1898 Canadian prohibition plebiscite

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.

Canadian prohibition plebiscite, 1898
Date29 September 1898 (1898-09-29)
Votes %
Yes 278,380 51.26%
No 264,693 48.74%
Results by Results by jurisdiction.
  Yes     No
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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]


Jurisdiction For Prohibition Against Prohibition
Votes % Votes %
Northwest Territories6,23868.82,82431.2
British Columbia5,73154.64,75645.4
New Brunswick26,91972.29,57527.7
Nova Scotia34,36887.25,37012.8
Prince Edward Island9,46189.21,14610.8

See also


  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. 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.

Further reading

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