TWO NEW PROVINCES
For prairie people, far from the ostentatious antics of Ottawa, the events of 1905 loomed larger and more important than those of 1867. It was a case, perhaps, of a firecracker ignited in the back yard sounding more shattering than a bigger explosion on the far side of town. It was the goal of provincial rights and it served not only to stimulate interest in government but it gave local people a very much greater sense of political consciousness.
During the long struggle leading to 1905, political partisanship was largely suppressed but, at its conclusion, party sentiment flared with the brilliance of flash fire. Frontiersmen who had taken their Liberal or Conservative leanings lightly-almost forgetting the fighting convictions of Ontario, Quebec and Maritime parents-formed ranks for the democratic battles ahead, restraining only until after those historic days of inauguration in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Having regard to the exact dates on which those official ceremonies fell, the Province of Alberta is three days senior to Saskatchewan. With Ottawa displaying a temperamental woman's desire to be loved, both the Governor General and Prime Minister were anxious to be present for the programs at Edmonton and Regina and the events had to be spaced to allow time for comfortable travel. Both were gay affairs.
In his capacity as Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, on February 21, 1905, introduced the Autonomy Legislation in the House of Commons, to bring the two new provinces into Confederation. The matter had been under discussion for a long time and westerners like Frederick Haultain had grown older, wiser and more impatient. Now the Federal Government was taking the long-awaited action and declaring its plans. There they were, with four principal points of controversy, as Sir Wilfrid acknowledged readily. On each, the Prime Minister declared his government's position. There would be two provinces as the Government wanted, instead of one province as Haultain advised. The Dominion Government would retain ownership of public lands, the Prime Minister stated, noting that these had been bought from the Hudson's Bay Company with good Canadian dollars and must, therefore, be retained by the senior government in the right of all citizens. Still another reason was offered; retention was thought necessary in order to afford better control of immigration and settlement, seen as national responsibilities.
The Prime Minister outlined a financial arrangement embodying cash subsidies to the new provinces and, then, on the most explosive point of all, education, he registered government conviction that provision should be made for Separate Schools. What followed was country-wide debate, about as angry and hectic as arguments inspired by the adoption of a new Canadian flag. Under the pressures of the time, Laurier brought in some amendments and the Bill in its final form provided merely for continuation of existing area rights in securing Separate Schools. It was a compromise which seemed to satisfy neither Liberal, Conservative, Roman Catholic nor Orangeman.
Territorial Premier Haultain, on March 12, 1905, wrote to the Prime Minister, stating his objections to the Bill. He continued to favor one province instead of two but this was already a lost cause. Any new province should inherit the public lands, he insisted and, known to be cool toward the principle of Separate Schools, he argued for the new province or provinces settling the education problem without interference from Ottawa. Politely, Haultain was inviting Ottawa officials to make a just settlement and then mind their own business.
After long and bitter debate, the legislation was passed in the House of Commons on July 5, to take effect on September 1, 1905. Each of the new provinces was to have a legislature composed of 25 members. For Saskatchewan, Regina was named to be the Capital and for Alberta, Edmonton would be the provisional Capital, with final choice of location being left to the new Legislature. And in the weeks following, G. H. V. Bulyea was named to be Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, and A. E. Forget for Saskatchewan. Inauguration days were fixed, September 1 for Alberta and September 4 for Saskatchewan, such dates to allow time for an official party to travel from one Capital to the other without haste unbecoming to a Governor General or Prime Minister. Celebrations were planned appropriately. Everybody agreed that these would be historic dates in Canadian history, demanding good clothes, long speeches and something to drink.
The first of September came on a Friday and Edmonton was decked out in its best. Women whose dresses tried to deny the existence of ankles and men with ill-fitting bowler hats and longhorn mustaches assembled for a street parade and all the other festivities planned. From homesteads and neighboring communities people came in buggies, buckboards, wagons and whatever other means of transportation was available. The train from the South was crowded with loyal Calgarians, still hopeful the southern city would win legislative favor and get the Capital. Extra Mounted Police were present from neighboring detachments, and Indians, not sure what the festivities were all about, displayed their brightest colors and biggest appetites. Open coaches carried Governor General and Lady Grey, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Hon. William Paterson and Author Sir Gilbert Parker. Next in the parade came a thousand school children in disorderly formation, the Edmonton Fire Brigade, miscellaneous bands, one automobile-the pride of Edmonton-Indians, Mounties and citizens without distinction. At 12 o'clock, noon, the parade came to a halt on the river flats, on time for the inauguration formalities. Some 20,000 people were said to have been present when Lieutenant-Governor Bulyea advanced to take the oath of office and, then, from a spot near the old Fort on higher ground came the boom of cannon, the first of a 21-gun salute, to frighten horses, startle the Indians and remind all thoughtful people of the birth of a Province.
The afternoon was for fun, picnics, games, gossip and a Mounted Police Musical Ride. And for the evening, there was a formal ball at the Thistle Rink where sheaves of grain, clusters of vegetables big enough to embarrass Calgary visitors and hides of buffalo and caribou furnished decorations. The Governor General forgot his Old Country dignity and led off on the Grand March.
Regina couldn't do less. Having been incorporated as a city two years before and after hearing scores of reasons why it would never amount to anything more than a country village, its citizens were determined upon making a handsome impression. The Mounted Police presented their Musical Ride and there was entertainment from half a dozen brass bands. Decorated arches spanned the streets and there was the inevitable parade with finest horses and cleanest carriages carrying Governor General and Prime Minister. Mayor H. W. Laird wore an election campaign smile and the parade ended at Victoria Park where speeches long and dry-were followed by cannon bursts and loud cheers for the new Lieutenant-Governor, the Governor General, Prime Minister and just about everybody present from distances farther than Moose Jaw. Diplomatically, the Governor General announced that "these new North West Provinces will be among the greatest and most prosperous of the whole Dominion," and the Prime Minister, for purely local edification, added that "Regina will be one of the great cities of the great North West, which will someday be teeming with great and prosperous cities." Nobody could lose "great" friends in that region by talking in such terms.
Now, there was the matter of establishing constitutional government. At once, party politics sprang to life. Called by the Lieutenant-Governor to form the first government in Alberta was A. C. Rutherford, Liberal Member for Strathcona in the Assembly of the Territories. In Saskatchewan, the corresponding call went to Walter Scott, Ontario-born politician who learned the printing trade in Regina and served with Nicholas Flood Davin's Regina Leader. Although Scott and Davin were political opposites, they were for some years on very friendly terms and Davin, in 1895, sold his paper to Scott. The new owner continued to support Davin as a Member of the House of Commons, at least until Davin took sides on the Manitoba School question, displeasing to Scott. The two men quarrelled and the election of 1900 found Liberal Scott opposing Conservative Davin in a bitter contest and the former emerging as winner. Thus, Scott was in the House of Commons for a short time when Provincial Autonomy for the western area was being debated. His support was generally for Haultain's views until Haultain's attacks seemed to exceed all Liberal views of political propriety and Scott switched his support to the Laurier proposals for autonomy. Scott and Haultain were at once enemies.
After being elected again in 1904, Scott resigned his seat in the Commons to lead the Liberal Party in the Territories. Haultain, because of his long period of leadership in the Territorial Government, was expected to receive the call to form the first Saskatchewan Government and, thus, become the first Premier. As it was, however, Lieutenant-Governor Forget called upon Mr. Scott, even though he had never sat in the Territorial Legislature. Mr. Haultain, disappointed, became leader of the Opposition.