ALL OF CANADA WILLING TO ACT AS DOCTOR TO CORRECT MARITIMES’ ECONOMIC ILLS
J. HERBERT HODGINS
BUSINESS & INVESTMENTS
WHAT are the economic ills of the maritimes, and what can the rest of Canada be expected to do, by way of correcting them?
“That there are maritime grievances of various kinds, political and otherwise, few will question,” the Charlottetown Guardian tells us, apropos of the recent Moncton conference and of a forthcoming Charlottetown conference both of which, in turn, are preliminary to a proposed national conference.
Tlie Guardian's statement serves to stress the accumulating complaints from the maritimes. These crystallized in the spring-time mission of a St. John journalist, A. M. Belding, across Canada, in an attempt to acquaint business men of the central and western provinces with the economic worries of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Islán-1, and finally brought about the Moncton conference of maritime business men. And whatever eventuates immediately I from this conference the Halifax Herald at least is satisfied that “as a result our situation is better understood throughout Canada and coupled with this better understanding we believe a sentiment of sympathy has been created which should pave the way for closer co-operation in the future.”
According to the St. Jolin TelegraphJournal, the temper of the Moncton conference was unmistakable: “It wanted no favors for the maritimes but it did want justice; and when the case is prepared there can be no shadow of doubt that behind it will be the determined and united force of a people in whose blood is no taint of serfdom.”
Actually, what did the conference bring out?
The reports stress four elements which were declared vital to maritime progress: Transportation: Trade; Settlement;
Economic status under the Confederation pact.
One of the concrete developments was a decision to ask the three provincial governments to share the expense of an expert to prepare a maritime freight rate brief for the Railway Commission. Not only manufacturers but merchants laid emphasis upon the injury of increased freight rates and upon the absolute right of these provinces to better treatment, as one of the formerly recognized obligations of the country in respect to railway transportation under Confederation terms.
Maritimes in Earnest
THE Montreal Gazette insists that it has never been made clear what the maritimes want from tlie rest of the Dominion, “apart from special treatment respecting charges over the old Intercolonial railway.” The Gazette adds: "Broadly speaking, the prosperity of the maritime provinces is in the hands of the citizens of those provinces and it cannot be otherwise. The maritimes, are, however, entitled to a fair field in the partnership of Confederation, and if it can be shown that by reason of some action or omission on the part of the other provinces they have not got a fair field, their case should be heard and the remedy applied.”
The St. John 'Telegraph-Journal admits that the Gazette is right; that the prosperity of the maritimes broadly speaking is in I the hands of the citizens of these provinces j but points out that the spirit of the Moncton conference indicated, clearly, that I these citizens “will not be content to go I on under conditions which make pros-
perity and development impossible.” The case of the maritimes, in the words of the Telegraph-Journal, “must, eventually, go to Ottawa and they would like to have it go there with the sympathy of their fellow-Canadians: but they are in no mood t' tolerate unnecessary delay in consideration of their claim.”
The St. John editor points out that the maritime people were surprised to learn from ;ne Toronto Mail ana Empire that rhe proposed national conference “is not for the purpose of giving undue expression to any local viewpoints; not to promulgate any set policy, but, primarily, to get acquainted; meet together; try and develop, as far as possible, the family idea in this great Dominion.”
“If,” replies the Telegraph-Journal, “this means the conference is merely to be a love-feast, it may be taken for granted that the maritime provinces will have no desire to sit in.”
In short, the maritimes are making no mere gesture.
THE Halifax delegation to the Moncton conference advanced the proposal for the freight rates expert. President Turnbull of the Halifax Board of Trade, according to the Moncton Transcript, declared the freight rate question to be “the most vital.” The fact was “that for thirty or forty years before the war reasonably favorable rates had been enjoyed but through advantage being taken of war conditions, this had been changed. Individual cases of discrimination were numerous ; an expert was required to work out the whole problem.”
“It is on the Canadian market,” according to Mr. Turnbull, “that the maritimes must depend for the trade they live by and not on the foreign market although this is a valuable adjunct."
J. L. Macdonald suggested that “natural and manufactured products of the maritime provinces be carried to the central provinces at a cost, based on, say, around two hundred miles from Toronto and around two hundred miles from Montreal or approximately one quarter to one-half of the present rate, the shipper paying the regular freight rate to the railways and the Government rebating the difference from the customs receipts, being a preferred claim against the tariff.
Canals and Railways
T W. HYNDMAN, of Charlottetown, • president of Prince Edward Island Associated Board of Trade, pleaded for restoration of the Intercolonial railway under the old conditions, “it was built for the exchange of trade, east and west, and cost only a fraction of the amount spent on Ontario canals for whose use the people of Ontario did not pay. Tlie maritimes, too, although contributing their share to the cost got no national hotels and no national parks.”
The Sydney Record reminds that Canada lias spent $211,000,000 upon canals and makes clear the maritime sentiment regarding them, “it would be fairer, comments the Record, “if the people of Ontario and Quebec remembered the facts . . if central Canada has con-
tributed toward the maintenance of the Intercolonial in the past, central Canada lias profited from the Intercolonial because that railway lias enabled central Canadian manufacturers to reap gains in a profitable market in the maritimes. And
there has been nothing for the maritimes on the profit side of the canals account.”
A Veiled Threat
THE Moncton conference disclosed an aroused maritime people. “No maritime interest can suffer by continuing in every way possible to tell the Canadian people that we are not asking favors but the simple justice which is our constitutional right,” urges the St. John Globe, adding, “Should a few more years show us that these constitutional rights are still ignored and should, if our own efforts fail to change the current, then must be sought the remedy advocated more than fifty years ago, by those steady and farseeing maritime leaders who predicted from Confederation the very things we to-day are considering how to organize to combat.”
A concomitant phase of the transportation question is the maritime plea that more western and central Canadian freight be routed through Canadian territory. They complain that too much Canadian freight goes to Portland, Maine, for Atlantic shipment. The Toronto Globe is sympathetic toward this maritime demand, that more Canadian trade go through maritime ports, and reminds that the fathers of Confederation had this in mind in building the Intercolonial. The Globe sees by returns of the minister of railways for 1924 that there was a distinct decrease in Canadian exports via Portland. The figures show a decline from 105,623 tons in 1923 to 84,774 tons in 1924; a decrease from 9,820 to 6,921 head of cattle; and from 19,048,000 to 7,480,000 bushels of grain. Commenting, the Globe says: “The control of the export situation rests with the shipper. Carriers cannot divert. The Government can provide the railways and the ships: it remains with those who route Canada’s export trade to keep in mind the interests of Canadian ports.”
But the St. John Globe is not satisfied with the Toronto Globe's explanation. It would rid the C.N.R. of its Portland terminal. Says the New Brunswick editor: “What we want the people of Canada to see is that this competition is antagonistic and unnecessary. Maritime ports suffer a four-fold injury. They lose unrouted freight that finds its way to Portland. They lose routed freight that might not be routed the Portland way if Portland were not a station on the National system. They lose the business inward and outward of steamers that, if not served by the government road at Portland, would be served by the same road at St. John or Halifax. They also lose the additional benefit that would come from C.N.R. Canadian employes and C.N.R. Canadian supply houses getting the wages and the supply pay which is now given to C.N.R. officials and supply agencies in a foreign country.” This much, then, for the transportation and trade side of the maritime situation.
Settling the Maritimes
THEN there is the problem of settlement.
F. M. Sclanders, of St. John, told the Moncton convention that “settlement of our vacant farms is our most pressing need.” He sketched conditions throughout the eastern provinces and deplored that “little or nothing was being done to replace losses through emigration.” The maritime provinces “having contributed much in money and people to the western provinces” deserve better treatment.
Mr. Sclanders advocated standardization of farm products to make farming more profitable and therefore more attractive to settlers. Business men, in his view, should take greater interest in farming.
Contrasting the condition of settlers in Northern Ontario who made a recent appeal for governmental assistance to overcome their lack of good roads, the St. John Telegraph-Journal says: “Here, settlers would not find themselves isolated indeed there are areas for settlement close to some of the best roads in the province, not to speak of great numbers of abandoned farms, where the soil is excellent and the newcomers would enjoy exceptional advantages, assuming, of course that their desire was to remain on the land.”
At the Moncton conference, Matthew Lodge told of the impression made upon the mind of a visitor from Holland when he surveyed the Albert county marshes,
and added that there is a possibility of securing Dutch farmers as settlers. They would find themselves living under conditions with which they are familiar and would undoubtedly be able to get larger returns from these lands than any other class of settlers.
“The problem of immigration,” warns the Telegraph-Journal, “lies in getting the right class of people and settling them where they will have the best opportunity to live under conditions with which they are not wholly unfamiliar. We may fairly assume that when the case of the maritime provinces has been prepared the rest of the country will see the reasonableness of the appeal for such an immigration policy as will yield definite results and offset to some extent the drift of our own young people to other parts of Canada and to the United States.”
WHAT of the “economic status of the maritimes under Confederación?” Observer, in the Maritime Merchant says he does not like the propaganda that has been waged, “placing the blame for the distressed condition of the maritime provinces on the fact that we are partners in the Canadian Confederation.” Observer does not deny that there has been distress but he asks, “where is there a section of the country in which there has been no distress of late years?” “So far as the maritime provinces are concerned,” he continues, “the measure of distress to-day would be just about the same as it is whether they had entered Confederation or not. Emancipation will not be found in splitting up the family. It seems a pity that there should be any who would lose faith in the future of Canada. This country is either going to be a great country or it is not and it certainly will not be great unless it holds together and unless everyone has faith in its destiny.”
The Canadian Reaction
HOW does central and western Canada react to the Moncton Conference? A number of editors immediately throw the case into the political ring and make it a subject for tariff discussion. The Manitoba Free Press is one of these. “It is just possible,” says the Free Press, “that a simpler solution of the whole problem would be to do something toward constructing a tariff policy that would give everybody in Canada a chance to travel along without crutches.” The Montreal Witness develops sympathy for the maritimes, “ground between the Fordney tariff on the one hand and the Canadian tariff on the other” and uses their problem to urge, “not more tariff barriers but less.”
“The tariff rebellion of Nova Scotia is well worth watching,” as the Calgary Albertan sums it up.
The Toronto Telegram, however, dismisses the political phase of the situation, thus: “Whether Canada is destined to be a land of magnificent distances with a straggling population continually leaking to the United States, or a great country developing its own vast resources and waxing strong and prosperous, depends upon acceptance or rejection of the principle of protection. And that issue will be settled in the polling booths, not by an informal interprovincial debate.”
The Springfield, Mass., Republican, contributes an interesting commentary, when in reviewing the maritime agitation it points out that Nova Scotia, for instance, “would probably be benefited more by a change of tariff policy in the United States than in the Dominion.”
A National Consultation
THE Vancouver Province endorses a national consultation, regarding the maritime situation as closely allied to that of the West. “We are all in the same boat, although pulling on four different oars,” says the Province. “If we ever expect to get anywhere it will be necessary for us to decide whither we are going and learn to pull together. The Moose Jaw, Sask., Times, suggests that the Moncton conference may become historic, “if it supplies a convincing answer to the improvements which will strengthen national unity.”
On the other hand, the Winnipeg Tribune confesses to a sense of weariness whenever a reference is made to “Canadian unity,” The Tribune agrees that
national unity is important and that we could enjoy more of it; but declares that “vague oratorical generalities will not overcome sectionalism.”
“If the maritime provinces, for instance, have a grievance, it is better service to Canadian unity to bring that grievance to a point and get it settled than it is to plead with the people down by the sea to look upon their neighbors to the west in a sweet tempered spirit of brotherly love. Urging ‘Canadian unity’ is like telling the patient to swallow cockle-burrs his mischievous brothers have thrown into his hair. It is a state standby of Canadian orators that ought to be flung on the scrap heap.”
The Ottawa Journal expresses lack of faith in business men’s conferences. “What on earth is Parliament for?” queries the Ottawa paper, “if it is not to deal with national questions in a national way.” The Manitoba Free Press is also dubious but hopeful that even if there were no results from a national conference, “the clear statement and better, mutual understanding of the differences which exist might ultimately help to remove them.”
The Toronto Globe, however, endorses the proposal. “From such a gathering” it observes, “we may expect fresh ideas and new points of view. There may be also a better recognition of the difficulty of governing Canada and giving free play to the development of its varied industries.”
Developing an Understanding
“T ACK of understanding of the pro-L' blems of the other fellow is the cause of most of our troubles in Canada, today,” stresses the London Free Press, adding, “When men get together with their feet under the same table, differences have a way of rapidly disappearing.” The Oshawa Telegram believes “it should be possible to arrive at some great broad basis of national thought.”
“When people feel themselves aggrieved it is natural for them to get together and talk over their troubles,” reminds the Hamilton Spectator. “The maritime provinces make no secret of the fact that they are dissatisfied and it is to their credit that they are determining to deal with their problems on broad national lines. If later on, east and west, meet together in friendly discussion with the set purpose of reaching a satisfactory solution of their difficulties, it would seem that nothing but good could result.”
The Calgary Herald commends the maritimes for the thorough way they are going about their tasks, “with broader than purely local vision.”
The Monetary Times considers, “the maritime provinces should reconsider the question of political union as one solution of their economic difficulties.”
“Looking at the taxpaying problem of our sister provinces with a kindred eye,” says the London Free Press, in extenuation of the Monetary Times' suggestion, “it does seem unreasonable that a province like Prince Edward Island with a population less than the city of Ottawa, should be asked to carry the expenses of a provincial government. Nova Scotia, the most populous of the three provinces, has fewer inhabitants than the city of Toronto, New Brunswick may shortly have fewer people than Winnipeg.”
The Fort William Times-Journal observes that, “amalgamation is probably closer than it has ever been to the range of practical politics,” and, summarizing the anomalies which tend to compel the economic decision, says: “The three
provinces, with a population of about 900,000 people, maintain for their government three legislatures and one legislative council, the whole numbering 133 persons or considerably more than the province of Ontario maintains for the governing of three million people. Add to this the upkeep of three parliament buildings, the salaries of three lieutenantgovernors, which total some $25,000 a year, and a payment of about $50.000 to premiers and other ministers of the crown and it will readily be seen that the cost of governing the maritimes is considerably more than a population of less than a million—which does not include any tremendous wealth—should be called upon to expend.”
The Halifax Herald approves the suggestion with the declaration that mari-
time “overhead is altogether out of proportion to our business needs—it is sheer waste of money.” Extravagance in governmental overhead is not confined to the maritimes, in the view of the Manitoba Free Press which contributes the thought that “consummation of a maritime union will no doubt revive suggestions for a union of the three prairie provinces.”
It will thus be realized that, as the St. John Telegraph-Journal expresses it, ‘the maritime conference in Moncton has aroused a great deal of interest throughout Canada.” A friendly sympathy and disposition to co-operate on the part of the rest of Canada, too, is very patent. “Of course the real task has yet to be performed,” as the St. John editor warns . . . and in the meantime, “In the Island city, where in 1864, a maritime conference took the step that led to Confederation, a conference quite as significant, so far as the future welfare and unity of all the provinces of Canada is concerned, will approve a bill of rights to be presented, first to a national conference and then to the Government of the Dominion.”