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Choosing a Capital: Round Two

Inauguration celebrations, Red Deer, 1905Having lost the first round, Calgary now set its sights on being designated the capital by the new provincial Legislature.  However, early in 1905, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier assigned the task of establishing Alberta's new electoral districts ( constituencies ) to Edmonton Frank Oliver and Peter Talbot, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Strathcona. Although Red Deer was in the Strathcona electoral district, Peter Talbot lived in Lacombe and did not support the designation of Red Deer as capital of Alberta.  Red Deer lobbied for this designation directly with Ottawa.

At the conclusion of their deliberations, Frank Oliver and Peter Talbot recommended that northern Alberta be given thirteen seats and that southern Alberta be given twelve.  At that point, representatives of southern Alberta demanded a judicial review.  They were unsuccessful.

When the first Alberta general election took place on November 9, 1905, the Liberals won twenty-three of the twenty-five seats in the provincial Legislature.  Feeling confident of his government's strength, Premier Alexander C. Rutherford decided that the location of the permanent capital would be determined by an open vote in the House rather than by order-in-council.  Matters were made more difficult for Calgary when the Premier appointed a representative of southern Alberta as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly (the Speaker does not normally vote in the Legislature.)  On April 25, 1906, William C. Cushing, Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, 1905 Calgary electoral district moved that "the seat of Government in this province should be fixed permanently at the City of Calgary." His motion was seconded by Charles A. Stuart, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Gleichen.  Eight members voted for this motion and sixteen voted against it.  It is interesting to note that three Members from southern Alberta voted against the motion.  Motions favouring Red Deer and Banff were also put forward, but were later withdrawn.  Consequently, Edmonton remained the capital of Alberta by federal legislation.

 

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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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