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The Honourable Arthur Sifton 1910 - 1917

The Hon. Arthur SiftonLike his immediate predecessor, Alberta's second Premier was also a lawyer.  Arthur L. Sifton was Alberta's first Chief Justice and played a prominent role in territorial, provincial, and federal politics.

Arthur Lewis Sifton was born on October 26, 1858, at St. Johns, Middlesex County, Canada West (Ontario).  His father was John Wright Sifton who eventually became Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and President of the Manitoba Free Press Publishing Company.  His mother was Kate Watkins, and his younger brother, Sir Clifford, was prominent in Manitoba and federal politics.  Arthur L. Sifton was a Methodist.

He was educated at various public schools in Ontario; Wesley College, Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Victoria University, Cobourg, Ontario, which was later moved to Toronto.  In 1880, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Victoria University in Cobourg.

In 1882, he married Mary H. Deering of Cobourg, Ontario.  They had two children: Nellie Louise and Lewis Raymond.

Arthur Sifton in carriageIn May, 1880, he began studying law in Winnipeg and was  admitted to the Manitoba Bar in 1883.  From 1883 to 1885, he practiced law with his brother Clifford at Brandon, Manitoba.  Following that, he practiced law at Prince Albert, North-West Territories, from 1885 to 1888, and after 1889, he practiced law at Calgary, North-West Territories.

In 1882, he was elected to the first Town Council of Brandon, Manitoba.  In 1889, after he had moved to Calgary, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories as the Member for the electoral district of Banff.  From 1901 to 1903, he served as the territorial Commissioner of Public Works.

In 1903, Arthur L. Sifton was appointed Chief Justice of the North-West Territories by Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.  After the Province of Alberta was established, he was appointed Chief Justice of that jurisdiction on 1907.  He resigned as Chief Justice and was appointed Premier of Alberta effective may 26, 1910, by Lieutenant-Governor George H.V. Bulyea.  He was elected the Member for Vermilion at a by-election held on June 30, 1910, and his government was sustained at the general elections of 1913 and 1917.

As well as serving as Premier, Arthur L. Sifton was also The Hon. Arthur Sifton Provincial Treasurer (1910-1913), Minister of Public Works (1910-12), and Minister of Railways and Telephones (1911-17).  During his tenure as Premier, he expanded railway service, promoted the transfer of the control over natural resources from the federal government to the provincial government, and successfully held together a divided Alberta Liberal Party .  In 1916, women were given the right to vote and two women were appointed Magistrates.  Following a plebiscite in 1915, the Sifton Government enacted legislation in 1916 that severely restricted the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

On October 30, 1917, Arthur L. Sifton resigned as Premier of Alberta in order to join the federal Union Government of Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden.  At the general election of December 17, 1917, he was elected Member of Parliament for Medicine Hat.  In 1917, he was appointed Minister of Customs; in 1918, he was appointed Minister of Customs and Internal Revenue; and in 1919, he was appointed Minister of Public Works; and later the same year, he was appointed Secretary of State.  As well, in 1919, he served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and, in 1920, he was appointed to the United Kingdom Privy Council.

A list of some of Arthur L. Sifton's honors follows: King's Counsel (1902); Honorary Master of Arts, Victoria University, Cobourg, Ontario (1888); and Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, University of Alberta (1908).  In 1911, he represented Alberta at the coronation of King George V.

Arthur L. Sifton died on January 21, 1921, at Ottawa, Ontario, and was buried in the Beechwood Cemetery at Vanier, Ontario.  A boulevard in the city of Calgary and an elementary school in Edmonton are named in his memory.



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Reprinted from Premiers of the Northwest Territories and Alberta 1897-1991 with the permission of the Legislative Assembly Office .

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