GENERAL ARTICLES

Backstage

POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 1 1940
GENERAL ARTICLES

Backstage

POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 1 1940

Backstage

POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

THE hard thing to discover about our war effort is whether the politicians are living up to their perorations. There are plenty of perorations. Indeed, after months of silence, of an information blackout, everybody has become extraordinarily articulate-making speeches, giving out statements, hold ing press conferences. Listening to these speeches, reading state ments and interviews. there is an impression of terrific activity. The real trick is to discover

what is behind the headlines and the stat i~t ics; whether all the activity, real or apparent, is activity to a purpose. Whether it is plannecL properly directed, related to vital war needs.

That much is being done, no one need doubt. There is the fact that our Munitions and Supply Board has let 50.000 orders to more than 3,000 firms for $550.000.000 worth of supplies and equipment. That the same board, in co-operation with the British, is putting more than $250,000,(XX) in 100 new war plants, or in extensions to old ones. 'That it is preparing to put $150,000,000 in the production of heavy tanks—apart from small tanks we’re building and to establish an aircraft engine industry, and to contract (for the British) for cargo boats. There is the fact, in short, that the Munitions and Supply Board is letting war contracts at the rate of 1,000 per week; that it is streamlining old plants and new to take more and greater orders; that a million dollars with these busy Supply Board gentlemen is just small change.

And as with the Munitions and Supply Board, so with the Defense Department— the Navy, Army, Air Force, the Air Training I Man. All are expanding. When war came, we had 5.KX) men in our Permanent Force. Today we have roughly 150.(XX) men it) our Active Service Army (55.000 overseas); the nonpermanent militia has jumped from 70.(XX) to over KX).(KX), and 3(X),000 men are to get one month’s training during the coming year.

When war came, we had a Navy of thirteen ships all told and 1,700 officers and men. Today the Navy has 130 ships all told and over 13,(XX) officers and men; with Navy Minister Macdonald telling that by this time next year it will have 230 ships and 23,(XX) men.

When war came, our Air Force numbered 5,000 all told —which fact may surprise many. Today the Air Force numbers 30.000 men all told: pilots, observers, mechanics, groundsmen. And it is growing steadily.

The Air Training Plan is no longer a plan; it is partly an achievement. Well ahead of its schedule, it has over forty schools in operation, is training thousands of pilots, observers, gunners; has already sent some to Britain's skies.

A lot of effort, a lot of brains and energy, plus a destrate lot of grief, have gone into these things.

And a lot of money. To keep a Canadian in uniform—counting pay. fix*!, clothing, separation allowances—costs $3 a day. If, as is estimated or planned, we find ourselves this time next year with between 4(X),(XX) and 500.000 men in uniform, it will be costing a pretty pennv. Something between $1,000,000 and $1.5(X).(XX) a day. or between $400,000.(XX) and $500,(XX),000 a year. For men in uniform alone.

Yet war's chief cost is not for

men in uniform. It is for steel; for machine guns and modern cannon, for anti-aircraft guns and tanks, for bombs and aircraft, for motorized, mechanical equipment. Not merely are these things the chief cost; they are the vital need.

That is why, at this time, there is a disposition in Ottawa to look behind the statements—often vague—of Ministers; behind ministerial “handouts,” behind statistics and headlines. Observers are beginning to ask not how many contracts we are letting, or for how much, or how fast, but whether we are contracting for the right things.

They are asking, in other words, whether we are concentrating our energies, our industrial power, ujron vital things. Whether, in reasonable appreciation of the most probable trends, character and consequent needs of this war, we are relating our war effort to those needs.

There is suspicion—not partisan suspicion, but a growing general fear—that we aren’t. A fear that we may be confusing activity with efficiency; that we may be dissipating our energies in too many things; that, in short, our war effort may be too unplanned, too much from hand to mouth, too spread over nonessential fields. It is not distrust of the Government as a Government; it is distrust of our general war setup. Of a blurred wareffort picture.

Questions

TJTERE, for example, is a list of questions set down recently by a close observer:

1. Are we sure that we are working on the right things? Not making shells or something else when we should be

using our necessarily limited plant to make, say, airplanes?

2. Have we solved, or are we making effective efforts to solve, the problem of priorities in supplies and raw materials?

3. Have we decided how much of our productive plant and effort should go into war goods and how much into consumer goods?

4. Have we made plans to get the skilled management that will be needed for the hundreds of new war plants we are building?

5. I lave we planned for an adequate supply of skilled labor, and other labor, in our expanding war industries?

6. 1 lave we solved, or are we likely to solve, the problem of bottlenecks?

7Are we putting thousands of men into uniform before we have equipment to train them?

8. Areour variouswar branches— Navy, Army, Air Force and Munitions department—all expanding separately; working in watertight compartments, without coordination of all into one unified, planned effort?

No assurance exists that these questions will be answered, or can be answered, under the present war setup. The Munitions and Supply Board is a loosely knit, somewhat unwieldy organization, with Minister of Munitions Howe compelled to supervise everything, to be the last word on everything. Mr. Howe is an able man; in many ways a brilliant man. He is a human dynamo; tireless; works from eight in the morning until far into the night. But if he were ten

times as able and ten times as energetic, he could not do all the things he attempts to do—and have time to think. To plan. He can’t take time out. with contracts and orders for this, that and the other thing pouring in upon him, to organize a labor supply, or a skilled management supply, or priorities in orders, or the relation of war goods to consumer goods.

Yet no one in the Cabinet appears to be working with Mr. Howe, or assisting Mr. Howe, or planning with him. There is no body of scientists, economists, technical men, financial men, military men and businessmen sitting down together from time to time to get our real war effort picture, to see that it is balanced, to relate what we are doing to what we should do. True, there is a War Cabinet, or what is called a War Cabinet, but it is not a War Cabinet in the true sense. All of its members are administrative Ministers, charged with departments, tied down to ordinary routine. In England, not even the Secretary for War, nor the Secretary of the Air Ministry, is a member of the WSr Cabinet. They are left free for administration. The members of the War Cabinet, from Mr. Churchill down, deal with major war problems; with war planning. In Canada our Cabinet carries on in the old peacetime way.

There is the case of Defense Minister Ralston. Actually, Mr. Ralston is supposed to be a co-ordinator of war effort; with Mr. Power to take care of the Air, Mr. Macdonald, of the Navy. Yet Mr. Ralston, an able man and a former Finance Minister, burdens himself with minor military details; recently spent days inspecting camps in the Maritime Provinces—a job for the district InspectorGeneral. Why Mr. Ralston is not relieved of this routine, to deal with major matters alone, such as relating military effort to financial and economic power, is something of an Ottawa mystery.

Sensitive Ministers

CUGGESTIONS for a real War ^ Cabinet find no support; or have found none thus far. They have been put almost in the same category as suggestions for a National Government; accepted as a sort of unwarranted criticism of the Government. Ministers, extraordinarily sensitive, resent being told that they should be relieved of some of their duties; argue vehemently that things are going right. Their pet question, when a War Cabinet is mentioned, is: “Whom do you suggest?” Politicians, in office, are like that.

Not that everything in Ottawa is chaos. It is not. There are some able businessmen in the Supply Department; and Major-General Crerar is doing a big job well in the Defense Department; and Deputy for Air Duncan doing well with the Air Training scheme; and Mr. Ralph Bell driving hard at aircraft production. The trouble is in seeming failure to relate the effort of these people with the job of the Labor Department, with the job of the Finance Department, and with the job of the Bank of Canada. To knit everything that everybody is doing into one purposeful, planned, intelligible war whole.

There is the question of finance; of war costs. Competent observers put the coming year's war bill at $1,400,000,000. Add to that about $450,000,000 for ordinary government services, and the result is the problem of finding the staggering sum of roughly $2,000,000,000 for the fiscal year 1941-42. Taxation may find $800.000,000 of it. may even find $900.0(XUXX), but at best more than $1,000,000,000 will have to be borrowed.

It is a lot of borrowing. In 1918, when Canada had fewer than eight million people, we subscribed over a billion dollars—$1.058.000.000, to be correct—but we didn't have a heavy income tax then, nor an eight per cent sales tax, nor a lot of other taxes. We have them now, with the consequence, as everybody admits, that borrowing a billion dollars is going to be no fun. Yet nobody seems to know whether our war expenditure should be concentrated mostly on the . .rmy, or on the Air Force, or on the provision of munitions and supplies. Nobody, at all events, says anything about it.

The Session

r"PHE session?

The trouble with this session will be the trouble with last session: No numerically strong, well-organized

Opposition. Mr. Hanson is a competent parliamentarian; moderate, responsible. (True, he had an apparent lapse at Charlottetown, when he disclosed, much to his annoyance since, British air trainees, apart from the Empire Air Training Plan, coming to Canada.) But Mr. Hanson has no one around him to help him with research; to keep him in touch with things. He has no able, experienced lieutenants to debate war problems usefully. No one to bring the Government to real account; to examine or scrutinize Continued on page 45

Backstage at Ottawa

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measures and policies; to perform the Opposition function of audit. What is needed in the present Parliament is somebody of the ability, business training and experience of an R. B. Bennett to subject war measures to real analysis; really to assist the Government, by constructive criticism and constructive suggestions, with war effort.

Our Problems Grow

THE pity of Parliament’s lopsidedness, with consequent inevitable feebleness, is that, apart from the war (though mostly arising out of it), national problems continue to grow; to become increasingly acute. There is wheat. This year a big crop was piled on a big carry-over. What will come next year if another big or even normal crop is piled on a still bigger carryover? For the carry-over will be there— perhaps 400,000,000 bushels of it. Perhaps more. This, it is admitted, calls for major action; for a major operation; yet, so far as can be seen, nobody is preparing to face, or even to discuss, what the operation might be. Micawber-like, everybody is just hoping that something may turn up.

There is Canada-United States defense. We have been told of its military aspects; assured there are no commitments; assured that United States troops will not occupy

Canadian bases, nor Canadian troops American bases; that only in event of attack, or of threatened attack, upon one country or the other, or upon both, will come concerted action. But what of the economic aspect? Does co-operation for defense not involve some wider understanding with respect to supplies? With respect to industry? With respect to uniformity in arms and equipment? With respect to exchange and finance? That it should involve such understanding, nearly everybody admits. Yet no one seems to know definitely. Which is odd.

There are other odd things. Out in Manitoba Premier John Bracken has turned up with a coalition. Mr. Bracken’s idea, if we are to believe the inspired voices, is to get the Sirois Report implemented. Mr. Bracken knows, that the W’est can’t carry on; or can’t carry on without desperate difficulty. There is too much debt; no money with which to keep up social services. Consequently, he vrants Ottawa to take over the West s debts, wipe the slate clean, ensure a Western standard of living. Mr. Bracken, in short, feels that if the remedies of the Sirois Report were necessary in peace they are more necessary in war; wants a united Western voice to say so.

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Ottawa—Mr. King’s Cabinet—feels as Mr. I3racken feels. Yet it knows, or thinks it knows, that Ontario’s Mr. Hepburn dislikes the Sirois Report; dislikes the idea of surrendering Ontario’s income tax, of surrendering, above all, Ontario’s succession duties tax. Under the War Measures Act Ottawa has power to put the Sirois Report into operation whether Mr. Hepburn likes it or not. But Mr. King and Mr. I^apointe won’t use that power. Their colleagues—or many of them—would use it; are eager to use it. But Mr. King, who feels he must do nothing to disturb national “unity,” has the say.

Meanwhile Mr. “Jimmie” Gardiner, recently a pilgrim to London, is back on I’arliament Hill. His pilgrimage, there is reason for believing, was not overly successful. In the first place—this is no secret in Ottawa—Mr. Gardiner had it intimated to him that London wouldn’t welcome him. London was having its people killed and maimed by bombs. It had no relish for a visitor concerned principally with new agreements, and new prices, respecting Canada’s w-heat and bacon. Consequently, Mr. Gardiner is back in Ottawa minus his w-heat and bacon agreements, possibly to report that wheat and bacon prices may be lower. Mr. Gardiner, in the opinion of many— including some of his colleagues—might profitably have remained in Ottawa. As combined Minister of Agriculture and War Services he had plenty to keep him busy.

The Conservatives? Mr. John R. MacNicol has been up and down the land trying to revive life in the party. Mr. Hanson continues to lead its scattered remnants in Parliament. Dr. Manion, the “forgotten man,” is seen sometimes in

Ottawa. Mr. Bennett is over in England with Dad Beaverbrook. Mr. Meighen, a brooding figure, sends up lamentations from the Senate. It is the party’s eclipse; its night of Stygian darkness. Orphaned of a permanent captain, of a press, of any united fighting spirit, it is upon evil days, a spent force—for the moment at all events—in the nation’s destinies.

The U. S. Election

MEANWHILE, most potent victory

for Canada’s war effort was the verdict of United States electors. Twenty or thirty years hence, when today’s statesmen and generals come to write their memoirs, Canadians will learn, as they cannot learn now, how great and good a friend to this country in need was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. King’s diary will tell it. Tell of Mr. Roosevelt’s ardent, active wish to make our war arm stronger; of his powerful influence for Canadian pilgrimages to Washington; of seemingly insuperable obstacles overcome through his direct intervention.

Mr. Willkie might not have been different. Yet Ottawa feared secretly that he might be; that certain forces behind him might cripple, at least temporarily, existing co-operation. There was the CanadaUnited States trade treaty; and there was that promised co-operation over power in the St. Lawrence; and that joint permanent defense board. No one knew what Mr. Willkie, or some behind Mr. Willkie, might want to do about them. In any event, under the best of circumstances, there would be delay in many things; a slowing down during the hiatus between Mr. Willkie’s entry and Mr. Roosevelt’s exit. For Canada, as well as for Britain, that might mean much. It might, conceivably, have meant too much.