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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XXXVI - Cameron's Administration


Mr. Cameron's Appointment—Judge Richardson Administrator During Cameron's Illness—Bulyea's Mission to the Yukon— Liquor Permits for tiie Unorganized Territories—Yukon District Cut Off from North West Territories—Comment of the Assembly—Increased Revenue—Untaxable Lands—Consolidation of Territorial Ordinances—Increasing Prosperity—Death of Mr. Cameron.

In June, 189S, Malcolm Colin Cameron became Lieutenant-Governor of the North West, arriving at Regina on July 1. Throughout his long political career be had manifested the keenest interest in western affairs, and it will be remembered from our discussion of Parliamentary debates of the early eighties that if his views had at that time been supported by a majority in the House of Commons, the grievances of the West might have been settled without the costly sacrifice of the year 1SS5. Unfortunately, Mr. Cameron's regime as Governor of the Territories was exceedingly short. During the first session of the Assembly the Lieutenant-Governor was taken seriously ill, and the duties of his office had to be performed chiefly by an Administrator.

This officer was the Honourable Hugh Richardson, with whose name the readers of this History are already so familiar. From 1876 to 1887 he had been a Stipendiary Magistrate and official legal advisor of Lieutenant-Governors Laird and Dewdney, and since that date he had with dignity and efficiency occupied the position of Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of the North West Territories.

The Third Legislature assembled for its fourth session August 16, 1898. Since the last session, Mr. Bulyea, representing the Executive Council, had spent several months in the Yukon District, where the recent discovery of gold and a consequent influx of miners required that those responsible for the Territories should take steps for the security of law and order. One of the most important duties devolving upon the Territorial Government in connection with its administration of affairs in the Yukon District arose from the imperative necessity of regulating and restricting the import and sale of intoxicating liquors.

The difficult task was very satisfactorily performed. Satisfactorily especially from the standpoint of the citizens of Alberta, Assiniboia and Saskatchewan. There were distinctly humorous features in connection with this expedition of Mr. Bulyea's. By a whim of fortune the Yukon had suddenly become a gateway through which teeming multitudes of thirsty miners were crowding into the interior of the North West. The West shuddered at the thought that there was nobody there to collect funds payable in licenses for the sale of the spirituous liquors those miners would require for the efficient prosecution of their trade. Moreover, unless the collector of this revenue, acting on behalf of the North West Government, retreated to some inaccessible point forthwith, word might reach him at any time that he no longer had authority to take the money. The rumour was already in the air that the Dominion Government was on the point of separating, for administrative purposes, the Yukon District from the rest of the North West, so there was no time to lose. Mr. Bulyea was despatched in hot haste to turn to the best possible financial advantage the waning hours of Territorial jurisdiction in the far North. On the last day of 1907 he left Regina upon his long and arduous journey to the Yukon. He, of course, travelled via Vancouver and Skagway, from which latter point he set out for the Canadian Yukon in February. March 15th saw him at Lake Bennett, and 011 April 12th lie arrived at Dawson. The race was won. In spite of friction with certain representatives of the Federal Government, Mr. Bulyea collected for the benefit of the Territorial Exchequer some one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, the reward of promptitude, before announcement was made by the Dominion authorities of the severance of the Yukon District from the North West Territories. The Territorial Commissioner on August 25th left Dawson on his return journey, arriving at Regina 011 the last day of the session, September 18th. Indeed, the members bad deliberately remained at the Capital in order to welcome home their successful envoy, with his sorely needed contribution to the funds available for the roads and bridges of the prairies.

In connection with this amusing passage at arms between the Federal and Territorial Governments, Mr. Bulyea's colleagues had been far from inactive during his absence. The whole circumstance is interesting enough to call for review.

Under the North West Constitution as amended in 1891, the control of the liquor trade, in that portion of the Territories that was organized into electoral districts, was vested in the Lieutenant-Governor and his Assembly and Council, but in the unorganized districts it was controlled by the Lieutenant-Governor, acting under the instructions of the Minister of the Interior at Ottawa. In 1897, however, full Cabinet Government was accorded, an Executive Council being created. Henceforth, all the official acts of the Lieutenant-Governor required the advice and consent of the North West Cabinet. The new provisions came into force on October 1st. A number of large permits approved by Mr. Mackintosh were objected to bv Air. Haultain. The Premier agreed to recommend all permits that had been promised prior to October 1st, but required the production of the correspondence antecedent to that date by which the Government was committed to the issue. Mr. Haultain carried his point and enforced the payment into the North West Treasury of a considerable sum that, but for his determined action, would have been lost. A serious conflict between the Federal and Territorial authorities was now precipitated. After Mr. Bulyea's departure for the Yukon, to regulate the sale of intoxicants and vindicate the jurisdiction of the Territorial Government, the Secretary of State advised the Honourable Mr. Justice Richardson, who was acting as Administrator in the absence of Mr. Mackintosh from the Territories, that henceforth he was to issue no permits for taking liquor into the unorganized districts, except on the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior, the Honourable Clifford Sifton. Mr. Haultain considered this an unconstitutional curtailment of the jurisdiction of his Government, and presently advanced a test case by recommending for approval a specific application. In accordance with his instructions from Ottawa, Mr. Richardson refused to grant the permit and the North West Premier had the case, with his protests, referred to Ottawa. A deadlock now ensued as Mr. Haultain would not countersign and thus make legally valid permits approved by the Lieutenant-Governor and his Administrator, and that official would not countersign the permits supported by Mr. Haultain. Consequently, from early in the winter until the end of May, 1898, no permits whatever were issued. A spirited correspondence took place, Air. Ross vigorously supporting his chief. Ultimately the Ottawa authorities realized that their position was constitutionally untenable and the obnoxious instructions were rescinded.

It was not intended, however, that this should work to the financial advantage of the North West government. Parliament had passed an act cutting off the Yukon District from the North West Territories for the purposes of separate administration and it was evidently intended that this act should come into force before Mr. Haultain could exercise the powers remitted to him by the cancellation of the former instructions. It so happened, however, that Parliament sat a fortnight longer than had been expected, so that this Yukon Act was not signed by the Governor-General till June 13th.

This respite offered an opportunity, which Air. Haultain and his colleagues did not fail to grasp. Applications for permits had been pouring in and an indefinitely large sum might have been realized 011 permit fees. However, Air. Haultain governed himself by Air. Sifton's public statement

that the population of the Yukon was 40,000, mostly adult males, and by the statistics showing the average consumption of liquor throughout the Dominion to be two gallons per head. Accordingly permits were issued within the remaining two weeks of the Territorial Government's authority for the import into the Yukon District of 80,000 gallons. Upon this quantity-Mr. Haultain collected the sum of $160,000 in fees at $2.00 a gallon.

The action of the Parliament of Canada in cutting off the Yukon District from the Territories did not meet with the entire approval of the Assembly, and the following resolution was incorporated in the reply to the speech from the Throne:

"While the cutting off of the Yukon official district may have been done in the general interests of the country, we cannot but view with apprehension any indication of the disintegration of the Territories as they are at the present constituted, and we note with satisfaction that your Government took the necessary steps to exercise their jurisdiction in the Yukon District, and we will await with interest the report of the member of the Executive Council entrusted with that duty."

On September 12th, the House passed a resolution affirming the desirability of an early and final determination of the boundary lines between the North West Territories and other Provinces and Territories, but denying the right of the Parliament of Canada to alter the limits of the North West Territories without the consent of the Territorial Government. The Assembly, on behalf of the people it represented, laid claim to equal rights with the people of the Provinces in this respect. However, the Legislature expressed its consent to such revision of boundaries as would separate from the North West Territories those regions lying North of the boundaries of British Columbia and Manitoba, respectively. At the same time, the Legislature declared itself firmly of the opinion that the political unity of the Territories should not be disturbed. After a lengthy debate this resolution was carried by a vote of eleven to ten.

As a result of the windfall arising from the policy of the Territorial Cabinet with regard to the importation and sale of liquor, the Lieutenant-Governor was this year in a position to make unprecedented announcement that the revenue of the past year had considerably exceeded the estimates. Moreover, as result of negotiations between the Government and the Minister of the Interior, a bill had been passed at the last session of the Federal Parliament relegating the North West Irrigation Act to the administration of the Territorial Commissioner of Public Works.

The old question of untaxable lands again came up for discussion. On motion of Mr. Haultain, seconded by Mr. Ross, it was resolved that in the opinion of the Assembly immediate action should be taken by the Federal Government to compel the location and patenting of all lands to which railway and colonization companies were entitled. The failure of the Federal authorities to act upon this suggestion long enabled great speculating corporations to avoid their share of taxes for schools, local improvements and other purposes. It was the custom of the companies to make formal choice of a parcel of land within the reserve covered by their option, only when a purchaser had been secured. This anomalous privilege worked great hardship in many quarters for very many years.- For example, in one school district known to the writer less than half the land was available for taxation, though the remainder was being offered in the market by a great land company which paid no taxes. In consequence, though the ratepayers allowed themselves to be taxed for school purposes at the highest rate permitted under the law, they were unable to maintain a yearly school without steadily going deeper and deeper into debt.

The task of the Commissioners who had so long been engaged in consolidating the Territorial Ordinances still occupied to a considerable extent the attention of the authorities, though it was now nearing completion. Among the numerous new Ordinances passed at this session was one amending the Irrigation Districts Law. This considerably simplified the procedure with regard to irrigation enterprises and rendered it much less expensive, to the great advantage of the south western portion of the Territories. The House was prorogued by his Honour the Administrator, on September 17th.

The records of the year evidenced substantial prosperity and offered bright prospects for the future. Immigration was rapidly increasing and it was evident that the Territories had entered upon a period of unprecedented growth and development.

Owing to his continued ill health, Mr. Cameron had been compelled to return to Ontario, and on the 26th day of September, 1898, the people of the West and of Canada generally were grieved to learn of the fatal issue of his illness.


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