FOR SALE for a SONG
NO. VII. IN THE SERIES “CANADA REVISITED”
AGNES C. LAUT
I WILL tell next month how the very laws which were designed to keep oil resources from falling in the hands of big holders impede the development of natural resources and bring about the very thing which they were designed to hinder.
One can’t go far without being painfully aware that the same thing is true in the labor world, though when you mention labor you, are supposed to do so with a Maxim silencer on and gum shoes on both feet. It is a curious thing—that aversion to facts—when you touch this subject; and it is a bad sign in any policy when they won’t stand the daylight of facts.
Now I want to clear the air of a smoke screen usually sent up when you mention Labor just now. I want to put on record that the greater the gains to Labor financially, the more money there will be in circulation and the better for the country.; but I said Labor, not decreased output, not slacking back, not a policy of getting something for nothing, of wind instead of work. I would like to see Labor getting $20 a day if it could get it without stopping the wheels going round. I would like to see it get that because I am a laborer, myself, and love work too much ever to limit myself to eight hours a day. I like work so much consider it better than play.
But I would also like to put on record that the greater the gains to Capital financially, the more money there will be in circulation and the better for the country; but I said Capital, not decreased output to send up prices, not holding back to profiteer, not a policy of getting something for nothing, of squeezing the public by limiting output. would like to see Capital getting 100 per cent, if it Could get it without stopping the wheels going round. I would like to see it get that because in proportion as I work and save I am a capitalist; and it is the big aggregate of a lot of little savings like my own that build up Big Capital with a big C.
Is that a fair statement of the case?
Now let us see if Labor’s policy is designed to build up $20 a day returns to it so that it will really become Capital —bridging the chasm between the two by its own thrift, its own savings, its own foresight. You can’t build Capital up by tearing it down; and you can’t build Labor up by tearing it down. We have seen what tearing down has done in Mexico and Russia; and if you have any doubts, just tear the brakes open, turn on the gasoline, and let your best motor car come down hill. It will demonstrate just what tearing down will do.
DECAUSE the world—or a large part of it, certainly the Russian, Mexican and German part of it—representing a population of easily 300,000,000—is being led just now into a bog, that is a cess po.ol of lust and murder—by a lot of opinions that are untried theories—I want to keep strictly to a statement of concrete facts.
If the facts collide with the theories, so much worse for the theories. You can’t alter a fact, any more than you can break a natural law7. You only hurt yourself when you collide head-on into a fact, just as you break yourself, when you think you are breaking a law.
_ Ten years ago I was in British Columbia when the question of Oriental Immigration became a very serious one. More than 100,000 Hindoos wanted to come to British Columbia. That was a very critical thing both for Canada and the Hindoo. The Hindoos were British subjects. If they had been admitted, they would have had the right to claim the admission of their wives; and that would have entailed the child wife system; for the child wife system is involved in the physiological fact of very early adolescence consequent in all tropical races. Canada didn’t want the child wife. Neither did she want the problem of a black patch, or a brown patch, set down in the midst of a white population.
We had facts to go by, here. We did not need to run off in untried theories. The facts were to be found in the Southern States. Wherever the blaçk and the browm patches came, the white races were driven out, not because the white could not compete against the black and the browm, but because of the peril to child life, especially young girlhood. This does not need any explanation. Every Southerner knows what it means. So does every Northerner, who has lived in the South. Canada is to-day a safe country—safe as your owm home porch—for every girl or woman from Atlantic to Pacific, safe in the remotest settlement as in the midst of a cordon of police; and long may our national life remain clean and pure of tropical vices as our clear pure air is of tropical djseases.
So to prevent a black patch, or a browm patch, settling dowm like a cloud on our Pacific Coast, it w7as ruled by Order-in-Council—Ottawa—that incoming immigrants on the Pacific should in one case pay a head tax of $500, in another case have at least $600 on their person. This excluded the scum of Oriental immigration and admitted the civilized classes, with whom tropical vices and diseases are not regnant. But it was never meant to apply to British white men from Australia, nor to coolies in transit to and from work in the European War,
Now for some concrete facts.
They Come to Make a Stake
OT long ago, an Australian longshoreman reached 1 ~ Vancouver with slightly less than $600 on his person. There were longshoremen strikes on at Prince Rupert and Vancouver, That Order-in-Council against the Oriental was worked by the Unions. The Australian could not get admission to Vancouver. He promptly went across to Seattle and is to-day an American settler, instead of a Canadian.
Also in the last ten years since the democratizing of China and the liberalizing of Japan, Oriental immigration isn’t coming any more to remain. It comes only to work and go back. It does not want to be a permanent brown
During the War, from 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese coolies passed to and from Europe through Pacific ports in Canada. In batches of 10,000 they had to await transport ships months and months in British Columbia. They and their bosses were eager to work at $10 to $20 a month to pay the eest of their keep while they waited, clearing bush lands round Vancouver at contract job prices.
The Order-in-Council was invoked against them. They were kept waiting in utter idleness, some of them as long as eleven months, at a cost to our British finances, taxed to bear the burden of the War, of not less than 40c to 50c a day. They could easily have cleared hundreds of thousands of heavy timber acres, which could have been resold to white settlers at just the cost of clearing. They were not allowed to do so for fear they would “break” the labor market, though there are ten jobs in British Columbia to-day for every man there is available to do a job.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, there are stretches of track on our National railways positively unsafe for heavyhauling owing to the sinkage of gumbo soil, because the railroad cannot hire or bribe white men to work in these sections, because the surplus labor does not exist to work on these sections. They are close to heavy river beds. They are thickly, almost impenetrably, forested. They are infested with mosquitoes. The wages run $4.50 to $6 for an 8-hour day. The board which I have lived on and which is as good as you get in any tourist camp in Jasper Park—does not exceed $1 a day. Yet the laborers can-
not be got. The Order-in-Council was invoked and the coolies were not allowed to work. Labor threw a monkey wrench into
National development and boasted of its triumph and
But did it really triumph? Who got hit by the monkey wrench?
Let us take facts again.
Let us take the timber problems of British Columbia.
British Columbia is the most richly endowed province in Canada. It has wheat lands. It has grazing lands. It has mines. It has pulp wood. It has building timber— all pretty nearly without-limit. It has a population of, say, 500,000; and it cannot feed itself. It has to import $20,000,000 a year of poultry products from China, and another $20,000,000 of dairy products from Australia and parts of Canada. That money goes out of British Columbia. It is needed in British Columbia. Importing food means higher and higher cost of living. Higher and higher cost of living means higher and higher demands for wages. Wages and raw material are already so high in British Columbia that house building has pretty nearly stopped. So rents are high. Who pays rent? Labor. Why are they high? Labor! Who gets the boomerang? Labor.
Or take taxes on property.
In the pre-War days, British Columbia went ahead at a terrific rate in municipal improvement, in paving, in street railroads, in steam roads to open mines and farm lands and timber limits. Came the slump of the War. The province had to assume certain railroads to prevent defalcation of interest on bonds. Who pays the cost of these roads today? The tax payer, the public, you do and I do; and because immigration stopped, there are too few people to bear that burden of taxation; so it falls very heavily on those who are here sticking it out. I could tell you of case after case in Prince George, in Prince Rupert, in Vancouver, in Victoria, all through the province, where in spite of higher and higher rents, the annual rentals do not pay the annual taxes; and these properties are falling in the hands of—Labor? Not much! They are falling in the hands of Eastern Capital,
The Brush Land Problem
T RECALL one shipbuilding plant typical of many. As
long ns the War lasted and tonnage commanded all the way from $140 to $260 a ton, the plant could afford to go on with high overhead and higher and higher wages; but when the War stopped and the company could no longer be sure of $140 to $260 a ton because no one could foresee what ocean freights would be, the company had to shut down. It had to shut down because it could not get money to pay the high overhead. Result—500 men were thrown out of that yard. They and their families moved away from British Columbia. Loss to Canada, 2,500 settlers, at the potential value of $1,000 a head a year-doss to Canada in circulation and trade $2,500,000.
Now come back to the brush land problem.
British Columbia cannot feed herself because she cannot clear her heavy timber lands fast enough to raise food for her population. These timber lands are a terrific problem. Brush lands in Manitoba cost $10 to $12 to clear an acre. In British Columbia, if the timber is light, they cost $300 to clear slowly by hand, $200 by big machinery operated on a contract basis. If the timber is heavy, they cost $800 to clear by hand, $500 by contract.
But it takes at least a year after the timber is cleared to get the land in shape for planting. The land is sour. It needs to be plowed and turned up and oxidized before it yields. Then the end of the second year after clearing, it yields a crop. If the crop is in cereals, even oats at 100 bushels to the acre will not support the settler. Even berries at $1,000 to $2,000 yield at 20 to 22 cents a pound— for which the U.S. canneries are bidding frantically to supply soft drinks—it will not always sustain the settler; for
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the first yield has to pay for those first three years of clearing and future years of clearing; and at the end of two years, the land has to be plowed up again and be prepared for fresh planting; and taxes are high; and even at the paper estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 strawberry plants to the acre and a yield of one pound to a plant and a price of 22c a pound—the price last year —at a cost of $800 an acre to clear, it is going to be a long process and a chancey process to clear 100 acres, to clear oyer twenty acres. It is going to be a life job to clear twenty acres; and by the time a man, or woman, age twenty-five, has put in twenty years clearing twenty acres; they want to be on easy street, sure of a steady annual income.
In the interval, a wet year, a dry year, a blight year, a market panic year—all factors beyond human control—may put the settler out of business. He may lose a team of horses by accident. He may break his leg at his job. His wife may take sick. The kiddies may need schooling, which can’t be deferred for twenty years. He claps on a mortgage—the easy way past an emergency—and then comes a tjad year. He can meet neither taxes, nor mortgage, and is sold out. Sold out to whom? To capital.
What usually happens is this.
A “Comfy” Place to Retire
HE GETS nauseated by the long, seemingly endless job. He won’t stick. He clears two, or five, or ten acres. Then he looks for some pioneer farmer, who has grown rich on wheat and wants to retire to a climate less strenuous than 40 degrees below for his post-meridian period. The British Columbia clearing farmer sells out at all he can get. He can always get from $200 to $300 an acre for fruit land even at a distance from market. He can frequently get from $1,000 to $2,000 an acre close in—say twelve miles—from Vancouver, or Victoria, or some other city
centre; but if you think the prairie farmer, who has toiled till he is gray-haired at forty getting a competency on the prairie, is going to break his neck, when he retires for a rest on the Pacific Coast, to raise food for British Columbia—you don’t know human nature as it is. When he retires for a rest, he is going to build him a “comfy” bungalow—a^beautyspot with trees and ocean outlook for which he has longed for twenty years—and raise enough to support his own family, and take it easy—which the soft Pacific climate with its mild lotus-air social atmosphere tends to do anyway.
So British Columbia does not raise enough food to feed her population; and the cost of living goes up and up. And who pays? Chiefly Labor.
Suppose those heavy bush lands could be cleared by contract jobs—Orientals or any others—and the land sold at exactly cost to any and all settlers—who—chiefly —would buy those lands? Highly paid Labor, especially close in to such big industrial centres as Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Give those big industrial centres all the Labor they need, all the market demands—Vancouver would be a San Francisco in ten years. Prince Rupert would be a Seattle in ten years; and clearings, which Labor to-day could buy at $200 to $300, would in ten years sell at, not $1,000 to $2,000 for berries, but $16,000 an acre for suburban lots.
Is there any easier way on earth in which Labor could have its sure competency in ten years?
These things have happened in Seattle, in Tacoma, San Francisco, Los Angeles. I could give the names of thousands of men in each of these centres, who have come up to opulence by just this shirt sleeve route in ten years. Why is this development not going ahead in British Columbia?
Because Labor has thrown a monkey wrench in National development; and he
small politicians out for a vote to get their feet in the hog trough, have refused to pluck the monkey wrench out. Because the wheels are being spiked from going round by utterly false economic theories that if you hinder the other fellow, especially if you take from the other fellow something for nothing, you are somehow advancing yourself.
No falser theory was ever enunciated.
Who is hurt by present conditions of higher and higher cost of living?
Who is hurt by the shut down of plants, that cannot pay their overhead?
Take the case of Lulu Island, an easy motor run of six to twelve miles from Vancouver, which in a few years will be a city suburb of Vancouver.
Years ago, this land was cleared by Chinese and Japs, who long since have retired to sleep with their ancestors. Here is how they did it. They bought it cheap from tired-out white settlers, who would not, or could not, stick. They built little two-roomed log shacks. They bought year’s provisions, chiefly rice. They later added a cow, or a pig, and fished for other diet. They were eaten alive by mosquitoes, but their hides were evidently malaria proof. They didn’t work on an eight-hour schedule.
Till the lands came into bearing and were drained into garden spots of beauty and rich yields that stagger you by their returns, they worked on tracks, on drays, in lumber mills, as house servants—as anything to put them through. Then they sold to the white at $150 to $2,000 an acre—no buildings—according to the planting and quality of the land and yield. Here scores of Soldier Settlers have bought at from $300 an acre—which the Board permits—up to $1,000 an acre, when their own funds permitted.
Even at an indebtedness of $5,000 to $8,000, they will make good; for they can repay in twenty-five year payments; and good land will easily foot the yearly payments. Meantime, this land will presently sell at the price of city lots; and if every Soldier Settler stampeded away to-morrow, the Soldier Settlement Board could resell at ten times the loans advanced on it. And this holds good of all such lands.
But take two other areas—either from Vancouver South to Westminster, or from Victoria North. This is terrifically heavy timbered land. It will cost from $300 to $800 to clear. I know big syndicates, which the soap box orators are fond of calling “skindicates.” Well, they were “skindicates” all right; but it was the syndicates, who got skinned. They spent $300,000 trying to clear these lands, and sold the lands at $300 to $1,000 an acre fast as they were cleared; and at the end of ten years, had less than a profit of $1,000 to show on an investment of $300,000^ That is $100 a year profit on a cash capital of $300,000. How is that for the sms of bloated Capital with a big C? Don’t hear of it from the soap boxes—do you?
Facts are horribly awkward little things, when you project them into theories.
I know of a big coal mine which the owners will sell for the proverbial song— because they can’t get labor to work it. A photo of a section of this mine is shown at the head of this article. Wages could be paid from $6 a day to $23 a day, by piece work. But there’s no labor available.
I know one syndicate that has a standing offer to give away its balance of land to any one who will pay the taxes; and that land is not a stone’s throw from one city of 200,000, and another city of 20,000. They were against Oriental immigration too. They told me for the first few years they could get white labor to toil at the colossal job of those giant trees and mammoth roots. But the white men would not “stick.” To-day, they can get neither white man, nor brown ; and they are making a present of the land to the Government! but land which goes back in the hands of the Government, does not pay taxes foi railroads and municipalities that havj interest on debts. So up go taxes, t| those who do pay; and up go rents; ana up goes the cost of living.
Once a small relative of mine sent his balloon so high it never came down. Wé tried to show him that when it went up so high, the pressure inside would be so mud) greater than the pressure outside that ft would—as he said—“bust;” but he persiste in thinking it will still go up and up and up till it reaches Heaven.
I prefer to close this article without idding another word.