Liquor Plebiscite in Spirit River

Way back in 1957, that is.

It was a time when Alberta liquor laws were were too aged to maintain their relevance.  They’d been the same since the Prohibition era prior to 1924.  The need for change was obvious, but debate in the Legislature was not resulting in any decision.  Should beer, wine and “spiritous liquor” be available for purchase in more Alberta Liquor Control Board outlets?  Should women and men be allowed to drink together in public?

It was decided that Albertans should have a vote.  The turnout wasn’t fantastic in Spirit River: out of 6,160 eligible voters, only 23.46% (1416) showed up.  That was less than half the provincial average.  Why?  Was it because everyone was content to buy their liquor in the same place?  Did people distill their own?  Were people working too hard to drink, or to vote?

Whatever the majority opinion of the time, Spirit River’s vote ended with the same results as in most other Alberta electoral districts.  By a small margin, 53.81%, Spirit River decided that liquor sales should be expanded in Alberta.  That was “question A.”  “Question B”, whether to allow mixed drinking, was not asked in the Spirit River district, only in urban centres.

When all the districts weighed in the margin was much larger in favour of change.  So it was out with the old and in with the new for Alberta liquor legislation.  The second province-wide plebiscite in Alberta history resulted with the Liquor Act, drawn up from scratch.

Do you know any Spirit River history?  We’d all love to read it at Town Spirit!

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