Ontario Temperance Act

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Ontario Temperance Act was a law passed in Ontario in 1916 to prohibit the sale of alcohol, a period known as Prohibition. This meant the province remained dry in legal terms, but smugglers continued to import alcohol into the province. The cause was the demand of religious elements, specifically pietistic Protestants, especially Methodists, seeking to eliminate what they considered the evil effects of liquor, including violence, family abuse, and political corruption. Barron (1980) shows that the Ontario movement was modelled on the prohibition movement in the United States.


Prior the Act there were two failed attempts made to control or eliminate sale of alcohol in the province. The plebiscite 1894 failed due to federal disapproval of provincial control on importation of alcohol. Another attempt in 1902 failed due to low voter turnout.

Tennyson (1963) reports that that Ontario had had "local option" since 1876; one after another many municipalities went "dry" by 1914. Supporters of the World War called for temperance to reduce waste, inefficiency and distractions. Premier William Hearst emphasized the need in 1914, despite complaints from wet elements of his own Conservative Party.

Following the passage of act, a follow-up referendum showed approval of the ban in 1919. In 1921 another referendum showed a slight slip in support, but the province was bone dry and was attempting again to ban importation (and failed due to federal disapproval). By 1924 the provincial government began to press for lighter restriction and call for sale by the province. The 1924 referendum showed even support for and against the Act. Premier Ferguson began the steps to repeal the act by ending regular referendums and pressure on the Legislature to decide on the future of the Act.

Repeal and Government as alcohol retailer[edit]

The Act was finally repealed in 1927, replaced by the Liquor Licence Act (Ontario) in March 1927,[1] but some communities maintained a ban on the sale of liquor under local option until the 1970s and one part of The Junction neighbourhood of Toronto remained "dry" until 2000, largely due to the efforts of former Ontario CCF Member of Provincial Parliament for High Park, William Temple.[citation needed]

The Act had failed due to the inability of the provincial government to effectively control consumption and importation of alcohol into the province. The lack of federal support also led to the Act's demise.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Barron, F. L. "The American origins of the Temperance Movement in Ontario," Canadian Review of American Studies, 1980, p131-150
  • Tennyson, Brian. "Sir Wiliam Hearst and the Ontario Temperance Act," Ontario History, Dec 1963, Vol. 55 Issue 4, pp 233–245