Formed 1907 with the purchase of several independent telephone
systems—such as the Alberta Telephone Company in the Crowsnest Pass,
and the outlying lines of the Edmonton & District Telephone Company—AGT’s
coup came on 1 April 1908 when Alberta bought out the Bell Telephone
Company, for $675,000, following the lead by its next-door neighbour
Manitoba, which also showed the company the door.
In 1909, the Liberal Government of Alberta, led by Premier Alexander
Cameron Rutherford was facing another election. To sweeten their
image in the eyes of potential voters, the government announced the
formation of Alberta Government Telephones (AGT). AGT would soon
carry out the work of connecting every community in Alberta by
telephone. Listen as narrator Cheryl Croucher and Historian David
Leonard introduce you to the birth of AGT.
As with much of the telephone history in Alberta, the provincial
government’s move was in reaction to the often heavy-handed approach
taken by Bell and its Montreal-based president Charles Fleetford
Sise to provide service to Alberta communities. The company relied
on its Dominion charter to bring the telephone to Canada from the
Atlantic to the Rockies, and in the process either killed or scared
off local telephone companies.
For its troubles, as Tony Cashman writes in Singing Wires, "the
provincial system took over 595 miles [957.6 kilometres] of
long-distance lines in Alberta, 18 toll offices, 19 exchanges, 2,270
subscribers—and 150 employees and agents."
As Carol Dean writes in her examination of Bell’s role in the
West in Alberta in the 20th Century: The Birth of the Province
1900-1910, the purchase would mark the first time that Alberta would
fall into debt. To pay for the purchase, as well as finance plans
for expansion, the government of Premier Alexander Rutherford
province issued a $2-million 30-year bond.
"And eight years later Charles Fleetford Sise would retire at age
80 as Bell Canada’s president," writes Dean. "By then he had firmly
rooted his company in Ontario and Quebec. But in the prairie
provinces Bell Canada had created such animosity that for the rest
of the century telephones would remain a public utility."
In 1990, AGT itself would be privatized by the provincial
government and would become known as TELUS Communications.
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Heritage Community Foundation and
Telephone Historical Centre All Rights Reserved