By Craig Funston
There’s something in the air, and it’s the smell of an election. In fact, if I am sensing things correctly, there could be two trips to the polls later on this year, one here in Alberta and one over there in Canada—provincial and federal, just in case you don’t quite get it.
I am neither a politician nor the son of a politician (Bible readers will get that quip), but politics has always interested me. I tend to focus more on the provincial side of things. Federal politics and politicians seem so removed from my reality.
My earliest recollection in British Columbia is the halcyon days of the once-dominant Social Credit (Socred) party. Some of you may recall the names of “Wacky” (for W.A.C.) Bennett and “Flying” Phil Gaglardi. Mr. Gaglardi—grandfather of the current Dallas Stars owner and Sandman Hotels and Moxies restaurant chain, Tom Gaglardi–was the Minister of Transportation.
Ironically, the moniker “Flying” was for his driving habits.
If my sources and memory are correct, William A. C. Bennett lead BC for twenty years (1952-1972), essentially twenty years of solid, conservative leadership. I say “essentially” because there was a lapse in electorates’ judgement when they brought in the NDP for three years (under Dave Barrett),
After Barrett, we (“we” because I was there then) had more Social Credit party governance: The party leaders were a Bennett (Bill, son of William), a Vander Zalm (another Bill), and a Rita Johnson. By 1991, the Socred party, policies, and principles were no longer a force.
So, between the Bills (Socred) and the bills (NDP), the BC political landscape has been very intriguing for a few decades.
The Liberal Party under Gordon Campbell and Christie Clark have carried on much of the Socred tradition. Those BC Liberals, who are less liberal than Alberta’s Conservatives, are essentially a re-tooling of the old Social Credit Party—at least in its origins, for sure.
Then there’s Alberta. The Socreds ruled from 1935, under the able leadership of William Aberhart, Ernest Manning, and Harry Strom. It’s hard to believe that these men were what we call evangelicals. In fact, Mr. Aberhart was known as “Bible Bill.” Preaching on a Sunday afternoon gospel radio programme will do that every time.
By 1971, that party was likewise washed up, or at least rejected at the ballot box, replaced by something further to the left, the Progressive Conservatives—more progressive but less conservative than the Socreds.
If I sound biased, I am: I am both evangelical and conservative, and I deeply appreciate balanced leadership.
I must say that the Social Credit was a great party. The name could use some tweaking, though; it sounds like some sort of bank. But I sure liked its principles. Now what party would be the closest to them these days—Wildrose, maybe?
Perhaps I’m naive, but it strikes me that there were true leaders back then, men and women of integrity. As a wannabe student of history, I tend to lean toward the conclusion that most effective political leadership peaked in the early ’70s, in both Canada and the States—Stephen Harper and Ronald Reagan, respectively, notwithstanding.
I have met very few politicians in my day. Ed Fast and LaVar Payne (both Conservative MP’s) and John van Dongen (a BC MLA) are three that I have actually met or know of. I must say that they have been very down-to-earth. One on one, they seem to be very real and honest men Others, when found in candidates’ debate(s) or on the parliament floor, produce what is tantamount to a gong show.
Sad to say, I would never let my kids or students watch a public debate in either Edmonton or Ottawa.
As you may sense, I’m kind of lost in the ’60s and ’70s, so becoming a politician has no appeal for me whatsoever. Between the current political winds and the cultural climate, I would be a dinosaur—and you know what allegedly happened to them (I use the word “allegedly” as I have other views of the so-called dinosaur demise). Please note my clever use of the “climate change” metaphor.
There is a current opening for the Wildrose party where I live, as my own MLA crossed the floor recently. At stake was a principle of opportunity (versus principle of integrity), if I read the move correctly. However, I am not sure exactly what the Wildrose grassroots holds to, when it comes to my worldview.
So, the smell of an election or two is in the air. If it means good governance by a conservative party or two, that will be sweet aroma. If not, the smell will become yet a stench of another wasted election.