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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XLII - Forget's Administration: Social and Industrial Development


Extraordinary Development—Grain Blockade—Municipal Telephones—Provincial Educational Association—University of Saskatchewan—Partial Crop Failure; Distribution of Seed Grain—Government Ownership of Elevators—Treaty Number Ten.

From the point of view of industrial expansion and the growth of population, the year in which Saskatchewan reached its provincial status surpassed all previous records. Canadian immigration statistics are notoriously unreliable, as no proper records are kept of the number of people leaving or merely passing through the country; however, we know that during the year ending with June 30, 1906, about 190,000 persons entered Canada, most of whom settled in the West. Of this number, some 7,000 were immigrants from the United States, bringing with them property in the form of settlers" effects and cash estimated at $21,000,000. In the five years that had elapsed since the last decennial census of the Dominion, the population of Manitoba had almost doubled, and that of Saskatchewan had more than trebled. The grain production of the year 1905 for the three Prairie Provinces was something in excess of 200,000,000 bushels, while the wheat harvest of Saskatchewan alone amounted to 26,000,000 bushels—an increase of 10,000,000 bushels over that of the preceding year. Dairying proved prosperous; lumbering was exceedingly profitable; the export of cattle unusually large; the horse trade good; and sheep grazing flourishing. New villages were springing up everywhere and rapidly developing into towns. Railway lines were being constructed or projected in many directions, and everywhere with the rising tide of prosperity land values rose correspondingly. For example, in 1903 the C. N. R. brought into existence the town of North Battleford, which in six months rose to a population of four hundred.

The phenomenal development of the Canadian West brought with it staggering problems, especially for those concerned with transportation. In 1907 it proved impossible to market more than a fraction of the grain crop in the fall, and as the winter advanced, the railway companies found themselves entirely unable to meet the demands pouring in upon them from every quarter for the transportation of fuel. The Provincial Government had been obliged to take energetic action in order to prevent general distress by securing supplies of fuel for the public from every available source. Even in 1906 a serious coal famine had occurred as a result of a strike at Lethbridge.

The citizen body gradually came to realize that it is not sufficient merely to induce settlers to take up land, but that it is also necessary to surround them with social conditions which will keep them permanently a contented and prosperous fanning community. Accordingly, throughout Mr. Forget's last administration one subject of perennial interest was the development of a telephone system which would meet the social and business necessities of the growing West. At conventions of grain growers and representatives of Boards of Trade, and at other like assemblies, resolutions were passed in favor of the government ownership of telephone lines. On the other hand, the Union of Saskatchewan Municipalities recommended municipal ownership of telephone lines. In view of the difference of opinion the Government appointed Air. Francis Dagger, its telephone expert, to investigate the matter and report.

On April 3, 190S, he had presented his report. It stated that there were in use in Saskatchewan 3,250 telephones, or about one to every ninety-two inhabitants. More than half of all the telephones in the Province belonged to the Bell Telephone Company, and the remainder, with the exception of about three hundred and ten rural telephones, were the property of four other private companies. Mr. Dagger pointed out that the convenience and interest of the public generally rendered it undesirable that the same private interests should control both the long-distance lines and the local exchange system. The unnecessary duplication of long-distance service should be avoided, and these lines should all be owned and controlled by the Provincial Government. In cities, towns and villages the provision of local telephone service, Mr. Dagger thought, should be left to Municipal Councils, to avoid too great a present expenditure of Government funds. Mr. Dagger recommended that the Government should select three or four sparsely settled districts and, by way of an object lesson, show how cheaply a complete rural service could be established.

Upon the basis of this report a Bill was introduced by Mr. Calder in 190S, and duly passed. It went even further than Mr. Dagger had for the present recommended, as not only were rural lines established and encouraged, and trunk lines taken over from the private companies, but the system in the towns and cities was also included with the others that had been brought under Government control. The underlying principle of the Scott telephone policy was the building and operation of long-distance lines by the Provincial Government, cooperating- with rural telephones owned and controlled by the farmers themselves under necessary regulations. The Department of Railways and Telephones commenced actual work on July i, 1908, and by the middle of August, 1910, one hundred and twenty-three rural telephone companies had been incorporated, representing almost three thousand subscribers and practically the same number of miles of line, with capitalization of $363,628. The price paid for the Bell system was $357,999-00, with about $10,000 to be returned for advance subscriptions paid, and the new Government enterprise involved an immediate additional expenditure of $436,000.

Among the interesting events of 1908 was the establishment of a Provincial Educational Association. At the initial convention held in Regina, some five hundred delegates were present.

Great interest was also shown in the establishment of the University of Saskatchewan, which on October 16, 1907, had held its first convocation, electing chancellor and senate. Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw and other towns offered themselves as suitable homes for the new university. The responsibility of choice lay with the Board of Governors, which was organized on May 23, 190S, with .Mr. A. F. Angus of Regina as chairman. Saskatoon was ultimately chosen as the Provincial University centre, and Professor Walter C. Murray, M. S., LL. D., of the department of Philosophy and Education in Dalhousie University, Halifax, was appointed the first president.

Despite the general prosperity with which Saskatchewan was blessed in the period under review, the losses by frost and hail were serious on different occasions. Indeed, in 1908 the Provincial and Federal authorities were obliged to cooperate for the distribution of seed grain in large quantities. Approximately 1,200,000 bushels of wheat, about the same amount of oats, and about 200,000 bushels of barley were supplied at moderate rates and under generous conditions as seed grain, to settlers who had lost their crop the year before.

The problem of the Government ownership of elevators was the subject of much discussion. The Grain Growers' Association was naturally keenly alive to the necessity of supplying the farmers of the Province with better facilities for disposing of their products, and the Cabinet Ministers of the Prairie Provinces held important conferences to consider the matter. However. in Saskatchewan the proposal to apply the principle of government ownership was not approved by the authorities and some years elapsed before the Government matured the policy which will be discussed elsewhere.

In spite of the difficulty of handling the Provincial trade and notwithstanding occasional losses from causes not subject to control, before the end of Mr. Forget's regime, Saskatchewan stood third amongst the Provinces of the Dominion and the States of the Union as a producer of oats and wheat. As the enormous crop was produced from less than thirteen per centum of the estimated acreage south of the fifty-fifth parallel, it was evident, moreover, that only a beginning had been made.

During the epoch under review, there took place the last great Indian surrender affecting the Province of Saskatchewan. This was Treaty No. 10. The natives concerned were the Chippeways, Crees and other Indian inhabitants of the northern portions of Saskatchewan, Alberta and a part of Keewatin, not covered in previous surrenders—an area of about eighty-five thousand eight hundred square miles. The original commissioner was Mr. J. A. J. Mclvenna, who had assisted Messrs. Laird and Ross in the negotiation of Treaty No. 9; and among those who aided him were Messrs. Charles Fisher of Duck Lake and Charles Mair of Ottawa, secretaries to the commission, Mr. Angus McKay and other officers of the Hudson's Bav Company and of the Mounted Police, and Bishop Pascal. The original treaty was signed at Canoe Lake, September 19, 1906. Further adhesions to Treaty No. jo were negotiated in the following year (August 19, 1907) by Mr. Thomas A. Borthwick, among whose assistants was Mr. W. J. McLean, the well-known Hudson's Bay Company chief factor. It helps one to realize something of the vastness of our undeveloped hinterland when we read that Mr. Borthwick's mission involved a canoe journey of over two thousand miles. The duties of the commissioners included the investigation of the claims for scrip advanced by Half breeds in the regions surrendered. Thus was opened for settlement, immigration, trade, mining and lumbering the last portion of the mighty realm over which the native races of Saskatchewan had for so many generations held sway practically undisputed and unshared.


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