Albert Ernest Archer

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Albert Ernest Archer (died 1949) was a Canadian physician and political activist. He is best known for his early efforts to promote national and provincial public health care systems. Some have argued that he deserves as much recognition as Tommy Douglas for the establishment of medicare in Canada.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Archer was born and raised in Ontario, the son of a Methodist minister. He trained in medicine, and completed his studies at the University of Toronto. He moved to the Lamont region of Alberta in 1903 as a Methodist medical missionary, and worked as a pioneer doctor, often travelling by dirt roads to treat his patients. In 1911, he convinced the Methodist Mission to construct a fifteen-bed hospital at Lamont at a cost of $15,000. The hospital opened the following year, and Archer served as its superintendent until his death.[2]

Archer was president of the Canadian Medical Association, Alberta Branch in 1921-22, and of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in 1942-43.[3]

Health care activism[edit]

Archer was one of the first prominent advocates for public health care in Canada. In 1932, he presented a brief from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to a commission on health care established by the Government of Alberta. The committee subsequently recommended the establishment of separate rural and urban health plans, in which the government would pay two-ninths of the total cost. Although modest by modern standards, this was a significant initiative for its time. The United Farmers of Alberta government passed these recommendations as the Alberta Health Insurance Act in February 1935, but was voted out of office in the 1935 provincial election before it could implement the program. The next government did not continue with the insurance plan.

As president of the CMA, Archer chaired a special meeting wherein the assembled delegates voted 73-0 in favour of a health insurance plan for Canada. He supported Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King's national health insurance proposal in 1945, and travelled the country to promote the plan. Although King's government was re-elected in the 1945 federal election, the plan was never enacted due to a dispute with the Government of Ontario over tax revenues.

Archer continued to support health insurance reform in Alberta. A year before his death, the Alberta government passed legislative for a medical insurance program. This led to the creation of Medical Services (Alberta) Incorporated, a non-profit plan started by Alberta doctors.[4]

Political candidate[edit]

Archer was a candidate of the Liberal Party of Canada in the federal elections of 1940 and 1945, running in the rural Alberta riding of Vegreville. He narrowly won the Liberal nomination in 1940, defeating Peter Lazarowich by a vote of 110 to 104.[5] In 1945, he won the nomination without opposition.[6] On both occasions, he was defeated by Anthony Hlynka.

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 1945: Vegreville
Party Candidate Votes %
Social Credit Anthony Hlynka 7,146 42.30
Liberal Albert Ernest Archer 4,806 28.45
Labor–Progressive William Halina 3,272 19.37
Co-operative Commonwealth Michael Tomyn 1,668 9.87
Total valid votes 16,892 100.00
Total rejected ballots 187
Turnout 17,079 80.21
Electors on the lists 21,292


Canadian federal election, 1940: Vegreville
Party Candidate Votes %
Social Credit Anthony Hlynka 5,083 36.12
Liberal Albert Ernest Archer 4,605 32.72
United Progressive William Halina 2,727 19.38
Co-operative Commonwealth Herbert R. Boutillier 1,658 11.78
Total valid votes 14,073 100.00
Total rejected ballots 141
Turnout 14,214 61.22
Electors on the lists 23,219

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Bly, "Western medical statesmen shaped Canadian health care", Calgary Herald, 14 August 2005, B5.
  2. ^ The hospital was operated by the United Church of Canada after 1925, as the successor to the Methodist Mission. See Don Thomas, "Lamont's determination pays off", Edmonton Journal, 10 September 1999, A7.
  3. ^ AMA Presidents since 1889, Alberta Medical Association, accessed 27 August 2009.
  4. ^ Most of the information concerning Archer's health care activism is taken from David Bly, "Western medical statesmen shaped Canadian health care", Calgary Herald, 14 August 2005, B5.
  5. ^ Autobiography of Anthony Hlynka (trans.), printed in Oleh W. Gerus and Denis Hlynka, ed., The Honourable Member for Vegreville: The Memoirs and Diary of Anthony Hlynka, MP, Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2005, p. 3.
  6. ^ Hlynka, p. 46.