Figures and Pictures GOVERNMENT SERVICE—AND YOU
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
Mr. Raine here describes two little-known branches of government service—the Canadian Bureau of Statistics and the Canadian Motion Picture Bureau
IF YOU happen to be in Ottawa some day and decide to take a walk along the banks of the Ottawa River, you will come upon a building the appearance of which will very likely remind you of the setting for a first-class mystery story.
It is a dilapidated structure of rough, brown-painted boards, to which are tacked on annexes of wood and stone.
The rear is an expanse of unpainted weather-beaten board strips, with a small patch of ground, like the backyard of a city tenement. If you decide to investigate this blot on the landscape you will find, on entering the front hall, dirty, leprous walls. The sole ornaments will turn out to be an empty water-cooler, a frame near a stairway, designed, presumably to hold bulletins, but occupied by a halfconcealed ‘No Smoking’ sign, and a broken pane of glass.
Continuing your investigations you will find that the hall sounds the keynote of the whole building. Everywhere you will find floors warped and twisted until they resemble ocean waves; plaster chipped and broken; walls hopelessly out of true and supporting electric wiring mended with insulating tape. On every hand, also, you will find the ‘No Smoking’ sign in evidence, and with good cause, for it will be patent to you at once that the whole structure is a veritable fire-trap; a building which flames, once started, would devour like matchwood!
]What Í3 this crazy abode of disintegration? You will be a singularly placid sort of individual if you do not receive something of a shock when you are told that you are visiting the home of the Canadian Bureau of Statistics —that within these twisted and tortured walls are housed the most valuable records to be found in the Dominion.
In the poorly lighted basement, placed upon wooden shelves and flanked by a huge pile of discarded packingcases, are stored records of inestimable value to the nation, a3, for example, the census returns of 1871, 1881, and 1891, as well as other historic documents, some of which constituted evidence in the recent litigation between Canada and Newfoundland, and the need of which entailed long search because of the lack of suitable filing and storing room. Fire in this basement would mean the loss of a half-million dollars worth of current statistical records, a3 well as the priceless documents of past
years. On the floors above machinery worth $150,000.
are installed compiling
TD UT if the buildings which house the Canadian Bureau of Statistics are inefficient to the last degree, the work that is being done in them is exactly the reverse. Here is gathered and tabulated all that vast flood of statistics covering every phase of our activity as a nation. The multitudinous forms filled in annually by manufacturers, by merchants, professional men, contractors, transportation agencies and countless other economic units, here are boiled down—distilled, one might say— into the succinct tables in which those interested may see reflected for their use the industrial, professional and commercial history of our present and past.
To this place come the filled-in census forms every decade, providing those vital statistics by which we can gauge our progress and keep watch upon our growth. Marvellous machines, engaged upon this work of the census, substitute the unerring functioning of wood and metal for the intellect of man. Here are pieces of mechan-
ism, receiving cards upon which are detailed all the information placed upon the census forms, and automatically rejecting those whose notations violate probability or common sense.
If a card states that the head of a household is fourteen years of age the machine unerringly will reject it until the information is verified or corrected. It will throw out the statement that a boy under sixteen or a girl under fourteen is married; that an alien who has been in the country below the stipulated time has been given papers of citizenship; that a man isalien whose parents were born in the United Kingdom or Canada, and any other incongruous statement—and the machine is never wrong.
Just how this process of mechanical reasoning is accomplished would take a long article, bristling with involved technicalities. Briefly, this is done by transferring the information found on the census-forms to cards by means of a system of punchings, the holes being arranged in accordance with a minutely calculated code. When the holes on these cards pass over the automatic reasoner they either correspond to similar holes on the machine, in which case they are passed on, or if they do not so correspond the card is automatically rejected. As may be gathered, the machine operates somewhat on the principle of the player-piano.
The Canadian Bureau of Statistics is building up one of the finest economic statistical systems in the world, under supervision of the Department of Trade and Commerce. Countless thousands of questionnaires, covering a tremendous range of questions, are sent out periodically and although some of the requirements may appear absurd, they become of the highest importance in some branch of our economic life when collected and analyzed.
It is not generally realized that the first census of modern times was taken in Canada, when, in 1666, the record of each inhabitant of the colony of New France was gathered on the de jure principal, on a fixed date, showing age, sex, occupation and conjugal and family condition. This census, filling 154 pages of manuscript and covering 3,215 individuals, is preserved in the archives of Paris, with a transcript at Ottawa.
Every decade when the census is taken, it is necessary to employ an additional 13,000 people,Including enumerators and commissioners, and the work is done by defining electoral districts as boundaries. The collectors of
vital statistics are paid a certain sum per report, depending on the information contained therein, and the time consumed in obtaining it, and actual work in the field does not take long. About two weeks in cities and thickly populated districts, and one month in the country, suffice to complete it; but the immense labor of transferring the enumerators’ reports to the punched card index system at Ottawa, and compiling the results, takes several years.
The Canadian Bureau of Statistics was brought into being by the passing of the Statistics Act of 1918, since which time its whole energies have been devoted to the task of assembling data relating to every subject under the sun, in one place and in readily accessible form.
Prior to 1918, the business of compiling statistics that would furnish the basis for an authoritative survey of the nation’s progress was attended by allmanner of confusion. Each province had its own method of compiling data, and no one method exactly resembled the other.
Thus, no synchronization of information was possible, indeed, any one word or special classification under the act of one province might have quite a different meaning under that of another.
Now, however, order has been brought out of chaos. Each province collects vital information regarding things industrial, social, and economic under a standardized plan and all this mass of information is sent on to the bureau at Ottawa. By this method, not only are the costs of this work greatly reduced—by standardizing questionnaires, by eliminating the expense of unnecessary staff, equipment and libraries—but it has made possible a survey of all the statistics garnered from each of the provinces in relation to the Dominion as a whole.
Figures and the Dairies
TO GET some idea of what the value of this system of centralization means to the country, let us see, for a moment, how it works out in the case of the cheese and butter factories—over three thousand in number— scattered throughout the Dominion. Individually they may seem insignificant, but in the aggregate they form an important industry. Each province has a Dairy Commissioner, whose staff inspects, guides and generally supervises the factories within its field. They know, personally, the possibilities of output of the factories within their section, and are in a better position to check figures than is the Dominion Statistician in Ottawa. But, they do not know the details of their neighboringprovince. So each province, furnished with thestandardformsissued by Ottawa, gets the desired information, certifies as to its general accuracy and sends it on to Ottawa to be compiled. When this is completed each province had available information regarding the butter and cheese industry of every part of Canada, with which it may make its own provincial comparison, secure in the knowledge that the phraseology of information gathered in British Columbia, for example, will mean precisely the same as that gained
in Prince Edward Island or any other province. In the same way, Winnipeg does not, as before, have to compare its health statistics with the smaller cities within Manitoba with different sanitary arrangements perhaps, but now may check up against Toronto, or Montreal, or Vancouver, or any other large city whose conditions of sanitation, or sewage, or water supply, approximate its own.
The fruits of the bureau’s activities are made public in two ways. The first is the publication of the official Year Book of Canada. This is truly an amazing volume. It is, probably, the most valuable book of reference on Canadian subjects to be obtained anywhere. Within its covers may be gained information upon every conceivable aspect of Canadian national life that could be compiled only by experts such as those in the employ of the Bureau. Here is presented the complete fruit of the co-opera-
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and other departments, more than forty in number, with several additional special studies by men of national and international fame, on subjects essential to a wellrounded economic work. This book can be obtained by application to the bureau.
The second vehicle is the measurement and interpretation, through various pamphlets, of the current economic trend. The bureau prepares the essential raw material, based on its wide observation and experimentation, and maintains such analyses of the whole as enable it to act as adviser to the government and, in a more limited way, to the public.
The Canadian Bureau of Statistics comes under the administration of that organization which has so many extraordinary ramifications, the Department of Trade and Commerce. Its businessman minister is the Honorable James Malcolm, and he is splendidly seconded in his gigantic job by the deputy minister, Mr. F. C. T. O’Hara, a man of wide vision and of long experience. The department concerns itself with an astounding number of things great and little. This is how Mr. O’Hara sums up its manifold activities: “It is a far cry from the prosecution of some unfortunate peddler of spurious jewellery under the Gold and Silver Marking Act which we administer, to the production of motion pictures and their exhibition to millions of people yearly all over the world; from the paying of a bounty on hemp or copper rods to the determination of the import tariff on a shipment of Canadian axe handles to Brazil, or boots to the Congo, but we accomplish it. We may be called upon to-day to adjudicate a dispute in China upon a consignment of Canadian goods or solve a question relating to the census returns of a tiny St. Lawrence fishing village, or to-morrow to inspect an electric meter in the Yukon, nail a fraudulent graindealer on the prairies, or examine a batch of milk cans in an Ontario factory. We do it though, for it is all in the game—and it’s a great game!”
Let us take Mr. O’Hara’s remark anent motion pictures, quoted in the paragraph above, for a text and examine, for a few moments, the work of that lusty infant of the government services, the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau.
If you are a thirty-second degree movie ‘fan’ you will recollect that some few years ago your favorite movie palace treated you once in a great while to a short film dealing with some branch of Canadian life. It might be a film showing logging operations in British
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Columbia or, perhaps, a glimpse of the scenic beauties of the Muskoka Lakes. In any event, you liked the feature and wondered why similar films were not shown more frequently. The reason was a simple if curious one: The exhibitors
balked at showing Canadian Government films simply because they were to be had for the asking.
Once the bureau had satisfied themselves that this was the case they clapped a charge upon the films they produced. Immediately the exhibitors began to clamor for the privilege of paying for films which formerly they had refused to show when they were to be obtained free of charge. As a result, last year, receipts from exhibitor’s fees amounted to $23,000. The government appropriation for the work of the motion picture bureau was $52,000, so that the actual cost to Canada of publicity of the most effective character possible was only $29,000.
The Dominion in Flickers
THE Federal Bureau maintains four camera men and five ‘still’ photographers, and in its search for subjects covers the entire Dominion. Each Spring, an itinerary is mapped out, which takes the staff by progressive stages from one location to another, according to the program of pictures laid down. The source of picture ideas is diverse. The railroads send in suggestions for the taking of newly-found or developed beauty spots and pleasure resorts. The provinces seek co-operation in getting publicity for the opening up of new and desirable playgrounds for tourists. The development of a comparatively new phase of national production, such as tobacco growing, is the genesis of a film on cigar and cigarette making in Canada. News items in the papers, magazine articles dealing with scenic, industrial, and agricultural developments, all are possibilities for films, but behind every picture taken is one fundamental idea. The picture must return to Canada something definite in the way of actual business, increased transportation for our boat and rail services, or the awakening of interest in her industries and national resources, or spread abroad the gospel of Canada’s attractiveness, both to tourists and to those seeking a large and remunerative investment field.
The films are taken in Canada by the permanent bureau staff, developed, produced and distributed, from its own film laboratory at Ottawa. From there camera men go forth, into the northern bush, perhaps, to bring back thrilling scenes of game fishing in the white waters of our fisherman’s paradise; or they will go into New Brunswick, taking film shots of Mr. Moose and family; or into Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia, and live for a time among our hardy Bluenoses, snapping them fishing off the Grand
Banks, mining beneath the sea, playing, working, carrying on all the diversified lines of our national life.
Winnipeg sees them in the time of the harvest and the grain movement. So does Calgary and Regina and the broad stretch of the prairies. Vancouver greets them, and they follow the mountain climbers across Burrard Inlet, under the crouching Lions, and up the sheer sides of giant peaks to set up their cameras on the peak of the world. Lake Louise, Jasper Park, the Great Lakes, all add their quota to the year’s grist that is to be shot out over the globe, to tell, in language that every country can understand, what Canada has to offer.
Five copies of every Canadian Government film produced immediately are snapped up by Australasia. The Capitol Theatre, in New York, one of the finest motion picture houses in the United States, featured a Canadian Government film on its opening program, and since that time has been a steady and appreciative consumer. Hundreds of theatres besides in the United States, exhibit these films, and there are thousands of nonprofessional showings of Canadian subjects in colleges, universities, factories, large industrial plants and municipal halls. At the end of all non-professional showings appears the legend, against an ornamental background—‘Canada welcomes the tourist as the nation’s guest to a land where every season presents its own alluring charm’.
The Film as a ‘Drummer’
THE value of the screen as a publicity medium is indisputable. S. J. Stodel, of the African Films Trust, Ltd., Cape Town, wrote to the bureau not long ago: ‘My opinion of the nineteen films sent to my company by the Canadian Government for exhibition is this—I am delighted at the class of subjects chosen, and can only say that Canada must be a wonderful country. The quality of the films is quite on a par with those we receive from the U.S.A., and we are including them in our programs.’
One Canadian road-making film exhibited in South Africa resulted in a substantial order, through the Canadian Trade Commissioner, for Canadian-manufactured road scrapers—which illustrates the new saying, ‘Trade Follows the Film’. Henry McRae, director general of Universal Films, Universal City, California, remarked that the Canadian Government film, ‘Niagara-the-Glorious’, was the best and most artistic film on the subject he had ever seen, and a Kansas newspaper devoted a lengthy and highly complimentary editorial to the work of the Government Motion Picture Bureau. Carl E. Milliken, secretary of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of
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America wrote, offering to exhibit Canadian films on incoming liners for the education of immigrants, along with United States films, basing his offer on the quality of the pictures.
When Jamaica wished to send to the Wembley Exhibition a number of films depicting the beauty of the island, the Canadian Government Motion Picture, Bureau, at the request of the Jamaicans, did the work, was paid for it, and, at the end of every showing during the two years the films ran at Wembley, appeared a statement crediting the photography to its proper source.
It is possible to get quite definite results and reactions to the work of the bureau. On one of the passenger steamers to Alaska last year a canvass was made of the passengers to try and determine what caused them to make the Canadian trip. Sixty per cent, declared that it was because they had seen showings in the theatres of the Pacific slope of the United States, of our federal films depicting the voyage, and in some of the mid-western states. On one occasion a Canadian scenic film, shown in a Kansas town, resulted in such enthusiasm that an entire party planned and executed a holiday trip to Jasper Park, and it was the means of a second party coming up the following year
Recently, several feature films produced in the United States were photographed in Canadian locales. ‘The Canadian’, ‘The Eternal Struggle’, ‘Winds of Chance’, ‘The Last Frontier,’ two series of Travelogues and ‘The Country Beyond’ were some of them. ‘The Country Beyond’ was not a particularly strong story, but the film’s most favorable feature, critics declared, was the scenic background taken in this country. The manner of its coming to Canada is interesting. The Los Angeles agent of the Canadian National Railways stated in a letter to the Motion Picture Bureau that a film of Jasper Park shown in a theatre in that city was seen by a location manager of the Fox Film Corporation. Immediately interested, he visited the park, and as soon as he arrived telegraphed for a company to follow him.
Similarly, a United States motion picture corporation needed a location of a certain type, and one of its officials, remembering some of our government
films, wrote the director of the bureau for advice. A cameraman was sent into Quebec to a spot which he thought would do, to take some shots. These were sent to the States, and a location man came over, hot-foot. The location was ideal. Afforded every facility by the bureau, a company was brought across, and work began. Then the bureau suggested, as the locale was so typically Canadian, why not change the nationality of the characters in the story to Canadian too, and make a wholly Canadian film of it? The idea was accepted—with thanks—and the result was ‘The Knockout’, featuring Milton Sills, and carrying a credit line acknowledging the company’s indebtedness to the Dominion of Canada.
Means Revenue For Canada
BUSINESS of this kind not only means a revenue to Canadian railroads for transportation of the personnel and necessary props of the motion picture companies, but the money spent in Canada during the taking of such pictures, for food, accommodation and other expenses, averages $40,000 a picture. And every little $40,000 helps.
One of the best jobs the Canadian Motion Picture Bureau has done is that of taking the sting out of Louis the Fourteenth’s description of Canada as ‘a few thousand hectares of ice’ and Rudyard Kipling’s gelid titling of her as ‘Our Lady of the Snows’. ‘Sure we’re “Our Lady of the Snows”,’ says the bureau in effect. ‘So is Switzerland, and capitalizes it. Just watch the folks in this picture skiing, toboganning, ski-joring, snow-shoeing, and what-not. Aren’t they having a good time? So can you. Come here to Canada and let a Canadian winter make you over new again!’
And thousands accept this invitation. Films depicting Canadian winter scenes are tremendously popular abroad and, as a result, wealthy Americans who previously wintered in Europe or Bermuda are flocking to Canada when the white sweeps down from the north.
Yes, the $29,000 we spent last year in motion picture publicity is an investment which is paying big dividends! And the dividends will be bigger and bigger as the Canadian Motion Picture Bureau increasingly widens its scope.