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Clifford Sifton was at the centre of political controversies throughout his career. A study of his life and times focuses inevitably on major issues in Canadian history. Clifford Sifton: The Young Napoleon - the first of a two-volume biography - examines Sifton?s early career including his years in the Manitoba legislature up to the mid-point of his service in the federal cabinet.
After Sifton?s first election in the 1880?s, his political rise was dramatic. As Manitoba?s attorney general from 1891 to 1896, he fought to establish Manitoba?s national schools system - one of the major issues of his career. Like many westerners, Sifton believed the social structure of central Canada should not be imposed on the West and recommended rejection of the bilingual ?cultural compact? of Confederation.
Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier made Sifton Minister of the Interior in 1896, and his voice became one of the strongest in the cabinet. In addition to his aggressive efforts to settle the Prairies, he helped to shape tariff policy, administered the Yukon during the problematic gold rush days, and became involved in policies related to the Indians, the International Joint Commission and Imperial connections.
?In the late 1890?s he secretly purchased the influential Manitoba Free Press and used it to circulate politically biased stories to other western Liberal newspapers. This move damaged his reputation with many of his colleagues and with members of the public. Often under attack, Sifton was a born fighter who both generated and revelled in controversy - a proclivity which earned him the nickname of ?the Young Napoleon.?