In 1897, Admiral Tirpitz became the secretary of the German navy and initiated a massive shipbuilding program. The Royal Navy, which maintained warships in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, was not in a position to counter the increasing German naval presence in northern European waters. As a consequence, the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, proposed that the dominions of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand establish "Dominion Fleet Units" to assume some of the duties for imperial naval defence.
Secretary Grey anticipated that the dominions would be responsible for maintaining naval forces in the Pacific so that the Royal Navy could concentrate its strength in the North Atlantic. According to his plan, a Canadian fleet would be based on the West Coast, and the Royal Navy would be responsible for the security of Canada's Atlantic waters. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government was hesitant to commit Canada to such an ambitious program, and it did not introduce legislation to establish a Canadian navy until 1910.