Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Conservatives attack the Siftonian cult, 1905

Clifford Sifton
Nothing compares to the blood lust of a parliamentarian when sensing an opponent's weakness.  In 1905, when Clifford Sifton resigned from the Laurier cabinet, it was thought that the time had come for the Conservative wolves to move in for the kill.  D.J. Hall's biography of Sifton, notes that his position at the helm of the Liberal machine, his penchant for cutting debate, and a questionable record of profits and patronage, meant that Sifton was natural prey for the circling pack.  Without his protection in the cabinet as Minister of the Interior and sensing some loosened bonds to the Liberal party, it was prime time to lunge at the wounded Grit.


In a debate over Sifton's clandestine immigration bureau, the North Atlantic Trading Company (NAT) (an agency which gave bonuses to immigration agents who sent settlers to Canada), the Conservative George E. Foster laid into Sifton's profits and patronage:

"The] Siftonian cult...is a kind of modern Pilgrim's Progress - not to a spiritual but to a material Paradise.  Your novice enters it a pauper - he comes out a millionaire.  He goes in a poor pilgrim, leaning on his staff and with modest garments, he comes out a pampered prince, clad in fine raiment, riding in liveried chariots.  Whiskey permits, Treadgold concessions, claim lifting in the north; land looting, timber, coal scrip, wire fence graft in the middle areas.  Immigration frauds everywhere - crowned by a million dollar contract with a headless, houseless, homeless monstrosity [the NAT Co.], a sort of fugitive maw into which the Siftonians pour Canada's hard earned taxes." (Hall, Clifford Sifton, V.2, p 184)

Ukrainian Language poster from Sifton's North Atlantic Trading Company which advertises 160 free acres of land in Canada.
Despite the best efforts of the Conservatives, Sifton would remain active in politics until 1917.  While his wealth was obvious to his contemporaries, the extent to which he profited off his political position still remains a mystery.

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