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Robert N. Thompson
Dr. Robert Norman Thompson (1914-1997) was a Canadian politician, chiropractor, and educator. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, to Canadian parents and moved to Canada in 1918 with his family. Raised in Alberta, he graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1939 and worked as a chiropractor and then as a teacher before serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.
Early political career
Thompson supported the Social Credit Party of Alberta from its creation. His age prevented him from running as a candidate in the Alberta general election, 1935 provincial election. Instead he became youth leader of the party.
In 1944, Thompson was sent to Ethiopia to serve as the founding commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force and head up nation's air force academy. He became a confidante of Emperor Haile Sellassie and, after the war, became deputy minister of education and helped rebuild the nation's public school system.
Return to Canada and Social Credit
Thompson returned to Canada in 1958 and resumed his activities with Social Credit and soon became president of the Canadian Social Credit League. Premier of Alberta and Social Credit Party of Alberta leader Ernest Manning saw Thompson as the ideal person to succeed Solon Low as leader of the Social Credit Party of Canada and backed him in a Social Credit Party of Canada leadership conventions against Réal Caouette, the movement's leader in Quebec. Thompson won, but some believe that Caouette actually won, only to be rejected by the party's powerful Alberta wing. Manning had previously told the convention that the Alberta Socreds would never accept a francophone Catholic as national party leader. After the Canadian federal election, 1962, Thompson appointed Caouette as the party's deputy leader. 26 of the 30 Socreds elected that year came from Quebec. Thompson was re-elected in the Canadian federal election, 1963 and Canadian federal election, 1965.
The 1962 and 1965 elections produced minority governments in which no one party had a majority of seats. This meant that the government had to rely on smaller parties such as Social Credit to pass legislation and remain in power.
Division in the party
The Social Credit Party was divided after 1962, as a majority of the caucus came from Quebec and regarded Caouette as leader. The number of Socreds from English Canada was declining. However, Thompson refused to cede the leadership of the party to Caouette. This caused the party to split: most of the Quebec Socred Member of Parliament (MPs) followed Caouette into his new Ralliement des créditistes in 1963.
Move to the Progressive Conservatives
Thompson was frustrated by the lack of support the national party enjoyed from the provincial Social Credit parties in Alberta and Social Credit Party of British Columbia where they formed the governments and ran powerful political machines. As well, Manning was becoming concerned with the leftward trajectory of both the federal liberal Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and encouraged Thompson to try to bring about a merger of the federal Social Credit and Progressive Conservative parties. Negotiations failed but, with the backing of both Manning and Robert Stanfield, Thompson decided to seek the nomination of the Progressive Conservative Party in an attempt to influence that party. He resigned as leader of Social Credit in March 1967 citing the lack of support for the federal Social Credit Party from its provincial wings and, in 1968, won the Progressive Conservative nomination in Red Deer, Alberta, against the opposition of the local Tory Riding (division) association. He was re-elected as a Progressive Conservative MP from Alberta in the Canadian federal election, 1968.
Prior to the Canadian federal election, 1972, Thompson moved to British Columbia to teach and tried to win a seat from that province, but was defeated in the attempt. He retired from politics and taught political science at Trinity Western University in British Columbia through the 1970s. At various times he also served as chairman of the university's board of governors and vice president of development at the school.
In the late 1980s, Thompson was on the executive board of the World Anti-Communist League.
In his last years, Thompson was instrumental in bringing the former Emperor Haile Sellassie's children out of Ethiopia and to safety in the west following the Ethiopian Revolution. His intervention probably saved them from a near-certain death.
The Americans are our best friends, whether we like it or not.
- The House of Minorities, Robert N. Thompson.
- "Robert Thompson resigns as leader of Socred Party", Toronto Star, March 9, 1967
- Robert N. Thompson and Political Realignment Article by Geoffrey Olson
- The Trinity Western University Archives, repository for the Robert N. Thompson Collection
|Parliament of Canada|
Harris George Rogers
|Member of Parliament Red Deer
| Succeeded by|
|Party political offices|
Solon Earl Low
|Social Credit Party of Canada
| Succeeded by|
Alexander Bell Patterson
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