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Canada's Economic Development


Montreal city in 19th
Montreal city in 19th

Except for the five-year interruption of the Mackenzie government, Macdonald was prime minister from 1867 to 1891. Nation building and loyalty to monarch and empire were the trademarks of his later administrations. In 1878 his Conservative Party introduced the National Policy. This was a package of tariffs, or taxes on imports from abroad, designed to make them more expensive and thereby give a price advantage to Canadian manufacturers. Gradually the term was broadened to cover all of Macdonald’s nation-building activities, including western expansion, railroads, and immigration. The policy also included links, both symbolic and practical, with Britain and the empire. The Conservatives used “National Policy” as a slogan into the 1930s.

All parts of Canada hoped to benefit from industrial development. The new cities on the CPR track, like Vancouver and Winnipeg, wanted products to ship by rail. The Atlantic provinces were looking for new industry because their golden age of shipbuilding was declining as steel and iron ships replaced wooden ones. Some industrial projects did develop in Nova Scotia, but the main areas of industrialization were southern Ontario and Montréal.

Industry grew rapidly in these areas, and population shifted from rural areas to cities. Many central Canadian industries became national enterprises, shipping their products west and east on the new railroads. Eaton’s, a Toronto department store, became a national retailer. The Massey-Harris Company of Toronto became the largest corporation in Canada and the largest farm-implements firm in the empire.

Montréal had been the economic and financial capital of Canada, but now Toronto challenged it in its new role as a center of industry. The spread of industrial capitalism also saw more Canadians become wage-earning urban workers, who organized to improve their situation. Wage labor and labor rights movements were not new to Canada. Skilled tradesmen such as printers, coopers, and bakers had begun organizing as early as the 1830s; and in the 1840s workers on canal-building projects had rioted for better conditions.

During the 1870s labor organizations began to campaign for the nine-hour workday. The first Canadian law legalizing labor unions was passed in 1872. The Trades and Labour Congress linked unions across Canada in the 1880s. At the same time, the radical Knights of Labor sought to unite all workers regardless of skill, sex, or race, with the exception of Chinese immigrants, whom they barred from their ranks. In 1894 Labour Day—the first Monday in September—became an official national holiday.

In 1896 gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Yukon Territory, and by 1897 thousands of people rushed there to search for gold. This was just one economic bonanza for Canada at the turn of the 20th century.

Industry and commerce expanded in central Canada, and the country’s vast mineral wealth and hydroelectric power resources were being rapidly developed. As small-scale manufacturing evolved into large corporate enterprises, Canada acquired a new class of millionaires. Railroads sprouted everywhere; eventually there were three competing transcontinental rail systems, the Canadian Pacific, Canadian Northern, and National Transcontinental. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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