William Aberhart

(1878—1943) politician and evangelist in Canada

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(1878–1943), Protestant fundamentalist preacher, Alberta premier 1935–43. The despair of the Great Depression of the 1930s convinced charismatic ‘Bible Bill’ Aberhart, western Canada's leading radio evangelist, that the Antichrist had returned to earth and the apocalypse was at hand. Politically naive, Aberhart believed that implementing Major C. H. Douglas's social credit theories would increase people's purchasing power. The individual would be released from economic bondage and be able to seek salvation in Christ. Aberhart built the populist Social Credit Party from the ground up and decimated the governing United Farmers of Alberta in the 1935 provincial election. Unable to enact social credit without breaching the constitution, Aberhart soon lost control to his own backbenchers, who asked for Douglas's help. Under his guidance and Aberhart's nominal leadership after June 1937, Social Credit enacted several authoritarian measures that challenged the Jewish financial conspiracy Douglas believed was orchestrating world events. Douglas's policies were unconstitutional and failed miserably. Aberhart regained control by September 1938 and won the 1940 election. On his death in 1943, his great friend Ernest C. Manning became premier. Aberhart's major accomplishments include the consolidation of local schools and province-building economic policies that often pitted Alberta against Ottawa.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.