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The Honourable Herbert Greenfield, 1921-25

From 1921 to 1925, Herbert Greenfield presided over the Province's first United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) Government. As one would expect, this government derived most of its support from rural Alberta and sought social, economic, and political reform. It was particularly opposed to high interest rates for farm credit, protective tariffs, and party politics in government.

Herbert Greenfield was born on November 26, 1868, in Winchester, England. He was the son of John Greenfield and Mary Leake, and he attended the Wesleyan School at Dalston, Cumberland, England, before his family immigrated to Canada in 1896.

After his family's arrival in Canada, Herbert Greenfield worked as a farm laborer in Middlesex and Lambton Counties, Ontario. On February 28, 1900, he married Elizabeth Harris, daughter of Samuel Harris of Adelaide Township, Ontario. They had two children: Franklin Harris and Arnold Leake. Following the death of his first wife in 1922, Herbert Greenfield married Marjorie Parker Cormack in 1926. As a consequence of this marriage, he had two step-children: Frank Cormack and Mrs. James Lougheed.

In 1906, Herbert Greenfield moved to Edison (east of Westlock), Alberta, in order to homestead and became a successful farmer and was active in community affairs. He served as secretary and treasurer of the local school board for a number of years, president of the Westlock Agricultural Society, and president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts.

Herbert Greenfield was originally a Liberal. However, as time passed, he became involved with the United Farmers of Alberta and served as the vice-president of the United Farmers of Alberta from 1918 to 1921. After the electoral victory of the UFA in 1921, Henry Wise Wood, who was serving as president of the UFA, was asked to form the new government. However, he declined. John E. Brownlee, who was a lawyer, would not undertake the task at this time because he felt that the new Premier should be a farmer. After further deliberations, Herbert Greenfield was finally persuaded to accept the leadership and was appointed Premier effective August 13, 1921, by Lieutenant Governor Robert G. Brett. Since Herbert Greenfield had not run in the 1921 general election, he had no seat. Consequently, Donald M. Kennedy, the UFA Member for Peace River, resigned to accommodate him. On December 9, 1921, Herbert Greenfield was declared elected by acclamation. As well as serving as President of Executive Council, he was also Provincial Secretary (1921-23), Provincial Treasurer (1921-23), and Minister of Municipal Affairs (1923-25). Although the base of their political support stemmed from rural Alberta, from the beginning, the UFA Government determined that it would adopt legislation that would benefit all segments of society. During Premier Greenfield's term, Alberta's roads, health, and educational services were improved. As well, in 1924, his government repealed prohibition and established the Alberta Liquor Control Board. However, in spite of considerable pressure from UFA supporters, the government did not establish a government-owned bank that would issue its own currency and provide low interest loans to farmers.

As time passed, divisions developed among the supporters of the UFA Government regarding policy issues. Stating that “it has become increasingly evident that there is not the full accord between supporters of the government and myself which is essential to the successful continuation of any administration,” Herbert Greenfield resigned as Premier effective November 23, 1925.

In 1926, Herbert Greenfield was appointed Agent General for Alberta in London, England. In that capacity, he experienced considerable success attracting immigrants and English capital to Alberta. Following the closure of the Agent General's office in 1931, he returned to Alberta and resided in Calgary.

At that point, he became involved in the petroleum industry. Herbert Greenfield was President and Managing Director of Calmont Oils Ltd. and a director of Home Oil Company. He also served as president of the Oil and Gas Association, which amalgamated with the Petroleum Producers' Association in 1936. Later, he served as president of the Alberta Petroleum Association and was influential in getting Alberta oil royalties listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1940.

Herbert Greenfield also served as president of the Calgary Board of Trade and managing director of the British Dominions Land Settlement Corporation. He was a member of the Renfrew and Glencoe Clubs in Calgary.

Herbert Greenfield died on August 23, 1949, in Calgary, Alberta, and was buried in the Union Cemetery in that city. In 1968, an elementary school in Edmonton was named in his memory.

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