1867 Election
Meant Sailing to the Soo

If Georgian Bay region residents wished to cast their ballots in the 1867 election they had to sail to Sault Ste. Marie to vote in the first Canadian election after Confederation.


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Canadians facing a federal election in 2023, and beyond, will mean that on, or before the election date, will no doubt be boarding a sailing vessel to ride the waters of Georgian Bay to cast their vote at the nearest voting station.

I am sure that the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic Party and Green Party candidates will all charter the fastest boat they could find to carry their supporters to cast their ballots. 

You are probably scratching your head and asking yourself, “Why would I need a boat to take me to vote on election day?” 

Well if you lived in the Georgian Bay region and wanted to vote in the 1867 election, water transportation was the only way that most citizens in the area could cast their vote.


Because there was only one polling station! The electoral region, known as Algoma District, consisted of most of the area surrounding Georgian Bay. And that electoral district had only one place to vote. The polling station was in Sault Ste. Marie! 

1867 Election: Beatty vs Simpson
the Waubuno vs the Algoma

The first election after Confederation featured two candidates, William Beatty of Parry Sound and W. M. Simpson of Owen Sound. 

The constituency was vast and encompassed many communities. Most of the eligible voters could not drive their horse or ox-drawn vehicles, let alone walk to vote. Because the ONLY polling station was located in Sault Ste. Marie obviously the cost in terms of time and money posed a detriment to getting all of the voters out to cast their ballots. The answer was to charter sailing vessels to carry citizens to the polling station at Sault Ste. Marie. Simpson chartered the Algoma and Beatty hired the Waubuno to carry voters to cast their ballots. 

This does not necessarily mean that the two candidates were so civic minded. Not everyone in the Owen Sound area rode on Simpson's Algoma nor did all of the residents of the Parry Sound region enjoy a free ride on the Waubuno. Both candidates and their supporters carefully scrutinized who would be allowed to sail on their vessels to Sault Ste. Marie. 

Once loyalties had been established only Simpson supporters sailed on the Algoma and only Beatty's followers boarded the Waubuno.

As voting day approached the two vessels headed towards Sault Ste. Marie, no doubt making stops along the way to pick up their faithful friends. The two candidates continued to curry the favour of their supporters while they sailed. Food and alcohol were freely distributed among those on board the two steamers.

1867 Election Results

Unfortunately for Beatty and the more than 100 of his adherents, the Waubuno experienced engine difficulties. They arrived too late to cast their ballots. Simpson was elected as the Member of Parliament representing Algoma District. 

The candidate from Owen Sound was lucky indeed that the Waubuno had been unable to arrive on time. Despite this turn of events his margin of victory was only nine votes. Obvious Simpson and his followers had not checked the loyalty of all of those voters who had taken free passage to Sault Ste Marie on his vessel!

In the period just after Canadian Confederation, there was no means of rapid communication, so the results of the 1867 election were only known by those in the immediate vicinity of Sault Ste. Marie. It would not be until the Algoma returned to Owen Sound that the rest of the community could celebrate the victory of their hometown boy, W. M. Simpson. 

In the more than 150 years that have transpired since that 1867 election there have been many changes to the way Canadians select their parliamentary representatives. Today all Canadians of legal voting age are eligible to vote at polling stations close to their homes. Television, radio, and the internet, enable us to know the results almost immediately after voting closes. Although most would argue that the elections today are held in an efficient manner, I for one would enjoy sailing on Georgian Bay in an all expense paid excursion courtesy of the candidates in the next election!

More Georgian Bay Sailing Stories

Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay and Great Lakes sailing traffic. They assisted mariners in making their sailing a safe venture. 

Recreational Boating on Georgian Bay  There is a long tradition of recreational boating on Georgian Bay. Reports indicate that regattas were being held at Owen Sound as early as 1852.

Great Lakes Recreational Boating  Great Lakes recreational boating has been a popular pastime in the summertime in the Georgian Bay region for many years.

Yachts on Georgian Bay  A history of yachts on Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay Ferry Boat Service between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island has a history that is more than a century old. Today, the Chi-Cheemaun continues that tradition.

Ferry boat service after 1930 increased in activity between Tobermory at tip of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island

1867 Election Meant Sailing to the Soo. There was only one polling station in the Georgian Bay region in the first election after Canadian Confederation and that was in Sault Ste. Marie!

A Flowerpot Island boat trip takes you to one of the many Georgian Bay islands  dot the landscape of the waters around Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. One island features not only unique landforms and vegetation, but also a mysterious indigenous Romeo and Juliet tale of romance.

Chicora the first stage of an 1871 Great Lakes tour aboard a cruise ship on Georgian Bay.

Chicora the final stage of an 1871 cruise a foggy voyage on the Great Lakes.

Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park  Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park, opulent adventures for the wealthy of the day. It was the late 19th century and tourism was beginning to bloom.

Sailing the Lake Huron Shoreline is a step back in history and a delightfully scenic trip. But beware of the big waves that can arise anytime!

Sailing Lake Huron Shoreline Part 2 takes us through the most treacherous part of our voyage and also a most interesting part as we visit some unique islands.

Georgian Bay Sailing Georgian Bay Sailing history is a rich tapestry of tales of heroism, tragedy, and exploration. Sailing vessels traversing the rugged waters of Georgian Bay predate the arrival of European explorers and settlers.

Boating for Recreation on Georgian Bay and beyond had an early start once settlement began in the region. As early as the 1850s pleasure crafts were popular. 

  1. History Articles
  2. Georgian Bay Sailing
  3. 1867 Election

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