The U.F.A. in Federal Politics

Only months after a federal by-election and provincial election, a federal general election was called for December 6, 1921 and the U.F.A. party ran 10 candidates winning in all ridings. The Members of Parliament representing Alberta farmers in Ottawa were George Gibson Coote (Macleod), Donald Macbeth Kennedy (Edmonton West), Edward J. Garland (Bow River), Lincoln Henry Jelliff (Lethbridge), Alfred Speakman (Red Deer), Donald Ferdinand Kellner (Edmonton East), William Thomas Lucas (Camrose), Henry Elvins Spencer (Battle River), and Robert Gardiner retained his Medicine Hat riding.


The first executive of the United Farmers of Alberta, 1909 (UF 23-1).

In the Strathcona constituency, a bitter rivalry erupted that saw candidates Daniel Webster Warner and Rice Sheppard pitted against each other, with Warner being the political association’s favoured pick (Tolton, p. 74). Sheppard, not going down without a fight, proceeded to re-enter the race as a Labor party candidate to compete directly with Warner. Further complicating the matter, Sheppard was one of the original board members from the U.F.A.’s founding in 1909 and remained an executive officer. While Warner won the federal riding, it became clear that there were U.F.A. members who wanted Sheppard out. At the 1922 annual convention, a motion was put forward to eject Sheppard from the organization and 60% voted in favour (Tolton, p. 75).

Rumours circulated in the press about the Sheppard-Warner controversy. The Strathcona U.F.A. Political Association issued this statement in an attempt to quell the rumours (UF 2002.0049.08).
An election circular for Rice Sheppard (UF 2002.0049.24). Inside, Sheppard outlines his platform which included graduated personal and corporate income tax, a national banking system, strict prohibition enforcement, and the lowest loan rates for farmers.

The press covered the Strathcona riding controversy heavily, including this Calgary Herald article from November 3, 1921 (UF 2002.0049.74 / 73-26). Overall, the press tended to be quite harsh on the farmers during their tenure in politics.

A political pamphlet for Rice Sheppard’s 1921 campaign (UF 2002.0049.64).

Note: The UFHS Archives has a collection of correspondence, newspaper clippings and other items relating to Rice Sheppard and the Strathcona MP nomination. Please consult with the Archivist regarding access to these records.

The U.F.A. continued to run candidates and win seats in the 1925, 1926 and 1930 federal general elections, with MPs focusing on improved freight rates for shipping grain products, increasing Old Age Pensions, securing better coal rates, demanding a publicly-owned central bank for Canada, and ensuring that agriculture was fairly represented in the House of Commons (Priestley, p. 7-8). In 1932, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was formed in Calgary as a political coalition consisting of progressive, socialist and labour movement groups, and attracted U.F.A. representatives including MPs Robert Gardiner, Henry Elvins Spencer, and E.J. Garland. The CCF came about as a way to challenge the status quo, seeing increased social welfare reforms as the only viable way out of the Great Depression. When it came time for the 1935 election, there were no U.F.A. Party candidates up for nomination. Although several former U.F.A. MPs had joined the CCF, they were defeated in all ridings primarily by the Social Credit Party of Canada. As with the provincial election, 1935 saw an end to the U.F.A. being elected at the ballot box.

Front page of The U.F.A. Vol. 4, no. 26 (Oct. 24, 1925), leading up to a federal election.

Click the button below to return to the main exhibit

From left to right: Robert Gardiner, MP for Medicine Hat (UF 2005.0044.50), Henry Elvins Spencer, MP for Battle River (UF 2005.0044.19), E.J. Garland, MP for Bow River (UF 2005.0044.18), Daniel Webster Warner, MP for Strathcona (UF 2005.0044.35).

Inside an issue of The U.F.A. Vol. 4, no. 26 (Oct. 24, 1925) promoting the re-election of U.F.A. MPs.

References and Further Reading:

Ginger Group. (2015). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/ginger-group 

Macpherson, I. (2015). United Farmers of Alberta In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/united-farmers-of-alberta 

Morley, J. (2021). Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/co-operative-commonwealth-federation 

Priestley, Norman F. and Edward B. Swindlehurst. (1967). Furrows, Faith and Fellowship: The History of the Farm Movement in Alberta 1905 – 1966. Edmonton: Co-op Press Limited. 

Tolton, G. (2009). Deep Roots. Promising Future. Calgary: UFA. Retrieved from https://archives.ufa.com/viewer/deep-roots-promising-future?p=12&type=static 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s