Chapter 5

Destinies, 1871–1914: Competing Visions of Canada’s Future


10 May 1878 Parliament approved the Canada Temperance Act, which allowed any city or county to ban the sale of alcohol, after a majority had endorsed the measure in a referendum. The temperance movement had begun in the United States and had spread to Canada. In the First World War, both Canada and the United States enacted national prohibition.
14 March 1879 The Conservative government introduced the National Policy, consisting of high tariffs to discourage the import of manufactured goods. The policy benefitted Central Canada at the expense of the West and the Maritimes. It also encouraged American companies to set up factories in Canada to avoid paying the tariff, leading to widespread US investment in Canada. Macdonald equated the National Policy with patriotism. In the 1891 federal election, his last campaign, he accused the Liberals of treason for wanting free trade with the United States, a plan he had considered just months earlier.
28 June 1894 Labor Day became a national holiday in the United States. Less than one month later, it also became a national holiday in Canada. In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, a leader of the American Federation of Labor, visited Toronto’s annual labour festival. He organized a similar celebration in New York that September. The event spread to other communities and eventually became a holiday in several states. Most of the rest of the Western world celebrates workers on the first of May, while Canadians and the Americans have Labour Day in early September, a holiday they created together.
20 October 1903 A commission ruled against Canada in the Alaska Boundary Dispute. Britain and the United States had each appointed three members to the commission to settle the dispute. The British appointees consisted of two Canadians and the chief justice of England. In the end, the English jurist voted with the three Americans, outraging Canadians, though Canada never had a strong case.
8 June 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the National Conservation Commission to help protect the country’s natural resources. The Canadian equivalent, the Commission of Conservation, was created the next year.
11 January 1909 The Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission (IJC) to deal with the use of water resources along the border and to prevent pollution of these waters. The IJC is a permanent body, composed of Canadians and Americans. It was the first effort to institutionalize the relationship by creating permanent intergovernmental organizations to manage Canadian–American affairs.
21 January 1911 Representatives from Canada and the United States reached a Reciprocity Agreement. The trade deal provided for free trade in most natural products and in a small number of manufactured goods. In the United States, the response to the agreement was largely positive, and the US Congress quickly approved it. In Canada, the agreement caused a backlash in Ontario, stoking fears of American annexation. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier fought the 1911 election on the issue, but was defeated after 15 years in office, killing the reciprocity agreement.
16 August 1916 Britain and the United States signed the Migratory Birds Convention, a milestone in the history of environmental protection. The initiative had come from the United States, where the conservation movement was pressing the federal government to protect wildlife. The convention restricted or banned the hunting of various species of birds.