What Canada Loses by Waste


What Canada Loses by Waste


What Canada Loses by Waste



TO produce more by wasting less, is the moral that the writers hope will be taken from this article which simply cites a number of the outstanding forms of wastefulness, to be seen by anyone who has travelled about Canada, and exercised even moderately the ordinary faculty of observation. In these days, when the nation seems to be keenly alive to the necessity of less idleness and a more extended effort on the part of its individuals and an increased return from all sources of production, let the united application of the people be made for the purpose of improving loose methods, rather than with the aim of performing big works in an imperfect way. Let us gather up the fragments and proceed anew to feed the multitude.

Last summer, in the company of one of the Dominion forest rangers, the writer journeyed along the edge of the forest reserve that slopes down to the foothill country of Alberta from the first range of the Rocky mountains. As our horses mounted to a commanding position on the top of a high, wooded hill which overlooked a vast stretch of patchy-looking forest lying to the west, my companion pulled rein and, turning in his saddle, waved his hand over the devastated landscape and said: “All that waste of trees was caused by a careless camper who left a little fire up there to be blown about by the wind.”

“Do you know,” he continued, “that enough mercantile timber has been wasted by fire between here and the Pacific coast

to pay for the building of the mountain sections of three transcontinental railroads?”

The point was borne out by the report of the Chief Forester of the Department of the Interior at Ottawa in January at the annual meeting of the Conservation Commission, when that official said : “Last year, there were 1,406 forest fires in different parts of the Dominion, mostly in the West, which destroyed 438,567 acres of forest and 350,000,000 feet (board measure) of merchantable timber. The spring and summer of 1914 were exceptionally dry. In 1910, another dry year, there were 1,227 forest fires, which destroyed 345,660 acres of trees and 185,350,000 feet of timber that could have been used for manufacturing purposes. Most of the fires are caused by careless settlers, with the railways a close second and thoughtless campers third.”

Turn from the wild forests, nursed and protected by Nature and her elements with the assistance of the inspecting eye

of the fire ranger, to the ordered plan of our cities and towns with the protection of their police and fire equipment, and here also the wasteful fire fiend has burned his way through the country in an appalling manner. For years, the fire losses in Canada have been greater, according to population, than in any other country on the face of the globe. In 1913, the year in which fire did the greatest amount of damage in Canada, the average monthly loss due to fire was valued at $2,195,551, or $3.29 per capita per annum. Last year, the monthly loss was slightly less than in 1913, amounting to $2,026,751 or $3.15 per capita for the twelve months. The per capita fire loss for the whole of the United States is something like $2.16, and for three hundred of that country’s principal cities, the loss per head amounts to no more than $2.55. The great city of London, England, loses less than 50 cents per capita every year through fire. In the face of such evidence, the conclusion seems irresistible that Canada, besides being a prodigal spendthrift, is inhabited by an extremely careless people.


Travelling eastward from the edge of the forest reserve which extends southward through Alberta towards the international boundary line, one may behold from the tops of the more prominent foothills, afar off in fertile valleys, certain artificial-looking structures which upon closer observation, prove to be the derricks of the recently exploited oil field. There are some twenty-five of these der-

ricks scattered through the hills of Southern Alberta márking the endeavors of a few real scientists and the impulsive efforts of a very large number of speculators, to discover the elusive bed of petroleum which is supposed to lie somewhere along the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains. The oil “boom” of last summer in Alberta resulted in the organization of nearly five hundred companies which were given the power to sell shares of stock. The total capitalization of the crop of oil companies could be estimated conservatively at five hundred million dollars, and the amount raised by stock sales to be invested in the field in the form of working equipment was no more than five millions. The field has still to be proved, and it is not the aim of this article to reflect in any way upon the worth of that territory as a possible oilbearing district. But instead of devoting five million dollars to this quest, the people of Alberta, by expending the same amount of money in placing cattle or sheep on the rich pasturage of their foothill country, the finest feeding ground in America for livestock, might have assured themselves a lucrative return, and incidentally have conferred great benefit upon their province. The potential wealth that lies embedded in the thousand miles of pasturage in the Alberta foothills stretching northward from the international boundary line away into the Peace River Valley, has not realized in the slightest measure. Cattle men who have ranched in every famous area in America, from as far south as old Mexico to the last northern areas in Alberta, tell of the wonderful, unexplainable wealth of the natural feeding-ground in the far western province. In the first place, the dry autumn and winter seasons leave the grass in the foothills naturally cured, retaining all the food and nourishment of the fresh green, springtime growth. Stock are able “to winter out” in Alberta with safety and the absolute assurance that the animals may be “rounded up” in the spring, better finishing and weighing more than livestock that has been fed and cared for in barns or stables. For some unexplainable reason too, the cattle that are raised and fattened in the Alberta foothill country, even though they be the same kind that are feeding on the plains of Mexico, Texas, in the hills of Colorado, or on the ranges of Montana, weigh more in their finished state by three hundred to four hundred pounds per head than in the more southerly districts in the United States. This fact of Alberta’s superiority is upheld on the great central livestock market of America, at Chicago, in the form of top prices, on any occasion that shipments of cattle from far western Canada are received. Some oay, tne natural feeding ground of America will tell its story, but to-day for the greater part,

it is lying idle, a wide waste of richness, while close at hand people have been chasing recklessly after the fleeting image of Fortune.


The waste that has resulted through the desire of the people of this country and of other countries to speculate in western lands, is appalling, and leads almost to the conclusion that our federal system of settlement and of increased production up till the present time, has not been a success. In the Western part of Canada is this remarkably true. Over 58,000,000 acres of land have been alienated from the crown under homestead patents during the lifetime of the Dominion, and, in addition, some 42,000,000 acres have been disposed of in railway and other grants and in direct sales. Yet out of this enormous total of 100,000,000

under seed in the prairie provinces. Allowing for summer fallow and lands used for root crops and cultivated grasses, no more than 32,000,000 acres can be accounted for as in any sense cultivated. Assuming that all the land cultivated has been homestead land, it would still leave 26,000,000 acres of homestead area that has never felt the touch of the plough. As a matter of fact, however, much of the land under cultivation is not homestead land at all, but purchased property. It is very clear, therefore, that past methods of colonization and settlement have not been very successful. It simply means that at the present time, 70,000,000 acres out of the area, owned in Western Canada, is in condition of waste. If, as has been suggested quite often of late, a commission is to be appointed to investigate agricultural conditions in Canada with a view to encouraging greater production from the land, it would be interesting to know the nature of the ownership of that vast margin of western prairie land which never has been turned to the benefit of anybody. The word, waste, might be written all over the map of western Canada.

It is hardly necessary to point out the enormity of the waste on that portion of

acres, less than 20,000,000 acres have been

the western lands that is cultivated and that does bear some sort of crop. The tourist passing through the West in the months of September and October, or even later, must have been attracted often by the blazing fires which in the nighttime may be seen for miles and miles dotting the country. Those fires represent the waste of thousands of tons of the very best quality of straw. An authority in Saskatchewan speaking on this subject not long ago said that if the farmers of that province could get even half the eastern market value for their straw, they would add thirty million dollars annually to the worth of their crop. In other countries, Germany, for instance, (if it would not be treasonable to mention the name of that country) they utilize straw as well as other waste materials for the manufacturing of a certain grade of alcohol. Here they do not even save the straw for manure. Straw is burned to get it out of the way, and the ashes may blow to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Flax straw is an even more valuable material that is wasted by the ton on the western plains. About a million acres of western land was sown to flax in 1914, and the unusually small crop that was harvested left easily a million tons of flax straw and fibre to be wasted where it was cut. It would not be used even as fuel and, for such a purpose, flax straw is an excellent material. In the West flax is grown for the seed, which is sold abroad mainly and is worth to the land on which it is grown about $13 per acre. Flax, grown for seed and fibre, involving careful handling in the separation of the fibre from the straw, would return $58 per acre. True, the larger return would mean much labor and the investment of considerable capital to establish the industry, but unquestionably, with the valuable fields of Belgium devastated, it would be a profitable investment in Canada, and would result in the elimination of a huge amount of almost unpardonable waste.

Then closely associated with the production of the western plains, as well as with that of the smaller fields of the Eastern provinces, is the milling industry. In late years, milling has become a national industry, and its success or its failure is so closely related to that of agriculture and of the whole country, that it stands apart from most industrial enterprises, as of especial interest to the peoples of Canada. Milling as it is carried on now is not the business it was some years ago. The old-fashioned country mill is becoming a thing of the past, when the farmer carried his grain to town and had it ground into flour for his own needs and the needs of the neighboring community as well. The close community of interest between miller and farmer is gone, and most of the larger and modern-

ly organized mills of to-day never see a farmer at their doors. The making of flour has come under the control of corporations and boards of directors, and the stock of the milling companies is listed amongst brokerage houses and on the exchanges. Under present conditions in Canada, our mills are utilizing only half of their capacity. If all the flour mills in Canada were employed fully, they would turn out enough flour every year to feed 35,000,000 people. As matters stand they do not reach half of that output. The idle time is easily fifty per cent, of the total. The domestic market takes about nine million barrels of flour per year, and about four and a half million barrels are shipped to outside markets, principally to Great Britain. If, instead of thirteen or fourteen million barrels per year, the Canadian mills worked their entire capacity and turned out twenty-five or twenty-eight million barrels, a much greater economy would be effected in many departments of the country’s business. For one thing, the farmer would be able to sell more of his wheat at home, thus being saved the heavy transportaion charges on export shipments which are now deducted from the price that goes to the farmer. The by-products of the mill, too, would be of value to the livestock interests throughout the Dominion. But until the millers of Canada seek new and wider markets and a larger trade, the waste of half of the total capacity of their mills will continue.


Travelling to the older provinces of the East, one finds many more evidences of waste.

The writer stood one day in the past autumn admiring the magnificent crop of winter apples on the trees of a well-kept Ontario orchard. This orchard was situated in a country unusually famed for its development of co-operative enterprises and its owner, who was present on the day in question was beyond a doubt one of the most skilled orchardists in the province. Tree after tree, as far as the eye could trace to the eastward, groaned under a weight o f rapidly - reddening fruit, that by all appearances, should have packed out at least 75 per cent. No. 1 ; and that in Ontario means something.

“How many barrels of winter stuff will you have this year?” the owner was asked.

“Well, there should be at least five hundred barrels of the best grade on the trees,” was the reply. “But I’m not going to pick them.”

“Not going to pick them?—You are

surely joking, Mr. A-,” the writer

gasped, in amazement.

“Joking, not a bit of it,” came the quiet retort. “What’s the use of picking and packing them when they won’t bring enough to pay for your labor, let alone the cost of the barrels? If you want apples and have time to pick them yourself, come here and get at it. I won’t pick nor pack an apple this year.”

And he kept his word. Guilty of criminal negligence, he was anything but a criminal; he was the victim of circumstances which have prevailed in Canada during a decade. While his five hundred barrels of Spy, Baldwin and Greenings made frozen food for sparrows, poor children in the city thirty miles away, looked with eyes saddened with perpetual hunger at the few tastily arranged boxes of apples in the high-class downtown grocery.

Exaggerated, you say? Solitary instance? Not at all. In the fall of 1914, just passed, hundreds of thousands of barrels of the most luscious apples grown in Ontario were left on the limbs or rotted under the softening snows of early winter. In every country in Ontario enough apples to supply the wants of a large city went to absolute waste because of the lack of marketing facilities.

Another instance. The writer walked with a Lambton market gardener over his black-loam fields at pumpkin-picking time. This gardener was a man of acute business ability, the managing spirit of a co-operative shipping concern. He pointed to a patch of decaying cabbages.

“Never picked them,” was his terse comment. “There’s about an acre in that patch—beauties they were, too—but it wouldn’t pay to market them for less than five cents a head, would it? I just left them in the ground. They’ll make good green manure.”

Quite so, but does the present condition of the average c o n s u m e r’s family warrant this waste o f perfectly grown cabbages, and on this generous scale? Why not have that acre o f cabbages put in cold storage and sold now at ten cents per head, when housewives the province over are at their wits’ end to secure green stuff for the table?

Donald Johnston, Fruit Commissioner for Canada, spent last fall in a tour of the West. While in the famous Okanagan Valley of British Columbia he saw waste at its worst. While hundreds of towns and villages in Ontario did not see a single peach during the entire canning season,

thousands of bushels rotted in the grass at the foot of the trees in Okanagan. A few were put on sale locally—at ridiculously low prices—but the mass of Okanagan peaches went absolutely and completely to waste. Was that good procedure on our part? If peaches can come from the southern and western states of the Union to our high-class groceries why cannot the far superior Okanagan peaches be brought, in a lean year to the hungry East? Isn’t this waste at its worst?


The dairy industry of Canada is characterized by a certain amount of waste— a waste, so to speak, of omission rather than of commission. That is to say, while a great portion of the product is put on the market awaiting it, there is a most regrettable waste in the producing end. Inefficiency is stamped all over the yearly operations of thousands of the dairymen who are responsible for the appearance of the raw product—milk. True, they sell their milk; but do they get from their herds the milk they should, in consideration of the food and attention bestowed on the animals? For answer, let us accept the statements of a government expert, M. C. F. Whitley, of the Federal Dept, of Agriculture.

Speaking at the Eastern Ontario Dairymen’s Convention in January, 1913, Mr. Whitley said :

Investigation at five centres last year showed 3,188 cows giving an average of only $13.28—no princely return for twelve month’s work. From the records for Ontario during the past year I took figures relative to the three hundred poorest cows and the three hundred best cows, with this result:

“Three hundred poor cows—return $33.33; feed, $33; profit, 33 cents.

“Best one-tenth of three hundred best cows—return, $104.33; feed, $40; profit, $64.33.

“The three hundred best cows gave more milk than the three hundred poorest by 2,130,900 pounds.

“Each one of the good cows made as much profit as 195 of the poor kind.

“Ontario has 1,044,000 cows; at only $10 each the total increase might be over $10,000,000. If all the dairy cows in Canada could be brought to giving only ten dollars’ worth of milk more than they do now the extra revenue would be about $30,000,000.

“On some farms visited, only 150 pounds of milk were being produced per acre, while on others the production was as high as 1,750 pounds per acre.”

The remedy for this? Simply the use of the scale and, if possible, the Babcock tester. These two instruments applied at an almost nominal cost to every Canadian herd would, this year, mean scores of millions to the farmers’ exchequer.

But the waste in dairying continues beyond the realm of raw-product. The cream, separated from the milk, is on the majority of farms given little or no attention as regards cooling. Cooling of milk and cream is now regarded as ab-

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solutely essential. Yet farmers neglect to bother with it. The result is what? A waste of butter because of poor quality. In the last five years, Ontario has lost almost entirely its butter market in the western provinces, because of the deteriorating quality of the product. Witness the comment of Mr. L. A. Zufelt, Director of the Kingston Dairy School: “It is quite evident that much of our butter will not command the highest price and will gradually grow in disfavor unless we maintain a standard, if not better than, at least equal to the best foreign imports.”

Hear Mr. J. A. Ruddick, Dairy Commissioner for Canada: “It is significant

that while the demand for butter from i j the East has decreased, the direct shipj ments from New Zealand to Vancouver j I are expected to be 25 to 30 per cent, larger j than last year.” This was uttered in ¡ January, 1914.

Hear, yet, Mr. I. W. Steinhoff, speaking at Stratford last year : “I have before my mind a lot of 190 boxes handled during the past season of western Ontario butter, upon which the finish was so bad that in any discriminating market it would affect the selling price to the extent of one-half to one cent per pound.” Is not this the most gross waste—to J produce an article that should bring a j good top price, and spoil its sale by slovenly methods of finishing and marketing?

Ontario makes good cheese—another j dairy product—and the world market keenly awaits it. But we spoil its sale | and damage its fair name in two ways. J I First, by shipping when it is still “green.” } In his report for 1914, the Dairy Commissioner for Canada says:

“The practice of shipping green immature cheese still continues with many factories and the writer believes it is the most serious danger that threatens the j export trade. It means that the consumer in Great Britain is being offered an article which does not suit his taste,” j The second loss comes through the use i of too fragile packages. Not long since the writer heard the following statement made by a prominent cheese expert, Mr. Robert Johnson: “We often find twentyfive broken cheese boxes in a 100-box shipment. Many of the cheese themselves contain large rat-holes or similar defects.” Which, in the reader’s opinion, is worse : j to waste by failing to produce where one j might, or to go to expense of production ] and then waste the product? Why proj duce cheese if we are to spoil its chance on the world’s markets by shipping it I while still green, or enclosing it in boxes j which will not withstand the usages en route? Surely, the remedy for these defects is apparent and simple.


Figures regarding the waste of eggs in ( Canada are quite unnecessary. At every j j step in their progress from hen to housej I hold, they suffer enormous losses by wast!

age. On the farm countless thousands of j ! dozen lie for weeks in hidden, so-called | “new” nests; once gathered on the farm j I they are held much longer than is perj missible if they are to remain fresh; at i the country stores they bask in soap boxes | in some sunny nook till past redemption | and, finally, at the wholesale house they are candled, sorted and graded and from | j thirty to fifty per cent, set aside as belonging to those named but unnameable | degrees which in reality mean simply ¡ “unfit for use.” The wholesale house dej ducts the “rejects” from the total shipj ment, disposes of them to the best adj vantage, and remits the merchant who J consigned them the value of the accepted ¡ eggs. He stands the loss, as the farmer was paid by the dozen, good, bad and inI different. While all this loss is going on | I on Canadian farms and in Canadian I stores, Canadian consumers are forced to

import eggs each year to the number of over thirty million dozen.

In a recent issue of a current magazine appeared a story throwing a lurid sidelight on another form of farm waste. Two men driving over the prairie saw, behind an unused barn and hub-deep in drifting snows, a new-model Ford automobile. It had given good service during the summer and fall and had been stored in what a pioneer not irreverently called “God’s implement shed”—under the blue sky. How many snow-covered mounds on prairie farms to-day represent waste of farm machinery? On how many farms of Eastern Canada is the old, thick-grown orchard the only storehouse for farm implements. How long will a one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar binder remain efficient if left during the entire season at the mercy of the elements? Statistics would show that, in Western Canada particularly, the loss per annum from ruination of unprotected farm machinery is appalling.

Waste must not be taken to mean alone the waste of the whole or primal product; the term applies quite as much to the byproduct or refuse which may be involved. We in Canada do not waste very much of the wheat and oats we produce, however improvident we may be in their production. But we do waste—and that most flagrantly—certain by-products of our wheat and oats. These grains are cleaned in elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur and a material called “screenings” or “cleanings” remains. Last year there was at these two ports almost two million bushels of this material. What became of it? Shrewd Americans came over and took back with them over 50,000 of the 60,000 tons of screenings piled at our two upper lake ports. We retained a paltry 10,000 tons for ourselves. What became of the 50,000 tons? Listen to these facts, as given by an expert of the Seed Branch:

“A large proportion of elevator screenings is of good feeding value. The American feeders and feed manufacturers imported last year 50,000 tons of our screenings, against an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent, and freight charges to Chicago and Buffalo by lake and rail. The finished products, in the shape of dairy and poultry feeds and even mutton and eggs, are returned to Canada against more freight and duty charges. Last year we imported from the United States over 13,000,000 dozen eggs, costing over $2,500,000 and over 4,000,000 pounds of mutton and

Is that waste? Why not preserve and feed those screenings at home? If no one else ventures, why cannot the Federal Government maintain flocks of sheep at Port Arthur and Fort William to turn into profit our two million bushels of wasted food product?

Ontario is being urged to greater production. Wheat is being sowed on what formerly was pasture land. Farmers have been heard to say, “My cattle will suffer this year for lack of pasture.” Why? Stretching across this province, covering the northern half of six or seven counties, from Ontario county eastward, is a belt of land unsuited to tillage. It is rocky in

spots with interspaces richly grassed, well wooded with cedars and firs and abounding in fresh-water lakes. It is a great natural pasture ground. Besides, there are thousands of islands in our great lakes—isolated, rich in fodder grass and on the trade routes of Canada. Why not use this great belt of Ontario, now absolutely wasted, for the herding of sheep and cattle?

Impracticable—utterly impossible you say? Perhaps so. Yet one man, a Toronto lawyer, bas the run of 16,000 acres of this land—practically for nothing, it being Crown land—on which he keeps a large number of cattle. These graze all summer and during the late fall months are fed on baled hay and grain in the shelter of dense evergreen bush. About Christmas time, the cattle come to Toronto market in good condition and bring good returns, nearly all of which is clear profit, above the capital cost of the animals. If a man can do this, why not a company or a provincial Government? We would rather let the millions of acres of good natural feeding ground go to absolute waste.

“Open an office in Toronto in any year and you can get 5,000 idle men to enroll themselves as desiring employment.” This is the declaration of one who this winter has overseen the transfer of hundreds of idle men to temporary or permanent occupation. If his statement is true, even in a lesser degree than his words imply, surely this is waste—waste of labor, waste of men. The great surplus the city has is labor; the country is crying for laborers. Why cannot the waste of labor be overcome, or alleviated, by the inauguration of some such system as the Labor Exchanges of Great Britain? This is far too young a country to be tormented by what seems to be a permanent condition of unemployment affecting thousands. This year, at least, one does not need to dwell upon the “waste of labor.” It is too painfully apparent.

The instances of wastefulness of national character are innumerable. And in seeking a general reason for such prodigality, it is possibly because of the lack of thrift and economy in the private practice of the individual. At any rate sufficient evidence has been shown to impress upon the popular mind of Canada the need for a national economy which might be expressed in the words, “Watch and Waste Not.”

Fish’j Driven] from North|"Sea

A curious feature of the European war is the effect that the heavy cannonading by warships has had on the fish of the North Sea. It is reported that great shoals of fish came up into the rivers and canals of Holland, leaping out of the water as they sometimes do on a summer day, and that there were swarms of fish in places where they had never been found before. It is thought that the cannonading disturbed the fish.