Agricultural Sector in Canadian Economic Development Introduction The drain of the fur trade and its opposition to settlement in the St. Lawrence were ended temporarily in the French regime by the active intervention of government, and similarly in the English regime. Restricted settlement on the St. Lawrence, as a result of the characteristics of the fur trade, was overcome not only by active encouragement to migration of the Loyalists, particularly to Upper Canada, by military settlements, and by strong military support in the War of 1812, but also by determined efforts of Great Britain through an extremely high preference to build up the timber trade in order to offset the effects of dependence on European and American supplies during the Napoleonic Wars (Creighton 56). The disappearance of the fur trade in the St. Lawrence was followed by exploitation of softwood (white pine) timber. As a bulky commodity with low specific gravity it could be floated down the long continental rivers, and with the manufacture of ships provided its own means of transportation to Great Britain. With a heavy return cargo and empty space on the outbound voyage, its effects were the reverse of the fur trade, and large numbers of settlers were brought out in preference to ballast. To be concise, this paper compares the role of agriculture in the economic development of Canada before and after Confederation period. Rapid increase of settlement, particularly after 1820, was followed by rapid expansion of agriculture, especially in Upper Canada. Increased agricultural production, wheat and flour, in the newly settled regions of Upper Canada led to demands for construction of canals across the Niagara Peninsula and on the upper St. Lawrence (Bolotenko 34). The difficulties of obtaining financial support for canal construction in newly settled regions, and increasing demands for cheaper transportation, contributed, together with the depression of the 1830’s and the pronounced cyclical fluctuations of an economy largely dependent on the timber trade, to the outbreak of the Rebellion in 1837, the Act of Union, and creation of a financial structure capable of supporting rapid construction of canals. Concentration on the timber trade, with its unbalanced cargo and the indirect effect on increasing emigration and settlement, was followed by governmental intervention not only in the form of improvements of transportation but also of changes in land policy (Johnson 90). The unwholesome conditions of immigration in dilapidated ships suited only to the timber trade, shown in outbreaks of cholera, which spread through the continent, necessitated governmental regulation. The intrusion of trade from New York by Albany to the debatable area tributary to the upper St. Lawrence, shown in the use of boats on the Great Lakes and the development of shipping, and the exclusion of Canadians from American territory, supported an extension of the fur trade built up and grafted on the French structure beyond the limits occupied by the French on the Saskatchewan, to the Mackenzie and to the Pacific coast. The migration of the United Empire Loyalists to the same debatable area of Upper Canada brought agricultural production and support to an expanding fur trade. From a source of weakness in the French regime, the region tributary to the upper St. Lawrence became a source of strength in the English regime (Morton 121). After the Napoleonic Wars, immigration to Upper Canada, supported by the timber trade and by the westward movement of population from the United States, was followed in turn by expansion of the timber trade and increasing agricultural production, part of which was available in the early period to meet the demands of incoming settlers, and in the later period for export. American technique of agriculture introduced by the United Empire Loyalists was extended by later immigration.
Increase in exports brought problems for limited transportation facilities. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 provided an outlet to New York for the regions tributary to the upper lakes and hastened the demand for improvement of the St. Lawrence canals, met in part by construction of the Welland (Morton 67). The increasing importance of steamboats on the lakes accentuated the difficulties of the upper St. Lawrence. The Northwest Company was based not only on French labor but also on the expansion of agriculture by the United Empire Loyalists in Upper Canada. Following the outbreak of the American Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 United Empire Loyalists were encouraged to occupy strategic military regions along the Great Lakes and in the Maritimes (Bolotenko 143). On the principle divide and rule, New Brunswick was organized as a separate province in 1784 and Upper Canada in 1791. They served as fortified outposts, which guaranteed control over the French and resisted encroachment from the United States. Like New France in the wars with England, Upper Canada was a disciplined military community in the War of 1812 with the United States. The financial burden of transportation improvements and depreciation through obsolescence meant that an increase was needed in the tariff against goods from the United States and Great Britain. What is more, the abrogation of reciprocity and the depression were followed by Confederation, and extension to the Maritimes and the Pacific coast by the Intercolonial and the Canadian Pacific railways. The effect of the burdens imposed by the tariff and transportation costs were evident during the depression in the last half of the century, in a realignment of agriculture in the St. Lawrence region toward dairy and live-stock industries facilitated by improved transportation to Great Britain and borrowing from the United States, in extensive migration to the United States, and in the spread of farmers’ organizations from the United States (Morton 33). Expansion of industry and further reorganization of agriculture in the St. Lawrence increased after the opening of the West. The burden of the monopoly of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which contributed to the Riel Rebellion was followed by the burden of railway rates, tariffs, and marketing charges, leading to organized opposition from western farmers. Extensive migration from the United States, especially to Saskatchewan and Alberta, and heavier burdens which accompanied increasing costs incidental to distance from Montreal, contributed to the success of protest movements which spread from the grain-producing areas of the northwestern states (Creighton 92). In New France the difficulty of clearing the land placed a high premium on the production of cereals for human consumption. Long winters, the cost of housing and of producing extensive hay crops, and the competition of cereals with hay for cleared land placed an emphasis on wheat and horses rather than hay and cattle. A combination of the production of cereals and live-stock necessitated construction of fences and buildings, and scarcity of labor and high wages restricted this development. In spite of constant attempts to check the increase in horses and to encourage cattle, officials were compelled to recognize the insistence of the habitants on the advantages of horses in the economy of New France (Johnson 45). Horses were effective competitors for hay. In 1731 the scarcity of cattle necessitated regulations prohibiting killing for production of salt beef, except to supply vessels for Europe or Cape Breton. A limited domestic market, low prices in comparison with wheat, fluctuating harvests, the necessity of destroying cattle in bad years from which depletion of stock recovery was slow, and competition of the fur trade for labor, involved handicaps to the industry.
Limited possibilities for the production of cattle for meat or for draught animals tended to restrict the industry to dairying (Morton 82). As early as 1728 a regulation prohibited the milking of cows in a common enclosure because of the ease with which farmers were able to milk their neighbors’ animals. Butter was apparently the chief product and was in demand in the markets of the larger centers. After the expulsion of the Acadians, settlers from New England brought to Nova Scotia their cattle and their technique of agriculture, adapted rather to uplands than to diked lands. With settlement of the uplands hay and grain were raised to support live-stock and extensive wooden barns for housing live-stock and feed were a part of the equipment (Bolotenko 133). According to an account published in 1774 the cattle were small and the cows gave “small quantity of milk for they fetch them up early every evening to milk and let them fast till seven or eight o'clock in the next morning” (Creighton 62). Cows let out all night were said to give double the quantity of milk. The raising of oxen required milk, and calves were allowed to run with the cows. Scarcity of capital was evident in the practice of wealthy farmers, who rented cows to poor people at 20 shillings a year, or at 30 pounds of butter per cow and half the cheese (Johnson 33). Milk was poured into bowls before cooling, with the result that it soured in six or eight hours; after standing forty-eight hours the cream was taken off and made into butter which was sold in Halifax market at eight pence a pound. Cheese was produced in small quantities, and as early as 1764 Nova Scotia exported six tons valued at £280 (Francis et al.77). The migration of settlers to Upper and Lower Canada as to the Maritimes before and after the Revolution was accompanied by the introduction of agricultural technique developed in the southern colonies. Cattle played a more important role than in New France as draught animals and in supplying meat. The bog was the basic source of fat for the fur trade and the lumber industry, although cattle were taken to the interior in vessels on the Great Lakes and on Hudson Bay to provide fresh meat for the winter season. A small number of cows provided milk and butter for local consumption on the farm or for sale in adjoining centers (Johnson 21). The rise of the timber trade in New Brunswick and in Ontario and Quebec, as a result of substantial preferences in the British market during the Napoleonic Wars, created a demand for agricultural products. Pork, flour, beans, potatoes, hay, oats, and horses were supplied to the lumber camps. Prince Edward Island became famous for the horses and oats, which were raised for New Brunswick camps. Hay was obtained from the diked lands of Nova Scotia and the intervals of New Brunswick (Creighton 91). The influx of large numbers of immigrants in the twenties and thirties, particularly to the St. Lawrence region, involved concentration of energies on clearing the land. The demands of agriculture and the timber trade for oxen weakened the possibility of expansion of the dairy industry. It was estimated that in 1831 the provinces had horned cattle as follows: Canada ( Ontario and Quebec), 540,000; New Brunswick, 64,000; Nova Scotia, 142,000; Prince Edward Island, 32,000. The port of Quebec exported 140,710 pounds of butter and 6,751 pounds of cheese to the maritime British American colonies in 1830 (Howe56-58). Prior to 1850, or in the period in which the economic history of Canada was dominated by water transportation, agriculture, and in particular the dairy industry, was handicapped by the concentration of energies on the production of staple products. In the French regime agriculture on the St. Lawrence was handicapped by increasing attention to the fur trade, and in Acadia was encouraged by the demands of the fishing industry but was devastated by wars.
After the Conquest, attempts to reinforce the strength of the outlying regions of Ontario and the Maritimes by settlement of regiments and encouragement of pre-loyalists and loyalists directly encouraged agriculture (Johnson 64). The demands of the fur trade were limited chiefly to flour, maize, and pork, but after the amalgamation of the Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company and the closing of the St. Lawrence route, duplicate posts were closed in the interior and surplus labor was moved to Red River Settlement and to the newly established headquarters of the Western Department at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Droves of cattle were brought to Red River by enterprising Americans in the early 1820’s but limitations of the market restricted development. In 1849 Red River Settlement had 2,097 oxen, 155 bulls, 2,147 cows and 1,615 calves. At Fort Vancouver on the Columbia, cattle were brought in from California, and expansion of the fur trade and agreements with Russia provided a market. On the Pacific Coast, in the Red River district, in Ontario, and in the Maritimes cattle had been obtained from the United States (Howe 42). The demands on agriculture in an area dependent on staples bad been met by extension of the industry chiefly from the United States. Cattle, providing their own means of transportation, were imported with the prevailing agricultural technique. After 1856 the development of steamships and railways widened the market for agricultural products and accentuated production of commodities easily transported to the growing industrial areas of Great Britain and of the United States, and, with a protective tariff after Confederation, to deficient areas of the Dominion (Johnson 51). In the fifties wheat and flour were exported in increasing quantities to Great Britain. The Reciprocity Treaty, the Civil War in the United States, increasing demands of urban centers in Canada, increasing use of agricultural machinery from the United States, westward movement of wheat production in the United States, and problems of soil exhaustion incidental to continued cropping were factors contributing to the rapid development of the live-stock industry in the decade after 1855. Shorthorn cattle were imported to meet local demands for beef and to support an expanding live-stock and dairy industry. The release of labor by agricultural machinery in areas with large families, and improvement of roads facilitating the handling of milk, contributed to the development of the dairy industry in areas- such as the districts near Ingersoll, Stratford, and Belleville- with sufficient rainfall to provide abundance of pasture, hay, grain, and roots (Underhill 144). The technique of cheese production in co-operative factories, matured in New York State in relation to the demands of Great Britain for protein foodstuffs, took root in these regions. The first cheese factory was introduced in 1864 and the numbers increased to 353 in 1871, 709 in 1881, and 1,565 in 1891, chiefly in Ontario. Agricultural technique in Quebec with its French traditions was less adaptable, although cheese factories increased from 25 in 1870 to over 200 in 1880. In areas less suited to dairying, beef cattle became important. A dairy industry based on dual-purpose cattle provided milk for cheese, and surplus live-stock which could be driven to grazing areas. Rapid development in exports of live-stock to Great Britain beginning about 1875 can be attributed to the improvement of steamship navigation and the advantages of the St. Lawrence with its cool climate and the long journey before reaching the open sea, and a British embargo on American cattle in 1878 (Bliss 12). Within a decade exports exceeded 50,000 head annually. The live-stock and dairy industries, with their demand for pasture and forage in winter, revolutionized agricultural rotations by emphasizing the production of roots, maize, grain, and hay rather than wheat.
The limited areas suited to the growth of the cheese and live-stock industries, the widespread development of agriculture in relation to other staple exports such as timber, and dual-purpose breeds such as the Shorthorn, provided a basis for the butter industry (Bliss 64). Growth of towns increased the demand for butter, while exports were restricted because of the character of the commodity, as a fat rather than a protein, and by problems of production, with lack of uniformity as a result of the domestic system of production. Agriculture in Quebec, with its French traditions and its difficulties in responding to the demands of American agricultural practice, provided a more fertile soil for the technique developed in Europe in relation to butter production. The study of European systems of dairying was followed in the eighties by the introduction of the cream separator and the development of creameries for the manufacture of butter (Francis et al. 39). Butter production expanded, with governmental encouragement, in the cheese-producing areas during the winter season and during the summer in areas less suited to cheese production. An embargo on live cattle exports to Great Britain in the middle nineties and expansion of the ranching industry in western Canada and the United States contributed to the increasing importance of the dairy industry (Morton 190). By the turn of the century the St. Lawrence region produced specialized dairy products, particularly cheese and butter for export to Great Britain. Quebec was producing annually nearly twenty-four million pounds of butter and nearly eighty-one million pounds of cheese, and Ontario over seven and a half million pounds of creamery butter and nearly one hundred and thirty-two million pounds of cheese (Underhill 183). The problem of Confederation was that of linking together relatively isolated areas and of providing a new base for the support of the debt lifted from the shoulders of the provinces. The Intercolonial to the Maritimes (1876) and the railway from St. Paul to Winnipeg (1878) corresponded roughly with the depression and the National Policy. The tariff was extended to provide revenue to support new capital investment and to guarantee control over new areas. Increase of population, the disappearance of free land, decline in wheat production, and fluctuations in the lumber industry released settlers for migration to new lands made available in the West. The economy of agricultural Ontario based largely on wheat was available to support expansion to the Prairie Provinces of western Canada. Completion of the Canadian Pacific railway in 1885 repaired the breach in control over the Northwest which followed the amalgamation in 1821 and enabled an area which had become diversified from a wheat base in relation to the effects of improved transportation to Great Britain to become in turn a support for the expansion of wheat production in the West.