GENERAL ARTICLES

Pioneer Statesman

Thirty-seven years ago Sir Frederick Haultain fought for one giant province between Manitoba and the Rockies

C. Cecil Lingard April 1 1938
GENERAL ARTICLES

Pioneer Statesman

Thirty-seven years ago Sir Frederick Haultain fought for one giant province between Manitoba and the Rockies

C. Cecil Lingard April 1 1938

Pioneer Statesman

Thirty-seven years ago Sir Frederick Haultain fought for one giant province between Manitoba and the Rockies

C. Cecil Lingard

TODAY, amidst talk of “too many governments,” rising government costs and inadequate revenues, and official study of a possible amalgamation of the three prairie provinces, it is interesting to recall the fact that a third of a century ago the Territorial Premier, F. W. G. Haultain, urged one giant province between Manitoba and the Rockies.

Premier Hauitain first set forth this policy in his draft bill of 1901. when urging u]X)Ji the Dominion Government the establishment of provincial autonomy in the North West Territories When Sir Wilfrid Laurier introduced into Parliament, in February, 1905, the autonomy bills providing for the creation of two provinces, Mr. Hauitain sent him an open letter of protest. He pointed out that the Territories had, for a number of years, been under one government and one legislature, performing most of the duties and exercising many of the more im|x>rtant powers of provincial governments and legislatures; that their laws and institutions were admittedly efficient and satisfactory; that the people of the Territories had acquired a political individuality and identity as distinct as that of the people of any province; and that there was no necessity Dr dividing the country into two provinces with the consequent duplication of machinery and institutions.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier believed that the provinces should be as near as possible about the same size, and was of the opinion that the administration of the vast area of 550.000 square miles as a provincial unit “would be attended in the future with great difficulties.”

The ixilicv of the Dominion Government prevailed, and on the whole the people seemed satisfied with what had been done. After a lapse of thirty years, however, the considerations which Mr. Hauitain advocated on behalf of more economic government in the West, have once more been brought forth for examination before the Rowell Commission.

Half a Century of Service

THE ABOVE question was but one of the major issues in the life of a personality unique in the history of the Canadian West. Sir Frederick Hauitain’s half century of unbroken public service in the Northwest, his twenty-five years as legislator, a like period as Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, and his twenty years as chancellor of the provincial university constitute a record perhaps unexcelled in any new land.

Although Sir Frederick cannot claim to be a native son of the Dominion, having been lx>rn at Woolwich, England, November 25, 1857, his education is wholly Canadian. He attended school at Peterborough and Montreal, and in 1879 received from the University of Toronto the B.A. degree with first-class honors in Classics. Then he turned to law. and after being articled to Mr. Aylesworth, later Sir Allen, in November, 1882. he was called to the Bar of Ontario.

With the adventurous, freedom-loving bkxxl of the Huguenot in his veins, he answered the call of the Northwest. The year 1884 found him at old Fort Macleod, headquarters of the North West Mounted Police and outpost of civilization in Southern Alberta. The journey was typical of frontier life boat from Owen Sound to Port Arthur, C.P.R. to Calgary, and “Concord” coach over rough roads and dangerous fords the last hundred miles to Fort Macleod. the centre of a busy ranching community. Whisky smugglers, horse and cattle thieves. “Wild West” cowboys arrived to find that law and order had preceded them.

Mr. Hauitain scx>n caught the spirit of the cattle country, of which there never will be the like again. Many a time the cowboys left their revolvers, wallets and watches with the young lawyer for safekeeping before setting out for a night of revelry peculiar to a Western ranching town. With such precautions little gunplay took place, yet many of these men would shoot and had shot in the land to the south.

His start in politics came in 1887 when he was elected to the seat in the North West Council left vacant by Lord Boyle’s return to England. During the succeeding fifteen years he was returned for the constituency of Macleod by acclamation after acclamation. The Legislative Assembly, which replaced the old North West Council in 1888, had jurisdiction over a vast area stretching from Canada’s northern archipelago

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to the boundary of the United States, and from Hudson’s Bay to the Rockies, excepting the then little "postage stamp” province of Manitoba.

In this Assembly 1 laultain at once began to play a leading i>art in the light for increased powers, and along with such pioneers as John H. Ross and Frank Oliver, was instrumental in achieving for the North West Territories a greater measure of self-government. In 1888 he was appointed to one of the four seats on the Advisory Council, and was made first resident member of the Executive Committee in Regina three years later. From 1891 to 1905 he was virtually Premier of the North West Territories, although it was not until 1897 that the Executive Council was established and provision was made for such an office. As Premier, Attorney-General, and Commissioner of Education during these formative years, in his brilliant grasp of constitutional law, his skill in drafting ordinances, his constant concern for the needs of a pioneering people, his leadership in the constitutional struggle with Ottawa, he displayed remarkable ability as a pioneer legislator, intense zeal for public service, and an integrity unsurpassed in the political annals of Canada.

New Fields of Service

1 I 'HE CENTURY opened with epoch-*■ making years in the history of the NorthWest. The Territories had gradually passed through almost every stage of political evolution known to the British people, and in this step-by-step advance Mr. Haultain had secured from Ottawa the necessary amendments to the N.W.T. Act to suit each new situation as it confronted his government. But now the tide of immigration into the West was swelling at a rate unprecedented in the history of any land that lacked the talismanic attraction of gold. The East became electric with the new commercial possibilities in the West. But the Territorial Government were required to meet greatly increased demands upon their purse and institutions. The need for roads, schools, bridges, wells, and local improvement districts, the transportation problem, and the many administrative and financial difficulties 'incidental to these new demands could only be met. thought Mr. Haultain, by the Territories assuming full provincial status.

In addition to one great province in the North West Territories, Premier Haultain

urged the following claims: (1) Equal rights with, and the same financial considerations as had been given to, all the other provinces of the Dominion; (2) Control of the public domain in the West, by the West, for the West; (3) Compensation for the alienation of any part of the Crown lands for purely Dominion purposes; and (4) The removal of the C.P.R. exemption from taxation.

In September, 1905, Lieutenant-Governor Forget passed over Mr. Haultain and called upon the Liberal leader, Walter Scott, to form the first Saskatchewan ministry. The elder statesman of the Territories continued to serve the new province as leader of the Provincial Rights Party from 1905 to 1912. He consistently opposed any interference of Dominion political parties in provincial affairs, and urged the appeal of the questions of Crown lands and Separate Schools to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with a view to obtaining full provincial rights for the province.

New fields of service now beckoned him. In 1912 he became Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, in which capacity he still serves with the dignity and ability befitting that eminent position. In 1916 he was knighted in recognition of his quarter century of public service. The following year Sir Frederick became Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, a tribute to his work in the field of education. As early as 1904 the Dominion Educational Association had declared the system then administered by Premier Haultain “the peer of all others in the Dominion.” He laid well the foundations also of higher learning when he drafted his University Ordinance in Territorial days, securing for the youth of the West a university indifferent to creed, to politics, and to class, and providing, on its re-enactment by the province, for but one degreeconferring institution. Well might Dr. Walter C. Murray, recently retired first president of the University of Saskatchewan, pronounce him the “Father and Founder” of that institution;

At fourscore years. Sir Frederick retains an unusual vigor and keenness of mind. In reminiscent mood he will carry the writer back to the colorful cattle days that are gone, portray a scene in the old Legislative building of a half century ago, or draw aside the curtain from unrecorded sessions of the Constitutional struggle. Sir Frederick possesses a lovable personality, and his knightly honor he bears most worthily.