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8,000 Farmers

16 Dec
Sir Robert Borden

Sir Robert Borden (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

English: Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 16, 1910, a delegation of 8,000 farmers marched on Ottawa demanding an increase in the preference for British goods and reciprocity with the United States.

The farmers simply wanted better prices so they could survive.

The cost of living had risen quite a bit in a short time. The year ending in 1909, from 1905, for example, the cost of grain rose 49.9 percent and dairy produce 33 percent.

While, on the other hand, imported goods were lower than they were during 1890 – 1899.

This became a great issue for Canadians (and politicians). The Opposition especially were concerned when the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Champ Clark, expressed his hopes for the day when “the American flag will float over every square foot of the British North American possessions, clear to the North Pole.”

The next year, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier worked out a deal with the United States that would help the farmers. But this annoyed eastern business owners. The Conservatives who opposed free trade were so furious at Laurier that they threatened his trade plans come the next election.

And so an exasperated Laurier called for an election in 1911.

Free trade “with the yankees” became one of the key issues in the 1911 election campaign. Robert Borden used Canadians’ fear of being taken over by the U.S. in his speeches.

The Liberals were successful. Nova Scotian Opposition leader Robert Borden became prime minister. The trade deal was gone.

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