Arbuthnot worked in the railway industry in his early career, building tracks for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Ontario. He then moved to Rat Portage, Ontario to work at the Western Lumber Company. He established his own lumber business after moving to Winnipeg in 1892.
He became a Winnipeg alderman for 1896 and 1897 before serving as City Parks Board chair the following two years. He was elected as Mayor to serve terms from 1901 to 1903. In 1907 he left Winnipeg for British Columbia and remained in that province until his death in 1931.
The City of Winnipeg named Arbuthnot Street in his honour.
- ^ a b Manitoba Historical Society - John Arbuthnot
- ^ History in Winnipeg Street Names at Manitoba Historical Society
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