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The Godfather of the Conservative Party of Canada (Part 1)

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Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada is a hybrid of two parties, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party. The two merged, or more realistically, the Canadian Alliance acquired the PCs in December 1993.

In its traditions, the Conservative Party does not trace its origins back to the Liberal-Conservative Party (known as the Conservative Party at the time) of John A. Macdonald.

The roots of Harper's party are in Calgary, where the Conservative leader has his own seat.

It all began in the early 1920s, when an evangelical Christian by the name of William Aberhart left his native Ontario for Calgary. There he became a high school principal, but unable to find a church that suited him, he founded the Prophetic Bible Institute on 8th Avenue in downtown Calgary. He set up a course of study whose target audience was serious young Christians. The first person to sign up for Aberhart's most rigorous course was a farm boy from Saskatchewan who was still in his teens. His name was Ernest Manning and he would be heard from again.

A few years after the Institute was established a local radio station asked Aberhart if he would like to broadcast his sermons. Aberhart took up the challenge and soon developed a mass audience for his religious message across southern Alberta and northern Montana.

In 1929 and in the early 1930s, the Great Depression struck the prairies harder than any other Canadian region. Businesses went broke. Farmers couldn't sell their wheat and faced foreclosure and the loss of their land. In the summer of 1932 when Aberhart was in Edmonton grading senior matriculation exams, someone shoved a pamphlet under his door. He read it through the night and when the sun rose he had been converted to social credit, the brainchild of a Scottish engineer by the name of Major Douglas.

(Tune in tomorrow for the stunning conclusion of The Godfather.)

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