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Achievements of the UFA Government

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

United Farmers of Alberta members elect in front of Lougheed Building, Calgary, Alberta, July 1921. Irene Parlby at center.Some of the major achievements of the UFA government include successful negotiation with the Mackenzie King government for Alberta to control its own natural resources; the sale of the northern railways for a good sum, thus ridding the government of an ongoing problem; and the establishment of Mutual Telephone Companies in rural areas, a cooperative approach that turned the telephone system from a financially impractical operation into an effective service.

Although Irene Parlby gave her advice on these issues, her personal influence was more apparent in issues that were more domestic in nature. As well as health care, she was interested in legislation regarding the legal status of married women, and education.

Parlby sponsored the Minimum Wage for Women Act, which was passed in 1925. She was responsible for an amendment regarding the support of children of unmarried parents, which in cases when paternity was not clearly established, gave the trial judge power to make one, or all, of the men who might have fathered the child to pay for its support.

Parlby and Nellie McClung worked closely together on women's issues, such as marital and property disputes, and loss of nationality [through marriage]. During their tenure, the UFA government passed 18 acts relating to the welfare of women and children including a new Dower Act, protecting the interests of the wife in case her husband attempted to sell her home; a bill to increase Mothers' Allowance—which assured a reasonable income to a single mother; and an act declaring illegitimate children, whose parents later married, to be legitimate.

The UFA also introduced, though it did not implement, the most progressive school bill in Canada. To help formulate this bill, members of the Department of Education travelled to acquaint themselves with educational systems in other countries. Parlby was one such researcher, going on a government mission to Britain and Scandinavian countries to observe their educational systems.

The new bill would have surpassed the UFA's early goals for education, provisioning for every child in Alberta to complete (at least) Grade 8; schools to operate 160 days or more per year; increased availability of school books; more two-room schools to be built to reduce crowding; and the establishment of rural high schools. Rather than over 3,000 individual school districts, each operated by a school board, there were to be 20 divisions, including 150 districts each. A Superintendent and two supervisors would supervise each division, and teacher salaries and hiring procedures would be standardized. Teachers with special qualifications would be hired to teach specialized classes like art, music, languages, etc.

The UFA introduced the bill twice, with Parlby as its seconder, but it did not pass and the UFA did not force it through. Despite the difficulties the UFA government experienced with this bill, in an ironic twist, it eventually did become law when the Social Credit government that replaced the UFA forced the bill through.

One particularly controversial bill was the Sexual Sterilization Act for Mental Defectives. Since "mental deficiency" was believed to be almost completely hereditary, many felt that young people with mental disabilities should be sterilized—to ensure that they would not have mentally deficient children.

This Bill provided for the sterilization of those young people recommended by the Eugenics Board—with the permission of the child's parents or guardians.

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