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22 Mar 2012
PRAIRIES, late 19th-early 20th c.
INTRODUCTION: After a brief look back at the quarter century following
Confederation, this lecture will focus mainly on the Laurier era, 1896-1911. The so-
called “Laurier Boom” was characterized by large-scale immigration and the
settlement of the Prairie West (See Journeys, 287-97.) These developments
paralleled, and facilitated, urbanization and industrial development, particularly in
the St. Lawrence/southern Great Lakes heartland, but also in the “new” (northern)
Ontario (See Journeys, Ch. 15). The Laurier Liberals’ confident expectation of ongoing
prosperity from all these developments led to excessive railway building and, as it
turned out, unwarranted confidence in what Laurier predicted would be “Canada’s
century.” Even during the boom times, prosperity was uneven, and there were seeds
of future troubles in what was taking place, troubles that were economic, social, and
Demography and Immigration before 1896: more people leaving Canada than
arriving/staying despite Macdonald’s policies to encourage immigration and western
Immigration changes after 1896
Increased numbers as a result of “push” and “pull” factors
Immigrant patterns: motives, “agency,” ethnic origins
Immigration policies, practices and patterns as outcomes of conflicting
pressures: some examples
Agricultural Settlement on the Prairies:
Factors facilitating growth in the Laurier era
The significance of wheat as an export commodity
Distinctive aspects of the Prairie way of life, and early emergence of regional
Conclusion: There was certainly a reality to the “Laurier Boom,” but it arguably
owed more to international economic patterns than to new and distinctive
government policies. Moreover, in the Maritimes and among the urban poor there
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