The Farmer Movement in Alberta Politics
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 May 1922, p. 164-171


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Creator:
Greenfield, Hon. Herbert, Speaker
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
An examination of the past few years of Canadian history. Unrest in Canada. Effects in the political sphere. Affected matters in the political sphere in Western Canada, particularly in the Province of Alberta. The shattering of old party affiliations. Why the old party system lost its appeal. Getting away from the biggest curse of political life in Canada: the campaign fund. The overturning of the Provincial Government in the Province of Alberta; why and how it happened. How these change were seen and reported in Eastern Canada. The object of the political movement of the farmers of Alberta: using every effort to build up in the province an intelligent, responsible Canadian citizenship as the first step towards intelligent responsible government. What was done in the central office. Costs of running a provincial election in Alberta, with dollar figures. The speaker's hope that the forces which brought about the change in Western Canada will sweep the Dominion from end to end, making the public life of Canada a thing that men shall count it an honour and privilege to step into, and not feel that they have to shirk. The need in Canada to get our public life upon such a plane that the very best men that Canada has will enter it, and enter gladly. The difficulties under which Canada is working today. The speaker's urging of the audience to try to understand a movement before condemning it. The need to understand each other as fully as we possibly can, with broad-mindedness and broad vision and tolerance.
Date of Original:
4 May 1922
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Language of Item:
English
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Full Text
THE FARMER MOVEMENT IN ALBERTA POLITICS
AN ADDRESS BY HON. HERBERT GREENFIELD, M.P.P., PREMIER OF ALBERTA.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
May 4, 1922.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Mr. Greenfield who was received with loud applause.

HON. HERBERT GREENFIELD.

Mr. Chairman, and Gentlemen, As a Britisher who has made Canada the land of his adoption and who is proud to be one hundred percent Canadian, I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity of addressing the Empire Club of Toronto.

I am very glad to come to Toronto, because since I have taken over my present duties, I have found both in the East and in the West, among business and financial men, and among many other classes outside of the agricultural class, a very serious misunderstanding of the western farmer-who he is, what he is, and where he is trying to go; and I hope today that I may be able to straighten out some of those misunderstandings in this capital city of the old Province of Ontario, in which I farmed for some fifteen years before going West.

Mr. Greenfield, Premier of Alberta, is an Englishman who came to Ontario and settled near Strathroy. There he farmed for fifteen years and then went to Westlock, Alberta, about sixty miles north of Edmonton, where for the past fifteen years he has been farming. As a member of the Canadian Council of Agriculture and a vice-president of the U.F.A. he has been prominent in the promotion of co-operative action by farmers and the securing of progressive legislation on their behalf.

In order that we may do that intelligently, I want you, very briefly, to go back with me over the past few years of Canadian history. Canada, in common with every other civilized country, came through a period of tremendous strain brought about by the war. Problems were presented for solution of a magnitude hitherto unheard of. Gradually those problems were all solved. The war was won. Then came the Armistice and the Peace Conference, and while the deliberations of Paris and elsewhere did not bring to civilization all we hoped it would bring to us, yet to me the future is not without hope for the triumph of the mental over the animal, for the triumph of reason over brute force, and for the in-. auguration of the co-operative principle where the competitive has reigned supreme throughout all history in all our relationships. Then came the aftermath, and out of it all there came this thing which we have learned to speak of as unrest, a thing which a great many people seem to be afraid of, but which, in my judgment, Mr. Chairman, is one of the best things that ever came over Canada What is unrest? To me it is nothing more nor less than a reaching out, by all the people of the country, gradually shaping itself into a desire for something higher, something better and something cleaner than has been. You see it all over the world and, Gentlemen, the years that were spent since 1914, fighting as we fought and as all civilization fought in France and Flanders, would have all been spent in vain if some such effect had not been produced upon the public mind and the civilized people of this world.

What was the effect of it in the political sphere? This is one phase of it I want to deal with today, as it affected matters in the political sphere in Western Canada and particularly in the Province of Alberta. The result of it was that old party affiliations were shattered. The old party system lost its appeal. Why did it lose its appeal? In my judgment it lost because there had gradually crept into it through the years, influences and forces which were undermining the manhood and citizenship of Canada. In this condition of affairs, when everything seemed to be inclined to break away from its moorings, there stepped into the political arena in the Province of Alberta an organization which had been gradually building up its strength during fourteen years of steady growth, and after careful deliberation for four years, that organization, compased of 30,000 farm men and farm women--men who, like myself, went into the Province of Alberta to carve out a home for themselves, men with a stake in the country, men who laid the foundations of the West--these men, 30,000 strong, went into the political arena.

They hesitated before they did it, Mr. Chairman, because that is the rock upon which every farmers' organization has been wrecked in past history. We thought very carefully before we took that step, and when we did take it, how did we go about it? We said to those farmers: "You have been complaining of this legislation and that legislation; you have been finding fault with this government and that government; and you have forgotten the one important factor that nearly all governments-I think we can safely say all governments-are a fairly accurate reflection of the people who elected them." We said to them: "If you want things better than they have been; if you want to re-mould this system; if it is not to your satisfaction and you want to change it, then it is up to you to change it, and you will have to do it yourselves." And how did they go about it? At the central office of the farmers' organization we sent out a message to the 1,400 locals of our organization scattered in the school-houses of the Province of Alberta. We said to them: "If in your constituency you decide that you want to take direct political action, then on petition from ten percent of your membership, we will call for a convention; you can use our stenographic staff, and that is all we will do for you. After that you have got to work out your own salvation." And what did they do? The petitions all came in. They held their conventions. No previous agenda, no programme, no chairman until they selected him at the meeting. They went into the meeting; they laid out their programme; they elected their chairman and possibly decided to nominate a candidate. Immediately they nominated that candidate, they obligated themselves to place their hands in their pockets and pay his campaign expenses from start to finish in subscriptions amounting, on the average, to one dollar per family. You see what we got away from. We got away from the biggest curse of political life in Canada, the campaign fund. We are absolutely clear of it. We are under obligation to nobody. We put those folks in the position to organize themselves and work out their own salvation, in contrast to political organizations I have been familiar with in the past, which have been largely organized to manipulate the vote.

There is a distinction there; and a very big difference. In the Province of Alberta these people do this thing themselves, and they pay the bill themselves, with the result that you saw in the Medicine Hat by-election a majority piled up of 10,000; with the result that two or three weeks later you see the Provincial Government overturned; and later on in the Federal election you see a complete Progressive slate come down from the Province of Alberta--not only farmers, but from the cities as well. We won the City of Edmonton with the Progressive ticket, and we won the City of Calgary; so that you see this terrible thing is even spreading to the cities.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you a fair question. Is not that a good thing for Canada? Is it not an improvement upon the old system? Do not you think that in the Province of Alberta we have at least gone one step forward? Yet these, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, are men who have been classed in the Eastern press upon occasion, and by prominent public men of the Eastern provinces, as a section of the community that are dangerous to the interests of Canada. It is hard to understand that people could make such statements. It is evident, on the face of it, that they never sat down for three hours to try to study out the question which they were endeavouring to discuss. They did not know the West, and they did not know the farmers' movement, or they never would have made such a statement; and I may say, while I am on that question, that in my judgment-and I believe I know Western Canadathere is no section of the people of this whole nation who are more loyal and more truly Canadian than the people of Western Canada, I live in a community, where I have French-Canadian neighbours, I have English neighbours, I have Scotch neighbours, and I have American neighbours, and we all pull together with the very best kind of team-work to build up Western Canada, to build up the Province of Alberta, a province which will ultimately be an ornament not only to this Dominion but to the whole British Empire.

I want to tell you another thing. I told you that all the central organization did was merely to call that convention, and then say to those people, "You have got to do this thing yourselves, work out your own salvation."

The whole object of the political movement of the farmers of Alberta, put in a few words, is this: We are using every effort to build up in the province an intelligent, responsible Canadian citizenship, and that, in my judgment, is the first step towards intelligent responsible government.

What did we do in our central office? Immediately those constituencies undertook to call conventions and had nominated their candidates, we doubled our staff; we set up in the office a special educational department; we sent out to these farmers in these 1,400 school houses our viewpoint on all questions of public importance. But we did not only send out, we gathered up all information we could get on the questions at issue. We got the other fellow's viewpoint from every angle, then we summarized it and sent out articles, extracts from articles, editorials, pamphlets, everything and anything that we could get. We gathered this information; we sent it out to the farmers and we said: "Sit down and study this question and know it, so that when election day comes you can cast an intelligent ballot." That is what we did in the central office of the organization. I want to say this, and I want to say it without any pretence at boasting-if there is one thing in God's world I hate it is boasting--but I want to say this, that I believe the vote cast in the Province of Alberta in the last Provincial and Federal elections was the most intelligent vote ever cast in the Province. It was an intelligent vote by reason of the fourteen years of educational work which the United Farmers' organization, carried on in that province, and they were under no obligation to anybody; they paid for it out of their own pockets.

Let me tell you another thing. Do you know what it cost us to run a provincial election in Alberta? Something under $300 a constituency, and we won it. I have not the figures for the federal election, but I imagine they would run somewhere around perhaps $1,000. All that money was put up in subscriptions of a dollar or fifty cents or two dollars from farmers who were interested in putting something into the public life of Canada instead of trying to take something out of it. We elected, at a cost of seventy-four dollars, one man who was lying sick on his back, in the constituency next to the one which the Attorney-General represents today. That member died the morning after the election. And, Gentlemen, more than that, we not only pay our candidate's election expenses, but we have statements prepared of every dollar received and expended, and these are published in the press for all the world to see. These men and women of the West--and I am one of them, and am proud of it--these are the wild-eyed, be-whiskered bunch you read about in Eastern Canada.

I have outlined briefly the affairs which brought about the change in Western Canada, and I hope to live to see the day when these same forces will not be confined to Western Canada and the Province of Ontario, but that they will sweep this Dominion from end to end, and once and for all make the public life of this country a thing that men shall count it an honour and privilege to step into, and not feel that they have to shirk. That is what we need in Canada. We need to get our public life upon such a plane that the very best men that Canada has will enter it, and enter gladly. When you get to that point you won't have much difficulty in solving Canada's problems.

This country of ours, of which we all are proud, is working today under difficulties. The provinces of the Dominion have a hard trail ahead of them. It is an up-grade, and what Canada needs, more than anything else, to meet present conditions, is teamwork of the very best kind; team-work as between province and province; team-work as between organization and organization; team-work as between trade and commerce and agriculture, and team-work as between employer and employee. Let us forget our differences as far as we possibly can. Let us minimize our differences and place emphasis upon the points upon which we can agree. Let us get working together and our differences will soon disappear, and we will have here in Canada--a thing we have never had before--a united Canada, going ahead like our eight-horse teams in the West, doing a good day's work with no friction.

I ask you men here today, before you condemn any man or any movement-and I am not saying that any here do condemn it--sit down and try to understand that movement; sit down and try to get the other fellow's viewpoint; and if you get that, you will find possibly that you are just as wrong as he is. Then if you get together you can adjust your differences, and you will be a team instead of two horses pulling criss-cross and in every direction. I want to leave that thought with you before I sit down, let all of us--it does not make any difference whether you are manufacturer, financial man, farmer or what you are, if we are going to build up Canada--let us try to understand each other as fully as we possibly can, and with broad-mindedness and broad vision and all sorts of tolerance, let us go ahead and work out the destiny of this great Dominion. (Loud applause)

The President expressed the thanks of the members for the very interesting and suggestive description of the Farmer Movement in Alberta politics.

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The Farmer Movement in Alberta Politics


An examination of the past few years of Canadian history. Unrest in Canada. Effects in the political sphere. Affected matters in the political sphere in Western Canada, particularly in the Province of Alberta. The shattering of old party affiliations. Why the old party system lost its appeal. Getting away from the biggest curse of political life in Canada: the campaign fund. The overturning of the Provincial Government in the Province of Alberta; why and how it happened. How these change were seen and reported in Eastern Canada. The object of the political movement of the farmers of Alberta: using every effort to build up in the province an intelligent, responsible Canadian citizenship as the first step towards intelligent responsible government. What was done in the central office. Costs of running a provincial election in Alberta, with dollar figures. The speaker's hope that the forces which brought about the change in Western Canada will sweep the Dominion from end to end, making the public life of Canada a thing that men shall count it an honour and privilege to step into, and not feel that they have to shirk. The need in Canada to get our public life upon such a plane that the very best men that Canada has will enter it, and enter gladly. The difficulties under which Canada is working today. The speaker's urging of the audience to try to understand a movement before condemning it. The need to understand each other as fully as we possibly can, with broad-mindedness and broad vision and tolerance.