History | Alberta's Fifth Premier: Port Ryerse's John Brownlee
The following article is based on information provided by the Government of Alberta

The Honourable John E. Brownlee
John Edward Brownlee, son of merchant William James Brownlee and Christina Shaw, was born 27 Aug 1884, at Port Ryerse on the north shore of Lake Erie in Norfolk County.

After attending schools in Port Ryerse, Bradshaw and Sarnia, he taught school for a year, then attended the University of Toronto, graduating in 1908.

Moving Alberta the following year, he articled in Calgary and was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1912. On 23 Dec 1912, he married Florence Agnes Edy, daughter of James N. Edy of Toronto. They had two sons: John Edy and Alan Marshall.

John represented the Alberta Farmers' Co-operative, which became the United Grain Growers in 1917. He became solicitor for the UGG and general manager of UGG Securities in 1919. He was also legal counsel to the United Farmers of Alberta and helped organize the Alberta Wheat Pool.

When the UFA won Alberta's provincial election in 1921 they asked John to serve as Attorney-General. That December he was acclaimed in a Ponoka riding by-election. He was appointed King's Counsel the following year. 

Alberta's Lieutenant-Governor, Dr. William Egbert, appointed John Premier of Alberta in Nov 1925. He was re-elected in 1926 and by acclamation, in 1930.

Premier Brownlee's governments passed drought relief legislation, sold financially burdensome railways, and negotiated transfer of  control over Alberta's natural resources from the federal to the provincial government. In 1933, he served on the Royal Commission on Banking and Currency.

But his government was blamed for not dealing effectively with the Great  Depression. Brownlee resigned as Premier in 1934, but sat in the Legislature as a private member until defeated in the next general election.

Returning to private practice in Edmonton he was soon legal counsel for the UGG again. Between 1948-1961 he was president and general manager of that firm. During the 1950s he negotiated the Second and Third International Wheat Agreements. and was an original members of the National Productivity Council, the forerunner of the Economic Council of Canada. 

Brownlee died 15 July 2023 at Calgary, Alberta, and was buried in the Evergreen Memorial Gardens northeast of Edmonton.

John E. Brownlee