The Canadian Commonwealth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 231 pages of information about The Canadian Commonwealth.

CHAPTER XI

TO EUROPE BY HUDSON BAY

I

It must have become apparent to the most casual observer that transportation has been to Canada more than a system of exploitation by capital.  Transportation has been to Canada an integral part of her very national life—­which, perhaps, explains how with the exception of extravagance incident to a period of great prosperity her railroad systems have been founded on sound finance from bed-rock up.  In spite of huge land grants—­in all fifty-five million acres—­and in the case of one railroad wild stock fluctuations from forty-eight to three hundred dollars—­it is a question if a dollar of public money has ever been diverted from roadbed to promoters’ pockets.  Certainly, in the case of the strongest road financially in Canada, no director of the road has ever juggled with underground wires to unload worthless securities on widows and orphans.  Railroad stocks have never been made the football of speculators.  Charters in the old days were juggled through legislatures with land grants of eight and twelve thousand acres per mile; but at that time these acres were worthless; and the system of land grants has for the last ten years been discontinued.  Because railroads are a necessary part of Canada’s national development, state aid of late has taken the form of loans, cash grants and guarantee of bonds by provincial and federal governments.  This has given Canada’s Railway Commission a whip handle over rates and management, which perhaps explains why railroads in Canada have never been regarded as lawful game by the financial powers that prey.  Including municipal, provincial and federal grants, stocks and bonds, Canada has spent on her railroads a billion and a half.  Including capital cost and maintenance, Canada has spent on her canals $138,000,000.  On steamship subsidies, Canada’s yearly grants have gradually risen from a few hundred thousands to as high as two millions in some years.  Nor does this cover all the national expenditure on transportation; for besides the thirty-eight millions spent on dredging and improving navigation on the St. Lawrence, twelve millions have been appropriated for improving Halifax Harbor; and only recently federal guarantee for bonds to the extent of forty-three millions was accorded one transcontinental.  This road was so heavily guaranteed by provincial governments that if it had failed it would have involved four western provinces.  Its plight arose from two causes—­the extravagant cost of labor and material in an inflated era, and the depression in the world money markets curtailing all extension.  Workmen on this road were paid three to seventeen dollars a day, who would have received a dollar and a half to four dollars ten years ago.  In fact, the owners of the road themselves received those wages thirty years ago.  Sections cost

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The Canadian Commonwealth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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