Sir Wilfrid Laurier visited Red Deer
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate May 28, 2010
Red Deer has been the scene
of a number of notable political events in its history. One of the
most momentous took place 100 years ago in August 1910, when the
prime minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, made an extended
visit to the community.
Laurier had been in Red Deer before. His first visit occurred on
September 20, 1894 when he was the federal Leader of the Opposition
and Red Deer was a hamlet with only 150 residents. The second took
place on Aug. 30, 1905, when Laurier was on his way north for the
ceremonies in Edmonton to officially declare Alberta a province.
However, both the 1894 and 1905 visits were brief. The 1910 visit
was to be different. This time Laurier was to stay in Red Deer for
News that Laurier would be including Red Deer as a major stop on his
summer tour of Western Canada was received in June. Tremendous
excitement followed. Grand plans were quickly drawn up. The
community not only wanted to suitably welcome the prime minister,
but also wanted to ensure the recognition of Red Deer as one of the
centres of growth and prosperity in the West.
Hence, a very impressive archway was constructed at the intersection
of Gaetz Avenue and Ross Street. It had four large towers. It was
covered in flags, bunting, sheaves of grain, and local produce.
There were large signs with slogans of welcome and boosting Red
Deer. The local Western General Electric power company donated
several hundred bulbs so that the edifice could be lit up at night.
Huge crowds greeted Laurier's arrival on the afternoon of August 10.
The official procession, which made its way from the newly
constructed CPR Station to the Civic Square next to the Town Hall,
included Laurier, Alberta Premier Arthur Sifton, several MPs, MLAs
and local elected officials. The Red Deer Citizen's Band and the
15th Light Horse militia were given the honour of leading the
Once at the Civic Square, the mayor and local dignitaries made
lengthy speeches of welcome. Special time was also given to the
provincial president of the United Farmers of Alberta, James Bower
of Red Deer, so that he could present the concerns and viewpoints of
the farmers. So important was the speech to Bower that although he
started to have a heart attack, he refused to be taken to hospital
until after he had finished making his presentation to the prime
After the civic reception, the delegation then went to a spot on
Gaetz Avenue, north east of the current site of the Capri Centre, to
drive the first spike for the Alberta Central Railway. This was a
new line that was being built from Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House
but which also had dreams of eventually extending across much of the
prairies to the B.C. coast.
A summer thunderstorm cut short the A.C.R. ceremony. Unfortunately,
another sudden storm cut short a huge public meeting held the next
day in Waskasoo Park, near Piper's Mountain.
The dignitaries, and all those who were able, quickly relocated to
Lyric Theatre on Ross Street, where the speeches continued.
Unfortunately, the theatre owners had put heavy coats of shellac on
the wooden seats the day before. Many of the attendees consequently
left large portions of their clothing behind when they went to
The visit wrapped up on the Thursday evening with an elaborate
reception on the lawn of H.H. Gaetz's large residence on Douglas
(55th) Street, just west of where Sacred Heart Church stands today.
Laurier departed early Friday morning after spending a second night
in the Ellis mansion on the corner of Douglas Street and Poplar
Despite the two thunderstorms and the other glitches, everyone
agreed that the visit had been a wonderful success. Red Deer had
successfully asserted its place on the new economic and political
map of Canada. Moreover, Laurier kept the promises he made during
his 1910 Western tour to run in the next election on a platform of
Reciprocity or Free Trade.
Laurier lost the 1911 election to Sir Robert Borden and the
Conservative Party, who ran on a platform more sympathetic to the
manufacturing and financial interests of Eastern Canada.
Nevertheless, Red Deer voted overwhelmingly for Dr. Michael Clark,
the local Laurier Liberal candidate.
Almost all of the rest of Alberta also voted Liberal in 1911, except
for Calgary, which elected R.B. Bennett, a wealthy Conservative
Michael Dawe is the curator of history at the Red Deer Museum and
Central Railway page
Laurier's 1910 visit huge event for city
(Red Deer Express August 2010)