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The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) is an agricultural supply cooperative headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. UFA operates 35 farm and ranch supply stores in Alberta, and over 115 cardlock and bulk fuel stations in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

FoundingEdit

UFA was founded in 1909 as a government lobby group following a merger between the Alberta Farmers' Association and the Canadian Society for Equity. UFA began as a non-partisan organization who's aim was to be a lobby group promoting the interest of farmers in the province. In 1913, it was able to pressure Alberta's Liberal government to organize the Alberta Farmers' Cooperative Elevator Company which eventually became the United Grain Growers.

The UFA was a believer in the cooperative movement, and supported women's suffrage. In 1912 women were permitted to become members of the parallel United Farm Women's Association, and in 1914, women were granted full membership rights in UFA itself.

By 1920, UFA had become the most influential lobby group in Alberta with over 30,000 registered members.

Political historyEdit

Entry into politicsEdit

Under pressure of losing influence to the upstart Alberta Non-Partisan League - which ran in four rural ridings in the 1917 provincial election, winning two - and dissatisfied with the existing political parties, UFA entered the political arena in 1919. Many prominent UFA members (including its president, Henry Wise Wood) refused to enter politics, however, because of UFA's former non-partisan mandate.

Later that year, UFA won a by-election in a Cochrane area riding. In 1921, Robert Gardiner won a seat in the 1921 federal election, becoming UFA's first Member of Parliament.

Encouraged by this, UFA ran in 45 of Alberta's 61 ridings in the 1921 provincial election. To the surprise of nearly everyone, including themselves, UFA took 38 seats in the election, winning a majority government, and sweeping the Liberals out of power after 17 years. While the United Farmers were originally a fairly socialist party, their 1921 election win is commonly referred to as the beginning of conservative dominance in Alberta, as no left-wing party has since won an election in Alberta.

Majority governmentsEdit

As was the case with other United Farmer governments in Manitoba and Ontario, the UFA won its first election unexpectedly and without a leader. Forced to form a government it, like the other United Farmer governments, went outside the legislature to recruit a Premier. UFA even approached Liberal leader Charles Stewart to remain as premier. Stewart declined, however, not wanting to lead the assembly as a member of the opposition. Ultimately, Herbert Greenfield was named the first United Farmers Premier, while Irene Parlby became the first female cabinet minister in Canada. Greenfield appointed Calgary Labour Party MLA Alex Ross as Minister of Public Works.

Despite the party's inexperience, the United Farmers government initiated several reforms. In 1923, the government formed the Alberta Wheat Pool and ended Prohibition.

In 1925, John E. Brownlee, who was already widely believed to be the "true" leader of the United Farmers agreed to succeed Greenfield as Premier. Brownlee led the party to a second majority government in the 1926 election.

in 1929, after years of negotiating, Brownlee was able to gain control over Alberta's natural resources. This was a right the eastern provinces were granted at Confederation, but which Alberta and Saskatchewan were denied when they became provinces in 1905. This deal would later become a critical factor in Alberta's economic success as the true magnitude of the province's oil deposits became known.

Riding a wave of popularity resulting from this agreement, Brownlee led the United Farmers to a third majority government in the 1930 election, despite alienating socialists and labour groups as he led the party towards conservatism.

DeclineEdit

The Great Depression had a critical impact on the United Farmers' fortunes, as the crash in grain prices revealed the government was not well prepared to cope with the depression. With the province already in debt after the government bailed-out the bankrupt Alberta Wheat Pool in 1929, and with banks repossessing the lands of many farmers who were heavily in debt, the Farmers' opponents grew louder and more popular. The final blow was struck when Premier Brownlee was caught up in a sex scandal as he was found guilty of seducing a young clerk working in the Attorney General's office. Brownlee was forced to resign in disgrace in July of 1934.

Richard G. Reid succeeded Brownlee as Premier, however with many members jumping to the new Social Credit and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation movements, the United Farmers' fall in politics was a rapid as its rise. The party was wiped off the political map in the 1935 election.

Of the nine UFA MPs elected in the 1930 federal election, eight joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation after it was formed in 1932. All eight ran as CCF candidates in the 1935 federal election and were defeated. The ninth UFA MP, William Thomas Lucas of Camrose, ran as a Conservative and was also defeated.

Two years after the Alberta United Farmers government was defeated, the group formally decided to withdrew from electoral politics.[1] and in 1938, the CCF committed itself to run candidates in the next provincial and elections setting up local riding clubs for that purpose.[1] In 1939, UFA officially disbanded its political arm. Many of the more left-wing members of the UFA organization joined the CCF though the party was never able to win the support of most former UFA voters.

The modern cooperativeEdit

Following the dissolution of its political wing, UFA focused on its commercial operations. UFA entered into a partnership with Maple Leaf Fuels, a subsidiary of Imperial Oil in 1935 to distribute fuel to its members. The next year it began to open retail stations under the Maple Leaf brand across the province.

The first farm supply store opened in Calgary in 1954, and a second in Edmonton in 1957. That same year, UFA bought the assets of Maple Leaf Fuels, granting the coop greater control over its business.

In 1984, UFA opened its first cardlock fuel agency in Calgary. Today, UFA has over 110 cardlock facilities across three provinces, and is the largest cardlock network in Alberta.

UFA has over 100,000 members and with 2004 revenues of nearly $1.1 billion, UFA is ranked as the 38th largest business in Alberta by revenue according to Alberta Venture magazine. [1]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Alberta Online Encyclopedia

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

fr:United Farmers of Alberta nl:United Farmers of Alberta

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