The Empire and the century/The Making of Canada




Canada is a country which, from the very beginning, has presented great obstacles to the work of development. Rich as it is in agricultural resources, in the wealth of the sea, of the forest, and the mine, Nature has decreed that these riches should only be made available for the use of man by persistent and self-sacrificing effort. Canals were required to make the great waterways a highway of commerce, mighty rivers had to be bridged, mountains pierced and overcome, and great stretches of difficult country spanned by railways. Looking back now over the history of the past century, it may fairly be said that the Canadian people have never flinched from the gigantic tasks which were set them. With varying success and encouragement, but with unvarying determination, they have steadily pursued their purpose, until at the present time they are able to see, at no great distance, the complete triumph of their efforts.

The early history of the country is a tale of individual effort expended in performing the toilsome labour of the pioneer. To the first settlers who subdued the forests of the older provinces and built up civilized communities there succeeded, in due time, a generation of men who were taught by their leaders to have a wider outlook—an outlook which embraced the whole of British North America and contemplated the creation of great public utilities which should lay a broad and strong foundation for Canadian nationality.

When Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario were formed into the Dominion of Canada in 1867 the new Dominion had a population of approximately 8,400,000 souls. It had but the nucleus of a railway system, and its canal system was in its infancy. British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Rupert's Land, and the North-Western Territory were not a part of the original confederation. The Maritime Provinces were not connected by any Canadian railway with Ontario and Quebec. Between Ontario, the most westerly province of the Dominion, and the prairies of the North-West, whose agricultural capabilities were only vaguely known, there stretched a vast, inhospitable, little-known region, believed to consist mainly of rocks and swamps, offering, as it was then thought, no promise of support to a population, and impassable except to the experienced woodsman or voyageur. When the prairie region was reached and traversed the mighty barriers of the Rockies and the Selkirks still shut off the Pacific Coast Province from the rest of British North America.

Three great projects were present to the minds of the fathers of our confederation—viz., the acquisition of Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Rupert's Land, and the North-Western Territory; the union of the Maritime Provinces with Ontario and Quebec by the Inter-Colonial Railway; and the union of all the provinces by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

When it is considered that the total cost of these enterprises was not less than half as much, in proportion to the population of Canada at confederation, as was the entire national debt of Great Britain in proportion to the population of the United Kingdom, that the people of Canada were possessed of little acquired or accumulated wealth, being even at that time a large debtor in the money-markets of the world, and that they were only entering upon their national existence, it must be admitted that those who declared such plans to be chimerical had much to warrant their opinions.

Nevertheless, all of these plans were quickly carried out. The desired territory was acquired, all of British North America except Newfoundland being united to Canada; the Inter-Colonial Railway was undertaken and rapidly pushed to completion; and in 1885, within nineteen years of the passage of the British North America Act, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed—a railway which now enjoys the distinction of being the only single system which spans the North American Continent.

The years that have passed since 1867 have been years of chequered fortune; but throughout them all there has been steady progress and a constant acquisition of greater knowledge of the resources and possibilities of the country.

The wealth of Canadian fisheries has long been known and taken advantage of to the fullest possible extent So well known, indeed, is it that the desire of our Southern neighbours to participate in its advantages has from time to time given rise to difficult international questions.

Other resources have perhaps not been so well known. To the knowledge which we possessed of the value of the timber of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick has of late years been added the certainty that we possess the finest supply of pulp-wood in the world. For thousands of miles the white spruce forests stand in the valleys of our rivers, contiguous to water powers, easily accessible and capable of the most economical transportation. There may be obstacles to overcome, there may be temporary lulls in development; but one of the things which seems to be abundantly clear is that in the long-run, sooner or later, the country which has the raw material, the power, and the facilities for transportation will do the manufacturing, and that Canada will be the great home of the pulp and paper industry of the world.

The precious metals are found more or less in almost every portion of our country, but their exploitation is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, as a producer of gold Canada, in the last year for which full statistics are available (1903), took rank as the fifth country in the world.

Coal and iron, the great bases of modern commercial development, are found in very large quantities. It is no doubt true that with a sparse population, with a limited home market, and with great distances to cover, the pioneers of our iron and steel industries have found it difficult to make headway against the highly organized and specialized industries of richer and older countries. A good beginning, however, has been made, the initial difficulties have been largely overcome, the works are now reported to be flourishing, and a steady development may reasonably be looked for.

In the development of water-power, its electrical conduct, and its application to the various services which require the application of power, we have little to learn from any competitor. Canada is the home of the water-power, and as rapidly as the application can be rendered profitable, power is being developed. Not to mention hundreds of minor enterprises, power is now being electrically transmitted from Shawinigan Falls to the City of Montreal, a distance of about ninety miles, and development work is going on by which the mighty power of Niagara will, within a very short time, be rendered available for a radius of one hundred miles upon the Canadian side of the river, proving of incalculable benefit to the locality directly affected, and indirectly conferring benefit upon the whole country.

I have referred above to the natural obstacles presented to the work of development in Canada. Unquestionably the overcoming of these obstacles and the establishment of efficient transportation agencies constitute the greatest achievement in our history.

It is difficult for anyone who has not closely followed the story of this work to understand the difficulties with which it has been beset at every point. Even the majority of Canadians fail to appreciate the magnitude of the achievements of their own country. The proximity and geographical relation of the wealthy and populous country to the South has been a deterrent factor in a variety of ways.

Take, for instance, the case of the Inter-Colonial Railway.

The shortest and best route from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Montreal is through the State of Maine. When the project of building a railway from New Brunswick to Quebec through British territory was first mooted, it was denounced by Maritime Province newspapers as savouring of lunacy. Why, it was said, take a long and difficult route in preference to a short and easy one? The Canadian route involved an additional length of about two hundred miles, and traversed a much more difficult country. Nevertheless, national and Imperial sentiment prevailed. The construction of the road was made a part of the understanding upon which confederation was brought about. It was undertaken and completed. To-day we so fully recognise the wisdom, nay, the necessity, of the work that we are about to construct another shorter and better all-Canadian line from Quebec to the Maritime Province ports.

Consider the case of the Canadian Pacific. It was so much easier to connect the Eastern Provinces with the North-West by utilizing American railways, already constructed south of Lake Superior, that the project of building around the barren, rocky, and inhospitable north shore was regarded with the greatest disfavour. It is even said that, after the contract for building the line was made and ratified by Parliament, some of the original incorporators of the Company never could take the plan seriously, and even went so far as to dissociate themselves from the enterprise when they found that no other course would be allowed. Nothing but the ultimatum of the Government, backed by liberal assistance, brought about the construction of the North Shore line. To-day it is so well recognised as a necessary part of the Canadian transportation system that we have in hand the construction of a second line, not only around the north shore of Lake Superior, but directly, by an almost air-line, across the great Hinterland of Ontario and Quebec from the City of Quebec to the City of Winnipeg, with easier grades and more favourable curvature, to furnish another Canadian outlet for the rapidly-growing exports of the North-West.

The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rocky Mountains was another difficult feat. Years were spent in exploring the different passes. Tremendous engineering difficulties were overcome; money was lavishly expended; but the work was finished some years in advance of the time required by the contract with the Government. Here, again, time has demonstrated that our people were building wisely. Though even after the line was completed many would never believe that it had before it a commercial future. To-day, after the lapse of only twenty years, it is recognised as one of the greatest and most profitable railway properties in the world; and the Government of Canada has within a year past made a contract with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company for another line which shall traverse the northern portion of the prairie country, cross the Rocky Mountains by one of the northerly passes, and find an outlet upon the Pacific Coast some hundreds of miles to the north of the Canadian Pacific Railway Pacific terminus. The enormous trade of the Orient will then be made accessible to the producers on the wheat-fields of the Canadian North-West by two trunk lines, which, crossing the Rocky Mountains, will connect at their terminal ports with steamships plying across the Pacific.

The Canadian Pacific Railway is now fed by branches many hundreds of miles in length in all parts of Canada. In the North-West a new competitor has arisen in the shape of the Canadian Northern Railway, a line begun only ten years ago, which runs westerly from the head of Lake Superior, and already has about 1,400 miles of railway in operation. It is pursuing an aggressive policy of extension, and hopes within a short time to find a new outlet for the products of the West from a port upon Hudson's Bay, from which point steamships will reach Liverpool by an ocean voyage as short as that from the City of Montreal.

Altogether, the work of Canada in railway building must be admitted to constitute a creditable record. Starting at confederation with a length of 2,278 miles, she now has a system of 19,408 miles in total length; and when the works now actually provided for and definitely undertaken are completed, somewhere about the year 1911, the sum total will be not less than 23,000 miles, without account of the many shorter lines and branches which will, in the ordinary course of events, add greatly to the total.

Canadian waterways are upon a magnificent scale, and their improvement has always occupied a considerable share of public attention. The main system extends from the Straits of Belle Isle to the head of Lake Superior, a distance of about 2,400 miles. But rapids, shoals, rocky shores, sand bars, and waterfalls intervened to check and hinder the early navigator. Very large sums of money have been spent to construct canals, to deepen channels, to remove shoals, and to light and buoy the route in order to assist navigation. It is impossible to state accurately the amounts of money that have been so expended, but it is far within the mark to say that the work up to the present time represents a total outlay exceeding $80,000,000. As a result we have 14 feet of water from Lake Superior to the sea, easily the finest system of fresh-water navigation in the world. The total number of vessels in the registry books of the Dominion is about 7,500, with a tonnage of about 800,000 tons, approximately one-third that shown by the registry of the United States. This, however, gives no indication of our ocean-going trade, a large part of which is done by vessels of British and foreign register. The total tonnage entering the ports of Montreal and Quebec alone last year was 2,236,601.

What is our commercial and industrial position? Have the efforts made to develop the country strained its resources, or placed upon it a burden beyond its strength? On the contrary, it may be stated with sober truth that there is no country in the world with an equal population where there is so little poverty, and where, man for man, the people are so well to do. The tale of increasing surpluses, growing bank deposits, expanding trade, and developing industries, repeated year by year by our Minister of Finance, has become almost monotonous.

The revenue of Canada in 1868 was $13,687,928; in 1904 it was $70,679,251. Deposits in banks in 1868 were $37,678,571; in 1904, $509,095,621. Foreign trade in 1868 was $131,027,532; in 1904, $472,733,038. Every barometer of trade gives the same indication of progress and prosperity. In a speech recently delivered by Sir Richard Cartwright, one of our financial authorities, and the present Minister of Trade and Commerce, he claimed that the proportionate growth of Canadian trade in recent years exceeded that of any country in the world.

If such be the undoubted facts, if the record above set forth is not overstated (and it can easily be verified), to whom is the credit due? What is the source of the financial strength and elasticity which has enabled this record to be made? There can be only one answer. Giving all the credit to every other industry, it must be admitted that the source of Canada's strength and prosperity is the agricultural industry. It is the labour of the Canadian farmer that has produced the wealth from which all these results have followed. The products of the farm, developed and improved, and rendered more valuable in accordance with modern methods of production, treatment, and transportation, are the cornerstone of our prosperity. And when we speak of the future, while we dwell with some pride and satisfaction upon our resources of gold and silver, of iron, coal, and lumber, and do not minimize the great industries which naturally grow up in a country of such varied resources as Canada, it is to the wheat-fields of the North-West that we turn our eyes with a feeling that there will be no disappointment, no failure, no losing of the pay streak or the lode, that from the prairies a stream of wealth, ever increasing in volume, will flow through the arteries of commerce, and build up our commercial institutions on a scale far exceeding anything we have experienced in the past.

In Manitoba and the two new Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta there are, roughly speaking, over 200,000,000 acres of land known to be fit for cultivation, and the population is at the present time about 750,000 souls. They cultivated last year altogether 5,250,000 acres. They produced 60,000,000 bushels of wheat, and 66,000,000 bushels of other grains. This year there will be 5,750,000 acres under cultivation. The rest awaits the plough. If 750,000 people cultivating 5,250,000 of acres of land produce 126,000,000 of bushels of grain, and there yet remains more than 190,000,000 of acres to be brought under cultivation, is it too much to say that within a few years the somewhat grandiloquent title of 'The Granary of the Empire' will be more than realized.

At the present time we are sending into these provinces annually from 130,000 to 150,000 people. They come as homeseekers, determined to go upon the land. Within two or three years, whether with or without capital, they almost invariably realize their desire, and take up land for themselves. They are coming without Government assistance, with no help except an almost perfectly organized system of reception and guidance and thoroughly efficient arrangements for transportation by steamship and railway lines. They come from many countries and speak many tongues. Proportionately, at the present time, one-third are from Great Britain, one-third from the United States, and one-third from other countries.

Why do they come? Because Canada is known to possess and to offer free to the willing worker of any nationality a great domain of first-class agricultural land where the frugal and industrious man may speedily become an independent proprietor, a self-supporting and self-respecting citizen of a free British country, where life and property are absolutely protected, and where desirable religious, social, and material conditions surround the family. Our 150,000 settlers, with a few exceptions, are taken from the point where they reach Canada, and at once placed in touch with conditions that enable them to realize their ambition. They settle upon land and become producers. They immediately begin the process of enriching the country, adding to its production of wealth, increasing the commerce, furnishing traffic for the railways and steamships, giving occupation to middlemen by the thousand. Contrast this with what is happening in the United States. There the 800,000 immigrants who enter the United States never see the possibility of independence. They are dumped into the cities and towns, they bear upon the already overcrowded labour-market, and increasing the means of livelihood of the inhabitants of the country, they divide up that which exists with those who were previously hard set to make ends meet, and so reduce the general standard of comfort and living.

A moment's consideration of the facts shows that for Canada its immigration policy spells wealth and development. Therefore we welcome the industrious homeseeker, and if he be of British origin, the welcome is on that account the heartier.

I have so far spoken only of material progress. A word as to the other matters.

From the earliest settlement Canada has taken advanced ground on the subject of education. Nowhere has the individual citizen, poor though he might be, been more ready to submit to taxation for the purpose of promoting popular enlightenment. Next to the Church the public school is, of all Canadian institutions, the closest to the people's hearts. Its management and control is absolutely and directly in their own hands, and it is a source of just pride to know that the management is almost universally efficient and successful to a degree that leaves little to be desired. Our Universities, grammar-schools, and academies, while with few exceptions not boasting the huge endowments which private and public liberality has given to similar institutions in older and wealthier countries, are nevertheless well fitted to discharge their functions. On the vital question of education our fellow-citizens of the Empire may rest satisfied that we are not behind the best traditions of our race.

Looking over the whole ground, it may be said that Canada presents to-day the spectacle of a young, vigorous, and united people, which by faith and courage has come through trying struggles, overcome great obstacles, and made good its title to national existence. Its history has not been of the spectacular kind which appeals to the imagination; but it has made for the development of the qualities necessary to national strength. While building railways, constructing canals, overcoming mountain ranges, bridging rivers, and developing the wealth afforded by Nature, she has carefully provided for the religious wants of the people, preserved the love of home and family, which is the foundation of all nationhood, established and carried on a sound and progressive system of education, and generally met all the demands of a growing civilization. Religious toleration, social order, and commercial and industrial development have gone hand in hand. Other countries may now be at or past the zenith of their career; Canada is but entering upon hers. She faces the great undertaking of the future—such as the construction of another transcontinental railway; such as the assimilation of great masses of population—with a confidence that is born of hard experience and clear and serene faith in her capacity to repeat the success of the past. Questions as to her political future do not seriously trouble her. Such questions will find a solution along safe and conservative lines. Loyal to the Empire, but self-respecting and self-reliant, regardful of the rights and privileges of others, but jealous and tenacious of their own, the people of Canada look forward confidently to the time when a great British community upon the northern half of the North American Continent will be second to none in the sisterhood of a confederated Empire.