Current Opinion Across The Dominion
"The Whisper of Death" and "The Shout of Life"
THE cumulative effect of the Montreal Star's "Whisper of Death” campaign is still being felt in every province and eliciting commendatory or condemnatory replies from scores of editorial sanctums. The earlier comments
of Canadian newspaper editorial writers were chiefly devoted to "paying their respects“ to the Montreal Star and to its proprietor, Lord Atholstan. Now that the first shock of the "Whisper of Death” series has somewhat worn away, the newspapers are devoting themselves to a refutation or grudging and qualified support of some of the facts brought out irr: •' 'Have faith in Canada,” according to the Winnipeg Tribune, is the keynote of many an editorial. As the Ottawa Citizen says, "Our people have advantages which are the envy of other nations. I’se these advantages wisely, forget the forebodings of the faint-hearted, ha*e confidence in the superior position and ability of Canadians, and the outlook will undergo a much-needed change."
As the Montreal Star’s “Whisper of Death” series progresses, it becomes more and more definite in its statements, and constructive -rents. The burden
of taxation—due to federal, provincial and municipal waste and extravagance—is hammered home time and time again by the Star. "Banker,” writing for the organ of Lord Atholstan, says:
"We get a clear glimpse of the course of extravagance and waste in Dominion administration when we see that the total tax bil! of the country was $73,325,963 fifteen years ago, and in 1922 it was $320.320.945. The war accounts for but $93.000.000 of this increment of $246,994.932.”
In another article, "Banker” goes on to show how the burden of taxation has increased in the various prorinces, and in the course of eight years he demonstrates that Prince Edward Island has had an increase of sixteen per cent.; Nova Scotia forty-four per cent.: New Brunswick fiftyfive per cent.; Quebec forty per cent.; Manitoba ninety-five per cent.; Saskatchewan sixty-seven per cent.; Alberta one hundred and sixteen per cent.; Ontario two hundred and thirty-six per cent.; and British Columbia two hundred and thirtynine per cent.
The Star quotes a bulletin of the Royal Bank as follows:
"We are convinced that the expense in many cases has involved, and still involves, a large element of waste. The result is a continuous increase in the tax rate of the country, and, as a consequence, an appreciable rise in price levels. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole problem is one of the most serious with which the country must cope.”
Sir John Willison is quoted by the Star in the foliowring words:
"It is no secret that income and business taxes are eating up the surpluses of many individuals and many commercial and industrial companies. The revenue from these sources must be gradually reduced if nothing is done to ease the public burden. revive agriculture and industry and increase population.”
"We are not in sympathy with the Montreal Star, yet that paper has served the purpose of arousing more than passing interest,” says the Port Arthur NewsChronicle, ‘‘in a matter that vitally affects every taxpayer in Canada. Bankers and financiers express grave concern over the situation.”
According to the Sydney (Nova Scotia)
Post, "a balanced budget and a courageous policy would put the Montreal whisperer out of commission.” In the view of the Summerside (Prince Edward Island! Journal, "The Government'and the people of Canada must give up their extra\ agances and practise greater economy." "There are just two methods by which the situation may be righted— further taxation and reduced expenditure." remarks the Kincardine Review.
Brenton A. MacNab, a former managing editor of the Montreal Star, writes in Matin (Montreal) what is intended for a lengthy refutation of the “Whisper of Death” comment on Canada’s financial burden, and says in conclusion:
"We are then on this showing not swamped with debt nor in impending danger of it. We are, in comparison, on ‘Easy Street,’ even if some people whom we know make a dunghill of it, where they take comfort in swinish fashion, despite the loud porcine squeals that float out for the benefit of the common taxpayers.”
The Montreal Gazette conspicuously refrained from commenting upon the “Whisper of Death” articles for some weeks, “so long as the writer confined himself to mere rant and fury.” However, when the Star entered into details and gave alleged facts and figures—which the Montreal Gazette stigmatizes as “absolutely
false” and as “a fantastic travesty of truth”—this leading daily quoted figures extensively to show that the vast amount of the increase in our publie debt had been due to war conditions over which the Government had no control. Apart from what the Gazette refers to as “probable error” in the Star's figures, the former paper agrees that there had been an “extravagance in public expenditure.”
“Taxation is now a clog upon business,” and “budget balancing should come from reduced expenditure, not new imposts,” concludes the Gazette.
The Ottawa Journal asserts that conditions are not as bad as they are painted by the Montreal Star, nor as roseate as depicted by certain enthusiastic editorial writers who take issue with the Star. The Journal says:
“This is not written with eyes closed to the extravagances going on in provincial and municipal administration throughout the Dominion, and which is still in a large degree unchecked. Our greatest danger to-day is not from the heavy liability of the Federal Government, but from the burdens which have been created by minor bodies having the power to tax.
“Nor are we ignoring the fact that retrenchment is necessary in every direction. It is imperative. Spending and borrowing have got to be curtailed. Waste must cease. Nevertheless this campaign of fear
is deprecated as a dangerous and wholly unnecessary means to an end. An alarmed and discouraged man is handicapped, and so should we be as a nation if we yield to the ill-advised suggestions of those who are talking about the ‘Whisper of Death.’ Let us, rather, look around and see how much there is of cheerful constructive effort.”
The Montreal Star concludes one of its “Banker Whispers” by drawing attention to the fact that Great Britain reduced her debt last year by $480,000,000, and that the United States cut the liability of that country by nearly $2,000,000,000. Both New Zealand and Australia are stated to have made substantial reductions under conditions no less trying than our own, but Canada, according to the Star, increased her debt by more than $50,000,000, notwithstanding exceedingly heavy taxation. The Star then queries: “How long can we continue to pile up interest-bearing debts in this mad way?”
One particularly interesting feature of the Star’s series of ' rticles, and the Dominion-wide comments thereon is the continual reference made to the alleged hopelessness of efficient Federal Government under present leadership. The Star says:
“New blood is needed. The old blood has run thin. But there is no salvation in a third party. This throws us back on the two old parties, yet neither of these parties—as constituted to-day—promises much relief.”
Sir John Willison endorses the viewpoint of the Star in regard to the paucity of leaders of great stature, and says:
“There never was greater need for leaders in Canada, but a paralysis seems to have seized upon its official spokesmen, its people are misrepresented or unrepresented, and we are drifting through a stretch of history as arid as we have known since Confederation.
“If Canada is to remain Canadian— and British—and if the very name of Canada is not to disappear from the map,” goes on the Montreal Star, “our men of courage and vision must bestir themselves and seize the loose reins of Government from the slack hands of professional Parliamentarians of both parties who seem to make no use of them except to keep from falling off the driver’s cushioned seat. Neither of the two parties—as constituted to-day—promises much relief.”
"The Star is right—the need of the hour is for leaders who can lead. But where are they?” asks Frank J. D. Barnjum, who concludes dramatically, “Canada must be saved to-day. To-morrow may be too late,” in a letter addressed to the editor of the Star, but published under a “Whisper of Death” heading.
The St. Johns, (Quebec) News pays little heed to the clamor for some superman who will towrer head and shoulders over the men now in public life and lead Canada out of its difficulties. It implies that there is no use in sighing for a Macdonald, a Laurier, a Tupper, a Mowat, a Brown, a Blake, a Cartwright or an Alexander Mackenzie. The News asks :
“Does anyone think for a moment that the task confronting Canadian statesmen to-day would be easily disposed of by a Tupper or a Laurier, or even by a Macdonald?”
“One feels,” says the Toronto Globe. “behind the constant reiteration of this phrase of the Star's (calling for new leadership), that it has its eye on some Montreal Mussolini who even now may be preparing to march on Ottawa, as the Italian strong roan marched on Rome, and assumed control, after over-awing and evicting the politicians there.” The Kingston Standard q ite pertinently inquires: ‘‘If the Star is so positive that it has found the real remedy for all our troubles, and that we do need new blood, why doesn’t it come out in the open and name its man?”
“THE BOND TRIUMPHANT”
THE FRIENDS of two rival interests—The Catholic Register and the Catholic Women’s League—are engaged in a merry controversy as to which deserves the credit for inducing the editors of MacLean’s to discontinue “The _ Bond Triumphant,” a story which many Catholics felt was iyiaccurate and unkind in its references to their clergy ayxd people. The facts are that neither interest had anu possible connection with discontinuing the story; and, further, no influence whatever was brought to bear. On the other hand, after the editorial management decided to discontinue the story, the matter was discussed with two Roman Catholics, one occupying an important position, and the peculiar thiyig is that they both felt that the story might be continued.
The issue from which the second instalment of the serial was omitted was printed ¿md in the mails for days before the letter of protest was received from the president of the Catholic Women’s League. A copy of the Catholic Register, containing an editorial criticising the story, was not received until several days later. To be more precise, the issue of July 15 went to press July 9. Copies were in the mails, en route to B.C. readers, July 10. The Catholic Register did not appear until July 12 and it was not until some days later that its comments came to our attention. The letter from the president of the Catholic Women’s League vjas received, by the editor July 13.
The real fact is that a personal letter was received from an old reader by a. member of the editorial board who had not previously read the novel. The latter picked up the story for the first time axid, after a careful reading, he found himself in agreement vnth the writer of the letter. A conference of the editorial board was called, followed immediately by steps to stop further publication.
When the attention of the president, Colonel J. B. Maclean, was called to the article, he also read it for the first time and then expressed his entire approval of the action takeyi by the editorial board, remarking that if the story had been about his own people, the Highland Scotch, and his own Church, the Church of Scotland, in which his own father had, been a clergyman, he would have resented it very strongly.
This attitvAe of consideration for the feelings and rights of others has received. v;ide endorsement from leading papers throughout the Dominion. For example, the Ba,ptists of Canada take exactly the same view when they say through, their Church organ, the Canadian Baptist:
“Catholics resent what they regard as an unfair and prejudiced picture of some of their pioneer leaders. Baptists would be just as much annoyed if some of their leaders of other generations were treated as Bishop Laval and his generation and church are in ‘The Bond Triumphant.’”
The record, of MacLean’s Magazine during and since the war is the best evidence that no interests, however powerful, have had the slightest effect upon the policy or contentions of MacLean’s Magazine when great principles were at stake. Time and. ago,in, MacLean’s took its business life in its hands when it went strongly against pre-conceived public opinion, an adamant state of mind, and criticized, exposed and told, the truth about political and war idols, who were mismanaging our affairs. It was abused on tho platform and in the press by persons v:ho did not know the facts. But in each case, subsequent developments prroved MacLean’s to have been right.
Further, old readers of MacLean’s will recall that during all these years it has fought persistently to overcome the greatest handicap Canada has in nation building — sectional, racial, religious and other class differences, and it has endeavored, to interpret these classes each to the other in those points which have rnad.e them almost separate peoples, so that a, unity based on mutual knowledge v;ovM be developed in which all nation-wide questions would be dealt with nationally, and not according to sectional prejudices.
It is 'no pleasure to MacLean’s thus to advertise in detail its policy and actions, but the record is clear-. MacLean’s has shown that it can take the unpopular aide when principles are at stake, as witness its war record, and at this late date it has no intention of departing from its declared principles as CANADA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE.
As was shown in MacLean’s Magazine for September 1, in this department, many of the newspapers, particularly of course those with Conservative leanings, see in Lord Atholstan’s action a direct attack upon former premier Meighen. This delights the editor of the London Free Press, who says that “no greater compliment could be paid the Conservative leader than the fact that he has won the enmity of the Montreal Star, which represents the views of the re-actionaries of Montreal.”
The editor of the Free Press—who is able to be exceptionally well qualified to comment on questions of this kind— then goes on to relate the inside story of the roorback which was used so effectively by the Montreal Star at the time of the federal election two years ago. On this occasion the Star announced, just on the eve of the election, that the Government at Ottawa was planning to remove, from Montreal to Toronto, the headquarters of the Grand Trunk Railway. This was denied, of course, but had an undoubted effect upon the course of the polling in the Proviñce of Quebec, which went solidly Liberal. The Pree Press editor continues:
“Mr. Meighen is not the kind of a man who sits idly under such charges, and it is common gossip that immediately the campaign was over the Conservative leader bearded Lord Atholstan in Montreal and demanded the proof for the roorback. None being forthcoming, Mr. Meighen is said to have told the noble lord in plain language what he thought of him. Since then the latter has evidently been on the trail of Mr. Meighen.”
So much for the viewpoint of an ardent Conservative newspaper. The Calgary Albertan,• which has had strong Liberal leanings, says unequivocally that “the Montreal Star is attempting to oust Mr. Meighen from the leadership of the Conservative party. The general opinion is that he wants to ‘get’ Mr. Meighen because he is identified with nationalization of the railway. The control of the railway will some day be the dividing issue, separating two dominant parties in public life in Canada.”
This question of the railway, the Montreal Star points out, is the pivotal problem of the deficit. It goes on to say:
“We can work no cure while this hemorrhage persists. It is the fatal wound in the side of the country, and it must be healed. This country is tremendously over-railroaded.
“If we had the job to begin, de novo, of providing railroads for the 8,000,000 people scattered over Canada to-day, there are a lot of lines we would not build. But they are built; and we are in debt for many of them. But if we cannot tear up rails, we can cut out trains, and any government which is going to deal with this railway evil, with vigor and courage enough to do it, must not think of ‘playing favorites.’ It must tell the Canadian Pacific (as well as the Canadian National) to bear its share and take its place in the saving scheme of things.”
The Ottawa Journal, the Montreal Gazette, the Brantford Expositor, and many other newspapers point out, gleefully, the operating profits of the Canadian National Railways for the first seven months of 1923. An operating deficit of $2,202,000 for the same period in 1922 was turned into, in 1923, an operating surplus of $2,985,000. The Ottawa Journal says:
’“That is a most excellent showing, and it must be remembered that the big traffic months—the movement of the western crops—are still to come; the showing would be better and better as the year wears on. All of which explains the hysteria of a small ring in Montreal whose deepest longing is the failure of the people’s railway which recently burst the bounds of discretion in a wail pf pessimism.”
Many newspapers continue to assert that one of the chief purposes—if not the chief—of the Montreal Star in its “Whisper of Death” series is to compel the denationalization of the Canadian National Railways. The Christian Guardian says that “the people of Canada would probably a good deal sooner face all the horrors foreshadowed in the ‘Whisper of Death’ than face the alternative of one great railway corporation controlling all our Canadian railways.”
An authoritative statement in this connection is found in the Brockville Recorder and Times, the paper owned by the present Minister of Railways, the Hon. Geo. P. Graham. A statement
coming from the Recorder and Times may therefore be taken as, at least, semiofficial. The Brockville paper says:
“The National Railways are going to build up Canada provided the people realize that they are the owners of the business and co-operate in every way to make it pay. Deficits are decreasing and if the directors are permitted to do their work unhampered by fanatical theorists, and hostile financial groups whose interests are not being served, there is no real reason for the fears expressed by the Montreal Star.”
One of the most interesting and illuminating comments upon the Montreal Star’s articles comes from an American
writer, T. F. Day, of New York, who in a letter to the Montreal Gazette, answers the Star’s “Whisper” by a compilation of exceedingly optimistic headlines taken from the Star’s own columns. He gives a list of between forty and fifty headlines, all indicative of prosperity and good fortune for Canada, both now and in the future. These headlines, of course, appeared over the routine news articles from day to day. In summing up, Mr. Day well asks, “Oh, Death, Where is Thy Sting?”
This method of retort appeals to the humor of editorial writers right across the country and Mr. Day’s letter is reproduced in such papers as the Manitoba Free Press, the Cornwall (Ontario; Freeholder, the Brantford Expositor, the Yarmouth (N.S.) Herald, and the Summerside (Prince Edward Island; .Journal.
The Toronto Globe quotes the Hon. Robt. Rogers—J. K. Munro’s “Minister of Politics”—with approval when he says, “The Canadian people are weary of jingo and bunkum.” It is certainly a matter of interesting record when the Toronto Globe can agree with the Hon. Robt. Rogers!
Several newspapers in the West believe that the Montreal Star, and other eastern newspapers, should pay more attention to the problems of Western Canada. Their viewpoint is epitomized in an exceptionally well-reasoned editorial in the Chauvin (Alberta) Chronicle. This paper counsels eastern editors and readers to “forget for the time being the company board room, the directors’ meetings, and the declaration of dividends—so frequent in Montreal—and learn at what price in toil and endurance the western immigrant pays toll to the East in high interest charges; and, in the tariff toll whereby the eastern manufacturer profits at the expense of the consumer.”
“If this study is indulged in,” the Chronicle continues, “the Montreal Star will learn that the ‘salvation of Canada is a question of economics rather than politics.’ ” This same paper concludes a sort of a “salutation” to the Montreal Star by saying, “It may surprise you, however, to learn that we regard your attitude somewhat in the same light that the hardpressed swimmer regards the sad tears of the crocodile who comes to his side.”
“Will Canada become a war casualty?” inquires the Montreal Star in one of its more recent “Whispers.” The newspapers of Canada, with one accord, voice an emphatic negative. The London Free Press’ viewpoint is this:
“The Montreal Star is spreading the idea that Canada may become the next casualty^ of the late war, and these articles, instead of warning, are taking the heart out of Canadian workmen. They are taking the heart out of men and women who believe in our Dominion and out of those who believe in Canada.”
According to the Halifax Chronicle, “We, in this country, have our difficulties, but there is no occasion for crying blue ruin and no need for pessimism.” The Port Hawkesbury (Nova Scotia) Bulletin asserts that there is “no question of Canada’s solvency nor her fast approaching phenomenal prosperity,” and characterizes the Star’s series of articles as “thoughts emanating from a distempered mind.”
The Brantford Expositor wonders whether Lord Atholstan knows that in all the principal exchanges of the world the Canadian dollar is worth more than par. This paper emphasizes the fact that “the only countries whose money was at a premium over Canada in the middle of the month were the United States, Holland, Japan and Sweden.”
Many papers urge Canadians to be of good cheer and to consider the bountiful heritage which they possess. “Worry is not justified,” says the Lindsay (Ontario) Post and the Winnipeg Tribune remarks that “when a Canadian looks at the world and surveys the conditions which the people of other nations have to labor under, he will discover much to be thankful for.”