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Leader of the Opposition (Alberta)

Leader of the Opposition in Alberta
Incumbent
Rachel Notley
since April 30, 2019
Member ofLegislative Assembly of Alberta
Term lengthWhile leader of the largest party not in government
Inaugural holderAlbert Robertson
Formation1906; 118 years ago (1906)
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The leader of the Official Opposition, formally known as the leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, is the member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) who leads the Official Opposition, typically the second largest party in the provincial legislature.

Rachel Notley, who leads the New Democratic Party (NDP), has served as the leader of the Opposition since April 30, 2019.

Alberta has enjoyed long periods of stable government rule, and has elected massive government majority during almost every election in its history. In most other legislatures in Canada, the opposition party is traditionally recognized as a government in waiting, and will alternate periods of government among two or three parties. In Alberta however the opposition has traditionally been very small in terms of seat numbers, and highly unstable in terms of party leadership.[1]

Until Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party (UCP) formed government in 2019, Peter Lougheed was the only leader of the Opposition who has ever gone on to become Premier of Alberta. Until 2019, Harry Strom, whom Lougheed defeated, was the only premier who has ever gone on to serve as opposition leader.

History

The Conservative and Liberal years (1905 to 1940)

Richard Bennett Conservative Opposition leader 1909 - 1910

In the early years of the provincial legislature the opposition was dominated by the Conservative Party. This was a party built on remnants of the old Territorial Conservative Association. The party started out in 1905 forming opposition with only 2 seats in the legislative assembly, and proportionally grew as much as 20 seats in 1921 as Albertans grew tired of the scandals of the Liberal government.

The Conservatives looked poised to form government after a strong showing in the 1917 general election,. However both the Liberals and Conservatives were wiped out of the legislature in the 1921 general election by the United Farmers of Alberta. Albertans still distrusting of old line dominion parties opted instead for a new party that had third party status as the Non-Partisan League of Alberta and later became the United Farmers.

With the Conservatives wiped out of the legislature the Liberals formed the opposition from 1921 to 1926 confined to the cities of Calgary and Edmonton. The Liberals were helped by the fact that the United Farmers did not typically run candidates in the cities. From 1926 to 1940 there was no official opposition leader due to a Speaker's ruling that divided the Official Opposition funding between all the party leaders. However the Liberals remained the largest opposition party during this period.

A brand new party, Social Credit under William Aberhart, swept to power in the 1935 provincial election never previously having had a seat in the legislature while the United Farmers were completely wiped out.

The Unity Movement to the rise of Lougheed (1940 to 1971)

Opposition through the 1940s was dominated by the Unity Movement a coalition by Liberal and Conservatives and some former UFA supporters organized by former UFA MP Alfred Speakman to run candidates as Independents, in the 1940 Alberta general election the movement was successful at forming a large opposition that nearly equaled the popular vote of the ruling Alberta Social Credit Party. The Independents however turned out to be conflicted and hard to sustain as a united force. From 1940 to 1944 the leaders of the opposition changed with every legislative session.

The Independents were promoted through a third party group known as the Independent Citizen's Association. The last Independent opposition leader John Percy Page ran for the Citizen's Association in 1948 but was defeated, ending the Unity Movement.

The Independents' popularity started to decline in the late 1940s with newfound prosperity in Alberta and satisfaction with new Premier Ernest Manning as well as the province's business elite and newspaper editorial boards preferring to back Social Credit rather than risk the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Alberta coming to power as they had in Saskatchewan in 1944. The Liberal Party's support grew as support for the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada declined. The Liberals formed the official opposition from 1951 until the 1967 general election when the Progressive Conservatives shocked the province by winning 6 seats.

In the 1959 general election, 3 opposition parties managed to each win one seat in the legislature, no opposition leader was named until after the 1963 general election.

The Progressive Conservatives led by Peter Lougheed grew to 10 members through winning 2 by-elections and 2 floor crossings. The Progressive Conservatives defeated the 35 year rule of Social Credit in the 1971 general election and held government until 2015.

Modern day opposition (1971 to present)

Rachel Notley is the current leader of the Opposition.

From 1971 to 1982 the remains of the former Social Credit government held the opposition, but they were unable to make a smooth transition and did not elect any new members in this period. Having spent virtually all of its history as the ruling party, they were unprepared for a role outside of government and sank into near-paralysis in opposition. The party collapsed in 1982, when its last two caucus members left to sit as independents. The party has not been a significant force in Alberta since.

After the 1982 general election the speaker of the Legislative Assembly had to make a controversial ruling: whether to accept the two former Social Credit members' bid to become the official opposition, or decide if it should go to the NDP, which held two seats. The speaker ruled in favour of the NDP. The new opposition status would help the party grow to 16 seats from 1986 to 1993 until they were wiped out of the legislature by popular Liberal leader Laurence Decore.

The Liberals once again became the official opposition for the first time since 1967 under Laurence Decore, who helped the Liberals soar to popularity not seen since the early 1900s. Decore however did not last long as his health started to fail, and as he was pressured by party insiders to resign since many in the caucus were disappointed that they did not win the 1993 election. The Liberal party lost popularity as the Progressive Conservatives recovered support under Ralph Klein. In the 2004 general election the Liberals gained 16 seats under Kevin Taft. The Liberals held onto official opposition until 2012, when they were replaced by the Wildrose Party under Danielle Smith in the 2012 general election. On December 17, 2014, most of the Wildrose caucus, including Smith, crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative government, leaving the Wildrose and Liberal parties tied with 5 seats each. The Liberals petitioned the speaker to be declared the Official Opposition but on December 23, 2014, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky ruled that Wildrose would keep Official Opposition status due to incumbency.[2]

List of opposition leaders

No. Portrait Name
Electoral district
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Party
Term start Term end
1 Albert Robertson
MLA for High River
(1864–1952)
March 15,
1906
February 25,
1909
Conservative
2 R. B. Bennett
MLA for Calgary
(1870–1947)
February 10,
1910
May 26,
1910
Conservative
3 Edward Michener
MLA for Red Deer
(1869–1947)
November 10,
1910
April 5,
1917
Conservative
4 George Hoadley
MLA for Okotoks
(1867–1955)
February 7,
1918
April 17,
1919
Conservative
5 James Ramsey
MLA for Edmonton East
(1864–1939)
February 17,
1920
April 10,
1920
Conservative
6 John Robert Boyle
MLA for Edmonton
(1871–1936)
February 2,
1922
April 12,
1924
Liberal
7 Charles Richmond Mitchell
MLA for Bow Valley
(1872–1942)
February 19,
1925
March 12,
1926
Liberal
8 John C. Bowen
MLA for Edmonton
(1872–1957)
March 15,
1926
June 28,
1926
Liberal
No Official Opposition leader
1926–1941
9 James H. Walker
MLA for Warner
(1885–1954)
February 22,
1941
April 8,
1941
Independent Movement
10 Alfred Speakman
MLA for Red Deer
(1880–1943)
January 29,
1942
March 19,
1942
Independent Movement
11 James Mahaffy
MLA for Calgary
(1905–1986)
February 18,
1943
March 30,
1943
Independent Movement
(9) James H. Walker
MLA for Warner
(1885–1954)
February 10,
1944
March 24,
1944
Independent Movement
12 John Percy Page
MLA for Edmonton
(1887–1973)
February 22,
1945
August 17,
1948
Independent Citizen's Association
No Official Opposition leader
1948–1952
13 James Harper Prowse
MLA for Edmonton
(1913–1976)
February 21,
1952
April 15,
1958
Liberal
14 Grant MacEwan
MLA for Calgary
(1902–2000)
February 5,
1959
April 17,
1959
Liberal
No Official Opposition leader
1959–1964
15 Michael Maccagno
MLA for Lac La Biche
(1914–2000)
February 13,
1964
April 11,
1967
Liberal
16 Peter Lougheed
MLA for Calgary West
(1928–2012)
February 15,
1968
April 27,
1971
Progressive Conservative
17 Harry Strom
MLA for Cypress
(1914–1984)
December 10,
1971
November 22,
1972
Social Credit
18 James Douglas Henderson
MLA for Wetaskiwin-Leduc
(1927–2020)
February 15,
1973
August 21,
1973
Social Credit
19 Robert Curtis Clark
MLA for Olds-Didsbury
(1937–2020)
September 15,
1973
November 28,
1980
Social Credit
20 Raymond Speaker
MLA for Little Bow
(born 1935)
December 16,
1980
November 1,
1982
Social Credit
21 Grant Notley
MLA for Spirit River-Fairview
(1939–1984)
November 2,
1982
October 19,
1984
New Democratic
22 Ray Martin
MLA for Edmonton-Norwood
(born 1941)
November 6,
1984
June 14,
1993
New Democratic
23 Laurence Decore
MLA for Edmonton-Glengarry
(1940–1999)
June 15,
1993
July 15,
1994
Liberal
24 Grant Mitchell
MLA for Edmonton-McClung
(born 1951)
November 12,
1994
April 17,
1998
Liberal
Howard Sapers[3][NB 1]
MLA for Edmonton-Glenora
(born 1957)
(Acting)
April 21,
1998
July 6,
1998
Liberal
25 Nancy MacBeth
MLA for Edmonton-McClung
(born 1948)
July 7,
1998
March 11,
2001
Liberal
26 Ken Nicol
MLA for Lethbridge East
(born 1944)
March 15,
2001
March 26,
2004
Liberal
27 Kevin Taft
MLA for Edmonton-Riverview
(born 1955)
March 27,
2004
December 14,
2008
Liberal
28 David Swann
MLA for Calgary-Mountain View
(born 1949)
December 15,
2008
September 10,
2011
Liberal
29 Raj Sherman
MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark
(born 1965)
September 12,
2011
April 23,
2012
Liberal
30 Danielle Smith
MLA for Highwood
(born 1971)
April 24,
2012
December 17,
2014
Wildrose
31 Heather Forsyth[NB 2]
MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek
(born 1950)
December 22,
2014
May 5,
2015
Wildrose
32 Brian Jean
MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin
(born 1963)
May 5,
2015
July 24,
2017
Wildrose
33 Nathan Cooper[NB 3]
MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
(born 1980)
July 24,
2017
October 30,
2017
United Conservative
34 Jason Nixon[NB 4]
MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
(born 1980)
October 30,
2017
January 29,
2018
United Conservative
35 Jason Kenney
MLA for Calgary-Lougheed
(born 1968)
January 29,
2018
April 30,
2019
United Conservative
36 Rachel Notley
MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona
(born 1964)
April 30,
2019
Incumbent New Democratic

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Sapers served as Leader of the Opposition from MacBeth's election as Liberal Party leader until her election to the legislature in a by-election.
  2. ^ Forsyth served as interim Wildrose leader and Leader of the Opposition from Smith's crossing the floor to the Progressive Conservative government until Jean entered the Legislative Assembly in the 29th general election.
  3. ^ The Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties merged to form the United Conservative Party, and Cooper was named interim leader until the party elected a new permanent one.
  4. ^ Nixon served as Leader of the Opposition from Kenney's election as UCP leader until his election to the Legislative Assembly in a by-election.

References

  1. ^ "CBC: Alberta's Wildrose, PC's merge into a consolidated United Conservative Party".
  2. ^ "Alberta speaker picks Wildrose as Official Opposition". Calgary Herald. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "Official Opposition Appointment" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Alberta: Legislative Assembly, 24th Leg, 2nd Sess. 21 April 1998. p. 1579.
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Leader of the Opposition (Alberta)
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