A Maritimer Speaks His Mind
What is the West’s answer to this accusation of Selfishness and Unfairness?
K. A. BAIRD
I AM NOT SURE that plain talk is the most advisable thing under the present circumstances, but I do know that something is required, and as pretty nearly everything else seems to have failed, perhaps a simple, straightforward statement of some things which a good many people in the Maritime Provinces are thinking these days would bring a number of our fellow Canadians who live farther west to their senses. Again, perhaps it wouldn’t. Perhaps nothing would !
Generalizations are usually wrong in some of their aspects. We are quite aware that there are persons all the way from Sydney to Victoria who are willing and anxious to do the right and fair and patriotic thing. But we also know that they are not in the majority, because Ontario and the Provinces farther west are not officially, through their representatives at Ottawa, doing the right and fair and patriotic thing.
The rest of Canada has not kept its part of the agreement which led to the British North America Act. This statement is not open to argument because it is a statement of fact. The people of those sections have not even shown a desire to make amends for their past unfairness now that the Duncan Report has for a number of years been an official challenge to the rest of Canada to at last play fair with the Maritimes. The report has not yet been fully implemented.
Under the plea of the necessity of building up national industries, the factory owners and workers of Ontario have persistently and consistently urged that their products have a high protective tariff. But they have been blind and deaf to any possible necessity for building up a national fuel industry. A protection on coal would make their coal cost more! They have not been good enough sports, have not had enough sense of fair play and patriotism to help the Maritimes build up their end of Canada at some expense to Ontario, but have been glad and willing to build up Ontario at the expense of the Maritimes. To give a concrete example, is it fair that I must pay approximately a third more for an automobile or radio than my neighbor in the State of Maine, while the Canadian makers of these automobiles and radios refuse to pay a similar protection on a few things we produce here in the Maritimes such as coal and transportation to the Atlantic seaboard? Personally 1 cannot see that this is either right or fair or patriotic.
“All Give and No Take”
ACCORDING to the original agreement, the basis of representation at Ottawa was to be that of Quebec, with boundaries as they then were. Now the Dominion Government is using the population of a greatly enlarged Quebec as the basis, thereby causing us in the Maritimes to have an even smaller representation than at present. Such action is taken, of course, not at the instance of the Maritime representatives at Ottawa but by those from farther west. It displays a lack of the fair-play sense to which we in the Maritimes have become rather accustomed.
It is not many years since Ontario and Quebec had their boundaries enlarged greatly. The natural resources thus handed over to them were formerly the property of the Dominion as a whole, and so one would think that the Maritimes had a share, an equity, in these lands. When one partner in a firm takes over property belonging to the firm, it is usually considered only fair that he pay something to the other members for their interests. Shouldn’t the same rule apply to the partners in Confederation?
In the case of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the provinces were formed from lands in which the Maritimes had an equity, and the Maritimes were glad to see the Dominion developing sufficiently to be able to form additional provinces in the West. More recently they were granted certain natural resources formerly controlled by the Dominion. They are now asking what they call compensation for the period during which these resources were administered by the Dominion. If they are going to be so particular, we hope they will be equally anxious to reimburse the Maritimes for their share of the expense of developing the West.
For many years the Maritimes have been giving and giving toward the development of this Dominion, and they have received little for their patriotism. It seems to us that the farther west you go, the more you find that people have been on the receiving end of Confederation. The worst of it is. they still want to be there. They do not seem to have any idea of sacrificing what they consider their own immediate interests in order to help develop the interests of the entire Dominion of Canada.
For years we Maritimers listened to tales of the wonderful West, where it was easy to get rich by growing grain and where copper cents were never used! But after the West has overbuilt along almost every line of endeavor, and is finding that interest on borrowed money is an expensive luxury and prosperous times do not last for ever, what then does the West do? It comes running to Ottawa asking for a bonus on wheat. In other words, having danced to the tune of extravagant overdevelopment, they want the rest of us to help pay the piper! We Maritimers have our own troubles but when the potato crop cannot be marketed our growers do not expect the West to foot the bills. When the fishermen cannot get a gfxxl price for their catch, they try to get along on the few dollars they saved from a go year—a good year when they did not spend the winter in California or Florida. As for the apple growers of Nova Scotia, have you heard them asking for a bonus from Ottawa, in spite of several bad years?
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The only conclusion we Maritimers can reach is that the Western people haven’t learned how to be good losers. If the people of the Maritimes have to guarantee the ! wheat grower against loss, why should not ! he guarantee our people against loss? Are the people of the West going to help us in our attempt to have Canadian wheat shipped through Canadian jxirts? Are they going to have the Dominion Government guarantee our railway employees and port workers a reasonable income, that our orchardists and coal miners will not suffer loss, that our fishermen will get a good price for their fish? Unless they do these things, they are not doing the fair thing !
AS SUGGESTED in the beginning, we in - the Maritimes do not think that all Westerners are guilty of this unenlightened selfishness. Many see the fairness of our claims. But too big a percentage are willing to allow the grain, which they expect all Canadians to help finance, to be shipped through United States ports because it seems to their advantage in the immediate present.
As a matter of fact, it is a most shortsighted policy. In the long run a good old rule applies, and if the West would profit from its association with the rest of us in a Dominion, it must contribute something and that at a sacrifice. It must co-operate with the East. Such co-operation must include three items.
Westerners must encourage the purchase of Maritime products, either by duty or by bonuses—Maritime coal in the case of Ontario and Quebec, and transportation in the case of the Prairie Provinces.
They must pay their just debts to the Maritimes. The Duncan Report has I recognized one of these which is long outstanding. Our equity in lands transferred I by the Dominion to Quebec and Ontario has j been admitted by leaders of both political j parties in times past —but these accounts j have not yet been paid.
They must stop the policy of expecting ! all Canada to pay for the mistakes in judg¡ ment which they themselves have made.
! We all know that Westerners have been too S enthusiastic about the West. It is a wonderful country, no doubt. But its people and governments have kept their eyes too much toward the future. They have contracted large debts in the expectation of increases in population and prosperity which have not materialized to the extent counted upon. It is too bad that the farmers of the West have accumulated machinery and acreage which can grow more wheat than they can sell at an attractive price. But here in New Brunswick there is a lot of lumbering equipment lying idle, and lots of first-class timber ! standing in the woods. The difference between the two situations is that the New Brunswick lumbermen have reduced their cut to suit the market, whereas in the West the farmers have continued to grow all they could. Moreover, in case a lumberman does find himself with stock that he cannot sell profitably, he doesn't expect the wheat farmer, through the Government, to finance his loss.
A press dispatch from Chicago, now on my desk, mentions that ‘‘against the world import needs of 700,000.000 bushels, Canada and the United States together have 900,000,000 bushels, and Argentina and Australia will be harvesting within three months.”
To the Maritime mind that means that wheat will be cheap this year, and that unless the world crop is reduced the only way our own West can grow more wheat profitably is by growing it at less cost than growers in other countries. To the Western mind the situation seems to call for a cash contribution from the Government at Ottawa. But we in the Maritimes have a share in raising the funds which are disbursed by that Government, and our coal and apple and lumber and transportation and fishing industries are also finding conditions rather hard. Does the West propose that the Ottawa Government should also reimburse us for our losses? Or is it that the West alone is to be so favored; that, after accepting our own losses, we in the East shall also make up theirs?
Do not misunderstand; I am not pessimistic about the situation. I know that a prosperous Dominion cannot be developed by any system which bleeds one section to help others temporarily. I believe that if the other parts of Canada do the right and fair and patriotic thing, they will incidentally be doing themselves a good tum. I think that an increasing number of people in those parts of the country realize the fairness of Maritime claims. If they will act according to their sense of justice, the following will be some of the results:
A prosperous group of Maritime Provinces will constitute a near-by and prosperous market for many of the products of the rest of Canada. An increased livestock industry’ in the Maritimes would create a big market for Western grains. Increased mining activities would mean prosperous mining communities where the products of Ontario factories would be in demand. These are but examples of numerous items, meaning markets worth millions of dollars.
A proper use of the transportation facilities of the Maritimes, many of which are owned and operated by the Dominion Government, would not only increase employment and create buying power, but would also increase the use of property in which the West itself has property rights and which in some cases is now operating at a loss for which all Canada has to pay. At present the Western grain growers are in the position of a man who owns large shares in railway and port facilities but is content to pay a deficit on them because they are not used to capacity, while he hires his competitor to haul his grain to market and so helps that competitor to develop his marketing facilities. Ship Canadian grain by Canadian ports and see if it doesn’t reduce the C. N. R. deficit. Use Canadian port elevators to maximum capacity. The overhead is already there. Additional use will be profitable to Canada as a whole.
Get a bulky product like grain transported through Canadian ports and other things will follow. A to-and-fro traffic will grow. Tropical goods from the West Indies and Africa will come in more freely and will reach farther and farther at prices the consumer can afford. I know the argument (?) which is used by those who think it is to their interest to ship grain via American ports—that the ships are there, so the grain must go there. The answer to that is that produce is not made to be carried in ships, but ships are made to carry produce. Of course the ships will not come to Canadian ports until the goods are there to be shipped ! And. another thing, there are other ships. Our friends and relatives in Great Britain seem to be taking this trade agreement seriously. They apparently expect to be shipping things of their making to Canada in their own ships, and want the grain at Canadian ports for a return cargo.
We in the Maritimes are rather fed up with the kind of nonsense which was dubbed by a Maritime paper the other day as a “policy of misrepresentation and evasion.” We demand that the Maritime Provinces receive a fair deal ; and if the rest of Canada isn’t willing to play fair, to pull their share of the load, to act as though they wanted the whole of Canada to develop as a great cooperative commonwealth, then the rising tide of resentment against unfair treatment will see to it that the Maritimes suffer injustice no longer.
MOST OF US in the Maritimes think the rest of the country will see the fairness of our claims, will make the few selfish interests in their midst stop their political manipulations, will make the necessary sacrifices, as we have been accustomed to make them, for the good of all. We have every confidence that an increasing number of people in Ontario are realizing that it is in the interests of justice and of themselves to give heed to the reasonable demands of the Maritime Provinces. A number of recent events have made us realize that too many in the Western Provinces are still viewing Dominion problems with a sectional bias. In replying to Mayor Brittain of Saint John. Premier Bracken of Manitoba expressed a desire on the part of the Western premiers to co-operate in the development of Eastern ports “whenever any economically sound plan can be advanced for doing so.”
Inasmuch as the apple growers, potato growers, miners, fishermen and business men of the Maritimes have paid their share of the $11.000,000 bonus paid Western wheat growers for 1931, are paying their share of the approximately $18,000,000 loss on wheat activities for 1932, and are assuming their share of the guarantee to the banks against loss in advancing money to the Wheat Pool, it is not hard for them to answer the implication contained in Premier Bracken’s “economically sound” (?) remark.
We can perhaps feel somewhat lenient toward men like E. J. Garland, M.P., of Bow River, Alberta, and J. I. McFarland, general manager of The Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers, Ltd., by agreeing with the suggestion of Colonel G. C. Porter that Western grain interests have been
“hoodwinked” into using the unpatriotic Buffalo-New York route by clever propaganda originating with those who profit most from the use of that route.
We realize that not only must the influence of these propagandists be neutralized, but that we must light the fires of Canadian patriotism in the hearts of all too many of those who have come under their sinister influence. We are encouraged in the task by the knowledge that many private grain exporters, such as James A. Richardson of Winnipeg, are in favor of using Canadian railways and ports as a matter of both sentiment and economically sound business. We know that the combination of Imperial preference and adverse American exchange are at present making the Maritimes’ route so much more “economically sound” that, apart from the influence of what Colonel Porter has called “the Buffalo-New York bunk,” a lot of wheat is coming through Maritime ports this winter. We hope that some of it will be coming not merely because the shippers have to send it this way, but because they have become nationally minded and want to ship via the national route.
The Maritime Provinces have done and are doing their share to help Ontario and the West. What will Ontario and the West do to help the Maritimes? If they reciprocate it will be the beginning of a new day of co-operation and resultant prosperity for us all. If they do not—but let’s not bring that up until we have to !