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At the turn of the century, Canada had no naval presence and relied upon he Royal Navy for the protection of it's coastline, enforcement of national boundaries and the performance of specific missions. The Imperial drive by the British to form a more integrated defensive system fro the British Empire relied upon Empire counties contributing funds to Britain to build up and support the Royal Navy. Briton was under serious challenge form Germany for high seas supremacy and an arms race had developed with battleships being the main measure of leadership.

Wilfred Laurier realized that Canada would not accept a solution whereby Canada would pay into Britain's naval program, especially French Canada,  but felt that he could compromise and satisfy all parties by creating a Canadian Navy and purchasing ships form Great Britain which could be used by England  in times of emergency. On May 4th, 1910 Laurier's Liberal government passed the Naval Service Act which established the Royal Canadian Navy and effectively created a force with the purchase of two older ships form Britain, the Rainbow and the Niobe. His compromise did not only not please everybody but displeased everybody and contributed to his election loss in 1911 to the Conservatives.

Robert Borden and the Conservatives agreed with the creation of the Canadian navy but saw a political opportunity and came out in favour of paying money into the Imperial coffers as an alternative to commenting Canadian sailors to dangerous situations. This was a position that was popular in Quebec and which managed to crack the Liberal grip n the province.

In the meantime the HMCS Rainbow had arrived on the West coast where it began patrol duties based out of the RCN base Esquimalt located near Victoria. The HMCS Niobe was stationed in Halifax and arrived there in 1910. Both ships were essentially obsolete but could be claimed to be the start of imperial contribution if war broke out and Great Britain needed additional vessels.