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Alberta Progressive Conservatives

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The Alberta Progressive Conservative Association is a provincial right-of-centre party in the Canadian province of Alberta. The party has formed the provincial government, without interruption, since 1971 under the leadership of Peter Lougheed (1971-1985), Don Getty (1985-1992) and current Premier Ralph Klein (1992-present).

Contents

History

The Tories were a marginal party in Alberta for most of the province's history. In the province's first election, the 1905 election, the Conservatives, led by future Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett, won only two seats and were barely able to improve on that in subsequent elections. The main policy difference between the Tories and the Alberta Liberal Party was over the Tories' belief that the province should control its natural resources, which the province had been denied.

In the 1913 election, the Tories achieved a breakthrough, winning 18 seats and 45% of the vote. Despite this result, and an even better result in the 1917 election, they were still unable to beat the Liberals. The Tories then split into 'traditional' and 'radical' camps. The party collapsed, and was unable to run a full slate of candidates in the 1921 election. Only one Conservative MLA was returned to the Legislature in this election, in which the new United Farmers of Alberta defeated the Liberals, and took power.

For the next fifty years, the Tories were unable to elect more than a half dozen MLAs. The party was marginalized after the UFA was able to negotiate the province's control of its resources from Ottawa, denying the Tories their major policy plank.

In 1935, the UFA collapsed. The Social Credit took power on a populist and Christian conservative platform. Social Credit attracted conservative voters for decades, particularly after the party moved away from its radical social credit economic theories, and embraced fiscal conservatism.

In the late 1930s, the Conservatives and Liberals formed a united front in an attempt to fight Social Credit and, as a result, no Conservative candidates ran in 1940 election, 1944 election and 1948 election. Supporters of both parties ran instead as independents.

The failure of the coalition strategy led to the reemergence of separate Liberal and Conservative parties in the early 1950s. The Tories only nominated five candidates in the 1952 election, only one of whom won election.

The Tories became Progressive Conservatives in 1959 in order to conform with the name of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The party continued to be unable to improve their fortunes, and lost their only seats in the legislature.

In March 1965, Peter Lougheed became leader of the party, and began transforming it into a political force by combining conservative financial principles with a modernist, urban outlook. This approach was in stark contrast to the parochialism and rural agrarianism of Social Credit.

In 1967 election, Lougheed's Tories achieved an electoral breakthrough, electing seven MLAs. Lougheed became the province's Official opposition.

In 1968, Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning resigned after twenty five years, and was replaced by Harry E. Strom. Strom was unable to reinvigorate the tired, agrarian Social Credit party, which had been in government since the Great Depression. Albertans, particularly those associated with the booming oil industry, began to turn to the young and dynamic Lougheed Tories.

In the 1971 election, the Progressive Conservatives defeated Social Credit, winning 49 seats to Social Credit's 25. The party formed a majority government, with Lougheed as Premier.

In power, the Progressive Conservatives fought a long battle with the federal government over control of Alberta's natural resources (particularly oil). The oil industry provided the Alberta government with large revenue surpluses that allowed it to maintain Alberta as the only province or territory in Canada without a provincial retail sales tax. Alberta experienced a large development boom, particularly in Calgary, in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the Lougheed years, Alberta became a virtual one-party state, carrying almost all the seats in the provincial legislature. Lougheed's successor, Don Getty was unable to match the Lougheed Tories' dominance in the provincial legislature, but he enjoyed large majorities nevertheless.

While the popularity of the Tories sagged somewhat under Don Getty, it was revived under Ralph Klein, whose government has been more socially conservative and fiscally conservative. The party was reduced to 51 seats in the 1993 election, but gained stronger majorities in 1997 and 2001.

Tensions have developed within Albertan society and perhaps even within the party between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives as the former have raised concerns about issues such as same sex marriage. This has motivated Klein to muse about Alberta using the Canadian Constitution's notwithstanding clause to deny gay couples rights accorded to them by the courts. Alberta under the Tories has also been the province most willing to challenge Canada's system of Publicly funded medicine, introducing private clinics and threatening to opt out of the Canada Health Act, despite the claims of some that he does not have a mandate from the electorate to do so.

Alberta general election, 2004

It was always viewed as unlikely that a centrist or left-leaning opposition party (the largest ones being Alberta Liberal Party and the Alberta New Democrats) would be in a serious position to challenge the Conservatives for power in the 2004 general election.

The Alberta Liberal Party, Alberta New Democrats and a new right wing party, the Alberta Alliance all campaigned aggressively against the Tories in 2004. The Klein government was re-elected, but lost a dozen urban seats. Many pundits expected losses in Edmonton, but perhaps most significant was the loss of seats to the Liberals in Calgary, where the Tories had held every seat.

The Alliance did not seriously challenge the Tories' majority either, but it was competitive in several rural districts that could formerly have been described as Tory bastions. Although the Alliance only won one seat, from the Tories' perspective that seat was a formerly ultra-safe southwestern district. This has led many pundits to conclude that although the Alliance gained less than ten percent of the popular vote in 2004, it could potentially be in a position to launch a more serious challange to the Tories in the future.

Ralph Klein has said he will retire after serving his next term. Several cabinet ministers have been touted has possible successors, although one contender, Mark Norris was defeated in his Edmonton district. Also mentioned as likely contenders are former "Senator-in-Waiting" Ted Morton and former MLA Jim Dinning.

Party leaders

(Party in coalition with Liberal Party 1940-1952)

See also

External links


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