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Building Canada

Building Canada: A History of Public Works

Norman R. Ball Senior Editor
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Building Canada
    Book Description:

    Building Canadatells the story of the public works that helped to transform Canada from wilderness to a modern country.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7162-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    William D. Hurst
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  6. Contributors
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    In one of the worldʹs many creation myths, the devil looked down in dismay upon the comfort, convenience, security, and joy experienced by mankind and in a jealous rage scratched the earthʹs surface with his nails. The resultant valleys and ridges separated mankind from fields and crops, kept families apart, and threatened life itself. The angels descended, spread their wings over un-crossable valleys, and in giving mankind its first bridges provided one of the keys to continuing survival.¹ Myths are not intended to provide literal and provable facts; rather they are an expression of the truths by which we live...

  8. Bridges
    (pp. 7-29)

    When, in September 1828, Lt.-Col. John Byʹs Chaudière Bridge spanned the raging waters of the Ottawa River between Bytown (Ottawa) and Wrightʹs Town (Hull), it created a short-lived but exciting and apt symbol of public works in Canada. This first substantial span across a major Canadian river stood as a pioneer in public works built to improve transportation and communications and encourage economic development. Conceived as a means of supplying personnel, equipment, and supplies for the building of the Rideau Canal, it provided the only fixed link between Upper and Lower Canada along their long water border.¹

    Design and construction...

  9. Roads, Streets, and Highways
    (pp. 30-58)

    Few people realize the vital role that the construction and maintenance of roads have played throughout Canadian history, even when subservient to waterway or railway transportation. Roads emerged from the dark days of neglect in the late 19th century to dominance by the mid-20th century because of automobiles. The struggle to find appropriate road-building techniques was long and still continues. Just as important as technology was the development of administrative and financial systems for road construction and maintenance. Without the shift from local to provincial responsibility, modern highway systems would not exist in Canada.

    Even the terminology presents difficulties. The...

  10. Urban Mass Transit
    (pp. 59-87)

    Moving people within Canadian towns was not a major problem in the 19th century when communities were merely mercantile outposts. The journey to work was often very short. Many merchants, artisans, and apprentices lived and worked in the same building. Others walked only a few blocks. Churches, stores, and other services were close to most homes. The affluent could use their own horse or carriage, or hire a cab driver, but these costly services were beyond the means of the ordinary citizen. The mercantile city was a walking city.

    In the second half of the 19th century, rapid industrialization transformed...

  11. Railways
    (pp. 88-112)

    Canada is perhaps the only country in the world to have an almost equal mix of state and private ownership in railways. The United States is the only major country to rely almost exclusively on private rail ownership, although Japan is selling its state-owned lines back into private hands. Most of the other railways in the world are state-owned. Canadian ownership patterns and railway history reflect a variety of influences, including geography, economic conditions, and national aspirations.

    Railways are a part of Canadaʹs essential public works infrastructure and cannot be judged solely on narrow economic grounds. A vast country with...

  12. Waterways
    (pp. 113-142)

    From the beginnings of settlement, the use and improvement of natural waterways have facilitated the penetration of trade and agriculture into the continental interior and the subsequent development of Canada. Commercial and military waterways development has followed a remarkably consistent pattern, focusing on the St Lawrence River and the new water transportation networks that developed during the fur trade era.

    The nineteenth century saw two eras of canal-building, 1815–33 and 1873–99; the twentieth century, the extraordinary engineering feats of the Fourth Welland Canal (1913–32) and the St Lawrence Seaway (1954–9). In a sparsely populated country, where...

  13. Irrigation and Flood Control
    (pp. 143-168)

    In the relatively short history of irrigation and flood control in Canada, advocates of such schemes encountered considerable public resistance. Early projects were local in application and failed to gain widespread provincial or national support. Water conservation projects were usually very expensive and required extensive state assistance; voters refused to approve government aid until convinced that these works were economically useful.¹ State intervention in large development projects required a dramatic change in public attitudes. Coincidentally, then, development of water conservation was an integral part of increasing government intervention in the nationʹs economy and society.

    Irrigation has not become a national...

  14. Electricity
    (pp. 169-194)

    The history of the electrical power industry in Canada is not one story but many, with each province and territory providing its own mix of politics, economics, geography, and technology. Although each area drew from a common technology, there was considerable variation in organization and political involvement; one of the main choices was between private enterprise and publicly owned utility. If there is a common thread, it is that each province pursued its own course.¹

    To understand Canadian public works – electric power or any other – is to come to grips with change: in demand, administrative structure, and technology....

  15. Water-Supply
    (pp. 195-220)

    From earliest times, and until relatively recently, inadequate supply of clean water has constrained urban size. In any community, there is a population maximum at which ground water and wells, for instance, will support the population without becoming too polluted. When urban settlements reach and surpass this size, different water-supply technology is needed. Simple transportation of water from a pure and protected source will overcome this initial constraint. This is what the first water-supply systems did.

    In North America, water provision was a municipal (as opposed to regional or provincial) undertaking and therefore depended partly on the level and effectiveness...

  16. Sewerage
    (pp. 221-244)

    Sewage is a fact of life. In nomadic or lightly populated societies, prudence and natural processes can bring relative freedom from problems created by sewage. Elsewhere the growth of urban centres, with their ever-increasing population densities, make sewage control, and later treatment, a societal problem requiring concerted and unified action. Similar situations prevail in agriculture and a variety of industries where more concentrated activity – in feed lots, large steel mills, or chemical plants – and greater variety of processes and by-products require more than simple prudence and dilution.

    One brief chapter cannot provide a detailed history of Canadian sewage...

  17. Solid Waste
    (pp. 245-261)

    Other fields of public works made essential contributions to the historical development and growth of the Canadian economy and society. The field of solid waste collection and disposal has developed to deal with the by-products of growth. Once, when the value of goods was measured by their longevity, solid wastes were more of a resource than a problem. Almost everything was made of natural materials, which were either recycled in one way or another or, if not, eventually returned to the land. Often the principal recycling agents were pigs and chickens. Country people and many town residents composted all the...

  18. Public Buildings
    (pp. 262-285)

    Public buildings can be as interesting for their architecture as for their engineering. Public building involves both process and product, and in what follows there is at least as much emphasis on the process as on its products. As products, public buildings vary wildly in type, scale, history, and importance. There is in Canada an almost limitless range of public functions, most of which require permanent accommodation.

    Public buildings comprise all properties that are not houses or places of private commerce. The core group consists of post offices, legislatures, court houses, town halls, and the associated structures that were and...

  19. Airports
    (pp. 286-312)

    Transportation system technology may be divided into two broad categories: vehicles and ground services. With air transportation the latter are concentrated at airports, where facilities are designed to handle the safe take-off, landing, and servicing of aircraft and to connect airplanes and other modes of transportation. These functions have remained constant since the first Canadian public airport was licensed in 1920, but the design of airports and the procedures followed for their safe use and maintenance have changed significantly as aircraft have evolved and commercial services become more sophisticated.

    Airport engineers have designed and built airports to meet changing aircraft...

  20. Building Cities
    (pp. 313-322)

    Human settlements are complex phenomena that develop from a wide variety of forces. Studies of Canadian city-building have examined most of these influences – social, economic, political, and institutional – and quite comprehensive understanding has been achieved during the past two decades.¹ But there has not been sufficient appreciation of the role of public works in providing the essential physical infrastructure for urban development. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to state that public works make towns and cities possible. The planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and administration of public works are central to any story of Canadian urban development.


  21. Index
    (pp. 323-336)