Ontario prohibition referendum, 1902

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An Ontario prohibition referendum was held on December 4, 1902, under the Liquor Act, on the legality of alcoholic beverages and the implementation of prohibition in the province. Though the referendum passed, a majority of half of the voters in the 1898 election did not support the motion and prohibition was not introduced. Prohibition would not occur in Ontario until 1916.

Referendum question[edit]

Are you in favour of bringing into force Part II of The Liquor Act, 1902?

The Queen's Privy Council for Canada had previously ruled in 1896 that provinces do not have the authority to prohibit the importation of alcohol. Part II of the Liquor Act would authorize prohibition to the extent that Ontario would be allowed to enact, specifically a ban on the sale of alcohol in bars and retail establishments and the placement of restrictions on the sale of alcohol in restaurants.


Response # of votes polled % of votes polled
Yes 199,749 65.9
No 103,548 34.1
Total 303,297 100.0

Part II of the Liquor Act required (1) a majority of votes in the referendum and (2) more than half of the number of votes in the 1898 election to pass the legislation; the second requirement was not met. The turnout rate was estimated to be no more than 30 percent of the electorate, and prohibition was not adopted.

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