Trans-Canada Highway History

Posted by Daniel on Sep 3, 2009 - 6 comments

Permit me to mention that my book, A Road for Canada: The Illustrated Story of the Trans-Canada Highway, has just been released in a handsome new paperback edition. The publisher is Stanton, Atkins & Dosil.

One of my favourite stories from the book involves BC Premier W.A.C. Bennett (Wacky to his friends). On September 3, 1962, then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker travelled out to Rogers Pass with a group of other political dignitaries to declare the Trans-Canada Highway officially open. Highways minister Phil Gaglardi represented BC at the festivities because Premier Bennett refused to attend. Bennett didn't like giving Ottawa credit for anything, so he hosted his own opening ceremony a month earlier and a few kilometres to the west near Revelstoke. When he snipped the ribbon he christened the new road BC Highway No.1. No mention of Canada whatsoever.

Years later, in 1970, when the federal-provincial financing agreement that had funded the construction of the highway expired, Bennett had all the Trans-Canada signs in BC taken down and replaced with signs that said "BC Highway". Then, in 1972, after the NDP defeated Bennett's Socreds in a provincial election, they discovered the old signs in a warehouse and had them reposted. In a sense, BC rejoined Confederation.

This story is emblematic of the highway, which was a flashpoint for so much antagonism between Ottawa and the provinces.