List of premiers of Alberta

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Rachel Notley is the current premier.

The list of premiers of Alberta consists of the 17 leaders of government of the Canadian province of Alberta since it was created in 1905. Three were Liberal, three were United Farmers of Alberta, three were Social Credit and seven were Progressive Conservative. The currently elected and serving premier is New Democratic.

Alberta uses a unicameral Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which the premier is the leader of the party that controls the most seats in the Legislative Assembly. The premier is Alberta's head of government, while the Queen of Canada in right of Alberta is its head of state and is represented by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. The premier picks a cabinet, usually from the elected members of the Legislative Assembly, to form the Executive Council of Alberta, and presides over that body.

Members are elected to the legislature during general elections or by-elections. Barring special legislation occasioned by a war or an emergency (which has never happened in Alberta's history, although it has federally), general elections must be called by the lieutenant governor, at the Premier's advice, no later than five years after the previous election, but the premier may ask (and almost always has asked) for dissolution of the legislative assembly and a subsequent election earlier than that. Under Alberta's fixed-election legislation of 2011, a general election is to be held on a day (by custom, a Monday) between March 1 and May 31 in the 4th calendar year following the most recent general election, but the premier can bindingly advise the lieutenant governor to call an election earlier than the fixed date.

An election may also happen if the governing party loses the confidence of the legislature, by the defeat of a supply bill or tabling of a confidence motion, but in Alberta's history of massive majorities in the assembly, this has not happened yet in the province's history. (Although Aberhart's first term as Premier was almost cut short, when a large part of his caucus showed willingness to vote against his government's budget. But when he promised to bring in radical banking reform they were satisfied.)

A leader of a party is chosen by the party, following an internal constitution unique to each party that comprises a framework to elect or appoint a leader. The leader, if he or she does not already have a seat, must then win a seat in a by-election or general election to sit in the Assembly. If a leader of a party does not have a seat, he or she must sit in the legislature gallery. While sitting in the gallery a premier cannot exercise any legislative powers.

Prior to 1905, Alberta was part of the North-West Territories and as part of this jurisdiction was governed by the Legislative Council of the North-West Territories, composed of elected and appointed officials, led by Lieutenant-Governors of the North-West Territories until 1897, and the Premier of the North-West Territories from 1897 to 1905.

Since 1905, Alberta has had only five different parties in power, with only four changes of government.


Liberal Party 1905–1921[edit]

The Liberal party got its start in power in Alberta when Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier appointed Alexander Rutherford, a prominent liberal and former elected NWT Assembly member, as interim premier in 1905. He and other Liberals organized the province's first election.

Rutherford's Liberal party was elected, with a majority of the popular vote and a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly in the province's first election, the 1905 Alberta election. The north-central constituency boundaries radiated out from Edmonton and some say this was a case of gerrymandered electoral boundaries.[1] Rutherford emerged from the March 1909 election leading another formidable majority, that clearly reflected the broad popular support he and his government enjoyed. He would resign as premier 14 months later, in May 1910, after his government was implicated in the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway scandal.[2]

Arthur Sifton replaced Rutherford as premier. Shortly before the 1913 election Sifton's Liberals jammed through a controversial bill greatly expanding the size of the legislative assembly. The bill was once again said to gerrymander boundaries in Liberals' favor, although the Liberals again received more votes than any other party in the 1913 election.[3][4] The press and opposition would term his reign as premier "Siftonism" implying that his reign was a disease on Alberta.[5] Sifton only lasted one term as premier as he left to pursue a career in federal politics.[6]

Charles Stewart replaced Sifton and held the Liberal government through the lackluster 1917 election which 11 MLAs serving in the armed forces were automatically re-elected. The elected opposition was the strongest so far in the province's 12-year history. The Conservatives, which formed the official opposition with 19 seats, slightly more than one-third of the seats in the Assembly, expressed hopes they had the upper hand on the waning Liberal government. Both would be surprised by the United Farmers who routed the Liberals and Conservatives in rural areas to form the government in the 1921 election.

United Farmers 1921–1935[edit]

Alberta's second dynasty was the United Farmers of Alberta, a farmers' movement organization, formed in 1909 as a lobby group, whose political wing rose from a minor party named the Alberta Non-Partisan League, formed in 1916. Henry Wise Wood led the party at the time of the 1921 election, although he did not run himself. The loosely organized farmer candidates running in rural constituencies captured a majority of the seats. The party was allied with Labour candidates, so it did not contest urban ridings, aside from one in Edmonton. Wood did not want the job as premier so the farmers were forced to shop around. UFA lawyer John Brownlee was asked first but declined. UFA executive member Herbert Greenfield, the second choice, became the new premier, although he too had not run in the election so had to await success in a by-election to take his seat.[7] Greenfield resigned four years later because he was often absent due to illness and lost much of his energy due to the death of his wife shortly after the election.

John Brownlee, who had previously been offered the job, succeeded Greenfield. Brownlee's reign as government leader was troubled by the onset of the Great Depression. He resigned in scandal after he was accused of sexual acts with a minor in the Attorney General's office. This and another scandalous divorce by UFA MLA Oran McPherson, speaker of the Legislative Assembly, gave the United Farmers an image of moral decay.[8] In 1934 Richard Reid replaced Brownlee but served as premier for less than two years, leading the United Farmers government into total defeat at the hands of the new Social Credit party.

Social Credit 1935–1971[edit]

Albertans turned away from the United Farmers government and began to follow evangelical radio preacher William Aberhart, known as Bible Bill. The Social Credit party had been founded in 1932. Voters flocked to the radical monetary reforms proposed by Aberhart and British SC theorist Clifford Douglas, looking for an escape to the Great Depression. Social Credit was elected with a majority (54 percent of the vote) in the 1935 election completely wiping out the United Farmers representation (although the UFA did receive 11 percent of the vote). Aberhart had difficulty implementing the Social Credit theory and his popularity began to decline. His government almost fell during a 1936 caucus rebellion, in which his own MLAs forced him to promise to try to reform the banking system. But it rebounded and in the 1940 election it garnered more votes than any other party and also captured a large majority of the seats.[9] Aberhart died in 1943; he is the only premier to die in office in Alberta's history.

Ernest Manning succeeded Aberhart as premier. Under Manning, Social Credit moved away from the monetary theory of Douglas and towards traditional conservatism. Manning lead the party through seven-straight massive majorities, (although in 1955 his government received barely more seats than Aberhart had received in 1940, due to a strong but short-lived Liberal drive). After 24 years as premier, Manning resigned in 1967.

Harry Strom, a long time cabinet minister, replaced Manning and lead the party to defeat in the 1971 election at the hands of the Progressive Conservatives under Peter Lougheed. Strom and his government looked old and tired and out of touch compared to the new Progressive Conservatives.

Progressive Conservative 1971–2015[edit]

The current government of Alberta was first led by Peter Lougheed, defeating the 36-year reign of Social Credit in 1971.

Peter Lougheed served as premier, winning four elections, until 1985 when he retired from public office. Some of Lougheed's notable accomplishments were the limited Alberta Bill of Rights, and the Heritage Trust Fund.[10]

Don Getty, one of Lougheed’s long-time cabinet ministers, returned to politics to win the leadership of the party. Getty's premiership was endorsed by a win in the 1986 general election that saw the NDP climb to 16 seats as the official opposition. Getty's reign became very unpopular as he led Alberta into large deficit spending, and marked an era of big government that, some said, the province could not afford. In the 1989 election he was defeated in his Edmonton-Whitemud riding, while his party still won a majority. He sat in the gallery as an unelected Premier until he won a seat in a by-election in Stettler.[11] His refusal to leave as premier helped Laurence Decore's Liberals skyrocket in popularity. Getty resigned and was replaced in a bitter leadership battle by Ralph Klein.[12]

Ralph Klein, the former mayor of Calgary, led the party into the 1993 election, promising a new era of debt reduction and fiscal accountability. He walked away with a slim majority. Ralph Klein's folksy appeal helped the Progressive Conservatives renew themselves. He led the party through two elections, gaining in popularity each time. The price of oil rebounded and the government, despite low rates of taxes on the wealthy and corporations, was showing a surplus of $3 billion every year. In early 2004, Klein announced that the Alberta debt had been paid in full.[13] He was rewarded by voters in the 2004 election, despite running a campaign with no new policies. His party lost a number of seats, and during the campaign he stated this would be his last election. In 2006 at a Progressive Conservative convention delegates forced him to pick a retirement date by giving him relatively low numbers in a leadership review.[14]

Ed Stelmach succeeded Klein as premier, following his win of the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party in 2006. He won the 2008 provincial election, but, troubled by dissension within his party, resigned as the party celebrated its 40 years in power in 2011.

Alison Redford subsequently was elected party leader and became the first female Premier of Alberta. Despite strong opposition from the Wildrose Party that most polls and media predicted would end the PC's 41-year dynasty, Redford and the PC party won re-election in April 2012, making Redford Alberta's first elected female premier. Due to a steep decline in approval ratings and a spending controversy,[15] Alison Redford announced her resignation on March 19, 2014, as premier of Alberta, effective March 23.[16]

Alberta Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was selected as interim party leader by the Progressive Conservative caucus on March 20, 2014,[17] and became interim premier on March 23, 2014.

Jim Prentice was elected as the permanent leader of the PC Party on September 6, 2014 and succeeded Hancock as premier on September 15, 2014. He turned the government around on a number of crucial issues, cancelling the closure of the Michener Centre, for example. He was elected to a seat in an October 27, 2014 by-election. The Prentice Conservatives won the four by-elections held that day while the rival Wildrose Party did very poorly. Less than two months later, much of the Wildrose Party caucus crossed the floor to sit with the Conservatives.

On May 5, 2015, Jim Prentice and his party were crushed, losing 60 seats in the Legislature, while the NDP took a large majority of the seats. Prentice resigned as PC Party leader and resigned his seat in the constituency of Calgary-Foothills, leaving the PC Party with only 9 seats.

NDP 2015–present[edit]

Rachel Notley was appointed and sworn in as premier on May 24, 2015, following her party's having won a majority in the 2015 general election, with 54 out of 87 seats in the Legislature. On May 22, 2015, Notley suspended a caucus member, leaving her party with 53 out of 87 seats, still enough to form a strong majority.

List of premiers[edit]

No. Portrait Name
Term of office[18][19] Electoral mandates (Assembly) Political party

Premiers of the North-West Territories

Sir Frederick W. A. G. Haultain
MLA for Macleod
7 October 1897

1 September 1905
Liberal-Conservative Party
Named leader in 1897

Led negotiations for provincial status for Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Premiers of Alberta

Alexander Cameron Rutherford - Elliott And Fry.jpg
Alexander Cameron Rutherford
MLA for Strathcona
2 September 1905

26 May 1910
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1905

Organization of administration for new province; incorporation of City of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Strathcona and Wetaskiwin; establishment of court system; establishment of University of Alberta and of school system; creation of Alberta Government Telephones, extension of railway network in the province, labour laws, such as eight-hour-day legislation
Arthur Sifton2.jpg
Arthur Sifton
MLA for Vermilion
26 May 1910

30 October 1917
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1910

Instituting prohibition; establishment of agricultural colleges, extension of votes to women (white British/Canadian citizens).
Charles Stewart2.jpg
Charles Stewart
MLA for Sedgewick
30 October 1917

13 August 1921
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1917

Attempted to establish fairer representation through Single Transferable (STV) balloting in the rural areas.
Herbert Greenfield
MLA for Peace River
13 August 1921

23 November 1925
United Farmers
Named leader in 1921

Creation of Alberta Wheat Pool; repeal of Prohibition and creation of government-owned liquor stores, creation of proportional representation in the cities through Single Transferable Balloting (the Hare system), attempted to impose taxation on land owned by speculators standing idle, and on mineral resources, both over-ruled by the courts.
John Edward Brownlee
MLA for Ponoka
23 November 1925

10 July 1934
United Farmers
Named leader in 1925

Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta; elimination of Alberta Provincial Police; creation of provincial income tax (April, 1932), legislation to control foreclosing on working (but un-profitable) farms
Richard Reid.jpg
Richard Gavin Reid
MLA for Vermilion
10 July 1934

3 September 1935
United Farmers
Named leader in 1934

Government purchase of cattle from farmers who could no longer afford feed; cost-sharing agreement with federal government and railways to relocate farmers fleeing the Dust Belt.
William Aberhart2.jpg
William Aberhart
MLA for Okotoks-High River (until 1940)
MLA for Calgary (from 1940)
3 September 1935

23 May 1943
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1935

Attempts to implement social credit economic theory; issuance of prosperity certificates; public works and debt relief programs to aid victims of the Depression; creation of Alberta Treasury Branches financial services institution, consolidated school districts into school divisions, imposed regulation on the oil and gas fields outside Calgary to prevent wastage of natural gas.
Ernest Manning.jpg
Ernest Manning
MLA for Edmonton (until 1959)
MLA for Strathcona East (from 1959)
31 May 1943

12 December 1968
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1943

Abandonment of social credit economic theory; exploitation of Leduc oil fields; expansion of educational, health and transportation facilities.
No image.svg
Harry Strom
MLA for Cypress
12 December 1968

10 September 1971
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1968

Alberta Service Corps; introduction of kindergarten; creation of Athabasca University and Grant MacEwan College.
No image.svg
Peter Lougheed
MLA for Calgary-West
10 September 1971

1 November 1985
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 1965

Creation of Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund; Syncrude; 1981 Energy Pricing Agreement with Ottawa; provincial control of natural resources.
Don Getty drinking from Grey Cup.jpg
Don Getty
(b. 1933)
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud (until 1989)
MLA for Stettler (from 1989)
1 November 1985

13 December 1992
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 1985

Senate elections; failure to settle land settlement dispute with Lubicon Cree and Metis; creation of Family Day.
Ralph Klein
MLA for Calgary-Elbow
14 December 1992

14 December 2006
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 1992

Privatization of Alberta Government Telephones; opposition to Kyoto Protocol; elimination of public debt; introduction of a flat tax on personal income.
Ed Stelmach2.jpg
Ed Stelmach
(b. 1951)
MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
14 December 2006

7 October 2011
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 2006

20% increase on royalties charged to oil companies; further development of Athabasca oil sands; removal of health care premiums.
Alison Redford 2012.jpg
Alison Redford
(b. 1965)
MLA for Calgary-Elbow
7 October 2011

23 March 2014
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 2011

Fixed election period; creation of Department of Human Services.
Education Minister Dave Hancock.jpg
Dave Hancock
(b. 1955)
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
23 March 2014

15 September 2014
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 2014 (interim)

Interim leader during leadership election.
Jim Prentice.jpg
Jim Prentice
(b. 1956)
MLA for Calgary-Foothills
15 September 2014

24 May 2015
Progressive Conservative Association
Named leader in 2014

Proposed austerity measures to counter budget shortfall.
Rachel Notley crop.jpg
Rachel Notley
(b. 1964)
MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
24 May 2015

New Democratic Party
Named leader in 2014

Reintroduction of a progressive tax on personal income; banning of corporate and union donations to political parties.
  1. ^ The United Farmers of Alberta won the 1921 election without a party leader, but Greenfield was made Premier immediately after it.
  2. ^ Because Aberhart died unexpectedly, the Social Credit Caucus did not choose a leader for a full week. Manning was appointed Premier by Lieutenant-Governor John C. Bowen the same day.[19]

Graphical representation[edit]

Rachel Notley Jim Prentice Dave Hancock Alison Redford Ed Stelmach Ralph Klein Don Getty Peter Lougheed Harry Strom Ernest Manning William Aberhart Richard Gavin Reid John Edward Brownlee Herbert Greenfield Charles Stewart (Canadian politician) Arthur Sifton Alexander Cameron Rutherford

Longest and shortest terms[edit]

Ernest Manning is the longest serving Premier at 25 years and 7 months. Dave Hancock served the shortest term with just short of 6 months in office as Premier.

Living former premiers[edit]

As of May 2015, four former premiers are alive, the oldest being Don Getty (1985–1992, born 1933). The most recently serving former premier to die was Ralph Klein (1992–2006, 1942–2013), on March 29, 2013.

Name Term Date of birth
Don Getty 1985–1992 (1933-08-30) August 30, 1933 (age 82)
Ed Stelmach 2006–2011 (1951-05-11) May 11, 1951 (age 64)
Alison Redford 2011–2014 (1965-03-07) March 7, 1965 (age 50)
Dave Hancock 2014 (1955-08-10) August 10, 1955 (age 60)
Jim Prentice 2014–2015 (1956-07-20) July 20, 1956 (age 59)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Order of precedence
Preceded by
Norman Kwong, Former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta
Order of precedence in Alberta
as of 2013
Succeeded by
Gene Zwozdesky, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta