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Accommodation - The West as Home


Although most histories of western Canada have emphasized its agricultural growth, urban development was equally important  -  at least one-third of the immigrants who came to the West before 1914 migrated directly to urban centres and this proportion increased as the century progressed.

Urban growth in the West was dependent largely upon the resource base of the surrounding hinterland and external demands for the produce that the region produced. It also hinged on a town's proximity to the railway. A town with rail connections to outside markets obviously had a much greater chance of success than one that did not. Yet many towns on major rail lines, even those with a good resource base to exploit, did not evolve into large cities. In some cases, the defining difference was the role that boosterism played in a town's development. Town promoters were a close-knit group of civic officials and business leaders who held their own fortunes and those of their community to be synonymous. They generally shared the same ethnic backgrounds, the same goals, the same priorities, and they jealously guarded their cohesiveness against intruders. For this reason, community promoters dominated the decision-making processes with a high degree of unity  -  a unity that will probably never be seen again in Prairie politics.

Boosters were willing to gamble on the potential of a community even when it consisted of only a few buildings or a single shop. Their perseverance and unshakeable conviction in the positive impact of their actions were often the magic ingredients that helped many western urban centres to develop, and in some cases to flourish, while other communities languished in the prairie dust.

Further Readings

See also

A Town Bypassed: Grouard, Alberta, and the Building of the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway

> Next Theme: Convert the Landscape



Ogilvie flour mills and elevator, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1909
Ogilvie flour mills and elevator,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1909

A bird's-eye view of Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1900
A bird's-eye view of
Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1900

View of Medicine Hat, Alberta, ca. 1913
View of Medicine Hat,
Alberta, ca. 1913


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