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Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta
Leader Ed Stelmach
President Marg Mrazek
Founded 1905
Headquarters Edmonton HQ
9919-106 St NW
Edmonton AB
T5K 1E2
Calgary HQ
304-902-11 Ave SW
Calgary AB
T2R 0E7
Ideology Conservatism
International affiliation None
Official colours Blue & Orange
Website
http://www.albertapc.ab.ca
Politics of Canada
Political parties
Elections

The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (often referred to colloquially as Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta) is a provincial right-of-centre party in the Canadian province of Alberta. The party has formed the provincial government, without interruption, since 1971 under premiers Peter Lougheed (1971–1985), Don Getty (1985–1992), Ralph Klein (1992–2006) and Ed Stelmach (2006–present).

Contents

History

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Origins and early years

The party was created from the Northwest Territories Liberal-Conservative Party that existed from 1898 to 1905. Unlike their predecessor party, that formed government during its entire existence, the Alberta Conservatives were a marginal party in Alberta for most of the province's early history. In the province's first election, the 1905 election, the Conservatives, led by future Canadian Prime Minister Richard Bennett, won only two seats and were barely able to improve on that in subsequent elections. The main policy difference between the Tories and the Alberta Liberal Party was over the Tories' belief that the province should control its natural resources, which the province had been denied.

On the political sidelines

In the 1913 election, the Tories achieved a breakthrough, winning 18 seats and 45% of the vote. Despite this result, and an even better result in the 1917 election, they were still unable to beat the Liberals. The Tories then split into 'traditional' and 'radical' camps. The party collapsed, and was unable to run a full slate of candidates in the 1921 election. Only one Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) was returned to the Legislative Assembly in this election, in which the new United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) defeated the Liberals, and took power.

For the next fifty years, the Tories were unable to elect more than a half dozen MLAs. The party was marginalized after the UFA was able to negotiate the province's control of its resources from Ottawa, denying the Tories their major policy plank.

In 1935, the UFA collapsed. The Social Credit Party of Alberta took power on a populist and Christian conservative platform. Social Credit attracted conservative voters for decades, particularly after the party moved away from its radical social credit economic theories, and embraced fiscal conservatism.

The party in the 1940s and 1950s

In the late 1930s, the Conservatives and Liberals formed a united front in an attempt to fight Social Credit and, as a result, no Conservative candidates ran in the 1940 election, the 1944 election, or the 1948 election. Supporters of both parties ran instead as independents.

The failure of the coalition strategy led to the reemergence of separate Liberal and Conservative parties in the early 1950s. The Tories only nominated five candidates in the 1952 election, only one of whom won election. The Conservative Party was led in the general election of 1959 by William J.Cameron (Cam) Kirby, Member of the Legislature for Red Deer from 1954 to 1959.

The Tories became Progressive Conservatives in 1959 in order to conform with the name of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The party continued to be unable to improve their fortunes, and lost their only seats in the legislature.

The party under Peter Lougheed

In March 1965, Peter Lougheed became leader of the party, and began transforming it into a political force by combining fiscal conservatism with a modernist, urban outlook. This approach was in stark contrast to the parochialism and rural agrarianism of Social Credit. In particular, the party started gaining support in Calgary and Edmonton. Social Credit was slow to adapt to the changes in Alberta as its two largest cities gained increasing influence.

In 1967, Lougheed's Tories achieved an electoral breakthrough, electing six MLAs. Lougheed became Leader of the Opposition.

In 1968, Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning resigned after 25 years, and was replaced by Harry Strom. After 33 years in power, Social Credit had grown tired and complacent. Albertans, particularly those associated with the booming oil industry, began to turn to the young and dynamic Lougheed Tories. Over the next four years, Lougheed saw his small caucus grow to 10 members as a result of two by-election wins—one of which was Manning's old Edmonton seat—and two floor-crossings.

In the 1971 election, the Progressive Conservatives campaigned on a simple theme--NOW!--symbolizing their goal of increasing Alberta's clout in Canada. On August 30, the Tories won power for the first time in Alberta's history. They finished only four percentage points ahead of Social Credit. However, they swept Edmonton and took all but five seats in Calgary. Due to a quirk in the first past the post system, this gave Lougheed a strong majority government, with 49 of the 75 seats in the legislature.

In power, the Progressive Conservatives fought a long battle with the federal government over control of Alberta's natural resources (particularly oil). The oil industry provided the Alberta government with large revenue surpluses that allowed it to maintain Alberta as the only province or territory in Canada without a provincial retail sales tax. Alberta experienced a large development boom, particularly in Calgary, in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the Lougheed years, Alberta became a virtual one-party state, carrying almost all the seats in the provincial legislature. Lougheed's successor, Don Getty was unable to match the Lougheed Tories' dominance in the provincial legislature, but he enjoyed large majorities nevertheless.

Recent history

While the popularity of the Tories sagged somewhat under Don Getty, it was revived under Ralph Klein, who succeeded Getty as premier in 1992. Klein moved the party sharply to the right. In contrast, under Lougheed and Getty, the party was considered a classic example of a Red Tory government. The party's rightward turn under Klein was undoubtedly due to the influence of the right-wing Reform Party of Canada, which won all but four of the province's seats in the 1993 federal election. Reform and its successor, the Canadian Alliance, dominated the province's federal politics until 2003, when it merged with the federal Tories to become the Conservative Party of Canada.

The party was reduced to 51 seats in the 1993 election, but gained stronger majorities in 1997 and 2001.

It was viewed as unlikely that a centrist or left-leaning opposition party (the Alberta Liberal Party and the Alberta New Democrats, respectively) would be in a serious position to challenge the Conservatives for power in the 2004 general election. The Liberals, New Democrats, and a new right wing party, the Alberta Alliance, all campaigned aggressively against the Tories in 2004. The Klein government was re-elected, but lost a dozen urban seats. Many pundits expected losses in Edmonton, the traditional heartland of the provincial Liberals; indeed, the Conservatives were cut down to three seats in Edmonton (but subsequently gained a fourth on a recount). However, the Conservatives unexpectedly lost three seats to the Liberals in Calgary, where the Tories had previously held every seat.

The Alliance did not seriously challenge the Tories' majority, but it was competitive in several rural districts that could formerly have been described as Tory bastions. Although the Alliance only won one seat, from the Tories' perspective that seat was a formerly ultra-safe southwestern district. This has led many pundits to conclude that although the Alliance gained less than ten percent of the popular vote in 2004, it could potentially be in a position to launch a more serious challenge to the Tories in the future.

On March 31, 2006, after receiving a 55% vote of support from his party, Ralph Klein issued a press release expressing his intent to retire. A number of candidates stepped forward as possible replacements for a leadership election in late 2006. Klein officially resigned on September 20, 2006. The first round of voting on November 25 eliminated all but three candidates - Jim Dinning, Ted Morton and Ed Stelmach. None received the required 50% of the vote, so a second round was held on December 2. In the second round, Stelmach was declared the winner. He assumed the premiership on December 14.

Stelmach would go on to stun pundits and even his own supporters when he led the Tories to an increased majority in the 2008 general election, winning 72 of 83 seats including 13 in Edmonton, their highest total in the capital since 1982. The Tories lost modest ground in Calgary, winning 18 seats to the Liberals' five. The Liberals were nonetheless reduced to nine seats and the NDP two, and with the Tories re-taking Cardston-Taber-Warner from the re-named Wildrose Alliance in a close race.

Party leaders

Northwest Territories Liberal-Conservative Party

Alberta Conservative Party

Alberta Progressive Conservative Party

See also

References

External links


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