1921 Alberta general election

← 1917 July 18, 1921 (1921-07-18) 1926 →

61 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
31 seats needed for a majority
Turnoutnot available[a]
  Majority party Minority party
 
Leader Henry Wise Wood[b] Charles Stewart
Party United Farmers Liberal
Leader since 1919 1917
Leader's seat Did not run Sedgewick
Last election Pre-creation 34 seats, 48.1%
Seats before 2 32
Seats won 38 15
Seat change Increase36 Decrease17
Popular vote 86,250 101,584[c]
Percentage 28.9% 34.1%
Swing Increase28.9 Decrease14.0%

  Third party Fourth party
 
DLP
Leader Holmes Jowett Albert Ewing
Party Dominion Labor Conservative
Leader since 1921 1921
Leader's seat Did not run Ran in Edmonton (lost)
Last election 1 seat, 3.2% 19 seats, 41.8%
Seats before 1 18
Seats won 4 1
Seat change Increase3 Decrease17
Popular vote 33,987 32,734
Percentage 11.4% 11.0%
Swing Increase8.2% Decrease30.8%

Premier before election

Charles Stewart
Liberal

Premier after election

Herbert Greenfield[b]
United Farmers

The 1921 Alberta general election was held on July 18, 1921, to elect members to the 5th Alberta Legislative Assembly. It was one of only five times that Alberta has changed governments.

The Liberal Party, which had governed the province since its creation in 1905, led by Charles Stewart at the time of the election, was defeated by a very-new United Farmers of Alberta political party. The UFA was an agricultural lobby organization that was contesting its first general election. It had previously elected one MLA in a by-election.

Under the Block Voting system, each voter in Edmonton and Calgary could vote for up to five candidates, while Medicine Hat voters could vote for up to two candidates. All other districts remained one voter – one vote.

No party ran a full slate of candidates province-wide. The UFA ran candidates in most of the rural constituencies, and one in Edmonton. The Liberal Party ran candidates in almost all the constituencies. The Conservatives ran a bare dozen candidates, mostly in the cities. Labour mostly avoided running against UFA candidates, by running candidates in the cities and in Rocky Mountain, where it counted on coal miners' votes.

The United Farmers took most of the rural seats, doing particularly well in the heavily Protestant south of the province. A majority of the votes in the constituencies where the UFA ran candidates went to the UFA.

Labour took five seats, two in Calgary. One Labour MLA was named to the UFA government cabinet, in a sort of coalition government.

The Liberals took all the seats in Edmonton, due to the block-voting system in use. This multiple-vote system also skewed the vote count.

The campaign

Liberals

The Liberal Party, which had governed the province since 1905, were led into the election by its third Premier and leader, Charles Stewart.

AGT scandal

The Alberta Government Telephones scandal broke before the election. It was learned that the Liberals spent AGT money to have telephone poles crated and shipped in big stacks to remote communities in which they had no intention of installing phone lines in an effort to garner support and votes.

United Farmers

Herbert Greenfield's Premier portrait
Herbert Greenfield's Premier portrait

The United Farmers of Alberta under the leadership of President Henry Wise Wood was contesting its first general election. The UFA's political wing, as a party, had come into being after the organization had decided to no longer be content with being a lobby group. They merged with the Non-Partisan League of Alberta, which had formed before the 1917 general election and had elected a couple members. The Non-Partisan League activists were significant within the political machinery of the United Farmers.

The merged party experienced a significant amount of growth in the run up to the general election. It won its first victory with the election of candidate Alexander Moore in the electoral district of Cochrane in 1919 and achieved a coup when Conservative leader George Hoadley crossed the floor. The two Non-Partisan League MLAs, despite not changing their affiliation, caucused with the United Farmers.

Wise Wood knew midway through the election campaign that his party was going to form government. In a famous speech he gave in Medicine Hat on July 8, 1921, he was quoted as saying "Farmers may not be ready to take over government, but they are going to do it anyway". He also said in that speech that he would have preferred that only his 20 best candidates were elected, to form the opposition, but he said he expected there would be a lot more than that elected.[1]

Split in the Labour forces

The campaign was contested by two provincial labour parties: a main party named the Dominion Labor and a splinter group in Edmonton named the Independent Labor Party.

Dominion Labor ran candidates in primarily urban ridings such as Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Its President Holmes Jowatt declining to seek office himself, instead devoting his energies help other candidates.

At the beginning of the election Independent Labor offered to nominate Edmonton area candidates at a joint convention with the DLP, to prevent the splitting of the labour vote and use the co-operative good-will to eventually unite the parties. The Dominion Labor declined the offer stating that to do so would divide its own ticket.

Among the ILP candidates was pioneer photographer Ernest Brown, soon after to lead meetings of the Communist Party.[2][3]

Conservatives

The Conservative Party which has been the primary opposition in the province since it was created in 1905 had seen a split in the ranks under the leadership of George Hoadley. The caucus divided into two separate Conservative caucuses. Hoadley left the Conservative party sitting as an Independent and then won the United Farmers nomination in Okotoks and crossed the floor. The party replaced Hoadley by selecting Albert Ewing an Edmonton area Member of the Legislative Assembly as leader.

The Conservatives spent the campaign criticizing the wasteful and extravagant spending of the Liberal government. They also reminded Alberta voters of the Alberta Government Telephones, telephone pole scandal. The Conservatives campaign for reforms to the provincial tax code as well as pressing for provincial resource rights and voter list reforms in the election act.[4]

Despite the split in the party the Conservative campaign attracted some high-profile support. Former Liberal Premier Alexander Rutherford a big supporter of Ewing, led the campaign for the five Conservative candidates contesting for seats in Edmonton.[5]

The Conservative party was a long time recovering from the split in the party. Supporters of Hoadley and their rural base migrated to the United Farmers. The change of amalgamating the districts in Calgary and Edmonton to a block vote did not help Conservative candidates. In Edmonton the strong Liberal block dominated and all five seats were captured by Liberal candidates. The only Conservative to return was Lethbridge MLA John Stewart. Albert Ewing went down to defeat in Edmonton.

Socialist

The Socialist Party of Alberta had been in decline since O'Brien lost his seat in the 1913 general election. Two Socialist candidates ran in this election, under the banner Labour Socialist, Frank Williams in Calgary and Marie Mellard in Edmonton. Marie Mellard would join the new Communist Party within the year.

Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat voters cast multiple votes

The Liberals, in fact, won a larger share of the votes cast than the UFA (about 34%, compared to 29% for the UFA).

The popular vote numbers exaggerate the actual number of Liberal party supporters however. Urban voters in Calgary and Edmonton were allowed to place five votes and Medicine Hat voters 2 votes, as Edmonton and Calgary contained 5 seats each and Medicine Hat 2 seats, while voters in the other constituencies, most of which were contested by the UFA, only had 1 vote each under the first past the post electoral system. The United Farmers did not run in Calgary and only had a single candidate in Edmonton, thus it did not benefit from the higher weighted city vote.

This over-representation of big-city voters was so significant that there were more than 120,000 more votes counted than there were voters voting—significant as no single party received more than 102,000 votes. The Liberal Party received 28,000 votes in Edmonton and 20,000 votes in Calgary, almost half of their total across the province, under this system where each big-city Liberal voter could lodge five votes for the party. If you give the Liberal Party only one-fifth of their vote tally in Edmonton and Calgary, the Liberal Party total vote count decreases to well below the UFA total. Now it could be that each voter in Edmonton gave one of his/her votes to the Liberals (but not likely), but even so the Liberal candidates in Edmonton received 8,000 more votes in Edmonton than there were voters who voted. This 8,000 is more than half the difference between the Liberal's and the UFA's tallies province-wide. [6]

As well, in Calgary 17,000 voters cast about 76,000 votes. As none of these went to UFA candidates (none ran in Calgary) this massive multiple voting going elsewhere gave the UFA a lower proportion overall.

It was also noted by defenders of the government that the UFA percentage of total seats (62 percent) is identical to the percentage of votes it received in the constituencies in which it did run candidates.

Aftermath

The result of the election radically and forever altered the political landscape of the province. The United Farmers won a majority government, mostly with rural MLAs predominantly from the south of the province, while the Liberals, formerly in power, were moved to the opposition side of the Chamber with MLAs in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton and some northern strongholds. The Liberals have never won power again; the closest they have come since then was winning 39 seats and opposition status in 1993.

The 38 MLAs who attended the first United Farmers caucus meeting voted unanimously for UFA President Henry Wise Wood to lead the government as Premier. Wood, who had opposed the UFA becoming a political party for fear that political in-fighting would break up the movement, declined becoming Premier because he was more interested in operating the machinery of the United Farmers movement rather than crafting government policy. He said he feared that the UFA would repeat what had happened elsewhere when farmers movements engaged in electoral politics, rose to power and quickly destroyed themselves. He wanted to remain focused on the farmers movement as a non-partisan movement and as an economic group instead of as a political party.[7] The UFA vice-president, Percival Baker, had won his riding with a majority of votes, despite being badly injured in a tree-falling accident and was speculated to have a place in the cabinet. He however died the day after the election.[8] The United Farmers caucus finally chose Herbert Greenfield, who had not run in the election, to become Premier.

Results

Party Party Leader # of
candidates
Seats Popular Vote
1917 Elected % Change # % % Change
United Farmers Henry Wise Wood 45 * 38 * 86,250 28.92% *
Liberal Charles Stewart 61 34 15 -55.9% 101,584 34.07% -8.99%
Dominion Labor Holmes Jowett 10 1 4 +300% 33,987 11.40% +8.56%
Independent 18 2 3 +50.0% 28,794 9.66% +4.44%
Conservative Albert Ewing 13 19 1[9] -94.7% 32,734 10.98% -26.4%
Independent Labour 7 * - * 10,733 3.60% *
Socialist 2 - - 0.0% 2,628 0.88% +0.26%
  Independent Liberal 1 * - * 1,467 0.49% *
Sub-total 157 56 61 +8.9% 298,177 100%  
  Soldiers' vote (Province at large) 0 2 - - - - -20.33%
Total 157 58 61 +5.2% 298,177 100%  
Sources: Elections Alberta; "Alberta provincial election results". Elections Alberta. Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
Popular vote
Liberal
34.07%
United Farmers
28.92%
Dominion Labor
11.40%
Conservative
10.98%
Others
14.63%
Seats summary
United Farmers
62.30%
Liberal
24.59%
Dominion Labor
6.56%
Conservative
1.64%
Others
4.92%

Members elected

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Electoral district Candidates Incumbent
Liberal United Farmers Conservative Labour Other
Acadia James C. Cottrell
906
22.58%
Lorne Proudfoot
3,106
77.42%
John A. McColl
Alexandra Theodore H. Currie
282
11.38%
Peter J. Enzenauer
2,195
88.62%
James R. Lowery
Athabasca George Mills
1,043
70.43%
John Angelo
438
29.57%
Alexander Grant MacKay
Beaver River Joseph M. Dechene
1,560
62.33%
H. Montambault
943
37.67%
Wilfrid Gariepy
Bow Valley Charles Richmond Mitchell
1,694
72.30%
George A. Love
649
27.70%
Charles Richmond Mitchell
Camrose George P. Smith
2,391
44.03%
Vernor W. Smith
3,040
55.97%
George P. Smith
Cardston Martin Woolf
615
31.46%
George Lewis Stringam
1,340
68.54%
Martin Woolf
Claresholm Louise McKinney
763
48.54%
Thomas Charles Milnes (Ind.)
809
51.46%
Louise McKinney
Clearwater Joseph E. State
234
41.94%
Robert G. Campbell
117
20.97%
Joseph E. State
O.T. Lee
147
26.34%
S.W. Chambers
60
10.75%
Cochrane A.S. McDonald
541
36.02%
Alexander Moore
961
63.98%
Alexander Moore
Coronation Arthur M. Day
960
20.44%
George Norman Johnston
3,736
79.56%
William Wallace Wilson
Didsbury George H. Webber
1,734
40.69%
Austin Bingley Claypool
2,528
59.31%
Henry B. Atkins
Edson Charles Wilson Cross
1,321
57.94%
John Diamond
959
42.06%
Charles Wilson Cross
Gleichen Harry Scott
1,065
40.49%
John C. Buckley
1,565
59.51%
Fred Davis
Grouard Jean Léon Côté
963
57.84%
Henry George Dimsdale
702
42.16%
Jean Léon Côté
Hand Hills Robert Berry Eaton
1,583
27.13%
Gordon A. Forster
4,252
72.87%
Robert Berry Eaton
High River J.V. Drumheller
867
46.09%
Samuel Brown
1,014
53.91%
George Douglas Stanley
Innisfail Daniel J. Morkeberg
741
30.85%
Donald Cameron
1,661
69.15%
Daniel J. Morkeberg
Lac Ste. Anne C.J. Stiles
837
32.98%
Charles Milton McKeen
1,574
62.02%
J.H. Mackay (Ind.)
127
5.00%
George R. Barker
Lacombe William Franklin Puffer
1,539
42.14%
Mary Irene Parlby
2,113
57.86%
Andrew Gilmour
Leduc Stanley G. Tobin
1,351
50.19%
D.S. Muir
1,341
49.81%
Stanley G. Tobin
Lethbridge John Marsh
1,374
37.89%
John S. Stewart (Ind.)
2,252
62.11%
Little Bow James McNaughton
856
35.52%
Oran Leo McPherson
1,554
64.48%
James McNaughton
Macleod George Skelding
620
46.03%
William H. Shield
727
53.97%
George Skelding
Medicine Hat[d] Oliver Boyd
2,278
18.9%
H. H. Foster
2,013
16.7%
Perren E. Baker
4,165
34.5%
William G. Johnston
3,602
29.9%
Nelson C. Spencer
Nanton John M. Glendenning
458
38.65%
Daniel Harcourt Galbraith
727
61.35%
James Weir
Okotoks Ernest Austin Daggett
390
25.67%
George Hoadley
1,129
74.33%
George Hoadley
Olds Duncan Marshall
1,238
39.50%
Nelson S. Smith
1,896
60.50%
Duncan Marshall
Peace River Donald MacBeth Kennedy
3,291
62.69%
William A. Rae
Pembina J.H. Phillips
540
21.40%
George MacLachlan
1,838
72.85%
F.D. Armitage (Ind.)
145
5.75%
Gordon MacDonald
Pincher Creek Harvey Bossenberry
471
34.43%
Earle G. Cook
572
41.81%
A.E. Cox
192
14.01%
Donald Randolph McIvor
133
9.72%
John H.W.S. Kemmis
Ponoka William A. Campbell
815
36.94%
P. Baker
1,391
63.06%
Charles Orin Cunningham
Red Deer John J. Gaetz
1,146
34.66%
George Wilbert Smith
2,160
65.34%
Edward Michener
Redcliff Charles S. Pingle
1,387
41.56%
William C. Smith
1,950
58.44%
Charles S. Pingle
Ribstone James Gray Turgeon
909
29.31%
Charles O.F. Wright
2,192
70.69%
James Gray Turgeon
Rocky Mountain Alexander M. Morrison
1,143
35.08%
Wallace James Sharpe
811
24.89%
Philip Martin Christophers
1,304
40.02%
Robert E. Campbell
Sedgewick Charles Stewart
Acclaimed
Charles Stewart
St. Albert Lucien Boudreau
1,000
44.76%
Telesphore St. Arnaud
1,234
55.24%
Lucien Boudreau
St. Paul Prosper-Edmond Lessard
984
41.66%
Laudas Joly
1,378
58.34%
Prosper-Edmond Lessard
Stettler Edward H. Prudden
1,608
34.11%
Albert L. Sanders
3,106
65.89%
Edward H. Prudden
Stony Plain Jacob Miller
647
32.33%
Willard M. Washburn
1,001
50.02%
Frederick W. Lundy
306
15.29%
Dan Brox (Ind.)
47
2.35%
Frederick W. Lundy
Sturgeon John Robert Boyle
7,310
153.44%
Samuel Allen Carson
2,815
59.09%
John Robert Boyle
Taber Archibald J. McLean
1,991
46.30%
Lawrence Peterson
2,309
53.70%
Archibald J. McLean
Vegreville Joseph S. McCallum
1,325
30.31%
Archibald Malcolm Matheson
3,047
69.69%
Joseph S. McCallum
Vermilion Arthur W. Ebbett
939
24.11%
Richard Gavin Reid
2,955
75.89%
Arthur W. Ebbett
Victoria Francis A. Walker
1,288
47.90%
Wasyl Fedun
1,401
52.10%
Francis A. Walker
Wainwright Harcus Strachan
913
28.10%
John Russell Love
1,877
57.77%
George LeRoy Hudson
459
14.13%
George LeRoy Hudson
Warner Frank S. Leffingwell
490
39.36%
Maurice Joy Conner
755
60.64%
Frank S. Leffingwell
Wetaskiwin Hugh John Montgomery
1,216
44.64%
Evert E. Sparks
1,508
55.36%
Hugh John Montgomery
Whitford Andrew S. Shandro
Acclaimed
Andrew S. Shandro

10 by-elections were held in the months after the election. Some were held to sit several UFA MLAs and one Labour MLA in the new cabinet. Herbert Greenfield after being chosen to serve as premier ran for a seat in a by-election. John Brownlee after being chosen to serve as a cabinet minister ran for a seat in a by-election. Another was held after a Liberal MLA (Andrew Shandro) was thrown down for taking a seat under suspicious circumstances. All were successful for the UFA (and one Labour).

Calgary

5th Alberta Legislative Assembly
  District Member Party
  Calgary Alex Ross Dominion Labor
  Robert Edwards Independent
  Fred White Dominion Labor
  Robert Marshall Liberal
  Robert Pearson Independent

Edmonton

5th Alberta Legislative Assembly
  District Member Party
  Edmonton Andrew McLennan Liberal
  John C. Bowen Liberal
  Nellie McClung Liberal
  John Boyle Liberal
  Jeremiah Heffernan Liberal

Notes

  1. ^ turn-out figure not available because the official Report on Alberta Elections does not give turn-out figure and does not give number of eligible voters in Edmonton and Calgary. Also block voting in those cities confuses strict accounting; as does election of one MLA by acclamation, but in 1926 when about the same number of voters turned out in the cities, the turn-outs there were about 50-60 percent.
  2. ^ a b Henry Wise Wood was president of the UFA but did not contest a seat himself. Following the election, he declined to become premier, and the UFA caucus selected Herbert Greenfield instead.
  3. ^ Vote count skewed by multiple voting in Calgary, Edmonton, and Medicine Hat.
  4. ^ Medicine Hat elected two members to the Legislative Assembly

References

  1. ^ "President Wood of U.F.A. Wants But 20 Farmers In The Next House". Vol 17, No. 301. Edmonton Journal. July 8, 1921. p. 1.
  2. ^ "Futile Effort To Unite Branches Of Labor Party". Vol. 17, no. 301. Edmonton Journal. July 8, 1921. p. 1.
  3. ^ Monto, Tom. Protest and Progress, Three Labour Radicals in Early Edmonton. Edmonton: Crang Publishing, Alhambra Books. p. 86.
  4. ^ "Conservatives Stand For Alberta Controlling Her Own Natural Resource". Edmonton Journal. July 13, 1921. p. 3.
  5. ^ "Old Party Lines Completely Shattered". Edmonton Journal. July 12, 1921. p. 4.
  6. ^ A Report on Alberta Elections, 1905-1982
  7. ^ Leslie Young McKinney (September 3, 1921). "Henry Wise Wood The Man Who Would Not Be Premier". The Lethbridge Daily Herald. p. 3.
  8. ^ "Member-elect Ponoka riding died as result farm accident". Edmonton Journal. July 20, 1921. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  9. ^ "U.F.A. Now Has 39 Members In Legislature So Recount Shows". Edmonton Journal. July 19, 1921. p. 1.

Further reading