Elmer Ernest Roper
Elmer Ernest Roper
|26th Mayor of Edmonton|
October 14, 1959 – October 16, 1963
|Preceded by||Frederick John Mitchell|
|Succeeded by||William Hawrelak|
|Leader of the Alberta Co-operative Commonwealth Federation|
|Preceded by||Chester Ronning|
|Succeeded by||Floyd Albin Johnson|
|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Edmonton|
September 22, 1942 – June 29, 1955
|Born||June 4, 1893|
Ingonish, Nova Scotia
|Died||November 12, 1994 (aged 101)|
Victoria, British Columbia
|Political party||Alberta Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Labour, Citizens Committee, Civic Reform Association|
|Co-operative Commonwealth Federation|
|Spouse(s)||Goldie C. Bell|
|Children||Three daughters and one son (G. Lyall Roper)|
Elmer Ernest Roper (June 4, 1893 – November 12, 1994) was an Edmonton businessman, trade unionist and politician in Alberta, Canada. He was a Alberta Co-operative Commonwealth Federation member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, 1942-1955, and mayor of Edmonton 1959-1963.
Roper was born in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, the son of a sea captain. He was educated in Sydney, and moved west to Calgary, Alberta in 1907. There he apprenticed as a printer and found work in the Calgary Herald's press room. On June 15, 1914, he married Goldie C. Bell, with whom he would have three daughters and one son and who would predecease him by weeks.
He became involved in the labour movement as a young man. He joined the Pressman's Union. He was president of the Calgary Trades & Labour Council by 1916. His tenure in this position was short-lived, as he moved to Edmonton the following year to become the head of the Edmonton Bulletin's press room. There he took a position of leadership in running the Edmonton District Labour Council (later the Edmonton Trades & Labour Council). Although not a backer of the One Big Union, he was involved in Edmonton's 1919 general strike (a sympathy strike with the Winnipeg General Strike).
In 1921 he left the Bulletin to found his own printing business, which he would operate until his retirement. The same year, he made his first bid for elected office.
Early political career
In 1922, Roper became secretary-treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. He would hold the position for a decade. Roper edited the AF of L's official organ Alberta Labour News from 1921 to 1935when he changed the newspaper's name to People's Weekly and made it the de facto house organ of the new Alberta Co-operative Commonwealth Federation with William Irvine as co-editor.
Roper ran for school trustee in Edmonton's 1924 municipal election. He finished fourth of seven candidates, in an election in which the top three candidates were elected. He tried again the next year's election, and again finished fourth of seven candidates; however, the board's staggered electoral system meant that, though only three of the board's seven trustees had been elected in 1924, four were up for election in 1924 and Roper was elected. He was re-elected in 1927 but did not seek re-election at the expiration of his second term.
He continued to seek office at other levels. In the 1926 provincial election, he was again a Labour candidate in Edmonton. He was less successful on this occasion, finishing sixteenth of eighteen candidates on the first ballot. He tried again in a 1931 by-election resulting from the death of Charles Weaver; he finished second of four candidates as Conservative Frederick C. Jamieson reclaimed the seat for Weaver's party.
Roper's lone attempt at federal office took place in the 1935 election, when he ran for the newly formed Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in Edmonton East; he finished fourth of six candidates as William Samuel Hall took the riding for the Social Credit Party of Canada.
Roper had joined the CCF at the provincial level as well and ran under its banner in the 1940 election, finishing seventh of nineteen candidates on the first ballot and being defeated once again. No CCF members were elected during that election but that was about to change.
CCF leader and MLA
On May 4, 1942 Conservative leader David Duggan died, and his Edmonton seat became vacant. Roper was nominated as the CCF's candidate in the ensuing by-election. The by-election was conducted using Alternative Voting and Roper came out on top of a five-person field. CCF leader Chester Ronning, who had been elected in 1932, quickly stepped aside to hand the leadership to the party's sole MLA.
Roper would be leader of the CCF for thirteen years, but he did not have to sit as its lone MLA that long: after the 1944 election, he was joined in the legislature by Aylmer Liesemer of Calgary. Two seats would be as large a caucus as the CCF would have during Roper's tenure as its leader.
Both Liesemer and Roper were re-elected in the 1948 election. The party's share of the vote fell from 25% to 19%, but it was still due more than 10 MLAs. Roper did not add any new MLAs to his tiny caucus as Social Credit's stranglehold over the province remained intact. The CCF did elect a new MLA in the 1952 election - Willingdon's Nick Dushenski - but this gain was cancelled by Liesemer's defeat in the same election. Worse, the CCF's vote fell further, to 14%, and the Alberta Liberal Party doubled its seat count to four, making it the Official Opposition and leaving the CCF as the third party.
Things then got worse for the CCF. In the 1955 election, the CCF's share of the vote was only 8% and the previously dormant Conservatives passed it in the seat count. Moreover, Roper himself lost his seat in Edmonton (although Dushenki was elected and Stanley Ruzycki was elected in Vegreville). Roper placed third of thirty candidates on the first ballot, but as Premier Ernest Manning's large number of surplus votes was redistributed to the riding's other Social Credit candidates (and James Harper Prowse's only slightly smaller surplus was redistributed to other Liberals, Roper fell out of the top seven, where he needed to remain in order to be re-elected.
Following the election, Roper relinquished the CCF leadership. He would never again seek provincial office.
In advance of the 1959 municipal election, the city's mayoralty was up for grabs. William Hawrelak had resigned in scandal, and the man that the Edmonton City Council had chosen to replace him, Frederick John Mitchell, had decided to return to his aldermanic post rather than contest the mayoral election. Roper chose to contest it, and defeated three candidates (most notably his former legislature colleague James Prowse). He was re-elected in the 1961 election, handily defeating alderman Ed Leger, but did not seek re-election at the conclusion of his second term. At the age of seventy, he was finished with politics.
Later life, death, and legacy
Elmer Roper retired to Victoria, British Columbia in 1975, and died there November 12, 1994. His wife had died in August, just after the couple's eightieth anniversary, and he was survived by two daughters and a son, former Edmonton alderman G Lyall Roper.
He had been made an honorary life member of the Rotary Club in 1928, and had received an honorary doctorate in laws from the University of Alberta in 1959. Additionally, Roper Road and Roper Industrial, an Edmonton road and neighbourhood respectively, are named in his honour.
- Edmonton Public Library biography of Elmer Roper
- City of Edmonton biography of Elmer Roper
- History of labour's involvement in Edmonton politics from the Edmonton Bullet at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)
- Edmonton District Labour Council's involvement in Edmonton electoral politics
- Agenda of the City of Edmonton's Naming Committee, May 17 2006