The Problems of Our Provinces

IV. The Maritime Provinces of the Atlantic

JOHN NELSON July 15 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

IV. The Maritime Provinces of the Atlantic

JOHN NELSON July 15 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

IV. The Maritime Provinces of the Atlantic


The Fourth of a Series of Ten Striking Articles of Vital National Importance

THE speech of the Canadian people reflects, here and there, conditions which preceded Confederation. The westerner speaks of having been “down east" when he has been no further in that direction than Montreal or Toronto; the easterner has been “to the west" when his train has not brought him within sight of the Rocky Mountains.

Similarly the Haligonian still tells of going to “Upper Canada” though for more than half a century there has been no such geographical entity; and even of having been “up to Canada" when his own family has been Canadian for perhaps two generations. Though unconscious of it. the Bluenose is as tenacious of his national identity as is the Scot.

The same carelessness in national definitions leads all Canadians to persist in limiting the old title of the Maritime Provinces to Nova Scotia. New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The early seventies brought into the Dominion a province of great area on the littoral of the Pacific, with a seaboard quite comparable to that of its sisters on the Atlantic. Yet so strong is the power of a long held habit that one dare not include British Columbia among the Maritime provinces without being misunderstood. Hence, for the purposes of these articles, the term Maritimes will be applied only to those provinces of the Dominion which border the Atlantic ocean.

And because they have the same climatic conditions, boast similar resources, share the same traditions and history, have been peopled by the same races, and are commonly concerned in the same problems they can, as in the case of the prairie provinces. be better studied as á group, than individually.

It is interesting to note that the tide of travel and settlement, which the maritimes complain of passing them by, showed the s same disposition from the earliest days. For it was on Cape Breton that Cabot first landed long before Jacques Cartier

sailed up the St. Lawrence, and Champlain wintered at St. Croix a year or two before he founded Quebec. Then, as now, it was the island of Orleans, and not of Cape Breton that held the greatest appeal, and it was increasingly to the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and not to the tides of the Bay of Fundy that the early explorers turned their keels. The fact is worth noting, in passing, because it indicates, at an early period, a tendency which the development of trade routes, and the improvement of transport facilities has served only to emphasize, and which forms an important factor in the difficulties now engaging the attention of the residents of the territory in question.

Many Mingled Stocks

'T'HESE Atlantic provinces

furnish an historical background as ancient, and as interesting, as that of Quebec.

The Acadian settlers, said to be derived almost exclusively from less than one hundred families, shared with their French compatriots of Quebec those habits of industry and frugality associated with the race. But they lacked the pioneering qualities and love of adventure with which the coureurs de bois have enlivened the record of early Canadian life. The tidal meadows at the head of the Bay of Fundy gave to many of them perennial harvest, and after the expulsion from the shores of the Basin of Minas they found fertile fields to till in the Isle de St. Jean of Champlain, later to be known as Prince Edward Island. Their attachment to the soil has enabled them to survive all the recurring rules of Saxon and Gaul, to furnish a resurgence of their race throughout northern New Brunswick, and to give to that province a direct descendant in premier Veniot of one of those whom

Governor Lawrence expelled from the Land of Evangeline With this early stock have been mingled several other stout strains. New Englanders early drifted northward to both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In the middle of the eighteenth century 2,500 English colonists came to Halifax, Lord Selkirk landed in Prince Edward Island the big body of Scotch settlers whose names still predominate there. Later United Empire Loyalists poured into the valley of the St. John, and to other parts of the two mainland provinces, Scotch Catholics went into Antigonish, Scotch Presbyterians into Pictou. Ireland sent a liberal quota. Until the cession in 1763 all the events down by the sea were controlled and colored by Quebec authority. From that date, if the reader ignore a long period of somewhat indeterminate authority involving Cape Breton, the three provinces have been working out their destiny under British rule, and during more than a century, in most instances, under responsible government.

In 1784 they were divided into three provinces, and with one or two variations they have so continued to the present.

The problems of that day have disappeared with tne crumbling forts and the obMurray solete guns which are all that

Nova Scotia. rtca11 its fights.

Time has wiped out all the otd

hatreds. The descendants of Briton and Gascon no longer contend at the dictation of overseas kings. They freely co-operate on behalf of a land to which both races are devoted.

At Grand Pré a few months since descendants of the two races dedicated a new chapel on the site of the old St. Charles Church which was the tragic centre of the last scenes in the expulsion of the Acadians 167 years ago. There an Acadian bishop celebrated the Mass and surrounded by his co-religionists sang the Acadian national hymn. Shades of La Tour and of Lawrence might, have viewed with common satisfaction the peaceful and satisfactory issue of events which they sought, ineffectually with bloody hands, to guide. For the dedication took place in a highly cultivated valley in a district as strongly Saxon as the Englishman might have desired, while the presence in Canada, as reported that day, of nearly half a million Acadians (with another 240,000 in Louisiana) might well have satisfied the racial ambitions of the defender of Port Royal. Two French speaking provincial ministers were present. One declared that all that Acadians asked to-day was to be considered loyal British subjects. The other, (shortly afterwards to become the First Minister of his province) pleaded only that the two races might understand one another. Not. more than a mile a way, and in plain view from the scene of the ceremony stood the birthplace of one, who but a few months previously had relinquished the greatest gift in the power of Canadians to bestow, that of Prime Minister rtf fhrt AM

The racial differences which once distressed this whole territory may fairly be said to be composed. The original elements were all virile, and the composite stock of descendants is of the same calibre. Their enmities were largely imported, or hereditary; the truce in the old World has been gladly followed by a partnership in the New. In all that makes for comfort few portions of the continent are as attractive as the Atlantic provinces. Abundance of fuel, a soil of great fertility; proximity to fishing grounds of great wealth, educational facilities freely available—all these make for content, if not for wealth. Yet to-day there is a widespread sentiment of dissatisfaction, sullen, and resentful, which occasionally finds expression (and when it does, wide newspaper publicity) in a declaration for secession.

This discontent merits close attention because it is not confined to one political party, or to one province. It is not without significance that recently it was revived in the Nova Scotia legislature through the political party which carried that province into Confederation, and which has paid for it by over forty years of continuous exile from the Treasury benches. But it would be as unwise to accept the suggested withdrawal of the provinces from the Dominion as the serious alternative of the thinking people on the Atlantic seaboard as it would be dangerous to ignore the causes which lie behind the suggestion. There is a deep sense of grievance among the maritime people, but it is tempered by the good sense which has always marked their attitude to national problems. “We recognize that you cannot unscramble eggs,” declared a prominent public man at Ottawa, whose home is by the Atlantic. “We also recognize' that in any attempt to sever our Dominion relationships we must be prepared to assume our fair share of the national debt. And at the present time such an undertaking would bankrupt our province.”

It is not unusual to recall Mr. Fielding’s appeal to the country on the secession issue in 1886, and his triumphant return as vindicating the arguments of the secessionists. Hon. Mr. Fielding himself, however, points out that the following year that decision was practically reversed in the Federal elections, thus robbing the first of much of its importance. A mandate to be effective, must, he points out, Ire continuous.

The suggestion is not that Confederation be abandoned, but that its terms be revised. Some declare that the spirit of that union has not been kept, but this is not common. The more usual attitude is that the expectations and assurances which surrounded the entry of these provinces into the Dominion have not been realized and „that to continue under such unsatisfactory conditions is only to invite serious trouble.

“Let us admit for the sake of argument,” says expremier Foster of New Brunswick, “that all the conditions have been kept. Let us impute bad faith to nobody. The fact remains that a certain partnership was entered into fifty years ago which fails to satisfactorily define our relationships to-day. In other words we have outgrown the circumstances we were organized to meet. Must we continue indefinitely with some members of the firm smarting under a sense of injustice? Isn’t it the sensible thing for the partners to sit down, and adjust any difficulties there may be?”

Sensible and Serious

THIS is the spirit which is met in Halifax, Fredericton, and Charlottetown. The statesmen of these provinces are sensible, but they are serious. Moreover they have behind them a body of electors restlessly conscious of something irksome in the present situation, and pressing their representatives for redress. And as political action is largely a matter of pressure, the public men of these provinces cannot disregard, even were they so disposed, the clamor of popular protest.

What are the grievances in question?

To appreciate them it is necessary to consider the conditions in the maritimes prior to Confederation, and the circumstances under which these provinces came into the Federal group.

One is not allowed to forget, as he travels about the country that

two of the three provinces came into the union very reluctantly. In New Brunswick the great authority of Tilley finally resulted in a triumphant return of proConfederation candidates. But in Prince Edward Island a resolution of the legislature that the terms beaaopted was over-whelmingly defeated, and it was a year or two before the provincial parliament would authorize negotiations for a union upon terms that were “just and reasonable.” In Nova Scotia there was never popular assent to the movement and it only required the eloquence of Howe and the great influence he exerted throughout the country to consolidate the sentiment into an overwhelming force which swept out of power the party which consummated the union, and left only one representative— its ' militant protagonist, Dr.

Tupper—with a seat in the next house.

It so happened that thé ten years preceding Confederation were the golden years in the life of the country. It was probably more populous then, as well as more prosperous, than it has been in any period since that time. A reciprocity treaty with the United States gave a rich market for potatoes, and other farm produce, in the New England states. Locally built vessels, manned by hardy sons of the provinces, hauled these products to market at low cost. When the Civil War broke out a most lucrative trade offered in blockade running, which had far more attractions than terrors to the expert seamen of St. John, Halifax, and the fishing towns scattered along the southeastern shores. Halifax has always thriven in war time. WThen cotton could be bought in the southern ports for twelve cents a pound, and marketed in England for eighty-four cents, and when a cargo of fish could be disposed of for gold at long prices in Confederate ports, a period of hectic prosperity was inevitable in harbors such as those mentioned.

Farmer and Seaman

HERE were other, and more normal trade openings of which the thrifty Bluenose was not slow to avail himself. Like his Viking ancestor he was part farmer, part seaman, and to these avocations he often added that of local trade as well. It was not uncommon for a storekeeper to build his own vessel, to accumulate a cargo of fish, or potatoes at his local store, and later to sail with a crew in which his own sons were seamen for the

West Indies. Thence he brought back a cargo of rum and molasses, or possibly sold his vessel as well as his load, and returned to Nova Scotia to repeat the same profitable performance. Sometimes he pushed on down the South American coast, even as far as Rio, and found there among a Catholic people a favorable market for his fish.

These combined to promote prosperity. The shipyards were busy; young men found attractive employment in sailing home built vessels to the ports of the world, the native population was retained at home, and conditions became so prosperous that it is little wonder that the people hesitated to change their 'lot, or repine to-day, because they did.

Prior to Confederation Nova Scotia with a low tariff of approximately ten per cent, collected upwards of half a million dollars in revenue which was ample to take care of the public services at that time. The manufactured articles brought back from New England were entered under the low tariff mentioned to the added satisfaction and profit of the traders.

Circumstances therefore combined, prior to the union, to produce most favorable conditions. Confederation violently altered some of these, to the detriment of the provinces concerned, and concurrently a number of changes took place in the carrying and other trades which contributed to produce conditions that were far from satisfactory. It is perhaps natural that discontent should find the explanation, not alone for some, but for all the ills that affect the land in the change in the political status which one province at least, had enjoyed for over a hundred years.

Passing of the Clippers

AMONG the causes which contributed to change conditions was the abrogation of the reciprocity treaty. Perhaps a more important one was the gradual passing of the wooden ship, which had been built in such numbers in Canadian Atlantic ports, and which sailed the Seven Seas. St. John was once the fourth tonnage port of the world. Eleven hundred shipwrights of her yards marched in one procession. This trade began to decline in the early seventies and before the century closed the whitewinged clippers which were the pride of the Bluenoses of that generation were driven from the seas. The homely tramp steamer replaced them, and with her ample cargo space seized much of the trade to the West Indies, the buying power w’hich had, in turn, been much reduced by the advent of beet sugar, to the exclusion of cane.

The loss of the New England markets, so long enjoyed by the maritime provinces, wras one of the factors for which the fathers of Confederation recognized that some compensation should be provided. A large and growing community in upper and lower Canada seemed to afford the answer, provided proper transportation facilities could be arranged. Out of that situation grew the Intercolonial railway, which was to provide the necessary link between the maritimes and the rest of Canada.

It is around the undertakings, specific, and implied, connected with the building of this railway that part of the present dispute centres. There is no denial that the road was built, not only to Riviere du Loup as first arranged, but was extended first to Point Levis, and later by the purchase of the Drummond county line into Montreal, Down-easters insist that, as the railway was

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The Problems of Our Provinces

Continued from page 19

built manifestly as a link between the provinces, and was carried by a roundabout route for strategic reasons, that it should never be included among those roads of the national system which are expected to operate on a successful commercial basis.

Premier Bell’s View

PREMIER BELL, of Prince Edward Island, sets the situation out like a proposition in Euclid:

“We were unwilling to join the Dominion,” he says, “and we were urged to come in. We did so, finally, with great reluctance, and misgivings.

“We already had a good trade with New England.

“To get us to come in it was specified that we would have -such advantages in transportation as would enable us to continue, and to expand our trade with Canada as we had with the United States.

“It followed that we were enabled to trade with Montreal and Toronto, and that they were to become our markets for the future, instead of Boston and Portland.

“That was the most essential fact of the Union—that its extremities be bound to its heart—that we should be able to send our potatoes and oats to central Canada, New Brunswick its lumber, and Nova Scotia its coal.

“That understanding, expressed in the speeches of Brown and Macdonald, we regard as binding.

“It is true the Intercolonial railway was built; it is not true that we have thereby been enabled to reach our market. Whatever arrangement is made with regard to freight rates should take cognizance of that and enable us to reach markets in the heart of the Dominion.”

It will be seen that the point of Premier Bell’s argument is that the spirit of the union was that the Intercolonial was to be operated in such a manner as to bring the products of the Atlantic provinces to the interior Canadian markets regardless of whether or not this could be done on a basis that was commercially profitable to the railway.

Mr. R. B. Hanson, Federal member York-Sunbury, speaking as a New Brunswicker, take the same attitude. “The arrangement was,” he declares, “that the line should be finished and operated at cost, and without reference to the interest on the capital expenditure. As proof of the logic of that position, he points out that New Brunswick wanted the road to follow the valley of the St. John river, but that this plan was not entertained and the longer and more circuitous route via the Gaspe peninsula, with its sparse freight offerings, adopted instead on grounds of Imperial policy.

Ex-premier George H. Murray of Nova Scotia also insists that this understanding was clear. In Nova Scotia, he points out, the sentiment against confederation was so strong as to be nearly unanimous, and nothing but Sir Chas. Tupper’s masterful pushing of it through the legislature before the people could pronounce upon it made the proposal possible. “The big bid,” he says, “was the building of the Intercolonial,” and all that it implied in the way of access to substitute markets in central Canada. He, too, claims that when the excessive mileage of the present route was adopted in the face of the protests of those who foresaw the permanent handicap it would impose in the form of operating charges, it was a clear admission that the commercial basis was to be ignored.

Freight Rate Burdens

A CURSORY reading of such of the Confederation debates as are still preserved in the library of the House of

Commons seems to disclose no precise undertaking of the kind suggested. It may well be that delegates on both sides anticipated a development which did not follow, and were sincere in their belief that in the course of time the evil of insufficient freights would cure itself. The strongest argument, evidently, is the implication involved in selecting the present route.

Up to the period of the war I. C. R. rates were low. The war and the McAdoo award forced them up to a basis formerly unequalled in the Atlantic provinces, but, as one shipper expressed it, they were able to carry on, even with this heavier impost, because of the longer prices which the war insured. With the close of the war, and the reaction which followed, they found themselves shut out of the central Canadian markets by a railway rate which they could not pay, and out of the U. S. market by the Fordney tariff which made shipping to that country pract eally prohibitive.

There are local inequalities, also, induced by the existence of two gauges on the Island railways, and the lack of a commodity rate on agricultural products there such as obtains on coal, iron, gypsum, plaster, lime, slag, lumber, and of .er bulk products on the Mainland. These are now forming the subject of strong representation to the management of the national railway system and the Board of railway commissioners, with good prospects of their being adjusted.

“We must have the old différentiels established,” said a New Brunswick public man. “For western freights we want the maritimes put on a common basis with Montreal. For local traffic we want the I. C. R. operated as a mean* of communication and trade with the uoper provinces, and on freights which take no cognizance of the initial cost of the road.”

Pearson’s Views

A WELL-KNOWN lawyer, publicist, and journalist of Halifax, G. Fred Pearson, clearly points out why the present freight rates bear unduly upon the maritimes, and less heavily upon central Canada. He says:

“Confederation brought Nova Scotia under a tariff which cut off her trade connections and made her dependent upon manufactured articles produced in central Canada, and made under a high tariff, and hauled a long distance over a single track railway.

“In exchange for these articles Nova Scotia had to offer fish in a market which was not fish consuming, lumber in a market that produces lumber, and in recent years, coal in the Montreal market in competition with American coal.

“These articles are low in value in dollars but heavy and bulky to transport and consequently have to bear heavy freight charges.

“The result has been the strangulation of our home industries under competition from Central Canada, where manufactured articles are comparatively valuable by weight and consequently can bear the freight charges.

“Meanwhile our pre-confederation markets have been closed to us by our own tariff wall.

“The terms of confederation imposed on these provinces the duty of caring for the expensive public services of education, roads, health, and other institutions, while depriving them of their best income producing sources like customs, inland revenue, and in effect, income tax.”

While there is complaint that the absorption cf the I. C. R. in the national

system has resulted in higher, and oppressive rates, there is another way in which it is claimed that the change has operated to the disadvantage of the provinces in question. In the opinion of lion. Mr. Cameron, the provincial secretary of Nova Scotia, who was at the moment also the acting premier in the absence of the First Minister, the consolidation has had a discouraging effect upon maritime interests and especially upon those of Nova Scotia. He claims that while the smaller system had to exploit the territory through which it passed, and develop it because there it secured the bulk of the business which maintained it, the exploitation now takes place in connection with the larger system, and in consequence the smaller interests of Nova Scotia are either overlooked or overshadowed. As an example he cites the lower relative rate for apples on the long haul from the west to Montreal and Toronto, as compared with the higher rate on the same commodity from Halifax to Montreal and this, it is claimed, applies generally on all freight rates.

Differential Disadvantages

THIS feeling was partially responsible for the strong representations recently made to the national railway executives that the Atlantic division run from Halifax to Montreal. The far easterners are anxious that unrouted freight go to Halifax and not be diverted to Portland, which they fear would be the case if

Montreal were linked up with the centra division.

The disadvantage under which Halifax labors by reason of a differential of one cent a hundredweight as compared with Portland is another sore point, as it is believed that it diverts millions of bushels of wheat to the latter port. Better grain facilities at Halifax are asked for, so that ships can complete cargoes there. Nova Scotians ask that, as fifteen millions of dollars have been spent on terminals, two millions more be spent in order to make it profitable. By measures such as these the people of the far eastern provinces feel that St. John and Halifax can be made the long wharf of Canada, and they complain that, though other provinces have had their boundaries enlarged, or have received enormous' advantages in the form of land grants, they have failed to reciprocate by using these Atlantic ports for their import and export trade. They ask that the advantage which Halifax, for instance, enjoys of two days over New York and one and a half days over Portland in the run to Liverpool, should be utilized to get at least freights as favorable as these points, with Europe. The principle that British goods, to avail themselves of the Canadian preference, should be imported through Canadian ports is one for which these provinces have long vigorously contended.

(“Problems of Our Provinces, No.V— the second of three articles dealing with the Maritimes, will appear in the August 15 issue.)