The Honourable Ernest C. Manning has the distinction of having served as Premier of Alberta longer than any other person. As well, when he was appointed Premier, he was the second youngest First Minister in the history of Commonwealth parliaments.
Ernest Charles Manning was born on September 20, 1908, at Carnduff, Saskatchewan, and was the son of George H. Manning, a farmer, and Elizabeth M. Dickson. Ernest Manning was a Baptist.
Ernest Manning began his education at Glen Payne School near Rosetown, Saskatchewan. As a consequence of listening to William Aberhart's radio broadcasts, he enrolled as a student at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute in 1927. He was the first graduate of that organization. In 1930, he became secretary of the Institute.
That same year, Manning also began speaking on the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute’s radio broadcasts with William Aberhart. After the death of Premier William Aberhart in 1943, he continued these broadcasts on his own. The broadcasts were eventually aired on over 90 radio stations across Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver, and had a large listening audience.
Ernest C. Manning was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in the general election of 1935. He was a member of the Social Credit Party and represented the multi-Member electoral district of Calgary. In September and October of the same year, he was appointed Provincial Secretary and Minister of Trade and Industry, respectively. He served in these capacities from 1935 to 1943.
On April 14, 1936, he married Muriel Aileen Preston, who was the pianist at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute. The bride was given away by Premier William Aberhart. Ernest C. and Muriel Manning had two children: William Keith and Ernest Preston. Keith died in 1986.
When the Second World War began, Manning joined the 2nd Reserve Battalion, Edmonton Regiment, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in September 1942, and captain the year after. He had to discontinue his military duties when he was appointed Premier of Alberta.
Following the death of Premier William Aberhart on May 23, 1943, the Social Credit Caucus chose Ernest Charles Manning as its Leader. He was appointed Premier of Alberta on May 31, 1943, by Lieutenant Governor John C. Bowen. During his 25-year tenure as Premier, Ernest Manning also held various cabinet positions. From 1944 to 1954, he was Provincial Treasurer; from 1952 to 1962, he was Minister of Mines and Minerals; and from 1955 to 1968, he was Attorney General. During the years 1940 to 1968, he was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta eight consecutive times. From 1940 to 1959, he represented the multi-Member electoral district of Edmonton, and from 1959 to 1968, he represented Strathcona East.
During Manning's period of service as Premier, Alberta became Canada's major oil-producing province following the discovery of the Leduc field in 1947 and the Redwater field in 1948. Education, health, and highways were priorities of Premier Manning's Government. In 1947, it legislated free hospital and medical care for senior citizens and, in 1965, provincial civil servants were given the right to engage in collective bargaining.
Effective December 12, 1968, Ernest C. Manning resigned as Premier, and later the same month, he resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. In 1970, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada where he served until 1983.
Following his retirement from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Manning was Chair of M and M Systems Research Ltd. and served on the Board of Directors of a number of major companies. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Canada West Foundation.
Ernest Manning's service has been recognized in many ways. In 1947, the community of Aurora, which is located in the Peace River district of Alberta, was renamed “Manning,” and in 1972, the City of Edmonton named a section of Highway #15, which is located between the cities of Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan, the “Manning Freeway” in his honour. In 1982, this freeway was extended and has since been renamed "Manning Drive." A list of some of his other honours follows: Honourary Doctor of Laws, University of Alberta (1948); Honourary Chief (“Bull Shield”) of the Blood Indians (1951); member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (1967); Honourary Doctor of Laws, McGill University (1967); Honourary Doctor of Laws, University of Calgary (1967); Companion of the Order of Canada (1969); Honourary Doctor of Laws, University of Lethbridge (1972); first Member of the Order of Excellence of Alberta (1981); National Humanitarian Award, B’nai B’rith Canada (1982); and Honourary Doctor of Athabasca University (1985).
Ernest C. Manning died in Calgary, Alberta on February 19, 1996 and was buried in the Garden of Christus in Eden Brook Memorial Gardens, Calgary.