On December 4, 1902, Ontario voted to bring prohibition into law, under the Ontario Liquor Referendum Act. It resulted in a vote of 199,749 for and 103,542 against.
Though the referendum passed, a majority of all peoples did not agree in the 1898 election, so the official prohibition did not pass until 1916.
In 1896, the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada had previously ruled that no province can hold the authority to ban alcohol. Ummm, that was part I. Part II says that the Liquor Act would grant Ontario to declare prohibition to the extent of sales of alcohol in bars and retail establishments, and restrictions on sales in restaurants. Part III needed the majority of votes on the subject, and that criteria was not met.
Prince Edward Island was the first province to pass prohibition in 1900. Ontario and Alberta passed it 1916. The temperance movement did not reach its height until the 1920’s. Quebec was the last province to pass it in 1919, but it was quickly repealed due to public pressure.
The prohibition movement stated when people wanted to close drinking establishments, what they believed to be the cause of societal ills and misery. The main organization responsible for the outcry was the Alliance for the Total Suppression of Liquor Traffic. They believed that if the country was dry, there would be less poverty, crime, disease and domestic violence.
Many legislative acts were passed to control alcohol sales, but not without problems. For instance, doctors prescribed “medicinal pints” and the Jewish community and Catholics used alcohol in rituals.
At any rate, prohibition had succeeded mainly because of WWI, the thought being that it it would be a good thing for the soldiers were to return to a dry country. Also it would benefit the war effort because it would prevent waste and inefficiency. And so following the election of 1917, the federal government passed prohibition in an Order-in-Council on April 1, 1918. Prohibition was official when the War Measures Act was enacted in 1918.
If you’d like to read more about this time, and I highly recommend it, I suggest the following sites:
“Prohibition and the Scandal of 1926” on my other site, BiteSizeCanada.org (www.bitesizecanada.org)
Ontario Prohibition Referendum 1902 at World News Network (wn.com)
- We can drink again (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Drink Some Whiskey, Call in the Morning: Doctors & Prohibition (history.com)
- Ontario should allow liquor sales in corner stores and groceries: PC leader (theprovince.com)
- Wine producers lobby for private stores in Ontario (theglobeandmail.com)