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Edward R. Michener

The first mayor of Red Deer, leader of the Conservatives in Alberta from 1917-26, senator (1918-47), and grandfather of future Canadian Governor-General Roland Michener.

Edward MichenerIn 1916, in his capacity as Conservative leader, Michener used unsavory information on AGT gleaned from an Saskatchewan investigation of the telephone system to query the Liberal government of Arthur Sifton, who was both Alberta premier and minister of telephones. Michener wanted an arm’s-length probe of AGT that would reveal, in his words, "mismanagement and waste in construction, much over-capitalized, and as a result of such over-capitalization [AGT] has been run at a loss to the province of approximately $2 million …"

At the time, there were twice as many Liberals than Conservatives in the legislature, and so Sifton was able to stave off the criticism. Michener and his Conservatives kept digging, and enough ammunition presented itself in the form of the first and only strike in the history of AGT, when 52 Calgary workers and 58 Edmonton workers walked off the job for 21 days beginning 30 May 1917. At issue were wages, and the use of "journeymen" and "apprentice" as descriptors for the then-non-unionized workers.

The result of what Tony Cashman describes in Singing Wires as "telephony as political drama" was the resignation of Sifton at the end of 1917, likely the only time in Canadian history that the telephone brought down a premier.


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