The Honourable William Aberhart was Premier of Alberta's
first Social Credit Government. Representatives of the Social Credit Party
governed the Province for thirty-five years. (1935-68). This record has
never been surpassed.
William Aberhart was born on December 30, 1878, on a farm
near Kippen in Hibbert Township, Perth County, Ontario. He was the son of
William Aberhart, Senior, and Louisa Pepper. William Aberhart was a
He attended a local public school, the Seaforth Collegiate
Institute, and the Chatham Business College. As well, he completed teacher
training programs at the Mitchell Model School and the Ontario Normal School at
Hamilton, Ontario. During the period 1907-11, he earned a Bachelor of Arts
degree from Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, through that organization's
In 1899, William Aberhart began teaching public school at
Morris School, which was located near Wingham, Ontario. In 1901, he moved
to Brantford, Ontario, and began teaching commercial subjects at Central Public
School in that community.
On July 30, 1902, he married Jessie Flatt of Galt,
Ontario. They had two daughters: Ola Janet and Khona Louise.
William Aberhart was appointed Principal of Central Public
School in 1905. During the period of time that he lived in Brantford, he
also preached, on a relief basis, at several local churches and conducted Bible
In 1925, the Calgary Prophetic Bible Conference passed a
motion to establish a Bible institute, which later was called the Calgary
Prophetic Bible Institute, and appointed William Aberhart as Dean. The
same year, William Aberhart began broadcasting his Sunday afternoon lectures on
the radio. These broadcasts eventually had a large listening audience in
the Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and the
adjacent states of the U.S.A.
As a consequence of the hardships wrought by the Great
Economic Depression, in the early 1930's, William Aberhart became interested in
the monetary theories of Major C.H. Douglas, a British engineer.
Collectively, these theories are known as "social credit" and are
concerned with the "discrepancy between the costs of production and the
purchasing power of individuals. A Social Credit Government would
supplement individuals' purchasing power through direct grants."
Between the years 1932 and 1935, William Aberhart and the Social Credit League
tried to persuade the United Farmers of Alberta Government to adopt some social
credit policy. When these attempts failed, William Aberhart organized
Alberta's Social Credit Party, and its representatives contested the 1935
provincial election and won it by a large majority.
Although he had not presented himself as a candidate at
the 1935 provincial election, because he was Leader of the Social Credit Party,
effective September 3, 1935, William Aberhart was appointed Premier of the
Province of Alberta by Lieutenant-Governor William L.
Walsh . On the same
date, William Aberhart was also appointed Minister of Education.
Subsequently, on November 3, 1935, a
by-election was held in the electoral
district of Okotoks-High River, and William Aberhart was elected by
acclamation. On September 5, 1937, he was appointed Attorney
General. Following the general election of 1940, he continued to
Premier, Attorney General, and Minister of Education, but represented the
multi-Member electoral district of Calgary.
During its first term in office, the Social Credit
Government was successful in legislating its "prosperity certificate"
program. However, it was not successful in its attempts to legislate changes in the administration of banks and the operation of newspapers in the
Province. These later bills were declared ultra vires (i.e.
unconstitutional). The Social Credit Party was reelected at the provincial
general election of 1940 and, subsequently, it made changes to Alberta's
educational system and labour laws and established oil and gas conservation and
provincial marketing boards.
During a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, William
Aberhart died unexpectedly on May 23, 1943. He was buried in the Forest
Lawn Cemetery at Burnaby. The Aberhart Centre, a long-term medical care
centre in Edmonton, Alberta, is named in his memory.