A short two and one-half years ago, we met here in this very room — Our past was unspectacular — our future uncertain — but we decided then and there to build — for the first time — a strong Progressive Conservative party in Alberta. To our critics we were an unpromising party with an impossible task. Today, even the critics concede that while the task remains difficult, we have firmly established ourselves — Established ourselves as the alternative — the alternative to the present complacent administration in Alberta. We have the potential — we have the opportunity — we must realize our potential — grasp our opportunity. We have begun to prove our promise. But we have only begun.

Peter Lougheed

Peter Lougheed addresses PCAA supporters, 1967. Photo Credit: Lougheed Family archives

I would first like to make a few brief comments upon our organizational progress. There is really no need to emphasize to you in this room that the best of ideas — the best of people — will flounder and dissipate without effective organization — Organization to cause the communication of our views — of our candidates — to the public of this province.

We now have an effective central political organization — It has gaps — but on balance and in comparison it is well established. The two offices need your continued tangible support. But they are working — creating a close liaison between provincial and federal constituencies — between M.P.’s and MLA’s — we have, as you know, working committees at the central nerve centre — in finance – in policy research – in communications – in organization — forming the second line behind your provincial executive and your caucus. We now have reasonable communication with the Party-at-large through the Alberta Conservative Newsletter, which is being received by a mailing list in excess of 8 thousand interested Albertans.

The Alberta Conservative

We conducted an election campaign last spring which, though limited by finances, was positive, responsible – and featured the finest slate of provincial candidates this province has ever seen. I was proud to be associated with each and every one of them. They did a great job — and the slate will be even stronger next time.

Our weakness was obvious — We were too late getting many of our candidates into the field — and we failed to field candidates in all constituencies. (I had many voters tell me since the election how disappointed they were that we did not run a Conservative candidate in their area.) (Our Platform was the only one which bore the independent views of most of our candidates. It was not issued as a directive from Party Headquarters).

We have, therefore, created an initial public awareness of our Party. There are many in this room in attendance for the first time — There are many more watching these proceedings – observing progress with considerable interest. They want to join — they want to be part – but they are watching — looking for something first. What is it? They want to be assured that this is truly a “people’s party”. They want to feel they are welcome — That their views will be listened to — that there is a place for people of all ages — A place for people from every part of Alberta — from every walk of life — A place for people with a common philosophy. But prepared to accept different views as to how to apply such a philosophy — A party where there is leadership – executive responsibility – organizational procedure — But a party which is democratic — and welcomes new members – new ideas – has open meetings – open nominations – an absence of mystery or intrigue. That’s the kind of party my colleagues and I want — It’s the kind of a party the people of Alberta want us to be — I hope — better than that — I’m confident — it’s the kind of party you want.

The next stage in our move forward is to accept and to concentrate our energies on curing our major defect as a provincial party. Our weakness, frankly, is provincial constituency organization. There are many good ones — But not nearly enough. Our target — eighteen months from now – actually a short time – viable and effective provincial constituency organization — already by then searching for — lining up — top flight nominees for Progressive Conservative nominations — Preparing to elect future Conservative MLA’s. That’s our target — My responsibility – but also yours – Let’s meet the target. Tomorrow mornings session is critical — One of the most important at this Annual Meeting. It’s on Constituency Organization. It’s your opportunity to express your ideas on organization — we look forward to hearing them.

But over and above the responsibility for the Party as such, we have the public responsibility of the Official Opposition in the Alberta Legislature. We must not forget – that with candidates in only 2/3 of the ridings — we secured 27% of the vote — and the present party has the support of only 44% — Less than a majority of the people of Alberta. Yet they have 55 members compared to our six. This is our public responsibility — it requires that the Party interest be constantly weighed in relation to the public interest.

Our duty as the Official Opposition is to first inquire – to thoroughly scrutinize – to bring into public focus – what’s really going on in Alberta — What’s happened in those public buildings over there — what it all means in terms of each individual Albertan – perhaps, for the first time in 32 years. Then to oppose, when we feel that a program or an estimate is not in the larger public interest — Not to oppose merely for the sake of opposing — and to approve when we think that a measure or an estimate is sound. Then, in time, for ourselves to propose how we believe we can be doing better in Alberta — and at the same time, as MLA’s to always remember that we represent a particular constituency – a specific part of the province.

This is our task — a challenging one — we know we have a lot to learn — that we are opposing an entrenched bureaucracy of 32 years — But we have a fine team — I’d like you to meet your Conservative Team.

(Introduction of the 5 Conservative MLA’s)

The Original Six

The Original Six: Len Werry, Lou Hyndman, Hugh Horner, Peter Lougheed, David Russell, and Don Getty. Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal

This is the nucleus of a new approach – A new team.

Alberta – at this time and at this stage of its history – is at the crossroads — A most important time for the people and for the Legislature. We face a financial situation which can fairly be termed a crisis. We are in debt in Alberta — Our unencumbered reserves have been wiped out in a very short period of time — yet our existing public spending programs exceed our anticipated revenue sources — aside, altogether, from expected new demands for the tax dollar — A financial crisis that must be resolved — and resolved in a provincial economy that now rates only fourth in Canada.

So we are at the Crossroads.

We have three choices. We can continue the complacent drift of the past 5 to 8 years — coasting on our petroleum industry. Or, we can move to an even more big government – big business orientated province – a highly controlled and centralized province – managed by an alleged “all wise” Board of Directors — The sort of managed environment implied by a recent White Paper. Or, we can move to a de-centralized individualistic – admittedly, not always efficient – open society, where the emphasis is on growth — individual opportunity — and quality of life. We choose the latter – but it will be a hard battle to assure such a direction for Alberta. WHY? Because the present administration will either continue to drift as they are, or follow their computer toward deciding what’s good for us every day of the week and perhaps even twice on certain days!

Make no mistake about it – The financial position of Alberta has altered dramatically and adversely in the last two years — It might not be admitted – But what are some of the facts? We had a deficit of 82 million dollars last year – we have an estimated deficit of 80 million dollars this year — Almost 160 million dollars in two years. Our debt – the direct and guaranteed liabilities of the province – substantially exceed our liquid reserves — On a per capita basis, the province’s liabilities have doubled in six years. At the same time, our rate of provincial government expenditure has also doubled — doubled in six years!

We spend double per capita compared to Ontario – far larger than any other province. We have done this, yet we face – as a province at the provincial and municipal level combined — a future education bill which could almost triple in the next 8 years – to one billion dollars per year on educational costs alone by 1975. We also face an immediate and completely unknown bill to pay for the Alberta Health Plan — All at a time when many of our municipalities are in a difficult financial position and when property tax levels have reached new highs. This has happened in a province which has been fortunate enough to receive into its provincial government coffers in excess of 2 billion dollars from the petroleum industry — something other provinces would dearly love to have – something other provinces with the same demands for services have not had. And yet Alberta remains as only the fourth province on a per capita income basis — There is certainly a myth of performance in Alberta – a myth that must be exposed.

It seems that we have three routes to go in Alberta. Three alternative roads to travel in the future.

We can continue our complacent drift – relying on our capital revenues from the petroleum industry to provide for our day to day public service needs. In short, we can sell the house and use the proceeds to buy groceries. We can continue to create a false sense of security that everything is great in good old Alberta – that anybody who says it isn’t so is playing politics. We can continue to drift without targets – without priorities – without a long term plan – and giving rosy reports to the so-called shareholders from time to time — reacting to only the most strident voices of the moment.

OR, we can go down a new and different route. Its signs are the signs of the computer. It looks modern on the surface – up to date – even exciting. It uses fancy terms like Human Resources. It’s intriguing – but what does it mean? What is the destination? Upon careful study, it seems to us that the destination is clear — It means Big Government – a big business orientated province – limited chance to control our own individual economic destinies. The be all and end all down this route is administrative efficiency. And democracy? Well, only if it is efficient. The key to the route is that somebody else knows better than you what’s good for you. It creates a super bureaucracy conducted by big brother. In short, it’s Paternalism at its worst. I’m not interested in the colour of the paper — I’m interested in how the program affects the citizen of Alberta – Does it help him? Serve him? Or merely cost him more? We do agree that every effort must be made to give full opportunity for the people of this province to develop their capacities. But people are not a resource – something to be used. We in public life are the servants of the people – elected to serve you – your representatives — We are not always right — We certainly are not infallible.

OR, finally, we can return to a tried and tested route – one that we know – one that works — one that has new turns – new conditions – arising out of todays circumstances. Hence, it requires contemporary ideas – a modern point of view. It’s a route where complacency is dangerous – energy essential – a fresh new approach always required — It is an open society. It is the route where the emphasis is on opportunity – on enterprise – on accelerated growth – on research – on investment in tomorrow – Where efficiency is important, but democracy more important – where government believes that, if given the facts, the people will support logic – that there is no need to mislead – that there are matters more important than government – that the quality of life must be balanced with affluence.

So we are at the crossroads. We have three distinct routes to go. We would like to see the people of Alberta go down this latter route toward an open society. It’s the Conservative way — We think it’s the right way — It’s where the individual is paramount. But it’s not an easy road. It has a road map that is sometimes hard to read – At times hard to explain. It’s not always easy to know when you are still on the road.

For this reason, it is essential that a Party who wants to proceed down such a road has Guideposts to point the way.

At the last Annual Meeting of the Party, we put before you Twelve Guideposts for the Alberta Conservative Party. It should be emphasized that we are the only Party in Alberta to have done this to date. We are, in short, the only Party with a declared set of meaningful principles and values established for our position in provincial politics. We used these Guideposts in the last election. We used them to test the consistency of our Platform to assure if reflected the Conservative principles. We used them to explain to our candidates what we stand for.

What Do We Stand For?

This afternoon you will be asked to confirm them – or amend them. For we must always know what we stand for – what our purpose is. It is not merely victory at the polls.

With such a set of Guideposts, the Conservative position can be evaluated on the major issues facing Alberta today — On priorities in public spending — on the distinction between an essential service and a desirable one — on the expansion of our economic pie, rather than the mere redistribution of it — on our reliance on the voluntary efforts of our citizens, compared with those of our bureaucracy — on the individual’s right to exercise his judgement without being regimented in the guise of public benefit — on whether or not we are prepared to accept the concept in our society that rights are the rewards of responsibility.

And perhaps in confirming these guideposts, we will see that the issues facing Alberta are complex and difficult — That the honeymoon is over in Alberta — that there are no easy answers. But nevertheless, that the issues must be faced — The public must be informed. The public good sense and judgement must be relied upon.

And with such guideposts, Alberta can have a fresh new approach to its public affairs. An approach which challenges the public-at-large – moves our society forward toward common objectives.

Objectives of:-

  • The highest quality educational system.
  • The elimination of shortages in Health and other public services.
  • The reduction in the numbers of dependents on Welfare.
  • The improvement in our income levels to that comparable with any other province.
  • Accomplished with the framework of a provincial and municipal financial structure of stability.

Such objectives to be realized within a Canadian Confederation – whose unity develops with the active participation and with the political leadership of the people of this great province of Alberta.