December 16, 1976 - Real Caouette passes away
Social Credit -- a political doctrine based on the teachings of Major CH Douglas -- tends to be more widely associated with Alberta. There, the Social Credit party governed for 36 years under the tenures of premiers William Aberhart, Ernest Manning and Harry Strom.
However, it's often overlooked that Social Credit also developed a strong following the province of Quebec.
Real Caouette, the charismatic force behind Ralliement des Creditistes, the Quebec wing of the Social Credit party, was born on September 26, 1917 in Amos, Quebec.
He would discover Douglas' political screed in 1939 and would win election to the House of Commons seven years later.
In 1962, Caouette led the Credistes to win 26 seats in the House of Commons. By contrast, the western wing of the Social Credit party elected only four members, even with the party governing in Alberta and British Columbia.
Interestingly, not only would Social Credit thrive in Quebec, but it would actually outlast its western counterparts.
According to Michael Stein, the Quebec voters who helped Social Credit attain its decisive emergence in Quebec were young and disaffected former Conservative and Liberal supporters, most of whom were voting in their first election.
Social Credit has always been distinguished by a paradoxical place in Canadian politics. Considering that Social Credit doctrine advocates turning loose what it describes as billions of dollars in untapped wealth being held by banks and the government, Social Credit would rely on a suspiciously high level of state intervention in the economy.
It really can't be considered a purely conservative ideology.
Yet Social Credit has, more often than not in Canada, proven to be little more than a haven for disaffected conservatives -- the obvious case is British Columbia's WAC Bennet.
In Quebec, Social Credit made a considerably greater deal of sense. Pre-1970s Quebec politics was often characterized by a preoccupation with English Canadian financial trusts that controlled a significant portion of Quebec's economy.
This is a historical political trend that would also, from time to time, benefit parties like Maurice Duplessis' Union Nationale and, obviously, Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois.
Ralliement des Creditistes enjoyed the fervent support of its creditors. In 1973, Stein noted that not only were the Creditistes still active in Quebec, but its most active members were spending at least five nights a week on party activities.
Real Caouette, the face of Social Credit in Canada, would pass away in 1976. The movement would not survive him for long.
By 1980, the Fabian Roy-led Creditistes had been reduced to six seats in the House of Commons. The defection of Richard Janelle to Joe Clark's Progressive Conservative government would further reduce that number to five. At the conclusion of the 1980 federal election, they were gone.
While some still envision a Social Credit comeback, its clear that the SoCreds are a spent force in Canadian politics: an enigmatic vestige of Canada's political history long scattered to the four winds.