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1921 Alberta general election

Top 3 1921 Alberta general election related articles

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[1]
  Majority party Minority party
Leader Henry Wise Wood[2] 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 36 17
Popular vote 86,250 101,584[‡ 1]
Percentage 28.9% 34.1%
Swing 28.9 14.0%

  Third party Fourth party
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 3 17
Popular vote 33,987 32,734
Percentage 11.4% 11.0%
Swing 8.2% 30.8%

Premier before election

Charles Stewart

Premier after election

Herbert Greenfield[2]
United Farmers

The 1921 Alberta general election was the fifth general election for the Province of Alberta, Canada. It 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.

1921 Alberta general election Intro articles: 3

The campaign


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

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.[3]

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.[4][5]


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.[6]

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.[7]

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.


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.

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.

1921 Alberta general election The campaign articles: 13


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.[8] 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.[9] The United Farmers caucus finally chose Herbert Greenfield, who had not run in the election, to become Premier.

1921 Alberta general election Aftermath articles: 3


Party Party Leader # of
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[10] -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
United Farmers
Dominion Labor
Seats summary
United Farmers
Dominion Labor

Members elected

5th Alberta Legislative Assembly
  District Member Party
  Acadia Lorne Proudfoot United Farmers
  Alexandra Peter Enzenauer United Farmers
  Athabasca George Mills Liberal
  Beaver River Joseph Dechene Liberal
  Bow Valley Charles Mitchell Liberal
     Calgary Alex Ross Dominion Labor
  Robert Edwards Independent
     Fred White Dominion Labor
  Robert Marshall Liberal
  Robert Pearson Independent
  Camrose Vernor Smith United Farmers
  Cardston George Stringam United Farmers
  Claresholm Thomas Milnes Independent Farmer
  Clearwater Joseph State Liberal
  Cochrane Alexander Moore United Farmers
  Coronation George Johnston United Farmers
  Didsbury Austin Claypool United Farmers
  Edmonton Andrew McLennan Liberal
  John C. Bowen Liberal
  Nellie McClung Liberal
  John Boyle Liberal
  Jeremiah Heffernan Liberal
  Edson Charles Cross Liberal
  Gleichen John Buckley United Farmers
  Grouard Jean Côté Liberal
  Hand Hills Gordon Forster United Farmers
  High River Samuel Brown United Farmers
  Innisfail Donald Cameron United Farmers
  Lac Ste. Anne Charles McKeen United Farmers
  Lacombe Irene Parlby United Farmers
  Leduc Stanley Tobin Liberal
  Lethbridge John Stewart Conservative
  Little Bow Oran McPherson United Farmers
  Macleod William Shield United Farmers
  Medicine Hat Perren Baker United Farmers
     William Johnston Dominion Labor
  Nanton Daniel Galbraith United Farmers
  Okotoks George Hoadley United Farmers
  Olds Nelson Smith United Farmers
  Peace River Donald Kennedy United Farmers
  Pembina George MacLachlan United Farmers
  Pincher Creek Earle Cook United Farmers
  Ponoka Percival Baker United Farmers
  Red Deer George Smith United Farmers
  Redcliff William Smith United Farmers
  Ribstone Charles Wright United Farmers
     Rocky Mountain Philip Christophers Dominion Labor
  Sedgewick Charles Stewart Liberal
  St. Albert Télesphore St. Arnaud United Farmers
  Stettler Albert Sanders United Farmers
  St. Paul Laudas Joly United Farmers
  Stony Plain Willard Washburn United Farmers
  Sturgeon Samuel Carson United Farmers
  Taber Lawrence Peterson United Farmers
  Vegreville Archie Matheson United Farmers
  Vermilion Richard Reid United Farmers
  Victoria William Fedun United Farmers
  Wainwright John Love United Farmers
  Warner Maurice Conner United Farmers
  Wetaskiwin Evert Sparks United Farmers
  Whitford Andrew Shandro Liberal

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).


  1. ^ Vote count skewed by multiple voting in Calgary, Edmonton, and Medicine Hat.


  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. ^ "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.
  4. ^ "Futile Effort To Unite Branches Of Labor Party". 17 (301). Edmonton Journal. July 8, 1921. p. 1.
  5. ^ Monto, Tom. Protest and Progress, Three Labour Radicals in Early Edmonton. Edmonton: Crang Publishing, Alhambra Books. p. 86.
  6. ^ "Conservatives Stand For Alberta Controlling Her Own Natural Resource". Edmonton Journal. July 13, 1921. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Old Party Lines Completely Shattered". Edmonton Journal. July 12, 1921. p. 4.
  8. ^ Leslie Young McKinney (September 3, 1921). "Henry Wise Wood The Man Who Would Not Be Premier". The Lethbridge Daily Herald. p. 3.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "U.F.A. Now Has 39 Members In Legislature So Recount Shows". Edmonton Journal. July 19, 1921. p. 1.

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