Public Attitudes Toward the Liquor Question in Saskatchewan, 1880-1925
Dahl, Kenneth Ralph
This thesis provides a detailed examination of the change in public attitudes toward the control, or prohibition, of the sale and consumption of beverage alcohol in Saskatchewan. These attitudes changed dramatically, resulting first in implementation and then the failure of prohibition. The thesis examines the early attempts to restrict the liquor traffic in Canada, before focusing on Saskatchewan. It notes the particular problems associated with the bars in the province, and the increasing demand for more restrictive controls on these establishments. Before World War I support for tougher liquor regulations were limited. Only a small but vocal group demanded decisive action by the provincial government. These prohibitionists took advantage of wartime patriotism to gamer enough support to defeat the liquor interests in a provincial plebiscite in 1916. This vote prompted the government to enact prohibitory legislation which prohibitionists felt would alleviate many of the ills that plagued society. The promise of improved conditions never materialized because of severe enforcement difficulties. The inability of the federal and provincial governments to harmonize legislation, the aptitude and success of those circumventing the liquor laws, and the lack of co-operation on the part of the public, contributed to the continuance of poor conditions throughout the province. When residents realized the relative ease with which one could still procure beverage alcohol, and risk of prosecution to be minimal, many continued to drink. For the people in Saskatchewan, prohibition created more problems than it solved. Letters to the various Premiers, files from the various agencies formed to enforce the liquor laws, and various provincial newspapers, all clearly indicate the strong dissatisfaction residents felt about conditions that resulted from prohibition. The government, too, recognized the problems that the implementation of prohibitory legislation brought with it, but its hands were tied because it was acting on the wishes of the people. In the end, however, it was these same people that put a stop to the prohibition experiment.