Calgary

Alberta prohibition ended a century ago, except in one small area, where it ended just last month

When Prohibition ended across Alberta in 1923, a small pocket of southern Alberta opted to maintain the ban on alcohol. That came to an end recently, taking the affected communities by surprise.

Province passed bill that removed alcohol ban but didn't notify those affected

A photograph of a moonshine still in 1922 at Irricana, Alta., on display at the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks exhibit at the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman, Alta. One pocket of the province maintained a ban on booze until it was recently overturned by the province. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

When Prohibition ended across Alberta in 1923, a small pocket of southern Alberta opted to maintain a ban on alcohol. 

That came to an end recently, to the surprise of Cardston, Cardston County and a portion of Warner County. 

"We didn't know it passed until the general public knew it passed," said Jeff Shaw, the chief administration officer of the Town of Cardston.

Cardston is largely Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forbids alcohol. 

He's referring to Bill 2, the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Amendment Act, an omnibus bill that removed a plethora of regulations in the province. 

It became law on June 17. 

Unclear implications

Shaw says neither he nor the town council are entirely clear on the implications of the legislation and adds there was no notice or consultation prior to the government introducing the bill. 

He said none of the other affected communities were consulted, either. 

Since then, Shaw says, he has reached out to local MLA Grant Hunter — the associate minister of red tape reduction, who introduced the bill — to ask why there was no notice.  

"He said, 'well we thought this is what you wanted.' And I said 'maybe, I don't know, could be.'"

Hunter wasn't immediately available for comment. 

Shaw isn't sure what options are available to the town in terms of a bylaw preventing the sale of alcohol and whether that can be written in such a way that it could ban a liquor store from operating but possibly allow a restaurant or the golf clubs to sell alcohol. 

Plebiscite supported ban

The last time the issue was a focus in the town was in 2014, when a plebiscite asked residents whether they would be in favour of lifting the prohibition on sales at the golf course, restaurants and recreation facilities. 

The vote was clear at that time: 1,089 against booze and 347 for it.

Shaw says he has discussed the issue with chief administrative officers of the other affected municipalities and they were all trying to figure it out the implications of the legislation and what it means for their communities. 

The neighbouring Blood Reserve is also looking at the sudden legislative change, and Coun. Dorothy First Rider says they can't comment on the potential impact of the decision at this time. 

Shaw says it's possible Cardston will have a draft bylaw ready for the Aug. 11 council meeting. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

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