Back in the 50’s, somebody came up with the notion that, if we are ever to be a real country, we need to develop more than just a strip along the American border. John Diefenbaker became an enthusiastic supporter of a concept of developing ‘Mid-Canada’, a strip along the north side of the presently settled part of Canada, mostly vacant, mostly Canadian Shield, and mostly boreal forest. The concept noted that Canada can potentially be much larger in population, there are a mass of people who would like to immigrate to Canada. It noted that there is little advantage in making bigger and bigger cities, which just means bigger and bigger crime, traffic, smog, water supply and pollution problems. This means the sensible way to grow is to develop that vast area of Mid-Canada, new towns, cities, farmland. Diefenbaker even made this a major plank in his 1958 election campaign.
Flat maps do not do work when looking at long distances on spherical planet earth. Try this, stretch a string from China to Britain on a globe. You might be astonished to find it goes over the North Pole, and going through the Panama Canal is a huge detour, doubling the distance. Somebody came up with a concept of shortening this route by a ‘land bridge’, a dedicated, perhaps over-width rail line, with an accompanying service highway, between the deep water ports of Prince Rupert on the Pacific, and Baie Comeau on the Atlantic. Stretch a string between these sea ports on the globe, and with a bit of wiggling it runs north of Lake Winnipeg and near James Bay, so that most of the route would be through undeveloped ‘Mid-Canada’. Much easier and cheaper than putting such a connection through the developed part of Canada or the US. This notion of a ‘transportation corridor’, a land bridge on the shortest sea route from Asia to Europe, became part of the mid-Canada vision, and so it became the “Mid-Canada Corridor”. This transportation aspect has been downplayed since, but the name has stuck.
In the late 60’s, a Richard Rohmer, Canadian pundit and author, took up this cause. He commissioned a large study of Diefenbaker’s Mid-Canada area. This concluded that the vast resources of the area certainly could accommodate millions of people, in a lifestyle different from California, but very comfortable, comparable with much of northern Europe. Of course we who live here know it is the best place in the world, but urban Canada does not, and Richard did his best to educate them. He arranged a major conference on the subject in 1969, and this was well attended by much of Canada’s elite. The report from this conference is very interesting reading to any northerner; you can find it on the Internet. It recommended Canada begin working toward development of the Mid-Canada Corridor, and it was presented to the government in 1970.
Prime Minister Trudeau rejected the report out of hand, refusing to allow it to even be discussed. He was very vehement about it; in fact, his famous ‘fuddle duddle’ embarrassment came out of a sharp exchange on the subject.
Perhaps this was just party politics at its worst; a Liberal government could not even look at a Conservative proposal. Or perhaps there was more to the story. Keep tuned.