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The Honourable Charles Stewart, 1917 - 1921

The Hon. Charles StewartCharles Stewart was a pioneer farmer from the Killam district of Alberta who rose to prominence in provincial and federal politics.  He was Alberta's first Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Charles Stewart was born on August 26, 1868, at Strabane, Wentworth County, Ontario.  He was the son of Charles Stewart, Senior, and Catherine Finlay.  Charles Stewart was educated at Strabane and, from the time of his marriage, was a member of the Church of England (Anglican).

On December 17, 1891, he married Jane Russell Sneath, daughter of George Sneath and Christiana Munro of Midhurst, Ontario.  They had eight children: George Sneath, Catherine Isabel, Charles Herbert, Christiana Munro Sneath, Robina Jane Millicent, Frederick John, Roseanna Alice, and Henry Alexander Russell.

In 1884, the Stewart family moved from their farm near Strabane to a farm near Barrie, Ontario.  Following the death of his father in 1892, Charles Stewart was responsible for the family farm.  Following a disastrous storm in 1904, he decided to move west.  In 1905, he began homesteading near Killam, Alberta, supplementing his income by working as a stonemason and bricklayer.  After a hailstorm destroyed his crop in 1906 and a strike prevented him from working in construction, he went into the real estate and the farm implement business to help fund his farm.

The Hon. Charles StewartIn 1909, Charles Stewart accepted the Liberal nomination for the electoral district of Sedgewick and was elected by acclamation.  He was reelected in 1913, again by acclamation, and in 1917.  From 1912 to 1913, he served as Minister of Municipal Affairs, a new department that he organized.  And from 1913 to 1917, he served as Minister of Public Works.

When Premier Sifton resigned to join the federal government, Charles Stewart was appointed Premier by Lieutenant-Governor Dr. Robert G. Brett effective October 30, 1917.  As well as serving as President of Executive Council , Charles Stewart was also appointed Minister of Railways and Telephones and served in that capacity from 1917 to 1921.  In June of 1918, Charles Stewart and the Premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba were received by King George V at Buckingham Palace when they were on their way to France to visit Canadian troops.  In 1919, he officiated when the Prince of Wales laid the cornerstone for a Veterans' Memorial Hall in Edmonton.  At the general election of 1921, although he himself was reelected by acclamation, his government was defeated by the United Farmers of Alberta.  He resigned from the Office of Premier effective August 13, 1921.

Hon. Charles StewartFollowing the federal election of 1921, Charles Stewart was invited to join the federal government and was appointed Minister of the Interior and Mines (1921-26), General Superintendent of Indian Affairs (1921-26), and Acting Minister of Immigration and Colonization (1921-23).  In 1921, he was also appointed to the Canadian Privy Council.  As there were no federal Liberal seats in Alberta, at a by-election in 1922, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Argenteuil, Quebec.  In 1926, the federal Liberal Government was defeated.  At the general election later the same year, Charles Stewart was reelected, this time as the Member for Edmonton West.  As the Liberals had been returned to office, he was reappointed Minister of the Interior and continued in this role until the general election of 1930.  It was during his second term as Minster of the Interior that the jurisdiction over Alberta's natural resources was transferred from the federal to the provincial government in 1930.

In 1927, Charles Stewart was appointed to represent Canada at the League of Nations in Geneva and, in 1930, he was reelected as the Member for Edmonton West.  However, at the general election of 1935, he was defeated when he ran as the Liberal candidate for Jasper-Edson.

Charles Stewart, right, 1928In 1936, Charles Stewart was appointed Chairman of the Canadian Section of the International Joint Commission that studied U.S. boundary waterways and, in 1938, he was named Chairman of the Canadian Section of the British Columbia-Yukon-Alaska Highway Commission.

Charles Stewart was active in church, community, and municipal organizations.  A list of some of his activities and associations follows: he was Superintendent of the Sunday school for the Church of England at Midhurst, Ontario; he served on the Financial Board of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa; he was a member of the Rideau Curling Club in Ottawa; and he was a Charter Member of the Chaudiere Golf Club in Ottawa.

In 1925, Charles Stewart received a Diploma of Merit and Medal of Honor (Bene Merenti) from the Directing Committee of the Vatican Missionary Exposition for his support of the Oblate missionaries in their work with Native people.  In 1930, he was presented with the Randolph Bruce Gold Medal in Science by the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy at their annual meeting for his support of Canadian mining.

Charles Stewart died on December 6, 1946, at Ottawa, Ontario, and was buried in the Beechwood Cemetery at Vanier, Ontario. 



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

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