Excerpt from Progressive Conservatism in Alberta: The Rebuilding of a Political Party

At the same time as the Opposition seats in the Legislature were filling, the Conservative Party mailing lists were growing. It was recognized that the key to forming a government was a strong local organization in each constituency. Immediately after the 1967 provincial election, Party officials went to work. In some remote areas it was actually necessary to walk the length of a town, knocking on doors in hopes of finding a Conservative sympathizer willing to pioneer a local PC organization.

The task grew easier as Peter Lougheed and his fellow MLA’s indicated their desire to truly represent the people by embarking on a series of fact-finding tours. Their first trip, following the 1968 legislative session, took them to the Peace River country. A second tour in June, 1969, covered 22 communities in east-central Alberta. The group met with mayors, town councils, chambers of commerce, farm and labour groups in wide-ranging dialogue on a multitude of concerns. The reaction was rewarding: “For the first time in years, Opposition MLA’s (let alone Government MLA’s) have taken the trouble to come to our community and listen to our problems.”

A third tour in the fall of 1969 gave the MLA’s an awareness of the concerns unique to southern Alberta. During this period these men were also taking on as many speaking engagements as their heavy schedules would allow. By June, 1970, Peter Lougheed could say: “I have now visited virtually every community in Alberta.”

A series of regional conferences also carried the Conservative point of view to Albertans and gave them opportunity to shape Conservative policy. Workshops provided prospective candidates and constituency executives with fresh ideas for attracting members and keeping interest keen.

With a limited budget, it was impossible for the Party to maintain a large staff. Onlookers marvelled at how so much could be accomplished. The secret lay in the quality of the volunteer committees which substituted for a paid staff.

The lines of authority spread from a provincial executive through regional directors to the individual constituency organizations. The work of these groups was supplements by the activities of a dedicated women’s organization, two live-wire youth organizations and special “task forces” who filled in in areas where the Party was initially weak.

The structure was typical of any political organization. What was unique was the enthusiastic participation of extremely able people from every segment of the population and every area of the province.

Backing up these efforts were the talent-filled special committees handling finance, communications, membership, convention organization, policy, election strategy. And always, the most significant factor in the whole building process — the tireless drive of the leader.

Continued in Part V