Al­berta changed for­ever dur­ing the war

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - CHRIS NEL­SON

The Al­berta of 1914 that had ex­isted at the out­break of the First World War was gone for­ever.

In its place was a prov­ince trans­formed by the tri­als and chal­lenges of war. Those four years of tur­moil and strug­gle would cause much dis­tress and mis­ery, but would also lay the foun­da­tions of to­day’ s prov­ince.

The ma­jor eco­nomic build­ing blocks that would en­sure Al­ber­tans reg­u­larly en­joyed the high­est em­ploy­ment rates and the rich­est econ­omy dur­ing the last 40 years were laid be­tween 1914 and 1918.

Rory Cory, chief cu­ra­tor with the Mil­i­tary Mu­se­ums in Cal­gary, said the de­mands of the Al­lied war ef­fort turned Canada into the ma­jor food sup­plier for Empire troops, with Al­berta in the fore­front of such vi­tal pro­duc­tion.

“Canada be­came the world’s fore­most ex­porter of wheat and tim­ber, and the third-largest sup­plier of beef. We would have a huge part in feed­ing the Empire troops over­all be­cause Bri­tain wasn’t self-suf­fi­cient at the time.

“Beef in par­tic­u­lar came out of Al­berta, and we also sup­plied most of Canada’s coal and oil, too. It would even­tu­ally pro­vide a huge boost to the en­tire en­ergy in­dus­try,” said Cory.

The ef­fects went be­yond grain, ranch­ing, oil, gas and coal min­ing. The war even spurred Al­berta’s con­nec­tion to the horse.

“We ac­tu­ally ex­ported 520,000 horses over­seas be­cause there was a huge de­mand for trans­port and there was a ma­jor push to in­crease the horse-breed­ing op­er­a­tions here. Sadly, of course, very few of those an­i­mals re­turned af­ter the war,” added Cory.

And if the fu­ture of in­dus­try in Al­berta was ir­re­vo­ca­bly changed, so were the pol­i­tics of the prov­ince.

Prairie pop­ulism had been born. The old po­lit­i­cal or­der of rule by the Lib­eral Party would be swept away and, by 1921, a new party, run­ning with­out a leader or much of a pro­gram would gain power. The United Farm­ers of Al­berta swept away the old po­lit­i­cal or­der only for it to be rel­e­gated to his­tory 14 years later by an­other pop­ulist po­lit­i­cal up­ris­ing, this time in the form of the So­cial Credit party.

Mean­while, labour un­rest erupted. Or­di­nary Al­ber­tans and re­turn­ing vet­er­ans were an­gered by low wages, dread­ful so­cial con­di­tions and a be­lief that big busi­ness had reaped huge prof­its dur­ing the war years at ev­ery­one’s ex­pense.

In the spring of 1919, the first meet­ing of the na­tional One Big Union move­ment was held in Cal­gary. Two months later, that would lead di­rectly to the Win­nipegGen­eral Strike and the in­famy of Bloody Sat­ur­day, in which two strik­ers were killed by po­lice.

By 1932, at the Le­gion No. 1 in Cal­gary, the first na­tional meet­ing of the Co­op­er­a­tive Com­mon­wealth Fed­er­a­tion was held. The CCF would later be­come the New Demo­cratic Party.

The seeds for such re­mark­able changes were cast dur­ing those years of war.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.