Posts Tagged ‘William Aberhart’


For those that have known me aside from my love of sci-fi and comics; there has been other constants- history and politics. My travels in Canada were a mix of historical-political pilgrimage and outreach. Loved sitting at the desk where Douglas signed the first Health Act into being; and in Louis Riel House that birthed the first declaration of human rights in Canada…among many others.

One other aspect of history if you are inclined to the social gospel that became codified almost within the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The right had their own response in Major Douglas’ economics of Social Credit that settled into the evangelical-charismatic/prophetic Christianity under the tutelage of William Aberhart. His astute student, and successor as Premier of Alberta (a ministry he held for 25 years; then 13 years as a Canadian Senator); Ernest Manning. Note earlier I had reviewed his son, Preston’s Christian Leadership work.

Brian Brennan’s (2008) The Good Steward: The Ernest Manning Story did not contain any shocks or scandals. It is the first collective biography of the longest serving premier of Alberta and one that was in governance from the Great Depression to the early days of Oil. It reflected his family’s devoutness; his faith as moral compass.

It was refreshing to see a biography that focused on someone’s religiosity. Why? Simple, we like to pretend that the spiritual and secular selves are separated once someone enters politics or the workplace. When the opposite is actually true, one’s true belief system inspires and moves their actions regardless of the marketplace. It is not about pushing one’s beliefs on others, but in authentic living them out for the betterment of the world. Though Premier Manning did have times of actual evangelism and preaching while in office with the Back to the Bible Hour ministry, he created a synergy of public service within both his worlds. Much like his mentor, Aberhart had, unlike Aberhart, Manning’s quiet reserve created a different space.

As Manning’s time as Premier and Leader of the Social Credit Party provincially came to a close, he tried to invigorate change in the federal arena by renewing the Progressive Conservative Party (that had lost government) and the Social Credit Party of Canada into a unified Social Conservative Party. Unlike the renewal, and coming together of other groups with the CCF to form the New Democratic Party federally at the time (and have Tommy Douglas as leader); Manning’s attempts to discuss the renewal of the right was thwarted in his estimation by the election of Red Tory Robert Stanfield.

Yes, the Social Credit movement in Canada is quirky (the funny money and dividend bills), but they were an Albertan response to the Great Depression and War, much like the CCF was a Saskatchewan response. Different collective narratives bringing people to a way to make their world better. My first real introduction to Social Credit was at a family reunion in Delburne, AB at 16 years old. My Great Uncle Ed was a true SoCred believer and spent a good 2 hours walking me through the theory and practice and why I should sign up as a member so the party could make a comeback through youth in Alberta. Now remember the party lost governance in 1971, and pretty much vanished shortly after that…and I was 16 in 1995, when one says true believer, and staunch supporter that is the level of belief that had been built within the party.

This was done by using the small group bible study method throughout the province to teach the Social Credit theory before the party reluctantly ran candidates against the flailing UFA party and formed government with a bunch of rookie MLA’s.

As a tomb of knowledge, Brennan hits all the high notes, and struggles within the short 200 pages he has on Ernest Manning’s life. If you are a student of Alberta political or fringe religious history you already know most if not all of it. What was nice, was having it laid out in one volume instead of multiple sources throughout.