The Public Good and Private Business of the Crow Rate: Prairie Grain Handling and Transportation Policy
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The Crow rate shaped the Canadian prairies’ agricultural settlement yet a highly charged debate over it fostered a sense of western alienation. Originally signed in 1897 the Crowsnest Pass Agreement, more popularly known as the Crow rate, between the federal government and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) regulated freight rates on grain and flour moving from the Canadian prairies to eastern ports. The federal government later extended the regulated rates to cover Canadian National Railway (CNR) and applied the rate regulations to grain and flour movement to the west coast ports. Combined with the highly decentralized network of grain elevator delivery points and railway branch lines, the Crow rate facilitated agricultural settlement in the prairies and minimized transportation costs for farmers in the prairie’s export-grain economy. Yet, by the mid-20th century, CNR and CPR argued that regulations on freight rates made their decentralized prairie rail networks uneconomic. The railways lobbied for the removal of the Crow rate to improve business revenues. In contrast, farmers, their organizations, and prairie provincial governments argued for its retention as a public good continuing a long-standing national policy promise to prairie residents. This dissertation examines the public debate over the Crow rate as part of a larger discussion over changes to prairie agriculture, which also raised concerns about how to safeguard Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain exporter on the international stage during the Cold War. This study demonstrates how the debate over the grain handling and transportation system encouraged sentiments of western alienation in the prairies. Through public records, including newspapers and Royal Commissions, this dissertation locates the Crow rate debates within the history of agriculture and transportation policy in post-war Canada. This dissertation moves the scholarship of western Canadian agriculture beyond the historiographical confines of early 20th century western settlement and the railway construction boom.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeCunfer, Geoff; Adl, Sina; Clifford, Jim; Dyck, Erika
Copyright DateNovember 2020