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The Social Credit Party of Canada ( ) was a conservative-populist political party in Canadamarker 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

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 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 Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

In the party's first election in 1935, it only ran candidates in Western Canada and won seventeen seats, all but two of them in Albertamarker, 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. At the party's first national convention in 1944, delegates decided to abandon the name New Democracy and officially founded the Social Credit Association of Canada as a national party and chose Alberta Treasurer Solon 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 which 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 which had an on again, off again, relationship with the western-based national party as well as an inconsistent attitude towards electoral politics. The Union of Electors electoral philosophy was that it was not a partisan political party but an organization which marshals voters to enforce their wishes on their elected representatives. 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 which the western based Social Credit movement had begun to move away from. This sometimes led to tensions with the Alberta based Social Credit Party of Canada - at the 1944 national founding convention, Even and his followers initially opposed the creation of a national Social Credit Party and in 1947 Even and the Union broke from the Social Credit Party of Canada as a result of Manning's rejection of orthodox social credit economic theory and his purge of anti-Semites from the movement.

The Union des electeurs 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. In British Columbiamarker, the movement split with both the British Columbia Social Credit League and the "Union of Electors" running candidates in the 1949 provincial election.

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 1949. 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. Both Blackmore and Low were accused of "frequently gave public aid and comfort to anti-Semitism" In 1945, Solon Low alleged there was a conspiracy of Jewish bankers behind the world's problems, 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. Low officially repudiated anti-Semitism in 1957 following a trip to Israelmarker after which he made speeches supporting the Jewish state.

Growth in Quebec: 1962–1972

Beginning in the early 1960s, there were serious tensions between the party's English and French wings. In 1961, Robert Thompson of Alberta defeated Réal Caouette of Quebecmarker 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. Alberta Socred Premier Ernest Manning had previously told the convention that his province would never accept a francophone Catholic as the party's leader, leading to suspicions that the vote was fixed in Thompson's favour.

Caouette became the party's deputy leader after leading its Quebec wing to a major breakthrough in the 1962 election. 26 créditistes were elected from Quebec, while Thompson was responsible for a scant four Socred seats in rest of Canada, including his own. 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. The number of Socreds from English Canada was also declining. Thompson refused to stand down.

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 Conservative Party of Canada.

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. As well, Alberta Premier Manning was becoming concerned with the leftward trajectory of both the federal Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives and 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. 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 Progressive Conservative nomination in his 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. The party would never elect another MP from English Canada, although Manning was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1970.

In 1971, the Ralliement 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

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

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 Progressive Conservatives 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 Levis 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 Social Credit Party 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 less 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

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, 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 Manitobanmarker, 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

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" (Parti Québécois 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.” 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.”

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

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 leave the party 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 had become irrelevant following the death of iconic leader Réal Caouette. 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.

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

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 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 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 Ottawamarker, and tractor dealer Elmer Knutson of Edmontonmarker, 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 the Social Credit's representation on Parliament Hillmarker.

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 Ontariomarker evangelical minister Harvey Lainson, who defeated holocaust denier James Keegstra by 67 votes to 38 at a delegated convention in Torontomarker. 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.)

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, which by this time also used the name Christian Freedom Social Credit, was taken over by social conservative evangelist Ken Campbell.

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.

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

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 Ken 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)

(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 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, [[William Duncan Herridge|W.D. Herridge]] ran a group of 17 social credit candidates as members of a party called [[New Democracy (Canada)|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. ** In the 1965 and 1968 elections, Quebec social crediters ran separately as the Ralliement des créditistes.

Attempted revival

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 be merging with the Christian Heritage Party of Canada.

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 C. 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



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

See also



Footnotes


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