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List of premiers of Alberta

There have been 19 heads of government of the Canadian province of Alberta since it was created in 1905. Three were Liberal, three belonged to the United Farmers of Alberta, three were Social Credit, seven were Progressive Conservatives, two have belonged to the United Conservatives and one was New Democratic. The current premier of Alberta is Danielle Smith of the United Conservative Party.

Alberta uses a unicameral Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which the premier is the leader of the party that controls the most seats in the Legislative Assembly. The premier is Alberta's head of government, while the king of Canada is its head of state and is represented by the lieutenant governor of Alberta. The premier picks a cabinet, usually from the elected members of the Legislative Assembly, to form the Executive Council of Alberta, and presides over that body.

Members are elected to the legislature during general elections or by-elections. Barring special legislation occasioned by a war or an emergency (which has never happened in Alberta's history, although it has federally), general elections must be called by the lieutenant governor, at the premier's advice, no later than five years after the previous election, but the premier may ask (and almost always has asked) for dissolution of the legislative assembly and a subsequent election earlier than that. Under Alberta's fixed-election legislation of 2021, a general election is to be held on the last Monday in May in the 4th calendar year following the most recent general election, but the premier can bindingly advise the lieutenant governor to call an election earlier than the fixed date.

An election may also happen if the governing party loses the confidence of the legislature, by the defeat of a supply bill or tabling of a confidence motion, but in Alberta's history of massive majorities in the assembly, this has never happened. William Aberhart's first mandate as premier was almost cut short, when a large part of his caucus showed willingness to vote against his government's budget; but when he promised to bring in radical banking reform they were satisfied.

A leader of a party is chosen by the party, following an internal constitution unique to each party that comprises a framework to elect or appoint a leader. Leaders, not already possessing a seat, must then win a seat in a by-election or general election to sit in the Assembly. Leaders of a party without a seat must sit in the legislature gallery. While sitting in the gallery a premier cannot exercise any legislative powers.

Prior to 1905, Alberta was part of the North-West Territories and as part of this jurisdiction was governed by the North-West Legislative Council, composed of elected and appointed officials, led by lieutenant governors of the North-West Territories until 1897, and by lieutenant governors of the Northwest Territories and the premier of the North-West Territories from 1897 to 1905.

Since 1905 Alberta's premiers have belonged to six different political parties. However, there have been only five changes of government, as governments once elected are usually in for long periods and have always been majority governments. No defeated party has yet returned to power. As of 2023, three women have served as Premier of Alberta, more than any other province.

History

Liberal Party 1905–1921

The Liberal party got its start in power in Alberta when Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier appointed Alexander Rutherford, a prominent liberal and former elected NWT Assembly member, as interim premier in 1905. He and other Liberals organized the province's first election.

Rutherford's Liberal party was elected, with a majority of the popular vote and a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly in the province's first election, the 1905 Alberta election. The north-central constituency boundaries radiated out from Edmonton and some say this was a case of gerrymandered electoral boundaries.[1] Rutherford's government received a majority of votes in the election and emerged from the March 1909 election leading another formidable majority, which clearly reflected the broad popular support he and his government enjoyed. He would resign as premier 14 months later, in May 1910, after his government was implicated in the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway scandal.[2]

Arthur Sifton replaced Rutherford as premier. Shortly before the 1913 election Sifton's Liberals jammed through a controversial bill greatly expanding the size of the legislative assembly. The bill was once again said to gerrymander boundaries in Liberals' favor, although the Liberals again received more votes than any other party in the 1913 election.[3][4] The press and opposition would term his reign as premier "Siftonism" implying that his reign was a disease on Alberta.[5] Sifton only lasted one mandate as premier as he left to pursue a career in federal politics.[6]

Charles Stewart replaced Sifton and held the Liberal government through the lackluster 1917 election which 11 MLAs serving in the armed forces were automatically re-elected. The elected opposition was the strongest so far in the province's 12-year history. The Conservatives, which formed the official opposition with 19 seats, slightly more than one-third of the seats in the Assembly, expressed hopes they had the upper hand on the waning Liberal government. Both would be surprised by the United Farmers who routed the Liberals and Conservatives in rural areas to form the government in the 1921 election.

United Farmers 1921–1935

Alberta's second dynasty was the United Farmers of Alberta, a farmers' movement organization, formed in 1909 as a lobby group, whose political wing rose from a minor party named the Alberta Non-Partisan League, formed in 1916. Henry Wise Wood led the party at the time of the 1921 election, although he did not run himself. The loosely organized farmer candidates running in rural constituencies captured a majority of the seats. The party was allied with Labour candidates, so it did not contest urban ridings, aside from one in Edmonton. Wood did not want the job as premier so the farmers were forced to shop around. UFA lawyer John Brownlee was asked first but declined. UFA executive member Herbert Greenfield, the second choice, became the new premier, although he too had not run in the election so had to await success in a by-election to take his seat.[7] Greenfield resigned four years later because he was often absent due to illness and lost much of his energy due to the death of his wife shortly after the election.

John Brownlee, who had previously been offered the job, succeeded Greenfield. Brownlee's reign as government leader was troubled by the onset of the Great Depression. He resigned in scandal after he was accused of sexual acts with a minor in the Attorney General's office. This and another scandalous divorce by UFA MLA Oran McPherson, speaker of the Legislative Assembly, gave the United Farmers an image of moral decay.[8] In 1934 Richard Reid replaced Brownlee but served as premier for less than two years, leading the United Farmers government into total defeat at the hands of the new Social Credit party.

Social Credit 1935–1971

Albertans turned away from the United Farmers government and began to follow evangelical radio preacher William Aberhart, known as Bible Bill. The Social Credit party had been founded in 1932. Voters flocked to the radical monetary reforms proposed by Aberhart and British SC theorist Clifford Douglas, looking for an escape to the Great Depression. Social Credit was elected with a majority (54 percent of the vote) in the 1935 election completely wiping out the United Farmers representation (although the UFA did receive 11 percent of the vote). Aberhart had difficulty implementing the Social Credit theory and his popularity began to decline. His government almost fell during a 1936 caucus rebellion, in which his own MLAs forced him to promise to try to reform the banking system. But it rebounded and in the 1940 election it garnered more votes than any other party and also captured a large majority of the seats.[9] Aberhart died in 1943; he is the only premier to die in office in Alberta's history.

Ernest Manning succeeded Aberhart as premier. Under Manning, Social Credit moved away from the monetary theory of Douglas and towards traditional conservatism. Manning led the party through seven-straight massive majorities, (although in 1955 his government received barely more seats than Aberhart had received in 1940, due to a strong but short-lived Liberal drive). During his premiership, his government abolished the hybrid STV/Instant-runoff voting system the province had been using since 1924, and the government received a windfall of seats in the 1959 election. After 24 years as premier, Manning resigned in 1967.

Harry Strom, a long time cabinet minister, replaced Manning and led the party to defeat in the 1971 election at the hands of the Progressive Conservatives under Peter Lougheed. Strom and his government looked old and tired and out of touch compared to the new Progressive Conservatives.

Progressive Conservative 1971–2015

The fourth government of Alberta was first led by Peter Lougheed, defeating the 36-year reign of Social Credit in 1971.

Peter Lougheed served as premier, winning four elections, until 1985 when he retired from public office. Some of Lougheed's notable accomplishments were the limited Alberta Bill of Rights, and the Heritage Trust Fund.[10]

Don Getty, one of Lougheed's long-time cabinet ministers, returned to politics to win the leadership of the party. Getty's premiership was endorsed by a win in the 1986 general election that saw the NDP climb to 16 seats as the official opposition. Getty's reign became very unpopular as he led Alberta into large deficit spending, and marked an era of big government that, some said, the province could not afford. In the 1989 election he was defeated in his Edmonton-Whitemud riding, while his party still won a majority. He sat in the gallery as premier, until he won a seat in a by-election in Stettler.[11] His refusal to leave as premier helped Laurence Decore's Liberals skyrocket in popularity. Getty resigned and was replaced in a bitter leadership battle by Ralph Klein.[12]

Ralph Klein, the former mayor of Calgary, led the party into the 1993 election, promising a new era of debt reduction and fiscal accountability. He walked away with a slim majority. Ralph Klein's folksy appeal helped the Progressive Conservatives renew themselves. He led the party through two elections, gaining in popularity each time. The price of oil rebounded and the government, despite low rates of taxes on the wealthy and corporations, was showing a surplus of $3 billion every year. In early 2004, Klein announced that the Alberta debt had been paid in full.[13] He was rewarded by voters in the 2004 election, despite running a campaign with no new policies. His party lost a number of seats to the Liberals, and during the campaign he stated this would be his last election. In 2006 at a Progressive Conservative convention delegates forced him to pick a retirement date by giving him relatively low numbers in a leadership review.[14]

Ed Stelmach succeeded Klein as premier, following his win of the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party in 2006. He won the 2008 provincial election, but, troubled by dissension within his party as well as lagging in polls behind the upstart Wildrose Party, resigned as the party celebrated its 40 years in power in 2011.

Alison Redford subsequently was elected party leader and became the first female premier of Alberta. Despite strong opposition from the Wildrose Party that most polls and media predicted would end the PC's 41-year dynasty, Redford and the PC party won re-election in April 2012, making Redford Alberta's first elected female premier. Due to a steep decline in approval ratings and a spending controversy,[15] Alison Redford announced her resignation on March 19, 2014, as premier of Alberta, effective March 23.[16]

Alberta Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was selected as premier and interim party leader by the Progressive Conservative caucus on March 20, 2014,[17] and became premier on March 23, 2014.

Jim Prentice was elected as the permanent leader of the PC Party on September 6, 2014, and succeeded Hancock as premier on September 15, 2014. He turned the government around on a number of crucial issues, cancelling the closure of the Michener Centre, for example. He was elected to the constituency of Calgary-Foothill in an October 27, 2014 by-election, as the PC Party won the four by-elections held that day while the rival Wildrose Party did very poorly. Less than two months later, most of the Wildrose Party caucus—including leader Danielle Smith, crossed the floor to sit with the PC Party. However, Prentice government's popularity dropped sharply by spring 2015, due to a budget that was unpopular among the political spectrum, with the collapse in PC support also attributed to falling oil prices and the past scandals under the Redford government. Prentice had over a year before he was obliged to dissolve the legislature, nonetheless he decided to call a snap election. On May 5, 2015, the PC Party's 44 straight years of government ended as they lost 60 seats in the Legislature to fall to third place in the legislature, while the NDP won a majority government over the resurgent Wildrose Party which finished second and become the Official Opposition. Prentice resigned as party leader and as an MLA, leaving the PC Party with only 9 seats.

New Democratic Party 2015–2019

On May 5, 2015, Rachel Notley successfully led the New Democratic party to a majority government in the 2015 Alberta general election, defeating the incumbent government led by Jim Prentice of the Progressive Conservative Party, with 54 seats and 41% of the popular vote and securing only the fourth change of government in Alberta's political history.

Rachel Notley was appointed and sworn in as premier on May 24, 2015, following her party's capturing of 54 out of 87 seats in the Legislature. The NDP's surprise victory was attributed to the unpopularity of the Prentice government's budget, a strong performance by Notley in the leaders' debates, and splitting of the right-wing vote between the PC and Wildrose parties. On May 22, 2015, Notley suspended a caucus member, leaving her party with 53 out of 87 seats, which did not change the balance of power in the legislature. The NDP held 52 seats at the time of the legislature's dissolution in March 2019, and were defeated in the ensuing general election on April 16, 2019, making it the first one-mandate government in provincial history.

United Conservative Party 2019–present

On April 16, 2019, Jason Kenney successfully led the United Conservative Party to a majority government in the 2019 Alberta general election, defeating the incumbent government led by Rachel Notley of the New Democratic Party with 63 seats and 54.88% of the popular vote and securing only the fifth change of government in Alberta's political history. Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, had entered provincial politics to become PC Party leader where he led its merger with Wildrose, and then won the leadership of the newly combined party, the UCP. As of 2022 Danielle Smith took office after Jason Kenney resigned for not enough support in his party.

List of premiers

No. Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Electoral mandates (Assembly) Political party Riding Cabinet Ref.

Premiers of the North-West Territories

1
Frederick W. A. G. Haultain
(1857–1942)
7 October
1897
1 September
1905
Title created (3rd NW Leg.)⁠

1898 election (4th NW Leg.)⁠


1902 election (5th NW Leg.)

Liberal–Conservative
(Ldr. 1897)
MLA for Macleod
Led negotiations for provincial status for Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Premiers of Alberta
1
Alexander Cameron Rutherford
(1857–1941)
2 September
1905
26 May
1910
Title created (caretaker government)⁠

1905 election (1st Leg.)⁠


1909 election (2nd Leg.)

Liberal
(Ldr. 1905)
MLA for Strathcona Rutherford Ministry
Organization of administration for new province; incorporation of City of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Strathcona and Wetaskiwin; establishment of court system; establishment of University of Alberta and of school system; creation of Alberta Government Telephones, extension of railway network in the province, labour laws, such as eight-hour-day legislation
2
Arthur Sifton
(1858–1921)
26 May
1910
30 October
1917
Appointment (2nd Leg.)⁠

1913 election (3rd Leg.)⁠


1917 election (4th Leg.)

Liberal
(Ldr. 1910)
MLA for Vermilion Sifton Ministry
Instituting prohibition; establishment of agricultural colleges, extension of votes to women (white British/Canadian citizens).
3
Charles Stewart
(1868–1946)
30 October
1917
13 August
1921
Appointment (4th Leg.) Liberal
(Ldr. 1917)
MLA for Sedgewick Stewart Ministry
Attempted to establish fairer representation through Single Transferable (STV) balloting in the rural areas.
4
Herbert Greenfield
(1869–1949)
13 August
1921
23 November
1925
1921 election (5th Leg.) United Farmers
(Ldr. 1921)
MLA for Peace River Greenfield Ministry [N 1]
Creation of Alberta Wheat Pool; repeal of Prohibition and creation of government-owned liquor stores, creation of proportional representation in the cities through Single Transferable Balloting (the Hare system), attempted to impose taxation on land owned by speculators standing idle, and on mineral resources, both over-ruled by the courts.
5
John Edward Brownlee
(1883–1961)
23 November
1925
10 July
1934
Appointment (5th Leg.)⁠

1926 election (6th Leg.)⁠


1930 election (7th Leg.)

United Farmers
(Ldr. 1925)
MLA for Ponoka Brownlee Ministry
Sexual Sterilization Act; elimination of Alberta Provincial Police; creation of provincial income tax (April, 1932), legislation to control foreclosing on working (but un-profitable) farms
6
Richard Gavin Reid
(1879–1980)
10 July
1934
3 September
1935
Appointment (7th Leg.) United Farmers
(Ldr. 1934)
MLA for Vermilion Reid Ministry
Government purchase of cattle from farmers who could no longer afford feed; cost-sharing agreement with federal government and railways to relocate farmers fleeing the Dust Belt.
7
William Aberhart
(1878–1943)
3 September
1935
23 May
1943
1935 election (8th Leg.)⁠

1940 election (9th Leg.)

Social Credit
(Ldr. 1935)
MLA for Okotoks-High River
(1935-1940)

MLA for Calgary
(1940-1943)

Aberhart Ministry
Attempts to implement social credit economic theory; issuance of prosperity certificates; public works and debt relief programs to aid victims of the Depression; creation of Alberta Treasury Branches financial services institution, consolidated school districts into school divisions, imposed regulation on the oil and gas fields outside Calgary to prevent wastage of natural gas.
8
Ernest Manning
(1908–1996)
31 May
1943
12 December
1968
Appointment (9th Leg.)⁠

1944 election (10th Leg.)⁠


1948 election (11th Leg.)⁠


1952 election (12th Leg.)⁠


1955 election (13th Leg.)⁠


1959 election (14th Leg.)⁠


1963 election (15th Leg.)⁠


1967 election (16th Leg.)

Social Credit
(Ldr. 1943)
MLA for Edmonton
(1943-1959)

MLA for Strathcona East
(1959-1968)

Manning Ministry [N 2]
Abandonment of social credit economic theory; exploitation of Leduc oil fields; expansion of educational, health and transportation facilities.
9
Harry Strom
(1914–1984)
12 December
1968
10 September
1971
Appointment (16th Leg.) Social Credit
(Ldr. 1968)
MLA for Cypress Strom Ministry
Alberta Service Corps; introduction of kindergarten; creation of Athabasca University and Grant MacEwan College.
10
Peter Lougheed
(1928–2012)
10 September
1971
1 November
1985
1971 election (17th Leg.)⁠

1975 election (18th Leg.)⁠


1979 election (19th Leg.)⁠


1982 election (20th Leg.)

Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 1965)
MLA for Calgary-West Lougheed Ministry
Creation of Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund; Syncrude; 1981 Energy Pricing Agreement with Ottawa; provincial control of natural resources.
11
Don Getty
(1933–2016)
1 November
1985
14 December
1992
Appointment (20th Leg.)⁠

1986 election (21st Leg.)⁠


1989 election (22nd Leg.)

Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 1985)
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
(1985-1989)

MLA for Stettler
(1989-1992)

Getty Ministry
Senate elections; attempts to settle land settlement dispute with Lubicon Cree leading to the Grimshaw Accord with Chief Bernard Ominayak and negotiations for the betterment of Metis; creation of Family Day.
12
Ralph Klein
(1942–2013)
14 December
1992
14 December
2006
Appointment (22nd Leg.)⁠

1993 election (23rd Leg.)⁠


1997 election (24th Leg.)⁠


2001 election (25th Leg.)⁠


2004 election (26th Leg.)

Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 1992)
MLA for Calgary-Elbow Klein Ministry
Privatization of Alberta Government Telephones; opposition to Kyoto Protocol; elimination of public debt through cuts to public sector and infrastructure; introduction of a flat tax on personal income; deregulation of electricity and natural gas industries; expansion of the oil and gas industry.
13
Ed Stelmach
(b. 1951)
14 December
2006
7 October
2011
Appointment (26th Leg.)⁠

2008 election (27th Leg.)

Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 2006)
MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville Stelmach Ministry
20% increase on royalties charged to oil companies; further development of Athabasca oil sands; removal of health care premiums.
14
Alison Redford
(b. 1965)
7 October
2011
23 March
2014
Appointment (27th Leg.)⁠

2012 election (28th Leg.)

Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 2011)
MLA for Calgary-Elbow Redford Ministry
Fixed election period; creation of Department of Human Services.
15
Dave Hancock
(b. 1955)
23 March
2014
15 September
2014
Appointment (28th Leg.) Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 2014 (interim))
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud Hancock Ministry
Interim leader during leadership election.
16
Jim Prentice
(1956–2016)
15 September
2014
24 May
2015
Appointment (28th Leg.) Progressive Conservative
(Ldr. 2014)
MLA for Calgary-Foothills Prentice Ministry
Proposed austerity measures to counter budget shortfall during a provincial recession.
17
Rachel Notley
(b. 1964)
24 May
2015
30 April
2019
2015 election (29th Leg.) New Democratic
(Ldr. 2014)
MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona Notley Ministry
Reintroduction of a progressive tax on personal income; banning of corporate and union donations to political parties; increases to minimum wage, new carbon tax and Climate Leadership Plan.
18
Jason Kenney
(b. 1968)
30 April
2019
11 October
2022
2019 election (30th Leg.) United Conservative
(Ldr. 2017)
MLA for Calgary-Lougheed Kenney Ministry
Carbon Tax Repeal Act.
19
Danielle Smith
(b. 1971)
11 October
2022
incumbent Appointment (30th Leg.)⁠

2023 election (31st Leg.)

United Conservative
(Ldr. 2022)
MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat (since November 2022) Smith Ministry
Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act.
  1. ^ The United Farmers of Alberta won the 1921 election without a party leader, but Greenfield was made Premier immediately after it.
  2. ^ Because Aberhart died unexpectedly, the Social Credit Caucus did not choose a leader for a full week. Manning was appointed Premier by Lieutenant-Governor John C. Bowen the same day.[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ 1905 Election; Alberta Heritage Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  2. ^ Rutherford Resigns over Great Waterways Railway Scandal Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  3. ^ An Act to Amend an Act respecting the legislative Assembly of Alberta; Royal Assent March 25, 1913 Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  4. ^ Southern Alberta given the raw deal on Governments Gerrymander; Calgary Herald March 21, 1913 Archived October 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  5. ^ Siftonism will be killed in Alberta; Calgary Herald April 4, 1913 Archived October 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  6. ^ Arthur Sifton Federal Parliamentary Experience Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2006
  7. ^ Henry Wise Wood biography accessed April 12, 2006
  8. ^ Brownlee scandal; Great Alberta Law Cases accessed April 12, 2006
  9. ^ The Premier vs. the Constitution accessed April 14, 2006
  10. ^ Peter Lougheed Bio Alberta Heritage accessed April 14, 2006
  11. ^ Don Getty Bio Alberta Legislature Archived 2008-01-13 at the Wayback Machine accessed April 14, 2006
  12. ^ Ralph Klein Bio mapleleaf web accessed April 14, 2006 Archived February 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Klein declares debt retired; CTV News accessed April 14, 2006
  14. ^ Klein dealt a crushing blow in Leadership; Review CTV News accessed April 14, 2006
  15. ^ Alison Redford's approval rating plunges to 18 per cent: poll accessed March 19, 2014
  16. ^ Alison Redford resigns as premier of Alberta accessed March 19, 2014
  17. ^ Dave Hancock to be interim Alberta premier accessed March 20, 2014
  18. ^ Exact periods of service Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine accessed October 29, 2014

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List of premiers of Alberta
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