Second Phase of Industrialization

Questions to ask yourself:

Was there more change in the 2nd phase of industrialization or more continuity?

What you will be able to do:

Determine the changes and continuities in the second phase of industrialization.

Determine the changes in the union movement.

Rivière Ottawa - Barrage à Bryson. Copyright unknown. Source: banq

Barrage hydro-électrique de Shawinigan Falls. Copyright unknown. Source: banq

Hydroelectricity was Key

While railways were key to economic prosperity in the 19th Century, hydroelectricity was to be the key to prosperity in the early 20th Century. Hydroelectricity spurred industrial development in the rural areas of Canada’s two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec as demand for raw materials like coal, wood, aluminum and other minerals increased. These new industries were powered by hydro-electric plants like those established along the Gatineau and the Saint-Maurice rivers.

Raw Materials in Demand

This second phase of Industrialization was fueled by the demand for raw materials in the central provinces and the United States. Low taxes and few regulations, the hallmarks of economic liberalism, attracted foreign investment that gradually shifted from Great Britain to the United States. The high tariff encouraged Americans to establish “branch plants” or Canadian versions of their companies to avoid paying the tariff. While this investment brought jobs to Canadian, the profits flowed south. This phenomenon can be seen in the Shawnigan area. The establishment of the hydroelectric dams along the Saint-Maurice River led to further settlement and the industrialization of the region. American companies began to exploit the region’s aluminum deposits.

Text source : Matt Russell

Source du graphique : « Implantation et regroupement des activités papetières en Mauricie (1887-1929) », dans R. Hardy et N. Séguin, Histoire de la Mauricie, Sainte-Foy, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2004, p. 547. Réalisation du graphique : Service national du RÉCIT, domaine de l’univers social. Licence : Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA).

Source du texte et des données du graphique : Albert Faucher, « Le caractère continental de l’industrialisation au Québec », Recherches sociographiques, vol. 6, n° 3 (1965), p. 229-230, en ligne. Graphique réalisé par le RÉCIT de l’univers social. Licence : Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA).

Source du texte et des données du graphique : Albert Faucher, « Le caractère continental de l’industrialisation au Québec », Recherches sociographiques, vol. 6, n° 3 (1965), p. 229-230, en ligne. Graphique réalisé par le RÉCIT de l’univers social. Licence : Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA).

Innovation and Automation

In the cities, manufacturing expanded as new innovations in the world of work were marked by huge factories, automation, moving assembly lines, and the time management of workers. Heavy industry grew rapidly, turning out rails, railway stock, farm equipment, furniture and household appliances. Massey-Harris was the largest company in Canada accounting for 15% of total manufacturing exports in 1911 and was the largest manufacturer of farm equipment in the British Empire. Automobile production surged as well. American companies Ford, General Motors and Chrysler opened plants around the turn of the century and by 1920 there were at least 39 Canadian and 8 American companies building cars in Canada.

Text source : Matt Russel

Source: [Assembly line at the Ford Motor Company's Highland Park plant] Library of Congress Control Number 2011661021. No known restrictions on publication.

Source de l’image : William Notman & Son, Partie sèche de la salle des machines, usine de pâte Laurentide (vers 1908), Musée McCord, VIEW-4517. Licence : Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND).

“At the beginning of the 20th century, new industrial sectors such as pulp and paper, aluminum and hydroelectricity required the implementation of large plants, the use of new technologies and a specialized workforce. The manufacturing sector also evolves by renewing the energy used by hydroelectricity and by redeveloping its infrastructures. All these innovations require large sums of money that few French-Canadian companies have. Only the largest companies can invest such capital.”


Text source : Service national du RÉCIT, domaine de l’univers social. DEUXIÈME PHASE D'INDUSTRIALISATION https://documents.recitus.qc.ca/2e-cycle/dossier/deuxieme-phase under/licenses/by-nc-sa/

Video Break: Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology


Have you ever thought about the role that technology plays in your daily life? During the last third of the 19th century, there were so many technological innovations of such great impact that they dramatically changed the way Canadians live. More than that: they changed the perception human beings have of themselves and the world around them.

Source: Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology by Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal


Corporations and Monopolies

During this period, large corporations sought to gain control of their particular areas of the economy. Through mergers or buying out smaller firms these companies tried to be the only or most powerful business in their area. This is a phenomenon known as monopoly capitalism. A few examples of monopoly capitalism can be seen in Quebec. The Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company was a utility that had a monopoly over electricity and natural gas distribution in the city after it absorbed some smaller companies. Without competition, the company could raise rates and assure itself of constant profit. Similarly, the Dominion Textile Company was created by a merger of four smaller companies and had a near monopoly on the production of textiles in Canada.

Text source : Matt Russell

Rich and Poor – The Gap Widens

A booming economy, growing population, and a sense of optimism characterized the Laurier years of 1896-1911. Stories of self-made millionaires kept people’s dreams alive that they could make it too. However, the economic liberalism of the time meant that for many Canadians life was hard. Despite the boom times, the harsh reality was that the gap between rich and poor was real and wide. Most people worked physical jobs, with long hours. Farmers worked dawn to dusk, factory labourers worked 9 to 10 hours a day, six days a week. There were few government policies to alleviate the gap between the rich and the rest – no capital gains or income taxes. The government also did not provide unemployment insurance, pensions, health care or workers compensation. If you were jobless, elderly, injured or disabled in any way you had to rely on the kindness of family and friends or the charity of churches to survive. For working people, money was always tight. Malnutrition and poor housing conditions continued to plague working class neighbourhoods. Infant mortality rates were especially high in cities like Montreal.

Text source : Matt Russell

Video Break: Winds of Change: Reforms and Unions


"In the late 1800s, Canada is entering a new age. The industrial revolution and the expansion of the railway have wrought profound changes in lifestyles. Over a third of the population is living in or near towns and cities. Canada is becoming increasingly urbanized and industrialized. Technological changes and the reorganization of work fuel the rise of the labour movement. Reform organizations are founded to tackle social problems such as alcoholism, the insalubrity of working-class neighbourhoods, infant mortality and discrimination against women."

Source: Winds of Change: Reforms and Unions by Peter Bischoff, U. of O.

Unions and the Struggle of the Working Class

While unionization had been legalized in the late 1800’s, government and business frowned on the organization of workers. Working conditions were difficult and dangerous, and companies refused to recognize the right of workers to collectively bargain. The growing numbers of immigrants also created a pool of labour that companies could exploit. They would work for the lowest possible wages and endured working conditions that many Canadians would not tolerate.


Workers faced barriers to organization. Unions in the West attempted to organize workers based on industries and were influenced by socialism and communism. Strikes were common and there were over 1000 industrial disputes between 1901 and 1911. Industrial workers also often faced strike breakers, the police, and even the militia when they attempted to strike for better pay and improved working conditions. Workers in Quebec faced the additional opposition of the Catholic Church, which was hostile to socialism and preached obedience and subservience. In fact, the Church launched its first union in Chicoutimi in 1907 and later in 1921 brought all of the Caotholic unions together into the Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada. Most unions in Quebec were craft unions that united skilled workers in a particular discipline. Many of these unions were associated with the American Federation of Labour (AFL) . The AFL was more conservative than unions in Western Canada and only pursued goals such as collective bargaining and written contracts. They were suspicious of uniting skilled and unskilled workers and hostile to the broader ideas of socialism and communism. In a vast country with large distances and a small population, unions were unable to succeed in becoming a national force.


Laurier’s government did attempt some reforms. In 1900 the Department of Labour was created and in 1908 it became a full Ministry under the leadership of future Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie-King. Mackenzie-King worked as a conciliator in labour disputes prior to becoming Minister and then implemented laws that imposed mandatory conciliation in disputes in utilities and mines which prevented strikes and improved the pay and working conditions of thousands of workers. In Quebec, the provincial government passed a law in 1909 to provide compensation of up to 50% of wages in an industrial accident.

Text source : Matt Russell

Doc collection storage space 1896-1945 Second Phase of Industrialization

Document Collection Main Document:

We have just begun a larger document collection of our resources and other curated texts, images, etc. Check back here occasionally to see its progress.

Below are a few related document collections, student workbooks and tasks available for the topics of industrialization, workers, etc.

1840-1896 (#4) Industrialization - Facts, Capitalism, Factors/changes

Document Collections on Related Periods and Topics :

Our older curation of online documents, tools and activities on Capitalism, the First Industrial Revolution and the types of changes that occurred is available here. It contains then expands upon some of RECITUS activities below, and it also houses additional documents we will eventually use in this public student site.

RECITUS activity - Changes were brought about by the Industrial Revolution? - RECITUS EN (Covid times by MR) -
RECITUS EN - Conditions of the Working Class
! LIVE RECITUS activity Industrialisation around 1905 - Student Workbook LEARN owned

Similarly, consider: How does industrialization transform territory and work? which uses additional texts at Quebec around 1905