British Columbia Social Credit Party

British Columbia Social Credit Party

party_name = British Columbia Social Credit Party
party_wikicolourid = Conservative
status = active
class = prov
leader = (vacant)
president = Carrol Woolsey
foundation = 1935
dissolution =
ideology = Conservatism, Populism, Social credit
headquarters = #101 - 8091 Granville Avenue, Richmond, BC, V6Y 1P5
int_alignment = none
colours = Blue and Red
seats_house = 0
website = []

The British Columbia Social Credit Party, whose members are known as Socreds, was the governing political party of British Columbia, Canada, for more than 30 years between the 1952 provincial election and the 1991 election. For three decades, the party dominated the British Columbian political scene, with the only break occurring between the 1972 and 1975 elections when the New Democratic Party of British Columbia was in power.

Although founded to promote social credit policies of monetary reform, the Social Credit Party became a political vehicle for fiscal conservatives and later social conservatives in BC, who discarded the social credit ideology.

After its defeat in 1991 the party essentially collapsed.



Prior to 1952, the social credit movement in British Columbia was divided between various factions. The Social Credit League of British Columbia nominated candidates for the first time in the 1937 election, but did not do so in the 1941 election.

In the 1945 election, these factions formed an alliance to field 16 candidates, who won a total of 6,627 votes (1.42% of the provincial total.)

This alliance broke down before the 1949 election, and three separate groups nominated candidates:
* the Social Credit Party,
* the British Columbia Social Credit League, and
* the Union of Electors.Collectively, they nominated 28 candidates, who won a total of 14,326 votes, 2.05% of the popular vote in that election.

W.A.C. Bennett era

The British Columbia Social Credit League won the largest number of seats in the 1952 provincial election under the interim leadership of the Reverend Ernest George Hansell, Member of the federal Parliament for the Alberta riding of Macleod since 1935. Hansell was hand-picked by Alberta premier Ernest Manning as the Alberta Socreds still dominated its BC sister. Following the election, BC party president Lyle Wicks called a leadership convention at which only elected MLAs could vote. The 19 newly elected Social Credit Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) chose former BC Conservative MLA W. A. C. Bennett to lead the new government over Philip Gaglardi. Social Credit had effectively become a vehicle for Conservatives and Liberals:

"When W. A .C. Bennett left the Tory party to join Social Credit, he did so with the tacit support of most of the federal Conservative MPs. They were justifiably angered that the provincial Conservatives had been advised not to take part in the 1945 and 1949 federal election campaigns in order to avoid embarrassing their provincial Coalition colleagues in the Liberal Party." [Morley, J. Terence; Ruff, Norman J.; Swanson, Neil A.; Wilson, R. Jeremy; and Young, Walter D., "The Reins of Power: Governing British Columbia", p. 91, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1983]

Although the party was ostensibly the British Columbia wing of the Canadian social credit movement, Bennett added a mixture of populism and conservatism in the party. It became a political vehicle to unite opponents of the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and to keep the CCF and its social democratic successor, the New Democratic Party (NDP), out of power. Bennett's Socreds took power in 1952, forming a minority government and, after changing the electoral system, swept to a majority the next year, staying in power until 1972. Bennett's party encouraged development of the economy through megaprojects and highway construction.

The BC Social Credit Party drifted away from both Social Credit and from the federal Social Credit Party:

"Since Social Credit enjoyed the active support of many federal Conservatives and federal Liberals, internal relations were often confused and strained.... The Social Credit Party in British Columbia had very loose links with its national counterpart, and although W. A. C. Bennett made one or two forays out of the province on behalf of national Social Credit, the relationship was always tenuous. In 1971, to facilitate the adherence of staunch federal Tories or Liberals, the BC party formally severed connection with the national Social Credit Party." [Morley, J. Terence; Ruff, Norman J.; Swanson, Neil A.; Wilson, R. Jeremy; and Young, Walter D., "The Reins of Power: Governing British Columbia", p. 91, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1983]

Despite being a free enterprise party, the Bennett government formed BC Hydro in 1961 by nationalizing the province's largest private hydroelectric concern to make sure that it could not oppose the government's hydroelectric dam construction program. It also formed the BC Ferries in 1958, and established the Bank of British Columbia, which was 25% owned by the provincial government.

Bill Bennett era

Following the party's defeat in the 1972 election by the NDP, "Wacky" Bennett's son, William R. Bennett, took over the leadership of the party, and modernized it, putting populism behind and becoming an uneasy coalition of federal Liberals, Christian conservatives from the province's Bible Belt, and fiscal conservatives from the corporate sector with the latter firmly in control. On its return to power in the 1975 election, the party, for the most part, eschewed the megaprojects of the elder Bennett (with the exception of Expo 86 and the Coquihalla Highway), and embraced a fiscally conservative program.

As a result, the party built up a small political engine that managed to win the 1983 election, in spite of Bennett's controversial "Restraint" program. This was nicknamed the "Baby Blue Machine", and consisted of political advisors primarily imported from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. It never became a major political apparatus like the Big Blue Machine in Ontario did, as Bennett decided to retire in 1986.

All Socred governments attempted to curb the power of trade unions and also limited social welfare spending.

Bill Vander Zalm era

Under Bennett's successor, Bill Vander Zalm, control of the party shifted from urban fiscal conservatives to social conservatives, causing the coalition to unravel and this would drive moderate Socreds to the Liberals. This process was exacerbated by Vander Zalm's eccentricity, and the constant scandals that plagued his government. As well, Vander Zalm allowed his principal secretary, David Poole, to amass a substantial amount of power, despite being unelected. Grace McCarthy, who served long under Bennett, resigned from Vander Zalm's cabinet in protest.


Vander Zalm was forced to resign in a conflict of interest scandal, and was succeeded as party leader and premier by longtime associate Rita Johnston, who defeated McCarthy to become the first female head of government at any level in Canada. However, many viewed this as a mistake as Johnston was close to the Vander Zalm legacy. Even NDP opposition leader Mike Harcourt admitted later that he preferred Johnston over McCarthy, as the latter would likely have been a much tougher opponent in an election. Johnston was unable to make up any ground, and Social Credit was defeated in the 1991 election by the NDP. Johnston lost her own seat. To add insult to injury, many moderate Socred supporters switched their support to the British Columbia Liberal Party, relegating the Socreds to third place, with only seven seats.

More party infighting occurred as McCarthy was elected to replace Johnston.

1994 was a key year in the decline of Social Credit. In February, newly-elected leader Grace McCarthy lost a by-election for a BC Legislature seat in the once safe riding of Matsqui (Liberal Mike de Jong won the seat by less than 100 votes). After that defeat, four of the six remaining Social Credit MLAs elected in 1991 left the party to join the British Columbia Reform Party, leaving Social Credit without official party status in the BC Legislature. McCarthy resigned as leader shortly thereafter.

Of the class of '91, only Cliff Serwa the MLA for Okanagan-West stayed on with the party. While, after briefly contemplating taking up the leadership of the Family Coalition Party (then supported by former leader Bill Vander Zalm), Abbotsford MLA Harry de Jong resigned, resulting in a hotly contested by election in 1995, in which the BC Liberals beat the BC Reform by a slightly less narrow margin. Vancouver Sun legislative columnist Vaughn Palmer commented at the time on the irony of Kelowna, centre of the Social Credit dynasty from 1952 to 1986, being entirely represented by two fringe party MLAs: Serwa and Progressive Democratic Alliance MLA Judi Tyabji.

In the 1996 provincial election, Social Credit lost all of its remaining seats in the legislature, and received only 0.4% of the vote, under the leadership of Larry Gillanders, despite (or perhaps because of) his inclusion in the provincial leaders' debate. At this point, the party was largely considered a dead force in BC politics with most of its remaining members joining the socially conservative Reform Party or the centrist Liberal Party.

In 2001, at the behest of former leader Vander Zalm, the Social Credit Party merged with other provincial right-wing parties to form the Unity Party, but soon left due to dissatisfaction with the way the party was run. In the 2001 provincial election, what remained of the party ran only two candidates. Grant Mitton achieved a respectable showing in Peace River South, placing second with 1,726 votes (17.4%). He subsequently left to become leader of the British Columbia Party. The other candidate, Carrol Barbara Woolsey, in Vancouver-Hastings, placed 5th of 6 candidates with 222 votes (1.15% of the total).

In the 2005 election, the party nominated two candidates: Woolsey, who won 254 votes (1.28% of the total in Vancouver-Hastings, and Anthony Yao, who won 225 votes (0.95% of the total) in Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

The party continues to exist, but is essentially a fringe party, similar in status to the Marijuana Party. It is not taken seriously by voters at large, the media, or even most former Socred members or politicians.

As of 2005, the Social Credit Party does not have an official leader, though party president Carrol Barbara Woolsey acts as its "de facto" leader.

Party leaders

* Arthur H. Jukes, 1937-48, leader of the Union of Electors faction, 1948-49.
* No leader as such of the Social Credit Party/Social Credit League emerged until the 1952 election. However, Eric Martin and Lyle Wicks were the most obvious figures of a collective leadership. At the 1952 party convention Wicks, W.A.C. Bennett and Rev. Hansell were nominated for the party leadership. Wicks and Bennett both withdrew in favour of Hansell who was the hand-picked choice of Alberta Social Credit leader and Premier Ernest Manning. Following the election, Wicks, who was party president, called a second leadership convention at which only Social Credit MLAs could vote. This was won by Bennett.
* Reverend Ernest George Hansell, M.P. for Macleod (Alberta), leader for the 1952 election.
*W. A. C. Bennett (July 15, 1952 - November 24, 1973) *

*William R. Bennett (November 24, 1973 - July 30, 1986) *
*William Vander Zalm (July 30, 1986 - April 1, 1991) *
*Rita Johnston (April 2, 1991 - March 7, 1992) *
*Jack Weisgerber (interim) (March 7, 1992 - November 6, 1993)
*Grace McCarthy (November 6, 1993 - May 1994)
*Lyall Franklin Hanson (interim) (May 1994)
*Cliff Serwa (interim) (May - November 1994)
*Larry Gillanders (November 4, 1994 - May 24, 1996)
*Ken Endean (interim) (May 1996 - March 1997)
*Mike Culos (April 1997 - April 2000)
*Eric Buckley (April 2000 - October 2000)

Eric Buckley left Social Credit in October 2000 to join the British Columbia Party. The position of party leader has been vacant since that time.

* = also served as Premier of British Columbia

Other prominent Socred politicians

*Garde Gardom.
*Rafe Mair.
*Tom Northcott, a prominent singer, stood unsuccessfully for the provincial legislature.

Electoral results

In the 1937 election, the British Columbia Social Credit League endorsed candidates, but none were elected.

In subsequent elections, only the Social Credit Party of British Columbia emerged as the only social credit party, although it quickly abandoned social credit theories.

External links

* [ BC Social Credit Party]

ee also

*List of British Columbia general elections
* List of British Columbia political parties
*British Columbia Social Credit Party leadership conventions
*British Columbia Conservative Party
*British Columbia Liberal Party
*Social Credit
*Canadian social credit movement

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