William Puffer - Political Career

Political Career

Puffer was active in local politics: he sat on the school board from 1893 to 1894 and from 1896 to 1902, and on the town council from 1903 to 1906. He entered the wider sphere of politics in 1904, when he was nominated as the Northwest Territories Liberal Party's candidate in the by-election to replace Peter Talbot as Lacombe's representative in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

The by-election was pre-empted by the 1905 creation of the province of Alberta, and Puffer instead sought election as the provincial Liberal candidate in the new provincial district of Lacombe in the 1905 provincial election. He defeated Conservative candidate Andrew Gilmour. He was acclaimed in his first re-election bid, in the 1909 election, and defeated his Conservative challenger by an increased margin in the 1913 election.

When the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway (A&GWR) scandal divided the Liberal caucus, Puffer remained loyal to the government of Premier Alexander Cameron Rutherford. When Rutherford's government fell and was replaced with that of fellow Liberal Arthur Sifton, Puffer joined Rutherford and his allies in voting against the new administration on its 1910 plan to confiscate the money raised by the A&GWR from a provincially guaranteed bond issue (on the grounds that it had defaulted on its obligations). However, he did not join Rutherford in supporting a 1913 Conservative motion of non-confidence against the government, which decried Sifton's handling of the A&GWR issue; instead, Puffer read a statement on behalf of several representatives saying that, while Rutherford's concerns were legitimate, it was premature to pass final judgment until the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had ruled on the legality of the government's plan.

The 1917 election saw a rematch of the 1905 contest between Puffer and Gilmour; this time, Gilmour emerged victorious by a 90-vote margin. Puffer attempted to return to the legislature in the 1921 and 1926 contests, but both times was defeated by Irene Parlby, cabinet minister in the new United Farmers of Alberta government.

When the Conscription Crisis of 1917 divided the Liberal Party, Puffer became a Laurier Liberal, opposed to conscription and Conservative Prime Minister Robert Laird Borden's Union government. The incumbent Member of Parliament for Red Deer, Michael Clark, had been elected as a Liberal but joined the Unionists over conscription; Puffer challenged him in the 1917 election, but was soundly defeated. It is a measure of the campaign's acrimony that the pro-Union Calgary Herald called Puffer a "petty provincial politician and personal henchman of the Hon. Charles Cross" (Cross was the de facto leader of the Laurier Liberals in Alberta).

William Puffer died in Lacombe in 1948.

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