Will the Maritimes Secede?
A Maritimer speaks bluntly of "a growing feeling in favor of the Maritimes walking right out of the Confederation picture"
by S. LEONARD TILLEY
THERE IS a growing feeling in the Maritimes today that the provinces by the sea would be better off if they packed up their bags and walked right out of the Confederation picture and established themselves in a country of their own.
Ontario and Quebec may pooh-pooh the idea, while thousands of Maritimers themselves will shout loud denials from the roof-tops, but that does not alter the fact that the feeling does exist.
Canada, if such a thing occurred, would be split in two. Immigration and customs officials would line the QuebecNew Brunswick border. Upper Canadian business houses which have established branch offices in the Maritimes and are today flooding the eastern provinces with their goods, would be subject to control by tariffs, possibly by quotas. Legislation might even be passed to deport all workers not of Maritime birth and to tax heavily all outside industries established within the new country’s frontiers.
No greater tragedy could happen to Canada should these Maritime provinces secede from Confederation, but it is silly to say that there is no talk of breaking away down in the provinces by the Atlantic. Secessionist sentiment does exist, and should be met squarely instead of being pushed into the background with a “little children should be seen and not heard’’ attitude.
ONE OF THE first to realize the danger of the present situation was the Hon. A. P. Paterson, president of the Executive Council in New Brunswick’s Liberal Government. For years he has been eating, sleeping and talking just two words: “Maritime rights.”
The importance of Maritime rights means so much to him that, even though a Liberal Cabinet Minister, he would be among the first to condemn the present Mackenzie King administration should it fail to realize that the agreement of Confederation is not being carried out.
If secession talk is not to increase, he believes, the Dominion Government must wake up and do something immediately to compensate fully for “the deliberately planned and skilfully executed economic betrayal of the Maritime provinces.”
Once powerful, wealthy and happy, the Maritimes believe they have received a raw deal since Confederation was first effected. Even the Hon. Mr. Paterson’s strongest opponents admit that point. Even they will agree that the repeated storms of protest directed against numerous Ottawa governments by Maritime delegations have as yet failed to bring to them everything which the Fathers of Confederation had intended them to receive.
Time and again these delegations from the Maritimes have gone before the Canadian Government to plead for what they believe are their just rights. Commission after Commission has been appointed “to look into” the affairs of those three provinces. None of the Commissions have gone far enough in their recommendations, most Maritimers feel, and something drastic must soon happen.
The vast majority of Maritimers, including myself, shudder when anyone even suggests secession and argue that the position of those provinces would be far worse off under any such policy. But recent events have shown clearly that there are other points of view which differ.
H. Napier Moore, editor of Maclean’s Magazine, wrote ten words in a recent editorial which had the effect of a red rag to a bull on a certain New Brunswick newspaper.
“Secession talk in the Maritimes, once plentiful, is now diminishing,” Mr. Moore wrote. Just ten words, but ten were enough. Newsboys in every town and hamlet in the Maritimes wen* soon selling papers containing the New Brunswick editor’s indignant reply. Black headlines shrieked the secessionist viewpoint, while front-page stories told the editor of Maclean's that “if he had his ear a little closer to the ground he would hear some secession talk in these Maritimes that would give him a pain in the ear drum.”
Once the match had been placed near the haystack, the
New Brunswick publication refused to let the matter drop, and issue after issue has since produced steady streams of abuse against the “Toronto and Montreal interests” that have “too much power which they are using to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of the provinces outside Quebec and Ontario.”
There is undoubtedly a wrong impression existing throughout Canada today that the Maritimes are annual visitors to Ottawa looking for concessions, and are always growling because they want something more. It is pure ignorance on the part of most Upper Canadians when they shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, the Maritimes. They’re always grouching.”
There are certain claims which those three provinces have against the rest of Canada, and it is high time that they were settled once and for all. While it is true that delegation after delegation has gone to Ottawa to fight for those claims, it is not generally realized that not once during the depression has either New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island ever gone to the Dominion Government and said they were hard up and so “please lend us some money.” That, unfortunately, cannot be said of the other provinces.
Grants to Other Provinces
WHY SHOULD there be secessionist sentiment in the Maritimes today? The answer can best be explained if one looks back to 1864, when the political leaders of the three eastern provinces were meeting in Charlottetown and were about to sign an agreement uniting the three provinces into one.
Not once, it should be pointed out, did the Maritimes go to Ontario and Quebec with an invitation for them to come and join this proposed Union. Rather was the shoe on the other foot. Sir John A. Macdonald brought his band of Upper Canadian followers down to the Charlottetown conference seeking union with the Maritimes. Why? Because Ontario and Quebec wanted an outlet to the sea for trade.
Ontario and Quebec at that time had much larger debts than had any one of the three Maritime provinces, and they were not nearly so prosperous. Prince Edward Island, perhaps rather reluctant to shoulder the burden of the poverty-stricken Upper Canadians, hesitated and stepped aside. So it happened that New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario were the four original partners in the Confederation scheme. As partners, one would take it for granted that they were to share and share alike. But what happened?
The Hudson’s Bay lands were purchased by these four partners in 1870, and out of a portion of these lands the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were later created. So that the lands which now form those three Western provinces were purchased by the Dominion as part of New Brunswick’s and Nova Scotia’s partnership property.
In 1930 the original four partners, through the Dominion Government, handed over gratis to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all Crown lands, mines, minerals and royalties theretofore held, owner! and used for Dominion purposes.
The giving away of land had long since become a habit with the Dominion Government. Ontario, in 1889, had been given a nice little slice amounting to 22.000,(XX) acres out of the Dominion Government’s unorganized territories. It did not seem to matter that this gift was more than the entire area of New Brunswick, largest of the Maritime provinces.
But Ontario was not quite satisfied with her Christmas present, however, and so in 1912 the Dominion Government played Santa Claus again and handed over another 93,000,000 acres to that province.
Quebec, however, had begun to sit up and take notice. With a voice that could be heard beyond the Rockies, she shouted for free land too. So, in 1898. the Dominion Government handed out 100,OCX),OCX) acres to that province.
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Will the Maritimes Secede?
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But, seeing that Ontario had got an extra Christmas present in 1912, Quebec howled again that it had been neglected. So, in the same year, it was quieted only after “Santa Claus” had increased their boundaries by another free gift of 327,000,000 acres.
Then the Western provinces started to cry and, not wishing to argue, the Dominion Government in 1912 increased the boundaries of Manitoba by 114,000,000 acres from the unorganized territory purchased from the Hudson’s Bay Company.
And neither were British Columbia, Alberta or Saskatchewan to be forgotten. The Railway Belt lands and the Peace River block were tied up in a little parcel
and handed over to British Columbia. Saskatchewan and Alberta received millions of dollars worth of property both real and personal when, in 1930, the Dominion Government passed over to those provinces all crown lands, minerals, mines and royalties formerly owned as part of “the big four” partnership property.
But what happened to the two Maritime provinces that were supposed to own equally these nice fat presents which the Dominion Government was throwing around? Not one acre of land was given to them, and the fact seemed to be forgotten entirely that they were original partners in the ownership of the land that had been given away.
The Maritimes, therefore, are still waiting for a fair and equitable monetary adjustment by the Dominion Government for the property that was taken away from them and given to the other six provinces of Canada.
Premier Angus L. Macdonald of Nova Scotia, when appearing before the White Commission last year, placed the value of the lands given to Ontario and Quebec alone at $444,000,000.
X/fANY people argue, in reply, that a large portion of these lands which were given away were really nothing more than enormous rocky areas inhabited only by a few thousand half-starved Indians. But rocky areas mean mines. It must be remembered that, in 1934, the total mining assets for Ontario brought into the revenues of that province $50,000,000 more than did the entire Ontario farm production.
The Maritimes, therefore, want full compensation for those free gifts of land which they were supposed partly to own and which were so generously given away by the Dominion Government.
Another issue is the constant refusal of the Dominion Government to grant the Maritimes an adequate subsidy for the loss of their former colonial custom and excise duties. Before Confederation all customs duties were collected by the provinces themselves, but this right was handed over to the Dominion Government in 1867. While it is true that a certain amount was fixed as an annual subsidy to compensate for this loss in revenue, the provinces today do not feel that the amount is sufficient.
Those who are talking secession argue that this old right of collecting customs money should be returned to the provinces, and then their annual revenues would be increased. Furthermore, they claim that if their policy were adopted, the povertystricken Maritime taxpayer would be freed of paying any more Dominion taxes.
But they fail to point out, on the other hand, that it is extremely unlikely that the amount collected as customs duties would equal the money which the Dominion Government is now spending in the Maritimes on public buildings such as post offices, custom houses, armories, and on wharf and harbor improvements.
Then there is the contention that the Canadian National Railways adopted a policy contrary to the national welfare of Canada when it took over railways and port facilities in various sections of the United States for the shipment of goods of Canadian origin out of United States ports. This policy, it is claimed, is contrary to the terms of Confederation.
It is generally believed by Maritimers now that one of the greatest blows the Maritimes ever received was when the old Intercolonial Railway became merged with the Canadian National, resulting in the removal of the head office of that company from Moncton, New Brunswick, to Upper Canada.
The Maritimes would never have entered Confederation without the Intercolonial, because it was understood that that railway was to be used to carry goods from Upper Canada through Maritime ports. Leading Members of the present Nova Scotia Legislature tersely explained their position when they recently told me that the “glowing hope of increased trade” promised the Eastern provinces and Central Canada under Confederation has “never been fulfilled.”
“As far as Nova Scotia is concerned,” one of its leading Cabinet Ministers declared, “it may be truly said that the only two commodities that we can hope to sell there are coal and fish. We have not, up to the present, made any notable progress in fish sales, and our coal trade there depends almost entirely on subventions from the Canadian Government. Our lumber and agricultural products we need never hope to find a market for in Central Canada, as both these commodities can be
supplied from the Central provinces themselves.”
The Problem of Geography
'T'HE GEOGRAPHICAL position of the -L Maritimes has undoubtedly had a great deal to do with their present condition. Before Confederation the picture was entirely different, for those were the days of the wooden ship industry.
Former Maritime prosperity was built and centred almost entirely around the gigantic wooden ship building industry, of which the famous racing Bluenose is so worthy an example. The coming of steel and iron vessels vitally challenged the prosperity of the Maritimes. If those provinces are suffering today, many will argue, perhaps not without justification, that it is because of their failure to realize the necessity of changing with the times. With coal, iron and steel resources at their disposal in such places as Sydney, Springhill, Parrsboro, New Glasgow, Glace Bay and Minto, the provinces could have been building today such vessels as the Queen Mary, the Rex and the Normandie. Not only would they then have retained their position in the shipping world, but thousands of men who are now unemployed would be employed in the building of the vessels and thousands more in the development of the natural resources necessary for their construction and maintenance, had the Maritimes switched from wooden to iron ships during the initial period of the development of the latter.
The relative isolation of the Maritimes from the markets of Central Canada has perhaps cultivated in many Maritimers a certain lack of initiative and ambition to get out and try to offer serious competition for their home-grown products. Upper Canadians visiting the East have been known to express amazement at the casual manner in which Maritimers took time off to gossip with neighbors during working hours. No wonder the provinces have never prospered, they argue, perhaps unfairly, if it’s so easy to walk out of one’s office and have a round of golf at any old time in the morning or afternoon.
Another factor in the situation is tourist traffic. New Brunswick is more fortunate in the tourist business than the other two provinces because of her close proximity to the State of Maine. Nova Scotia does get a fair share of the traffic, but her comparative remoteness still makes a tourist think twice before putting his car on the boat crossing the Bay of Fundy or driving over hundreds of miles of dirt roads in order to get to Halifax.
The relative isolation of Prince Edward Island, however, has been a serious handicap to that province. No traveller wants to hop on a train and spend a day and a half going from Montreal to Charlottetown, and automobile tourists balk at paying the high rates on the Government ferry from Tormentine to Borden, where a man is not only charged handsomely for the transportation of his car but an additional fare for every passenger in the car. Dirt roads, with their dust nuisance, and the fact that such a thing as Pullman car service is unheard of on the island’s railway facilities, have been two other drawbacks against encouraging tourists.
One of the most successful methods of encouraging tourist traffic is the attracting of American conventions to Canada. Upper Canada is continually bringing thousands of visitors into the country by this method, but it’s only once in a century that any outside convention ever goes to the isolated Maritimes. This, however, is probably because they never seem to make any halfdecent attempt to draw them.
Such considerations, however, have not diminished the flow of secession talk.
Government Buildings Dilapidated
A MARITIME newspaper carried a front-page story only recently in which it bluntly faced the possibility of secession.
“Should the province see the need of
deciding to withdraw from the Dominion and set up as a separate dominion,” the article stated, “there would be few people in the province who would say no. The people have come to realize that they have for many years been just a meal ticket for selfish interests and pawns for party politics, while their own table has been shorn even of the necessities of life.”
Most people who have actually been in the Maritimes will agree that those three provinces by the sea cannot be beaten anywhere in the world for beauty and healthful climate. The hospitality and friendliness of the people of the Maritimes arc gratefully remembered by millions of jx:ople in every part of the globe. The future of the provinces undoubtedly offers great possibilities and yet, year after year, thousands of young people break away and seek their fortunes in other parts of the world. Why? Simply because of the present |x>verty and lack of opportunities which exist. Surely, the majority argue, this is because the conditions of Confederation have not been carried out to the letter.
But, Upper Canadians reply, are you Maritimes really as hard up as you would have us believe?
New Brunswick has not even been able to afford to pay for the upkeep of the old official Government House. Wherever the present Lieutenant-Governor happens to live, that’s New Brunswick’s Government House now. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference if it happens to be a hundred miles or so away from the capital of the province. The Government contends that His Honor can look around and rent a house for the time that Parliament is in session. That’s a small detail. Fredericton citizens wralk through the capital every summer and look in horror at the broken window panes in the beautiful old official Government House that used to be, while farmers gaze enviously at the hay crops that have grown up annually around the grounds since they were abandoned.
Prince Edward Island is so hard up that it hasn’t even got enough money to fix up the old Provincial Building and the Court House. Nearly all the plaster in the Assembly Chamber fell down in 1934, but fortunately—or unfortunately, depending upon one’s political viewpoint—Parliament was not sitting at the time. Money was granted to repair the building, but was eventually used for another purpose. And yet that is the historic spot where the Fathers of Confederation drafted the original Confederation plan ! The cradle of Confederation is certainly rocking.
For some years the Dominion Government has been paying out some $15,000,000 annually for old-age pensions, yet New Brunswick has never got a cent of that money and still can’t afford to shoulder its share of the burden necessary to adopt the system. The present administration may try to do something about it in the near future.
Prince Edward Island can’t afford to have its own reformatory. All its deaf, dumb and blind citizens are sent across the border to be looked after by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Neither can that province produce the funds necessary to
enable it to adopt the mothers’ allowances.
In Nova Scotia, according to last year’s official figures, only one person in fifteen could afford to buy a motor car, as compared with one in eleven in Canada as a whole. In Nova Scotia there was only one telephone for every eleven people, while in Canada there was one for every eight. There were only thirty-two radios last year for every 1,(XX) rural Nova Scotians, but the rest of Canada had money enough to purchase forty-eight radios for every 1 ,000 of its farm ¡>eople. The average weekly wage paid to a male worker in Nova Scotia last year was $14.67, while in Canada for the same job the man would have received $17.82. For a woman worker the average weekly salary was $8.26 in Nova Scotia, while in Canada as a whole it was $10.77. These figures show that the Maritimes, because they apply equally to the other two provinces, are just about two-thirds as prosperous as the rest of Canada.
Population Not Growing
NEITHER is the population of the Maritimes increasing as it should, but rather is it decreasing or standing still because of the thousands who annually move away, due to the lack of opportunities. A glance at the census over a ten-year period tells its own story:
N.S. 523,837 512,848 A decrease.
N.B. 387,876 408,219 Slight increase. P.E.I. 88,615 88,038 Slight decrease.
Nova Scotia’s natural increase during that time should have been 31,000 if it was to conform with the percentage of increases which the province has enjoyed since Confederation. This means that every time the clock goes around twenty-four hours, that province lost eight citizens that should have been there to build it up into a prosperous province and who would have stayed if the opportunities had been there.
During that same ten-year period between 1921 and 1931, all the other six provinces of Canada showed a substantial increase in their populations.
Hon. A. P. Paterson is convinced that “the fate of Canada is hanging in the balance,” and at the present moment he is working in dose co-operation with Premier Allison Dysart and the New Brunswick Attorney General to prevent any amendment to the British North America Act which would prejudice Maritime rights by transferring power to amend the sixtynine-year-old statute from the United Kingdom Parliament to that of the Dominion.
I asked Mr. Paterson for a statement which would sum up his belief that the Maritimes have been treated unfairly under Confederation. His reply vividly presents the situation as he and his school of thought look at it.
“The economic betrayal of the Maritime provinces, for the benefit of interests in Montreal, Ontario and the United States, was deliberately planned and has been skilfully executed,” he declared. “The
plan of betrayal was outlined in an address by Hon. John Rose, representing Montreal Centre, in the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1865.
“The agreement of the Confederation, which was arranged at London in 1866, has been practically thrown into the discard, especially in so far as trade and transportation subjects are concerned, and political party jxJicies have been substituted therefor.
“The policies that have been promoted by the Central Government of the Confederation show how skilfully the plan of betrayal has been executed.
“I do not think it is possible to fully compensate New Brunswick for the failure of carrying out the Confederation agreement,” the Liberal Cabinet Minister continued, “nor to effect the just economicassimilation of the Maritime provinces with the Central and Western provinces, unless the Confederation agreement is carried out in letter and spirit. It is a generally recognized fact that New Brunswick is being bled white by her governmental and economic relations with the Centra! and Western provinces. New Brunswick is paying into the Confederation, directly and indirectly, many millions of dollars annually more than she gets back from it.
“Such facts leave no ground to doubt that New Brunswick, along with the other Maritime provinces, would be better off if they seceded from the Dominion and established themselves as a separate Federal Dominion rather than continue as they are at present.
“There is also no ground to doubt that eventually all the provinces in Canada would be much better off if the Confederation agreement were carried out. New Brunswick would not then have cause to complain of injustice.”
The Cabinet Minister points out that he is not personally in favor of secession, but rather has been working for many years to try and offset “the growing feeling of secession.” If the agreement were fully carried out, he said, the Maritimes would not think of seceding.
Real Partnership Wanted
PERSONALLY, I am convinced that the great majority of Maritimers have not the slightest intention of seceding from Canada. They do, however, want to be real partners in the Dominion and to share equally in the benefits and privileges to which partners are entitled. This, they feel, has not been the case in the past and, because of this, they have just claims which should and must be immediately recognized by the Dominion Government.
It is really rather ridiculous to think seriously of secession when one remembers that some system of defense for a country seems, under present world conditions, to be more than necessary. The Canadian army is weak but the strength of the Maritime army is practically nil. And one remembers that a short time ago General Balbo, former Italian Minister of Air, landed a squadron of planes at Shediac, New Brunswick, after a mass formation flight across the Atlantic.