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Prohibition Plebiscites on the Prairies: (Not-So) Direct Legislation and Liquor Control in Alberta, 1915–1932

  • Sarah E. Hamill

Since its introduction into North America in the late nineteenth century, direct democracy, particularly in the form of direct legislation, has periodically piqued the interest of legal scholars. A handful of studies have examined the history of direct legislation in the United States and in Canada; however, these studies often fail to examine how direct legislation was actually used. Brief references might be given to which initiatives the voters attempted to secure via direct legislation, but the actual mechanics of the vote, and questions such as what the ballot said, for example, are typically overlooked.

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1. See, for example, Platt, Robert Treat,“Some Experiments in Direct Legislation,” Yale Law Journal 18 (1908–9): 4048; Arrington, Michele, “English-Only Laws and Direct Legislation: The Battle in the States over Language Minority Rights,” Journal of Law & Politics 7 (1991): 325–52; Persily, Nathaniel, and Anderson, Melissa Cully, “Regulating Democracy Through Democracy: The Use of Direct Legislation in Election Reform Law,” Southern California Law Review 78 (2005):9971034; Tushnet, Mark, “Fear of Voting: Differential Standards of Judicial Review of Direct Legislation,” New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy 1 (1996): 120; Clark, Sherman J., “Ennobling Direct Democracy,” University of Colorado Law Review 78 (2007):1341–70; Glen Staszewski, “The Bait-and-Switch in Direct Democracy,” Wisconsin Law Review (2006):17–74; and Cooter, Robert D., and Gilbert, Michael D., “A Theory of Direct Democracy and the Single Subject Rule,” Columbia Law Review 110 (2010): 687730.

2. Persily, Nathaniel A., “The Peculiar Geography of Direct Democracy: Why the Initiative, Referendum and Recall Developed in the American West,” Michigan Law and Policy Review 2 (1997): 1142; and Boyer, J. Patrick, Lawmaking by the People: Referendums and Plebiscites in Canada (Toronto: Butterworths, 1982), 2541. Scott, Stephen A., “Constituent Authority and the Canadian Provinces,” McGill Law Journal 12 (1966–67): 528–74; and McDermid, N.D., “The Power of the Provincial Legislatures to Delegate the Legislative Powers Conferred on them by the British North America Act,” Alberta Law Quarterly 1 (1934–36): 269–74.

3. Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 32–33.

4. SA 1913, c 3 [Direct Legislation Act]. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba had similar Acts, although Manitoba's was found to be unconstitutional, Boyer, Lawmaking, 29–41.

5. I found no evidence that the Direct Legislation Act was used in any other context, a similar petition about female suffrage did not use the Act but saw the government enact women's suffrage anyway, “Women's Suffrage for Alberta Will be Passed at Next Session of the Provincial Legislature,” Edmonton Bulletin, September 20, 1915. Although the Direct Legislation Act was not repealed until 1958, the other two plebiscites during this time did not result from the Act. The 1948 vote about ownership of power companies seemed to result from the actions of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), see, “CCF Sets Election Issues,” The People's Weekly, July 24, 1948. The government set up the 1957 plebiscite about additional liquor outlets in response to demands for such outlets, Bill Drever, “Liquor Permits May Go; City Drinking Likely,” Calgary Herald, November 30, 1956, clipping in Provincial Archives of Alberta (P.A.A.), RG 69.289, file 2132a; Alberta Liquor Control Board, Fifty Years (undated), P.A.A., RG 76.2. See also, Boyer, Lawmaking, 40.

6. See, for example, Birrell, A.J., “D.I.K. Rine and the Gospel Temperance Movement in Canada,” Canadian Historical Review 58 (1977): 23; Thompson, John H., “‘The Beginning of our Regeneration’: The Great War and Western Canadian Reform Movements,” Historical Papers 7 (1972): 227–46; Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 15, 27–29; Link, Arthur S., “What Happened to the Progressive Movement in the 1920's?American Historical Review 64 (1959): 838; McConnell, Grant, Private Power and American Democracy (New York: Knopf, 1967), 3090; and McCann, Charles R., Order and Control in American Socio-Economic Thought: Social Scientists and Progressive–Era Reform (London: Routledge, 2012), 131.

7. Kottman, Richard N., “Volstead Violated: Prohibition as a Factor in Canadian-American Relations,” Canadian Historical Review 43 (1962): 106; Okrent, Daniel, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York: Scribner, 2010), 1, 4, 94; Heron, Craig, Booze: A Distilled History (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2003), 174185; and Phil Roberts, “Regulating Liquor: Prohibition Enforcement, Official Corruption, and State Efforts to Control Alcohol After Prohibition Repeal,” Wyoming Law Review (2012): 430–32.

8. In 1918 the Canadian federal government banned interprovincial liquor imports as a war measure. This measure was extended once the war ended following provincial plebiscites on the issue, see PC 1918–589, (1918) C Gaz, 3209 (War Measures Act) (March 23, 1918); Canada Temperance Act, RSC 1906, c152, as amended by SC 1922, c 11; PC 1923–385, (1923) C Gaz Extra, (March 5, 1923); and Heron, Booze, 237.

9. Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 40.

10. See, for example, Persily and Anderson's study of early examples of electoral reform and their relationship with direct legislation. They note that the legislatures often seemed more progressive than the voters; Persily and Anderson, “Regulating Democracy,” 1022–33.

11. For more on this vote, see Heron, Booze, 182–83.

12. Platt, “Some Experiments,”47–48; and Peabody, W. Rodman, “Direct Legislation and its Prospects in the United States,” Political Science Quarterly 20 (1905): 443–55. For more recent discussions of the measure see, Persily and Anderson “Regulating Democracy.”

13. Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 27; and Morton, W.L., “Direct Legislation and the Origins of the Progressive Movement,” Canadian Historical Review 25 (1944): 279, 282.

14. Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 15

15. See, Persily, “Peculiar Geography,” 15; Morton, “Direct Legislation,” 282.

16. Palmer, Howard, and Palmer, Tamara, Alberta: A New History (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1990), 83.

17. Ibid., 87, 151

18. Rennie, Bradford James, The Rise of Agrarian Democracy: The United Farmers and Farm Women of Alberta, 1909–1921 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 110–38.

19. The Guide has been partially digitized and is word searchable.

20. John Kennedy, “Direct Legislation,” Grain Growers' Guide, June 29, 1910.

21. Alberta Conservatives even sought to distance themselves from Manitoba's Conservative Premier, who had come out against direct legislation, see “Current Comment,” Edmonton Bulletin, June 19, 1912.

22. “Legislature Favours Direct Legislation,” Edmonton Bulletin, February 10, 1912.

23. “Legislation for Farmers Predominates,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 11, 1913.

24. “Direct Legislation Bill is in Force,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 26, 1913.

25. Thomas, L.G., “The Liberal Party in Alberta, 1905–21,” Canadian Historical Review 28 (1947): 422.

26. Direct Legislation Act, s 6.

27. Ibid, ss 6–13

28. Ibid, s 24; Boyer, Lawmaking, 34.

29. Platt, “Some Experiments,” 48; and Peabody, “Direct Legislation,” 447–48.

30. In the context of the American temperance movement, the consensus is that it was highly unpopular among immigrants, Okrent, Last Call, 12; and Schaeffer, Scott, “The Legislative Rise and Populist Fall of the Eighteenth Amendment: Chicago and the Failure of Prohibition,” Journal of Law & Politics 26 (2010–2011): 403.

31. For one notable exception, see Noel, Jan, “Dry Patriotism: The Chiniquy Crusade,” in Drink in Canada: Historical Essays, ed. Warsh, Cheryl Krasnick (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1993), 2742.

32. Heron, Booze, 68–71, 153, 164–65, 177; Thompson, “Western Canadian Reform Movements,” 235; and Nancy M. Sheehan, “Temperance, the W.C.T.U., and Education in Alberta, 1905–1930,” (PhD diss., University of Alberta, Department of Educational Foundations, 1980), 128.

33. S Prov C 1864 (27–28 Vict), c 18; and Canada Temperance Act SC 1878 (40–41 Vict), c 16 (Scott Act).

34. Canada, Royal Commission on the Liquor Traffic in Canada, Report (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1896), 34.

35. Heron, Booze, 171.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid, 172–73.

38. Ibid, 178 (noting that the argument about government interference declined during the First World War).

39. Ibid, 105–21 (describing the saloon), 121–28, 174–77.

40. The Liquor License Ordinance, CO 89, 1905, s24.

41. Sandoval–Strausz, A.K., Hotel: An American History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 3, 55, 116. The local history of the village of Spirit River, Alberta, also points to the necessity of a local hotel as a number of people recall staying at a hotel when they first arrived in the area; Spirit River History Book Committee, Chepi Sepe: Spirit River: The Land, the People (Spirit River, AB: Spirit River History Book Committee, 1989), 401, 702, 844. See also notes 164–66 and accompanying text.

42. “Direct Legislation”, Edmonton Bulletin, April 14, 1913.

43. “Prohibition Petition is Presented Today to Alberta Government,” Edmonton Bulletin, October 14, 1914.

44. Ibid.

45. “Temperance Plebescite [sic] Next June,” Bassano Mail, October 22, 1914.

46. Dempsey, Hugh A., “The Day Alberta Went Dry,” Alberta History 58 (2010): 11.

47. Heron, Booze, 173.

48. Ibid, 178–81.

49. Ibid; Thompson, “Western Canadian Reform Movements,” 228–32.

50. Rev P. Gavin Duffy, “Prohibition Will Not Solve Drink Problem,” Blairmore Enterprise, January 29, 1915.

51. “What the Liquor Act Means,” Strathmore Standard, May 26, 1915.

52. “First Shot Fired in Liquor Campaign,” Redcliff Review, February 12, 1915; and “Citizen,” Letter to the Editor, Crossfield Chronicle, April 22, 1915.

53. See for example, Stan Horrall, “A Policeman's Lot is not a Happy One: The Mounted Police and Prohibition in the North-West Territories, 1874–91,” in Papers Read Before the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba Transactions, Series III, Number 30, ed. Linda McDowell (Np: Hignell Printing Ltd, 1973–74), 9.

54. Review of Liquors and Liquor Legislation in the Various Provinces of Canada, undated, P.A.A., RG 83.192, file 399; and Heron, Booze, 159–63.

55. “The Silly Arguments of Alberta Booze Sellers,” Western Globe, May 19, 1915.

56. Re Initiative and Referendum Act, [1919] UKPC 60 at 1–2, [1919] AC 935 (Re Initiative and Referendum). This case is further explored subsequently.

57. R v Nat Bell Liquors (1922) UKPC 35, (1922) AC 128 (Nat Bell Liquors cited to UKPC). The outcome of this case is further explored subsequently.

58. “Prohibition Delegation Waits Upon Government and Submits Proposals,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 9, 1923.

59. This battle is further explored subsequently.

60. Liquor Act, SA 1916, c 4, s 72. The question of which level of government controlled liquor manufacture was unclear during prohibition; however, both levels of government acted as though it was a federal matter. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had said that there were some occasions when the provinces could ban liquor manufacture, but did not elaborate on this, Manitoba (AG) v Manitoba License Holders' Association, (1901) UKPC 52 at 4, (1902) AC 73. For the Supreme Court of Canada's opinion see, Huson v South Norwich (City of) (1895), 24 SCR 145 at 148, 1895 CarswellOnt 30. For a discussion of this case, see Schneiderman, David, “Constitutional Interpretation in an Age of Anxiety: A Reconsideration of the Local Prohibition Case,” McGill Law Journal 41 (1995–96): 440. See also, Kottman, “Volstead Violated,” 107; and Boyce, Cyril D., “Prohibition in Canada,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 109 (1923): 227. See also Davidson, J.F., “The Problem of Liquor Legislation in Canada,” Canadian Bar Review 4 (1926): 474 –75 (critiquing the confusion over the manufacturing issue).

61. Liquor Act, ss 11–15.

62. Heron, Booze, 180.

63. For Alberta, see, Hamill, Sarah E., “Making the Law Work: Alberta's Liquor Act and the Control of Medicinal Liquor from 1916 to 1924,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27 (2012): 257; For other provinces, see, Phyne, John, “Prohibition's Legacy: The Emergence of Provincial Policing in Nova Scotia, 1921–1932,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 7 (1992): 165; and Heron, Booze, 237–39.

64. Heron, Booze, 237–39.

65. Hamill, “Making the Law Work,” 257.

66. Bryan to the deputy attorney general, February 11, 1919. P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 1173b.

67. “Four Million for Phone Extension,” Red Deer News, February 11, 1920. See also Hamill, “Making the Law Work,” 249–65.

68. Hamill, “Making the Law Work,” 255–59.

69. In order to ban liquor imports, for example, Alberta needed federal cooperation, see note 60. Burnham notes that American prohibition also allowed for a number of exceptions, and argues that many individuals who may have thought they were defying prohibition were actually well within their rights. It was, for example, perfectly legal to make wine at home, Burnham, J.C., “New Perspectives on the Prohibition ‘Experiment’ of the 1920's,” Journal of Social History 2 (1968):62.

70. Mrs D. Fowler to Attorney General Boyle, October 17, 1919, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 3247. For other Canadian jurisdictions see, Heron, Booze, 235–66.

71. “Liquor Act not being Enforced by Authorities,” Edmonton Bulletin, October 6, 1916.

72. APP Superintendent A.E.C. McDonnell, “Liquor Act Enforcement,” Letter to the Editor, Edmonton Bulletin, March 16, 1918.

73. For an example of the latter, see, “Liquor Act Not Being Enforced by Authorities,” Edmonton Bulletin, October 6, 1916; A.W. Coone, “The Liquor Act Must Be Enforced,” Letter to the Editor, Red Deer News, January 2, 1918.

74. McDonnell, “Liquor Act Enforcement.”

75. “Hon J.R. Boyle Gives Precise Review of Whole Questions of Liquor Consumption and Manufacture,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 4, 1920. All references in this paragraph are to this article unless otherwise noted.

76. “60 P.C. Men in Alberta Break the Liquor Act,” Lethbridge Herald, February 15, 1919.

77. “Four Million for Phone Extension,” Red Deer News, February 11, 1920.

78. See, for example, “Bootlegger is Shot in Battle with Officers: Victor Ryberg Killed by Shot from Constable Hale in Fight,” Edmonton Bulletin, October 13, 1920. Alberta's press also reported on the violence of American prohibition see for example, “Bootlegger Shot Jailer and Escaped,” Western Globe, January 21, 1920 (about the murder of Ernie Thompson by Ward McCrill in North Dakota). Compare the situation during American prohibition, Burnham, “New Perspectives,” 61.

79. Burnham, “New Perspectives,” 65.

80. President's Address, Alberta's WCTU Seventh Annual Convention (October 1919), Glenbow Alberta Institute Archives (G.A.I.A.), RG M-1708, file 28

81. President's Address, Alberta's WCTU Eleventh Annual Convention (October 3–5, 1919), G.A.I.A., RG M-1708, file 29.

82. This was a problem across Canada during prohibition, “Commercial Men Say Hotel Accommodation Bad Under Dry Law,” Lethbridge Herald, December 19, 1921; and Malleck, Dan, Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927–44 (Vancouver: U.B.C. Press, 2012), 3839.

83. “Prohibition Convention,” Claresholm Advertiser, February 10, 1916. The League members were not the only ones to realize that prohibition would be detrimental to hotel accommodation; “The Alberta Temperance and Moral Reform League Forcing Province to Expend Huge Sum of Money Which Will Accomplish No Benefit to People,” Coleman Bulletin, May 20, 1915; and Editorial, “Prohibition and Hotel Accommodation”, Lethbridge Herald, May 15, 1916. See also, “Travelling Public Must be Accommodated,” Lethbridge Herald, June 10, 1916 (arguing for local Boards of Trade to supervise hotel accommodation). The closest the government came to regulating hotels during this time was to empower local municipalities to issue licenses if they so chose via The Houses of Public Accommodation Act, SA 1917, c 6. For a discussion of hotel accommodation in Ontario, see Malleck, Try to Control Yourself, 19, 38–39.

84. “Eight Million Dollars Liquor Profit,” Red Deer News, April 27, 1921.

85. For an in-depth discussion of this crisis see, Jones, David C., Empire of Dust: Settling and Abandoning the Prairie Dry Belt (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003).

86. “Prohibition Act is Strongly Denounced at Public Meeting Held in Separate School Hall,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 8, 1919; and “Moderation League Starts Campaign for Organization”, Edmonton Bulletin, December 13, 1919.

87. “Carload of Petitions Containing over 67,000 Names Presented by Moderation League to Government, ” Edmonton Bulletin, March 11, 1921; and “Liquor Act Tightened by Heavier Fines; No Plebiscite on Moderation Petitions,” Lethbridge Herald, April 18, 1921.

88. “No Referendum on Liquor Act Says Stewart,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 18, 1921.

89. Palmer and Palmer, New History, 194; Jones, Empire of Dust, 118.

90. Jones, Empire of Dust, 100–15; Palmer and Palmer, New History, 196–97.

91. “To Consult With Druggists and Doctors of Alta,” Lethbridge Herald, August 15, 1921.

92. In September 1921, the Macleod Times estimated that British Columbia was making $25,000 a day from liquor profits, “Liquor Laws of British Columbia,” Macleod Times, September 8, 1921.

93. For the economic difficulties of Alberta during this period see, Smith, Donald B., “1929: Things are Seldom What They Seem,” in Alberta Formed Alberta Transformed, vol II, ed. Payne, Michael, Wetherall, Donald, and Cavanagh, Catherine (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2006), 462–89; and Alvin Finkel, “1935: The Social Credit Revolution,” in ibid, 490–512. See also Hanson, E.J., “Public Finance in Alberta Since 1935,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 18 (1952): 322 (brief reference to Alberta's history of financial troubles prior to 1935).

94. “Alberta Needs New Revenue Sources; Budget is Sure to Show Big Deficit,” Lethbridge Herald, February 14, 1923.

95. Brownlee to Mr Shields, October 31, 1921, P.A.A., RG 83.192, file 410.

96. Attorney general to H.H. Cragg, March 22, 1923, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 2564a.

97. Initiative and Referendum Act, SM 1916, c 59.

98. Boyer, Lawmaking, 34–35.

99. Re Initiative and Referendum, 5–6. See also Boyer, Lawmaking, 36.

100. See, for example, R v LaPierre, February 23, 1917, Calgary, (Notice of Motion), in J. McKinley Cameron Fonds, Glenbow Alberta Institute Archives, RG M-6840, file 79 (arguing that LaPierre's conviction under the Liquor Act was invalid because the Act itself was invalidly enacted). See also, “To Make Test of Alberta Liquor Act,” Edmonton Bulletin, February 1, 1917 (noting that lawyer G.E. Winkler planned to challenge the constitutionality of Alberta's Liquor Act); “Magistrate has no Doubts About the Liquor Act,” Edmonton Bulletin, February 7, 1917 (reporting that Winkler's argument did not convince Edmonton's Police Magistrate).

101. S.B. Woods to Hon J.E. Brownlee, August 18, 1921, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 3548a.

102. Nat Bell Liquors, 3.

103. Ibid.

104. Ibid, 4.

105. Ibid.

106. “Alberta Hotel Association,” Blairmore Enterprise, June 15, 1922.

107. Ibid.

108. “Hotelmen Will Ask Authority to Sell Beer,” Westaskiwin Times, October 12, 1922.

109. “Alberta Hotelmen Start Formation of an Association,” Wetaskiwin Times, March 30, 1922.

110. “Hotel Business in Ontario Shattered Assert Hotelmen,” Edmonton Bulletin, August 17, 1922. British Columbia's hotels also formed an association in the early 1920s to campaign for beer sales; Campbell, Robert A., Sit Down and Drink Your Beer: Regulating Vancouver's Beer Parlours, 1925–1954 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 20.

111. “Moderation League in Need of Sponsor for Petition,” Edmonton Bulletin, January 25, 1923. Here the Bulletin erred, as the Moderation League had no connection with this petition, “Moderation League is not Connected with the Petition,” Edmonton Bulletin, January 26, 1923.

112. “Beer Petition Dragged into Legislature by Greenfield,” Edmonton Bulletin, January 31, 1923.

113. “Legislature By Overwhelming Vote Accepts the Beer Petition as Valid,” Lethbridge Herald, March 15, 1923; A.L. Marks, solicitor for the Social Service Council of Alberta, Letter to the Editor, Irma Times, February 2, 1923; Claresholm WCTU to Premier Greenfield, February 22, 1923, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 97a.

114. “Legislature By Overwhelming Vote Accepts the Beer Petition as Valid,” Lethbridge Herald, March 15, 1923.

115. OC 358-23, (1923) A Gaz I, 137 (Liquor Act); OC 357-23, (1923) A Gaz I, 138 (Liquor Act). These orders-in-council were allowed for by An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, SA 1922, c 5, s 13.

116. The police suspected that urban drug stores played a key role in illicit liquor sales. These illicit sales typically involved doctors selling blank prescriptions to taxi drivers who then sold these prescriptions to individuals who wanted liquor, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Inspector Denis Ryan to the deputy attorney general, June 8, 1922, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 2797; Suspected Irregularities re Liquor Prescriptions, April 2, 1924, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 4574. It should be noted that this problem was found beyond Alberta's major urban centers, although in the case of Banff, where the problem was apparently prevalent, many of the taxi drivers' liquor prescriptions originated in Calgary.

117. See for example, “Drug Stores Will Sell No More Liquor,” Red Deer News, January 5, 1921.

118. Ibid. See also, “Druggists Notified that Liquor Act Changes Affecting Them Coming,” Lethbridge Herald, October 21, 1921 (noting that the government was planning changes).

119. “Liquor Stock Concealed in Gov't Stores,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 20, 1923.

120. Direct Legislation Act, SA 1913, c3 as amended by SA 1923, c 7.

121. Ibid, s 30.

122. Brown, Jethro W., “The Hare System with Special Reference to Its Application in Tasmania,” Law Quarterly Review 15 (1899): 51. See also, Ritchie, Ken, “The Impending Necessity for Electoral Reform,” Inter Alia 5 (2006): 6.

123. Brown, “Hare System,” 53.

124. The Grain Growers' Guide makes numerous references to the transferable vote; it was almost as popular as direct legislation itself. See, e.g. P.P. Woodbridge, general secretary of the UFA, UFA Circular No. 12, Proportional Representation, The Grain Growers Guide, November 5, 1913. See also, P.P. Woodbridge, “Alberta,” The Grain Growers Guide, October 4, 1916; “Red Deer UFA Provincial Political Association,” Red Deer News, April 6, 1921 (reporting that the Red Deer UFA had decided to advocate for the transferable vote and proportional representation).

125. “Local House Peaceful in First Hours,” Edmonton Bulletin, February 7, 1922.

126. “Alberta Will Cast Ballots Under New Act,” Macleod Times, June 3, 1926 (noting that Edmonton and Calgary had a full system of proportional representation, whereas everywhere else had preferential ballots). This system would last in Alberta until 1955, Election Act, SA 1955, c 15 s 82 (returning the province to First Past the Post voting).

127. “Beer Petition Dragged into Legislature by Greenfield,” Edmonton Bulletin, January 31, 1923.

128. “Alberta Will Vote Upon Sale of Beer by Hotels,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 17, 1923.

129. “Alberta Government is Strongly Criticised for its Lack of Policy,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 17, 1923.

130. Ibid.

131. “The Long Session and Why,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 24, 1923. See also, Chas. Huestis, Letter to the Editor, “Sidestepping Responsibility,” Edmonton Bulletin, May 7, 1923.

132. “Legislature Sits into Morning Hours,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 21, 1923.

133. “Ballot Adopted by Legislature After Lengthy Word Battle,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 23, 1923.

134. “Alternate Questions to be Submitted to Voters When Beer Plebiscite is Taken,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 18, 1923.

135. Browning to Chairman Leech, Saskatchewan Liquor Commission, March 14, 1922, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 2564b.

136. W.H. Erant to Brownlee, October 21, 1923, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 3728.

137. Brownlee to W.H. Erant, November 1, 1923, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 3728.

138. Ibid.

139. Ibid.

140. Heron, Booze, 274.

141. “Liquor Referendum – Notice to Voters,” Edmonton Bulletin, October 25, 1923.

142. “Legislature Sits into Morning Hours,” Edmonton Bulletin, April 21, 1923.

143. “‘Plump for Prohibition’ is the Recommendation to Methodists of Alberta,” Wetaskiwin Times, June 7, 1923; “Government Urges No Plumping When Casting Ballot on Nov 5 Referendum,” Lethbridge Herald, October 23, 1923.

144. “Government Urges No Plumping When Casting Ballot on Nov 5 Referendum,” Lethbridge Herald, October 23, 1923; See also, The Liquor Plebiscite and the Transferable Vote, October 22, 1923, P.A.A., RG 75.126, file 3728.

145. Heron, Booze, 273.

146. “Prohibition Delegation Waits Upon Government and Submits Proposals,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 9, 1923.

147. The first choice votes were: Clause A, 61, 647; Clause B, 3, 936; Clause C, 3, 078; Clause D, 93, 680; 78, 268 voters did not rank their preferences, Statement of Votes Polled [on] 5 November 1923 (undated), P.A.A. (RG 76.2).

148. Heron, Booze, 270.

149. Report of Alberta's WCTU Twelfth Annual Convention (October 1–3, 1924), G.A.I.A., RG M-1708, file 29.

150. H.H. Hull to Greenfield, September 28, 1925, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 98a.

151. “Legislators are 43–3 Against Mrs. McClung's Motion,” Lethbridge Herald, March 27, 1926.

152. In 1923, the Edmonton Bulletin questioned whether it made sense to hold a plebiscite given the dire financial situation of the province; “To Spend or Not to Spend,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 14, 1923.

153. “Alberta Liquor Profits Exceed A Million,” Lethbridge Herald, January 5, 1925.

154. “Premier Fears Alberta May Have Deficit,” Lethbridge Herald, September 29, 1927.

155. Compare Report of Alberta's WCTU Twelfth Annual Convention (October 1–3) with Report of Alberta's WCTU Eleventh Annual Convention (October 3–5, 1923) G.A.I.A. (Accession Number M-1708-29). This conclusion is shared by Sheehan, “Temperance, the W.C.T.U.,” 1, 273–74.

156. “New Liquor Control Act Due Within Two Years Premier Says,” Calgary Herald, February 27, 1929.

157. Ibid.

158. H.H. Hull to Brownlee, March 25, 1930, P.A.A., RG 66.289, file 99a.

159. Brownlee to Hull, March 26, 1930, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 99a.

160. “Dry Forces are Circulating Petition on Sale of Beer,” Edmonton Journal, October 20, 1930.

161. “Gov't Plan on Beer Petition Causes Protest,” Calgary Herald, February 25, 1931.

162. “Alberta Liquor Profits Less, Though Permits Were Greater,” Lethbridge Herald, February 6, 1931.

163. “Alberta Liquor Profits for Past Year Total $1,738,954; Analysis of Liquor Business,” Lethbridge Herald, November 10, 1931.

164. These reports are found in P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 122b and RG 69.289, file 121.

165. Sandoval–Strausz, Hotel, 2–3, 55, 95, 116.

166. In 1929, the ALCB chairman wrote to the Waldorf Hotel in Leduc, Alberta to remind its owners that it should have sample rooms for visiting salesmen, R.J Dinning to the Waldorf Hotel Company, February 20, 1929, P.A.A., RG 74.412, file 1721. See also Sandoval–Strausz, Hotel, 82.

167. In other jurisdictions, there may have been a distinction between “beer halls” and “beer parlors” but in Alberta, only the latter existed under the terms of the Liquor Control Act. “Beer parlors” was the official name of the rooms in licensed hotels were beer could be served.

168. “Over $10,700,000 Is Invested in Hotel Buildings, Alberta,” Lethbridge Herald, March 18, 1930.

169. Alberta, Legislative Assembly, “Sixth Annual Report of the Alberta Liquor Control Board, 1929,” Sessional Papers 3 (1929–1930): 7.

170. Similar increases in hotel standards would also be seen (or demanded) in Ontario once that province reintroduced public drinking in 1934; Malleck, Try to Control Yourself, 19, 59, 63–65,

171. Campbell, Robert A., Demon Rum or Easy Money: Government Control of Liquor in British Columbia from Prohibition to Privatization (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1991), 4755; and Campbell, Sit Down, 19–26, 127–28.

172. “Gov't Plan on Beer Petition Causes Protest,” Calgary Herald, February 25, 1931.

173. Direct Legislation Amendment Act, SA 1931, c 8, s 2.

174. Ibid.

175. “House to Consider Beer Petition is Committee Ruling,” Lethbridge Herald, March 28, 1932; “Committee Report on Liquor Act is Now Before House,” Lethbridge Herald, February 16, 1932; and Report on the Petition, March 10, 1932, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 964.

176. Premier Brownlee to Mrs. Gaines, June 2, 1932, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 99a.

177. Direct Legislation Act, RSA 1955, c 84 as repealed by An Act to Repeal Certain Acts of the Legislature, SA 1958, c 72, s 1 (c).

178. Boyer, Lawmaking, 34, 34 n 22.

179. Nat Bell Liquors, 3–4.

180. At least I could not find any records of other petitions presented under this Act after 1931. Boyer notes that the government said that it repealed the Act in 1958, after someone asked about using it, Boyer, Lawmaking, 34 n. 22.

181. H.H. Hull to Brownlee, February 17, 1933, P.A.A., RG 69.289, file 99b.

182. Scott, “Constituent Authority,” 532.

183. Rennie, The Rise of Agrarian Democracy, 126

184. For complaints about the cost in 1923, see “To Spend or Not to Spend,” Edmonton Bulletin, March 14, 1923. For the 1931 discussion of plebiscite costs see, notes 175 and 176 and accompanying text.

She thanks audiences at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law Seminar Series and at the 2013 Mid-Winter Meeting of the Canadian Law and Society Association. She also thanks Eric Adams and the anonymous peer reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
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