THOUGH Canada's three Prairie Provinces are great in size -- eight times as large as the United Kingdom -- they have fewer inhabitants than the state of Kentucky. Measured by their accumulated wealth and annual income, they are insignificant compared with any two states in the American Middle West. Why, then, should one take an interest in their problems or inquire into their sentiments on imperial and international affairs?
The answer can be given in one word -- wheat. When growing conditions are ideal, the Canadian Prairies are capable of raising enough wheat to supply, on the basis of present demand, the import needs of almost the entire world. Western Canadian wheat is the finest on earth, being superior in flavor, keeping quality and protein content to any other. It is rivalled only by Russian wheat, from which indeed the best Canadian strains have been derived. Small wonder, then, that these seemingly insignificant Prairies have a world importance all their own.
In terms of British imperial strategy the Prairies are of particular importance, for without their wheat no British war effort could probably be sustained. Britain fighting for her life would be hard pressed indeed if ample wheat were not available across the narrow and easily protected North Atlantic. British experience in the last war clearly demonstrated that Australia and the Argentine are too far away -- freight rates are prohibitive and the danger of attack from enemy raiders and submarines is greater on the unprotected long-distance hauls. North America, and more particularly Canada, is Britain's only reliable source. Between 1915 and 1919, under the joint stimulus of very high prices and the Government's appeals to agrarian patriotism, the Prairie wheat acreage doubled. It rose from ten to about twenty million acres; it stands today at about twenty-four million acres.
The people who hold this key position in world strategy and world economics are a mixed lot: heterogeneous, polyglot, by no means completely melted in the crucible of Canadian citizenship. Even Prairie dwellers
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