Like 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.
In 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
As well as serving as Premier, Arthur L. Sifton was also 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
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
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.