Industrial and Commercial Centres of the Future in Canada
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE development of the country and the construction of railways northward presupposes a great increase in the general population and the occupying of territories now uninhabited. Should our treatment of the subject of our possible development prove in the main correct, it would not only imply a great change in the present condition of existing centres of population, but also the locating of centres not now existing. A growth from six to, say, seventy-five millions of people would simply revolutionize matters in this respect.
Canada is still, as we have seen, a frontier country, with little settlement at any great distance from the southern border. With the spreading of population more or less uniformly over the whole agricultural area, must, of course, come the birth of numerous towns and cities where now the wilderness is supreme. In proportion to our population we have a goodly number of cities, some of which are large, handsome and substantial. In this respect we compare favorably with any country of similar population, and doubtless some, at least, of the present leading cities will continue to keep pace with the progress of the country, though they are situated near the frontier.
A study of most countries reveals the fact that the chief centres of population are not generally situated on the frontier, but in the interior. An exception, of course, is made with respect to the great entry ports, and even these, though on the coast, are not generally located near the border, except under special circumstances. Certain conditions, such as living beside a kindred and friendly, race, separated by an extensive borderline, together with certain geographical peculiarities, would lend to the suggestion, however, that our frontier cities would be more numerous and larger than if these conditions did not prevail. Thus, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria and other centres have grown and flourished, nor do we think that the fact that these centres lie near the outer edge of Canadian settlement will materially affect their growth or supremacy in the future. Nevertheless some of the great cities of the Dominion must, in time, grow up in the heart of the country.
There are, however, causes which must contribute to the continued advance of many of our oldest cities ; this is especially true of the maritime cities of Halifax and St. John. Their location makes them each the commercial metropolis of their respective provinces, and in addition to this fact, through their ports must pass the great bulk of Canadian freight and passenger traffic to the Old World, at least in the winter season. They may reasonably be expected to, expand greatly and to keep pace with the country's progress.
Similarly also with the ancient city of Quebec; the extension of ocean traffic to Montreal has, to some extent, been detrimental to the growth of Quebec in the last generation, but with the advent of larger steamers and a demand for the quickest possible time, together with the extension of new lines of railway into new territories; Quebec is bound to share in the general trade of the St. Lawrence, though it is not necessary to regard her as a rival of Montreal. There will be sufficient prosperity for both. This ancient city, with so much of historic tragedy and romance, is still magnificently located, and is bound to fulfil her early indications of greatness.
" Like a light upon a hill which cannot be hid, the light of Quebec's brilliant history stands forth for all time pre-eminently bold, truly the sentinel of the St. Lawrence. Nature has lavished her gifts of grandeur and surrounded this grim, gaunt old rock of the ages with more of scenic wonder than the eye can read, the tongue can tell, or the pen and brush attempt to describe. Here the camera is foiled at the majestic expanse of the horizon's enclosure. As if created for man's protective use, this Gibraltar formation was forced up from the bowels of the earth directly opposite a similar phenomenon, the high bluff of Levis, on the other side of the river ; hence so contracting and con-fining the majestic St. Lawrence to one mile in width at this point, while below the waters come up from the ocean in a bay-like form and contain several large islands. Below, all the war vessels of the mighty nations of the world could be safey anchored, but to hostile ships Quebec has spoken no uncertain tongue of warning, ` Thus far shalt thou go and no farther,' and we look forward to destiny and the time when the mighty ocean greyhounds shall peacefully beg permission to pass on to the heart of this great continent, situated by the sides of the great lakes, through that marvellous system of inland waterways. Yes ; then, now and for all time, Quebec is the guardian of this intermarine route of communication between the outer world and the inner world, both Canadian and States. Immovable, impregnable, crowned with her mighty citadel, she majestically rules her world of water-ways."
But what of the new cities that are to spring up when the country becomes populous, and where will they be located ? This is a very fascinating question, and one, of course, that cannot be fully answered. Different causes contribute to the growth of cities, and a combination of causes con-tribute to the upbuilding of great cities. A strategical position at the gateway of a great nation is almost sure to build up a great shipping port, or a strategical position with respect to manufacturing or mining, or the distribution of trade brings into existence manufacturing or mining or commercial centres ; where these factors combine the centre resulting would be still more important. Doubtless there are locations in Canada where one or all of these advantages may be found, and in time they will be revealed. A few of them we may venture to suggest.
It would seem, for instance, that Sydney, in Cape Breton, must eventually become one of the very largest cities in the Dominion of Canada. Her situation is certainly strategical for two reasons at least, namely, that of the great ocean terminus for freight and passengers, and, secondly, as one of the great manufacturing centres, of the country. Al-ready the indications of this coming greatness are so apparent that it is doubtful if any centre in Eastern Canada will be able to compete with Sydney as a metropolis of the Maritime Provinces. What the next fifty years holds in store for her it is hard to say, but it would not be surprising if she contained one million inhabitants between that time and the end of the century.
Moving farther westward we recall that in a previous chapter reference was made to the apparent advantages at some point at the south of James Bay, where, we believe, will be located another of the great cities of the Dominion. Its exact location may depend upon the securing of the best harbor, and opinion is divided as to the advantages of these, but at one of these points, because of its wonderful location with respect to northern navigation and its relation to converging railway lines, there is almost sure to grow up in time a large and wealthy city. Its similarity of location would suggest for it a Chicago of the north. It is quite probable that cities of considerable importance, as we have already intimated, may be located at Fort George, on the east coast of James Bay, and also at Fort York or Churchill, on the west coast.
The development of the United States indicates that at certain intervals large cities are uniformly found as distributing centres for large surrounding sections ; this would suggest, as far as the Canadian North-West is concerned, a number of cities of considerable importance at reasonable intervals. Probably one near the mouth of the great Saskatchewan, or at the head of Lake Winnipeg, perhaps another near Fort Chippawa on Lake Athabasca, and probably another near Fort Providence on Great Slave Lake. These, however, must be regarded in the light of suggestion, as the undeveloped character of the country gives no clue to any more definite knowledge.
The more southern sections of the West are already sufficiently developed to indicate what are likely to be, at least, some of the important centres of that part of the country : Tile Soo, Fort William, Regina, Calgary, Prince Albert and Edmonton have each something to suggest an assured future, so also have some of the newer towns of southern British Columbia. In the northern part of British Columbia it is difficult to speak more than in a general way, though, as has already been intimated, there seems every reason to believe that a city of fair proportions will mark the terminus of a trans-continental railway somewhere near the mouth of the Skeena River. Dunvegan, also, has claims to future importance.
Some of the most progressive cities of Canada are still in their infancy ; they have grown up as if by magic. This is especially so of Winnipeg and Vancouver, to say nothing of Dawson. History is constantly repeating itself, and this is pre-eminently the age of rapid development ; and it may be that some of these prospective cities may come into existence as rapidly as those already named; others may grow more slowly, but with all it is only a matter of time.