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Rise to Power

United Farmers and Equity Association of Alberta

The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) formed in 1909 when the Alberta Farmers' Association and the Canadian Society for Equity merged. The new organization acted not as a political party but a government lobby group. It promoted the interests of Alberta farmers without endorsing one party over another. Rather, it advocated the principals of non-partisanship and group government. Hundreds of UFA locals elected delegates to represent them at the organization's annual convention. The UFA set policies and proposals at these conventions, which it presented to the governing Alberta Liberals .

United Farm Women of Alberta Board

In coming years, the UFA attracted many thousands of members who participated in meetings and social events at local halls. Women also participated from 1913 as UFA members and from 1916 through the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA). By 1920, the UFA had 30 000 members. It was by far the most influential advocacy group in the province.

Since the UFA was in theory non-partisan, many of its leaders were reluctant to enter provincial politics. They did not want to dilute farmers' interests by having to represent city dwellers and mineworkers. Henry Wise Wood, the UFA's president, held this view. Furthermore, the Liberals were mostly responding to the UFA's demands.  However, when the socialist Non-Partisan League (NPL), led by William Irvine, contested four southern Alberta ridings in the 1917 provincial election and won two, many believed the UFA had to enter politics or lose influence to the NPL. Suggestions were put forward for the UFA to join forces with the Liberals or even the Conservatives. Instead, the UFA formed its own political organization in 1919 and absorbed the NPL. That year, the UFA ran a candidate in a Cochrane bye-election and won. Two years later, Robert Gardiner from Medicine Hat won a seat in the federal election for the UFA.

Encouraged by these accomplishments, the UFA entered the 1921 The UFA win 1921 election provincial election. They campaigned not as a political party but as an organization responsible to its members. Each representative was accountable to his or her constituency association, and if elected, was not to vote along "party" lines. To their surprise, they won thirty-eight of sixty-one seats. Their election marked the end of a seventeen-year era of Liberal dominance in Alberta.

     

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