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1920's figure doesn't do justice to Canada; 1920 was the end of the Railway Building era which the Government of Canada was heavily involved in. The Government always operated the Intercolonial Railway directly, this was chartered in 1870 to connect Montreal to Halifax. Then there were the large subsidies handed to the Canadian Pacific, Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific railways to build to the West. The latter two went bankrupt and were folded into Canadian National in 1923.

Funding of massive infrastructure projects was a key function of government in the 1800's in Canada.

You may be right. It depends on what the railway assistance was. There were large subsides prior to 1900 but there were also loan and bond interest guarantees as well as outright gifts of federal land - eg. the CPR.

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