Leader of the Opposition (Alberta)

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The Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition has been a position in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta since 1905.

Alberta has enjoyed long periods of stable government rule, and has elected massive government majority during almost every election in its history. In most other legislatures in Canada, the opposition party is traditionally recognized as a government in waiting, and will alternate periods of government among two or three parties. In Alberta however the opposition has traditionally been very small in terms of seat numbers, and highly unstable in terms of party leadership.

Until 2019 and Jason Kenney leading his party into government, Peter Lougheed was the only Leader of the Opposition who has ever gone on to become Premier of Alberta. Until 2019, Harry Strom, whom Lougheed defeated, was the only premier who has ever gone on to serve as opposition leader. Rachel Notley Alberta's 17th Premier, decided to stay on in provincial politics and serve as Leader of the Opposition after her New Democratic Party government was defeated in the 2019 Alberta general election.

The Conservative and Liberal years 1905 to 1940[edit]

Richard Bennett Conservative Opposition Leader 1909 - 1910

In the early years of the provincial legislature the opposition was dominated by the Conservative Party. This was a party built on remnants of the old Territorial Conservative Association. The party started out in 1905 forming opposition with only 2 seats in the legislative assembly, and proportionally grew as much as 20 seats in 1921 as Albertans grew tired of the scandals of the Liberal government.

The Conservatives looked poised to form government after a strong showing in the 1917 general election,. However both the Liberals and Conservatives were wiped out of the legislature in the 1921 general election by the United Farmers of Alberta. Albertans still distrusting of old line dominion parties opted instead for a new party that had third party status as the Non-Partisan League of Alberta and later became the United Farmers.

With the Conservatives wiped out of the legislature the Liberals formed the opposition from 1921 to 1926 confined to the cities of Calgary and Edmonton. The Liberals were helped by the fact that the United Farmers did not typically run candidates in the cities. From 1926 to 1940 there was no official opposition leader due to a Speaker's ruling that divided the Official Opposition funding between all the party leaders. However the Liberals remained the largest opposition party during this period.

A brand new party, Social Credit under William Aberhart, swept to power in the 1935 provincial election never previously having had a seat in the legislature while the United Farmers were completely wiped out.

The Unity Movement to the rise of Lougheed 1940 to 1971[edit]

Opposition through the 1940s was dominated by the Unity Movement a coalition by Liberal and Conservatives and some former UFA supporters organized by former UFA MP Alfred Speakman to run candidates as Independents, in the 1940 Alberta general election the movement was successful at forming a large opposition that nearly equaled the popular vote of the ruling Alberta Social Credit Party. The Independents however turned out to be conflicted and hard to sustain as a united force. From 1940 to 1944 the leaders of the opposition changed with every legislative session.

The Independents were promoted through a third party group known as the Independent Citizen's Association. The last Independent opposition leader John Percy Page ran for the Citizen's Association in 1948 but was defeated, ending the Unity Movement.

The Independents' popularity started to decline in the late 1940s with new found prosperity in Alberta and satisfaction with new Premier Ernest Manning as well as the province's business elite and newspaper editorial boards preferring to back Social Credit rather than risk the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Alberta coming to power as they had in Saskatchewan in 1944. The Liberal Party's support grew as support for the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada declined. The Liberals formed the official opposition from 1951 until the 1967 general election when the Progressive Conservatives shocked the province by winning 6 seats.

In the 1959 general election, 3 opposition parties managed to each win one seat in the legislature, no opposition leader was named until after the 1963 general election.

The Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed grew to 10 members through winning 2 by-elections and 2 floor crossings. The Progressive Conservatives defeated the 35 year rule of Social Credit in the 1971 general election and held government until 2015.

Modern day opposition 1971 to present[edit]

Rachel Notley is the current Leader of the Opposition.

From 1971 to 1982 the remains of the former Social Credit government held the opposition, but they were unable to make a smooth transition and did not elect any new members in this period. Having spent virtually all of its history as the ruling party, they were unprepared for a role outside of government and sank into near-paralysis in opposition. The party collapsed in 1982, when its last two caucus members left to sit as independents. The party has not been a significant force in Alberta since.

After the 1982 general election the speaker of the Legislative Assembly had to make a controversial ruling: whether to accept the two former Social Credit members' bid to become the official opposition, or decide if it should go to the New Democratic Party, which held two seats. The speaker ruled in favour of the NDP. The new opposition status would help the party grow to 16 seats from 1986 to 1993 until they were wiped out of the legislature by popular Liberal leader Laurence Decore.

The Liberals once again became the official opposition for the first time since 1967 under Laurence Decore, who helped the Liberals soar to popularity not seen since the early 1900s. Decore however did not last long as his health started to fail, and as he was pressured by party insiders to resign since many in the caucus were disappointed that they did not win the 1993 election. The Liberal party lost popularity as the Progressive Conservatives recovered support under Ralph Klein. In the 2004 general election the Liberals gained 16 seats under Kevin Taft. The Liberals held onto official opposition until 2012, when they were replaced by the Wildrose Party under Danielle Smith in the 2012 general election. On December 17, 2014, most of the Wildrose caucus, including Smith, crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative government, leaving the Wildrose and Liberal parties tied with 5 seats each. The Liberals petitioned the Speaker to be declared the Official Opposition but on December 23, 2014, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky ruled that Wildrose would keep Official Opposition status due to incumbency.[1]

List of opposition leaders[edit]

Name Party Began term End term
  Albert Robertson Conservative March 15, 1906 February 25, 1909
  Richard Bennett Conservative February 10, 1910 May 26, 1910
  Edward Michener Independent, then Conservative November 10, 1910 April 5, 1917
     George Hoadley Conservative February 7, 1918 April 17, 1919
  James Ramsey Conservative February 17, 1920 April 10, 1920
  John Robert Boyle Liberal February 2, 1922 April 12, 1924
  Charles Richmond Mitchell Liberal February 19, 1925 March 12, 1926
  John C. Bowen Liberal March 15, 1926 June 28, 1926
No Official Opposition Leader 1926–1941
  James H. Walker Independent Movement February 22, 1941 April 8, 1941
  Alfred Speakman Independent Movement January 29, 1942 March 19, 1942
  James Mahaffy Independent Movement February 18, 1943 March 30, 1943
  James H. Walker (second time) Independent Movement February 10, 1944 March 24, 1944
  John Percy Page Independent Citizen's Association February 22, 1945 August 17, 1948
No Official Opposition Leader 1948–1952
  James Harper Prowse Liberal February 21, 1952 April 15, 1958
  Grant MacEwan Liberal February 5, 1959 April 17, 1959
No Official Opposition Leader 1959–1964
  Michael Maccagno Liberal February 13, 1964 April 11, 1967
Peter Lougheed Progressive Conservative February 15, 1968 April 27, 1971
  Harry Strom Social Credit December 10, 1971 November 22, 1972
  James Henderson Social Credit February 15, 1973 August 21, 1973
  Robert Curtis Clark Social Credit September 15, 1973 November 28, 1980
  Raymond Speaker Social Credit December 16, 1980 November 1, 1982
  Grant Notley New Democratic Party November 2, 1982 October 19, 1984
  Ray Martin New Democratic Party November 6, 1984 June 15, 1993
  Laurence Decore Liberal June 15, 1993 July 15, 1994
  Grant Mitchell Liberal November 12, 1994 April 17, 1998
  Howard Sapers Liberal April 21, 1998 March 12, 1998
  Nancy MacBeth Liberal July 7, 1998 March 11, 2001
  Ken Nicol Liberal March 15, 2001 March 26, 2004
  Kevin Taft Liberal March 27, 2004 December 14, 2008
  David Swann Liberal December 15, 2008 September 10, 2011
  Raj Sherman Liberal September 12, 2011 April 23, 2012
  Danielle Smith Wildrose April 24, 2012 December 17, 2014
  Heather Forsyth Wildrose December 22, 2014 May 5, 2015
  Brian Jean Wildrose May 5, 2015 July 24, 2017
  Nathan Cooper United Conservative July 24, 2017 October 30, 2017
  Jason Nixon United Conservative October 30, 2017 January 4, 2018
  Jason Kenney United Conservative January 4, 2018 April 30, 2019
  Rachel Notley New Democratic Party April 30, 2019

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alberta speaker picks Wildrose as Official Opposition". Calgary Herald. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.