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Sunny Way | Settling the West  | The Klondike | New Railways | Industry | Workers & Farmers | Empire | Boer War | Canadian navy | 1911

The settling of the west had been a key part of Macdonald's National Policy but after an initial rush to many areas along the railway route the immigration had dropped off and in some cases the new settlers left for greener pastures in the US. The world economy had been in the doldrums at the beginning of the 1890's but had made a comeback by the time Laurier was elected and with the Klondike Gold Rush was growing at a very healthy rate.

The key to encouraging settlers to immigrate to Manitoba, and the Northwest was centred around the growing of wheat. If the endless prairies held the potential of producing anything it was wheat, but that potential went back to Glasgow Scotland where a young farmer was preparing a sample of a certain type of wheat, a hard quick growing spring wheat, to send to a friend of his named Fife in Ontario. Fife almost killed the wheat by planting it in the fall but a few grains survived and he managed to increase production,

In 1868 grasshoppers destroyed much of the wheat crop the west and new seed gain was sent out from Ontario which included some of Fife's gain which was now known as Red Fife because of its red tinge. Whereas wheat crops could easily be destroyed by an early frost in he fall or a late chill in the spring, Red Fife started late, grew fast and was ready for harvest before the cold weather came. It quickly became the planting grain of choice for the Manitoba and Northwest farmers.

In 1904 an even faster growing more durable wheat, Marquis, was introduced and the areas of the west that could produce grain was pushed even further north. The bread basket of Canada had been created and with developments in agricultural machinery including the McCormick and Massey-Harris binders, the railway infrastructure, the filling of all the free land in the US with farmers and ranchers and the use of grain elevators for shipping of wheat, the stage was set for the immigrants to complete the equation.

 The number of immigrants between 1881 and 1896 who had applied for the offer of 160 acres of free land was only 56,520 and of these only 40,194 had actually come west.  One of Laurier's Cabinet Ministers was the MP from Brandon Manitoba, Clifford Sifton. Sifton had been mad Minister of the Interior and among his responsibilities was Immigration. He knew what the issues were that were holding up progress in the west and immediately began to address them.

The CPR had been granted millions of acres of land as a part of their compensation for building the railway but in 1896 had not yet picked the acreage to fulfill those terms. This had prevented anyone form determining what would be available for homesteading so Sifton issued and edict to the choose or lose there land and as a result he then knew what the Government had left for Immigrants. He clarified the regulations for homesteading, allowed young men living at home to claim their own 160 acres of free land and set up land agents in many communities to assist and expedite the process of the immigrants claiming and receiving their free land.

The other part of Sifton's plan was to actively recruit immigrants in their countries to come to Canada. The two main targets were the United States and Great Britain. Sifton flooded the U.S. with pamphlets and advertising material about the glories and fertility of the Canadian west and in Britain campaigned among the British politicians to encourage their countrymen to come to a part of the Empire where the land was free and the living good. His efforts did not stop here, He also sent agents to Scandinavia, Germany, the lowlands, France, Germany and Eastern Europe where Galicia provided a steady supply of immigrants. The results were impressive. 

In 1897 the number of immigrants had increased to 32,000 from just 16,835 two years earlier and from 1896 to 1911 over 2,000,000 immigrants arrived in Canada which in the 1901 census had only 5,371,315 people but by 1911 was up to 7,206, 643 people. Of the arrivals 38% were from Great Britain, 34 % were from the US and 26% from the rest of Europe. During the same period Manitoba's population swelled from 255,211 to 455,625 and Saskatchewan and Alberta went from 164,281 to 867,095.

The west was filing up and the lat part of the National Policy was fulfilled under Laurier.