1898 Canadian prohibition plebiscite

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Canadian prohibition plebiscite, 1898
Flag of Canada (1868-1921).svg
29 September 1898 (1898-09-29)

Are you in favor of the passing of an Act prohibiting the importation, manufacture of sale of spirits, wine, ale, beer, cider and all other alcoholic liquors for use as beverages?
Votes %
Light brown x.svgNo264,69348.77%
Valid votes542,76398.43%
Invalid or blank votes8,6421.57%
Total votes551,405100.00%
Registered voters/turnout1,236,41944.6%

Canada 1898 Referendum.svg
Results by Results by jurisdiction.
Source: Database and Search Engine for Direct Democracy

A plebiscite on prohibition was held in Canada on 29 September 1898, the first national referendum in the country's history. [1] The Liberal government had made an election promise in 1896 to provide an opportunity for Canadians to register their opinions about the sale of alcohol. [2] The non-binding plebiscite saw 51.3% in favour of introducing prohibition, although turnout was only 44%. [3] A majority voted for its introduction in all provinces except Quebec, where 81.2% opposed it.


Despite the majority in favour, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition. As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century.

A 2012 study found that religion was by far the most important factor in determining how Canadians voted, with Evangelicals favoring prohibition, whereas Catholics and Anglicans opposed it. [4] More urbanized districts were less likely to favor prohibition. [4]


JurisdictionFor ProhibitionAgainst Prohibition
Northwest Territories 6,23868.82,82431.2
British Columbia 5,73154.64,75645.4
Manitoba 12,41980.62,97819.4
New Brunswick 26,91972.29,57527.7
Nova Scotia 34,36887.25,37012.8
Ontario 154,49857.3115,28442.7
Prince Edward Island 9,46189.21,14610.8
Quebec 28,43618.8122,76081.2

See also

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  1. "Referendum". The Canadian Encyclopedia
  2. Harry Thurston Peck (1899). The International Year Book. Dodd, Mead. p. 153.
  3. Alfred Emanuel Smith; Francis Walton (1898). New Outlook. Outlook publishing Company, Incorporated. p. 362.
  4. 1 2 Dostie, Benoit; Dupré, Ruth (2012-10-01). ""The people's will": Canadians and the 1898 referendum on alcohol prohibition". Explorations in Economic History. 49 (4): 498–515. doi:10.1016/j.eeh.2012.06.005.

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