In 1965, a young lawyer from Calgary, Peter
Lougheed , was elected leader of the fledgling Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. Lougheed had gathered support from several other corporate lawyers and oil and gas executives he had worked with over the years. Many of his long-time friends and football team-mates had also encouraged him to run for the party leadership. Lougheed, in turn, recruited many of these supporters to the party. Together, they won six seats in the provincial election of 1967.
The Progressive Conservative and Social Credit Parties of Alberta differed little when it came to policies and visions for the province. Both parties were committed to realizing the full potential of Alberta's oil and gas wealth. Lougheed emphasized the need to diversify Alberta's economy and develop the province's energy resources according to the province's needs, not the industries'. Yet he stopped short of attacking the Social Credit government's handling of Alberta's resource industries.
Lougheed instead focused on contrasting his party's new image with the Social Credit's aging membership. He and his recruits were mostly young urban professionals, full of energy and determination. The Social Credit MLA's came mostly from rural teaching or small business backgrounds and had held the same cabinet or backbench positions for many years. Alberta's increasingly urbanized and upwardly mobile population could relate more to the Progressive Conservatives. Lougheed's selection of Horst Schmid and other ethnic minorities also contributed to his party's success in northern Alberta. Even in rural ridings, the Progressive Conservatives gained support because they did not present radical departures from the Social Credit government's policies.
While in opposition, the Progressive Conservatives continued to hone their party's image and platform in anticipation of the next election. They introduced several Opposition bills, even though these had little chance of passing in the Social Credit-dominated Legislature. From 1968, they also assumed "shadow cabinet" positions, becoming experts in their separate fields and thoroughly apprised of business inside the Social Credit cabinet . In doing so, the Progressive Conservatives showed voters they were ready to take over the task of governing the province.