When the Premiers Came to Spirit River

In days gone by, the Northern outposts of Peace River, Fairview and Spirit River were important stops on the Alberta political circuit.  A Peace Country tour would have included us folks in Spirit, never mind that 18 kilometre detour.  Three times, at least, Alberta Premiers have stopped in for coffee shop chatting and hearty handshaking.

In September of 1936, Alberta’s 7th Premier, William Aberhart, stopped in Spirit River on a Peace River District tour and made a speech that would have people talking for years.  Aberhart and his Social Credit

Party believed that the answer to the depression was to be sure Albertans had lots of money to spend.  That day in Spirit River, the Premier announced “that credit flow to citizens would be moving ‘in two months’ time'”.  Everyone was to be given $25 a month!  The citizens of the Spirit River area must have known there were going to be great promises made: the Masonic Hall was packed full with one of the largest audiences ever seen in town.  Hon. Dr. W. W. Cross, Minister of Health, was with the Premier and also had elating news: he said the time had come to do away with interest and property taxation!  Of course, these were rather reckless words from both men.  Less than six months later, Aberhart was forced to announce that his social credit scheme was not feasible.  His Spirit River speech and subsequent failure to follow through on promises caused a few waves.  The Lieutenant-Governor actually threatened to dismiss Aberhart’s government.  However, the Social Credit Party and its leader (and founder) maintained strong support from Albertans.  William Aberhart was re-elected in 1940 and remained in office until his death in May, 1943.  The Social Credit Party led Alberta until 1971.

Information in this paragraph comes directly from The Calgary Daily Herald, March 2, 1937 (pages 1 and 2).

When another Social Credit Leader, Premier Harry Strom, came to Spirit River in 1971, he avoided making any speeches.  Opting instead for the “mainstreeting” technique, he met people face to face and kept everything low-key and friendly.  He had tea with 50 supporters in Spirit River.  Strom was Alberta’s 9th and shortest-serving premier: he served 2 and a half years.

Premier Strom’s visit was recorded in The Calgary Herald, August 10, 1971 (page 28).

Strom’s successor, Premier Peter Lougheed, visited Spirit River in September of 1978 as part of a two-day cabinet tour.  He had been here back in ’71, campaigning against Strom in gentlemanly fashion.  Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta since 1965, Lougheed served as Premier from 1971 until 1985 (through three provincial elections).  He retired (from politics) in 1985.

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