Image of the City of Regina

Regina Trading Company 1905

Inaugural decorations on Regina Trading Company

Saskatchewan came into being as a province in 1905. Unlike Manitoba, which came into being as a result of the Red River Rebellion, Saskatchewan became a province with relative ease when The Saskatchewan Act was passed. The road to getting The Saskatchewan Act passed, however, was not as easy as it may have seemed at first glance.

Premier Frederick W.G. Haultain was the leader of the Territorial Legislature of the North West Territories in 1900 when the idea of joining confederation was first broached. Haultain, a Conservative, sent an enquiry forward to Ottawa to discuss terms of entry for the territories. His motion was seconded by a Liberal, James Ross – an action that demonstrated the level of support for joining confederation on both sides of the legislature. Clifford Sifton, then the Minister of the Interior, said he would take the matter under consideration.

Haultain and his supporters wanted the entire area that is now Saskatchewan and Alberta to be one giant province and many people in the territories agreed with this idea. Other people wanted to make the territories into 2 provinces – some even wanted to make the area into 3 provinces! This was because in 1882 the territories had been divided into provisional districts, a decision that had created some sectionalism. One thing that all sides agreed with – the terms of confederation must include control of natural resources for the new province or provinces.

Another thing that all sides agreed upon was that the decision should not be delayed. But the federal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberals had other ideas. The Liberals wanted to postpone any decision until after the federal election of 1904. During the federal election, Territorial Premier Haultain campaigned actively for the Conservatives. This made the Liberals, who won the 1904 election, somewhat agitated. As a result, Haultain soon had to face a cool and distant federal government when negotiations continued after the election.

The Liberal government decided to create 2 provinces instead of the one giant province Haultain had campaigned to create. (The Liberals were afraid that a giant ‘superprovince' would dominate Canadian politics.) The federal government also decided to keep control over natural resources, paying the provinces financial grants to compensate for this lack of public lands. Finally, the new provinces would allow for the founding of separate schools. This provision caused trouble in Ottawa, where Minister of the Interior Clifford Sifton threatened to resign if he was not allowed to redraft the section. In the end, The Saskatchewan Act retained the rights of separate schools as had existed at the time of union.

Premier Haultain was not pleased by the act, mostly because he had wanted one province with control over natural resources. Having 2 provinces would be an unnecessary and expensive duplication of services in Haultain's opinion. His objections were overruled, however and on September 1, 1905, Saskatchewan officially became a province. Haultain, however, was not selected the premier of the new province. That title went to Walter Scott, a long-time Liberal supporter.