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Calder, James Alexander (1868–1956)

James Calder.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A246

James Calder was born on a farm in Oxford County, Ontario on September 17, 1868. At age 13, Calder moved with his family to Winnipeg and took high school there. Calder’s father died accidentally shortly after and the Calder children all found jobs to keep the family together. Calder attended Manitoba College and University of Manitoba, graduating with a BA in Science in 1888. He received a teaching certificate from Normal School and taught in various rural schools until he became principal of the Moose Jaw High School in 1891. Three years later, he became a school inspector. While he was within the school system, he began to study law. He was called to the Bar but he never assumed an active law practice.

From 1901 to 1905, Calder was Deputy Commissioner (Deputy Minister) of Education in the North-West Territories under the premiership of Frederick Haultain. When the province of Saskatchewan was formed in 1905, Walter Scott became Premier and Calder was the Commissioner (Minister) of Education and Provincial Treasurer in the first Cabinet. Calder was elected in South Regina in the first general election on December 13, 1905. He was defeated in the 1908 election in Milestone, but won a by-election in Saltcoats a few months later. He was re-elected in 1912 and 1917. In 1912, Calder became the Minister of Railways, Telephones and Highways. Scott was out of the province for up to six months of every year and Calder served as Deputy Premier in Scott’s absence. Scott generated big ideas and long term plans, while Calder was the “detail man” and administrator.

In 1917, Calder resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly and joined Borden’s Union government at the national level. He was elected to the House of Commons representing Moose Jaw and assumed the Immigration and Colonization portfolios. In 1921, Calder was appointed to the Senate as a Conservative, where he served until 1956.

He married Eva Mildred Leslie in 1910 and they had one son, James Alexander. Calder devoted nearly his entire life to public service. He served the people of Saskatchewan and Canada for 62 years. Calder died on July 20, 1956.

Gordon Barnhart

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Further Reading

Saskatchewan Archives Board. J.A. Calder Papers. Personal recollections. M2-file #63, Saskatoon.
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