In Manitoba and British Columbia, the Conservative
governments were openly hostile to the suffrage movement. As
a result, the suffragists actively threw their weight behind
the Liberal parties in important elections.
In 1914, when the Manitoba Liberals endorsed suffrage and
made it a significant part of their campaign platform, the
Women's Civic League, the Grain Grower's Guide,
(published by the Manitoba Grain Grower's Association), and
Nellie McClung all threw their weight behind the Liberals.
Despite their efforts, the Conservative government was
reelected with a slim majority. The following year, a
scandal regarding the construction of the new Parliament
buildings toppled the Conservative government, resulting in
another election. This time, T. C. Norris and his Liberal
party received a commanding majority, despite the efforts of
the Conservatives to make a comeback.
As Norris had promised he passed a suffrage bill, which
granted female suffrage and ensured that women could hold
political office. On January 28, 1916, Manitoba became the
first province in Canada to grant full political privileges
Events in British Columbia followed a similar course. In
1913, Conservative Premier Richard McBride reiterated his
long-standing refusal to support a suffrage bill, the
suffragists changed their tactics from petitions and
delegations to the government to an effort to overthrow the
Hoping to capitalize on the suffragists' frustration, the
Liberal party began to openly court the support of the
suffrage forces—much to the alarm of the Conservatives. As
the 1916 election drew near, the Premier offered to
introduce a suffrage bill if female suffrage was endorsed in
a referendum held during the 1916 election. But he refused
to support a Socialist bill, which would have given women
the vote prior to the election, further alienating suffrage
forces. As a result, the Suffrage Referendum League threw
its weight behind the Liberal party.
The Liberals won the election with a comfortable
majority, and the suffrage referendum received an
affirmative vote of more than two to one. Thus, on April 5, 1917, the women of British Columbia achieved political
equality through a bill presented by the Liberal government.
Unlike the blatant government hostility faced by the
suffrage movements in Manitoba and British Columbia, the
governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan were friendlier to
the suffrage cause. Information campaigns were launched by
organizations like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)
and the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) to convert women to the
suffrage cause, in the interests of achieving other social
and moral reforms.
When petitions indicative of widespread support among
both urban and rural populations were presented to the
respective legislatures, the Liberal governments of both
provinces were quick to grant women political equality.
In Alberta, Premier Sifton introduced a suffrage bill
which provided women with complete political equality with
men in all provincial, municipal and school matters. The law
was amended to reflect these changes on April 19, 1916 and
Nellie McClung campaigned for the Liberals in the 1917