Last Trip: The Death of Alfred Bonenfant / 5: The National Capital
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Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Above: Alfred Bonenfant's likely route along Wellington Street would have taken him past the West, Centre and East Blocks of the Parliament Buildings. Construction on these buildings began in 1859 and was not finished until 1876. Below: The Supreme Court was one of the institutions that evidenced Ottawa's growing role as a centre of national government. The picture shows the second courthouse, built in 1889.


Top: A combination of two photos: Houses of Parliament [West and Centre Blocks] (left) and Houses of Parliament [Centre and East Blocks] (right), 1911 (Canada. Patent and Copyright Office / Library and Archives Canada / PA-030876 and PA-030877). Bottom: Old Supreme Court and West Block. c 1881 (Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-008389). [The picture shows the second courthouse, built in 1889 rather than 1881].

Last Trip: The Death of Alfred Bonenfant / 5

The National Capital

A decline in the lumbering industry severely affected both cities around the turn of the century but Ottawa's status as a national capital increasingly compensated for this. Federal government jobs and the goods and services required by government agencies provided a major boost to the local economy.

Ottawa's role as a centre of government dated back to 1858 when Queen Victoria chose the city as the capital of the Province of Canada which was created by the union of Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Québec) in 1840. In 1859 construction began on the provincial parliament buildings which became the seat of the national government with the confederation of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1867.

Construction of the parliament buildings lasted until 1876. The creation of other federal institutions such as the Post Office and the Supreme Court also generated building projects.

Hull did not benefit directly from the creation of a national capital but it did have an economic engine of sorts in Québec's relatively liberal policies and attitudes toward alcohol.** This advantage encouraged enterprises that catered to the recreational needs of a growing clientele. The expanding federal government presence in Ottawa combined with the attractive amenities across the river meant good business for Ottawa cab companies.

One indication of this is Alfred Bonenfant's cab number, 134. By comparison Winnipeg had only about 30 licensed cabs in 1908, supplemented by perhaps an equal number of livery cabs operating out of livery stables. Yet Winnipeg's faster-growing population had already equalled or eclipsed Ottawa's.

** In 1898, in a non-binding national plebiscite, 57.3 percent of Ontario voters approved prohibition while 81.2 percent of Québec voters opposed it. See Wikipedia, Canadian prohibition plebiscite, 1898.

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