||Macdonald's National Dream
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 10 Taking the West
During the 1870s, Canada and Europe suffered a serious depression. During the 1878 election campaign, John A. Macdonald, then a member of the Opposition, launched his successful National Policy which promoted tariffs to protect Canadian markets from foreign competition, thereby stimulating Canadian industry and creating jobs.
Macdonald resumed leadership on the basis of this economic strategy. He immediately re-launched the transcontinental railroad project. He felt the railroad was essential to the continuation and growth of the Dominion of Canada. The United States had already completed a transcontinental railroad and settlement pressures from the south were being felt in the Canadian west. A railroad would connect the east with the west and ensure the sovereignty of Canada across the continent.
Macdonald's government granted enormous subsidies to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had been under new management since the Pacific Scandal of 1873. He also gave the company immense expanses of land, as well as the monopoly for operating the future railroad. News of this great venture stimulated land speculation in the west. New cities such as Winnipeg, the entry point to the west, emerged overnight, and settlers, enticed by advertising extolling the climate, fertility and beauty of the Prairies, homesteaded along the projected site, which passed through northern Saskatchewan to Edmonton. But the CPR decided to build the route through the southern Prairies where its land was located, creating discontent and hardship among settlers to the north. Despite this, the west grew and prospered. And so did the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Métis and Native populations of the west were suffering from the near extinction of the buffalo herds, the relocation to reserves, and the broken promises of food and assistance. Their lives would be permanently transformed by the influx of the newcomers.
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