Not this again! Alberta’s wild political swings have so far all come from the left, not the right

William Aberhart preaches his left-wing philosophy over the airwaves.

This is what happens when bloggers go on vacation: The gutter press makes ridiculous statements and no one is around to correct them.

So on Dec. 12, only a day after I had jetted off to the sunny south, the Edmonton Journal editorialized thusly: “Alberta has a curious political history. The previous governing dynasties — United Farmers of Alberta and Social Credit — were crushed by a fledgling parties that emerged from the political right.” (Emphasis was added; the grammatical error, however, was provided by the authors.)

This statement is designed to lead us to the following conclusion: “A victory by the Wildrose in 2012 would make it three for three.”

Well, no, actually. As I have said here before, this is a false reading of history. In addition, it mis-counts the number of times this has happened.

The principal problem with the Journal’s “factual” statement, simply stated, is that in every case, the fledgling political movements that sprouted suddenly to form new Alberta governments emerged from the left of the governing party. Over time, in government (as governments tend to do), they moved to the right.

By any reasonable standard or definition, when the Social Credit League (its adherents then denied being part of a mere political party) under William Aberhart defeated the United Farmers of Alberta government in 1935, it was far to the left of the UFA.

I’m not going to get into a lengthy discourse on Social Credit’s oddball economic theories here, and I recognize that many Socred economic nostrums defy pigeonholing as being of the left or right. However, suffice it to say that complete state control of the banking system, redistribution of commonly owned wealth through the use of “social credit” prosperity certificates, the establishment of a state bank (Alberta Treasury Branches) to intervene in the economy on behalf of the people, and general emphasis on economic democracy are not hallmarks of right-wing political movements.

After Mr. Aberhart had departed from the political stage, it is true, Social Credit became just another small-c conservative party under Ernest Manning and Harry Strom. Which, in turn, leads us to the Journal’s next mistaken claim.

Arguably, notwithstanding their “conservative” nomenclature, Peter Lougheed’s Conservatives were well to the left of Social Credit when they took power in 1971. Again, building hospitals in communities province-wide, taking over airlines to keep jobs in Alberta and investing heavily in domestic industries are not hallmarks of far-right regimes. Moreover, it is hardly correct to call the Alberta Conservatives a “fledgling” party. Petty jurisdictional legalities notwithstanding, they were effectively part of a strong national party with a long history and effective campaign machinery in place.

It’s worth noting as well that this phenomenon has in fact already occurred three times in Alberta history, not twice as the Journal editorial states. Leastways, when they were unexpectedly elected in 1921, the UFA, based in the philosophy of the co-operative movement, was also well to the left of the governing Liberals.

In an interesting historical tidbit, in 1934 and 1935, some local UFA chapters openly supported Social Credit candidates. And in 1970, some Social Credit constituency associations are said to have openly supported Mr. Lougheed’s Conservatives.

None of this is to say that unquestionably right-wing the Wildrose Alliance Party will not form a government. Nor does it say that Albertans don’t sometimes elect political movements that seemingly come from nowhere. But it is rank myth making – baloney, in other words – to state that hitherto these political movements emerged from the right. They did not. They all entered, stage left.

According to the Journal’s logic, the most likely party to form the next Alberta government is the NDP.

Well, we’ll see about that. But it would surely be a more significant historical benchmark than the supposed popularity of the Wildrose Alliance’s right-wing philosophy if some PC constituency associations signed on holus-bolus with the Alliance.

We await that development!

Meantime, if I were a charter member of the tinfoil hat brigade, I might suspect the Journal’s editorialists of intentionally trying to mislead us to trick us into voting for the Wildrose Alliance. Alas, I suspect no such thing.

I do think that the Journal’s editorialists should consult their history books – or at least conduct a cursory Google search – before repeating bits of folk wisdom that bear no relationship to historical fact.

Doing so would be as easy as A+B. (Social Credit joke.)

If the press won’t do even this, it may be time for Albertans to call for a return of the Accurate News and Information Act!

2 Comments on "Not this again! Alberta’s wild political swings have so far all come from the left, not the right"

  1. Holly Stick says:

    The UFA started as a lobby group in 1909 and was well-established with many locals before it decided to get into politics (which might be an encouraging thought for the Reboot Alberta crowd).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Farmers_of_Alberta

    I think Social Credit was able to build on the UFA's local groups, and Aberhart also used his radio show to great effect.

    Klein is the best communicator next to Aberhart; but we've had better leaders than either of them. Lougheed and Brownlee achieved much more for Alberta; Rutherford too (even though the bum put the first university in Edmonton).

  2. theo says:

    "But it is rank myth making – baloney, in other words – to state that hitherto these political movements emerged from the right. They did not. They all entered, stage left."

    Oh no. Journalists working for right wing predicated newspapers not getting their facts correct? I, for one, am appalled and shocked. I’m heading for the tequila cabinet right now.

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