To the Heart of the Continent: Canada and the Negotiation of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, 1921-1954

Title: To the Heart of the Continent: Canada and the Negotiation of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, 1921-1954
Authors: Macfarlane, Daniel W. D.
Date: 2010
Abstract: The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, built cooperatively between 1954 and 1959 by Canada and the United States, is the largest navigable inland waterway in the world and the largest borderlands project ever undertaken jointly by two countries. This thesis combines diplomatic, political, and environmental history to chart the course of domestic and international negotiations, particularly in the 1945-1954 period, that resulted in the bilateral 1954 agreement to build the seaway. The focus is on the Canadian federal government and to a lesser extent the U.S. federal government, as well as involved state and provincial governments and their public power utilities. These negotiations are extremely revealing in terms of the history of Canadian-American relations, and this thesis also examines issues connected to North American attitudes toward water resources, state-building, high modernism, and technology in the early Cold War period. After a number of failed attempts at a cooperative waterway, in the late 1940s the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent began to explore the possibility of an all-Canadian seaway, and backed by widespread public support, had adopted this as policy by 1952. The drive for an all-Canadian seaway stemmed from various forms of nationalism which framed the St. Lawrence as an exclusively “Canadian” resource that was intimately tied to Canadian identity. However, the Truman administration and different American interests deemed a unilateral Canadian waterway to be an economic and national security threat to the United States, and delayed the requisite power licenses needed for Canada to undertake the transborder St. Lawrence project. Canada partly contributed to this situation by repeatedly making vague offers to leave the door open for American involvement in the hopes that this would expedite the hydro aspect of the project. The Eisenhower administration also stalled Ottawa’s efforts to “go it alone” until American participation was finally sanctioned by Congress in 1954 and the requisite licenses were granted. The St. Laurent government then reluctantly acquiesced to the American desire for a joint endeavour in order to maintain harmonious Canada-U.S. relations, although Canada did extract key concessions from Washington about the shape and placement of the project.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -