The Maritime Provinces of Canada An Opportunity—Not a Problem
THE clock on Parliament Hill boomed
the hour of noon, and the member
from Gopher Plains laid down his pen, yawned, and addressing an unseen face behind a newspaper, inquired: “When do we eat?”
It was half a minute later before his friend and seat mate vouchsafed any reply, and then it was accompanied with gestures of violence and snorts of disapproval. The member from Lacs Bras d’Or crumpled the offending paper in his hand and hurled it into the capacious basket generally reserved for the letters of importunate constituents.
“What and wherefore?” inquired the plainsman.
“I am just wondering, Hank,” replied his friend, “how long it will take the newspapers and the membeis of this House to understand that it would be a lot better to remove a cause than to be continually howling in protest against its effects.”
“Which being interpreted means—?”
“— That the way for us to show practical sympathy with the miners of Cape Breton, and our desire to help their condition is to make it possible to sell the article which they are producing.”
“But what about the strike, or lockout or whatever it is there?”
“Listen,” said the other, as he knocked the ashes from his pipe. “How long do you think these works and mines would remain closed if there was a profitable market for coal, iron and steel? The one thing big companies dread is a close down. Ovens have to be kept heated, pumps manned, overhead goes on, and much of the expense of actual operation must be kept up in spite of the fact that there is neither output nor income. Idle ships, rusting plant, disconnected machinery — do you think any company gets pride or satisfaction out of such a condition? If you do, you have been growing wheat too long. Better get wise to what others are up against.”
The prairie member retorted hotly: “Yes, I am growing wheat, and I have to produce it and sell it on the world’s market against wheat grown by bolshevists, Hindus, South Americans and men of my own and other color from all over the world, and I don’t get help from the tariff or the government or ask assistance or quarter from the growers of any country.”
Farmer and Miner Have Same Problem
THE man from Lacs Bras d’Or laid a gentle hand on the other’s shoulder. “My friend,” said he, “you farmers from the prairie provinces and we miners in the Maritimes are engaged in the same occupation. We are both taking from the ground what we never put there—its wealth. A little seed grain, some easy homestead requirements, and a hundred days of simple labor give you your crop. It requires millions of dollars of investment to harvest ours. You haul your product to the elevators, get your money and the transaction is closed. But a long time elapses between the time the miners enter the pit and the time when the company is paid for its output.
“I can see,” said the western member,
“that there are some striking differences in operation between handling your crop and ours.”
Hard Coal \s. Hard Wheat
THAT is not all,” said the other. “The war brought increased demand and fabulous prices for your wheat. It demoralized our shipping and sales organization and threw a lot of our trade to the States. Nature has given you the best and most sought for wheat in the world, No. 1 Northern, while the States produces only an inferior grade. In our business the conditions are exactly the opposite. Nature has given the States excessively, on this continent, anthracite, the best coal in the world, while we have only bituminous and other inferior grades. The States clapped a 42c. per bushel duty on your superior wheat going into their country in order to give the growers of their inferior cereal, home consumption for home grown product. Why don’t we do the same with their coal?”
“But war conditions no longer exist.”
“True, but their effects remain and seem to be perman-
ent. As a result of the war the coal production capacity of the United States has been expanded to double the consuming ability of that country resulting in a more determined invasion of the Canadian market. Run of mine importations which in 1916 were valued at $7,908,125 has by 1924 increased to $34,341,956, while slack coal during the same period has risen from $2,302,938 to $8,912,564. The Nova Scotia mine owners at the close of the war had to rehabilitate their properties, reorganize their selling plans, and attempt the difficult job of restoring the lost markets of the St. Lawrence.”
A Whole Trade and an Entire Province Affected
“T BEGIN to see some justice in the plea the Maritime deputation presented here the other day,” said the man from the prairies. “But after all, this Cape Breton case is only a dispute between one company and its employees. You are talking in terms of a whole industry and of a complete territory embraced in the Maritime Provinces.”
The other replied: “That’s just what you men who do not know the Atlantic seaboard never seem capable of understanding. It is a whole industry that is involved and the welfare of all the Maritime Provinces is so bound up in the success of that industry that it may fairly be described as lying at the very root of Maritime unrest.” The member from Lacs Bras d’Or suddenly rose to his feet. “Were you ever in Nova Scotia,” he said, “before the coal and steel industries were consolidated?” “No.”
“Well, let’s go up to the restaurant and I’ll try and show you what that change has meant to the Atlantic provinces. I think I can even show you how much more it will mean if we take one or two obvious and necessary steps in the job of making this country a self-contained, self-sustained and self-respecting nation.”
One Fifth of People in Maritime Provinces Dependent on One Industry
OVER their soup, the member for Lacs Bras d’Or continued his exposition.
“Newfoundland and Cape Breton,” said he, “hold in juxtaposition the two essential elements which, combined
and developed, make possible the greatest iron and steel industry in the world. Bell Island or Wabana on the Newfoundland Coast contains the greatest iron deposit on the continent. Some experts have put it as high as five billions of tons. Moreover, it is on tidal water. Four hundred miles west, also on tidal water, is situated the island of Cape Breton with one of the most enormous coal deposits in the world. The extent of these, again,
experts have placed as high as eight billions of tons. You can safely put it at four billions and still have a field of such staggering quantity as almost to baffle fancy. But this coal is friable in quality with about 40 per cent, of slack, and therefore, most profitable and useful when used as near as possible to the pit mouth.”
“Up to a few years ago these deposits were held in various hands, and were operated by several companies; many or most of which were not in financial position to make the most of their holdings. The available market was insufficient to absorb any considerable output and there was severe competition and more or less cutting of prices. The industry was crippled and languished. Although the government royalty on such coal as was mined was only about seven cents per ton, the owners complained that even this impost was onerous. Through the efforts of the Hon. B. F. Pearson, the attention of a group of prominent Canadian and American investors was attracted to the field and a number of contiguous properties were amalgamated by the formation of the Dominion Coal Company.
“The prudence of that step was at once apparent. The government were able to increase the toll from 7c. to 12c. and were guaranteed a minimum income of $123,000 annually whether the properties were operated or not.
How a City Was Born
“ \ FEW years later came the Dominion Iron and Steel AA Company,which was closely affiliated with the Dominion Coal Company by a long term contract which provided a market for a large quantity of its coal.
“Seasonal occupation was done away with. The larger and co-ordinated activities furnished employment the year round at good wages to men who formerly could be assured of work at only certain seasons of the year. Permanency of employment attracted married men and promoted the home-making instinct. The little town of Sydney with two or three thousand inhabitants sprung into a bustling modern city of twenty-five thousand people. The growth during the last decade in Nova Scotia, as revealed by the census, has been almost entirely in the regions served by the coal mines and iron forges. One-fifth of the people of the province are dependent on this industry. It is estimated thaff $6,500,000 worth of food stuffs is required annually to supply the needs of the company’s employees. The Government derives over $750,000 annually from the properties in royalties alone. Exclusive of freight paid by the consignees, the company itself pays the railways $1,123,875 annually, notwithstanding that so much of its trade is sea borne. The great proportion of this goes to the coffers of the Canadian National Railways, which is the principal carrier from that part of the country. In 1923, the company carried on its payroll 21,490 men and paid in wages $27,509,410.
Low Rentals, Sick Benefits and Hospital
OR was the welfare of the men engaged in these properties, and of their families, neglected. Modest but comfortable homes were provided at a rental within the reach of any employee, making possible family life wherever it was desired. Some of the older houses existing when the company took over from the original owners rent as low as $2 a month, while the newer buildings vary from $5 to $12 a month. Coal, an important item in household economy on the North Atlantic coast, is delivered at $3.60 a ton—which is less than cost. A well administered benefit society was organized by the steel company employees before the government put in its Workmen’s Compensation Board. Modern hospital facilities were provided. All the domestic elements exist at Cape Breton for a permanent, happy and prosperous community.
“In 1921 it became possible to effect a further measure of consolidation and the coal and ore areas and mines and works of the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company were merged with those of the Dominion
Companies under the name of the British Empire Steel Corporation.
“Almost simultaneously came a wave of depression which swept over the whole of Canada. Business became stagnant, the demands for coal and iron and steel decreased. Conditions in Nova Scotia, as well as in other parts of the Dominion, became very unsatisfactory.
“For months in 1924, the furnaces were cold. To-day the mines are idle. ‘The greatest industrial interests of the province,’ declared the Sydney Post, ‘are in jeopardy; an untoward result means for the worker, poverty; for the owners of the property, ruin; and for the enterprising communities which have grown up about them, desolation and decay. Such results are not local in their consequences. They affect the whole life of the Dominion. Nay, they do more. They affect the prestige of Canada.’ ”
As the man from Lacs Bras d’Or read these words, the member from the league-long furrows of the west broke out impatiently:
“Well, why don’t the company and the men get together? They can’t expect the parliament of Canada to interfere every time they have a dispute over wages.”
Not Wages—But Markets
BECAUSE,” said the other impressively, “the whole question of wages hinges not on the disposition of the company to either give or withhold, but on costs and markets. The industry in the Maritimes is up against geography that cannot be changed. Look at this map.”
How Nature Juggled Her Box of Tricks
WHEN Nature made Canada,” he said, “she was in a rather generous mood. But she did play this country one rather scurvy trick.”
He laid his hand upon the northern littoral of the Great Lakes. “There are millions of people around these shores. But they have no coal. They draw their supply from the United States.
“Canada has enormous deposits of bituminous coal and lignite,” he went on, “in the far West and East where population is sparse.
“Thousands of miles intervene between the parts where coal is and those where the people are. Nova Scotia coal can be shipped by water haul only in the summer, and only as far inland as Montreal.
“Yet coal is our second biggest national bill. Iron and steel, either in the form of articles made or in raw products, we import to the extent of $173,000,000 annually but the combined cost of imported anthracite, bituminous and slack coal, and coke which we pay in tribute to another country is $100,000,000 a year. Last year we imported 5,000,000 tons of anthracite alone.”
“But Canada does not produce anthracite, does she?” “No, and for that reason anthracite has been on the free list since 1887, but over a quarter of a million tons of anthracite dust came into the Maritimes and Quebec in 1923. Neither did this pay any duty, though it doubtless displaced our domestic product.”
Recently the government sought to enlarge the zone in which bituminous coal from the Maritimes could be profitably sold by granting a subvention of one-fifth of a cent per ton-mile on Nova Scotia coal carried west of Riviere du Loup. This resulted in an additional hundred thousand tons finding a market in Canada which would otherwise have been occupied by the imported product. It is believed that with proper encouragement under an enlarged subvention, shipments could be sent as far west as Toronto.
All the conditions mentioned, together with the crippling effect on the export coal and steel trade of competition with an industry paid for in the depreciated currency of Europe, contributed to bring about conditions of which the present regrettable tie-up of Nova Scotia mines is almost an inevitable result. The company was losing money; the men wanted higher wages. Those of experience in such matters know that there is no period so favorable to obtain increases in wages as when the industry concerned is prosperous, and no time so unfavorable as when trade is depressed. So all efforts toward adjustment failed. Employers, workmen, communities and the nation at large are suffering from the resultant impasse. Recrimina-
tions and criticisms naturally followed. Officers of the unions concerned, resident in another country, were naturally not as solicitous for the interests and prosperity of Canada as local men would have been. Russian miners are reported to have sent $5,000 to the aid of the Nova Scotia strikers. This would seem both unnecessary and inadequate when it is remembered that within the last six years the employing companies at Cape Breton have collected for the International union funds over a million dollars out of the wages of the men employed in the Breton industries. But those who have at heart the best interests of all concerned will be primarily anxious to know how the industry itself can be put on an assured
and profitable foundation. When that is done, the relationships of the men and the company can be relied upon to work themselves out satisfactorily.
How Canada Can Become Commercially Independent
THIS is what had been taking form in the mind of the member of Gopher Plains as his friend talked. By the time the second cigar was reached, he was asking with an eagerness which pleased his companion what could be done to assure local industrial stability in Nova Scotia, and at the same time contribute to national prosperity.
The Bluenose was ready with a remedy.
“In the first place,” he said, “there should be a duty on anthracite coal.”
A Duty on Anthracite
ON ANTHRACITE,” exclaimed the other, “but we don’t produce it!”
“No,” was the reply; “neither do we need it. Much of it is used for domestic consumption, where bituminous coal would serve quite as well. If a more perfect substitute is required, then let coke be used—not the residue coke of the gas works but coke produced in ovens especially designed to turn out a hard, smokeless radiant fuel.”
“But there is little or none of that available.”
“Hold on,” said the other. “I’m coming to that. You remember in the old days how charcoal was used for smelting furnaces. Then they found anthracite coal would do. Then they began burning mineral coal, and finally coke made from bituminous coal came into general use for this purpose. This coke is not a by-product but the basic article sought in modern coking. It throws more heat than gas coke, and is harder and more metallic. It is a perfect substitute for anthracite.”
“But, are they making it?”
“Yes, it is employed at the Sydney works to the exclusion of anthracite, although it is not generally available. But the government, acting upon the advice of the Fuel Board, now proposes to bonus the establishment of plants at principal cities, such as St. John, Quebec, Montreal and Toronto, where gas and other byproducts can be used. The treatment of 1,500,000 tons the first year is contemplated. This will be the initial step to make Canada independent of foreign supply, will enormously increase industry and population in her own country, and by a little enterprise and prevision save tens of millions of dollars yearly to the Canadian nation.”
How Iron and Steel Trade Languishes
“DUT that’s not the whole story,” continued the easterner. “What is true of coal applies almost equally to iron and steel. The non-operation of the steel plants is partly the cause of the idleness of the collieries, because the value of the fuel employed in the iron and steel industries in Canada amounts to about $7,500,000 or over 15 per cent, of all fuel used in manufacturing industry.
Companies Want Harmony
ANOTHER thing,” he continued, as the newsboy thrust into their hands the latest edition with flaming headlines about the strike in Cape Breton. “Anyone who tries to tell you that the modern enlighteimd corporation with millions of investment at stake desires anything but happiness and content among its members is a mischievous enemy of the public peace. Self-interest, if no other motive, dictates that efficient service can only come with satisfied relationships, and that these in turn can be realized when the workman gets his fair share of the product to which he contributes the labor of his hands. Every decent company wants to give that; every enterprising and responsible company ought, if possible, be put into a position to do that. Until they are they will be constantly subjected to conditions as much dreaded by them as by their employees, namely, industrial strife.
Maritimes Have Done Their Part
“ AND don’t forget, my friend, that these people down by the Atlantic Coast, who have been driven almost to desperation by the conditions I have mentioned, were doing their part in Canada when the redskins were chasing buffalo across the fields that you are plowing now at Gopher Plains. You can’t go to a hamlet in your country where you will not find men who, born down by the sea, have given their best work to building up the new province. And no part of the whole country gave to the public counsels men of more constructive vision in framing Confederation than the big men from the Atlantic coast who helped Macdonald and House launch Confederation on a continent-wide basis. You cannot hope to achieve national life if you do not recognize the services and the rights of those portions of the Dominion that are now old as well as the hopes of those that are new. The Maritimes gave your provinces a lot of their best blood. They think you should be sympathetic to their present condition. They think you should be the more sympathetic because the same steps which will bring peace to the Nova Scotia mine fields and contentment to the whole Bluenose population are the very ones that will lay the foundation for real nationhood in Canada. Don’t you think so yourself, Hank?”
“I am thinking,” said Hank. And then after a moment’s pause he asked: “What is the name again of that place where you get all your iron ore?”
“Oh, Bell Island in Newfoundland.”
“No, that wasn’t the name you used.”
Let There Be Light
“X TO, WE cali it Wabana. It is an Indian word which -LAI means ‘The Place Where the Light Begins.’ ”
Hank nodded his head reflectively. “A very good name,” he said, at last. “A very suitable name, indeed.”