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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The social welfare philosophy of the Social Credit Party of British Columbia Bentley, Byron David


Social welfare attitudes and policies are rooted in philosophical approaches. The attitudes and policies of political parties to social welfare are to be sought in the political philosophies of these parties. It has been the purpose of this thesis to explore the political philosophy of the Social Credit League and Government of British Columbia in order to ascertain how this is reflected in matters of social welfare. The theoretical father of Social Credit was Major Douglas of England. His economic and monetary theories were formulated in the 1920s. In 1935 these theories found an opportunity of being put to the test when, under the leadership of Premier Aberhart, the Social Credit Party came to power in Alberta. In British Columbia Social Credit was elected to power in 1952 and has since held the reigns of power continuously. An exploration of the welfare policies of the British Columbia Social Credit Party required an investigation of the genesis of this movement. Thus it was necessary to delve into the literature of and about Major Douglas. The development of the Social Credit movement of Alberta and a study of its relationship to the economic theories on which it was created proved to be a helpful approach in understanding thinking on social welfare issues. Finally, this thesis turns to the scene in British Columbia and traces the rise to power of the Social Credit party. Power is expressed in policy. Thus it was necessary to focus on the possible policy-making sources. The British Columbia Social Credit League represents one such source. The other is, of course, the government itself. Prom the accumulated evidence there emerges a picture of Social Credit social welfare philosophy. Douglas placed emphasis on the provision of a basic dividend. He maintained that the problems confronting people stemmed from their inability to purchase the product of an ever-growing ability to produce. Douglas argued that if his economic theory was linked to the growing leisure imposed by the industrial system, then the welfare of the individual would be assured. Aberhart's understanding of the Douglas theory appears to be confused. A strong religious component is evident in the Aberhart approach. Individualism and self-reliance, these are the ingredients of the Aberhart thesis. Coupled with this is to be found a concern for the blind, the widowed and the sick. The biblical injunction is preserved both in word and content so that social welfare might well be said to be understood in just this way. Aberhart's attempt to undertake elements of Douglas' ideas were frustrated and so the testing ground for this economic theory was tested in court rather than in practice. In British Columbia we note that the Social Credit League demonstrates adherance both to the Douglas theory and the religious conviction of Aberhart. Both the League and the Government are strong adherants of the free enterprise system. Both emphasise the virtue of work and stress the idea of self reliance. While important segments of the League advocate monetary reform a la Douglas, the Government has avoided this issue. The evidence shows that the Social Credit movement makes a distinction between those who are worthy of help and those who are not. This, to a large extent, creates the base upon which social welfare policy is created. At a governmental level the emphasis is placed on economic stimulation, vocational training and rehabilitation.

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