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Rise to Power

Inauguration Day programThe Liberals came to power in Alberta as soon as the province entered Confederation in 1905. Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier appointed George Bulyea , a Liberal Minister in the North-West Territories Executive Council, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Bulyea then selected Liberal leader Alexander Rutherford to serve as interim Premier of the new province. Rutherford decided upon four other Liberals to serve in his cabinet. The appointed government continued following Alberta's first election on November 7, 1905.

Frederick Haultain , Premier of the North-West Territories prior to the creation of Alberta, had envisioned a different governmen Frederick Haultaint from the one the federal Liberals helped engineer. He wanted a strong non-partisan provincial government to preside over the territories that would become Alberta and Saskatchewan. He had achieved responsible government for the North-West Territories in 1897 and had cooperated equally with liberal- and conservative-minded council members in the territorial Assembly. However, Ottawa still controlled some matters of "local" interest, including education and natural resources. Laurier's government was weary of handing these responsibilities to a single province that could undermine its own influence. Instead, he adopted a rival plan to create two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, with fewer powers in exchange for financial compensation. The Autonomy Bills set out the provisions of this plan.

Haultain was also unable to prevent the emergence of party politics into the new provinces. The creation of a Liberal government forced those who advocated non-partisanship into the Conservative fold. Haultain, himself, became associated with the party because the federal Conservatives also supported his plan for the former territories. The Alberta Liberals, with their own policy platform and control of the Legislature, were well prepared leading into the province's first election in November of 1905.

Laurier's government further ensured that the Alberta Liberals would win the upcoming Sir Wilfrid Laurier election. They selected Edmonton as the province's provisional capital, where the Liberals had promised to construct railways linking the city to points north and west. They also divided the province's electoral ridings in favour of northern Alberta, where French Canadian and European minorities who tended to vote Liberal predominated. The provision of separate schools in the Autonomy Bills also raised support for the governing Liberals among these groups.

Even though southern Alberta was underrepresented in the 1905 election, the Liberals fared well in the region. The southern Alberta cattle ranchers had been displaced by grain farmers who resented the high tariffs the former Conservative government implemented. These homesteaders supported the more favourable settlement and tariff policies set forth by the federal Liberals. On November 7, to many people's surprise, they won twenty-three of twenty-five ridings with fifty-eight percent of the popular vote.

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