PC CC AOE
Ernest Charles Manning, 1943
|8th Premier of Alberta|
May 31, 1943 – December 12, 1968
|Lieutenant Governor||John C. Bowen
John J. Bowlen
John Percy Page
|Preceded by||William Aberhart|
|Succeeded by||Harry E. Strom|
|Senator for Edmonton West|
October 7, 1970 – September 20, 1983
|Appointed by||Pierre Trudeau|
|Born||Ernest Charles Manning
September 20, 1908
|Died||February 19, 1996 (aged 87)
|Political party||Social Credit Party of Alberta|
|Social Credit Party of Canada|
|Spouse(s)||Muriel Aileen Preston|
Ernest Charles Manning, PC CC AOE (September 20, 1908 – February 19, 1996), a Canadian politician, was the eighth premier of Alberta between 1943 and 1968 for the Social Credit Party of Alberta. He served longer than any other premier in the province's history and was the second longest serving provincial premier in Canadian history (only after George H. Murray of Nova Scotia). For a period of time, Manning was the longest continually serving democratically elected official in the world. He was also the only member of the Social Credit Party of Canada to sit in the Senate and, with the party shut out of the House of Commons in 1980, was its very last representative in Parliament.
Manning was born in Carnduff, Saskatchewan, in 1908 to English immigrants George Henry Manning (1872–1956) and Elizabeth Mara Dixon (1870–1949), and was raised on a farm. A devoted listener of the evangelistic radio broadcasts of future Premier William Aberhart, Manning enrolled in Aberhart's Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute in 1927, becoming the first graduate of that institution.
In 1930, Manning himself began speaking on the Prophetic Bible Institute's, "Back to the Bible Hour" radio broadcasts to a large audience across Canada, a practice as an evangelist he kept up throughout his life even while in politics, including his terms as premier.
In 1936, Manning married Muriel Aileen Preston, the pianist at the Prophetic Bible Institute, with William Aberhart giving the bride away. They had two sons, Keith who died in 1986, and Ernest Preston (commonly called Preston) who founded the Reform Party of Canada. Ernest and Preston have both been honoured as Companions of the Order of Canada.
In the 1935 provincial election, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta as a Social Credit MLA from Calgary. The Socreds won an unexpected victory in that election, and Manning became Alberta's Provincial Secretary and Minister of Trade and Industry. In 1940, he switched seats and was elected from Edmonton. In 1943, he became Socred leader and premier of Alberta after Aberhart died.
Under Manning, the party largely abandoned social credit theories. Manning had been a loyal supporter of Aberhart from the beginning, so it is not clear why he was so willing to abandon his party's traditional ideology. One likely explanation may have been pragmatic; many of Social Credit's policy goals infringed on responsibilities reserved to the federal government under the British North America Act.
However, Manning twice honoured Aberhart's 1935 promise to issue a Prosperity Certificate to Albertans. In 1957, his government announced a $20 Alberta Oil Royalty Dividend and issued a $17 dividend the next year. The policy was widely criticized and, the next year, Manning agreed to use oil royalties on public works and social programs instead.
Manning also sought to purge anti-Semitic influences from the party. Anti-Semitism had long been a staple of Socred rhetoric, but became less fashionable after World War II. Manning, however, continued Social Credit's conservative social policies. For many years, airplanes could not serve alcohol while flying over the province.
Under Manning, Alberta became a virtual one-party province. He led Social Credit to seven consecutive election victories between 1944 and 1967, usually with more than 50% of the popular vote and only once having to face more than 10 opposition MLAs. The height of his popularity came in 1963, when the Socreds campaigned under the slogan "63 in '63"—i.e., a clean sweep of the then 63-seat legislature. They fell short of that goal, but still reduced the opposition to only three MLAs—two Liberals and one running with the support of both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives—in total. It is still the biggest majority government, in terms of percentage of seats won, in Alberta's history. Social Credit's electoral success was based in part on what was viewed as its good government of the province.
However, an ominous sign came during Manning's last victory, when the once-moribund Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed won six seats, mostly in Calgary and Edmonton. More seriously, the PCs did well enough across the rest of the province to hold Social Credit to 45 percent of the vote, its lowest vote share since 1940. Despite its longstanding popularity, Social Credit was a rural-based party, and never lost that essential character. It never really adapted to the changes in Alberta as its two largest cities gained increasing influence, though Manning himself represented urban ridings for his entire career. Manning retired in 1968, and Social Credit was knocked out of office three years later. It has never come within sight of power again. By the time Manning left the legislature, only he, Alfred Hooke, and William Tomyn, were left from the original 1935 caucus, though Tomyn served a break from 1952 to 1959 - Hooke would later go on to be the only MLA to see the government right through from its beginning to its very end in 1971.
Manning also used his strong provincial standing to influence the federal Socreds. He told the 1961 federal leadership convention that Alberta would never accept francophone Catholic Real Caouette of Quebec as the party's leader, even though Caouette led the party's strongest branch east of Manitoba. Robert Thompson of Alberta won the election, although Manning's objections to Caouette led to suspicions that the vote was fixed. Indeed, Caouette later claimed that he had enough support to win, but the Quebec delegates all voted for Thompson after Manning told him, "Tell your people to vote for Thompson because the West will never accept a Roman Catholic French Canadian leader."
By this time, however, all but four members of the Social Credit federal caucus came from Quebec. In 1963, virtually all of the Socred MPs from Quebec followed Caouette into the Ralliement des créditistes, leaving behind a Social Credit rump in English Canada.
Afterwards, Manning did not provide much support to Thompson's tiny caucus and, being concerned with the leftward trajectory of both the federal Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, encouraged Thompson to try to bring about a merger of the federal Socred and PC parties. Negotiations failed but in 1967, with the support of both Manning and PC leader Robert Stanfield, Thompson ran in the next election with the PCs.
Upon retirement in 1968, Manning established his own consulting firm, Manning Consultants Limited, with his son Preston. In 1970, he was appointed to the Senate as the first (and as it turned out, only) Socred to serve in that body. The same year, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. He retired in 1983, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Ernest Manning died in Calgary in 1996.
In 1980, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation was created, and the Manning Innovation Awards were started in 1982, with the purpose of promoting and honouring Canadian innovation.
- The Honourable Ernest C. Manning, 1943-68
- Perry, Craig 2006, pg. 461
- "Ernest Charles Manning". Britannica Online. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- Donn Downey, "OBITUARY / Ernest Charles Manning History of former Alberta premier also history of Socreds," Globe and Mail, February 20, 1996
- Dufresne, Bernard, "Quebec's Socreds vote to Disown Thompson," Globe and Mail, 2 September 1963, p.1
- Perry, Sandra E.; Craig, Jessica J. (2006). The Mantle of Leadership : Premiers of the Northwest Territories and Alberta. Edmonton, Alberta: Legislative Assembly of Alberta. ISBN 0-9689217-2-8.
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