Calgary & Southern Alberta
During this period Calgary distinguished itself as the birthplace of political alternatives and third parties, a role that it maintains in the present. Provincially, a pattern of strong provincial parties with few alternatives evolved. Although the Liberal Party remained in power until 1921, in the pre-World War I period, the organised farm movement solidified and challenged traditional parties. The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and the Social Credit Party emerged to draw attention to inequalities in Canadian society and regional disparities.
The Town of Calgary's first mayor, George Murdoch, in
front of his house 1883
Courtesy of the Glenbow Collection
In the early years of Calgaryís municipal history, local government remained the preserve of businessmen. Men aligned with the construction industry, unlike cattlemen, increasingly became involved in municipal politics. When Calgary became the first city in the North-West Territories, property qualifications kept the working class out of mayor and councillor positions. Individuals like Wesley Fletcher Orr, mayor in 1894-1895 and 1897 and Andrew Davidson, mayor between 1930 and 1945, reveal the degree to which Euro-Canadians dominated Calgaryís early cultural and political development: Donald H. Mackay, elected in 1950, became Calgaryís first Albertan mayor. Because of their influence, municipal government became engrossed with expansion in this period. By 1912, Calgary swelled to cover approximately forty square miles and contained exotically named empty residential subdivisions.
Because Calgary depended on the CPR and the ranching and agricultural frontiers all of which were creations of the Conservative government the city developed, from the outset, a staunchly conservative character. The election of Wilfred Laurierís Liberal Party in 1896 heralded the beginning of Calgaryís long history of federal political alienation. While some Calgarians viewed Laurierís rail policies as detrimental to the cityís interests, others mistrusted Laurierís prospective treatment of the open-range system. In 1905, when Alberta gained provincial autonomy, Calgary had no member on the Liberal governmentís side when it came time to choose a provincial capital. Frank Oliver, a Liberal MP from Edmonton and cabinet minister, preferred his hometown. As Minister of the Interior, Oliver likewise set provincial constituencies, which he weighed in favour of the northern half of the province.
Although Calgaryís political leaders rejoiced when the Conservatives returned to power federally in 1911, the Liberal Party again returned to power in 1921. In Alberta, the Liberal Party remained in power as long as farmers saw it as responsive to their needs. Throughout the decade before the outbreak of World War I, the organised farm movement became more powerful. Farmers organised the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) in 1919 to promote measures to benefit farmers, such as the establishment of the United Grain Growers, a co-operative company. Although UFA leader Henry Wise Wood opposed taking independent political action, the organisation entered the 1921 provincial election and swept the Liberal Party from power. During the Depression, Calgary likewise became the birthplace of the Social Credit Party and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. While William Aberhartís Social Credit Party grabbed the attention and support of Albertans, the CCF never became as powerful a party as it did in neighbouring Saskatchewan. A number of factors and differing historical interpretations explain this phenomenon. The 1930s saw the rise of R.B. Bennett, an imposing figure who had his start in provincial politics. After years of building a strong political base in Calgary through his multiple business interests, Bennett was elected leader of the federal Conservative party becoming Calgary's first Prime Minister of Canada.
Return to Calgary, 1895-1946
Proceed to Calgary, 1947-1970