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The Honourable William Aberhart, 1935 - 1943

The Hon. William AberhartThe 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 Baptist.

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 extension program.

Principal of King Edward School, CalgaryIn 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 AberhartWilliam 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 classes.

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, Premier William Aberhart 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 Premier William Aberhart 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 Premier Aberhart and fansNovember 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 serve as 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 Premier Aberhart and Cabinet, 1935 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.

 

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Featured Heritage Trails
Alberta Elections: 1940
Royal Visit, Fascism and World War II Put Aberhart’s Socreds Back in Office.
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The Election of 1935 soon assumed mythic proportions in the political history of Alberta, inspiring a book and more recently, a play. 

Read the Legacy Article and learn more about this amazing era!

Voices of Politics
Premier William Aberhart and Ernest Manning discuss the struggle between democratic versus totalitarian principals, Christianity versus "religion of form", and passive versus active learning. They compare modern financiers to the tyrannical king of Damascus, Benhadad, in the Bible.
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Reprinted from Premiers of the Northwest Territories and Alberta 1897-1991 with the kind permission of the Legislative Assembly Office.



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