Thursday, May 19, 2011

"A Stark Contrast"

Farmers in our area have had to, down through the years, wage battles on many fronts - weather, disease...and markets.
We are inclined to think that by this time the Canadians who, under the influence of the teachings of the liberal press, preferred to emigrate to Minnesota and Dakota rather than to Manitoba and the Canadian Northwest, will have had reson to curse alike their own fate, and the false teachers that led them to it.  The absurd stories about monopoly, about land laws, about high taxation, which served the purpose of the opposition, are certainly no panning out in the experience of the settlers.  Minnesota and Dakota farmers, teaming their wheat across the border, paying the Canadian duty of fifteen cents a bushell, and still making a profit of about four cents a bushell over what they could get on their own side of the line, is rather a startling condition of things.  We copied the other day from the St. Vincent Minnesota, New Era a paragraph describing the condition of things to be seen there daily of farmers, dsiguested with the local price of from twenty-seven to thirty-six cents a bushel, less, when the cost of threshing and twine is deducted, than the price of carrying it to market, teaming it across the border in order to get the profit, over and above the duty, which the Canadian price would give them.  We do not wonder that, as the New Era says, "all felt like cursing the county and getting out of it."1

By a letter received here last week, it appears that up to the 28th November no less than eight hundred and sixty-one bushels of wheat were imported at Emerson from across the border.  On that day No. 1 wheat was selling at St. Vincent at 37 cents a bushel, and at Emerson, just across the border on the Canadian side, at 56 cents; so that after paying the duty, the Minnesota farmer got four cents a bushel more for his wheat in Manitoba than he could get in his own state.  But the most gratifying feature is that this enormous adventage obtains not only on the immediate border but all along the line of the Canadian Pacific railway.  The price last week at Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie was sixty-one cents a bushel; on the Burnside and Brandon section it was fifty-nine cents.  From that point on to Fleming, it was fifty-seven cents, and from Fleming westward it was fifty-five cents.  So that even on the western section of the Canadian Pacific railway the Northwest farmers were receiving  eighteen cents a bushel more for their wheat than the Minnesota farmer was getting at St. Vincent.  These facts are the best answers to the "monopoly" cry which a year or two ago was sufficiently influential to drive many Canadians into Minnesota and Dakota, and we will be greatly surprised if they do not induce a large number of Canadians, now on the Americna side of the line, to transfer themselves to Manitoba and the Canadian Northwest, where, as we doubt not, they now heartily wish that they had gone in the first instance.

From: The Montreal Gazette, Monday, December 8, 1884
I found out there was a bit more going on than at first glance...
Manitoba was the centre of growth, and of growing grain production, in the West (of Canada) to the late 1890s.  But it was not until 1883 that Manitoba had a rail link to the East.  Up to that time, grain was shipped through St. Vincent, Minnesota, to the Great Lakes.  This indirect shipping was costly.  That year, the CPR completed its line to Thunder Bay (then Fort William/Port Arthur) Since the railway had the only direct access to the Great Lakes, "it was able to exercise a great deal of monopoly power and adopt a value-of-service pricing policy."  It set its grain rates at just below those through St. Vincent - Rates were higher than the actual costs justified.

From: Regina Leader-Post, January 22, 1982
That is what the "monopoly" reference mentioned earlier was referring to, and with some just reasoning in my opinion...

1 - The full editorial was: "On Tuesday last we saw a sight upon our streets that with little variation may be witnessed here any day. A number of our best farmers were in town, men we have known since they settled here, and known them to be sober, hard-working, intelligent, honest men. They had their waggons loaded with wheat, and the prices they were offered ranged between 27 and 37 cents per bushel, mostly 27 cents. After taking out the cost of threshing and twine, they were paid less for their wheat than the railway charges are for drawing it to market. Some took their wheat to Traill's mill, and traded it off for flour. Some took it to Emerson, Manitoba, and paid the duty and sold it there, others took it home again, and a few, disheartened, sold their loads for what they could get, not what it was worth, and all felt like cursing the country and getting out of it." So much for Minnesota...

From: The North-West Agitation, The Toronto Mail (December 1884)