social Credit candidates, or the Ralliement des créditistes.)

Election Party leader # of candidates nominated # of seats won # of total votes  % of popular vote
1935 J.H. Blackmore 46 17 180,679 4.10%
1940* J.H. Blackmore 9 7 (10) 46,271 1.00%
1945 Solon Low 93 13 212,220 4.05%
1949 Solon Low 28 10 135,217 2.31%
1953 Solon Low 72 15 305,551 5.42%
1957 Solon Low 114 19 434,312 6.57%
1958 Solon Low 82 0 188,356 2.58%
1962 R.N. Thompson 226 30 893,479 11.60%
1963 R.N. Thompson 224 24 940,703 11.92%
1965** R.N. Thompson 86 5 282,454 3.66%
1968** A.B. Patterson 32 0 68,742 0.85%
1972 Réal Caouette 164 15 730,759 7.55%
1974 Réal Caouette 152 11 481,231 5.06%
1979 Fabien Roy 103 6 527,604 4.61%
1980 Fabien Roy 81 0 185,486 1.70%
1984 Ken Sweigard 51 0 16,659 0.13%
1988 Harvey Lainson 9 0 3,407 0.03%

* In the 1940 election, W.D. Herridge ran a group of 17 social credit candidates as members of a monetary reform party called New Democracy. In addition to the official Social Credit party, they won 3 seats and received 73,083 or 1.59% of the national vote. Herridge failed to win a seat in Parliament and the 3 member New Democracy caucus folded and joined the Social Credit Party Caucus in the House of Commons, raising the caucus' seat total to 10 Members.

** In the 1965 and 1968 elections, Quebec social crediters ran separately as the Ralliement des créditistes.

Attempted revival[edit]

From 2006 to 2009 Wayne Cook, a father's rights activist from Toronto and candidate in 2000 for the Canadian Action Party, attempted to revive the national Social Credit Party of Canada/Parti Credit Social du Canada. His attempt failed to win sufficient support to enable his group to become a registered political party with Elections Canada and the group did not run candidates in the 2008 federal election on either an official or unofficial basis. In June 2009, he announced that his unregistered Social Credit Party of Canada would cease and urged all members to join with the Christian Heritage Party of Canada.[16]

Since the demise of the federal party, several small fringe parties have attempted to promote social credit economic policy while not advocating the social conservativism that the Social Credit Party was known for. John Turmel, who is in the Guinness Book of Records for the most elections contested and for the most elections lost, is an advocate of social credit monetary theory and founded the Abolitionist Party of Canada which ran 80 candidates in the 1993 federal election on a social credit style economic platform. The party dissolved in 1996. (Turmel also founded the short-lived Christian Credit Party in the early 1980s after he was expelled from the Social Credit Party.)

The Canada Party, founded by former Social Credit candidate Joseph Thauberger, also ran candidates in the 1993 election on a platform of monetary reform influenced by social credit. Many of its members also belonged to the social credit influenced Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER). In 1997, the Canada Party merged with the left economic nationalist Canadian Action Party which, while not a social credit party per se, adopted a monetary reform policy that is heavily influenced by COMER and the Canada Party.

Leaders[edit]

Source:Parliament of Canada website: Party File: Social Credit Party

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Shades of Mr. Aberhart", Toronto Daily Star, July 8, 1948
  2. ^ "100,000 Newcomers May Decide Election in B.C.", Toronto Daily Star, June 14, 1949
  3. ^ a b http://www.geschichteinchronologie.ch/am-N/kanada/EncJud_juden-in-Kanada05-antisemitismus-ENGL.html
  4. ^ Howard Palmer, "Politics, Religion and Anti-Semitism in Alberta, 1880-1950" in Anti-Semitism in Canada, History and interpretation, Alan Davies, editor, 1992, p. 185
  5. ^ Richard Menkis, "Antisemitism in the Evolving Nation: From New France to 1950", B'nai Brith Canada, 1999]
  6. ^ American Jewish Committee Archives, American Jewish Yearbook v. 64 (1963)
  7. ^ Dufresne, Bernard, “Quebec’s Socreds vote to Disown Thompson”, Globe and Mail, 2 September 1963, p.1
  8. ^ "Socred leader resigns, lack of support cited", Globe and Mail, March 10, 1967
  9. ^ "Robert Thompson resigns as leader of Socred Party", Toronto Star, March 9, 1967
  10. ^ Vancouver Sun, Tuesday, June 8, 1968, p. 8, “Grinning Bennett Backs federal Socred hopefuls”
  11. ^ Vancouver Sun, June 26, 1968, p. 14, “Socreds Die 2nd Death” by Alf Stand.
  12. ^ Montreal Gazette, 6 November 1976, p. 11, “Socreds gather to elect leader Sunday”
  13. ^ Dufresne, 2 September 1963.
  14. ^ Dufresne, “In the Separatist Shadow”, Globe and Mail, 3 September 1963, p. 7
  15. ^ http://archives.cbc.ca/clip.asp?page=1&IDClip=6515&IDCat=328&IDCatPa=260
  16. ^ Social Credit Party joins CHP Canada, Christian Heritage Party website, June 29, 2009
  17. ^ Continued as Social Credit House leader until 1945 when Low was elected to parliament.[1]
  18. ^ Acting leader until 1982
  19. ^ Jim Keegstra was chosen acting leader by a meeting of party members in July 1987. Lainson and others argued that the meeting was illegitimate, and did not recognize Keegstra as leader. Keegstra was later barred from the Social Credit Party and by the Christian Freedom Social Credit Party. Source: [2] Lainson was re-confirmed as party leader later in 1987.