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Thomas Walter Scott


Thomas Walter Scott
Premier Scott.jpg
1st Premier of Saskatchewan
In office
September 5, 1905 – October 20, 1916
MonarchEdward VII
George V
Lieutenant GovernorAmédée E. Forget
George W. Brown
Richard Stuart Lake
Preceded byFrederick W. A. G. Haultain
as Premier of North West Territories
Succeeded byWilliam Melville Martin
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan for Lumsden
In office
December 13, 1905 – August 14, 1908
Succeeded byFrederick Clarke Tate
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan for Swift Current
In office
August 14, 1908 – June 26, 1917
Succeeded byDavid John Sykes
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Assiniboia West
In office
November 7, 1900 – December 13, 1905
Preceded byNicholas Flood Davin
Succeeded byWilliam Erskine Knowles
Personal details
Born(1867-10-27)October 27, 1867
London Township, Ontario
DiedMarch 23, 1938(1938-03-23) (aged 70)
Guelph, Ontario
Political partySaskatchewan Liberal Party
Other political
Liberal Party of Canada
Jessie Florence Read (m. 1890)
Professionnewspaper owner and publisher
Minister of Public Works (1905–1916)
Minister of Education (1912–1916)

Thomas Walter Scott – known less formally as Walter Scott – (October 27, 1867 – March 23, 1938) was the first Premier of the province of Saskatchewan in Canada (1905–1916).[1]

Thomas Walter Scott is the first Premier of Saskatchewan.


Scott was born in 1867 in London Township, Ontario, in rural southwestern Ontario, the child of George Scott and Isabella Telfer.[2] He moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba[3] in 1885, and then – at the age of 19 – to Regina, the capital of the North-West Territories, in 1886. He worked for and then ran a number of Grit newspapers.[4]

He became a partner in the Regina Standard from 1892 to 1893. From 1894 to 1895, he was the owner and editor of the Moose Jaw Times. Scott then bought the Regina Leader (known today as the Regina Leader-Post) in 1895, and was its editor until 1900.[5]

During this period, Scott gained a measure of fame as pitcher for a local baseball team.

Scott was born in Ontario.

Creation of Saskatchewan

In 1900, Scott ran as a Liberal in the federal riding of Assiniboia West and was elected to the House of Commons. He was re-elected in 1904. During the discussions about creating provinces out of the North-West Territories, Scott initially supported territorial Premier Frederick Haultain's proposal to create one big province (to be named "Buffalo") out of what is today Alberta and Saskatchewan – but then converted to the two-province option favoured by Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal government.

In February 1905, the federal government introduced legislation to create the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan effective Dominion Day – July 1, 1905. Premier Haultain was resolutely opposed to this legislation since 1) he wanted one big province, not two provinces; and 2) under the terms of the legislation, the federal government retained jurisdiction over public land. Haultain's opposition – along with Conservative attacks on the act's provisions for Catholic schools – delayed the passing of the act, and it did not receive royal assent until July 20, with September 1 now set as the date of provincial autonomy.[6]

In August 1905, the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan held a leadership convention with Scott as the lone candidate. During his speech to the convention, the new leader of the Saskatchewan Liberals confidently predicted that Saskatchewan would soon become Canada's "banner province". Although the federal Liberals probably should have named Premier Haultain as either lieutenant-governor or acting premier of the new province, they were thoroughly disgusted with Haultain's opposition to the Saskatchewan Act. Therefore, the Quebec Liberal politician Amédée E. Forget,[7] who had been lieutenant-governor of the Northwest Territories since 1898, became Saskatchewan's first lieutenant-governor – and his first official act in that capacity (made on Laurier's advice while Laurier was staying with Forget at Government House) was to name the 37-year-old Scott as premier of Saskatchewan. Scott was sworn into office on September 12, 1905.

First administration

The new province's first election was held on December 13, 1905. (Scott had arrived in Regina on December 13, 1886, so the day held sentimental value for him.) Scott's Liberals ran under the slogan "Peace, Progress, and Prosperity." Scott easily retained the premiership, with his Liberals winning 16 seats in the provincial legislature, while Haultain's newly created Provincial Rights Party won only 9. (Though the popular vote was closer than this would indicate, with 52% of the vote going to the Liberals and 47% to the PRP.)[8]

Thomas Walter Scott, Premier of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan's first legislative session was convened at the end of March 1906. The major issue dominating this first session was the selection of a capital city.[9] (Regina had only been named temporary capital.) Scott had assumed that Regina would remain the capital, but in May – at a secret meeting of the Liberal caucus – Scott was shocked to learn that two-thirds of his caucus supported moving the capital to Saskatoon. Scott insisted on Regina, though, and his caucus eventually fell in line – when the Liberal MLA from Saskatoon, W.C. Sutherland, introduced a resolution to move the capital to Saskatoon on May 23, 1906, the motion was defeated by a vote of 21 – 2 in the legislature.

Scott, who was the Minister of Public Works in addition to serving as Premier, now began a search for a suitable location for the new Legislative Building.[10] In late June 1906, his cabinet formally approved the location of the current Legislature, and agreed to develop the area around the Legislature into a public park (Wascana Park), which is today the largest urban park in North America.[11] Following a design competition, the commission for the new Legislative Building was awarded to Maxwells of Montreal in December 1907.

In 1907, Scott appointed the province's first Royal Commission, the Municipal Commission, to study the issue of local government. This resulted in the Rural Municipality Act of 1908–9, which created nearly 300 Rural Municipalities (a form of local government unique to Saskatchewan and Manitoba) which are each 324 square miles (840 km2) in area.

A third major policy initiative during Scott's first premiership involved telephone service. In 1907, the government appointed telephone expert Francis Dagger to study the issue, and the result, in 1908, was Saskatchewan's famous solution of letting rural residents form mutual or co-operative companies to provide local phone services.

This government also concerned itself with transportation. In 1906, the Scott government spent nearly $100,000 on highway construction – a figure which would increase tenfold over the course of Scott's first term in office. Furthermore, in 1909, the government agreed to back railway construction bonds (up to a limit of $13,000/mile) to encourage the Canadian Northern Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway to build new lines in Saskatchewan. By the time of the Great War, this programme had created more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of new rail track in the province.

The Scott administration also undertook a major expansion of public education in Saskatchewan. Between 1905 and 1913, the number of public schools jumped from 405 to 2,747. Normal schools were opened in Regina and Saskatoon.

Scott was also very interested in higher education, having promised the creation of a provincial university during the 1905 election campaign. In spring 1907, the legislature passed the University Act, designed to create a university for the province. In August 1908, Walter Murray, a philosophy professor from the Maritimes, was appointed as the first president of the new institution, although the site of the university had not yet been determined.

During the winter of 1906-07, Scott suffered a bout of pneumonia. From this point on, he left the province every fall in search of a warmer setting. In total, he spent approximately half of his tenure as premier outside of the province.

Second administration

In August 1908, Scott was re-elected as premier of Saskatchewan. For this election, the Legislature had been expanded to 41 seats, and Scott's Liberals won 27 of these seats. Also in 1908, the Scott government passed the Children's Protection Act to care for neglected and dependent children.

In April 1909, over the opposition of President Murray, the government decided to locate the new University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. The university's first classes were held in the Drinkle Building downtown in September 1909, while plans were made to develop the university on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River on land well suited for agricultural research.[12]

Since Scott favoured a policy of decentralization (evidenced in the university going to Saskatoon instead of Regina), he continued this policy. In 1907, he appointed a commission to decide where to locate the provincial insane asylum, with it eventually being built in North Battleford in 1913. Further pursuing his scheme of decentralization, Prince Albert was awarded the provincial penitentiary in 1911.

In October 1909, Canadian governor general the Earl Grey was on hand to lay the cornerstone of the Saskatchewan Legislature, which Premier Scott had recently decided should be made out of Tyndall stone.

In 1910, Scott appointed another royal commission, the Magill Commission, to study the issue of grain elevators. In October, the commission rejected proposals to create government-owned elevators, opting instead for a system of elevators owned and operated co-operatively by farmers.

Third administration

In the 1912 election, the Legislature was expanded again, and Scott's Liberals won 46 of the 54 ridings. By this point, their opposition – the Provincial Rights Party – had decided to re-join mainstream politics and renamed itself the Conservative Party. Haultain resigned as leader in the wake of the 1912 electoral defeat.

Saskatchewan's importance in Confederation and the wider British Empire was confirmed in October 1912 when the Legislative Building was officially opened by Queen Victoria's favourite son Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who was the Canadian Governor-General.

As of 1913, Scott also served as Minister of Education. In that year, he introduced legislation to require religious minority ratepayers (i.e. Catholics) to support their own separate schools. This proposal met with fierce opposition from the Rev. Murdoch Mackinnon, pastor of Regina's Knox Presbyterian Church (Scott's own congregation) who was resolutely opposed to measures which would financially strengthen the position of the Roman Catholic Church. Mackinnon would remain a thorn in Scott's side – as late as 1919 fiercely denouncing Scott's compromise position of allowing up to 1 hour a day of French language instruction in public schools.

Another development in 1913 was the creation of a provincial Board of Censors to deal with the corrupting influence of new-fangled motion pictures.

With the commencement of hostilities in World War I, Scott called an emergency session of the Saskatchewan Legislature on September 15, 1914. He pledged that all government MLAs would contribute 10% of their salaries to the Canadian Patriotic Fund, and that the province would donate 1500 horses to the British war effort. The Leader of the Opposition immediately rose to applaud these measures, and the session ended with Liberal and Conservative members joining in a rousing chorus of God Save the King.

Scott had long claimed to be in favour of women's suffrage,[13] but as of 1912, Scott was musing that women didn't really want the vote. Pressed on the matter in early 1914, he said that he didn't feel his government had a mandate from the people to enact such a major change as introducing female suffrage. When, however, in late 1915, Scott learned that Manitoba had enacted women's suffrage, he was quick to follow suit – introducing legislation on February 14, 1916, to allow women to vote.

Scott had longed opposed the prohibition[14] of alcohol, but the war made it all but impossible to resist the pressure of temperance advocates. In a March 1915 speech in Oxbow, Scott announced that all drinking establishments in Saskatchewan would be closed as of July 1, to be replaced by provincially run liquor stores. This move would prove inadequate in the following months, as both Alberta and Manitoba enacted Prohibition. Sensing the sign of the times, Scott held a provincial referendum on the topic – the first time women had been allowed to vote in Saskatchewan – and in December 1916, 80% of Saskatchewan voters voted to ban alcohol in the province.

Scott's departure from politics by this time was virtually certain, for 2 main reasons. First, he had become increasingly prone to bouts of depression – with his outburst against his own pastor, Murdoch Mackinnon, during the debate about educational policy, serving as indication to the province that he was no longer entirely up for the job of premier.

Second, in February 1916, Conservative MLA J.E. Bradshaw alleged in the House that Liberals had been receiving kickbacks for highway work, liquor licences, and public building contracts. A Royal Commission was appointed, and several Liberal backbenchers were indicted and eventually convicted. Amidst the scandal, Scott stepped down as premier on October 16, 1916.

Life after public office

Scott traveled widely in the years following his departure from public life in 1916. He ultimately settled in Victoria, British Columbia. He died in Ontario in 1938 and is buried in Victoria.[1]


The Walter Scott Building on Albert Street in Regina was named in Scott's honour, and is the home of many provincial government agencies and departments.

In 2001, Gordon Barnhart released a book called Peace, Progress and Prosperity (ISBN 0-88977-142-1), which provided the first detailed biography of T. Walter Scott.

A bust of Scott was commissioned by the provincial government as part of its "Millennial Busts" project.

Scott Collegiate, a high school in Regina, is named after Scott.

The Walter Scott Memorial was unveiled in 2012 in Wascana Centre, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. The memorial is a full figured bronze statue of Scott facing the Legislative Building, holding a blueprint of the building, which he oversaw construction of while premier.


External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Saskatchewan Liberal Party Leader
Succeeded by
William Melville Martin