The Rebirth of Continental Union
In Manitoba the curtain rose on the final act of the continental union drama. Many grievances sorely beset this province in the 1880's, and the Canadian Pacific Railroad was the greatest of these. This road, as noted above, had a legal transportation monopoly in the West which it mercilessly exploited. As the depression of 1883 set in, it raised its rates until they exceeded American rail charges, already so high that they were causing farmers in the United States to complain bitterly.1 This was a heavy and untimely tribute to exact from a poor community. Moreover, it cast a shadow over the future of Manitoba. That province could not compete for immigrants with Minnesota and Dakota while the cost of its transportation compared unfavorably with theirs. Nor was the Canadian Pacific responsive to pleas for relief or sensitive to criticism of its policies. Too often it answered both with threats of punitive action.2 It is little wonder that many Manitobans were bitter against the road and resolved to go to great lengths to escape its iron grip.
Hostility to the railroad increased the bitterness resulting from another grievance, the land question. The Dominion government held title to the public lands in the Northwest, and its policy of disposal provoked much protest. The authorities in Ottawa had heavily subsidized the Canadian Pacific with land; other choice sections were granted to political favorites and to speculators. This left the impression that little good land remained for settlers. Moreover, the inhabited areas were badly