A SOCRED WIFE REMINISCES --- REMEMBERS FRENZY, DISILLUSIONMENT
Taken from the Edmonton Journal, Canada
Widow, 98, looks back on husband's tumultuous years with Aberhart. Kathleen Bourcier reminisces about the role her husband, Albert, played in the 1937 backbenchers' revolt against then premier William Aberhart.
Bourcier's Franco-Albertan husband, Albert, had been hand-picked by Aberhart to run in the constituency of Lac Ste Anne. The campaign trail in those days was literally a trail. Albert, a Massachusetts-born school teacher, had one particularly hellish journey down a muddy road one night in 1935, employing three different means of transportation to get to a town hall meeting where he had promised to speak.
He started out in a jalopy, but road conditions were so bad he switched to a horse-drawn wagon and eventually to a truck before it, too, landed in the ditch. "It was impossible to go on," Albert told a CBC documentary producer before his death on Feb. 8, 1982.
The couple met at a small school near Wadena, Sask., where Kathleen was teaching and the handsome Albert was hired to be her principal. Lois was already born when they moved to Alberta in 1931. Albert had got a job teaching at a school in Rich Valley, near Whitecourt. But four years later, he entered politics and joined the new government that roared into power on August 22.
Aberhart unseated the United Farmers of Alberta, seizing 56 of the province's 63 seats, largely on his promise to Depression-stricken Albertans that within 18 months he would build a new economic system that would provide each Albertan $25 a month. The first year passed fairly swiftly as the radio evangelist set about downsizing government. But soon some Albertans started to worry that Aberhart might not keep his promise of a $25-per-month dividend. The premier didn't seem too worried about it. According to historian Harold J. Schultz, just one week after the election, the premier remarked: "Seventyf ive per cent of those who voted for me don't expect any dividend, but hope for a just and honest government."
That's not what Bourcier and other backbench MLAs were hearing. But 16 months after Aberhart took office, the MLAs were finding it tough to face their constituents. Experts were brought in to instruct the government on the Social Credit economic formula, but they soon threw their hands up in despair, saying the government didn't seem committed to Social Credit principles. By the time the spring session of the legislature opened in February 1937, some MLAs began to speak openly against the government.
A group of more than 20 MLAs led by Dr. Harry Brown, Bourcier and others began to meet regularly in the basement of Edmonton's Corona Hotel to complain about the state of affairs and plot strategy to force Aberhart to start implementing the Social Credit policies he promised. When the March budget failed to bring any sign of that happening, the backbenchers launched a revolt. They refused to support the budget until it included the Social Credit measures. The divided caucus met several times in an unsuccessful bid to resolve the issue, but Bourcier launched the filibuster in a lengthy speech that branded the budget "a complete denial of Social Credit." According to Schultz, in his article The Social Credit Back-Benchers' Revolt, 1937, Bourcier said he was always opposed to "the hush-hush policies and secret caucus methods of government," but "there's nothing secret about what has been done in the last 18 months. ... The government has done nothing."
The dispute lasted all spring. At one point it seemed the Lieutenant-governor would have to either appoint insurgent leader Harry Brown as premier or dissolve the government and call an election, but Aberhart and his cabinet eventually resolved the crisis by creating a special Social Credit Board to advise the government and to implement the Social Credit principles. Bourcier was among the last to end the filibuster. "My husband, being a Frenchman, had quite a temper and he was very unhappy with what they were trying to pass," recalls his wife.
According to Schultz, Bourcier eventually rose, white-faced, from his seat in the legislature, slammed his chair against a nearby desk and strode from the House "like a French deputy leaving the Parisian legislature battleground." Bourcier went on to serve four terms of office, including two under Premier Ernest Manning when Aberhart died in 1943. During the Depression he chaired a committee that investigated what the province was doing for Albertans on relief, and recommended improvements to the programs. When he lost his seat in 1952, he returned to teaching Grades 1 to 8 in Jasper Place.
Kathleen, one of the last survivors of that era, says her husband had a genuine interest in helping his fellow Albertans. " He was interested in people and in anything that would better the lives of people."
Comments on the Edmonton Journal website:
• Bill Kole: I'm proud to call this amazing woman my Grandmother! If you spoke to her, you would have no idea her age. She's sharp as a tack and I recall many an engaging discussion with her over the years. She was so well versed in politics, philosophy, yesteryear or any number of topics. She has always been a huge help to me and my family and her honesty and dignity continue to be a beacon when I am confronted by moral dilemmas. As I have lived in Los Angeles now for many years, it's rare that I get back to Edmonton....however, there is one person I ALWAYS see. Our family is honoured to be recognized in this way. What a fitting tribute to my late Grandfather, Albert, for the contributions he made to the people of Alberta.
• Helge: The wheel is turning and the tough times with it. The good people will come out of the shadows again.
• Neal: Social Credit ignored the social credit part of their platform, eh? The Progressive Conservatives have done the same. Bill 44 wasn't very progressive and our giant new deficit is hardly conservative. Time for another change of government clearly, but who will replace the old party this time?
• Kuri: Really interesting account. It's hard to imagine anyone within the current government showing this kind of backbone and concern for their constituents.
“The Alberta Experiment” by C. H. Douglas. In the introduction to the 1984 edition of the account of what really happened in Alberta, Canada, when William Aberhart gained political office on Social Credit policies, Eric Butler wrote: “Published first in 1937, only two years after the first Social Credit Government in the world had been elected, The Alberta Experiment provided striking confirmation of the genius of Douglas in grasping clearly the basic feature of the struggle in which mankind is involved.” Price: $9.50 plus postage. Another Douglas ‘gem’: “The Big Idea” by C.H. Douglas. Price: $5.50 plus postage
SPECIAL… DVD’s: $12.00 posted
THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CONSULTATION
It is so pleasing to note that many other groups are now in the battle to retain our traditional rights and freedoms.
The English Bill of Rights in 1689 as well as many other Laws and Statutes including the Magna Carta of 1215 make up English Common Law. Our Parliamentary process in Australia has been based on a Constitutional Monarchy with a Westminster Parliamentary system and law based on the heritage of the English speaking peoples, notably the Common Law intrinsically linked to the Christian faith, with one Chief Justice stating: "Christianity is parcel of the Common Law of England, and therefore to be protected by it; now whatever strikes at the very root of Christianity, tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government..." (Holdsworth "History of English Law" Vol 8 pp 410-416)
Our rights are present unless specifically denied through legislation. To live in a Common Law country is in itself a guarantee of the rights of the individual. Sir Robert Menzies in his book "Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth" states "except for our inheritance of British institutions and the principles of Common Law we have not felt the need of formality and definitions".
The appointment of Judges to the High Court and other Federal Courts becomes increasingly important with a Bill of Rights, particularly as judges are not elected and therefore lose their accountability. Many in the Unites States of America feel their Supreme Court has become a tyrant.
Australia has lost its sovereignty through many of the UN Declarations and International Covenants with the loophole in the Australian Constitution 51- xxix. We are now accountable to these external committees with members from some countries with very few human rights with Bill of Rights.