By Matthew Ehret
[Much research in this report was included in the Canadian Patriot #4]
The greatest opportunities to unleash progress and peace across the world exist in the opening up the Arctic to development, connecting Russia to North America through the Bering Strait, and constructing the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), advocated by the likes of John and Robert Kennedy.
It is tragic that such visionary thinking has been absent in our western culture for so long, that the belief that such initiatives were ever possible has been almost entirely crushed out of the hearts and minds of most citizens. The spirit of optimism of the Kennedy years has been abandoned. The challenges defined by John F. Kennedy for the American nation and to all those around the world who took personal pride in Mankind’s space achievements must now be rekindled.
The majority of today’s youth, and even fewer of today’s baby boomers do not even believe that it is possible for mankind to exert any durable changes to nature which are not intrinsically destructive. It is the contention of this author that were our minds not severed from great Canadian endeavours, from even our recent past, through largely successful British supported attempts to re-write Canadian history, such pessimistic beliefs as we encounter today could not exist, and those powers of creative problem solving so essential for the survival of nations, could be nurtured anew. In short, with a proper understanding of the ideas of the past that gave birth to this dying present devoid of a future, a dark age, even at this late hour, were still avoidable.
It is for this reason that we will begin our report by introducing the reader to the vital story of William Cecil Bennett, the visionary Premier of British Columbia, admirer and sometimes collaborator of John F. Kennedy, who represented the tradition that a true Canadian patriot should aspire to achieve. Bennett’s struggle for development directly intersects similar fights with allies in Ottawa such as Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, and groupings of leading figures around the Quiet Revolution in Quebec such as Premiers Jean Lesage and Daniel Johnson Sr. Internationally such networks in Canada were tied directly to those leading networks around President Charles De Gaulle of France, and President Kennedy’s networks in the USA.
A man with a purpose
A young man during the Great Depression, W.A.C. Bennett’s recognition of the impotence of economic theories founded on ivory tower formulas, without grounding in reality, proved a vital insight that would serve him for the rest of his life. This insight would be the effect of watching formerly successful citizens living on the streets and begging for food, through no fault of their own. A commitment to heal those ills caused by human selfishness and folly would become a consuming passion which served him throughout a political career that would stretch for over thirty years in the British Columbia legislature, twenty of those as Premier. After having earned a living as a successful entrepreneur, Bennett would decide to make a move into politics as a Conservative Minister of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1941, two years into Canada’s involvement in World War II.
Bennett’s first appointment involved his service as a member of the Post War Rehabilitation Council, whose mission was to prepare for the crisis which was waiting to occur as the flux of young soldiers returning from service would need to find productive employment and rebuild their lives. There was no way that the existent economy of British Columbia would be capable of handling such a flood of young men. The economy would have to be re-adjusted quickly to accommodate this vital need. The council would produce two reports in 1943 and 1944, laying out a bold blueprint for uplifting peoples’ productive capacities, which would soon become Bennett’s lifelong devotion.
The blueprint would call for the vast development of British Columbia with a focus upon energy development, northern expansion, water management, agriculture, mining, forestry, rail construction, city building and of course, manufacturing. Industrial development to process as much raw material at home as possible was necessary in Bennett’s mind in order to avoid falling into the age old trap, where one nation exports cheap resources for mere money while a dominant country maintains the vital industries, which perpetuates the backwardness of the raw material exporting nation. Such an imperial monetarist policy was the bane of the existence of the underdeveloped Dominion of Canada. Bennett refused to accept this practice. Among a vast spectrum of proposals, the council’s plan called explicitly for developing the region of the Peace River in the north, the extension of rail lines deep into the north of the province and also the creation of a publicly owned hydroelectric authority to provide cheap electricity.
While attempts were being made to advance British Columbia’s development in piecemeal fashion under the Liberal-Conservative coalition governments, the pace was too slow for Bennett’s liking, and he found it necessary to leave the Conservative party in 1951 in order to temporarily become an independent MLA. He began organizing heavily to bring about the collapse of the coalition government through a vote of no confidence in 1952. During his time as an independent, Bennett saw a potential in re-organizing an underdog party known as Social Credit (Socred) that had never had more than a handful of seats at one time in B.C. However, using every ounce of his energy, Bennett organized outside of traditional party institutions to ensure that within several months, 19 seats would be won by Socred members.
While it is important to note that Social Credit would have its origins as a bizarre British run operation in the 1920s, the newly elected batch of Socred MLAs were almost entirely composed of regular working citizens. Barely a few hours of administrative experience could be found among any of the new representatives creating one of the most ideologically free cabinets in Canadian history.
Having 19 seats would be enough to win a provincial election, but not enough to earn the mandate necessary to push those large scale projects Bennett wanted. A second election was thus called nine months later, ensuring Socred a solid majority, and giving Bennett the flexibility to advance on various aspects of the blueprint all at once.
Opening up the Great North
Unlike the small minded economists of today who, when confronted with the challenge of developing railroads across the Bering Strait, declare “but what is the point? There is no civilization there”, Bennett was not subject to such short-sightedness. Taking the experiences of history seriously, Bennett understood that the first step to opening up new frontiers hinged upon developing advanced transportation systems, without which nothing could be done, and from which all would organically follow. A railroad is not the effect of civilization as “supply and demand” thinking would presume. Rather, civilization was the effect of the railroad.
It was understood by many at this time that British Columbia’s natural potential was too vast to continue to go untouched and its population too concentrated to the south eastern corner of the province around Vancouver and Victoria. A 1942 U.S. survey of the area noted the problem in the following way; “If the northern part of the area has been held down in a vicious circle of under-development (scanty population, inadequate transportation routes, high cost of living, etc) then it is entirely possible that the circle will have been cut by the provision of a vastly more adequate transportation system”
The immediate problem that Bennett faced, was that the Pacific Great Eastern (PGE) was so mismanaged and undeveloped that not only did it merely service a small handful of lines touching the few population centers then in existence cusping the American border, but the provincial government had even tried desperately to sell it to both the federal government and Canada’s two private transcontinental railways, but to no avail. Bennett went straight to work on the rehabilitation of the rail system and stated in 1954 “Of all the interests I have in public life, none is a greater challenge… no money in this province could pay me for the satisfaction I would feel if this railway were changed from a joke and put on a sound financial basis”.
The rail and transport component of Bennett’s plan would have two phases. The first phase would be from 1954-59 and the second from the mid 1960s to early 1970s. Throughout the 1950s, the PGE was extended to Dawson Creek, and FortSt. John in the Peace River district. Extensions across the south also abounded. After Ottawa continuously blocked his program and refused to participate in the financing of the operations, Bennett took on a more “go it alone stance”, and continued to utilize the sovereign rights which Canadian provinces wield outside of federal jurisdiction to push forward with a second phase of rail extension in the 1960s and early 1970s
(See figure 2).
Throughout this process, Bennett’s intentions to connect the rail lines deep into the Yukon, Alaska and the Great Slave Lake region of the Northwest Territories were transparent in countless speaking engagements. An illustration of the most likely Alaskan-Canadian rail lines promoted by Bennett can be seen in figure 3. To get there, connections had to be made from Fort St James to Takla Landing, and from FortSt John to Fort Nelson and onto Whitehorse. According to a 1968 study by Hedlin, Menzies and Associates Ltd, six routes in all were to be completed from British Columbia into the Yukon with additional routes stretching into the Northwest Territories, and Alaska.
As demonstrated in figure 2, these visionary plans were never fully completed, and limits to the PGE (now B.C. Rail) cut off at Takla Landing, Fort Nelson, and Dawson Creek without a single connection into the Arctic territories or Alaska. Tragically, due to the shift into post-industrial monetarism with the 1971 destruction of the Bretton Woods System, long term thinking has been so derailed that the rail line to Takla Landing has been made famous as the “mysterious rail to nowhere” which the government of British Columbia has up for sale for one dollar!
The Northern Vision program of a new John Diefenbaker leadership entering Ottawa in 1957 replacing a 22 year Liberal regime would vitalize Bennett. However due to the blowback by the powerful Ottawa mandarins occupying high level offices throughout Canada’s Civil Service, Diefenbaker’s Vision was aggressively subverted inducing a frustrated Bennett to comment in 1977: “They talked northern vision, but produced none of it”.
To what degree Bennett understood the highly coordinated subversion of Diefenbaker’s “Northern Vision” from London’s Foreign Office is not known. However, Bennett was in no way a naïve man, and his genius as a strategist would be unveiled during the years of the fight over British Columbia’s water and energy resources.
Bennett’s Grand Design and its opposition
A core component in Bennett’s Grand Design would be the building of hydroelectric stations to power the present and future industries and households of British Columbia, as well as provide for water management to the benefit of the USA and Canada. The potential for harnessing both was greater in no part of North America than in British Columbia, and the needs of a growing population would become dire if future oriented plans were not adopted immediately. To illustrate Bennett’s sensitivity to the needs of the future, he would later write:
“The greatest thing we need in our civilization, in our time, is not oil, not gas, but fresh water; not just any old water but fresh water. There’s too little of it in the world. We’re heading into a period of droughts. I am not prophesying doom, but we should be prepared… These people who are always criticizing dams don’t know what they are talking about. We should be encouraging the building of dams everywhere in Canada. Of course, we shouldn’t hurt our natural resources such as our fish. Of course, we should protect our natural beauty at the same time, but we should encourage dams to be constructed even for farmers on their ranches. If water flows through an area, build a dam! Governments should encourage that, because what is needed is an abundance of fresh water.”
In advancing this component of his design, Bennett would be confronted with a coordinated backlash by the highest echelons of Britain’s networks amongst the Canadian mandarins in Ottawa. The obstacles Bennett would have to overcome to advance this component of his development strategy would be enormous. The greatest were:
1) The Ottawa controlled B.C. Electric company which refused to cooperate with his plan to develop the north.
2) The Fight to subvert Diefenbaker’s Northern Vision via a contraction of the money supply led by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, James Coyne
3) The Davie Fulton- General Andrew McNaughton operation to break the American-Canadian program for the Columbia development in favour of a “Canada only” variant.
4) The coordinated barrage of anti-Americanism in the media sponsored by leading British assets in Canada that had given birth to the strategy later dubbed Canada’s “New Nationalism” and embodied in Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Just Society reform.
A few words on Continental development
The necessity of developing continental water management policies was first recognized in the late 19th century as the growing population of the western United States blossomed and Lincoln’s Trans Continental Railway linked the two oceans for the first time. Canada’s western population growth followed soon thereafter with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Rail from Montreal to Vancouver in 1885. The westerners of North America had found themselves trapped in territories that suffered massive water scarcity, while the great abundance of water resources in the unpopulated Canadian north went through its cycle essentially unused either by humans or even the biosphere. The first formal treaty signed between Canada and the USA to deal with this increasing need would be the Boundary Waters Treaty in 1909 which also established the International Joint Commission, although very little would come of it for the duration of the coming several decades.
By 1944, Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Franklin Roosevelt called upon the International Joint Commission (IJC) to accelerate programs that would mutually benefit both Countries with a focus upon the St. Lawrence Seaway on the east coast and the development of the ColumbiaRiver basin in the west. Though great strides had been made by networks of Quebec Premier Duplessis, Prime Minister St. Laurent and President Eisenhower to accomplish the St. Lawrence Seaway program by 1959, the long sought Columbia River development had made very little progress.
The importance of the Columbia River Basin was amplified by the fact that many of America’s river systems along the Columbia River basin area were already dammed to near capacity (see figure 4.) and while great abundance had been achieved in agricultural and industrial output throughout the 1940s and 1950s, water and energy scarcity still loomed. Not only that, but the “Glacier dilemma” was creating a big problem for the Americans. The glaciers of the Canadian north are not at all unchanging, but rather partially melt in spring and refreeze in Winter. This process creates a wide variance of the Columbia River’s flow. The Spring melt would result in floods every year wrecking havoc on agriculture, and the weak trickle in winter would make harnessing the full hydroelectric potential of the river impossible.
From 1940, American engineers had proposed a series of dams on the Canadian side that would act as catchments to store the water to regulate the flow, creating both flood controls in summer and a maximization of hydroelectricity production in winter. Plans were put forward by American engineers to build what was later to become known as the Mica, the Keenleyside and Duncan Dams on the Canadian side of the border while the Libby Dam was to be built on the American side. The Duncan and Libby dams would be located on the Kootenay River, which was a tributary of the Columbia. In exchange for the Canadian dams which would increase downstream benefits greatly, the American offer would make half of that newly created power available for British Columbia.
A General Subversion
Plans to go through with these designs had been sabotaged largely by the subversive influence of anglophile war hero General Andrew McNaughton, Canadian chairman of the IJC from 1950-1962 (see figure 5). McNaughton not only organized against the American designs, declaring any cooperation with America to be a move towards “continentalism” (and thus the loss of Canadian sovereignty), but he also favoured an alternative program which proposed to divert the Columbia and Kootenay rivers into the Fraser so that their flow would create power only for the Canadians and provide water supplies for the prairies, leaving the Americans out to hang. Had this program been accepted, then not only would the Columbia program as we know it not exist, but the great potential to construct NAWAPA would have been destroyed.
McNaughton would be among the powerful networks run by the Oxford Trained Mandarins of Ottawa’s Civil Service who would attempt to destroy every continental approach to resource management presented during these years. Their favoured theme was the creation and exploitation of anti-American sentiments, and tapping into deep seated fears that Canadians had of being annexed by the USA. McNaughton’s program provided a stubborn counterweight to the American government’s unwilling-ness to pay for the high costs demanded of them by Ottawa for the system, and resulted in a stalemate that lasted years.
In order to get an idea of McNaughton’s attitude and the effectiveness of the stalemate: the McNaughton Plan remained under discussion all the way until 1960, and when Premier Bennett decided to openly endorse the American proposal (after a drawn out battle with the Ottawa mandarins beginning in 1956), McNaughton attacked Bennett for allowing the Americans to “walk into a house divided against itself and skin the occupants alive”.
Bennett’s Two Rivers Policy breaks the stalemate.
Previous to 1954, no possible resolution to the stalemate was forthcoming. Bennett, anxious for development, began demonstrating his creative powers to the great anxiety of Ottawa. At this time, Bennett began working with an American firm named Kaiser Corporation which had offered a plan to pay for the construction of a massive storage dam on Mica Creek and guaranteed that 20% of the power produced would be delivered to British Columbia. Bennett pushed for the Kaiser deal against massive backlash from all parties in the Provincial legislature. The federal government of Prime Minister St. Laurent, then fearing the loss of Ottawa’s bargaining power on the Columbia, immediately responded by passing the International Rivers Improve-ment (IRI) Act of 1955. This act prohibited all parties from building improvements on an international river without federal license, thereby crushing the Kaiser deal. Taking this lesson to heart, Bennett resolved that no such manipulation by Ottawa would occur again.
A new opportunity to break the stalemate presented itself in 1957, when a prospecting survey conducted by the Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren in collaboration with Bennett had concluded that the Peace River in British Columbia’s north held all of the requirements for a huge hydroelectric dam that would create the largest man-made reservoir in the world. The power from the Peace would not only be greater than the Columbia but could be delivered more cheaply. This discovery would become the origin of Bennett’s Two River Strategy (see figure 6) and would provide one of the key bargaining chips to break the Ottawa-Washington stagnation.
Realizing the importance of this new bargaining chip, Bennett made the following elated statement at a press conference on October 8 1957: “This is the most momentous announcement I have ever made… the studies being conducted in the north indicated the feasibility of establishing in the Rocky Mountain Trench the greatest hydroelectric project in the world” and would be “entirely in the control of the government of British Columbia… this day is the most important that B.C. has experienced in its whole history. Surely now both Ottawa and the U.S. will realize we mean business.”
By early 1960, Bennett had openly begun organizing for America’s Columbia River Treaty proposal which effectively put the nail in the coffin for the McNaughton Plan. An overjoyed Diefenbaker saw this as an opportunity to salvage his waning Northern Vision and immediate raced down to the USA to persuade President Eisenhower to sign a draft treaty (see figure 7) , which was then ratified in Ottawa and sent to Bennett. To everyone’s surprise and bewilderment, Bennett did not sign. He was more committed to the Peace than anyone had hitherto imagined. No one could understand how anything could be made of that obscure, uninhabited region of the north. In the words of Bennett: “The criticism you had to listen to was terrible! First, they said you could never transmit power over that distance to Vancouver, the place where most of it would be needed and used. No, the distance was far too great! They had no vision. We stood alone against all the other parties, the federals, the other provincial governments, even the United States. They opted only for the Columbia; but we alone said that the Peace was vital for our province.”
More obstacles to disrupt the Peace
Using brilliant American System thinking, Bennett’s entire plan for the Peace would hinge upon future productivity that had no existence in the present and yet would extinguish the debts incurred in the present and justify its construction. No present demand would justify the abundance of supply that would be delivered by the Peace, for that abundance was for the future. Bennett envisioned using the cash gained by selling Columbia River power to the Americans which would then pay for the building of a reservoir and hydro station on the Peace which in turn would provide the power for British Columbia’s population and industry to flourish.
The first obstacle confronted by Bennett at this phase was to be found in the monetarist thinking that had dominated policy making in Canada at that time. The Two River Policy would nearly be destroyed when the Ottawa controlled power utility B.C. Electric that had a monopoly on all power distribution in the province, refused to agree to purchase power from the Peace citing the monetarist argument of “supply and demand”. The monetarist reasoning would follow the following lines: “If the electricity from the Columbia provided from America to BC would more than meet the immediate demand for power in B.C., then no additional power generation would be needed, as none would be demanded… thus nothing should be built on the Peace.” The fact that Columbia River proposals involved the Americans providing half of the newly generated hydro potential from its dams to Canadians meant that all possible demand would be satisfied, and anything greater (such as that which would be developed on the Peace) would be redundant.
A second obstacle which threatened to undermine the plan involved the intervention by the Federal Minister of Justice Davie Fulton who became Ottawa’s chief spokesman and negotiator for the Columbia. Fulton had been an advocate of the McNaughton Plan and critic of the Two River Policy. He and a group of young Oxford trained Rhodes scholars known as “Fulton’s Boys” would establish a faction within the Diefenbaker cabinet that worked tirelessly against all attempts by Diefenbaker and his closest collaborators to apply nation building policies into action. Two of Fulton’s Boys, Michael Pitfield and Marc Lalonde would later on lead Trudeau’s close inner circle of advisors.
A third obstacle was found in the absence of financial aid from Ottawa. This lack of financial support was the direct effect of the Bank of Canada’s money contracting policy during 1957-1960. The effect of the money contraction would lead to a long public fight between the bank’s Governor, James Coyne and Prime Minister Diefenbaker whose Northern Vision was handicapped when credit was intentionally dried up. The fight led to Diefenbaker’s firing of the Bank of Canada’s Governor James Coyne in July 1961, an action that began the process that ultimately led to the defeat of Diefenbaker’s government in 1963.
Up through May 1961, Fulton and Coyne’s intrigues resulted in an Ottawa policy that castrated Diefenbaker and posed unworkable conditions upon Bennett. Ottawa objected to Bennett’s desire to sell downstream benefits to the Americans and demanded that instead of cash, British Columbia receive only electricity from the USA’s newly maximized hydro potential. Obviously, Bennett was furious, seeing as how the cash was necessary to build the Peace River, and the excess electricity provided from the downstream power generating stations would have been far more than an under developed British Columbia could use. To make matters worse, Ottawa demanded joint federal-provincial control over the Columbia River projects in return for any monetary aid. Having proven its perpetual intention to sabotage provincial development, Bennett found this joint control to be entirely unacceptable.
The primary argument Fulton used against Bennett’s program would be built on a fallacy which Bennett would frequently attack for years. Where Ottawa asserted that once the treaty was signed to sell power back to the Americans, it could never be reversed, and that power would be forever lost from Canada, Bennett would constantly point out that his program called for a treaty of sixty years broken into two instalments, whereby the second instalment would contractually oblige the USA to return B.C.’s share of power in the form of electricity or cash. Bennett would describe the deal and his battle with his critics thus:
“Now critics say it didn’t pay for all the cost of the dams, this cash we received from the Americans. It was a sell-out to the Yankees, they say. The answer to that accusation is that of all the treaties ever concluded between Canada and a foreign country, this one was the best for British Columbia and for Canada. The critics could only see the first half of the treaty but the agreement covers sixty years, not thirty. We were only paid for the first half… How stupid these people are. They always forget about the last half of the treaty when the United States must give back to us at our border our share of the power, our rightful half. Whatever they’ve developed over thirty years, half of it comes back in either power or in cash.”
Bennett would deal with these obstacles not by playing within the closed system thinking demanded by the conditions set forth by the Ottawa mandarins and their British controllers. Instead, Bennett would apply his powers of the creative flank and throw over the entire chess board at every opportunity. In this case, he would seek the help of John F. Kennedy and take over B.C. Electric.
On November 1961, in order to gain additional political support in his battle with Fulton, Bennett flew down to Seattle, Washington to attend a memorial for Senator Warren Magnusen’s 25 years of service. The real reason for his attendance is to be looked for in the long closed door meeting he had with fellow attendee, President John F. Kennedy. Meetings between U.S. Presidents and provincial Premiers are relatively unprecedented and the meeting between Kennedy and Bennett created a diplomatic incident. While no official transcript of the meeting exists, the results could be felt when five days later, Kennedy’s Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, loudly denounced Fulton’s opposition to Bennett’s grand plan as “stuff and nonsense”.
An enraged Fulton flew immediately to Victoria, B.C. to confront the Premier. Bennett, though having been seen just minutes earlier, could not be found to greet him, leaving a dejected Fulton to hop back on the plane and return to Ottawa. The decision by Kennedy to support Bennett’s Two Rivers policy over that of Ottawa’s version of the treaty would contribute to a deep rift between Diefenbaker and Kennedy that would unfortunately last throughout the duration of Kennedy’s short life.
The final obstacle that had to be dealt with was the lack of cooperation from B.C. Electric to provide contracts to B.C. Peace River Power Development Company created by Axel Wenner-Gren, of which B.C. Electric was a large shareholder. Contracts to purchase the power were absolutely necessary in order to begin construction on the Peace River. Frustrated by months of inaction, Bennett arranged a meeting with the head of B.C. Electric at a hotel in London. Having asked why it was that B.C. Electric was not cooperating with the needs of the province, Bennett was informed that the problem resided in Ottawa’s direct control over the utility which had no intention of permitting the Peace to go forward. Bennett laid out his ultimatum in the following way:
“There’s a great law of nature that goes something like this- what you don’t use, you lose. If a person is a pianist and doesn’t develop it, he loses his talent. If a person is a good pitcher and doesn’t throw, he loses that talent. We are not going to sit by and watch potential development in British Columbia be held back by any source. Not big business, not by big labour, not by big government. I want you to clearly understand that. I will give you reasonable time, but it will be short.”
Within several months, after no change in the utility’s stance occurred, Bennett introduced Bill 5, also known as the Power Development Act into the provincial legislature offering $180 million for the acquisition not only of Wenner-Gren’s Peace River Power Development Company, but the entire B.C. Electric from its owner, the federally controlled B.C. Power Corporation. This was now August 1961, and after a short legal battle, the sum paid for the takeover was $197 million to cover interest and legal fees.
Since British Columbia now owned the utility that would build and operate all the dams on the Canadian side of the Columbia, Bennett could uniquely set the treaty terms. This would be the birth of B.C. Hydro, and the construction of the Two River Plan.
With the terms Bennett required for British Columbia’s Two Rivers Policy established, a final treaty was ratified with Bennett’s full satisfaction in 1964 by Lester Pearson, President Lyndon Johnson and himself (see figure 8). The success of the Peace River was made evident to all once it began supplying over 90% of B.C. Hydro’s electrical power to British Columbia after its completion in 1968. The agreed upon hydroelectric output produced by the Columbia dams (completed from 1967-1972) was sold back to the USA for $254 million dollars in one lump sum for the first half of a 60 year long treaty. The second cycle, scheduled to end by 2024 would have the US provide electricity back to Canada instead of cash. $64 million would be provided to British Columbia from the U.S. as compensation for the operation of the dams that minimized flood damages in the U.S.
The immediate revenue of this deal mixed with the increased productivity and industrial activity effected by the construction of the Peace River resulted in Bennett’s ability to invest into various social programs such as universal medical coverage, and wide public improvements. To top it off, $100 million loan was also provided to Quebec’s Premier Jean Lesage who had encountered similar problems as Bennett had with Ottawa’s Civil Service and yet yearned to continue developing the hydro electric and transportation programs begun by the Duplessis leadership of l’Union Nationale that came before him.
Like the case of Quebec’s hydroelectric potential in the north of the province, British Columbia had encountered many naysayers that said transmitting electricity across the long distances separating the Peace River from most populated centers in the province was impossible, as the electrical power loss due to the heating of the wires would be too great. The discoveries which had to be made to allow for the transmission of electrical power at much higher voltages and correspondingly lower current flows lead to British Columbia’s and Quebec’s engineers becoming world innovators in the field of electrical transmission.
An Introduction to the Provincial Fight to Develop
It is appropriate at this stage of our report to address the vital role played by two types of conferences that had occurred to make the development of British Columbia and other provinces possible. With the tightly controlled federal government that is itself greatly influenced by the British run Civil Service, and highly fragmented provincial system, the path of Canada’s development has taken an unlikely, yet necessary route. This development had occurred generally in spite of, and rarely through any help of, the Federal Government, with nation building Premiers often being forced to lead Ottawa by the nose in advancing great works. (See appendix)
The mechanism most often selected through the 1950s and 1960s to set the conceptual framework for visionary ideas, so often lacking from Ottawa, and that crossed beyond provincial and national borders involved a variety of conferences in which leading state, provincial, and private sector leaders, desiring development would network and strategize for their own and the country’s benefit.
The first and most common events were the Interprovincial Conferences which addressed a variety of issues from local concerns, to large scale agricultural, and resource management. These conferences would facilitate such deals as the $100 million aid and technical expertise provided from Bennett to Quebec’s Jean Lesage in 1964. The second type of conference on the west coast was known as the Alaska-British Columbia- Yukon conferences (A-BC-Y), of which three had formally occurred between 1960 and 1964. A brief examination of the contents of these conferences shall provide the reader a wonderful glimpse into the strategic thinking and possibilities which were coming into existence during this vital period of history.
Learning the A-BC-Ys
“We think that this is the time- and timing is important- and this is the place for the new frontier and the northern vision; because if ever there was a place that needed planned growth and millions of dollars in expenditure, it is northern B.C., the Yukon and Alaska… The time for action is now, not ten years from now! Last week the Russian ambassador told me in a very clear way, that in the part of Russia opposite us, Russia is spending 40 percent of all its capital expenditures. We in the U.S. and Canada cannot sit idly by and see that great economic development take place without matching it with more than words”
These were the opening remarks made by Premier Bennett at the second A-BC-Y Conference in Juno Alaska in 1960. The three conferences that would occur amongst Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon between 1960 and 1964 contained the germ seeds of the greater continental cooperation that was being organized as early as 1870. While intercontinental visions had begun with the planned linking of telegraph wires through the Bering Strait as early as the Alaska purchase of 1867, and the 1905 designs for a rail tunnel connecting America to Russia through Canada, the First World War and speculative economic insanity of the 1920s had kept such visions from being realized.
The needs of World War II would kick start the orientation to joint cooperative development in the north beginning with the formation of the U.S.-Canadian Joint Economic Committee (USCJEC) in January 1943. The Canada Air routes to Alaska and Yukon, the Alaska Highway, and a pipeline and refinery system known to provide aviation fuel for the Northwest Staging System also known as the Canol Project would begin during this time. A 1943 New York Times editorial on the USCJEC would read “The cooperative project outlined may foreshadow a new kind of relationship, and one that may be imitated elsewhere on the globe. Economic areas do not always run with political areas. Friendly adjoining governments may be able to overcome this difficulty, to the general advantage. Political Boundaries may simply become less important.” This motion towards continental development should not be confused with the contemporary monetarist atrocity of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (see box).
While the momentum to advance continental programs was largely dissipated after World War II, Bennett would revive the spirit alongside like minded thinkers such as Alaskan Governor William Egan. After two important meetings between Bennett and the Alaskan Territorial Governor in 1954 and 1956, the A-BC-Y Conferences would be formed in order to help advance the construction of the PGE Rail into Alaska via a variety of routes, as well as provide hydroelectric power to the Alaskan Panhandle. The panhandle is an area devoid of hydroelectric potential, yet strategically rich in resources, and Pacific ports. Due to the destructive role of Ottawa and Gen. McNaughton at the IJC, the third and final A-BC-Y conference in 1964 emphasized that further U.S.-Canada joint development of hydropower should proceed outside of the control of the IJC. It is known that NAWAPA was discussed at the third conference, but as the reports would not made public, it cannot yet be reported in what way it was received or presented.
NAWAPA’s design was begun in 1954 and, after one of its lead engineers had been hired by the Ralph M. Parsons Company in 1958, its development had become the company’s policy. By Spring 1964, a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Western Water development, led by Senator Frank Moss, was formed in order to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of NAWAPA. Their report, published in October of that year, found that since NAWAPA would store and deliver a much greater amount of water with significantly fewer projects (dams, canals, tunnels, etc.) than would be possible even through the construction of all the projects which had been studied or authorized by U.S. federal or non-federal agencies, a full engineering feasibility study was warranted (see figure 9).
As two key bottlenecks for the water’s journey into southern Canada and USA were the Peace River and Columbia, it is safe to say that the final conception of the NAWAPA design was given its modern form through Bennett’s initiatives on the Columbia River Treaty.
It is undoubtedly the case that leading engineering and pro-development networks across North America would have been very familiar with the program before its official unveiling. What Bennett’s view of NAWAPA is has not yet been revealed to the authors of this report, however based upon a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) interview from 1961 Bennett’s view regarding river systems and water exports integral to the NAWAPA design were transparent:
“We have in British Columbia four great river systems, and we have the greatest potential hydroelectric development of any part of the whole continent. And we’re not to be compared to other parts of Canada, where they haven’t got this great abundance of potential hydroelectric power. We have the Columbia River. We have the Fraser River. We have the Peace River. We have the Liard River. We have the Taku. We have the Yuka, and many many other rivers. In fact, a total of a potential of 40 million horsepower [30 gigawatts]. And we have a great asset, which is now being exported, unused, for which we do not receive a single nickel. It’s exported out to the oceans. The Arctic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean unused. We are not doing a good job regarding this great natural resource”.
To avoid venturing into speculative territory, choosing to remain instead on firm ground, we can say that the majority of those water systems outlined by Bennett in this interview have major roles to play in the NAWAPA design. Necessary support components to NAWAPA’s construction would have necessitated massive rail development and industrial potential across Northern B.C. and into the Yukon and Alaska reflected in the rail extension strategy begun by Bennett in 1954. Holding in ones’ mind the fact of Bennett’s intended Alaska- B.C. rail connection, and other uncompleted rail extensions outlined above, as well as the hydroelectric generation on the Fraser which he was fighting to develop when he was defeated in the 1972 B.C. election, we must conclude that all of the organic ingredients for NAWAPA’s development were on hand under Bennett’s visionary leadership and very present during the proceedings of each of the A-BC-Y Conferences.
The 1963 Paradigm Shift: The Dream Fades
Everyone participating in these conferences could sense that the world was quickly changing for the worse. JFK’s assassination opened the gates for the unleashing of the Vietnam war, a wave of traumatic political assassinations of great leaders struck with lightning speed, and a slide into cultural irrationalism with the emergence of the sex-rock-drugs counterculture paradigm was draining the life from Bennett’s vision. The time for such visionary programs was quickly running out.
The recently created cult of “environmentalism” was serving as a new religion for a disenchanted youth generation trained to blame all of the imperialistic folly of the postwar world, not on the oligarchical system that was taking over society, but rather on the nuclear family, Christianity, and the belief that scientific and technological progress could support a continuously growing population. It seemed that planning for the future needs was not as important as “squares” like Bennett thought, as youth across North America and Europe seemed to “discover” all on their own, that humanity was not something worth saving after all.
The anti-science, anti-technological growth green policy would be cultivated by British agents within the Canadian and American establishments not to save nature, but rather to desperately put blockades on the continuation of programs such as the Bennett Grand Design. The first such program was the creation of the AitlinLakesProvincialPark to forestall the hydro plans for the Yukon River. To this would later be added the first wave of conservation lands sponsored by the Canadian government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the $4.5 million dollar grants supplied to the Nature Trust of B.C. that would remove British Columbia territories vital to continental development from consideration. These programs would be established specifically to halt the construction of the NAWAPA design.
The abolishment of large scale programs that inspire the imagination of citizens to leap outside of a closed framework of local concerns is today and has always been the pre eminent drive of the oligarchical system. No society under any form of government, which is properly awakened to the greater needs and potential of the future can be stopped from pursuing a mission that is in line with creative reason. This also means that since oligarchical systems such as that embodied by today’s British Empire can only maintain their existence when a population is kept small minded and fearful of change, such projects which awaken a spirit of creative change and improving nature as well as civilization are the greatest threat to empire.
For this reason, it is vital that today’s citizens come to understand that the green agenda imposed upon Canada by Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s “Cybernetic Revolution” from 1968-72 which is today threatening to eliminate the majority of the world population, would be made possible only through the effect of a British sponsored cultural policy that would be known as “New Nationalism” and promoted by the likes of Walter Lockhart Gordon, General McNaughton, James Coyne and Davie Fulton. This cultural policy would be vital in shaping a sense of Canadian identity that would be founded upon fear of change. Those programs advanced by the likes W.A.C. Bennett, Diefenbaker, Lesage and Daniel Johnson Sr. have now become the inspiration of fear and hatred from many such Canadians that have been victimized by several generations of misanthropic propaganda wearing the mask of patriotism.
Bringing Bennett’s Dream Back to Life
Today, a New Bretton Woods and Glass-Steagall reorganization of the collapsing banking system would provide Canada with the tools to begin to quickly return to the paradigm of creative change, and future planning last actively embodied by the likes of Bennett and his international collaborators. If the choice were made to defend human life at all cost and without any compromise from the emerging dark age which is fast creeping upon civilization, then programs such as NAWAPA, and the Bering Strait Tunnel would be the natural continuation of programs already begun decades ago, and expressed by Bennett’s Grand Design, JFK’s Apollo mission, and Diefenbaker’s Northern Vision. Combined with joint collaborative programs with China and Russia on Arctic development and Asteroid Defence, the future could become very bright indeed.
- David J. Mitchell, W.A.C. Bennett and the Rise of British Columbia, With a New Afterword, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, 1995.
- Roger Keene and David C. Humphreys, Conversations with W.A.C.Bennett, Methuen Press, Toronto, 1980.
- Neil A. Swainson, Conflict over the Columbia, The Canadian Background to an Historic Treaty, Canadian Public Administration Series, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, McGill-QueensUniversity Press, Montreal, 1979.
- British Columbia, Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, History of the Columbia River Treaty.
- John R. Wedley, A Development Tool: W.A.C.Bennett and the PGE Railway, BC Studies, no. 117, Spring 1998, pp. 29-50.
- P.R. Johannson, A Regional Strategy: the Alaska-British Columbia-Yukon Conferences, BC Studies, no.28, Winter 1975-76, pp. 29-52.
- Daniel Macfarlane, The Value of a “Coyne”: The Diefenbaker Government and the 1961 Coyne Affair, University of Ottawa, 2008.
- Peter C. Newman, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1963.
 Benjamin Kizer, “The Northwest Pacific Planning Project”, December 1942, p.5
 An irony of Canadian history is that in large measure, the federal government, unlike the U.S example, has been largely responsible for prohibiting and sabotaging the aspirations of its provinces to develop, while the responsibility has customarily fallen to the shoulders of bold premiers to lead Ottawa to the future by the nose
 W.A.C. Bennett interviewed by David Mitchell, 18 June 1977,1675-23, track 2, p. 4, BCARS
 In exposing the agendas of subversive agencies (witting or not), Bennett frequently commented that “there are two type of people in the world: those that get things done, and those who throw sand on the gears”
 Conversations with WAC Bennett, Methune Press, Toronto, 1980.pg 107-108 (heretofore “Conversations)
 McNaughton would later go onto lead the fight against the North American Power Alliance, becoming the primary organizer against the proposal and its champion, Senator Frank Moss.
 On several occasions, the potential for Canada’s annexation into the USA had nearly materialized beginning with the Quebec Act of 1774 effectively blocking Canada’s entry into the anti-imperial struggle of the 13 colonies, followed by the failed 1776 takeover by Benedict Arnold. After this point, the greatest threat to the imperial control over the Dominion of Canada would be located in the concept of the “custom’s union” modelled on the German “Zollverein” industrial development model of Frederick List. This model would be advanced by Isaac Buchanan in 1865, Sir Wilfred Laurier until 1911, and would again re-emerge as a failed attempt again in 1945. The Customs Union view would have given Canada privileges enjoyed by the U.S. states amongst themselves under the principled guidance of the U.S. Constitution and its anti-monetarist essence.
 Conversations, p.111
 “I don’t think there is any question that the Coyne Affair was the destruction of the Diefenbaker government right then and there”- Alvin Hamilton, The Value of a “Coyne”: The Diefenbaker Government and the 1961 Coyne Affair, Daniel Macfarlane, University of Ottawa, 2008. p 140
 Conversations, p. 112
 Conversations, p 116
 BC Studies, Winter 1975-76, A Study in Regional Strategy: The Alaska, B.C., Yukon Conferences, by P.R. Johannsen, p.29
 Funds totalling six million dollars were raised privately, concluding the project to connect the continents by rail across the Bering Strait could be done for $300 million. An editorial in the New York Times of October 24th, 1905, observed that “the Bering Strait Tunnel is a project which at some time in the future is likely to command a great deal of very purposeful consideration.”
 The anti-NAFTA logic wielded by Bennett is evidenced in a statement from May 1956:
“As a Government, we must safeguard vital interests of our people, and we must assure that adequate supplies of power are available for our own present and future requirements. However, we are also fully aware of the needs and requirements of our good friends to the south insofar as power is concerned, just as I am sure that they are cognizant of our needs, for example, of an outlet to the Pacific through the Alaskan Panhandle. If the interests of both parties are understood, then certainly a mutually satisfactory arrangement can be reached.”
 A Study in Regional Strategy, p 43
 Hon. R. A. Williams, Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, interviewed on CBC “Hourglass” television programme, 18 December 1973
 In describing their history on the website www.naturetrust.bc.ca, we can read the motivation for the conservation areas of BC: “There was also a sense of urgency in getting the projects underway because BC was experiencing a period of rapid growth and industrial development. That is how The National Second Century Fund of British Columbia, later to be called The Nature Trust of British Columbia, was born.”