Go back a little in history! The most pugnacious United Empire Loyalist that ever trekked from the American colonies to Ontario and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would hardly deny that Canada was grossly misgoverned under the French regime. Laborers were forced to work unpaid on fortifications, on roads, on governors’ palaces. The farmer was taxed to death in tithes to the seignior. Shipping was confined to French vessels owned by royal favorites. Fishing was permitted only under a license. The fur trade was a corrupt monopoly held by a closed ring round the Royal Intendant. New France was so mis-governed that the sons of the best families took to the woods and the Pays d’en Haut—to which fact we owe the exploration of three-quarters of the continent.
And the most pugnacious Loyalist will hardly deny that under the British regime from 1759 to Durham’s Report in 1840 the mismanagement was almost as gross as the misgovernment under the French. If any one entertain doubts on that score, let him look up the record on grants of thousands of acres to favorites of the Family Compact; on peculations of public funds in Quebec by irresponsible executives; on mistrials of disorders in the Fur Country, when North-Wester and Hudson’s Bay traders cut each other’s throats; on the constant bicker and bark between Protestant Ontario and Catholic Quebec, which kept the country rent by religious dissensions when men should have been empire-building.
Set down the cause of Canada’s slow progress up to 1840 to misgovernment. Durham’s Report remedied all that; and confederation followed in 1867. Was Canada’s progress as swift after 1867 as it ought to have been? Examine a few figures:
In 1790 the United States population was four millions.
In 1800 the United States population was five millions.
In 1914 the United States population was ninety-eight millions.
In 1891 Canada’s population was five millions.
In 1900 Canada’s population was five million three hundred thousand.
In 1914 Canada’s population was seven million eight hundred thousand.
In point of population Canada is just one hundred years behind the United States. Why? Granted her foreign trade is one-fourth as great as that of the United States. How is it that a people with such a genius for success in foreign trade have been so dilatory in their work of nation-building? Slow progress can no longer be ascribed to misgovernment. Her system of justice is one of the most perfect in the world. Her parliamentary representation could hardly be more complete. No people has stricter bit and rein on executive ministers. Through an anguish of travail Canada has worked out an excellent system of self-government. Why is her progress still slow?