- 2,500 million years ago
A rugged mountain range covers the Edmonton area during the Precambrian era.
- 570 to 245 million years ago
A tropical sea covers Alberta in the Paleozoic era.
- 245 to 67 million years ago
The sea retreats to the west. Volcanic ash descends on the region, and a cooler climate and abundant rainfall prevail. Dinosaurs dominate the tropical jungle in the Mesozoic era.
- 67 million years ago
Dinosaurs disappear as the Cenozoic era begins. The climate cools. The Edmonton area becomes a dry grassland.
- 1.6 million years ago
The arctic ice cap expands.
- 21,000 years ago
The Edmonton region resembles Antarctica under a 1.5 km layer of ice. This ice carves hills above the valley, and deposits the Saskatchewan Sands and Gravels in the channel of an ancient river.
- 13,000 to 11,000 years ago
Aboriginal people leave evidence of their camps in the area we now know as Alberta. They hunt for large game such as mammoths, bison, bears, and moose. Mammoths become extinct over the next 1,000 years.
- 12,000 years ago
Melt water from glacial ice creates a deep lake covering much of what is now the Edmonton area.
- 11,000 years ago to 8,000 years ago
The first children arrive in the river valley with their families. They camp along the shoreline and on the high hills in the area. They fish and swim in the river, and make tools on the shore.
- 8,000 years ago
Aboriginal people leave lasting evidence of their camps, hunting, and quarries in the Edmonton area, although they may have been here earlier.
- 6,800 years ago
Volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama in present-day Oregon leaves a layer of ash in Edmonton's river valley. This ash is still visible today, along the south bank near the High Level Bridge.
- 4,000 years ago
Northern peoples leave evidence that they have had contact with southern civilizations in the Americas through the trade of corn and decorative objects.
- 2,800 years ago and later
In seasonal visits, Aboriginal children of the western Plains return with their families to their trading place in the Beaver Hills.
- 2,800 years ago to 1640 AD
Tribal groups move across the western plains in seasonal rounds for hunting, gathering, trading, and war, and return to this territory regularly. Aboriginal peoples of the western plains camp in the Beaver Hills and through Edmonton’s river valley.
The Hudson's Bay Company is founded in London.
Henry Kelsey of the Hudson's Bay Company begins early exploration of the West with Cree guides.
The Cree, Blackfoot and Nakoda peoples form a trade and military alliance, and push west across the plains. The Beaver Hills region become a trading centre.
- 1724 to 1753
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, and his family explore the plains, searching for the western sea. They establish small trading posts to buy furs.
The Shoshoni people are the first aboriginal peoples of the northwestern plains to acquire horses. They obtain them from the Comanches to the south.
- 1740 to 1750
British entrepreneur Arthur Dobbs suggests the western plains of North America have considerable agricultural and settlement potential for the people of the British Empire.
Some historians suggest Anthony Henday of the Hudson's Bay Company arrives at Edmonton's location in the early spring.
The Cree call this place Amiskwaciwaskahiken, or the Beaver Hills. Nine Cree children and their mothers walk across the prairies with their fathers Attickosish and Connawapa and fur trader Anthony Henday. They are here to ask local tribes to come to trade at Hudson's Bay. Some historians believe the visitors camp with Nakoda families, near the place where the Sturgeon River meets the North Saskatchewan River.
- 1770 to 1820
The Métis people, the descendants of indigenous women and European fur traders, come into being.
The North West Company is founded.
- 1780 to 1782
A smallpox epidemic claims thousands of lives on the western plains.
James Hughes of the North West Company establishes Fort Augustus near present-day Fort Saskatchewan. A few months later William Tomison of the Hudson's Bay Company builds the first Edmonton House near the fort of his rivals.
The first Metis children live at or near Fort Augustus and Edmonton House on the North Saskatchewan River. Their mothers are aboriginal women; their fathers are fur traders from Upper and Lower Canada, or Britain. They have no schools. They work with their parents, and play in their free time. They speak mostly Cree with their parents and other children.
Iroquois voyageur Louis Kwarakwante signs a voyageur's contract with the North West Company in Montreal, and travels to Fort Augustus. He meets his first wife, Marie Katis, of the Sekani tribe at Jasper House. Their son, Michel Callihoo, will bring an Cree-Iroquois band into Treaty 6 in the Edmonton area.
A Montreal boy named John Rowand begins to work as an apprentice at Fort Augustus at the age of 13. He will grow up to be the boss of Fort Edmonton, and the most powerful trader for the Hudson's Bay Company in this part of the West.
- 1802 to 1806
Fort Augustus and Edmonton House are moved upstream to the present-day Rossdale Flats.
John Rowand signs on as an apprentice clerk with the North West Company, working out of Fort Augustus. He rises in the ranks assuming charge of the Saskatchewan District in 1823, and becoming Chief Factor of Edmonton House in 1826.
Fur trader Alexander Henry the Younger estimates that 105 children live at Forts des Prairies - the forts along the North Saskatchewan River. He thinks that another 45,906 First Nations children live in the surrounding territory.
Warfare intensifies among Cree, Nakoda, and Blackfoot tribes. Fort Augustus and Edmonton House are relocated to the Smoky Lake area.
Fort Augustus and Edmonton House are moved back to the flats near the 1802 site.
The Métis people win a victory in their fight against the colonization of Red River during the Battle of Seven Oaks.
- 1818 to 1820
A measles epidemic strikes the Cree, reportedly killing thousands.
Half the Nakoda population dies in a whooping cough epidemic.
The North West Company amalgamates with the Hudson's Bay Company; two posts are combined to become Edmonton House.
Children's pets are mentioned in Fort Edmonton journal.
The North Saskatchewan River floods for the second time in five years. Edmonton House is moved up the riverbank to a location below the present-day Alberta Legislature.
John Rowand builds a two-storey log building at the new site of Fort Edmonton to impress tribal hunters in the region. Nickamed the Big House or Rowand's Folly, it is the largest structure on the western plains.
- 1837 to 1838
A smallpox epidemic decimates the people of the Western Plains. Two-thirds of the Nakoda people perish.
The Roman Catholic missionaries François-Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers stop briefly at Fort Edmonton, the first missionaries to do so. They erect a cross.
Traders in Red River carts begin to use the overland Carlton Trail between Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Methodist missionary Robert Rundle arrives, and opens a school for the fort's children.
The children at Fort Edmonton go to school for the first time. The school closes, however, after the teacher, Robert Rundle, returns to England.
Local coal is first used in a blacksmith's forge.
Missionary Jean-Baptiste Thibault arrives. He establishes the first Roman Catholic mission west of Winnipeg on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in 1844.
A scarlet fever epidemic hits Edmonton.
The artist Paul Kane visits. He returns to Edmonton House the following year.
A new windmill begins grinding local flour.
Michel Callihoo, his wife Marie Savard, and their four children move to Fort Edmonton, where Michel works on contract as a voyageur, a carpenter, and the man responsible for the fort's fishery at Lac Ste. Anne. They live at the fort through the 1850s.
The Papaschase band moves to the south side of the river, opposite Edmonton House, and makes a camp at the Two Hills.
Roman Catholic missionary Albert Lacombe arrives.
- 1857 to 1859
John Palliser leads an expedition that explores the western plains with the assistance of Métis guide Peter Erasmus. The Palliser Report changes outsiders' perceptions of the Prairies, and suggests the potential for settlement.
Thomas Woolsey, a missionary teacher, complains in his diary about his students' behaviour. "Inkstands are upset, slates, broken, books torn, and cursing and swearing most alarmingly indulged in. They often rush from their seats to fight or wrestle with each other, and when interfered with, threaten to revenge themselves upon me."
The children of Fort Edmonton love to ride horses at high speed, reports a visitor, James Carnegie. He says they are "perfectly fearless, and sit on their horses with a firmness, spirit and grace very beautiful to see."
Chief Factor Christie records buffalo rations for children at the Fort by household.
Sisters Emery, Adèle Lamy, and Alphonse establish a Grey Nuns mission at Lac Ste. Anne.
The hunter Lapatac is buried at Fort Edmonton. His descendants will found the Enoch Cree band.
Roman Catholic missionary Albert Lacombe establishes a mission at St. Albert.
The Overlanders -- gold prospectors bound for British Columbia -- pass through Edmonton. Prospectors begin working the river valley near Edmonton.
Roman Catholic missionary Constantin Scollen starts a school.
Methodist missionaries George and Elizabeth McDougall establish a mission at Fort Victoria, now Pakan. The McDougall family moves to Edmonton in 1871.
Victoria Belcourt is born in Lac Ste. Anne. As a child she travels on some of the last buffalo hunts on the Canadian Prairies, helping her mother who is a medicine woman. Later she grows up to tell stories about Metis traditions and her childhood adventures. Known by her married name Victoria Callihoo, she will live to be 105.
Catholic missionaries opens a school in a log building inside Fort Edmonton.
Canada becomes a nation with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
The British North America Act creates the Dominion of Canada. John A. Macdonald is Canada's first Prime Minister.
- 1869 to 1870
A smallpox epidemic strikes the western plains and kills thousands of people, including hundreds in the Fort Edmonton region.
Canada purchases Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. The area, which includes much of what is now Alberta, is renamed the North-West Territories.
The Métis in Red River resist the Canadian government's purchase and control of Rupert's Land - which includes the Red River settlement and what is now the province of Alberta. The last tribal battle near Fort Edmonton occurs.
American whiskey traders arrive at the fort. Manitoba joins Confederation.
The buffalo disappear from the Plains, creating hard times for people in this district. Canada purchases Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. Rupert's Land includes the area that is now Edmonton.
Hundreds of children who live in Fort Edmonton, St. Albert, and Lac Ste. Anne and in surrounding First Nations camps die in a smallpox epidemic. Orphans stay with the Grey Nuns in St. Albert.
Sweetgrass leads delegation of chiefs to Fort Edmonton to send a message to Canada; the chiefs object to the sale of their land without their consent, and request a treaty.
Edmonton is incorporated as a village.
Missionary George McDougall builds a Methodist mission on a site near the present-day McDougall United Church. His family runs a day school for local children.
British Columbia joins Confederation.
The Canadian government grants free homesteads to settlers under the Dominion Lands Act; provisions are made for railroads, schools, and Hudson's Bay Company land.
The Hudson's Bay Company surveys its Edmonton Reserve, land that was set aside for the company.
The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) is established.
The first resident physician, Dr. Verey, arrives.
Liberal Alexander Mackenzie is elected as the Prime Minister of Canada.
- 1874 to 1879
Buffalo continue to disappear around Fort Edmonton; in some years, other wild game is also scarce. Hard times and intermittent famines strike the First Nations camps and Metis settlements in the region.
The NWMP arrive in Edmonton under Inspector William Jarvis. They run the first postal service.
The Northcote is the first steamboat to reach Edmonton.
The Anglican missionary, William Newton, arrives. Eliza Newton, his sister, joins him in 1886 to treat patients at their residence, the Hermitage.
The Plains Cree sign Treaty 6 at Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt.
Donald Ross builds the first hotel in Edmonton.
The Dominion telegraph line reaches Hay Lakes, southeast of Edmonton.
Canada introduces the Indian Act.
First Nations children on the central prairies travel with their families to Fort Pitt and Fort Carlton where their chiefs sign Treaty 6 with Canada. The First Nations in the Edmonton area sign Treaty 6 later in a ceremony in the river valley.
Cree and Nakoda chiefs in the Edmonton area sign an adhesion to Treaty Six at Fort Edmonton, bringing their bands into treaty.
In the south, the Tsuu T'ina, Siksika, Blood, Nakoda, and Piikani sign Treaty 7.
Edmonton's population is 148.
Michel Callihoo signs an adhesion to Treaty 6 in Edmonton on behalf of 178 band members.
The first post office opens.
The Dominion telegraph line reaches Edmonton from Hay Lakes.
The Canadian government passes a new National Policy, promising protective economic tariffs, a transcontinental railway, and incentives for settlement in the West.
Edmonton holds its first Agricultural Fair.
The Humberstone Mine and Ross Mine begin operating as the first commercial coal mines in the area. Edmonton area mines employ thousands of people, and produce an estimated 13 million tons of coal between 1880 and 1970, when the last mine finally closes.
The Canadian government surveys a 104-square kilometre reserve for the Papaschase band under Treaty 6 in what is now south Edmonton. Frank Oliver leads the opposition to Cree settlement of this land.
The Edmonton Bulletin begins publication becoming the first newspaper in the area now known as Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 263.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) is founded. The government decides to build the railway through Calgary, not Edmonton.
William Humberstone opens the first brickyard in Edmonton.
The first public school opens, and serves as an early courthouse and meeting hall.
Edmonton's first one-room schoolhouse welcomes its first children. One early student, Matt McCauley Jr., says his classmates had no paper, pens or pencils, only slates and chalk. "The teacher taught us numbers by moving coloured pieces of wood on wire attached to a wooden frame." Outside the school, students enjoy jumping contests, running races, and playing ball. They make their own balls from deer hide and yarn. In winter, they build a toboggan slide behind the school. They makesleds from wooden barrels, hunt rabbits, and play at Fort Edmonton when the adults let them.
John Walter launches the first cable ferry, the Belle of Edmonton.
The Jasper House Hotel opens.
The first public library opens.
The Edmonton Cricket Club is formed.
The CPR reaches Calgary.
The McPherson and Coleman stagecoach makes the first stagecoach run from Edmonton to Calgary; the five-day 'express' costs each passenger $100.
Seven-year old Anna Laura Robertson arrives in Edmonton with her family. She goes on a moose-drawn sleigh ride from Edmonton to St. Albert. She snares rabbits and rides ponies along a trail that is now Jasper Avenue.
On January 3rd, Alex Taylor telephones Narcisse St. Jean to say Happy New Year to everybody in St. Albert. It is Edmonton's first telephone.
Thirty-six children write Edmonton's first exam. Their mistakes are printed in the newspaper, beside their names!
A new law in the North-West Territories says student should go to school from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with one hour for lunch and a 15-minute recess in the morning and afternoon. Summer holidays are four weeks; Christmas holidays are six weeks.
Tricycles are the latest new arrival to Edmonton.
A local baseball game makes the news for the first time.
Edmontonians play the first local ten-pin bowling game.
The North West uprising begins in what is now Saskatchewan, and creates panic and confusion in the Edmonton district. Major-General Strange commands the Alberta Field Force. Canada imprisons Big Bear and Poundmaker, and executes Louis Riel.
Ottawa sends a scrip commission to Edmonton in an attempt to resolve outstanding land issues with local Métis.
The CPR drives in the last spike.
Alberta’s first telephone call is made between Fort Edmonton and St. Albert. The cost for a local business call is 15 cents; telegrams are free.
When the North-West Rebellion begins to the east, settlers' children stay with their families in Fort Edmonton and in the Roman Catholic church in St. Albert . Their parents are afraid that the North-West Rebellion will spread to this area, but there is no fighting here.
Annie McKernan, a settlers' child, later remembers: "We children thought it was a lark." In St. Albert, Jean-Marie Lestanc Poundmaker,the son of the great Cree chief Poundmaker, writes a letter to his father in prison: "Learning that there has been fighting in your lands, I have been much troubled, but I am glad to know that you were not killed."
January 19th is the coldest day ever recorded in Edmonton. The thermometer reads -49.4º C.
Edmonton's population is 350.
Canada's first long distance telephone call is placed between Edmonton and Battleford, Saskatchewan.
The Papaschase band in Edmonton is the first in Canada to lose its full reserve after the signing of a treaty. Many families take Métis scrip and disperse to the Enoch reserve and beyond. Heavy pressure begins on Cree bands around Edmonton to surrender more land.
The first Roman Catholic school opens.
The Edmonton Board of Trade is established.
The Hudson's Bay Company imports the first bicycle to Edmonton.
South Edmonton us etablished.
The Calgary and Edmonton Railway opens, allowing the CPR to bring the first train into South Edmonton.
The Strathcona Hotel is open for business.
The first local electric light is switched on.
An early theatre group, the Edmonton Amateur Society, is formed.
The homesteading era begins. Children begin to arrive with their families on the first trains to come to this district. They sleep in boarding houses, barns, and tents until their families find a free homestead, or farm, outside the town.
Edmonton's population is 700.
Edmonton is incorporated as a town with Matthew McCauley as the first mayor.
In an unruly clash with Edmonton residents, South Edmontonians unsuccessfully attempt to have the Land Titles building moved to the south side of the river.
Edmonton's Board of Health is established.
The first Immigration Hall welcomes newcomers.
Local taxi service begins.
Edmonton has its first sidewalks.
The Edmonton Thistles hockey team plays the first ever recorded hockey game in Edmonton.
Members of the local curling club compete in the first covered rink in the province.
The Edmonton Golf and Country Club is established.
Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier is elected federally.
- 1897 to 1913
Edmonton's population is 1,638.
New immigrants to the West begin arriving in great numbers to claim homesteads, buy farms, or settle in towns or cities.
The Klondike gold rush begins. Edmonton streets are crowded with prospectors passing through.
John A. McDougall is elected mayor.
Children arrive with parents on their way to the Klondike gold fields in the Yukon.
In August, the North Saskatchewan River floods 12.5 meters above its winter level.
South Edmonton is incorporated as a town and renamed Strathcona.
Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert, and Leduc become villages.
Local soldiers leave for the Boer War in South Africa.
The Cameron Mine collapses, triggering a massive landslide on Grierson Hill.
The Enoch band loses 37 square kilometres of its reserve. John A. McDougall and Richard Secord buy 70 per cent of this land from Ottawa below market price.
With the completion of the Edmonton, Yukon, and Pacific Railway, the first train crosses to the north side of the river.
The Low Level Bridge opens as the first bridge across the North Saskatchewan River connecting Strathcona and Edmonton.
Edmonton's carpenters organize the first union local in the city - Local 1325 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
Organization of Edmonton construction unions begins in earnest when the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners provides a charter to Local 1325 in Edmonton. Local 1325 operates to the present day, making it the senior construction local in Alberta.
Edmonton had been a desert for union organizers in the nineteenth century, but as the building of transcontinental railways through the city began in earnest, farms in the Edmonton region filled up quickly and industries servicing the farms grew apace. There was a strong demand for construction workers. While some of the construction contractors simply hired jack-of-all-trades farm boys as construction workers, the city soon filled with experienced construction workers from other points in western North America seeking work in a boomtown. Many of these skilled construction workers had been members of union locals in places where they had formerly worked, and were well aware of the benefits of union organization. By World War One, virtually all of the skilled trades in construction had formed unions in Edmonton.
Local 1325 in Edmonton owed its origins to the carpenters of Frank, who had organized in February 1902, and then hired an organizer, Robert Robinson, to extend that organization throughout the province. After several weeks in Edmonton in October and November, Robinson had succeeded in convincing enough members to sign up to create Local 1325 on November 11.
Six months later, on May 15, 1903, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen granted a charter to Local 1 in Edmonton.
The early crafts unions in the construction field negotiated contracts with company owners to provide standardized hours and wages for craftsmen. They also kept contact with members of their union in other cities and towns to warn them when the market was flooded in Edmonton in an effort to prevent management from gaining the upper hand in negotiations that a surplus of qualified workers might produce. While strikes in the construction sector were infrequent, the unions could get better contracts from management when the threat of a strike had to be taken seriously. Excess labour often made it easier for companies to operate with scab labour.
The Michel band loses the first portion of its reserve west of Edmonton.
The first edition of the Edmonton Journal rolls off the press.
The Thistle Rink opens.
Bricklayers organize their own union local.
Edmonton's population is 8,350.
Edmonton is incorporated as a city.
Five Edmonton bands in the Edmonton area petition Ottawa to remove the Indian agent for letting land go in sales well below market value.
The city purchases Edmonton and District Telephone Company.
John Morris brings the first car to town.
The Edmonton Operatic Society stages Les Cloches de Corneville, its first performance.
Students begin to attend Alberta College.
Fort Saskatchewan and St. Albert become towns.
Seven plumbers and pipefitters organize a union local. It will later become Canada's largest local in the trade.
Edmonton declares itself a city. It is home to about 8,350 people.
The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 488, later to become Canada's largest local of plumbers and pipefitters, had its humble beginnings as seven plumbers and pipefitters received their charter from the parent international union. The three plumbers and pipefitters who were working in Edmonton in 1903 had actually applied for a local charter that year, but were turned down by the international union because their ranks were too thin. In 1905 the local signed its first collective agreement with the master plumbers in the city. The new agreement provided for an eight-hour day and sixty-four cents per hour, while the previous year plumbers and pipefitters had been working nine hours per day for between thirty-five and fifty cents per hour. To celebrate their increased wages and leisure time, the members of the new local held a gala banquet on 23 January 1906. By 1912 the local had grown to more than two hundred members.
The Edmonton "UA" local was similar to other craft unions of the time in its ethos and orientation. Craft workers took pride in their skill and developed elaborate rituals that reinforced a sense of brotherhood among fellow members of the craft. Craft unions were exclusive in that they were open only to members of the specific craft (plumbers, carpenters, machinists, typographers, and so on). This contrasted with industrial unions such as the United Mineworkers of America, which organized all workers on an industry-wide basis regardless of the specific job they performed.
The Canadian Northern transcontinental railway was completed in Edmonton, sparking economic development, trade-union expansion, poverty and misery in the city. The Grand Trunk Pacific, Canada's third transcontinental railway at the time, reached Edmonton in 1909. Union locals of railway carmen, machinists and maintenance of way workers were formed as a direct result of the establishment and growth of the railway industry. In addition, unions of blacksmiths, tailors, barbers and teamsters (drivers of horse teams for delivery and other purposes) were established in the broader local workforce as a result of the railway-generated economic activity. Railway construction to the west of Edmonton in the years following 1905 attracted unskilled "navvies." Either passing through to the worksites or using the city as a refuge during times of unemployment, these workers inhabited shantytowns of tents and shacks in the east end near the railway tracks. Diseases such as diptheria were common in the shantytowns.
Alberta becomes a province. School children parade to the Exhibition Grounds on Rossdale Flats to join celebration.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are recognized as provinces. Liberal Alexander Rutherford becomes the first Premier of Alberta. Edmonton is named the temporary capital.
The Alexander band loses 39 square kilometres of land; they don't see financial benefits.
The Canadian Northern Railway reaches Edmonton; this rail line is later consolidated with other rail lines to form the Canadian National Railway in 1923.
One-fifth of Edmonton residents have running water.
The first elevator goes into operation.
Railway car men, machinists and maintenance workers in Edmonton's growing railway industry organize union locals. Blacksmiths, tailors, barbers and teamsters also organize.
Thousands of acres of the Michel band's land are sold in a four-hour sale at the Empire Theatre; the band doesn't receive the proceeds.
The first sitting of the Alberta Legislative Assembly opens at the Thistle Rink.
The University of Alberta is founded.
Hyman Goldstick, Edmonton's first rabbi, arrives.
Leduc becomes a town.
The Edmonton Trades and Labour Council receives its first charter.
The Edmonton Trades and Labour Council (forerunner of the Edmonton and District Labour Council) received its charter of incorporation from the American Federation of Labor. The council was originally established on 16 January 1903. The decision to apply for a charter from the AFL was taken at a 2 December 1905 meeting attended by representatives of the plumbers, typographers, lathers, bricklayers and carpenters. The chair of the meeting and the first president of the chartered council was J.A. Kinney, president of the Edmonton local of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the city's first labour alderman in 1914. The Edmonton Trades and Labour Council, like other city-based labour councils across the country, provided a meeting place for workers from a variety of craft-based unions to meet together to share their experiences as workers and to work collectively in pursuit of their interests. Besides intervening in municipal politics to advance a labour agenda, the trades and labour council mediated local disputes between its members and organized picnics, lectures and the occasional concert. The Edmonton and District Labour Council continues this tradition today. Among many other activities, it hosts an annual Labour Day picnic for the city's unemployed.
Six workers die in a fire at the Strathcona Coal Company.
William Griesbach is elected mayor of Edmonton.
Strathcona is incorporated as a city. Spruce Grove and Stony Plain become villages.
Construction begins on the Alberta Legislature building.
The Penn mine opens on Grierson Hill, and runs with convict labour from the Edmonton Federal Penitentiary until 1917.
Mail carriers make their first deliveries. They are the only postal workers between Winnipeg and Vancouver.
A recession hits the West.
Edmonton's population is 18,500.
Edmonton installs the first automatic dial telephones in North America.
University of Alberta classes begin at Duggan Street School.
The first music festival in Canada is held in Edmonton.
The city's first motion picture theatre, the Bijou, opens. Diamond Park opens as the city's first permanent baseball stadium.
Riders pay five cents to ride on the city's first streetcar.
The Edmonton Eskimos hockey team makes the city's first appearance at the Stanley Cup finals.
Stony Plain becomes a town.
The United Mine Workers of America attempt to organize Edmonton's coal miners, but fail.
The United Mine Workers of America makes the first of many futile attempts to organize Edmonton miners in the face of well-organized employer opposition to union mines.
Like everywhere else in Alberta, coal mining in Edmonton was marked by frequent injury and death, low pay, little or no safety procedures, child labour, miserable living conditions, and disease. Frequently, the miners were at odds with management not only because of conditions of work but also housing, rates of pay, and the practice of "docking" wages for dirty coal.
Miners preferred industrial unions and shared little in common with urban craft unions such as the Railway Brotherhoods. The union that first represented miners in Alberta was the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Organizers from this American-based union had come from Montana to the Galt mines in Lethbridge in 1897 and led the province's first coal miners' strike in an effort to reverse wage cuts. Under attack from the Canadian government and the North-West Mounted Police, the WFM withdrew to focus on American miners.
In 1903 the more moderate United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) resumed the WFM's former efforts to organize coal miners in Alberta. While optimism prevailed throughout the new province, in 1907, the Alberta government faced a new challenge. A series of labour strikes and a severely cold winter created shortages of coal and drove up fuel prices. The governing Alberta Liberals intervened with the federal government to bring an end to the strikes. Mackenzie King, then a junior official in the federal government's Labour office, mediated an end to the dispute and workers won a wage increase and recognition of limited union rights. As a result of the conflict, King drafted the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act (I.D.I.A.), which forbade strikes or lock-outs in coal mines or public utilities for 60 days to allow a board to investigate the dispute and make non-binding recommendations to the two sides.
The IDIA was a bonus for mineowners and an obstacle to successful unionism. The best weapon in labour's hands was a surprise strike, which might force an employer to bargain seriously. Companies had at their disposal many avenues to break strikes by their workers. Companies could: employ new immigrants that they could use as strikebreakers; openly fire and blacklist union organizers and supporters; and force men to sign contracts that obligated them to never join a union before they were hired. Most importantly, companies could depend on the militia and the North West Mounted Police to smash picket lines and harass strikers and their families. With the IDIA in effect, a union had to give 60 days notice of a strike, time enough to employ strikebreakers who signed non-union oaths; if the union struck in violation of the IDIA, the company could call in the NWMP immediately to arrest the union leaders and either force the miners back to work or give their jobs to replacement workers.
In May, 1908, UMWA organizers set out to establish Local 2540 at the Standard Coal Company in Edmonton. The company refused to talk about wages or the appalling working conditions, forcing all sides to turn to the I.D.I.A. to mediate the impasse. A board of conciliation was struck that was composed of Frank Sherman representing the union, Frank B. Smith sitting for the company and Mr. Justice Taylor serving as chairman. Before a report by the board could be turned in, a settlement by the union with the Standard Coal Company was reached that made some changes in working conditions but left wages below the proposed rate. This resulted in the UMWA membership losing their confidence in the union leadership. Several workers staged an unauthorized walkout, sabotaging the agreement.
Reginald Hunt makes the first aerial flight over Edmonton.
The Grand Trunk Pacific railroad reaches Edmonton.
John Walter launches the City of Edmonton steamer.
The Villages of North Edmonton and West Edmonton are incorporated.
The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) opens.
A new exhibition grounds opens at the current Northlands Park site.
Edmonton's football team is officially named the Eskimos.
Edmonton's population is 24,900.
A real estate boom begins. By 1914 new structures in Edmonton include the Civic Block, Court House, Tegler and McLeod buildings, University of Alberta, Royal Alexandra Hospital, and numerous schools and bridges.
Factory workers at the new Great Western Garment Company in Edmonton become the first unionized garment workers in Canada.
New industries form in Edmonton.
Prior to the First World War the Edmonton economy underwent a short-lived boom period. In 1911 the local economy surged, driven in large part by real estate speculation. The inevitable crash came just two short years later in 1913. In its wake, this speculative economy brought with it new investment in the garment and packinghouse industries. These early businesses made up a large part of the early industrial base of the city.
The packinghouses that were founded prior to the First World War provided Edmonton's working class with its first taste of mass production. The workers who were hired at this time were mainly eastern European immigrants. Plants like Swifts and Burns exerted a high degree of control over the production process, and as a result over workers' lives. The company controlled the speed of the assembly line and workers had to adjust their rate of work or they could be pulled from the line. Perhaps the most resented aspect of employer control was the "shape up" - the foreman would meet with workers every morning and pick and choose who would work that day and who wouldn't. Sometimes workers with years of experience would be replaced by a new employee or by someone who had gained management favour. Such control inevitably led to attempts to unionize. Companies vigorously opposed such attempts, by intimidation of union organizers, refusal to negotiate contracts, and strikebreaking. It wasn't until the 1940s that unions found a permanent home in these industries.
Unlike the packinghouse industry, the garment workers were able to form unions as early as 1911. The Great Western Garment Company (GWG) was the first unionized mass production workplace in the garment industry. Local 120 of the United Garment Workers of America was established with only seven initial members (the minimum number needed to receive a charter). Women made up the vast majority of workers in the garment industry. Jobs in a garment factory were gender segregated with women's jobs paying far less than male jobs in the industry; the only management opportunity was that of forelady. GWG did not oppose the union mainly because the company wanted to use the "union made" label on their clothing. The company saw this as an advantage that enabled them to attract sales from other unionized workers.
Few other workplaces in the garment industry were unionized at this time. Despite this, the presence of the GWG union helped to set a standard for wages and working conditions in non-union workplaces within the garment industry. The union helped these women achieve much higher wage levels than their female counterparts within the service industries.
The Industrial Workers of the World organizes a strike of 250 sewer construction workers.
On September 27, 1912, two hundred and fifty sewer construction workers went on strike in an effort to increase their wages from thirty to thirty-five cents an hour. The City of Edmonton had countered their demand by proposing that the sewer construction workers work nine hours a day instead of eight with the existing hours paid at the old rate, but with the additional hours to be paid at the rate of forty-five cents. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the "Wobblies," became involved in the dispute after the strike was called.
Formed in Chicago in 1905, the IWW focused on organizing unskilled labour. Women in sweatshops, immigrants, ditch-diggers, and harvest workers were welcome in the IWW. Big Bill Haywood, a leader of the IWW who had come out of the Western Federation of Miners, said the Wobblies would go "down into the gutter to get at the mass of workers and bring them up to a decent plane of living."
In an era before instant communication, the Wobblies organized a unique mode of communication: they organized marching bands that walked from one work site to another. At each work site, the band would halt, speeches were delivered and IWW songs were sung, making those working realize that there was a strike in progress and that they should lay down tools.
Because of the IWW's reputation as a radical labour organization, the City of Edmonton ordered that the militia be ready in case it was needed to put down disturbances arising from the strike of the sewer construction workers. To counter the Wobblies' roving and singing pickets, police were stationed at the work sites in an effort to intimidate the strikers. In one instance, the police arrested the secretary of the IWW Edmonton local, Gus Larsen, and charged him with vagrancy.
While the strike lasted only five days, and the men returned to work on the city's terms, the IWW continued to organize unemployed workers in Edmonton. The Wobblies mobilized transient workers, organized demonstrations, meetings, marches on city hall and sit-ins at two downtown churches.
Edmonton's population is 53,611.
Strathcona and Edmonton amalgamate. North Edmonton is annexed to the city.
The Hudson's Bay Company sells its local land holdings.
The local branch of the Women's Canadian Club is organized.
The first ski tournament is held on Connor's Hill.
Annie Jackson signs on with the Edmonton Police Service to become the first female police officer in Canada.
Cree athlete Alex Decoteau competes at the Stockholm Olympics, the only Albertan at the Games.
About 250 Edmonton sewer workers and ditch-diggers go on strike to increase their wages from 30 to 35 cents an hour.
The High Level Bridge opens, and some kids get in trouble for climbing too high!
- 1913 to 1915
Recession grips Edmonton.
The Edmonton Arena, later named the Edmonton Gardens, opens to replace the Thistle Rink, which was destroyed by fire.
Beverly is incorporated as a village.
The first train crosses the newly completed High Level Bridge.
The Pantages Theatre opens with live theatrical performances.
The Strathcona Library welcomes its first visitors.
John Hougan sets a new Canadian ski-jumping record of 33 meters at Connor's Hill.
Edmonton's population is 72,516.
The First World War begins, and Edmonton's first soldiers leave for the front. Canada passes the War Measures Act, and imprisons 8,000 'enemy aliens'; most internees are Ukrainian and German males from the Prairies.
The Turner Valley Gas Field is discovered.
City streets are renumbered.
Edmontonians tee off at the Victoria Golf Course, the first municipal course.
The Edmonton Newsboys Band plays its first performance.
The new Edmonton Arena opens.
John Hougan sets a new Canadian ski jumping record on Connor's Hill.
The First World War begins. The Edmonton Newsboys Band leads the parade as the city's soldiers march off to the First World War.
Like hundreds of Edmonton children, the Bramley-Moore children write letters to their soldier father, before he dies overseas.
Hundreds of children are evacuated when the North Saskatchewan River floods, and destroys homes and businesses in the river valley. Like many kids, Fred Barns remembers the excitement of floating down the streets on rafts: "We'd pull ourselves over in front of a house, and then holler for help, and they'd come and rescue us. We spent all day getting rescued."
Edmonton Grads basketball team founded.
The North Saskatchewan River floods 14 metres. One infant drowns, and nearly 800 Edmonton families lose their homes.
Enlistment begins in the 49th Battalion.
The Edmonton Commercial Graduates Basketball Club plays its first game. Over its 25-year history the 'Grads' record 502 wins - including all 27 Olympic matches - and only 20 losses.
The city dismantles Fort Edmonton.
The Hotel Macdonald opens.
The Princess Theatre opens.
Prohibition begins in Alberta; it remains in effect for seven years.
Emily Murphy of Edmonton, and Alice Jamieson of Calgary, become the first female magistrates in the British Empire.
Women win the right to vote in provincial elections.
Labourers who work for the City of Edmonton organize the Civic Employees Federal Union - the first union local for public employees.
Edmonton inside workers lead the way in creating continuing trade unions for municipal employees
The trade union movement expanded exponentially during World War One, with many workers joining in an effort to win wage increases that would counter the effects of wartime inflation that resulted from wartime profiteering, largely unchecked by government action. Fear of being fired and then blacklisted by other employers had prevented most unskilled and semi-skilled workers from joining unions in peacetime. But wartime labour shortages emboldened many workers. Edmonton city labourers were among the first general municipal workers to join the rapidly expanding labour movement. Although the 1912 strike by city labourers had failed (see 1912), the city's inside workers led a new charge for unionism by city workers in 1916. This time it was successful.
After negotiating a contract in 1916, the inside workers were issued a charter by the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) as the Civic Employees Federal Union No. 30 on May Day, 1917. Their successful negotiation of a contract sparked other inside and municipal employees to form unions, including city hall staff, labourers, police, fire fighters, teamsters, electricians, and street railway workers.
The Edmonton District and Labour Council creates the Labour Representation League to field working-class candidates for all levels of government. The League, opposing the federal government's plans to use conscription to fill military ranks, calls for conscription of wealth before conscription of men can be considered during the war.
In its early years, the Edmonton and District Labour Council had limited its political activity to lobbying governments for legislation favourable to the working class. In civic politics, it called for an extension of the franchise, then restricted to property owners, to tenants. It also called for civic spending to be better apportioned among the areas of the city so that all social classes received civic services. Further, it requested that the city provide contracts, as much as possible, only to unionized contractors paying union rates. In provincial politics, a key goal was the hiring of more inspectors so that provincial labour laws were better enforced. In federal politics, the EDLC wanted more restrictions on the rate of immigration to the country for fear both of unemployment for its members and the upper hand that employers experienced when there was a surplus of hungry workers anxious to take jobs at whatever wages were on offer.
As it became clear that the non-labour politicians were unwilling to accede to any of these demands, labour became increasingly interested in supporting candidates who supported labour's political platform. From 1912 to 1916, in Edmonton, the EDLC endorsed a number of individual candidates who had emerged from the labour movement. But it exercised no control over the behaviour of these candidates once elected and was sometimes disappointed with the positions taken by labour men who had been elected to council.
By 1917, labour was far more radical in Edmonton than it had been a decade earlier when the EDLC agreed to join the Edmonton Board of Trade. In common with other workers across the country, Edmonton workers resented the unequal sacrifice that various social classes experienced during World War One. Young workers and farmers were risking their lives in combat overseas and dying in huge numbers. Meanwhile capitalists were earning huge profits from munitions contracts and from the exploitation of wartime labour shortages for most goods to push up prices well beyond most workers' ability to cope. When Prime Minister Robert Borden announced in 1917 that his government would conscript young men into combat because the voluntary system had not produced all the recruits that the government wanted, organized labour was aghast. Many labour organizations in western Canada, including the EDLC, argued that conscription of wealth in wartime should precede conscription of people. This meant that the state should operate the major industries during wartime, ending war profiteering and insuring that price increases ceased to rise faster than wages.
Elmer Roper, a printer who had been one of those responsible for convincing the Calgary Labour Council to establish a Labour Representation League (LRL) earlier that year, had moved to Edmonton in 1917 and convinced the EDLC to establish a similar organization. A pre-party organization, the LRL would draw up platforms for the various levels of government, and only endorsed candidates who ran on the LRL platform and agreed to be accountable to the LRL to fulfil their election promises. The LRL was responsible for nominating anti-conscription candidates for Edmonton during the federal election that year. Though they failed to elect these candidates, the EDLC, along with the provincial labour movement generally, was increasingly committed to the idea of direct labour involvement in politics.
Edmonton's population is 56,000.
Edmonton annexes Calder.
Edmonton's first Community League is organized in Crestwood.
The Labour Representation League is organized to recruit political candidates for all levels of government, with the help of printer Elmer Roper, a future mayor of Edmonton.
The First World War ends. 977 soldiers in the Loyal Edmonton Regiment have been killed in action; another 2,282 have been wounded.
The Spanish Flu epidemic kills an estimated 50,000 Canadians nationwide; 614 Edmontonians perish.
Katherine Stinson makes Canada's first airmail delivery to Edmonton.
In a worldwide epidemic of the Spanish influenza, XX Edmonton children under the age of 15 die of the virus.
- 1919 to 1924
Near drought conditions occur on the prairies.
The Winnipeg riot leads to the Winnipeg General Strike. Sympathetic to the Winnipeg workers' demands, some Edmonton workers stage a similar walkout.
The 49th Battalion returns.
Edward, Prince of Wales visits.
"Fighting" Joseph Clarke is elected mayor.
Edmonton teachers organize the first teachers' strike in Alberta.
Provincial civil servants organize as the Civil Service Association of Alberta.
The Edmonton Free Press, a labour newspaper, published its first edition.
This is a year of labour radicalism in Edmonton, marked by a month-long sympathy strike with Winnipeg's General Strike participants, the first teachers' strike in Alberta, the establishment of the Civil Service Association of Alberta (CSA, forerunner of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees), and the creation of a labour newspaper, the Edmonton Free Press, which, in various incarnations, survives until 1953.
Workers in Edmonton, like workers throughout the countries that had fought in World War One, were radicalized during the war by the glaring imbalances between the sacrifices of soldiers and workers, on the one hand, and massive profiteering by wealthy capitalists on the other. At war's end, workers, whose purchasing power had fallen during the war, were determined to regain their former standard of living. Many had been inspired by the Russian Revolution to believe that the capitalist system could and should be overthrown, while others merely sought reforms within that system, particularly the right to bargain collectively with employers by joining unions of their own choosing. The political and economic elites were prepared to fight both revolution and reform.
A variety of activities in the city reflected the new spirit of worker militancy. On March 19, employees of the provincial government banded together in the Civil Service Association. On April 12, the Edmonton Trades and Labour Council (the ETLC) launched a weekly newspaper, which it called the Edmonton Free Press. On May 26, the ETLC called a general strike of Edmonton workers in solidarity with Winnipeg's strikers who had virtually shut down their city from May 15 onwards in an effort to force metal shop and building trades employees to bargain with Allied Trades Councils. Finally, on October 9, 1919, Edmonton's school teachers, members of the Alberta Teachers' Alliance, launched a six-day strike for better wages, the first teachers' strike in the history of the province.
The Edmonton Free Press was labour's answer to what was perceived as hostile coverage of labour issues by the two daily papers, the Edmonton Journal, and the Edmonton Bulletin. By the end of 1919, its editor was Elmer Roper, a former printer at the Journal who had decided to establish his own printing business. A year later, Roper would persuade the Alberta Federation of Labour, which he served as secretary-treasurer, to make the paper the voice of all of Alberta labour. While the paper remained headquartered in the capital city, its name changed to Alberta Labour News. In 1935, in the face of a crushing defeat for the political labour movement, the newspaper changed its name to People's Weekly in an effort to reach beyond the labour movement and to unite social democrats in the province. The paper became the official organ of the CCF before the 1944 election and continued in operation, always under Roper's editorship, until declining subscriptions forced its shutdown in 1953.
Just as the establishment of the paper reflected the desire of the ETLC to educate its membership regarding labour values, the general strike movement reflected a widespread feeling among labourites in the post-war period that only a militant rank-and-file movement could scare reluctant capitalists and governments to grant collective bargaining rights to workers. Edmonton's general strike lasted from May 26 to June 25, when the Winnipeg strike was called off after police violence against strikers and the arrest of strike leaders had discouraged strikers from continuing their struggle. Government workers only struck for a few days before returning to work rather than facing employer threats of dismissal. But metal workers, forestry employees, brewing workers, teamsters, laundry workers and railway employees, along with a minority of building trades workers, all stayed out the full month of the sympathy strike.
While employers and the provincial government denounced the rise of labour militancy, it yielded results for workers. The teachers' strike caused the school board to offer a slightly larger pay package. The government decided that it had little option but to recognize the CSA. Complaints about exploitation of women workers led to the passage of a Minimum Wage Act affecting only women; the minimum wages prescribed were quite minimal indeed, but it was a beginning of recognition of state responsibility to insure that workers were not exploited by employers.
The Edmonton Symphony holds its first performance.
Edmonton's population is 58,821.
The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is founded.
David Duggan is elected mayor.
The United Farmers of Alberta win the provincial election, and remain in power until 1935.
CJCA begins broadcasting as Edmonton's first radio station.
The Central Skating Rink opens.
The Grads win the Canadian Basketball Championship. The team wins this competition each year from 1922 to 1940.
Radio comes to Edmonton. Mayor David Duggan opens the CJCA station downtown with the words: "Edmonton leads the way in all Alberta! Calgary follows! That is all! Goodnight!" His daugher, Grace, remembers her father's excitement that night. "Later Dad exclaimed: 'My family could hear my voice all the way to the south side of the river!'"
The Edmonton local of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union goes on strike against four cafes that want to cut waitresses' wages by 27.5 percent, and wins major concessions from three of the cafe owners.
The 1920s was a time of both labour unrest and agitation by women in Canada. Edmonton and Alberta were no exception. On the one hand, there were the middle-class suffragettes, including women like Judge Emily Murphy, the first British Empire woman police magistrate who went on to play a key role in the Persons Case of 1929, as one of the Famous Five. The United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) campaigned for a number of measures seen as radical in their time, including a minimum wage for women, mothers' allowances, homesteads for women, married women's property rights, and a bureau of children's welfare. Irene Parlby, former president of the UFWA, became Alberta's first woman Cabinet minister, though always Minister Without Portfolio, from 1921 to 1935, when the United Farmers of Alberta formed the provincial government. She championed the UFWA's causes though was largely unable to convince her colleagues to improve existing legislation that affected women.
While working-class women supported many of the demands of the UFWA, they had political demands of their own and engaged in trade union struggles to improve the lives of working women. Typical was Senefta Rybka, a Ukrainian immigrant, waitress, and member of the recently formed Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union. Senefta was married to Gregory Kizyma, himself a Canmore coal miner and activist in the coal miners' union. Both went on to to be involved with the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association. Senefta was also active in the the Canadian Peace Congress and the Voice of Women when she later returned to her home community of Calgary.
At the same time groups such as the Radical Women's Labour League (RWLL), which had been established in1919 to support the general strike movement, had small locals across Alberta. The RWLL, which later affiliated with the Communist Party, advocated prison reform, old-age pensions, civil rights, and equal pay, and access to birth-control information. The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and Women's Christian Temperance Union opposed it, though it also had its clashes with the non-communist wing of the Canadian Labour Party.
The 1920s were a time when women's work outside the home was carefully circumscribed. Generally only single women worked at careers, and then only until they married. Only 3% of married women worked outside the home; the civil service fired women when they married. Single women could not get access to relief, unless they could prove that no family member or friend could support them, and married women had to have children in order to qualify for relief. When they did work, women were directed into jobs considered of "interest" and suitable to their disposition and temperament - domestic work, food services, nursing, teaching, and office work. Even trade unions were often hostile to women, and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, before World War One, had been open only to bartenders, who were invariably men at the time. The union only opened its doors to women when prohibition during the war temporarily put an end to the occupation of bartender.
In 1919, F.E. Harrison, the federal government's fair wage officer who was a member of the federal Mathers Commission looking into labour unrest across the country (prior to the General Strikes in Winnipeg and elsewhere) admitted "that it was impossible to his mind that any girl could live and remain decent on $9 per week...". He was referring to factory wages but his comments certainly applied equally to restaurant staff. Jean MacWilliams, the wife of a returned soldier, captured the plight faced by workers when she asked the Commission "What is the use of a minimum wage if there is no Maximum to the price of commodities?"
In 1923, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union called a strike against four café owners who were demanding wage concessions of 27.5%. The Edmonton local of the union offered a 10 percent cut and after 39 days settled with three of the café owners for a cut of 12.5%. The fourth used scabs (non-union strike-breakers) and was still strike- bound after five months.
The strike came after a period of gains for waitresses who had managed, in the 1916 to 1922 period, through a combination of earlier strikes and strong negotiating, to reduce their work week to 48 hours over 6 days and to increase wages to $25/week. The first strike in 1916 had involved 53 men and women in four cafes, in the words of William Peebles HREU, business agent, "fighting to establish working conditions whereby our members, who work seven days a week, 365 days in a year, with no holidays, have a little time for recreation and a living wage". They asked for a $1 increase per week for female dishwashers (to $8/week) and a 50 cents increase for waitresses (to $10/wk). In that strike, two restaurants settled after two months and two others brought in scabs and kept operating.
Restaurant staff worked 9-10 hours per day, often in split shifts. They were frequently paid by cheques that had to be cashed at the till at which point the restaurant owner would take some money back for room and board ( for example, $5 for a cot in the basement in dark, dirty and non-segregated quarters). Others doled out the pay at $1 or 2 at a time. Waitresses were expected to run in order to increase the speed at which diners would cycle through the restaurant, increasing profits for the owners. The efforts of middle-class women fighting for abstract rights didn't mean much to these women, although they were often assisted by these suffragists when they were on strike through soup kitchens, pickets and other supports.
A huge May Day rally supports striking Edmonton coal miners.
The early 1920s were a period of considerable labour unrest in the mining industry. Following the end of the war, the return of soldiers, immigration, and falling demand for coal (as war production came to an end) created a volatile situation. Coal companies wanted to maintain the high profit rates of the war period. As prices fell this required that they cut labour costs. Miners had made compromises in the interests of the war and were not in a mood to make more.
Over this period, the population of the Prairies had grown faster than any other part of the country as workers migrated west in search of work. By 1921, the Prairies accounted for almost 22% of Canada's population, up from only 8% twenty years earlier. These workers came from less prosperous areas of Canada, as well as from European countries. Miners came from other mining areas, such as the Ukraine, Italy, Wales and Scotland. Some moved west from the coal fields of Cape Breton where company repression of the miners and their families was fierce.
Labour activism in the mines was also intense during this period with the Industrial Workers of the World, the One Big Union and the less militant United Mine Workers of America vying amongst themselves and other smaller unions for the hearts and minds of the miners. Alberta had more Communists than any province other than Ontario, and owners and governments used the fear of Bolshevism to bolster their justification for suppressing labour unrest.
Across Canada, unions had just come through years of growth, reaching a membership of 378,000 by 1919. The absence of work, along with the punitive practices of governments and owners, had reduced these numbers to only 261,000 by 1924. Coal was one of the areas of labour growth as the unions, and in particular the U.S.-based United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) signed up miners from different background using materials in their own language to create a connection. Many of these workers had come from areas where unions already existed and had a favourable impression of the advantages that could be offered by joining. The more radical alternative of joining the OBU was denied the workers in 1920 when the federal government passed an order-in-council that made the OBU illegal in the coal fields and transferred the membership of its adherents to the UMWA.
Edmonton itself was in the centre of a large coal area, stretching from Pembina to Tofield, and north to St. Albert and Morinville by 1922. Production was 12,000 tonnes per day, employing some 3600 men. In the subsequent three years concern about damage to terrain where other industries were developing and population growth continued apace forced the closure of all but four mines within the city's boundaries. No doubt, coal mine operators were also less interested in operating in an area where labour and community solidarity could be marshalled in support of striking miners.
In the early 1920s mine owners cut wages by 35 to 50 percent, locking out those who would not accept the pay cuts. While the miners had accepted pay cuts in 1919 in the belief that they would recoup the losses in subsequent years, they were unwilling to accept any further cuts.
Miners had also been frustrated and disappointed by the results of the Alberta Coal Mining Industry Commission of 1919. While supposedly established to deal with the issues of both owners and workers, the Commission spent far more time on those of the owners. In the end only four (out of twelve) of its recommendations dealt with the conditions and concerns of the miners. Racism played a part in this process as Commission members were clearly not interested in the concerns of what were then known as "enemy aliens". This racism prevailed through much of society and resulted in more restrictive immigration, including the passing of the Immigration Act (1922-1923) and Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which severely limited entry from countries other than England and France.
Miners were also frustrated by the unsafe conditions in their workplaces. Typical was the presentation at the Commission's hearings by S. Centazzo, an unemployed miner from Edmonton. At 23 years old he had been working in the mines for 15 years and had been blacklisted by the mine owners for his union activities, making it almost impossible to find work. His testimony focussed on the safety concerns in the mines and the living conditions of the miners. He indicated that the miners were not even receiving the basics to which they were entitled, "hot water to wash themselves, heated washhouses as they come off shift and drying boxes to dry their clothes". He also pleaded for simple health and safety improvements to decrease the likelihood of injury or death on the job, all too frequent occurrences. He suggested that "miners be allowed to carry small electric lamps in their pockets as a safety precaution in case of an explosion to help them get out of the mine". He also proposed that "[t]here should be in each mine-inside the mine-in every section or two sections a couple of blankets and an ambulance … in case of accidents.” In an accident in Drumheller, he "had to go and take a board-was full of nails-and take the nails out and then carry him out on that board."
Exploitation of the miners extended to the docking of their pay for what owners called "dirty" coal. It further extended to the provision of vouchers in the place of cash. These vouchers could only be redeemed in the company store where owners set the prices and for company housing making it possible for the company to recoup a large part (or all) of the wages for a mere subsistence existence for the miners and their families.
The 1923 agreement between the miners and Lakeside Coals Ltd. (operating at Wabumum, west of Edmonton) is indicative of what mine workers could expect. The following rates of pay work out to between $27 and $50 dollars a week for 12-hour days, 7 days a week:
Pick Miners 75 cts per ton
Loaders 50 cts per ton
Timber and track 55 cts per hour
Timber 40 cts per set for lining sets in entry
Timber 40 cts per set for lining in machine room
Yardage 60 cts per yard in entrys
Clay 40 cts per car
Slack in entrys 20 cts per ton
Drivers 50 cts per hour
Pushers 50 cts per hour
Laborers 40 cts per hour
Conditions in Edmonton were repeated elsewhere in Alberta, across Canada, and even internationally. In an effort to strengthen their capacity to resist, miners linked in alliances with other workers. In 1923, when Nova Scotia mine worker leader, J.B. McLachlan, was arrested on trumped-up charges, the Labor Church of Edmonton was one of the first to pass a resolution condemning the heavy-handed actions of the government and police in a letter to the minister of justice.
It was the deplorable situations of all coal miners that led workers and their supporters in Edmonton to demonstrate their solidarity in a show of numbers in the 1923 May Day Parade. May Day had long been celebrated by workers around the world as a day of international solidarity. At a time when coal miners were under attack in Edmonton, Alberta and elsewhere, the workers of Edmonton and their families and friends showed them they were not alone in their struggles.
A natural gas pipeline reaches Edmonton from Viking. The coal industry begins its decline.
Prohibition is repealed.
The Grads win the World Basketball Championships.
Unionized waitresses at four local cafés go on strike after employers try to cut their wages by 27.5 per cent.
Edmonton coal miners go on strike.
Kenneth (Kenny) Blatchford is elected mayor.
Leona McGregor graduates with the first medical degree granted at the U of A.
John Brownlee becomes premier of Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 65,163.
Stampeding elephants escape from a visiting circus show, and terrify West Edmonton residents.
Edmonton elects teacher C.L. Gibb to the legislature, the first provincial member from the city elected on a Labour ticket.
After World War One, Alberta unions, having created Labour Representation Leagues during the war, decided to form a provincial labour party. The Dominion Labour Party (DLP) was formed at a convention that took place just after the Alberta Federation of Labour convention in 1919. Though its locals were open to both union affiliates and individuals, the party leadership and the leadership of the trade union movement overlapped considerably. Most of the individuals whom the party nominated for elected office were active trade unionists, almost always with blue-collar occupations.
In 1921, the DLP was transformed into the Alberta section of the Canadian Labour Party, a party which the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada had sponsored but from which it quickly dissociated itself in favour of labour non-partisanship. The CLP, like the DLP before it, was committed both to immediate reforms of benefit to labour - richer workmen's compensation, social insurance programs, legal recognition of collective bargaining, the granting of government contracts only to unionized contractors, and the like - and to gradual conversion from capitalism to an economy under social ownership.
In 1921, four Labour members were elected to the Alberta legislature, but none of the Labour members were elected in Edmonton. At the time Edmonton was one constituency for provincial voting but with five seats. The five highest vote getters took the seats. Labour's candidates won about a third of the vote in the city, winning no seats. In 1926, by contrast, a complicated preferential ballot determined who would represent Edmonton's citizens. As less popular candidates were eliminated, the second choices of their voters were added to the count for candidates still in the race with the eventual top five vote-getters carrying the five seats. While Labour's support had not markedly increased in Edmonton by 1926, Gibb, as a school teacher, appeared to be able to win more second-ballot supporters than the blue-collar union officials and workers who made up the rest of the Labour ticket that year. He was re-elected in 1930 but died before the provincial election of 1935. That year, no Labour candidate in the province was able to withstand the Social Credit landslide; indeed none of them, including incumbents, won a respectable vote that year.
Labour's performance in the legislature was controversial. While urban members like Gibb defended the legislative program of the AFL and tried to convince the United Farmers of Alberta government to implement labour's wishes, the CLP was often viewed as too closely tied to the UFA. The moderate wing of the CLP believed that farmer-labour cooperation was necessary and insisted that it had wrung important concessions from the CLP, including a higher minimum wage for women workers, improvements in workmen's compensation, and the awarding of many government contracts to unionized contractors. But radicals in the CLP insisted that the Farmers government was right-wing and anti-labour, and suggested that their own party's right-wing had sold out to the UFA in return for patronage appointments to a variety of government boards.
Blatchford Field (City Centre Airport) becomes the first licensed municipal airport in Canada.
CKUA begins broadcasting.
Canada amends the Indian Act to make it illegal for First Nations to hire lawyers to pursue land claims.
Canadian wheat sales make up half the world's export market.
Edmonton's first neon sign shines above Darlings Drug Store.
- 1929 to 1939
The stock market collapses, and the Great Depression begins.
Wop May and Vic Horner fly on a mercy mission to deliver vaccine to the remote northern community of Little Red River.
Due to the efforts of Alberta's Famous Five, women are declared 'persons,' and become eligible for membership in the Senate.
The Great Depression begins in 1929. Many parents lose their jobs in the hard times of the 1930s. Edmonton's children often try to find ways to help their families earn extra money. Some students march in a protest in 1934 to ask the school board to supply free textbooks and school supplies for classmates who can’t afford them.
Alberta wins control and ownership of its oil and gas reserves when Canada passes the Natural Resources Transfer Act.
The Conservatives win the federal election under Calgarian Richard (R.B.) Bennett. 'Bennett Buggies' - cars pulled by horses because gas is unaffordable - are soon seen in Edmonton.
Edmonton's population is 79,059.
Dan Knott of the Canadian Labour Party is elected mayor. Labour candidates form the majority on city council as the Great Depression deepens.
Edmonton elects the Canadian Labour Party (CLP) candidate for mayor, Dan Knott, and a CLP majority on council, including Margaret Crang, Labour's first woman councillor.
The election of the Labour mayor and council in Edmonton represented the highest point of labour power in the city but soon exposed the lack of sophistication and perhaps "bourgeois corruption" of a section of Edmonton's labour leaders. Labour's electoral support in the city had been stuck at about a third during the 1920s, enough to elect one or more councilors in each of the annual elections that filled half the seats on Edmonton's council at the time. But mass unemployment and poverty during the Depression radicalized Edmonton workers, and over half the electorate voted for a Labour mayor and a Labour council in 1931. The CLP candidates decried the job and wage cuts promulgated by the right-wing city administration in power in the early Depression years. They promised a program of public works to create jobs at union wages, and pledged that they would treat people on relief with greater dignity than the previous administration.
Dan Knott however proved to be a "labour statesman," that is, a labour politician who was more interested in appeasing the business community than in fulfilling his commitments to the labour movement. More concerned in office about maintaining the city's credit rating and not having to raise property taxes than about social justice for the unemployed, his administration's parsimony resulted in several strikes by married men on relief, victims of welfare cuts, and demonstrations by the single unemployed, who had been cut off relief altogether. Several Labour councilors, including labour lawyer Margaret Crang, Labour's first woman councilor, opposed him as a turncoat but several supported him, and the combination of their votes and the votes of the right-wingers who survived the municipal elections in 1931, 1932, and 1933, ensured that Labour's earlier promises would be broken.
Knott's most controversial decision came in December, 1932, when he succumbed to Premier Brownlee's request that a planned Hunger March through the city be suppressed. About 12,000 workers were on hand as the RCMP, at the request of a Farmer premier and a Labour mayor, bashed the heads of unemployed workers who wanted to bring their plight and their demands for action to the attention of the premier. Nothing demonstrated the bankruptcy of the alliance between Labour's political movement and the Farmers government than this incident. Labour survived one more municipal election, but many workers considered Knott and his colleagues to be little better than their business opponents. In 1934, many workers simply failed to vote and, in a light voter turnout, Knott and the Labour councilors were defeated by decisive margins. The CLP never recovered from this rout.
Edmonton's Hunger March attracts 12,000 people but is broken by a police riot ordered by provincial and civic officials.
By 1932, the Depression had created desperation throughout Alberta. In Edmonton, about 15 percent of everyone depended upon the modest relief provided by the city with matching subventions by the provincial and federal government. Many others were unemployed but were too proud to collect relief, or, if they were not Canadian citizens, dared not apply for relief because of a federal policy that forbid them to apply and mandated deportation as the penalty for those who did and got caught. Single men were simply ineligible for relief and expected to go into relief camps or to depend upon charitable agencies to house and feed them if they wished to remain in the city.
Farmers in the Edmonton region were scarcely better off. Most grew wheat, and the price that wheat fetched in world markets was below their cost of production. Other products that farmers sold proved similarly unprofitable. Unable to earn an income, farmers, most of whom were in debt to financial institutions, faced eviction. So did many working-class homeowners who were unable to make their mortgage payments or to pay their property taxes. The provincial government, supposedly a Farmers government with Labour support, watched passively as farmers and workers lost their property to profit-hungry banks.
Led by the Communist Party and organizations sympathetic to the Communist Party, an organizing committee prepared for a major "Hunger March" on the Legislature on December 20. Farmers and workers, employed and unemployed, would march from Edmonton's City Hall to the legislature to demand a meeting with Premier Brownlee to discuss demands for the provincial government to create work at union wages for the unemployed, and to provide farmers along with any unemployed people for whom work could not be created with a decent income and with protection for both groups from creditors who might seek to seize their homes or farms.
The provincial government attempted to block the main roads into the city to keep farmers away from the demonstration. But large numbers managed to evade the areas where police were turning back protesters. Mayor Dan Knott meanwhile had refused to grant the protesters a permit to march from City Hall to the legislature; he insisted that the rally in Market Square disperse once speeches had been made. By the time the rally at the city's Market Square began, there were 12,000 workers and farmers present to hear the speakers who denounced the UFA government's kowtowing to capitalists and its betrayal of farmers and workers. When the speeches were over, the Hunger March organizers asked the crowd whether they wished to exercise their democratic right to march to the legislature. The crowd cheered its approval of this plan of action and over 2000 people began to march.
But the provincial government, in cooperation with the city administration, had called in a large contingent of the RCMP to prevent the march from occurring. Sharpshooters were on the rooftop of the city's main post office, which was across the street from the Square, in case the marchers overwhelmed the police. In short, the UFA government and the CLP mayor were prepared to shoot workers and farmers rather than to allow a peaceful march.
The RCMP moved on the marchers almost instantaneously, cracking heads and preventing the marchers from leaving the Square in formation. The March dispersed, with organizers mainly concerned to seek medical attention for the wounded. While no arrests were made that day, the next day the RCMP raided the Ukrainian Labour Temple, which served as the headquarters for the Hunger March planning. Convinced that they would find guns to be used in a revolution, they found only a ton of sandwiches that had been prepared to feed out-of-town demonstrators. They arrested 40 individuals, charging them with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy to overthrow the elected government. But the trials of the accused resulted in a massive solidarity campaign that likely helped to persuade the courts to drop most of the charges and to convict only six people, all on minor charges.
The willingness of Dan Knott and some of the councilors to prevent a demonstration by workers and farmers divided the Labour council and no doubt contributed to the massive defection by farmers from the CLP to Social Credit in the provincial election of 1935.
The Market Square Riot occurs. An estimated 12,000 unemployed people gather in Market Square to march to the Alberta Legislature. The Hunger March ends in a riot as police on horseback stop the demonstrators on orders from the mayor and premier. Forty people are arrested. Only six are convicted. Single unemployed men are sent out of town to relief camps where they work for 25 cents a day for food and shelter.
Alberta's first province-wide aboriginal rights organization, L'Association des Métis des Alberta et des Territoires de Nord Ouest, is established. Malcolm Norris of Edmonton is one of its early leaders.
The first traffic light is installed on Jasper Ave. and 101 St.
The first baseball game is held in Renfrew Park.
Margaret Crang, at age 23, becomes the youngest member ever to be elected to city council.
Premier Brownlee goes on trial in a civil lawsuit, accused of seducing a young woman.
Local Métis leaders call for a secure land base for Alberta's Métis at the Ewing Commission hearings.
Liberal leader Mackenzie King becomes Canada's prime minister.
William Aberhart leads the Social Credit Party to a landslide victory in the provincial election. The Socreds remain in power in Alberta for 36 years.
An estimated 200 Edmonton men hop freights to Calgary to join the On To Ottawa Trek in a national protest against conditions in the relief camps.
Restaurant employees go on strike to demand that hotels pay the legislated minimum wage to women.
Hotel restaurant employees strike, supported by unemployed workers, demanding that the owners pay the mandated female minimum wage. Unemployed workers in Edmonton had been involved in a variety of strikes during the Depression, demanding better treatment from relief authorities. Many of them joined the "On to Ottawa Trek," which called for the disbandment of the prison-like relief camps and for governments to guarantee workers a job and a living wage.
Various events in 1935 underscored the miserable treatment of both the unemployed and many workers during the Depression. Single men without work received no direct social assistance payments after 1932 when the federal government established relief camps. They could eat whatever food was provided in soup kitchens provided by charitable agencies and sleep in charity-run flophouses that had a space for the night. But this meager existence forced most of them into the relief camps, where they earned only 25 cents a day for their labour in return for food and shelter that was basic but more reliable than what the charities provided. Unemployed married men received social assistance for their families in the form of vouchers for rent and specific foods at the local groceteria in return for performing labour for the city. Single women could only receive social assistance if they could demonstrate that they had no relative or friend capable of attending to their needs.
Many employers took advantage of the large "reserve army of labour" and the desperate conditions in which this reserve army lived to keep wages on offer at very low rates. Though women workers had been covered by minimum-wage provisions since 1920, many employers, particularly restaurant owners, paid wages well below the legislated minimum wage. They were confident that the government, which had cut the number of inspectors for labour conditions, including the minimum wage, to the bone, would not catch them and that it would not prosecute them if it did. Some Edmonton waitresses were earning only $1.50 a week in 1935 when the weekly minimum wage applicable to restaurants was $9.50. Their strike in 1935 involved simply a demand that the provincial minimum wage be respected by their employers. Unemployed male workers, recognizing that the waitresses might be replaced by other desperate young women willing to work for any wage at all, joined their picket lines, making it impossible for diners to go to struck restaurants. Though the police arrested many of the waitresses and their supporters, their numbers were simply too strong and popular opinion so much in favour of the waitresses that the strike could not be broken. Most of the restaurant owners eventually acceded to the demands of the strikers.
The militancy of the unemployed was evident throughout the Depression. For example, in 1934, the Unemployed Married Men's Association (UMMA) struck for three weeks to back up demands for a bigger food allowance. Relief camps meanwhile were hotbeds of political activity, mainly organized by the Communist Party, which was less of a force in UMMA. Efforts to force the federal government to replace work camps with a federal program of "work and union wages" struck a chord with camp inmates and led to the plans for an On-to-Ottawa Trek in 1935. The Trek began in Vancouver and picked up marchers who walked and traveled on railway boxcars as they moved towards Ottawa where they planned collectively to present a petition to Prime Minister R. B. Bennett demanding an end to the camps. While the southerly route of the marchers precluded a stop in Edmonton, many Edmontonians joined the trek in Calgary. On Canada Day, 1935, under orders from R. B. Bennett, the RCMP violently turned back the trekkers in Regina.
But while militancy met with repression, it also produced results. The relief rates for families in Edmonton rose to second highest in Canada after the 1934 strike. After William Lyon Mackenzie King was re-elected prime minister in September 1935, he ordered the abolition of the relief camps, though he did little to provide the "work and wages" that both the Communists and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) demanded.
Edmonton's population is 85,470.
Canada Packers plant is built.
Edmonton's hottest temperature is recorded as 37.2ºC on June 29th.
Men's bathing trunks are approved as suitable for public pools.
The Edmonton Journal and other Alberta newspapers receive the Pulitzer Prize for opposing Alberta's 1937 Press Act.
Clarke Stadium opens.
The Al-Rashid mosque, the first mosque in Canada, opens on 101st St. and 108th Ave.
The federal cabinet issues a special order that allows Peter Offenbacher, a refugee from Nazi Germany, to come to Canada. He is the only Jewish child to receive such permission from the cabinet. The Friedman family help him come to Edmonton. He changes his name to Peter Owen after arriving.
The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act passes, legitimizing trade union organizing by providing for recognition of trade union contracts and establishing machinery for dealing with violations of labour laws.
Though workers had formed trade unions in British North America from the early nineteenth century onwards, unions existed in a legal shadow world. Initially, they were regarded as "combinations in restraint of trade," that is, as monopolies that deprived employers of the right to determine wages and working conditions for individual employees. Skilled workers managed to form effective unions nonetheless because shortages of skilled labour gave capitalists little option but to deal with unionized workers. In post-Confederation Canada, as the number of trade unions grew, John A. Macdonald had passed the Trade Union Act which extended a degree of state recognition of the legality of trade unions. But collective bargaining contracts had no legal status, and could only be enforced if a union had enough leverage to prevent management from welching upon an agreement earlier made. Practices such as blacklisting union militants, forcing workers to sign employment contracts in which they agreed never to join a union, and cutting wages in violation of a collective agreement were all perfectly legal.
Organized labour fought to have the state pass legislation that would provide a legal status for both unions and the contracts that they negotiated and that would prohibit actions that interfered with workers' rights to organize and to strike. The new Social Credit government, anxious to extend its support among workers, provided at least half a loaf in 1938. The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act made Alberta the second (after Nova Scotia) province to legalize collective bargaining and establish machinery for the formal recognition of union locals. Under its provisions, the Alberta Labour Relations Board opened its doors to supervise "recognition votes," and to serve as an arbiter on issues affecting employers and unions that they could not resolve between themselves.
Among other pieces of labour legislation favourable to workers that the trade union movement and other progressive organizations succeeded in convincing the early Social Credit government to implement were: Canada's first minimum wage for males; the Alberta Tradesmen Qualification Board, which restricted various trades to licensed individuals who had completed recognized apprenticeships; and compulsory membership for teachers in the Alberta Teachers' Association.
Thousands of Edmonton children line the streets to welcome King George and Queen Elizabeth to the city. The name of Portage Avenue is changed to Kingsway in honour of the royal visit.
The Second World War begins in Europe. Many British children are sent to Western Canada for their safety, and some come to Edmonton. Food is rationed. Many city kids say goodbye to fathers and older brothers and sisters, who join the military, and leave the city for the duration of the war.
To help Canada's war effort students buy War Savings Stamps with nickels and dimes, and work in Victory Gardens. They collect wastepaper, rags, bottles, tinfoil, scrap iron, tins of food, scrap metals, and even fat for the war effort.
More than 68,000 people line the parade route to welcome King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Edmonton.
The Second World War begins, and the first 450 recruits in the Loyal Edmonton Regiment leave the city. More than 15,000 Edmontonians will enlist before the end of the war. Some recent immigrants to Edmonton from Germany and Italy are interned; others are expected to report regularly to the RCMP.
Johnny Callihoo and other aboriginal Albertans organize the Indian Association of Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 93,924.
The Edmonton Public Library establishes the first travelling library in North America; it serves the Calder area from a streetcar.
Students who refuse to salute the flag are suspended from Edmonton's schools, and their names are reported to the RCMP. This rule is enforced until 1944.
The Edmonton Public Library establishes the first travelling library in North America. It serves the Calder area from a streetcar.
A record-breaking snowfall of 39.9 centimetres hits Edmonton on November 15th bringing the city to a halt.
The city mobilizes as a wartime centre for aircraft staging and repair, and pilot training for Commonwealth pilots. More than 1,400 U.S. troops begin to pass through the city to build the Alaska Highway. Edmonton also plays a critical role in the construction of the Canol pipeline, from Norman Wells, N.W.T. to Whitehorse, completed in 1944.
A record-breaking snowfall of 39.9 centimetres hits Edmonton on November 15, bringing the city to a halt.
Socred Ernest Manning becomes the premier of Alberta after the death of William Aberhart.
Rural Albertans move to Edmonton to work in local war industries and aviation servicing, and the city confronts a housing shortage. On September 19, 860 U.S. pilots fly combat planes into the city in a single day. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment is on active duty in Italy in December, and suffers 172 casualties, including 63 killed, at the Battle of Ortona.
Employees at the Burns plant are the first in the local meatpacking industry to organize a union local.
Summer vacation is extended to October so Edmonton's students can help Alberta farmers with the harvest.
Edmonton becomes an important training centre for Commonwealth soldiers in the war years. American soldiers arrive to build the Alaska Highway. At home many women work in the Aircraft Repair factory, and in other wartime jobs. Edmonton is very crowded. City families make room in their houses for soldiers from other countries.
The Second World War ends. Students celebrate with parades through downtown Edmonton.
The Second World War ends; Edmonton records the death of 666 soldiers.
Edmonton's population is 114,976.
The Trocadero Ballroom opens in the renovated Empire Theatre.
Alberta adopts Daylight Saving Time.
Harry Ainlay is elected mayor.
Oil is discovered in Leduc. Many families move to Edmonton to work in the oil industry. Newcomers arrive from all over Canada and the world. These are the "Baby Boom" years, and many families have five or six children. Edmonton's suburbs grows very quickly. Schools are so crowded that kids go to classes in shifts.
Edmonton's kids join a nationwide protest over an increase in the price of chocolate bars, from five cents to eight cents.
Edmonton's first popcorn machine appears at the Empress Theatre.
Edmonton's population is 118,541.
Oil is discovered at Leduc.
Alberta's first popcorn machine appears at the Empress theatre.
Workers in all of Edmonton's major meat-packing houses join a national strike. Meatpacking is now the city's major industrial employer.
All of Edmonton's packinghouse workers join a national strike in the industry that wins major concession for employees in that industry.
By the end of World War Two, meatpacking was the major industrial employer in Edmonton. Emboldened by the shortage of labour during World War Two, Edmonton's slaughterhouse workers, once unable to surmount employer opposition to unions, finally won union recognition. The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) made the breakthrough in the fall of 1943 by establishing its first Edmonton local at the Burns plant. In 1944, UPWA also successfully organized Canada Packers and later also organized the Swifts plant.
The UPWA won a guaranteed minimum workweek of forty hours for its members and a basic national minimum wage of seventy-five cents an hour. By 1945, however, the union called for a national wildcat strike of all Canada Packers plants, citing a violation of the contract by the company. To forestall a national strike the federal government used its wartime powers to take over the plants and placed the issue before a conciliation board.
Although the union failed in 1945 and 1946 to get a national contract, in 1947 it was finally victorious when it called the first national industrial strike in Canadian history outside of the railway industry. In the summer of 1947 a national strike by the UPWA workers employed by the Big Three - Canada Packers, Swifts and Burns--closed Alberta's meatpacking plants from late August to the end of October.
The major goals of the union were reached with the 1947 agreement and subsequent negotiations focused on improving on principles already won. Workers had forced their employers to accept, however reluctantly, their right to belong to a union that would bargain and sign contracts on their behalf.
The workers' victory, however, was not welcomed by the Ernest Manning's Social Credit. Manning, anxious to please the oil barons who became more interested in Alberta than ever before after the oil find at Leduc in February, 1947, denounced the notion of an industry-wide strike, and charged that union greed, fuelled by Communist ambitions, would choke the province's economy. A revision of the Alberta Labour Act, presented to the Alberta legislature in March 1948 added meatpacking to coal mining as an industry that the Cabinet could, at any time, place under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, which would allow the government to stall a strike by 60 days. The new Act also made both unions and their leaders subject to huge fines when provisions of the Act were violated by union members.
Atlantic No. 3 well blows out near Leduc.
The first oil refinery opens in Clover Bar.
CBC radio launches its local station from the Hotel Macdonald.
The Edmonton Flyers hockey team wins the Allan Cup.
Parking meters appear on city streets.
Edmonton's first drive-in theatre, The Starlite, opens.
Jasper Place is incorporated as a village.
The town of Devon is established.
The first interprovincial pipeline from Edmonton to Ontario is completed.
Edmonton's Waterloo Mercurys win the hockey World Championships; they go on to win the Olympic gold medal in 1952.
The Korean War begins; four Edmonton-based soldiers die in the conflict.
Walter Kaasa performs in Anna Christie, his first lead role at Studio Theatre.
The Edmonton Bulletin ceases production after 71 years.
Edmonton refinery workers at Canadian Industries Limited [CIL] organize the first union local in the Alberta petroleum industry.
Certification of CIL (Canadian Industries Limited) plant creates first long-term union organization in the petroleum industry in Alberta.
Until 1951, Alberta was considered the death valley of unionism in the petroleum industry. The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) sent Neil Reimer to Edmonton to try to change this image by organizing oil industry workers. He started at British American Oil Company (BA) where he signed up almost two thirds of the workforce, enough for automatic certification without a vote. The Social Credit government ruled that the industry was too new and important to be certified without a vote, allowing the employer time to campaign against the union and intimidate its employees. The certification was lost by 10 votes.
Many BA employees who supported the union quit and went to CIL and Canadian Chemical and helped OCAW to unionize both. That was the breakthrough which led to first a toehold and eventually the virtually complete unionization of the major companies in the refining and manufacturing sectors of the petroleum industry in Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 169,196.
The Paramount Theatre opens.
William Hawrelak becomes mayor; he will resign in 1959 over allegations of misconduct while in office.
A polio epidemic strikes Edmonton. Many children are in hospital. Swimming pools are closed.
In a nationwide epidemic, 319 Edmontonians contract polio; 16 people die. Alberta experiences the second highest death rate in the country.
Canada's largest oilfield, the Pembina field, is discovered west of Edmonton.
The Clover Bar bridge opens.
Oil unionism expands in Edmonton
The national headquarters of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) is established in Edmonton.
Neil Reimer, who had just been named Canadian Director of the OCAW, understood that the entire petrochemical industry relied on the feed stocks from the refineries.
Since Alberta was rapidly becoming a major source of those feed stocks, Reimer decided to establish the National Office of the OCAW in Edmonton.
Reimer knew as well that the OCAW, if it was to grow and be effective, had to broaden its jurisdiction. It had to go beyond the refineries to include the growing petrochemical and manufacturing sector of the industry.
The Canadian section of the OCAW eventually became autonomous from its Denver, Colorado headquarters, and through a series of mergers became the present-day Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, with 150,000 members from coast to coast.
Television comes to Edmonton. Kids' programs include Popcorn Playhouse.
CFRN television is launched.
The Edmonton Eskimos win the first of three straight Grey Cups. The team will win twelve championships in total, including five straight titles in the late 1970s.
The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union sets up its national headquarters in Edmonton.
The first resident moves into the community now known as Sherwood Park.
Edmontonians park underground for the first time.
Groat Bridge opens.
Westmount Centre opens as the city's first shopping mall.
Edmonton's population is 238,353.
The city welcomes visitors to a new City Hall.
The Jubilee Auditorium opens.
Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker becomes prime minister.
Chester Kuc founds the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers. He establishes the Cheremosh Dance Ensemble a decade later.
The city zoo, eventually named the Valley Zoo, opens.
The first planes take off from the Edmonton International Airport.
Queen Elizabeth Planetarium opens.
Elmer Roper becomes mayor.
Ottawa gives First Nations people with treaty status the right to vote.
Edmonton annexes Beverly.
The last horse-drawn milk wagon goes out of service.
Edmontonian Neil Reimer becomes the first president of the New Democratic Party in Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 294,967.
The city launches the Klondike Days exhibition.
The first students enroll at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).
Strathcona County is established.
Klondike Days begins!
Edmonton-based unionist Neil Reimer, the key figure in organizing workers in oil refineries and chemical plants, becomes the first provincial leader of the New Democratic Party.
Neil Reimer had been involved with the CCF party for many years as a union leader and social activist in Saskatchewan. He had played a role in the formation of the New Democratic Party and understood the importance of strengthening the left in Canadian politics, particularly in Alberta where a right-wing, one party government had been entrenched for many years. The national New Democratic Party held its first convention in 1961 and chose T.C. Douglas, CCF premier of Saskatchewan, as its first national leader. The Alberta party decided to hold its first leadership convention in 1962.
Under Reimer's leadership, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) was determined that unions must play a role in both national and provincial politics. The union granted him a leave of absence along with assurances of financial support when he assumed the leadership of the provincial NDP. Reimer and Ivor Dent re-mortgaged their houses and, along with Grant Notley, traveled throughout Alberta building and strengthening NDP constituencies.
In 1961, Reimer became the president of the fledgling provincial party and in 1962 the provincial leader. He led the party in two provincial elections, first in 1963 and then in 1967. While the party won 17 percent of the vote in the latter election, it failed to elect any members, though it had won a by-election earlier that year in the Crow's Nest Pass, where the votes of retired miners remained important. Shortly after the 1967 election, Reimer, who had done a great deal to strengthen the party organization, decided to return to his union position. Grant Notley was elected by the party to replace Reimer at its helm. Reimer remained a life-long New Democrat and advocate of the importance of labour playing an active role in politics.
City locals of the National Union of Public Employees and the National Union of Public Service Employees, unite as the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) had its beginnings in Alberta, the brainchild of Pat Lenihan, a well known Calgary labour leader and one-time Calgary alderman. It started out as a fledgling federation of independent civic unions in Alberta and grew to include similar organizations throughout Canada. In 1955 the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) granted it a charter.
The National Union of Public Service Employees (NUPSE), chartered by the rival Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), was based largely in Ontario and was comprised of civic locals in central Canada and to some extent in Quebec. But the rationale for two separate unions of employees of municipal governments became questionable when the TLC and CCL merged in 1956 to form the Canadian Labour Congress. Mergers of former TLC and former CCL unions gradually became the order of the day.
In 1963, NUPE and NUPSE agreed to merge to form the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). At the time of merger NUPE had over 28,000 members and NUPSE had about 10,000.
Since then CUPE has grown to become Canada's largest union with over half a million members in 5,000 locals from Vancouver Island to St. John's, Newfoundland.
The Edmonton Oil Kings win their first Western Hockey League Memorial Cup.
The Edmonton Professional Opera Company stages Madame Butterfly as its first performance.
Edmonton annexes Jasper Place.
The re-elected Mayor Hawrelak is once again ousted from office.
The Citadel Theatre, the city's first professional stage, opens with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Edmonton Indian Residential School closes in St. Albert after 43 years of operation.
The CN Tower is the city's first skyscraper with 26 storeys.
Edmonton's population is 393,593.
The Centennial Library welcomes its first visitors.
The Provincial Museum of Alberta opens.
Albertans with treaty status vote for the first time in a provincial election.
Canada celebrates its centennial.
Ivor Dent becomes mayor.
Liberal Pierre Trudeau becomes prime minister.
Edmonton becomes the first Canadian city to join the North American Emergency Telephone 911 plan.
Canada introduces the White Paper on Indian Affairs, hoping to end the collective rights and special status of aboriginal people. Harold Cardinal, then resident in Edmonton, and Alberta chiefs lead the national opposition, and the plan is withdrawn in 1971.
Fort Edmonton Park opens.
The town of Spruce Grove is established.
Fort Edmonton Park opens.
The city begins to develop Mill Woods after acquiring 18 square km of land from the province.
The first students enter Grant MacEwan Community College.
The James MacDonald Bridge opens.
The Progressive Conservatives, led by Peter Lougheed, are elected; and the Social Credit era ends in Alberta.
Edmonton's population is 441,530.
The Alberta Oilers join the Western Hockey Association. They are renamed the Edmonton Oilers in 1973.
The new Law Courts building opens.
Cec Purves becomes mayor.
- 1973 to 1974
An international energy crisis begins. A barrel of crude oil sells for $3 in 1973, $11 in 1974, and $39 in 1980; the price increase creates another economic boom in Edmonton.
William Hawrelak is re-elected as mayor. He dies in office.
The Edmonton Coliseum opens. It is renamed Northlands Coliseum in 1978.
The Heritage Days Festival begins at Mayfair Park.
The Muttart Conservatory opens.
Heritage Days begins.
Alberta passes the first comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Act in the country, after years of union campaigning for such legislation
In 1976, the first omnibus Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.A. 2000 Ch. 0-2) was proclaimed and came into law in the Province of Alberta. Previous to this, worker health and safety was governed by an array of statutes and regulations, underpinned by the common-law duty of the employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
Passage of the Act followed the report of the high-profile Gale Commission of Inquiry, named after its Chairperson, Justice Fred Gale. This nine-person panel was appointed in November 1973, and its Report was tabled in the Legislature in 1975. Two representatives of organized labour had a major influence on its outcome:
- C. Neil Reimer, Canadian Director of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, which was headquartered in Edmonton, and
- Irvin C. Nessel, Business Manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 92, which was also based in Edmonton.
Since trade unions first appeared in the Province, particularly in the railway running trades and the hazardous coal mines, they had lobbied government for three basic "rights", which they felt would recognize the dignity of workers and their right to defend themselves against injury, illness and death. These were: the Right to Know, the Right to Participate, and the Right to Refuse.
They were strongly supported on all three by the Gale Commission, but unfortunately, not all of their recommendations were reflected in the legislation that followed a year later.
The Report itself centered on the need for full participation of an active, educated and motivated workforce in workplace management to make safe work a reality. The prime means for this, said the Commission, would be Joint Worksite Occupational Health and Safety Committees (JWHandSC), which would be mandated by law for all workplaces over a certain size, and in which workers and management would be equally represented in all matters, including the selection of Co-Chairs who would share responsibility for the Committee.
In spite of the fact that its Commission had said that JWSHandS Committees were "an absolute necessity for all worksites," the Progressive Conservative Government of Peter Lougheed declined to introduce a blanket requirement for them in the new law. Instead, the matter was left by Regulation to Minister of Labour Neil Crawford, who chose to designate only 100 workplaces (of about 80,000 in the Province). The establishment of committees in all others would have to await the results of negotiations for collective agreements and other voluntary initiatives. Ultimately, Alberta would be the only Province in Canada that would decline to make some form of joint health and safety committee mandatory.
In addition, the 1976 Act provided for a very limited set of rights and obligations under the Right to Know. Specific requirements for warning labels, material safety data sheets, and education on workplace hazards, so that workers would be aware of risks in their place of work, methods of control, and remedial action did not appear until more than a decade later, in the form of the Federal Workplace Hazards Information System (WHMIS) - and then only because federal legislation required it. In addition, the 1987 revisions to the Alberta Act and its Chemical Hazards Regulations under WHMIS left much to be desired, according to labour spokespersons.
Perhaps one of the strongest and most welcome provisions in the new legislation was S.27, which not only allowed, but actually required employees to refuse work if they believed "on reasonable and probable grounds" that it posed an "imminent danger" to their health and safety or that of their fellow employees. It also set out detailed procedures and employer requirements for responding to such a refusal, with an appeal procedure that allowed a review of unsatisfied complaints by an independent tribunal.
What the Act did not contain was a provision to address the main barrier to workers accessing this right. Workers feared reprisal for refusing to work, as well as the prospect that their decision to refuse work might not be supported by their fellow workers. A section has been added since 1976 to address this barrier to worker exercise of their Right to Refuse. As well, decisions of the review panel, backed by a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, have firmly established that, for the right to refuse to mean anything at all, workers must be jealously guarded against any threat of discipline. Even with these assurances, however, this right is rarely asserted by Alberta's workers.
Edmonton's population is 471,474.
St. Albert becomes a city.
Edmonton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) carries its first passengers.
Edmonton hosts the Commonwealth Games at the newly constructed Commonwealth Stadium.
The Kinsmen Centre opens.
The Edmonton Sun begins publication.
Edmonton's kids ride the LRT for the first time. The Commonwealth Games bring thousands of sports fans to Edmonton. The Muttart Conservatory - known to many kids as The Pyramids - opens.
The Edmonton Oilers join the National Hockey League.
The Great Divide waterfall flows from the High Level Bridge for the first time.
Ottawa introduces the National Energy Program, and Edmonton's economy goes into a devastating recession.
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Jazz City International Music Festival are launched.
Edmonton's nurses join a province-wide strike. More than 4,000 provincial civil servants also go on strike.
The Great Divide Waterfall tumbles off the High Level Bridge for the first time.
The Alberta Government is hit by a wave of massive strikes by its own employees as well as by newly unionized nurses, which produced some of the first blows against government restraint that prolonged the effect of the wage and price controls introduced by the Federal Government in 1976.
The General Service Strike in the Summer of 1980 was the first major industrial action to be taken by Alberta Government employees, who had been made the object of an experiment in 'permanent exceptionalism'; i.e., provincial legislation that excluded them from a system of collective bargaining which had been enshrined in Federal and Provincial Acts following the Second World War.
Bill 41, the Public Service Employee Relations Act passed by the Progressive Conservative Government of Peter Lougheed had not only imposed a blanket ban on strikes by provincial employees; it also subjected them to a regime of compulsory arbitration that clearly favoured the employer. Worse yet, many of these workers had voted for Lougheed in 1971, because of a solemn promise that he would restore full collective bargaining rights to all public sector employees.
The Government set the stage for a strike late in 1979, when it announced wage and salary guidelines of 7% and 9% for the new 2-year collective agreement that would be negotiated in Spring 1980. Coincidentally, these same MLAs had just voted themselves a salary increase of 47%, but when asked to explain this inconsistency, the Provincial Treasurer simply said, "I think you are talking about apples and oranges."
Infuriated by this remark, AUPE immediately launched an 'Apples and Oranges' campaign that led into the longest strike in its 60-year history as an organization. The 'wildcat' began on July 2, 1980, when hundreds of employees of the Alberta Liquor Control Board walked off the job. They were followed five days later by over 1,000 correctional officers across the Province, joined by social workers, tradespeople, health care workers and other personnel in those institutions.
On July 16, hundreds of administrative support workers from Land Titles, Law Courts, Transportation, Alberta Health Care Insurance Commission and other government departments joined the wildcat - by July 18, this number had swelled to over 4,000. Even more government employees join the picket line in towns and cities across the Province after Justice William Sinclair of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench finds six Correctional Officers guilty of contempt of court on July 22.
Despite dire threat of punishment by government officials, picket lines held firm until the Union told it workers to return to work on July 18. On July 28, President John Booth explained at a news conference that this return signified an expression of faith and a test of government's willingness to negotiate.
The object of this strike, the Public Service Employees Relations Act, contained several provisions that severely restricted collective bargaining rights of employees of the Government of Alberta, as well as its boards and agencies. It contained severe restrictions to free collective bargaining, the first of which was a blanket ban on strikes on all employees covered by the Act, completely turning back the clock on a national pattern of legislation which recognized that productive bargaining cannot take place in the absence of a right to strike.
Affected workers were ordered to submit differences that arose in negotiations to a compulsory arbitration process that appeared to be totally rigged against them. Arbitrators appointed under the Act, for example, were required to consider "general economic conditions" and other specific conditions that suited the government's purpose; "to ensure that wages and benefits are fair and reasonable to the employees and employer and are in the best interest of the public."
The labour relations board (the PSERB) was furthermore empowered to determine which disputed items were arbitral, and which were to be left with the employer to unilaterally decide. These included items that are most central to the historical fight of unions to protect their members; i.e., the organization of work, the assignment of duties and the determination of the number of employees of an employer, systems of job evaluation and the allocation of individual jobs and positions within the systems, selection, appointment, promotion, training or transfer and pensions.
When they were first introduced in 1977, the penalties provided to enforce the Public Service Employees Relations Act were unprecedented in their size and savagery, including fines of up to $1,000/day for trade unions or for persons not in an officer or representative position, and $10,000/day for officers and representatives of a union. Of course, contempt of court proceedings could be and were added to enforcement.
In addition, restrictions on the scope of employees who were eligible for union membership went far beyond those found in most jurisdictions, which normally exclude those exercising managerial functions or employed in a confidential capacity in labour relations matters. The additional list of excluded employees began with persons employed in: the Legislative Assembly Office, the Office of the Auditor General, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the office of the Ombudsman, the Legislative Counsel Office of the Department of the Attorney General, and the Executive Council.
The 1980 strike ended a period of labour history that proved to be a watershed for public sector labour relations. Up to that time, legislative restriction of trade union rights had been primarily directed at public sector workers on a case-by-case basis. However, in 1976, the Liberal administration of Pierre Elliot Trudeau effectively threw into question the whole pluralist framework established for collective bargaining in Canada in the post-WWII days, when he invoked a regime of comprehensive wage and price controls under the infamous Anti-Inflation Board, effectively suspending free collective bargaining for 2.3 million workers in private firms over a certain size and as many as 2 million in the private sector. In many ways, the strike of Alberta Government Employees provided a foretaste of the generation of embittered labour relations that would follow.
West Edmonton Mall opens. It is the largest shopping mall in the world.
The Edmonton Food Bank begins operation.
West Edmonton Mall opens as the largest shopping centre in the world.
Edmonton's population is 551,314.
After a general annexation, Edmonton nearly doubles in land area. Voters, however, defeat a bid to annex Sherwood Park and St. Albert.
The first Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival attracts 7,500 visitors to Old Strathcona.
The Fringe Theatre Festival opens for the first time in Old Strathcona.
Edmonton hosts the World Universiade Games.
The Edmonton Convention Centre opens.
Laurence Decore becomes mayor.
Leduc becomes a city.
The Hotel Macdonald closes after falling into disrepair. The Mac will reopen in 1991 after significant restorations and a change in ownership.
Alberta's economy goes into a tailspin as an international recession deepens.
Construction companies nullify collective agreements with 24-hour lockouts.
The "Twenty-four Hour Lockout" of construction workers
The international economic recession that began in late 1981 led to a major fall-off in economic activity in Alberta's oilpatch. Employment in the construction industry fell precipitously and contractors, covered by collective agreements, took steps to take advantage of the unemployed construction workers and nullify all collective agreements in the construction industry. One tactic became known as the "Twenty-four (24) Hour Lockout". The Contractors Associations implemented this action throughout the industry. Normally, expired contracts remained in effect until a new contract had been negotiated. But construction contractors simply refused to negotiate new contracts and twenty-four hours after an old contract had expired, they declared that no collective contract existed with their employees. The employers then reduced wages and benefits for construction workers. The Conservative Government of Alberta, despite many requests from the unions, refused to make this anti-union policy illegal in the province.
The government also refused to prosecute construction contractors who set up "spinoff companies" and transferred work from their unionized firms to their new non-unionized firms. Though the new firms were simply "dummy firms" established with the sole purpose of negating an existing collective bargaining contract, the government maintained that they were legal entities. Indeed it proposed new legislation that would establish their legality beyond a doubt. Because of union pressure, it removed the new legislation from the order paper. But it refused to prosecute any of the firms that established spinoffs.
The outcome of these two sets of initiatives by the contractors was that all collective agreements in the construction industry were terminated. The unemployed construction workers found themselves at the mercy of the contractors for wages, benefits and conditions. Though the construction unions made a partial recovery with the return of better economic times in the 1990s, both the "Twenty-four Hour Lockout" and the "Spinoff" policies are being utilized by many contractors at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
1984-85 Unemployed workers form the Dandelions
When thousands of construction workers found themselves unemployed and with no prospect of work during the long recession of the 1980s, they realized that their union representatives were fighting an uphill battle in trying to restore collective bargaining in the construction industry. The unemployed began to have small meetings with various politicians of all levels of government. Eventually those small meetings became very large meetings, sometimes with hundreds of unemployed workers participating. Eventually, the unemployed construction workers developed an organizational structure and began to refer to themselves as the "Dandelions". Dandelions, they noted, were tough weeds that defied efforts to uproot them; construction unionists, they warned governments and employers, would also resist any efforts to remove them from the landscape. The Dandelions were synonymous with grassroots unemployed construction workers. Their signs on lawns and windows throughout Edmonton reminded city residents of the unfair practices that construction contractors were employing, with government support, to destroy free collective bargaining in the construction industry. Although they failed to convince the government to legislate against spinoffs and twenty-four (24) hour lock-outs (see 1983), they were able to convince some contractors to negotiate collective agreements with their workers. The Dandelions provided a very worthwhile voice for unemployed workers at a time when all workers in the province of Alberta were in desperate need of some support. Their exposing of the government's complicity with anti-union contractors contributed to the major defeat that the Conservatives suffered in Edmonton-area seats in the provincial elections of 1986 and 1989, mainly to the benefit of the New Democrats.
The Edmonton Oilers win its first Stanley Cup; the team goes on and win a the trophy a total of five times in seven years.
The Edmonton Trappers win its first of four Pacific Coast League championships.
Edmonton hosts the CFL Grey Cup game for the first time.
The Space Sciences Centre opens; it is later renamed Odyssium.
Brian Mulroney leads the federal Progressive Conservatives to power, with heavy support in western Canada.
As the recession continues, unemployed construction workers in Edmonton organize the Dandelions to campaign for new provincial labour laws and better industrial relations.
The Edmonton Oilers win their first Stanley Cup. The team will win the trophy five times in seven years.
Fort Saskatchewan becomes a city.
Progressive Conservative Don Getty becomes Alberta's premier.
Three people die when the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall derails.
The North Saskatchewan River rises to 11.5 metres, the worst flood since 1915.
A turbulent six-month strike at the Gainers meatpacking plant becomes the most divisive labour dispute in Edmonton's history.
Oil prices plummet, and over 50,000 Albertans lose their jobs.
The Works Art and Design Festival is launched.
Spruce Grove becomes a city.
A six-month strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers local at Gainers during which police repression of strikers and support of scabs enrages the city's work force and focuses attention on the province's labour laws.
On June 1, 1986 eleven hundred workers at the Gainers meatpacking plant - members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 280P - went on strike. The strike, which lasted for six and a half months and saw the arrest of over 400 union members and their supporters, was one of the bitterest labour disputes in Alberta's history.
The main issue going into the strike was wage parity with other meatpacking plants in Canada. Peter Pocklington, the company owner, refused, arguing that wage parity would make Gainers uncompetitive. He added, "the unions are very self-serving … In Taiwan workers get $300 a month for the same jobs. And Taiwan isn't that far away by air. They need to find out what the new realities of business are".
In 1984 Gainers had imposed a wage freeze for existing employees, a $5.00 per hour cut in the starting wage (down from $11.99 to $6.99 per hour), the removal of many benefits, a reduction in paid sick leave, and forced overtime. In return Pocklington had promised profitsharing once his company had been 'turned around'.
Over the next two years productivity at the Gainers plant increased substantially thanks to endless hours of overtime. Doing more work for less money, the workers had earned millions for Gainers and they knew it. As the 1984 agreement neared its end, it became clear that Pocklington would not make good on his promise of profitsharing. The union held a strike vote. Over 96% of the members voted in favour of striking.
Almost immediately, the company followed through with its threat to bring in replacement workers who had already been lined up to break the strike.
On the first day of the strike, Sunday, June 1, picketers prevented the buses and most of the farm trucks delivering hogs from entering the compound. The strikers were not however able for long to prevent replacement workers from crossing the picket line. On June 2, the company was granted an injunction to limit the number of pickets at the plant. Violence on the line increased as strikers and their supporters defied the injunction and the Edmonton City Police were called in and began making arrests. Pocklington fuelled the ire of the strikers by publicly labeling them 'terrorists' and referring to them as 'former employees,' announcing that replacement workers would be given permanent jobs while those on strike would lose their jobs, publicly stating that he would never sign another collective agreement, and announcing that Gainers planned to terminate the employees' pension plan, which was worth about $10 million.
The massive presence of police at the Gainers plant, sometimes in full riot gear, allowed busloads of replacement workers to be escorted into the plant. UFCW 280P, along with the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and others who supported the strike, organized rallies, including one on June 12 at the Alberta Legislature that drew an estimated crowd of between 10,000 and 15,000 people, the largest rally over a union issue in the province's history.
One of the most successful tactics employed by the union was a campaign to boycott Gainers' products. The Gainers boycott received more support than any other campaign against a single company in Canada.
The company and the union finally came to an agreement on December 12, amid mounting pressure from the Government of Alberta and the public. It included no wage increase but no wage rollback either and the members reluctantly accepted the terms of the agreement.
In the aftermath of the strike, the Alberta Federation of Labour launched a full-scale campaign to change Alberta's labour laws.The provincial government's response was to send its Minister of Labour and a number of cohorts on a multi-country junket to study their labour legislation, only to return to the Alberta Legislature to draft and enact even more punitive labour laws. Labour's key demand for anti-scab legislation was ignored and never implemented.
Eleven years after their great moral victory, UFCW Local 280P members were once again forced to take strike action to preserve what they had fought so hard to maintain. Maple Leaf Foods Ltd., the new owners of the meatpacking plant, laid them all off and closed the plant.
Edmonton's population is 576,249.
A tornado tears a path along the eastern edge of the city, killing 27 people in Edmonton's deadliest natural disaster.
A tornado hits the eastern edge of Edmonton, killing 27 people, including four people under the age of 16.
Edmonton Oiler's owner Peter Pocklington trades Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.
Jan Reimer becomes Edmonton's first female mayor.
Kurt Browning wins his first men's world figure skating championship. He succeeds in winning four titles in five years.
The Edmonton rink led by Randy Ferbey wins the Men's World Curling Championships. Ferbey wins this title again in 2002 and 2003.
Edmonton's population is 618,195.
A new City Hall opens.
Ralph Klein becomes Alberta's premier.
Calgarian Ralph Klein leads the Alberta Conservatives to a substantial victory, partly on the promise of a large reduction of the public sector.
Provincial government cutbacks result in massive lay-offs across the Province and Edmonton, as provincial capital, is hardest hit
The 1993 re-election of a Progressive Conservative government led by newly-elected leader Ralph Klein ushered in a period of unprecedented cutbacks to the public sector, with a drastic reduction in provincial government spending, the slashing of many services and programs and privatization of others, and the "business reengineering" of government itself.
The "Klein Revolution", effectively announced in May 1993, served as the basis for the Conservative Party's platform during the provincial election that took place a month later. Radical plans for cutbacks and privatization were justified by appeals to neoliberal values and "new right" politics that targeted debt and deficits as the number one issue facing Albertans. Proposed solutions focused almost exclusively on slashing of expenditures, rapid privatization of public services, dismantling of "non-essential" programs, and the creation of a "business friendly" tax and industrial relations regime for the Province.
The Deficit Elimination Act approved by the Legislature just prior to the 1993 election, was sold to the Alberta public as an unavoidable response to the unfamiliar and well-publicized budget deficits and debt-servicing charges the province was experiencing for the first time in decades. The Act made balanced budgets mandatory by 1996-7, with clearly-defined deficit ceilings during the interim.
The first post-election budget of February 1994 proposed expenditures cuts of nearly 30 per cent over three years for all program areas outside of a so-called "core". The core areas of Education, Advanced Education and Career Development, Health, Family and Social Services, meanwhile, were subjected to cuts between 12 and 19 per cent. While the budget claimed an overall reduction target of 20 per cent, a study by former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Allan Warrack, estimated that the real per capita expenditure cut was actually over 27 per cent, once population growth and inflation were factored in.
The results were devastating, especially for communities in and around Edmonton, in which the majority of affected workers and their families lived. With deep cuts in instructional grants , for example, staffing levels in both schools and the Provincial Department were reduced by over 18 per cent, and even more jobs were eliminated by reductions in funding for new schools and other capital projects. Meanwhile, such developments as the legalization of charter schools, restructuring of school boards, and increases in tuition and user fees put further strains on both the K-12 and post-secondary systems.
The first and likely the most damaging cuts were made to Alberta's health care system. Only one month after he was elected, Premier Klein announced a $65 million cut to hospitals, to be applied retroactively and mostly to urban-area hospitals, including Edmonton. At the same time, responsibility for delivery was restructured into 17 regional health authorities, allocations for physician services were reduced, and services and procedures no longer deemed "medically necessary" were "de-insured." Hospitals and other care institutions were forced to trim costs, cuts were made to such programs as Aids to Daily Living, public health laboratory and ambulance services, and seniors' health benefits, with the result that many services were downloaded onto local governments, communities, and families.
The 1995 provincial budget raised targets for cuts to public-sector employment to 25 per cent for the next two years. While the Klein government originally spoke of a hiring freeze, attrition and a severance program, it openly admitted much later that lay-offs would occur - as they indeed did! Statistics Canada figures show that during 12 months up to June 1995, employment in Alberta's "public administration" sector dropped nearly 19 per cent, falling from 90,000 to 73,000. In Edmonton, where the bulk of these workers lived, employment in this sector alone dropped 29 per cent, from 38,000 in July 1994 to 26,800 in July 1995. Additional job losses were added when these losses rippled through other sectors. Edmonton's economy suffered badly during those years.
The ability of public sector unions to defend their members and their families was severely compromised by the drop in membership levels and funding. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the largest union in the Province, lost almost 35 per cent of its members, dropping from almost 50,000 to just over 32,000 in the space of three years. Similar losses were felt by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Alberta Teachers' Associations, and other unions.
The economic effects of job cuts in Edmonton were further exacerbated by a 5 per cent reduction in compensation for all remaining workers in health care facilities, school boards, postsecondary institutions, and government departments. As well, the government committed itself to "outsourcing" as much government work as possible to the private sector, where wage and benefit levels were generally lower. Further to this, it introduced performance and productivity measures for those services that remained public. The overall effect of these measures was a dramatic drop in employment levels, pay and working conditions, and job prospects for workers in the Edmonton region.
EdTel, the city's publicly owned telephone company is privatized after 91 years of service.
Edmontonian Scotty "Bulldog" Olson wins the flyweight International Boxing Organization world championship.
Provincial budget cuts continue. Employment in Alberta's public administration sector in Edmonton drops 29 per cent between July, 1994 and July 1995.
The Municipal Airport closes to scheduled air service after a citywide plebiscite.
CFB Edmonton, the army base at Namao, becomes the Edmonton Garrison.
Bill Smith becomes mayor.
Edmonton's population is 626,500.
The Winspear Centre holds its first performance.
The Bill 11 Struggle. In 2000 the Alberta government tabled a bill that would allow regional health authorities to negotiate contracts with for- profit health care providers to provide in-patient medical care in what it euphemistically labelled as "approved surgical facilities." This legislation marked another attempt by the Klein government to institute market alternatives for health-care delivery in Alberta, and, in labour's view, violated the Canada Health Act. The Bill 11 push to develop market alternatives was instituted after years of health care underfunding. Like Bill 37 before it, Bill 11 was an attempt to exploit Albertans' anxiety over the state of the health care system in order to promote privatisation. Government strategy not only failed to convince the public of the need for further privatisation, but it triggered one of the largest and most sustained periods of public protest in Alberta history. Edmonton trade union involvement in the protest was pivotal though it marked a substantial change in the type of organizing that unions have usually been involved with. The Edmonton protests grew out of a diverse and loosely connected coalition, which ranged from concerned citizens, seniors groups, health care providers, the academic community, trade union locals which represented health care workers, and many other unrelated unions who acted in solidarity with health care unions and the public in general. Unions provided research material, which helped to inform their members and the public of the dangerous precedent that the Klein government's proposals would create. By helping to educate and organize their membership and the general public, local unions and their coalition partners were successful in building a massive protest movement which represented the viewpoint of the vast majority of Alberta citizens who support universal health care delivery and the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Although the legislation was eventually passed, the size and conviction of the protests genuinely surprised the Alberta government and have subsequently made them take a go slow approach to their initial privatisation plans. Perhaps more importantly the protests have shown local unions how successful this type of community based organizing can be.
Descendants of the Papaschase band and the Michel band sue the federal government, alleging illegalities in the loss of their reserves.
Edmonton hosts the IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
Edmonton-based Jamie Sale and David Pelletier win the World Pairs Figure Skating Championship.
Edmonton's population is 676,293.
Four Edmonton-based Canadian soldiers are killed on duty in Afghanistan.
Commonwealth Stadium is transformed into an ice arena for the first outdoor NHL game.
A long strike begins at the A-Channel television station in Edmonton.
Levi Strauss closes its Edmonton garment plant, a decision that puts 488 employees, mostly immigrant women, out of work. The factory had operated as the Great Western Garment Company from 1911 to 1961.
A-Channel Strike Overview. On September 17, 2003 members of Local 1900 of the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represent workers at the A-Channel television station owned by Craig Media, went on strike after the employer walked away from first-contract negotiations. Ninety of one hundred an five on-air and behind-the-camera workers walked out in Edmonton's first TV station strike.
The employees' main grievance concerns salaries, which are substantially lower than the industry average. In return for accepting salaries well below the industry standard, employees were promised that their salaries would be increased once the station was established and making a profit. The statement "Station of broken promises" has become a symbol of management's failure to make good on its promise. Workers also point to the station's high staff turnover, which they feel is due to the station exploiting the inexperience of young workers who are willing to settle for lower wages in order to gain industry experience. Strikers are also worried about the transfer of positions to A-Channel's non-union Calgary station.
Other recent examples, such as the 2002 Shaw Convention Centre strike and the Calgary Herald strike of 1999, are indicative of the difficulties unions face when attempting to negotiate first-contract settlements in Alberta. Many employers attempt to use every tool at their disposal to intimidate and demoralize strikers in order to break newly formed unions.
Several contentious issues have highlighted this dispute. The employer has warned media outlets not to run strike advertisements, which ask viewers to tune out until management negotiates a fair settlement. Management has also attempted to sue individual strikers for "intimidating" the station's advertisers to pull their ads off the air. This occurred even after the Labour Relations Board ruled CEP Local 1900 had a legal right to contact advertisers who run commercials on A- Channel and ask them to suspend their ads until the strike is settled.
Several advertisers, such as the City of Edmonton and Capital City Savings, have agreed to such a suspension of advertisements. As of January 2004, the station learned that its adult audience for its evening news program has dropped by over 40percent from the same period last year.
Local unions at the time continued to support strikers through solidarity fundraisers and picket-line support.
On 25 September 2003, multinational clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss announced that it was closing its remaining North American plants, moving all of its production offshore. The move affected 1,180 workers at three Canadian plants – one in Edmonton and two in Ontario. Company officials admitted that the Canadian plants were very efficient and very productive. The Edmonton plant – their most productive of all plants – made between 15,000 and 16,000 pairs of jeans a day. The stated reason for moving all production to countries in the Caribbean and Asia, where wages are very low and labour laws are practically non-existent, was increased global competition – the operation costs of the Canadian plants are higher than the offshore plants and they allegedly can't change production to new lines of clothes as quickly as fashion trends demand. This move seemed at odds with Levi's self-touted reputation as a progressive company within the historically exploitative garment industry. In addition, only one week after they announced that they were closing their North American plants, the company announced record second quarter profits - $US 26.7 million, up 95% from the previous year.
Levi Strauss had been in Edmonton since 1961 when it acquired the operations of Great West Garments (G.W.G.), founded in Edmonton in 1911. When Levi's bought the plant, it eliminated pay by piecework and started paying workers by the hour. The 488 workers affected by the closure in Edmonton were primarily immigrant women. The workers were represented by Local 120G of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Their average length of employment with the company was 17 years. They earned between $10.00 and $12.00 per hour and enjoyed a good benefits package relative to their fellow workers in other low-skilled industries. Naturally, the workers were concerned about finding decent jobs. The union partnered with the company and City of Edmonton to provide training and job search assistance.
It is worth noting here that occupational health and safety issues has continued as a major thrust of union activity right through to today when workplace deaths and accidents continue as a major cause of death among working age Canadians, especially young workers. Governments and employers continue to ignore the significance of these issues.
Edmonton celebrates its centennial year.
Edmonton celebrates its 100th birthday as a city.