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Haultain, Frederick (1857–1942)

Frederick Haultain.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A12114-1

Frederick William Gordon Haultain was born near Woolwich, England, on November 25, 1857. In 1860, his family immigrated to Peterborough, Upper Canada. In 1861 his father, Frederick Haultain, a retired officer in the Royal Artillery, was elected to the Legislature of the Province of Canada, as a supporter of George Brown’s Clear Grits.

The younger Haultain graduated from the University of Toronto in 1876 and after pursuing a law degree was called to the Ontario Bar in 1882. Haultain practiced law in Toronto and Kingston before moving to the North-West Territories in 1884. Haultain established his practice in the frontier town of Fort McLeod in the District of Alberta. By 1887 the Fort McLeod area’s population was sufficient to be entitled representation in the Territorial Assembly. Haultain won the election to represent the constituency in Regina, the Territorial capital. He won or was acclaimed in every Territorial election after this and represented the riding until the creation of the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905.

The Territorial Assembly had very little authority because control over the Territorial budget rested in the hands of the federal government in the person of the Lieutenant-Governor. Haultain, nominally a Conservative, became the recognized leader of the Liberal and Conservative majority in the Assembly that manoeuvred, lobbied and pressured the federal government to grant responsible government. In 1897 the Lieutenant-Governor was excluded from the executive committee (Cabinet) and control over the Territorial budget was turned over to the Assembly. Haultain’s efforts were widely credited with the achievement of responsible government and after 1897 he became the first Premier of the North-West Territories.

Haultain selected an executive committee with both Liberal and Conservative members and advocated non-partisanship in Territorial matters. The financial demands caused by rapidly increasing settlement, in particular the need for more roads and schools, challenged Haultain’s administration and led to a call for provincial status for the North-West Territories. The issue proved problematic as a unifying force. Some people favoured two or more provinces being created out of the Territories and Haultain faced opposition, most notably from the Calgary area, where leaders hoped their city could become the capital of one of the new provinces.

The non-partisan unity was further undermined as Haultain increasingly became identified with the Conservative Party. In 1903, he accepted an honourary position with the Territorial Conservative Association and campaigned for the Conservatives in the federal election that year. Following the re-election of the Liberals, Haultain was shut out of all planning related to provincial status. In 1905 the federal Liberal government passed legislation that created two provinces, allowed the federal government to retain control over each province’s natural resources, and guaranteed minority (Roman Catholic) rights through a separate school system. Haultain attacked the legislation, arguing that two provinces weakened the North-West’s position within Confederation and that the natural resources and the separate school provisions were an intrusion on provincial rights as established in the British North America Act.

Haultain was not appointed as provisional Premier for either of the provinces and was not acknowledged in the ceremonies marking their creation. He chose to live in Saskatchewan instead of Alberta because he had lived in Regina for most of his time in the North-West. Haultain transformed the Conservative Party into the Provincial Rights Party and challenged the provisional Liberal Premier, Walter Scott, in the 1905 Saskatchewan provincial election. Haultain portrayed the Provincial Rights Party as non-partisan and attracted a number of prominent Liberals as candidates. He campaigned against what he considered the federal government’s intrusion into provincial affairs but his position on Education was interpreted as anti-Catholic, which alienated a significant number of voters. The Provincial Rights Party lost the popular vote by a narrow margin and Haultain, who was elected in the riding of South Qu’Appelle, became Saskatchewan’s first leader of the Opposition.

Haultain contested the 1908 election as the leader of the Provincial Rights Party and the 1912 election as leader of the Conservative Party. In both elections he made a strong showing, but was not able to defeat Scott and the Liberals. In 1912 he retired from politics and was appointed the Chief Justice of Saskatchewan. He held that position until his retirement in 1937. He was knighted in 1916 and served as Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan from 1917 until 1939. He received honourary degrees from the University of Toronto and the University of Saskatchewan and was made an honourary Cree chief. Haultain retired to Montreal where he died on January 30, 1942.

Mike Fedyk

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Further Reading

Bocking, D.H. 1964. “Saskatchewan’s First Provincial Election,” Saskatchewan History 17 (2): 41–54; MacEwan, Grant. 1985. Frederick Haultain: Frontier Statesman of the Canadian Northwest. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books; Stanley, Gordon. 1981. “F.W.G. Haultain, Territorial Politics and the Quasi-party System,” Prairie Forum 6 (1): 1–15; Thomas, Lewis. 1970. “The Political and Private Life of F.W.G. Haultain,” Saskatchewan History 23 (2): 50–58.
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