An examination of the politics behind the construction of one of Canada's most significant canals.
The Trent-Severn Waterway took almost ninety years to build, cost over $24 million, and contains some remarkable engineering feats -as well as a few spectacular mistakes. The passage of the first boat through the waterway in July 1920 marked the realization of a dream that was older than the nation itself. The dream was to connect Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay with a navigable watercourse that would be shorter and more protected than the longer route through the Great lakes. In detailing the history of the Trent-Severn Waterway's construction, James Angus provides an intriguing picture of the complex operation of local, provincial, and national politics, showing how the perceptions, intrigues, selfish interests, and national dreams of nineteenth-century politicians led to the construction of a canal that the country could ill-afford.
Canada's leaders were key participants. Governor-generals, from Sir Guy Carleton, who ordered the first survey, to Lord Syndenham, who cancelled construction in 1841, were intimately involved in the project. For nearly a century every prime minister, from Francis Hincks, who tried to sell the decaying locks and dams, through John A. Macdonald, who revived the scheme, to Robert Borden, who finally completed it, was caught up in this most persistent public project. But the most important participants were countless little-known Canadians who, for one reason or another, promoted the scheme and doggedly pushed it to a conclusion. This is their story.