Alberta prohibition plebiscite, 1923

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The 1923 Alberta prohibition plebiscite, held on November 5, 1923, was a province-wide plebiscite held in Alberta, Canada, to allow alcoholic beverages, triggered by an affirmative vote in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, based on the presentation of a 56,000-name petition in accordance with the requirements of the Citizens Referendum Law, initiative law, in force at the time. Prohibition was defeated by nearly 58 percent (58%) of the vote.

The previous policy of Prohibition was replaced by one of Moderation. Liquor would be sold in government stores, thus, the government took out the profit motive for "pushing" alcohol and would engage in little advertising to encourage sales. Consumers of liquor had to buy permits, which if mis-used could be "interdicted." As well, after the end of Prohibition, the government brought in the local option vote, whereby communities could hold votes to prohibit sales of liquor in their communities. Cardston for example has been dry since what for most others was the end of Prohibition. And to this day liquor cannot be purchased in Alberta grocery stores.


The writs were issued to Alberta's 52 electoral districts (under the 1921 boundaries) on October 9, 1923.[1] The voting method used was a single transferable vote (as favored by the United Farmers government), and the ballot question was a preference of four options given.[2]

Prohibition Committee Executive[3]
President W.S. Galbraith
Vice Presidents J.D. Higgenbottom
Gladstone Virtue
Secretary H.B. Brown
Assistant Secretary John Wood
Treasure F.H. Wilkins
Publicity D.H. Ellen
Transportation Ralph Thrall
Organizer Rev. Wealaway

The Prohibition Committee was a campaign committee set up for the plebiscite to campaign for Option A, the option to continue the Liquor Act as it was before the plebiscite.[4] The Prohibitionists had a seven-point platform. Point one encouraged voters to respect the laws already on the books. Point two stated that every constitutional method should be used to enact a change in law when the majority of voters desire a change. Points three, four and five focused on highlighting harm done by alcohol to the fabric of the community, contending that society is incumbent upon itself to ban such harm.[4] Point six encouraged the crackdown and banning of liquor distilling in Alberta and its exportation outside the province. Point seven spoke in favor of the Committee's satisfaction with the Liquor Act in force to that point. The committee believed the current legislation was the means to the end and allowed for efforts to be sustained until total prohibition was achieved.[4]

The Moderation League of Alberta was the committee campaigning for Option D, government control.


Ballot options Votes[5] %
(a) Prohibition - Meaning thereby a continuance and development of present Liquor Legislation; that is, meaning the Abolition of the Sale of all Liquors excepting for strictly Medicinal Sacramental, Manufacturing and Scientific Purposes. 61,647 38.0%
(b) Licensed Sale of Beer - Meaning thereby, the Sale of Beer in Licensed Hotels and other Premises, as provided in the proposed Temperance Act. 3,936 2.4%
(c) Government Sale of Beer - Meaning thereby, the Sale of Beer by or through Government Vendors for consumption in Private Residences under Government Control and Regulations - other Liquors to be sold through Doctor's Prescription for Medicinal Purposes. 3,078 1.9%
(d) Government Sale of All Liquors - Meaning thereby, the Sale of all Liquors by or through Government Vendors. Beer to be consumed on Licensed Premises and in Private Residences. Wines and Spirits to be purchased in limited quantities under permit issued by the government, under Government Control and Regulations. 93,680 57.7%
Total 162,341 100%
Rejected, Spoiled and Declined 7,272

(d) won a clear majority on the first ballot; no extra count was required.


  1. ^ "Writs for Liquor Plebiscite to be Issued.". Lethbridge Daily Herald. September 18, 1923. p. 1. 
  2. ^ "Mark by Preference". Lethbridge Daily Herald. October 26, 1923. p. 4. 
  3. ^ "Prohibition Committee Executive". Lethbridge Daily Herald. October 26, 1923. p. 4. November 3, 1923. 
  4. ^ a b c "The Prohibition Platform". Lethbridge Daily Herald. October 26, 1923. p. 12. 
  5. ^ The Alberta Gazette (Vol 20 No. 2 ed.). Government of Alberta. 1940. p. 25.