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© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
18 Jul 2002

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Ernest Manning

Premier of Alberta 1943-1968

Many thanks to AFHS member and volunteer, Heather Jaremko, who provided the typescript of this page and obtained the permission of the Calgary Herald to reprint this work in the AFHS website. This work is based on reports in the Calgary Herald between 1929 and 1939.

We will be pleased to hear from anyone who descends from Ernest Manning and can fill us in on the family history of this Alberta leader. Please contact the AFHS to start this dialogue

In 1943 William Aberhart died, and was succeeded by Ernest Manning, who was to be premier for some 25 years.

Alberta's Social Credit government ruled serenely through the 50s, as it had through the 40s and would through the 60s. Premier Ernest Manning had a mild setback in 1955, when he was reduced to 37 out of 67 seats in the Legislature while the Liberals won 15. However, Manning came back handsomely in 1959, winning 61 seats.

In the 15 years following the second world war, Social Credit reached the middle of its long reign in Alberta. Under Premier Ernest Manning, William Aberhart's economic dogma and bitter strife with Ottawa were replaced by quiet, conservative government. Perhaps out of nostalgia for Aberhart's $25.00-a-month "dividend" (never paid), for a short time every adult Albertan was given $20.00 a year out of the province's new oil wealth. Some accusations of wrong-doing were lodged against the government, but they came to very little. Social Credit continued to win substantial majorities. Even by the standards of Alberta Politics, it was quite a time.

Alberta has been extraordinarily well-served by Hon. Ernest Manning. It will miss his firm hand on the provincial tiller when he turns over the office of premier to a successor yet to be named in December 1968.

Mr. Manning has been a member of the Social Credit government since it first took office thirty-three years age. He was chief lieutenant to the party founder William Aberhart during the early years and succeeded Mr. Aberhart to the premiership in 1943.

The early years of Social Credit government in Alberta were concerned largely with ineffectual efforts to make an unorthodox brand of economics work on the provincial level. As depression and large-scale unemployment faded out with the onset of the Second World War, Social Credit theories faded out with them. Following Mr. Manning's accession to the leadership, party decisions were ironed out and the government settled down to the task of orthodox administration of provincial affairs.

Mr. Manning manoeuvred skillfully between the demands of commercial oil interests and the rights of the people of Alberta which he held in trusteeship. It is fair to say that the interests of both sides have been well looked after. Today, as a result of this kind of management Alberta is considered to be one of Canada's three most affluent provinces.

Naturally, not all of the policies which Mr. Manning's governments have introduced in the past quarter century have won total acclaim. There have been marked differences in viewpoint regarding priorities for expenditure of provincial revenues which have been set from time to time in Edmonton.

The Social Credit government has failed to keep step with the times and given urban populations their fair share of representation in the Legislature, despite the shifts in population which have been occurring. It has maintained old-fashioned complexes in the face of altering social concepts in such spheres as liquor consumption, blue laws and censorship. It has maintained an observable sense of authoritarianism which, at times, has seemed scarcely indistinguishable from the outmoded concept of divine right.

Premier Manning has never seemed to understand the functions, duties and obligations of a free press. He has been notably sensitive to criticism. He has considered opposition parties as being obstructive and a hindrance to governmental administration when, in reality, they are an essential element in government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Small oppositions in Legislature by no means betoken overpowering popular support for the government at election time. Mr. Manning, an extraordinarily capable politician, has never ignored this and it has doubtless served to keep his governments from lapsing into the apathy and decay typical of most one-party regimes.

Alberta will not seem the same without him.