- National Unity
- A Strong Central Government
- Minority Rights
- National Expansion
- Railways and Economic Development
- Cultural Nationalism
Railways at the Turn of the Century
The expansion of the west made possible by the construction of railways and the increased industrialization of central Canada generated a mood of optimism. The Liberals, under Wilfrid LAURIER, ended the post-Macdonald Conservative regime in the 1896 election. Eight years later the prime minister expressed the sentiments of many when he declared that the 20th century would belong to Canada [see Transportation Infrastructure]. In 1903 he took a decisive step:
“This optimism would lead Laurier to design another gigantic project: the construction of a second transcontinental railway. An extravagant undertaking, it would elevate him for the moment to the rank of the Fathers of Confederation.
“The need for such a transcontinental line seemed urgent to many people, for the Canadian Pacific Railway was clearly showing its limitations. In the west, it could not transport everything produced by the farmers, while in the east it did not reach into northern Ontario or northern Quebec.... In 1903 Laurier personally took almost complete control of the huge project.”
Construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway encountered a number of problems, including ballooning materials costs, capital shortfalls caused by a looming war in Europe, and slower population growth along the railway’s route [see Edson Joseph CHAMBERLIN]. The line would nevertheless be completed in 1914.
To learn more about railway transportation under the Laurier government, consult the biographies in the lists that follow.