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18 Jul 2002


A.C. Rutherford

Premier of Alberta 1905-1910

Many thanks to AFHS member and volunteer, Heather Jaremko, who provided the typescript of this page and obtained the permission of the Calgary Herald to reprint this work in the AFHS website. This work is based on reports in the Calgary Herald between 1929 and 1939.

We will be pleased to hear from anyone who descends from A.C. Rutherford and can fill us in on the family history of this Alberta leader. Please contact the AFHS to start this dialogue

A.C. Rutherford was appointed as interim premier by Ottawa in 1905. He was an Edmonton-area Liberal. Rutherford filled his temporary cabinet with Liberals. All this was ominous enough for southern Alberta Conservatives. Frank Oliver announced Alberta's consistuency boundries, made in Ottawa. Most of the constituencies were narrow strips running east-west across the province, but no less than six were snuggled up to Edmonton.

Alberta's first election was held November 5, 1905. Like most Alberta elections since, it was a landslide. This time, however, it was a landslide for Liberals, which has since become unusual. The Liberals won 23 of 25 seats. R.B. Bennett, a Calgary Conservative who became prime minister 25 years later, lost a close contest.

The new Legislature first sat in the Spring of 1906. When the question of a permanent capital came up, W.H. Cushing, a Calgary Liberal, spoke for his home city. Red Deer and Banff were also proposed. When the vote came, the southern MLAs voted for Calgary, but the carefully-arranged northern constituenices supported Edmonton, and that was that.

The proposed Alberta and Great Waterways Railway caused the province's first big political scandal. Allegedly some cabinet ministers received payments from the House of Morgan, the New York financial firm that made a profit selling the railway's bonds. The ensuing political hurly-burly temporarily divided the Alberta Liberals.

There were feuds and resignations in the cabinet; in the Legislature, R.B. Bennett, a fiery orator of a now-vanished school, Premier Rutherford resigned (though a judicial investigation later cleared him of any wrong-doing) and A.L. Sifton took over. Even after the scandal, the Alberta railway boom continued, without much regard for economic reality. (However, the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway did reach its goal near Fort McMurray in 1924).