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The Canadian Pacific Railway Timeline
Transcript of The Canadian Pacific Railway Timeline
The Pacific Scandal
The Liberals and Mackenzie
John A. Macdonald and the CPR
Conservative Return to Power and the National Policy
The CPR Syndicate
William Van Horne
The Battle of the Routes
The Northwest Rebellion
The Change of Route
The Railway is Completed
In 1872, Canada had its first federal election since confederation. John A. Macdonald was also searching for a company or man that had enough wealth to complete the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He discovered the wealthy railroad builder Sir Hugh Allan and planned on giving him the contract to build the railway, but Macdonald persuaded Allan to give him up to $350 000 for campaign funds in exchange for the contract. News broke out that the conservatives were taking bribes from Sir Hugh Allan and even his american backers, which was unknown to Macdonald. The Conservatives won the election, but were forced to resign and the construction of the CPR was slowed during the reign of the next government to take power.
The liberals and their leader, Alexander Mackenzie took power in Canada after the Pacific Scandal. Mackenzie had different views from John A. Macdonald and believed that the railway was a waste of time and money. At this time, there was also a great economic depression in Canada. Mackenzie, however, was forced to allow land surveying continue due to British Columbia's threat of seceding from Confederation if the railway was not built. Though the railway was thought of as a risk, financially, its production continued.
The route for the railway's journey through the mountainous British Columbia started to become an issue. The task of working out the best one was given to a land surveyor named Sanford Flemming. The railway was to pass through Yellowhead Pass and then onto Port Simpson, Victoria, or New Westminster, but there were many arguments on which of these places the railway was to go. This became known as "the Battle of the Routes". Though there was so much fighting over the route of the railway, a completely different route was chosen many years later.
John A. Macdonald and his political party returned to power in 1878 and brought with them their National Policy. This policy clearly stated that the Canadian Pacific Railway was one of the governments top priorities yet again, as well as holding plans to raise tariffs on imported goods and increasing western immigration. The National Policy was a government plan to get the CPR up and running and make it more useful to people at the same time.
After such a scandal with Sir Hugh Allan, John A. Macdonald was on the search for more investors to finance his grandiose railway plan. He gathered Donald Smith, a member of the Hudson's Bay Company; George Stephen, the president of the Bank of Montreal; and James J. Hill and offered them large sums of money and land in exchange for them building the railway. They formed the CPR Syndicate and planned to complete the railway in 10 years.
After the CPR Syndicate took over construction, they changed the route of the railway to much farther south than planned. This was only in order to avoid land speculators in the north who knew the original route and bought up land along it in order to sell it for much more than it was bought at, but it changed the growth of Canada greatly because of how much the country relied on the CPR.
After construction of the first 230 km of the CPR were completed in a painstakingly slow amount of time, the Syndicate knew they needed a leader with expertise and drive. William Van Horne was perfect for the job and continued the construction four times as fast as it was previously being done. Many major money troubles occurred during Van Horne's leadership, even an extra $22.5 million was given to the railway by the government while Van Horne made budget cuts. Van Horne was a very crucial part of getting the job done quickly and efficiently.
The workers were also a huge part of the railway. 35 000 men were employed to work on the railway, most of them being chinese. Their working conditions were very unsafe and uncomfortable, with dynamite explosions, illnesses, and rock slides killing many of them and small encampments that made the winter months close to impossible. Without the strength and the willingness of the workers, the railway would never have been completed at such speed.
In 1885, the Northwest Rebellion broke out with Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, and the Métis complaining to the government of Canada about their rights. Since this had already happened during the Red River Rebellion and Riel was on trial, the government did not negotiate with them and instead sent out troops. The CPR was a vital tool that now received the opportunity to prove itself. The soldiers used the CPR to get from Ontario and Quebec to the Prairies in only 10 days. Many skeptics now saw the importance of the CPR to the nation of Canada and allowed the railway to ask for more money from the government.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed with the official photograph of the Last Spike: Donald Smith driving the final spike into the railway. The rail line connecting the country of Canada was finally complete, and after only 5 years of construction, half of what had initially been planned.
In 1871, British Columbia entered Confederation with a request of a transcontinental railway connecting it with the rest of Canada. Though this was a very expensive measure, John A. Macdonald also dreamed of a railway connecting Canada into one strong nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Macdonald began looking for investors to finance the project and the Canadian Pacific Railway was born.
A Conservative campaign poster.
Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada.
Plans for which route the CPR should take through B.C.
William Van Horne, a very driven leader.
A crude CPR encampment
Chinese railway workers
Soldiers gott from the Toronto area to the Prairies in only ten days.
The change of route from Flemming's proposal and the Syndicate's decision
Donald Smith, co-founder of the CPR.