Sifton Family

The Sifton family has a long association with Saskatchewan’s newspaper industry. Sir Clifford Sifton (1861–1929), a publisher and distinguished statesman who served as a federal Cabinet minister under Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, founded the Sifton newspaper dynasty in 1899 with his purchase of the Manitoba Free Press; he later purchased Saskatchewan’s two daily papers, the Morning Leader in Regina and the StarPhoenix in Saskatoon, in 1928. As the owner of three daily newspapers (among other business enterprises), Sir Clifford established Toronto-based Armadale Corporation to manage his family’s holdings. In 1953, ownership of the Sifton papers was divided between two of Sir Clifford’s five sons, Victor (1897–1961) and Clifford Jr. (1893–1976). Victor ran the Winnipeg paper, and the two Saskatchewan papers fell to Clifford Jr.’s control. While presiding over Armadale Corporation, Clifford Jr. and his son Michael C. (1931–95) diversified the family holdings through the acquisition of television and radio interests in the west, including Regina’s CKCK radio in 1922 and CKCK-TV (western Canada’s first privately owned TV station) in 1954. In 1960, Clifford Jr. formed Armadale Communications to operate Sifton’s broadcasting properties. Between 1928 and 1995, three generations of Siftons—Sir Clifford’s son (Clifford Jr.), grandson (Michael C.), and great-grandson (Michael G.)—were directly involved in running the Saskatchewan papers and made frequent visits to the province to oversee their operations. From 1992 to 1995, Michael G. resided in Saskatoon while serving as publisher of the StarPhoenix and Leader-Post. By the mid-1990s, Armadale Communications had dissolved all of its radio and TV interests, including CKCK-TV, which was sold in 1977 to Harvard Communications (owned by the Hill family of Regina). The Sifton newspaper dynasty in Saskatchewan ended in 1995, when Armadale Corp. sold its two Saskatchewan papers to Hollinger Inc. Following the sale, Michael G. remained in the newspaper business as a senior executive with Hollinger Inc. He is now president and CEO of Osprey Media Group, which owns 22 daily papers in Ontario.

Iain Stewart

Further Reading

Hall, D.J. 1981. Clifford Sifton. Vancouver: UBC Press; Powell, C. 2001. “Sifton Family Back in Papers,” Marketing Magazine 106: 4; Powers, N. 2002. “Sifton Family has a Storied Past in Paper’s History,” Saskatoon StarPhoenix (October 17): E17.