In 1965 a young reporter with the Calgary Albertan wrote a piece on the history of the Social Credit party in that province, which was then celebrating it's 30th anniversary.
Created during the depression, when desperate people were looking for a saviour, it was both a blessing and a curse. And this is what he discovered in interviewing those who were around at the time of it's creation. Reports were either glowing or painted a picture of "hooligans, emotion run amok, and a stab of fear."
In the churches, the country churches where so long there had been unity, Social Creditors sat on one side of the aisle, and others on the other, and there was a hostile silence after the service. (1)And this was actually encouraged by the party. Divisive politics played out well at the ballot box. And so did fear.
Meetings of the opposition were often disrupted by " a 'group of big fellows' who honked car horns, yelled and pounded logs against the walls and doors of their meeting halls. Reporters were barred from [Social Credit] meetings, and often made to feel unsafe upon the streets." (1)And on his Bible program, then leader William Aberhart regaled against "Henchmen", "Bigshots" and "those who betrayed Christ". And if critics phoned into his radio show, they were "threatened with tar and feather, shooting and physical violence". Religious fervour and politics had created a dangerous climate.
So when this young reporter sat down in 1965 to file his story, he understood the dangers of this kind of political party. His name was Joe Clark and he would go on to become Canada's youngest prime minister.
When Stephen Harper delivered his now famous speech to the controversial Council for National Policy, in 1997, he reminded us that: "The predecessor of the Reform party [is] the Social Credit party."
I've written often of this and have actually been researching a small book on it.
You can link Social Credit to Reform/Alliance/Conservative, with just five leaders.
William Aberhart was the first. His lieutenant Ernest Manning followed. Ernest Manning's son, Preston Manning (Godson of William Aberhart) was the first leader of Reform. Stockwell Day's father was also Social Credit and Preston Manning's lieutenant, Stephen Harper, became leader of Alliance after Day and then, of course, leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada.
The chain has been virtually unbroken.
So when in 2004, Joe Clarke came out warning of the movement, they were not empty words. He knew who they were and what they stood for.
He had attended university with Preston Manning and both were members of the Youth Parliament. "He was part of the Youth Parliament's Social Credit caucus at the same time Joe Clark, Grant Notley (the late, former leader of the New Democratic Party in Alberta), Jim Coutts (who became prominent in the Liberal Party under Pierre Trudeau), and others were representing their respective parties." (2)
And when he called Stephen Harper "a dangerous choice for voters", it came from experience. And today we have a growing number of people sounding the same alarm, including Robert Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator Bobby Kennedy, who wrote recently:
Harper, often referred to as "George W. Bush's Mini Me," is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity. Harper's attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda.Canada is not an island. People everywhere are paying attention.
Reading today's headlines, it's not too difficult to see that what happened in the early days of Social Credit campaigning, is not much different from what we are witnessing today. Slashed tires, shout downs, fear and intimidation.
And the reason for that is divisive politics and religious fervour, that stir emotions best kept checked.
Add to that a ‘Smear and fear’ style of governing, and it's a recipe for disaster.
So let's make history by changing the course of history.
The latest Nanos poll, that has a margin of error, ranging from 5.7 to 10.3, suggests either a majority for the Conservatives, or a majority for the Liberals, or a minority for the NDP, or a spaceship swooping down on election day and parachuting in a prime minister.
So forget the polls. Just vote and vote wisely.
1. A Desperate People Turn to Social Credit, By Reporter Joe Clark, Calgary Albertan News Perspective, August 1965
2. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 5