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Social Credit’s last stand

The Story

Social Credit Leader Fabien Roy is wooing voters anywhere he can. At one time the populist party bent on reforming Canada's monetary system held 30 seats and the balance of power in federal Parliament. But, as we see in this clip from CBC Television's The National, Roy is fighting an uphill battle to get Social Credit's five remaining MPs re-elected. In Shawinigan, Que., he holds forth to a mostly empty room. A Quebec call-in radio show featuring Roy as guest gets only a trickle of calls and then -- silence. Unbowed, the leader makes unexpected campaign stops in Alberta and British Columbia. But will it be enough? 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 11, 1980
Guest(s): Fabien Roy
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Don Murray
Duration: 3:21

Did You know?

• One week after this report aired, Fabien Roy lost his Beauce, Que., seat to a Liberal. Social Credit's other four MPs were also defeated, bringing an end to what was once called "Canada's fourth political party" in federal politics. As of February 2004, Social Credit is not a registered federal party.

• The federal party first elected MPs in 1935, when it won 17 seats -- all but two from Alberta, where the provincial Social Credit party gained power the same year. The federal party's heyday was in 1962, when it elected 30 members under leader Robert Thompson. An electoral footnote until then, Social Credit suddenly held the balance of power in the minority government of Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

• One year after its 1962 breakthrough, tensions between members in the party's Quebec and Alberta power bases split Social Credit in two. The revolt by the Quebec wing was led by Réal Caouette. He had been deputy leader under Thompson, an Albertan, while 26 of the party's 30 MPs came from Quebec. Caouette called his new group the Ralliement des Créditistes. The two weakened factions re-formed as national Social Credit in 1971 with Caouette as leader.

• Caouette, a fiery orator with heavy black spectacles, was for decades the face of national Social Credit. The MP and rural Quebec car dealer said he became political when the governing Liberals found money to fight the Second World War "but not to keep my friends and me in school." His personal popularity outlived that of his proposals for radical economic reform. Upon his death in 1976, federal leaders praised Caouette's unwavering devotion to common Canadians and French Canadian rights.

• The party based its platform on the theories of British engineer C.H. Douglas. He started arguing in the early 20th century that the capitalist system gave ordinary consumers insufficient purchasing power. The remedy, he said, was for the government to give them "social credit" -- money. The payments would bridge the gap between the cost of producing goods and services and the lower wages paid to those who produce them. Banks and financiers conspired to control the economy, Douglas said.

• Douglas's theories were embraced in 1932 by William "Bible Bill" Aberhart, an Alberta evangelist. He used his radio show to spread his belief that the social credit doctrine was a remedy to the Great Depression. Aberhart launched Alberta's Social Credit party and became premier in 1935, capturing 56 of 63 seats. He was succeeded by Ernest C. Manning. Social Credit ruled Alberta as one of Canada's most conservative provincial governments until 1971.

• Canada's other provincial Social Credit government was elected in British Columbia under W.A.C. Bennett in 1952. Bennett largely ignored social credit economic doctrine in favour of conservative fiscal policies and large-scale development projects. The party ruled British Columbia until 1972 and then again from 1975 to 1991.



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