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  • Writer's pictureCraig Baird

Vermilion And The 1971 Election

We are amid our latest election in Alberta, so throughout the election campaign I will be sharing stories from the past in the area regarding elections.

This year, we could see a change in government for only the fifth time in Alberta’s history if the NDP wins the election. Changes in government have happened in 1921, 1935, 1971 and 2015.

Today, I am looking at the 1971 election.

Since coming to power in 1935, the Social Credit Party had led Alberta for 36 years, the majority of which had Ernest Manning as the premier. In fact, he is the longest serving premier in Alberta history.

By the time 1971 came along through, Manning had retired three years earlier and the Social Credit Party was led by Harry Strom. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives were led by the dynamic Peter Lougheed.

Vermilion saw a change in this election when the original Vermilion riding that had existed since 1905 became the Vermilion-Viking riding.

From 1905 to 1921, and again from 1955 to 1959, the Liberals held the riding. From 1921 to 1935, the United Farmers held the riding and from 1935 to 1955, and from 1967 to 1971, the riding was held by the Social Credit Party.

At the time, Ashley Cooper had held the riding since 1959, winning by over 50 per cent in each election.

Going up against Cooper was Tom Newcomb of the Progressive Conservatives and Harry Yaremchuk of the New Democratic Party.

In the Aug. 30, 1971 election, the Progressive Conservatives won 49 seats, ending the 36 years of Social Credit rule and beginning 44 years of Progressive Conservative rule.

In Vermilion, Cooper once again won his riding, one of the few Social Credit MLAs to keep their seat. It was a close call though, as he won with 2,420 votes, only 188 over Newcomb. Yaremchuk finished in third place with 507 votes. In all, the riding had a turnout of 78 per cent.

This was the last time Cooper ran in an election, as he retired in 1975 and passed away in 1981. For the rest of its existence, the riding was won by the Progressive Conservatives.

As for the Social Credit Party, they would never regain power. After seeing their seat total continue to decline throughout the 1970s, the party was shutout of the Legislature beginning in the 1980s and has never won a seat since 1979.

Sharing Canadian history through social media, history columns and on my podcast is what I do for a living. Please consider supporting that by donating at www.canadaehx.com (click Donate).

Contact Craig at craig@canadaehx.com

Listen to his podcasts Canadian History Ehx, Canada’s Great War, From John to Justin, Pucks and Cups and Canada: A Yearly Journey on all podcast platfo

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