John Alexander Mathieson
Premier from 1911 to 1917
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JOHN ALEXANDER MATHIESON WAS BORN on May 19, 1863 at Harrington in Queen's County. He was
educated in local schools and then worked for two years as a clerk. He then entered Prince of
Wales College in Charlottetown and on graduation entered the teaching profession. He taught in
Island schools and in Manitoba for a total of six years. He studied law in Charlottetown and he
was called to the Bar of Prince Edward Island in 1894.
Mathieson established a law practice in Georgetown and this led to an involvement in the political life of the community and the province. In 1900, he was elected to the provincial legislature as a Conservative and just three years later he was named leader of the party and leader of the Opposition. In the election of 1904 he contested the Georgetown seat in the House and won. He continued to represent that area until 1917. His platform of 1908 set out in detail the Island's claims against the Federal Government. In 1911, Premier H.J. Palmer's government was defeated and Mathieson was called upon to form the government, becoming the twelfth premier of Prince Edward Island since the Province entered Confederation. He served as Premier until his resignation in 1917.
During his tenure as Premier, there was much pressure on the Federal Government on behalf of the Province to have Ottawa fulfill its promises of 1873. These Confederation agreements promised a better subsidy, more efficient communications and transportation and representation. After considerable negotiation with Ottawa, the subsidy matter was solved for the time being in 1912 and Premier Mathieson continued pressure for the establishment of a ferry service to the Island to end the winter isolation and also to improve the railway system on Prince Edward Island. In 1915, plans for the present ferry system of ice-breaking ferries was announced and the first of these, the "SS Prince Edward Island" began operating from Borden, Prince Edward Island to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick in 1917.
Also of prime importance was the problem of representation. Under the British North America Act, Prince Edward Island's representation in Ottawa dropped from six in 1873 to four and the 1911 census showed that the Island could be reduced even further with fewer members in the House of Commons. Premier Mathieson fought this change and was instrumental in having the B.N.A. Act changed to provided for a minimum of four Federal members, the same as we have at the present time.
In 1917, Premier Mathieson resigned and was appointed Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island, a position he held until his resignation in March of 1943.
As a member of the White Commission in 1931 he asserted, in a dissenting opinion, various claims of the Maritime Provinces which he considered still unsatisfied.
Following his death on January 7, 1947, a local Island newspaper in pointing to the record of his term in office called Mathieson "the maker of modern Prince Edward Island".
The former premier is buried in the Sherwood Cemetery in Charlottetown.