Like his immediate predecessor, Alberta’s second Premier was also a lawyer. Arthur L. W. Sifton was Alberta’s first Chief Justice and played a prominent role in territorial, provincial, and federal politics.
Arthur Lewis Watkins Sifton was born on October 26, 1858, near St. Johns, Middlesex County, Canada West (Ontario). His father was John Wright Sifton who eventually became Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and president of the Manitoba Free Press Publishing Company. His mother was Kate Watkins, and his younger brother, Sir Clifford, was prominent in Manitoba and federal politics. Arthur L. W. Sifton was a Wesleyan Methodist.
In 1882, Arthur L. W. Sifton married Mary H. Deering of Cobourg, Ontario. They had two children: Nellie Louise and Lewis Raymond St. Clair.
In May of 1880, Sifton began studying law in Winnipeg and was admitted to the Manitoba Bar in 1883. In the early 1880s, he practised law with his brother Clifford in Brandon, Manitoba. Following that, he practised law in Prince Albert, North-West Territories, from 1885 to 1888, and after 1889, in Calgary, North-West Territories.
In 1903, Arthur L. W. Sifton was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the North-West Territories by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. After the Province of Alberta was established, he was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alberta in 1907. He resigned as Chief Justice and was appointed Premier of Alberta on May 26, 1910, by Lieutenant Governor George H. V. Bulyea. He was elected the Member for Vermilion in a by-election held on June 29, 1910, and his government was re-elected in the general elections of 1913 and 1917.
As well as serving as Premier, Arthur L. W. Sifton was also Provincial Treasurer (1910-12, 1913), Minister of Public Works (1910-12), and Minister of Railways and Telephones (1911-17). During his tenure as Premier, he expanded railway service, promoted the transfer of the control over natural resources from the federal government to the provincial government, and successfully held together a divided Alberta Liberal Party. In 1916, women were given the right to vote. Following a plebiscite in 1915, the Sifton Government enacted legislation in 1916 that severely restricted the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
On October 30, 1917, Arthur L. W. Sifton resigned as Premier of Alberta in order to join the federal Union Government of Prime Minister Sir Robert L. Borden. In the general election of December 17, 1917, Sifton was elected Member of Parliament for Medicine Hat. In 1917, he was appointed Minister of Customs. In addition, Sifton was appointed Minister of Customs and Revenue, and in 1919, he was appointed Minister of Public Works. Later the same year, he was appointed Secretary of State. As well, in 1919, he served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and, in 1920, he was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
A list of some of Arthur L. W. Sifton’s honours includes: King’s Counsel (1902) and an Honourary Doctor of Civil Laws degree, University of Alberta (1908). In 1911, he represented Alberta at the coronation of King George V.
Arthur L. W. Sifton died on January 21, 1921, in Ottawa, Ontario, and was buried in the Beechwood Cemetery. A boulevard in the city of Calgary and an elementary school in Edmonton are named in his memory.