During the session of 1905
Sir Wilfred Laurier introduced the Alberta and Saskatchewan Acts into
the House of Commons. The granting of autonomy to the North West
Territories involved four questions, viz.:
(1) How many provinces
could be formed out of the Territories?
(2) The ownership of the public lands.
(3) The financial terms.
(4) The school system.
These questions were
decided as follows:
(1) Two provinces were
formed and the boundaries extended to the 60th line of north latitude,
considerably beyond the northern boundaries of the original districts of
Athabasca and Saskatchewan.
(2) All Crown lands,
mines and minerals and royalties incident thereto, and the interest of
the Crown in the waters within the provinces were continued in the Crown
and are administered by the Government of Canada for the purposes of
(3) In determining the
financial terms Section 118 of the B. N. A. Act was followed as closely
as the circumstances would permit. The annual subsidy was made up as
(a) Government and
(b) On an estimated
population of 250,000 for Alberta at 80 cents per
A census of the province
was to be taken every five years and the allowance of 80 cents per head
paid on the increased population until it should reach 800,000 souls.
(c) In as much as the
province had no debt the annual sum of $403,375 was granted.
To understand this we
must know the terms in this respect upon which the four original
provinces entered Confederation. The Dominion assumed the debt of the
provinces viz., $62,500,000 for Upper and Lower Canada, $7,000,000 for
New Brunswick, $8,000,000 for Nova Scotia. These debts were not paid.
But the Dominion agreed to pay the interest to the provinces which
therefore represented so much capital. When the new provinces Alberta
and Saskatchewan and Manitoba entered Confederation without any debt,
they were entitled to the same per capita debt allowance as the older
provinces as adjusted from time to time until 1905. Oil basis Alberta
and Saskatchewan were credited with the sum of $8,107,500 upon which the
annual interest is computed at 5%.
(d) In as much as the
public lands were reserved to Canada the province was paid the following
sum in lieu of lands:
For a population of
250,000 the sum of --------------$375,000
When the people increased to 400,000 the sum of -------562,500
When the people increased to 800,000 the sum of ------750,000
When the People increased to 1,200,000 and thereafter the sum of
(e) An additional
allowance of $93,750 was given for five years for public buildings.
In 1906 a conference of
the premiers of the various provinces of Canada was held in Ottawa to
discuss the financial relations of the Dominion to the various provinces
of Canada. The result was that all from the Parliament of Canada was
presented to the Imperial Parliament praying for amendments to the B. N.
A. Act to give effect to the new financial terms decided upon at the
premiers' conference. Those amendments became law July 1st, 1907. The
annual subsidy to Alberta was increased and remains in force at the
present time. It is made up as follows:
(1) A fixed grant for
Government and Legislature.
(a) For population up to 400,000 persons ----------$180,000
(b) For population up to 800,000 persons ------------190,000
(c) For population up to 1,500,000 persons ----------220,000
(d) For population up to 1,500,000 persons ----------240,000
(2) Per capita subsidy,
80 cents per head shall be paid until the population reaches 2,500,000
and at the rate of 60 cents per head of so much of the population as
exceeds that number.
(3) The subsidies in
respect to lands and public debt were left as set forth in the Alberta
(4) The School System:
The powers of the province respecting education are contained in section
17 of the Alberta Act, viz.,
Section 93 of the British
North America Act 1867 shall apply to the said province with the
substitution for paragraph one of the said section 93 of the following
"Nothing in any such law
shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to
separate schools which any class of persons have at the date of the
passing of this Act, under the terms of the chapters 20 and 30 of the
Ordinances of the North West Territories, passed in the year 1901, or
with respect to religious instruction in any public or separate school
as provided for in the said Ordinances."
The Constitution of the
Province of Alberta exists in different forms, viz.,
(1) The rigid form as
expressed in the B. N. A. Acts and the Alberta Act of 1905, commonly
known as the Autonomy Act. This part of the Constitution is imposed on
this province by the higher authority of the Imperial Parliament of
Great Britain and of the Parliament of Canada. It can not be amended by
the Legislature of the Province and any change necessary must be made by
the higher parliaments.
(2) The Constitution
exists also in definite and flexible form. This part is created by the
people of the province itself and is expressed in the various Acts of
the legislature passed since 1905; in the laws of the North West
Territories continued in force at the time of the creation of the
province and not since repealed; and in the laws of England in force
July 15th, 1870 except in so far as such laws have been altered or
repealed by the Ordinances of the North West Territories or by the Acts
of the said province. It lies within the power of the legislature to
change such laws as necessity and the growth of the county require
provided they apply to the class of subjects assigned to the province by
S. 92. B. N. A. Act.
(3) The Constitution
exists further in unwritten forms as expressed in the usages and
incidents of British Parliamentary practice, as are found for example in
the commissions issued to the lieutenant-governor on assuming office and
the various conventions that govern his relations with his responsible
executive on the one hand and the Governor General of Canada from whom
he received his appointment on the other.
By virtue of the power
vested in the Parliament of Canada by the B. N. A. Act of 1871, the
Federal Parliament passed the Alberta Act creating the new province of
the same name. By the terms of this Act the B. N. A. Acts 1867-1886 are
made to apply to Alberta in the same way and the like extent as they
apply to the older provinces of Canada as if Alberta had been originally
included in Confederation, except in so far as they varied by the
Autonomy Act and such provisions as are in terms made oi' by reasonable
intendment apply to one or more provinces and not to the whole of the
provinces of the Dominion. These variations affect two classes of
subjects mentioned previously, viz., education and public lands.
Except, therefore, in the
instances referred to in the preceding paragraphs the Constitution of
Alberta is identical to those of the older provinces. Like these
provinces it has surrendered to the federal parliament the exclusive
right to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada in
relation to all matters not coming within the classes of subjects
assigned by Section 92 of the B. N. A. Act exclusively to the
Legislature of the province, that is to say "All matters of a merely
local nature or private nature in the Province." Within the limits of
these delegated powers however, the legislature has absolute authority.
"Where there is jurisdiction the will of the legislature is omnipotent,
according to British theory, and knows no superior law."
Concurrent powers of
legislation are conferred upon the Dominion Parliament and provincial
legislature in relation to agriculture and immigration, but no
provincial Act on these subjects may be repugnant to any Dominion law on
the same subject.
Legislative authority is
vested in the Lieutenant-Governor and the legislative assembly. All acts
are enacted in the name of "His Majesty by and with the advice and
consent of the legislative assembly." In relation to assent to bills,
disallowance of acts, and signification of pleasure of bills reserved,
the Lieutenant-Governor represents the Crown with respect to the
province in the same manner in which the Governor General represents the
Dominion. No bill passed by the Legislature becomes law until it has
received the assent of the Lieutenant-Governor. At the conclusion of a
session of the legislature the Lieutenant-Governor goes in state to the
legislature. The clerk of the legislature reads the list of bills
passed, to which His Honour, seated on the Speaker's Chair, assents,
whereupon the clerk announces to the members assembled in their places,
"In His Majesty's name His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth assent to
these bills." It often happens, however, that in case of public
necessity the Lieutenant Governor gives his assent to a bill as soon as
it is passed by the Assembly.
At the conclusion of each
session of the legislature the Lieutenant-Governor transmits two copies
of every Act passed during that session to the Secretary of State for
Canada. One of these is in turn transmitted to the Colonial Office. Thus
it will be seen that the federal government exercises a residuary
control over all provincial legislation.
Legislation passed by the
Assembly is of two kinds, viz.: public and private legislation. Private
bills are distinguished from public bills in that they relate directly
to the affairs of private individuals or of corporate bodies, and not to
matters of public policy. They must originate by petition and be subject
to special rules such as payment of fees and due advertisement in the
official gazette and newspapers of the province. Public bills represent
the policy of the Executive, and unless the Executive is able to command
a majority of the members of the legislature in support thereof, they
forfeit the confidence of the Lieutenant-Governor and must resign or ask
for an appeal to the electors. The initiation of public legislation is
one of the responsible duties of the Executive or Cabinet but it is not
lawful for the Executive or the legislature to adopt, or pass any vote,
resolution or address for the appropriation of the public revenue to any
purpose unless it has been recommended by a message from the Lieutenant-
By Sec. 91. B. N. A. Act
the legislature is empowered to alter its constitution except as it
affects the office of the Lieutenant-Governor. The legislature of the
province began with 25 members. This number was in creased after the
quinquennial census of 1906 to 41, and now is 58 including 2 members
representing the overseas men and women. Representation is increased on
the basis of population as shown by the Dominion Census. Those entitled
to vote at provincial elections are British subjects by birth or
naturalization, and who have resided at least twelve months in the
electoral division in which they desire to vote.
The executive power is
vested in the Lieutenant-Governor but by the instructions of his
commission he is guided by the constitutional principles and precedents
which obtain in every British state where parliamentary government is
established. Upon him lies the duty of forming a responsible executive
council to administer the public business. At the same time he is
enjoined to maintain a position of dignified impartiality and to guard
the interests of the Dominion as well as those of the province, He holds
office during the pleasure of the Governor General but is not removable
within five years from the time of his appointment except for cause. In
this way it will be seen that the federal government has a residuary
executive or administrative control over the provinces in that it has
power to change the executive head of the province.
Not being directly
nominated by the Sovereign the Lieutenant-Governor is not entrusted with
the personal prerogatives of mercy and honor attaching to those
governors by commission from the King, but at the opening and closing of
the provincial legislature, the celebration of His Majesty's birthday,
or holding a levee, he is regarded as acting directly on behalf of His
Majesty. In short he represents the monarchial element so characteristic
of our British system.
The executive council is
chosen from the members of the legislature and is entrusted with the
conduct of the public business as long as it holds the confidence of
that body. For the better expedition of the public business the affairs
of government are organized into departments. One of the first Acts of
the first legislative Assembly of Alberta was to pass the Public Service
Act creating the several departments as follows:
(1) Office of the
(2) Department of the Attorney-General.
(3) Department of Provincial Secretary.
(4) Department of Treasury.
(5) Department of Public Works.
(6) Department of Agriculture.
(7) Department of Education.
(8) Offices of Legislative Assembly.
At first the ministers
administered more than one department but the rapid development that has
taken place in recent years has increased the work of the several
departments to such an extent that each is administered at the present
time by one member of the Executive. Since the organization of the
province in 1905 new departments have been created as follows:
Department of Railways
and Telephones, (1912)
Department of Municipal Affairs, (1912)
Department of Public Health, (1919)
(1) The treasury
department is under the direction of a member of the Executive Council,
the Provincial Treasurer. He has the management and control of the
revenue and expenditure of the province. All revenues, excepting certain
funds, form the consolidated revenue fund, the expenditure of which is
subject to audit, legislative review and vote. All accounts must pass
the Provincial Auditor, an officer removable only on address to the
(2) The provincial
revenue is derived from three sources, viz.,
(1) Dominion subsidies.
(2) School lands.
(3) Provincial taxes.
(3) The fiscal year
closes on December 31st. As soon as practicable after the close of each
fiscal year a detailed and complete statement of the public accounts for
that period must be prepared by the Provincial Treasurer showing the
state of the general revenue fund, the trust and special funds and all
matters requisite to explain the financial transactions of the province.
Estimates of the
expenditure are generally for the period of one fiscal year. No petition
for any sum relating to the public service, not any motion for a grant
or charge whether payable out of the consolidated revenue fund or other
moneys provided by legislature is ever received or proceeded with unless
recommended from the Lieutenant-Governor, or theoretically the Crown.
Department of Education:
This department controls
public schools, normal training schools and universities within the
province. With regard to education the province controls absolutely the
program of studies followed in the public schools, the normal school,
and through the Board of Governors, the curriculum and administration of
the Provincial University. Through inspectors the department supervises
the course of studies, the methods of the teachers who are employed by
the local school boards and determines the amount of provincial grant
that is due to each school.
Department of Public
As the name implies the
minister of this department controls the construction and maintenance of
all public works in the province, issues surveys, maps and plans, road
allowances, ferries and all public property. He has charge of the
provincial institutions such as Asylums and gaols.
Department of the
This department is
presided over by a member of the Executive Council, the
attorney-general. He is the general agent of the Crown. To him belongs
the supervision of the administration of justice within the province,
and the administration of public affairs according to law.
He is charged with the
conduct of the following matters among numerous others:
(a) The law governing the
sale of intoxicating liquors.
(b) Titles to real property in the province.
(c) Appointment of sheriffs, registrars, judicial officers, justices of
the peace, coroners, notaries public and commissioners for taking
(d) Hearing applications for the granting of fiats regarding petitions
of right, criminal informations, indictments, actions to set aside crown
patents, actions to recover fines and penalties.
(e) The appointment of counsel for the conduct of criminal business.
(f) The supervision of the officers of the courts of law in the
(g) The examination of papers in connection with the admission and
discharge of lunatics, etc.
The Provincial Secretary
is a member of the Executive Council. He is the keeper of the seal of
the province, issues all letters patent, commissions and other documents
under the seal of the province and countersigns the same. He is the
keeper of all the registers and archives of the province.
This department is
presided over by the Minister of Agriculture, a member of the Executive.
He has charge of agriculture statistics. This department collects
statistics relating to agriculture and manufacturing, and disseminates
the same to promote the progress of the province and sees to the
observance and execution of the law relating to statistics and
agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture has charge of the Demonstration
farms and schools of agriculture.
Reports of the work done
in the various departments and branches thereof are annually prepared
and laid upon the table of the legislative assembly and printed for
Department of Municipal
The Minister of Municipal
Affairs is a member of the Executive Council and is responsible to the
legislature for the administration of the municipal institutions of the
province. He has power to make regulations governing the methods of
bookkeeping, accounting and auditing in the municipalities of the
province, and to make and enforce such regulations as shall conduce to a
systematic and uniform conduct of the affairs thereof. For this purpose
inspectors regularly visit the officials of the municipalities and
report to the Department.
The Minister of Municipal
Affairs is charged with the duties under the Local Improvement Act, the
Village Act and the Education Tax Act. Under the Education Tax Act all
lands in every municipality except lands included in school districts
are taxed one and a quarter cents for the benefit of education. The
taxes are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the province.
Department of Railways
The Minister of Railways
and Telephones is a member of the Executive Council. He is entrusted
with all the powers and charged with all the duties created by the
Railway Act of Alberta 1907 and the Act respecting the government of
telephone and telegraph systems.
Department of Public
The Minister of Public
Health is a member of the Executive Council and has the administration
and control of the department and all the acts relating to public
nurses, hospitals, diseases and vital statistics. It is his duty to
insitute inquiries, collect facts and statistics relating to the above
matters and issue regulations for their due execution and observance.
The Legislative Assembly:
The chief officers of the
legislative assembly are the Speaker, and the clerk of the House. The
Speaker presides over "the deliberations of the House and enforces the
observance of all rules for preserving order in its proceedings." He
puts every question and declares the determination of the House. As
"Mouth of the house" he communicates its resolutions to others, conveys
its thanks, expresses its censure, its reprimands or admonitions. He is
in fact the representative of the House itself in all its powers,
proceedings and dignity.
The clerk of the Assembly
makes true entries, remembrances and journals of things done and passed
in the House. He signs the addresses, votes of thanks and orders of the
house. He endorses the bills sent to the Lieutenant-Governor, He has the
custody of all the records or other documents of the House and is
responsible for the conduct of the business of the house in the official
department under his control. He assists the Speaker and advises members
in regard to questions of order and the proceedings of the House.
During the recess he
publishes in each issue of the Alberta Gazette rules respecting notices
of intended applications of private bills and fixes the date for
receiving private bills after the proclamation convening the Assembly
has been published.
The law clerk prepares a
report upon all private bills after their second reading and before the
same are submitted to the committee charged with the consideration
thereof. In the subsequent stage of such bills he is responsible for
such bills should they be amended.
Among the powers
exclusively assigned to the legislatures of the provinces is the right
of each province to create and establish municipal institutions within
the respective provinces. This right Alberta and Saskatchewan enjoy in
common with the rest. The various local bodies created and established
in Alberta are as follows: Cities, towns, rural municipalities, villages
and local improvement districts. Cities are incorporated by special
charters granted by the legislature. Their powers are strictly limited
by the express terms of their respective charters and depend largely
upon the demands of the citizens of each place for the municipal
functions they desire to exercise. Of course the legislature can not
grant these municipal corporations power inconsistent with the
constitution nor delegate any power it does not itself possess.
All towns in Alberta are
incorporated and organized under the Towns' Act 1912. Both towns and
cities are empowered to pass by-laws within the powers delegated, and
generally to enact such legislation as will promote the welfare of their
communal life. Town councils consist of a mayor and six councillors
elected by a general vote of the electors including women if they are
property owners. Money by-laws in towns and cities are referred to the
property owners or burgesses before the councils have power to borrow
money, issue bonds or debentures.
Villages may be erected
in communities where there are at least 25 dwellings within an area of
640 acres. Rates are limited to ten mills on the dollars of the assessed
value of property. The village council consists of three members elected
by the owners or occupiers of rateable land within the village.
The borrowing powers of
all municipal bodies are limited to a fraction of the assessment or the
total taxes by the terms of the Act or special charter.
Rural municipalities were
established in Alberta in 1912. Each municipality comprises nine
townships or an area 18 miles square and must have a population of not
less than one person per square mile. At the present time it is optional
with the people of these districts to form themselves into a
municipality under the Act. The chairman of the rural council is called
a reeve. The council has power to make by-laws relating to matters of
merely local concern such as roads, bridges, public health, wolf
bounties, hospitals, cemeteries, prairie fires, noxious weeds, and to
raise money on the credit of the municipality as specified by the Act.
Taxes are levied upon all rateable lands in the municipality and the
rate must be uniform. The maximum is placed at one per cent of the
assessment of the preceding year.
In the newer parts of the
province municipal organization is expressed in local improvement
districts. These are constituted by Order in Council upon petition and
vary in size according to circumstances usually from 108 square miles to
216 square miles. The council consists of from three to six members and
has power to impose taxes upon all rateable lands in the district but
the rate is fixed within a minimum of one-and-a-quarter cents and a
maximum of five cents per acre.
The Judiciary and
Administration of Justice:
The judicial power of the
province is vested in a number of courts as follows:
(a) A court of superior
civil and criminal jurisdiction, viz., The Supreme Court of Alberta.
(b) Minor courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction, viz., The District
Court of each judicial district.
(c) Police magistrate courts in towns and cities and the courts of the
justices of the peace.
The supreme court
consists of two divisions, Appellate and Trial, each presided over by a
chief justice and eight puisne judges appointed by the Dominion
Government. They cannot he removed from office except on an address from
both houses of parliament.
The province is divided
into a number of judicial districts viz., Acadia, Athabasca, Edmonton,
Lethbridge, Wetaskiwin, Calgary, Macleod, Medicine Hat, Red Deer,
Stettler. Each district has a court presided over by a judge, a clerk,
and where necessary an additional judge and clerks. Regular sittings of
the district court are fixed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, but
the judge may hold additional sittings without a jury.
District courts have full
jurisdiction in all matters which may be made the subject of a claim for
relief, or enforce a right, legal or equitable where such claim, debt or
damage does not exceed $600.
District courts have
power to grant probate of wills, letters of administration, and pass
accounts of executors and administrators, to make orders for the
division of the disposition of the Property of the testator or intestate
in relation to the estate and effects of persons dying within the limits
of the court.
With respect to claims
under $100 in the District Court there is a small debt procedure
providing for the summary recovery of small debts through the clerk of
The district court is
also a court of record for the trial without a jury of any person
charged with certain criminal offences, provided the person so charged
In order to facilitate
speedy trial of actions at law numerous sittings of the District Court
are held in each judicial district. At the present time court is held at
least four times a year. At the beginning of each year the
Lieutenant-Governor in Council fixes the dates and places for the
The police magistrates
and justices of the peace are appointed by the lieutenant-governor in
council. The proceedings before these officers are governed by the
Criminal Code of Canada. They conduct preliminary trials for criminal
offenses and are compelled to make complete returns of all convictions
annually to the attorney-general.
With the exception of a
small force of police maintained by the municipalities of the cities and
larger towns, the task of maintaining order and the King's peace falls
upon the Alberta Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Police, the
latter being a force in which the officers are magistrates and the rank
and file constables. Detachments of these forces are stationed at
various points in the province and regular patrols extending to the
remotest corners of the province are enforced.
Appeals subject to
certain rules of court from the decisions of the District or Supreme
Courts are heard by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of
Alberta. This court has within its jurisdiction all the powers which are
inherent in any divisional court of the Supreme Court of Appeal of
in 1920 an Appellate
division of the Supreme Court of Alberta was formed as well as a Trial
division. Previous to that time appeals were heard by the Court en Bane,
that is, all the judges of the Supreme Court, except the Trial Judge of
the action, sat in appeal.
Appeals from the
decisions of the Appellate division may be taken to either the Supreme
Court of Canada, or directly to the Privy Council of the British Empire,
or to both in the order named.
The first Territorial
Judiciary was established in pursuance of Chapter 35 of the Statutes of
Canada, 1873, respecting the administration of justice and establishment
of a police force for the North West Territories.
Provision was made for
the appointment of stipendiary magistrates holding office during
pleasure with a limited jurisdiction defined by the Act. Increased
jurisdiction to deal with offences for which the maximum punishment did
not exceed seven years' imprisonment was vested in the judges of the
court of Queen's Bench of the Province of Manitoba, or two stipendiary
magistrates sitting as a court. The said causes were triable in the
territories in a summary way without the intervention of a jury. Power
was given to the justices of the peace and stipendiary magistrates to
commit for trial by court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba according to the
laws of procedure in force in that province any person charged with the
commission of an offence in the Territories punishable by death or
imprisonment in the penitentiary.
By this act the North
West Mounted Police force constituted any gaols and lock-ups provided
for the confinement of prisoners in the custody of the Mounted Police.
By the N. W. T. Act of
1875 provision was made for the more complete administration of justice
in the Territories, reserving, however, to a more limited extent, what
was formerly the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba.
This latter court was given an appellate jurisdiction in Territorial
appeals and for some years that was constituted to be the court of
Appeal for the territories.
By Cap. 7 of the Statutes
of Canada for 1877 the foregoing Act was amended in important
particulars. The jurisdiction exercisable by the Court of Queen's Bench
of Manitoba in Territorial cases was withdrawn and a stipendiary
magistrate and a justice of the peace with the intervention of a jury
vested with power to try charges where the maximum punishment exceeded
seven years' imprisonment. In cases where punishment was death two
justices of the peace were associated with the stipendiary magistrate.
By Cap. 25 of the
Statutes of Canada, 1880, the N. W. T. Act was again amended and
consolidated. The change respecting the administration of justice
provided that stipendiary magistrates were to associate with them one
justice of the peace, instead of two, to try capital cases. (E. g.
Amendments by Cap. 23 of
the Statutes of 1884 provided for the first time for appeals from the
conviction of justices of the peace to a stipendiary magistrate.
Chapter 25 of the
Statutes of Canada, 1886, introduced important and progressive changes.
The Territorial court presided over by stipendiary magistrates was
superseded by the Supreme Court of the North West Territories. Upon this
body were conferred all such powers and authority as by the law of
England were incident to a superior court on July 15th 1870. The Act
provided for five judges and the division of the Territory into judicial
districts. The appellate jurisdiction of the court of Queen's Bench in
Manitoba was superseded by the Court En Banc in the Territories sitting
as a court of appeal. rfI11ee judges formed a quorum.
The system as set forth
in the foregoing statements continues without essential change to the
present time. When the province was organized in 1905 it became
necessary to create a Supreme Court which was done by an Act of the
Legislature of 1907. In the same year the district court Act was passed.
The system of procedure
is contained in the Civil Justice Ordinance which is moulded after the
English judicature Act and that of Ontario. Where procedure or practice
is not provided for in this ordinance the English practice applies.
The procedure in criminal
cases subject to an Act of the Federal Parliament conforms as nearly as
possible to that existing in like cases in England on the 15th of July,
1870, but no grand jury is summoned and the petit jury consists of only
six jurors, men or women.
The trial of offenses is
commenced by a formal charge in writing, setting forth as in an
indictment the offense charged. A jury of six may be had in certain
civil cases. Only in serious criminal charges is the accused entitled to
a jury. A list of offenses where a jury is precluded is enumerated in
the N. W. T. Act. There is no grand jury.