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Choosing a Capital: The First Round

8th Ave., Calgary, Alberta, 1905

Several communities were interested in being designated Alberta's capital.  In the 1880's, Calgary had even tried to lure the territorial capital away from Regina.  However, the contest for the capital of Alberta began in earnest after the 1904 federal general election.  During the related campaign, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier stated that if his Liberal government was returned to office, he would ensure that the North-West Territories was given provincial status.

As one would expect, Calgary and Edmonton, the two largest cities in Alberta, were the chief contenders.  Calgary had elected Conservative Maitland S. McCarthy to represent them in the federal House of Commons.  Edmonton returned Liberal Frank Oliver.  Oliver was a new Member of Parliament and on April 1, 1905, was appointed Minister of the Interior.  Most political observers would have been very concerned regarding Calgary's prospects of being designated the future capital of Alberta at this point; however, that city was still confident that it had made the right choice by electing a Conservative to represent their interests in Ottawa.

Red Deer felt it was the logical compromise between the two chief protagonists, particularly since it was located approximately half-way between Calgary and Edmonton.  If Calgary couldn't be the seat of the new provincial government, that city would support Banff as a "neutral" alternative.  Medicine Hat was interested as well; however, its member of Parliament, Liberal Walter Scott, discouraged that city from pursuing the matter.  Lethbridge did not express a strong interest in being capital.  Several other smaller communities, Athabasca Landing, Blackfalds, and Vegreville, to name a few, also expressed an interest in being designated capital.  However, none of these were given serious attention.

Inauguration day, Edmonton, 1905

Following a considerable amount of lobbying by all the major contenders, Edmonton was designated the provisional capital of Alberta when the related legislation was given Royal Assent (i.e. Alberta Act , July 20, 1905).  The Act stated, however, that this designation would stand "unless or until the Lieutenant-Governor in Council of the said province otherwise directs."

 

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Reprinted from Lieutenant-Governors of the Northwest Territories and Alberta 1876-1991 with the kind permission of the Legislative Assembly Office .


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