Monday, April 10, 2017

H - Sir Frederick Haultain and the Province of Buffalo

Today's post may not be as exciting as some of my previous this month, or even that interesting for those not super-into Canadian history, but I'm just weirded out by the fact that we nearly had a province named "Buffalo."

It just sounds odd.

So, back at the turn of the 20th century, Canada was very much still taking shape, and most of it was still just called "the North West Territories."

Look at how cute Manitoba is down there all by itself.

Frederick Haultain was a lawyer and Canadian Politician back when Canada was still young. Though he was born in England his family moved Canada when he was just 3 years old and was raised and educated in Ontario and Quebec. He was eventually voted into the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories in 1887, and held that position unopposed until they basically handed him the title of Premier in 1897. (Who else would want to premier of the NWT, anyway?)

Just look at this smug sonofabitch.

Actually, technically Haultain was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories. Haultain was the one who went around calling himself Premier, because the leaders of the other provinces got to be Premiers, and he had a bit of an obsession about being the head of a province, as we will see momentarily.

To be fair to Haultain, "Premier" was probably a hell of lot easier to put on a business card than Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Haultain made a big push to have a large section of the Territories carved out and declared a province proper. It was a valid goal - the population and resources were there to allow it its own say in Federal Parliament. Haultain wanted a province called "Buffalo" - which sounds weird no matter how many times I type it, since all the other provinces are named after Indigenous words or European countries/aristocracy.

Dumb name or not, Haultain succeeded in his endeavor, however as is always the case in politics, there was a catch: Haultain was a Conservative and did not get along well with Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier and the ruling federal Liberal party of the day. Laurier did not want a large, Conservative western province to threaten the influence of Ontario and Quebec (the two largest and politically most powerful provinces to this day), and so he maneuvered to split the new Province in two: Alberta and Saskatchewan, in 1905.

Okay, that looks better. We're almost there now. Manitoba still looks silly, though.

In the end we got two new provinces, flags and Premiers, Laurier got his wish to splinter the western Conservative base, and Canada moved closer to becoming the country we recognize today. Haultain ran for Premier in Saskatchewan in 1905 and lost to the Liberal Party (which is either karma or irony, I'm not sure which). Don't feel bad for Haultain though; when the Conservatives won the federal election in 1912, Prime Minister Robert Borden appointed Haultain as Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, a position he held until retirement in 1938. He was also knighted in 1916, so he did alright for himself.


My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.

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