Social Credit Party of Canada

From Academic Kids

The Social Credit Party of 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

When first formed in 1935, Social Credit took 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 birth-place especially hard, and can be credited both for the creation of this party and the rise of a social democratic party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation

In 1935, in the party's first election, it won seventeen seats, all but two of them in Alberta, where it won over 46% of that province's popular vote.

In 1939, Social Credit joined with former Conservative William Duncan Herridge and his supporters in the New Democracy movement. The Social Credit Party ran in the 1940 election under the New Democracy name, but reverted to Social Credit for the 1945 election.

Growth in Quebec: 1962-1976

Beginning in the early 1960s, there were serious tensions between the party's English and French wings. In 1961, Robert Thompson of Alberta defeated Real Caouette of Quebec at the party's leadership convention. The vote totals were never announced; many suspect that Caouette actually won more votes, but was rejected by the party's western leadership for fear that he would be a liability. (Ernest Manning had previously told the convention that his province would never accept a francophone Catholic as the party's leader.)

The party's Quebec wing, led by Réal Caouette, nevertheless had a major breakthrough in that province in the 1962 election, returning 26 Members of Parliament from the province. Social Credit won only four seats from English Canada. This imbalance caused severe tensions in the Social Credit caucus, and on September 9, 1963, the party split into English Canadian wing and a separate Quebec party led by Caouette - the Ralliement des créditistes.

Of the 20 Social Credit MPs elected in 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 Conservative Party of Canada.

The English Canadian party, concentrated in Alberta and British Columbia, won only four seats in 1963, and five in 1965. In 1967, three of its MPs left the party. Party leader Robert Thompson and a second Socred MP defected to the Progressive Conservatives, while a third MP, Bud Olson, joined the Liberal Party.

In the 1968 election, Social Credit lost its last two seats in English Canada. Quebec Creditistes remained the sole representatives of the movement in parliament.

In 1971, the Ralliement and the English-Canadian Social Credit reunited into a single national party, with Caouette as leader, but the party continued its decline.

In the 1972 election, the Social Credit caucus was reduced to 15 seats - all in Quebec - and won only 7.6% of the popular vote. In the 1974 election, only 11 Socreds were returned to Parliament, one short of the 12 needed for official party status.

Decline: 1976-1980

The decline of the party accelerated after Caouette's death in 1976. A 32-year-old Quebec MP, André-Gilles Fortin, was elected to replace Caouette on November 7, 1976. Social Credit was dealt a further blow when Fortin died on June 24, 1977. Réal's son, Gilles Caouette, was named acting leader five days after Fortin's death. He was replaced as acting leader in 1978 by Charles-Arthur Gauthier.

Popular provincial créditiste Fabien Roy was drafted to lead Social Credit just before the 1979 election. The party managed to win only only six ridings, all in Quebec. However, 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.

Clark's government 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. One Socred MP, Richerd Janelle from Jolliette, left the party to join the government caucus. Clark's failure to secure Socred support contributed to the government's fall in December 1979, when the Social Credit caucus abstained in a vote on a Motion of No Confidence.

The resulting February 18, 1980 election not only defeated the Clark government but wiped out Social Credit, leaving it without any MPs in Parliament for the first time in almost 50 years.

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 the by-election, but lost to the Liberal candidate. Roy resigned as leader on November 1, 1980.

The party never elected another MP.

Denouement: 1981-1993

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 7, winning 367 votes (1.1% of the total), ahead of renegade Socred John C. 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 8 candidates, with 92 votes (0.2% of the total). Turmel won 42 votes, placing last.

Hattersley resigned in 1983 when the party would not drop from its membership three outspoken Albertans accused of anti-Semitism.

In June 1983, Alberta-based evangelical minister Ken Sweigard was elected leader by means of a telephone conference call of 19 party executive members, with 9 votes to 5 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. If that convention was held, it is presumed that Sweigard was confirmed as leader.

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.

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 Jim 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. Although very conservative, Lainson was not affiliated with the anti-Semitic groups that endorsed Keegstra.

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 9 candidates: 6 in Quebec, 2 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).

In 1990, the remnant of the federal Social Credit party was taken over by social conservative evangelist Ken Campbell, who rechristened it the Christian Freedom Social Credit Party, and later the Christian Freedom Party.

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. This appears to have been the last time that the Social Credit Party nominated a candidate at the federal level.

The party failed to nominate at least fifty candidates for the 1993 election, and was dissolved by Elections Canada on September 27, 1993. Its candidates in that election were reclassified as Independents.

Though it no longer functions as an electoral party, Social Credit still exists as an incorporated entity in the form of the Social Credit Party of Canada, Incorporated under which Ken Campbell publishes political advocacy material in order to preserve his ministry's status as a religious charity.

Election results (1945-1988)

(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
1945 <center> 93 <center> 13 <center> 212,220 <center> 4.05%
1949 <center> Solon Low <center> 28 <center> 10 <center> 135,217 <center> 2.31%
1953 <center> Solon Low <center> 72 <center> 15 <center> 305,551 <center> 5.42%
1957 <center> Solon Low <center> 114 <center> 19 <center> 434,312 <center> 6.57%
1958 <center> Solon Low <center> 82 <center> 0 <center> 188,356 <center> 2.58%
1962 <center> R.N. Thompson <center> 226 <center> 30 <center> 893,479 <center> 11.60%
1963 <center> R.N. Thompson <center> 224 <center> 24 <center> 940,703 <center> 11.92%
1965* <center> R.N. Thompson <center> 86 <center> 5 <center> 282,454 <center> 3.66%
1968* <center> R.N. Thompson <center> 32 <center> 0 <center> 68,742 <center> 0.85%
1972 <center> Real Caouette <center> 164 <center> 15 <center> 730,759 <center> 7.55%
1974 <center> Real Caouette <center> 152 <center> 11 <center> 481,231 <center> 5.06%
1979 <center> Fabien Roy <center> 103 <center> 6 <center> 527,604 <center> 4.61%
1980 <center> Fabien Roy <center> 81 <center> 0 <center> 185,486 <center> 1.70%
1984 <center> Ken Sweigard <center> 51 <center> 0 <center> 16,659 <center> 0.13%
1988 <center> Harvey Lainson <center> 9 <center> 0 <center> 3,407 <center> 0.03%

Where did the Socreds go?

Quebec Social Credit supporters were mostly social conservatives and Quebec nationalists, while western Canadian supporters were mostly socially conservative populists.

With the collapse of Social Credit in western Canada in 1968, many former members of Social Credit, including a number of MPs, joined the Progressive Conservatives. After the collapse of the party in Quebec, many of its supporters supported Brian Mulroney in his "great coalition" of western populists, Quebec nationalists, and Ontario fiscal conservatives.

Mulroney's coalition fell apart in the 1993 election. Most of the great coalition's western support left the party to form the Reform Party of Canada (later the Canadian Alliance). The Quebec nationalist wing of the party left to form the Bloc Québécois.

Western social conservatives would likely have been attracted to the PC and Reform parties or the Christian Heritage Party. Quebec nationalists probably moved first to the PC Party and then Bloc Québécois. The true believers in social credit monetary theories continued to promote their beliefs through the short-lived Canada Party in the 1993 election and subsequently in the Canadian Action Party.

There have been discussions by the Alberta Social Credit Party to re-start the federal party, but ideological differences between monetary reformers and social conservatives in the party have thus far stalled such efforts.

Leaders of the Social Credit Party of Canada

See also

Canadian social credit movement

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