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© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
18 Jul 2002

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Herbert Greenfield

Premier of Alberta 1921-1925

Many thanks to AFHS member and volunteer, Heather Jaremko, who provided the typescript of this page and obtained the permission of the Calgary Herald to reprint this work in the AFHS website. This work is based on reports in the Calgary Herald between 1929 and 1939.

We will be pleased to hear from anyone who descends from Herbert Greenfield and can fill us in on the family history of this Alberta leader. Please contact the AFHS to start this dialogue

Herbert Greenfield became the first United Farmers of Alberta premier in 1921. In the middle of the bad time in Alberta (1919-1922), a new force emerged in Alberta politics. The United Farmers of Alberta had been founded in 1909, but in 1921 the organization had been content to act as a pressure group on Alberta's Liberal government. That year the UFA, which had enrolled 1/3 of the provinces' farmers, lost its patience. It ran its own candidates, and won 3 times as many seats as the Liberals. The cities elected 4 Labor Candidates who were generally sympathetic to the UFA.

The UFA victory was especially remarkable considering how deeply its leader distrusted party politics. Henry Wisewood had become president of the UFA in 1916. An American, he had moved to Alberta the year of provincehood, when he was 45 and became a Canadian citizen in 1911. He held that farmers should act co-operatively to defend themselves against the exploiters who surrounded them; but he did not believe that farmers of any other interest group should try to form a government. In 1921, Wood's followers swept past that article of his faith. Wood himself never ran for office.

The Farmer's Party's shifting of the Premiership from Mr. Greenfield to Mr. John Edward Brownlee is one of the most curious events in Canadian political history.

Much dissatisfaction with the rule of the Farmer Party in Alberta has been expressed, and this feeling has been growing stronger with the passing of time, but the public has felt that Greenfield was as good as his party. Fear of what may happen at the next provincial election has induced the Farmer members to lead Greenfield to the slaughter, weak members have sacrificed the leader of their own weak party.

No government ever went into office in this country carrying better wished for its success than the Greenfield government. The people of Alberta looked forward to an era of better administration than it had ever had. But before one year had passed they knew that they were to be disappointed. The high protestations evaporated. The fine ideas were lacking and there is now this climax, this scene of a power-seeking party thrusting all the blame for its misdeeds upon one man, making him the sacrificial goat.

Greenfield was not a good political captain, but he had a poor set of officers and a mutinous crew.