Railways, until the rise of the personal automobile and creation of taxpayer-funded all-weather highways, were the only viable long-distance land transportation available in Canada for many years.As such, their operation consumed a great deal of public and political attention.
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At the same time, CNo R was also directed to assume management of Canadian Government Railways (CGR), a system comprising the Intercolonial Railway of Canada (IRC), National Transcontinental Railway (NTR), and the Prince Edward Island Railway (PEIR), among others.
On December 20, 1918, the federal government created the Canadian National Railways (CNR) – a title only with no corporate powers – through a Canadian Privy Council Order in Council as a means to simplify the funding and operation of the various railway companies.
This political trend, combined with broader geo-political events, made nationalization an appealing choice for Canada.
The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and allied involvement in the Russian Revolution seemed to validate the continuing process.
The absorption of the Intercolonial Railway would see CNR adopt that system's slogan The People's Railway.
Another Canadian railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR), encountered financial difficulty on March 7, 1919, when its parent company Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) defaulted on repayment of construction loans to the federal government.
Many countries regard railway networks as critical infrastructure (even to this day) and at the time of the creation of CNR during the continuing threat of the First World War, Canada was not the only country to engage in railway nationalization.
In the early 20th century, many governments were taking a more interventionist role in the economy, foreshadowing the influence of economists like John Maynard Keynes.
The railway was referred to as the Canadian National Railways (CNR) between 19, and as Canadian National/Canadien National (CN) from 1960 to the present.
The Canadian National Railways (CNR) was incorporated on June 6, 1919, comprising several railways that had become bankrupt and fallen into federal government hands, along with some railways already owned by the government.
On November 17, 1995, the federal government privatized CN.