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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XLI - Forget's Administration: Political History, 1905-1910


Inauguration of Provincial Institutions—Forget's Inaugural Speech —Choice of Capital—Lamont's Railway Bill—Provincial Finances—Acrimonious Party Warfare— Prince Albert Elections—Provincial Educational Legislation and the Supplementary Revenue Act—Supreme Court and District Court Judges—Taxation of Railway Corporations—New Election's Act—Redistribution Bill—Provincial Elections of 1908.

In the presence of the Governor-General, the Premier of the Dominion, and many other distinguished guests, on the occasion of the inaugural celebration of September 1, 1905. Mr. Forget took his oath of office as the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Saskatchewan. In reply to the Governor-General's announcement of the new dignity conferred upon the former Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories, His Honour spoke in part as follows:

"My first words must be of thanks to your Excellency for the high distinction just conferred upon me. I tender those thanks most sincerely. I appreciate the honour, and I hope I fully recognise the responsibility of the office 011 which I have entered. It is no little matter to be the firstly appointed Lieutenant of Your Excellency for the new Province of Saskatchewan.

"Even in ordinary circumstances the event just witnessed by this large gathering would have great interest and significance, and the circumstances are not ordinary. It has often been said lately that the change of status now achieved by the North West is the most important event that has occurred to Canada since confederation. This may well be so, for arc we not today completing the structure of federated Canada? I say then that the event is one of general interest and significance, and if I may be excused a personal reminiscence, I would say that it is to me especially a matter of peculiar fascination. Today this immense throng of North West people have witnessed the swearing-in of the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Saskatchewan, and my mind goes Lack to a small gathering at Fort Pelly on the 24th of November. 1876, when I witnessed the swearing-in of my esteemed, distinguished and venerable friend. Commissioner Laird, as the first Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories. There is a shade of sadness on the pleasing recollection in the fact that Commissioner Laird and myself are the only survivors of those who witnessed that historic event. From that day to this I have lived a North Wester, have been associated with the Government of the Territories and have been closely associated with the growth of the institutions around which we now live."

The political history of the next few years abounded in events of the first importance. Premier Scott, with his Cabinet colleagues, Messrs. Calder and Motherwell, and the members of the Assembly generally, enjoyed such an opportunity for constructive statesmanship and the handling of large public questions as but rarely, if ever, can occur again.

On March 29, 1906, the Lieutenant-Governor opened his first session of the First Legislature of the Province of Saskatchewan. Mr. McNutt was elected Speaker, and Mr. Sutherland, of Saskatoon, Deputy Speaker.

The choice of a Provincial Capital was one of the most interesting issues before the First Assembly. Claims were raised in many quarters, but especially in Moose Jaw, Regina, and Saskatoon. The members of the Legislature in a body visited Regina's two chief rivals, and every species of pressure, legitimate and illegitimate, is said to have been brought to bear upon the Assembly. Finally, however, the Premier on May 23d announced the decision of the Government in favor of Regina, and received the endorsation of the House.

An important railway bill was introduced in this session by Attorney-General Lamont, and duly approved by the Assembly. It provided that any railway company obtaining a railway charter from the Provincial Government must complete at least thirty miles of its line within two years, and the whole road within five, and that railway companies must fence their right-of-ways. The bill vested in the Government the power to expropriate any railway constructed under a provincial charter, and to transform it into a government road. Mr. Haultain, the leader of the opposition, criticised the bill in various regards, and in a number of instances his suggested improvements were adopted by the Government. The companies incorporated during this first session were: The Saskatchewan Central Railway Company, The Moose Jaw and Suburban Railway Company, The Canada Central Railway Company, and The Saskatchewan Railway Company.

The Hon. J. A. Calder delivered his first budget speech on May 16th. There had been expended under warrant between the date of inauguration and December 31, 1905, ?iiS,6oi.oo. The Government estimated the needs of the public services for the fourteen months ending February 28, 1907, at $2,067,567.00. The revenue for the North West Territories for the year 1904 had amounted to only $841,846.00. It was thus rendered evident that under the new regime the Government was enjoying a much freer hand than had Mr. Haultain's administration.

A number of resolutions of general interest were passed during this first session. The Assembly placed upon record its regret at the death of Mr. Thomas Tweed, who for so long had been a prominent citizen of the Territories. The Dominion Government was urged to grant an investigation into the claims of the retired servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, and their descendants, in the matter of Lord Selkirk's lands and deeds. The "sum of $5,000.00 was voted by the House in aid of the sufferers in the 'San Francisco earthquake. A measure was introduced by the Premier raising the sessional indemnity of members of the House from $500.00 to $1,000.00. In committee Mr. Haultain proposed that the amount be set at $700.00—a proposition defeated only by the chairman's vote. Considerable other legislation was also passed, in all sixty-four measures.

The opposition, led by F. W. G. Haultain. criticised the Government chiefly with regard to financial matters. Under the new system the Premier was in receipt of a salary of $6,000.00, and his colleagues of the Cabinet were to be paid $5,000.00 per annum, in addition to their sessional indemnity. Mr. Haultain considered these salaries and the cost of legislation generally to he disproportionate to the Provincial income. Seventy-five thousand dollars had also been allowed as the Province's share for the maintenance of the North West Mounted Police force. It was argued that the Government should have insisted upon the Federal authorities retaining the complete financial responsibility for the maintenance of the force. The opposition also disapproved of a vote of $2,500.00 for the Western Immigration Association. A vote of non-confidence passed upon these criticisms was defeated by a strictly party vote of fourteen to eight. The House was prorogued May 26th.

Reference must be made to a series of disagreeable events arising out of the Provincial election. Mr. J. F. Bole had been declared elected in Regina with a majority of three. His opponent, Mr. H. W. Laird, together 'with his supporters, alleged, however, that the ballot boxes had been tampered with, and in due time the case was ventilated in the courts. The upshot of the matter was that Air. Bole retained his seat.

A series of suits for alleged criminal libel also arose from the acrimonious party warfare of the day. The Premier won a verdict and trifling damages in his case against the editor of the Regina Standard, but lost a similar action against the editor of the Regina West.

. The election in Prince Albert County was attended by deplorable circumstances. Very shortly before the election the retiring officer ordered the establishment of three new polls some three hundred miles north of the city of Prince Albert. Apart from these polls, the opposition candidate, Air. S. J. Donaldson, had a majority of fifty-six, but when the deputy returning officers from these remote localities returned to Prince Albert, some ten days after the election, their ballot boxes were found to contain one hundred and fifty-one ballots all marked for the Liberal candidate, Dr. P. D. Tycrman. This turned Dr. Tyerman's minority into a majority of ninety-five. It was quite evident to everybody, however, that a fraud had been perpetrated. One of the deputy returning officers promptly absconded, and the others were arrested. They admitted that they had never even reached the polling places in question, and were fined $200.00 and costs each. Nevertheless, when the official recount took place before Air. Justice J. E. P. Prendergast, lie decided that, under the law, he had no function to perform except that of counting ballots actually found in the boxes. In recalling this extraordinary incident it is but just to say that Air. Donaldson himself vigorously resented reflections cast in certain quarters upon the Judge's integrity, and that opposition newspapers, such as the Regina West, admitted that, under the circumstances, Judge Prendergast could not have acted otherwise. Accordingly, Dr. Tycrman was gazetted as member for Prince Albert, though he did not take his seat. Action was entered against the returning officer, and the matter was before the courts off and 011 for more than a year, when at last a verdict was given.

However, in April, 1907, the committee of the Legislature on privileges and elections took into its consideration the claims of Air. Donaldson, and found them valid. Accordingly, by a unanimous vote of the Legislature, Air. Donaldson was declared duly elected.

A large number of other protests had been commenced, when, to the amazement of the public, Air. Prendergast admitted the legality of an objection raised by counsel claiming that as the Autonomy Bill had not distinctly declared the continued validity of Territorial legislation respecting elections, the Courts of the Province had as yet no jurisdiction in such matters. This judgment was subsequently upheld by the Court 01 banc. Under the circumstances, the Assembly itself alone had power to consider protests.

The separation of the Territories into two Provinces necessitated the organization of a separate educational council for Saskatchewan. Its members were Messrs. William Grayson, of Moose Jaw; W. R. Sparling, of North Battleford; T. H. McQuirc. of Prince Albert; A. H. Smith, of Moosomin, and the Rev. David Gillies, of St. Andrews.

In July, 1906, Messrs. Scott and Lamont visited Ottawa, where they arranged with the Dominion Government for the transfer of the Land Titles System and various other important public institutions from Federal to Provincial control.

Toward the end of the year the Premier's ill health obliged him to leave the Province for some months, and during his absence the Hon. J. H. Lamont acted as Premier.

The second session of the First Legislature met on February 20, 1907. Important changes were introduced in connection with the administration of justice. A jury act was passed increasing the number of jurors required by law from six to twelve. A new Supreme Court Act provided for a judicial system to replace that of Territorial days. The new Supreme Court was to consist of five judges residing at the Capital, but going on circuit at regular intervals. This Court was to have both original and appellate jurisdiction. Salaries were placed at $7,000.00 per annum for the chief justice, and $6,000.00 for each of his colleagues in the Supreme Court. The Province was also divided into eight districts, with district courts, the judges of which were given a wide jurisdiction, though in civil causes it did not extend to cases involving a sum of money larger than $300.00, which has since been extended to $500.00. The Law Society was also reorganised as a Provincial body, and was given large disciplinary powers.

In presenting his second budget, Hon. J. A. Calder, Provincial Treasurer, was able to report that the receipts had been somewhat in excess of the estimates, and that a surplus of $482,280.00 was carried forward. The chief item in the estimated expenditures for the current year was that for public works. This provided for the outlay of a million and a quarter dollars on small bridges, and a quarter of a million on roads. The estimate for education was only $25,000.00 larger than this last sub-item.

Next day Mr. Haultain introduced a resolution calling for the "early establishment of a telephone system owned and operated by the Province." An amendment was introduced by Mr. George Langley on behalf of the Government and duly carried. This proposal was one affirming the desirability of Government ownership of telephones, but instructing the Government first to make thorough inquiry into existing systems.

Much other important legislation occupied the attention of the House, and some of the measures will be further discussed elsewhere. Prominent among them was an Act defining the scope, functions and character of the prospective University of Saskatchewan, while another bill dealt with the organization and maintenance of a system of High Schools. Closely associated with these measures was the Supplementary Revenue Act. which was introduced by Mr. Calder. It provided for the levying for educational purposes of a tax of one cent an acre upon all taxable land outside of village and town school districts. As a portion of this money would be used for the support of High Schools, the law provided that the children from the rural portions of the Province should be admitted to these institutions without fee.

Early in the summer of 1907 Mr. Scott was again able to take up his work, and on June 21st he was the guest of honour at a very large and noteworthy public banquet at Regina.

In the autumn Attorney-General Lamont resigned his seat as member for Prince Albert city, and was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court. Mr. William Ferdinand Alphonse Turgeon succeeded him as Attorney-General, and writs were immediately issued for an election at Prince Albert. The opposition candidate was Mr. J. S. Bradshaw, formerly Mayor of Prince Albert, to whom the uncontested ballots gave a majority of one. There were, however, 339 contested ballots, and when these had been reviewed in court, Mr. Turgeon was ultimately declared elected by a majority of fifty-four. Meantime, Mr. Scott's health made necessary a second leave of absence, during which Mr. Calder acted as Premier.

The Hon. Edward Ludlow Wctmore was appointed Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court, September fifth. The other judges appointed to the Court, in addition to the Hon. J. H. Lamont, were the Hon. J. S. I'. Prendergast, Hon. II. W. Newlauds, and the Hon. T. C. Johnson. On November 21 st the appointment of the district court judges was also gazetted: Reginald Rimmer for the Cannington District; A. G. Farrel for the Moose Mountain District; T. C. Gordon for the Yorkton District, and T. F. Forbes for the Prince Albert District.

The third session of the First Legislature was opened by Chief Justice Wetmore, acting as Administrator. An important measure of this session was the Provincial Treasurer's Bill providing for the taxation of railway companies upon their gross yearly earnings within the Province. A rate of three per centum was to he levied in the case of lines seven years in operation, and one and one-half per centum on those in operation for five years and up to seven. The chief reason advanced in justification of this mode of taxation was the Canadian Pacific Railway Company's claim by virtue of its charter to be exempted from taxation on its roadbed, superstructure and buildings.

Attorney-General Turgeon introduced legislation to take the place of the old Territorial Elections Act. The colored lead pencil system was replaced by printed ballots similar to those used in Federal elections. Whereas formerly an individual's right to vote, if it were questioned, was investigated after the election, it was now provided that such inquiry should be made before. Voters' lists were to be prepared by registrars and their deputies, on the basis of personal registration in cities and towns and registration by enumeration in rural districts. The district judges were to be revising officers. While the bill was adversely criticised in some of its details by the opposition, Mr. Haultain on the whole approved of the measure. "I think," said he on May 1st, "that the Government had dealt with an important matter in a broad and effective manner, and I congratulate the Attorney-General."

Much debate of a somewhat less amicable nature attended the passing of the Redistribution Bill. The whole subject was placed in the hands of a select committee. The members of the committee representing the Government and the opposition, respectively, prepared and exchanged elaborate maps on the basis of which the Province was first divided into four sections to be represented by so many members each, and was ultimately mapped out into forty-tour constituencies. This was an increase of sixteen. Among the other bills passed during the session was one providing for a five-year term for future legislatures, subject, of course, to the Lieutenant-Governor's right of dissolution.

The House was prorogued on June 12th and on July 20th the First Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan was rather unexpectedly dissolved. The ostensible reason for the dissolution was the passing of the Redistribution Act, and the desirability of bringing it promptly into effect. However, less than three years had elapsed since the elections of 1905, and the opposition claimed that the advice given to His Honour in this connection was not justified by any public necessity and was based simply on a desire of the Government to take their opponents by surprise. The elections resulted in the return of twenty-seven Liberals and fourteen Conservatives, but involved the defeat of the Hon. Mr. Motherwell, Minister of Agriculture, and the Hon. Mr. Calder, Minister of Education and Provincial Treasurer. A short time afterwards, however, the Federal elections caused vacancies in Saltcoats and Humboldt through the election of Mr. Thomas McNutt and Dr. D. B. Neely to the House of Commons. Mr. Calder was returned for the former constituency and Mr. Motherwell for the latter.

The election of 190S, like that of 1905, was associated with a number of cases of criminal libel. During the campaign the Premier had made deliberate charges reflecting upon Mr. W. H. Laird, the Conservative candidate for Regina. The resulting lawsuit went to the Supreme Court, and on February 1, 1909, the jury announced the impossibility of agreeing upon a verdict. The case, with others that had been based upon it, was withdrawn, as also was one entered by Mr. J. G. McDonald against the Premier, and another commenced by Mr. Scott for defamation of character. At the close of 1908 Mr. Scott announced that a royal commission would be appointed to inquire into charges against the Minister of Education in connection with the letting of school book contracts. Wholesale accusation and insinuations in this regard had no doubt been influential in bringing about the personal defeat of Mr. Calder. The commission consisted of Chief Justice Wetmore and Mr. Justice Newlands. Its report, dated April 8, 1909, exonerated the Minister of Education.

As approach is made nearer and nearer to the time at which a history is actually written, difficulties confronting the historian become, in many important respects, increasingly disconcerting. The lapse of time is essential in order to any general agreement as to the meaning and permanent importance of the events that might or should find a place in a record of political, social and industrial development. The portion of the present work devoted to these topics will therefore conclude with the expiring of Lieutenant-Governor Forget's term of office and the succession of His Honour, Lieutenant-Governor George William Brown, in 1910.


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