Rural Electrification

In 1949, the Saskatchewan government passed the Rural Electrification Act. The Saskatchewan Power Corporation, a publicly owned utility, purchased existing small-town generators and started to expand into rural areas. However, costs to place power poles, string power lines, and wire buildings for electricity were high. The Rural Electrification Act set out three ways in which rural residents could access power: as an individual, if the farm was close to existing power lines and could be tied in easily; as a power district, where at least seven farms applied for power and shared the costs of bringing it in; and as an electricity co-operative association, with 100 farms buying power wholesale from the Saskatchewan Power Corporation, then building and maintaining their own distribution system.

Rural residents, anxious to access a reliable power source, responded enthusiastically: using loans and volunteer labour, over the next fifteen years most Saskatchewan farms became electrified. Electric lights in halls, schools, rinks, and churches changed the social life of communities. Electric appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, furnaces, water heaters, and indoor plumbing freed rural women from daily drudgery. Radio and television brought new forms of entertainment. The farming day was extended by safely lighting barns and shops, and new shop tools improved operations. Large-scale livestock production (such as dairy, chicken, and hog barns) was possible. New businesses, from appliance dealerships, repair shops, and meat lockers to processing plants and manufacturing businesses, revitalized rural Saskatchewan.

Merle Massie

Further Reading

White, C.O. 1976. Power for a Province: A History of Saskatchewan Power. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center.