The small Alberta town of Cardston voted overwhelmingly Monday to stay dry. Of the 1,400 residents who turned out for a plebiscite, more than three-quarters voted in favour of keeping the 109-year-old law that bans pubs and liquor stores in the predominantly Mormon community. The Post’s Jen Gerson spoke to Mayor Maggie Kronen on Tuesday:
Q: For a very long time, this was the only place in Western Canada that had a proper Mormon temple, is that correct?
A: Yes, the temple was completed in 1923. So it was the first temple outside the U.S. for a long, long time. When you have a centre of faith, of course, you have people that live the values of that faith. In time we have gone from a population of 100% LDS [Latter Day Saints] to about 80% LDS.
Q: Why did your town vote to maintain a prohibition on alcohol?
A: Our town, as well as the full county of Cardston and the southern part of the county of Warner, have all had prohibition since 1905. No one has ever challenged that, which means people were happy living the way they lived. Now there is a group of strong progressives who felt that times were changing. Maybe it was time to see if economic development would be driven and tourists could be increased through the sales of alcohol.
Q: Are there places nearby where people can drink?
A: Five minutes outside town we have a Legion. Twenty minutes further, there’s Fort Macleod, and 45 minutes north there’s Lethbridge where you can have drinks. But you can also bring alcohol to town and to your house.
Q: Has this stopped drunken behaviour in town?
A: It’s hard to tell because we’ve been under prohibition since day one. We have a small number of people who buy different kinds of exhilarants, not really alcohol that is in a bottle.
Q: What do people do for fun?
A: Well you can’t have more happy people than the LDS people. They are so happy, so family oriented. There is so much to do, they love fun, they love enjoying parties — oh my goodness — they are party animals. They don’t need alcohol to keep them happy. We have chuckwagon races, we have football games, we have rugby games, we have basketball games — for which we are provincial champions. We have a fantastic volunteer appreciation day, and the town is a busy town with people doing a lot for each other.
Q: What about the the non-Mormons who live there? Do they tend to be dry as well?
A: I know quite a few people from other faiths in our town and some of them said they came to the town because it is a dry town. They like it that way.
Q: What about the vote itself? Was it a heated vote?
A: I would say we had excellent returns. 1,400 came out [in a town of 3,500]. It’s always a good day when you have a debate in the public square.
Q: What about coffee? I know the LDS frowns upon coffee. Are there bans on coffee?
A: Oh no, no. You can go pretty well everywhere and have a cup of coffee if you so desire. Or tea, or whatever else you want to drink.
• Interview has been condensed for length and clarity
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: jengerson