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Local Government of Canada, 1915 — Saskatchewan
and Alberta

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Saskatchewan and Alberta

The landmarks in the growth of provincial institutions for Manitoba are the coming of the Selkirk colonists, the development of the Council of Assiniboia, the passing of the Hudson's Bay Company as a governmental body, the enactment of the. Manitoba Act and the abolition of the Legislative Council: The chief stages in the political development of the Northwest Territories (that portion of Rupert's Land and the Northwestern Territory not included in the province of Manitoba) are indicated by the capitals, Fort Garry, Swan River, Battleford and Regina. When the Government was at Fort Garry the Territories were administered by officials resident in a neighbouring province. In Livingstone, Swan River, the' Lieutenant-Governor and councillors belonged for the first time to the Territories exclusively. Battleford marked the beginnings but only the beginnings of self-government. It was reserved to Regina to witness the evolution from the Northwest Council to the Legislative Assembly, from representative to responsible government, from territories to provinces.

Saskatchewan and AlbertaThe Territories were not at first given a separate government. They were administered from Fort Garry by the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba with the aid, first of a small executive council of three, irregularly appointed, the Hon. Mr. Justice Johnson, the Hon. D. A. Smith and the Hon. Pascal Breland, and then with the aid of a more formal and more regularly appointed but still admittedly provisional Northwest Council., This council addressed itself to the task of laying the foundations of territorial administration. It did much, also, to secure the goodwill of the Indian tribes.

The charter of the separate political existence of the Territories is the Northwest Territories Act, 1875. It was under this Act that the late Hon. David Laird was appointed Lieutenant-Governor. He held a legislative session under the Act of 1875 at Livingstone, Swan River, in 1877. Battleford was the capital for three sessions of the council. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway transferred the seat of government to the line of railway, designated at first Leopold, and then Regina. Settlement ceased to follow the course of the rivers. Trade routes for freighters now began to run north and south from the railway. The old Northwest passed away.

At the same time a profound change was being, effected in the constitutional character of the Territories. While the capital was still at Battleford, in 1881, Chief Factor Lawrence Clarke was elected to represent the district of Lorne. This constituted the first opportunity given the settlers themselves to express their sentiments in the administration of affairs. Three years later the elected representatives of the people became numerous enough to exert an influence upon legislation. The years that ensued were wonderfully formative. In 1884 the Northwest Council laid the foundations of the territorial school and municipal systems. The crushing of the half-breed uprising in 1885 assured the dominance of the white settlers and permanently banished the spectre of Indian disorders. A year later was established a territorial judiciary. Then followed a parliamentary struggle for the control of the purse. In quick succession came the Advisory Council, the Executive Committee, the Executive Council. In this contest between representatives of the settlers and the Dominion officials victory lay with the people and with the cause of popular government. It was not, however, till 1897, on the eve of a remarkable growth in population and economic development, that the government of the Territories, which for half a decade had been giving expression to the people's will, was made completely responsible in form as it had already been in fact.

The increased volume of immigration necessitated heavier expenditures upon education, public works and local administration. It was impossible to introduce municipal organizations into many districts outside the limits of the denser settlements. The result was to impose upon the Territorial Government excessive burdens. Financial embarrassments gave rise to constitutional aspirations. Finally, after a prolonged agitation, the Saskatchewan and Alberta Acts provided for the erection on September 1st, 1905, of two provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Growth of Municipal Institutions, Manitoba.—The stages in the growth of municipal institutions for the province of Manitoba are marked by the legislation of the years 1871, 1873, 1882 and 1902. In 1871 the County Assessment Act and the Parish Assessment Act made provision for dealing with local finance. The former concerned the tax roll of the province; the latter, purely local improvements and assessments for the parishes within each of the five counties. An Act of 1873 provided for the erection of a local municipality in districts containing not less than 30 freeholders. In 1883 the province was divided into 26 counties and three judicial districts. This Act copied closely the Ontario Act of 1849. In the working out of the Act it was found to be in many particulars unsuited to prairie conditions. By the General Municipal Act of 1902 every city, town, village and rural municipality became a body corporate. Over all is the general supervision of a Department of Municipal Affairs.

Northwest Territories (Saskatchewan and Alberta).—As early as 1884 we find among the Ordinances of the Northwest Territories one “respecting Municipalities.” This contained provisions for the establishment of certain rural municipalities and the municipalities of the town of Regina, the town of Moosejaw, etc. Only a limited number of rural municipalities found practical existence under this Ordinance, which was planned on principles similar to those of the older provinces. In 1896 legislation was passed deorganizing certain of the rural municipalities where the system proved unpopular. In 1897 the Legislature of the Territories passed a Statute Labour Ordinance. The year following produced the Local Improvement Ordinance which, with its amendments, was the law observed until 1904. The average area of each local improvement district was one township. In 1903 a new Local Improvement Bill deorganized all one-township local improvement districts and abolished the provision for statute labour. The new Bill provided for local improvement districts with an area of four townships, each of which was a division electing a council annually. The four thus secured formed a Council Board. In 1904 the Legislature made financial provision for inquiry into municipal organizations in general in order to provide a safe, economical system of rural municipalities and to improve the ordinance under which cities, towns and villages were administered. The breaking up of the Territories in 1905 into the present provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan caused delays; but municipal commissions with urban and rural sections were appointed. As a result of the experience gathered during territorial days and later, and of the findings of these Commissions, Local Improvement Acts were amended, Rural Municipality, Town and Village Acts were passed in both provinces, and a City Act was passed in the province of Saskatchewan.