Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa



THE SHAPE of things to come in Canada in 1943 is crystallizing rapidly. Those who think it is high time Canada got into this war “for keeps” should not be disappointed.

For Mr. and Mrs. Citizen on Main Street the new program which Donald Gordon has been asked to take on—the wiping out of civilian nonessential industry—is the most portentous. Literally thousands of types and kinds of merchandise and services are doomed to disappear in the next twelve months in order to divert needed manpower into the armed forces and war industry. As Donald Gordon said to a group of business leaders here recently:

“We’ve been asked to place the country on ‘iron rations’—to see that not only all nonessentials are eliminated but also to ensure that the minimum essential needs are satisfied by the use of the least possible amount of manpower, materials, machinery, fuel, power and transportation.”

And Mr. Gordon isn’t fooling, any more than when he told Canadians last fall that they were going to have a price ceiling that was a ceiling.

Last December there was wide scepticism that such a thing as a price ceiling could or would be maintained. Mr. Gordon himself tells the story of the letter marked “personal and confidential” which he got by air mail from Alberta after his first radio broadcast. The letter said very briefly: “Have listened to your broadcast. All I can say is you are a blankety blank fool.”

Now Mr. Gordon is saying again: “Our

first problem, as in the case of the price ceiling, will be to make people believe that we mean business. Anyone who is sceptical is merely burying his head in the sand. It is the ultimate effort needed for victory—it is the effort we were committed to when we decided of our own free will to go to war—the effort which each of the United Nations must and will organize.”

Thousands of conveniences and services which Canadians have been accustomed to in the past will disappear. The remaining “essentials” will be gradually and ruthlessly “standardized” to the point where individual styles, brands, etc., will disappear. There will be drastic curtailment of banking and other personal services; even life insurance and most other types of salesmen may all but disappear with skeleton staffs retained to merely transact the minimum service necessary for clients and customers.

It is expected that Mr. Ilsley and the Treasury Board will take on the job of shaking up the Civil Service and putting it on a wartime eight-hour-day basis. Most civil servants who now work only six and a half hours a day are entitled to an hour and a half for lunch.

One important exception is the Department of Munitions and Supplies whose 4,500 employees work from 8.30 till 5.30. Allowing for an hour and a half at lunch, that means a forty-two hour week.

One knotty problem in extending Civil Service hours is the long Ottawa lunch hour, now to be reduced as soon as more cafeterias or eating places are available.

Fur Will Fly

ONE significant fact about this curtailment program is that the “managers” of the new program recognize they cannot expect enthusiastic co-operation from the public at large unless the Government itself first takes the lead and puts its own services (including the armed service and governmentowned Crown Companies) on an exemplary schedule of wartime efficiency. That means there is going to be a lot of fur flying in Ottawa between the new “bosses” of Canada’s wartime controls and the old-established, deeply entrenched, vested departmental and political interests. The results of this battle are going to be well worth watching although Canadians themselves will probably be too deeply engrossed in readjustment of personal and occupational living to pay much attention.

Behind all this planning is a new and enlarged version of the manpower crisis which took Ottawa’s official breath away about the middle of September. Actual statistics and lines of policy are still highly confused. (The Cabinet left them that way at the end of September and sent Messrs. Howe and Ralston off to England for two weeks to see if they could resolve their differences regarding a big Army and a big munitions program—or both.) However, unless the Army’s new manpower demands are scaled down considerably (which seems at present unlikely) it begins to look as if 500,000 persons must be found in Canada in the next twenty months for war industry and the armed services. Since there is no longer a “pool” from which to draw these people, they will be found possibly as follows: about 300,000 women

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who will re-enter employment or take jobs for the first time; about

100.000 men to be taken out of civilian and nonessential jobs; about

50.000 ‘‘subsistence” farmers (those who now produce nothing over and above their own food and requirements); about 50,000 ‘‘saved” by economies and improved efficiency in war industry.

An indication of how drastic a program like that may be is seen by taking the single figure of 300,000 new women workers. When the census of women from twenty to twenty-four was taken in September, this most likely of all women’s age groups to produce new employment revealed only twenty per cent (between 40,000 and 50,000) who voluntarily said they could do full-time work.

Certainly the greatest migration of

labor in Canada’s history is expected shortly to take place. Director of Selective Service, Elliott M. Little, himself, expects that one million people will pass through the Selective Service offices throughout Canada in the next! seven to nine months. Barely digesting the strict employment controls which came into effect »September 1, he is already planning other more drastic measures as soon as enough administrative machinery can be set up to handle the load. Power to require the compulsory transfer of men into essential work, and the making of absenteeism an offense are some of the measures that loom ahead.

And Ottawa is now drawing heavily on British experience in planning its future manpower and civilian con”"trols. Early in September the British

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Government sent to Canada one of its senior civil servants to advise the Department of Labor and National Selective Service officials on manpower problems. He is Alexander Gunn, assistant secretary in the British Ministry of Labor and National Service. His two decades of experience are already proving invaluable to Canadians now trying to set up in a few months a type of organization which requires normally five to ten years to put into operation.

Then too, Donald Gordon, when he was in Washington recently, brought back with him a comprehensive report on the concentration of industry and the switch-over from civilian to war employment in Great Britain which had just been completed. One of the important lessons learned from this report is that the decisions as to what industry or unit must disappear in a curtailment program cannot properly be left to the industry itself. The Government must decide what industry must go and what must stay; then leave it to industry to do the job as painlessly as possible.

Canada is far ahead of the United States in this respect. We are ahead for one reason because we have achieved co-ordination of wartime controls in the hands of men like Gordon, Little, Carmichael; men clothed with authority and armed with carefully prepared blueprints for changing the economic life of the country on to a wartime basis.

For three years Canadians, by and large, have been far ahead of the Government in their demands for “total” war. Now Ottawa is about to put this spirit to some real tests. It will be assisted by Charles Vining’s new Wartime Information Board which will be responsible for any “conditioning” of the public mind that is necessary in advance.

Shake-up in M. & S.

THERE’S been another “shakeup” at Munitions and Supply. Perhaps the last for some little time, although no one is sufficiently sure of that to risk making a new chart of how that gigantic arm of government now functions. The latest shift involves two lawyers—one of them Henry Borden (nephew of Sir Robert Borden). He becomes head of the Wartime Industries Control Board which directs the activities of Canada’s war controllers—oil, steel, rubber, metals, power, transportation and so forth. Mr. Borden is a Conservative Toronto lawyer who has been at Ottawa in an advisory capacity from the very early days of the war. His official title for some time has been Legal Counsel to the department.

He replaces R. C. Berkinshaw, at one time lawyer and general manager of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., who goes to an important job at Toronto—a job very much to his liking—the presidency of Polymer Corporation. Polymer is the Crown Company charged with entire responsibility for Canada’s synthetic rubber program and few men in Canada are better qualified to handle it than Mr. Berkinshaw.

The confusion and uncertainty

which have surrounded the personnel and management of the Canadian ; Broadcasting Corporation bid fair i to clear momentarily. Earlier reports i that the Board of Governors was I about to resign melted into thin air when C.C.F. leader, Coldwell, a day or two prior to the Board’s last meeting, came out full blast in an Ottawa paper and said he thought 1 they ought to do just that. Having been put on the spot by Mr. Coldwell they apparently felt it would be too, too embarrassing to play so directly into the hands of the third party leader. So they are still holding their jobs in spite of the fiscal reprimand given them by the Cabinet in refusing j to okay the big salaries they had i voted to Messrs. Thomson, Murray | and Frigon.

Major-General LaFleche has ati tained his ambition of a Cabinet portfolio after a struggle which has been going on behind the scenes here j for many weeks, with control of the draft machinery one of the stakes.

The shake-up in the Department of National War Services brings I Major-General H. J. Riley (just recently raised to this rank) to the top of the new draft machinery alongside Major-General Tremblay. Riley is the fearless and competent soldier who (as every Winnipegger well knows) made such a good job of his command of Military District Number 10, that he was continually getting in the way of the small but powerful clique of permanent staff officers, which the Winnipeg Free Press has recently exposed as having retained in Canada a system of military controls and authority which England discarded as far back as 1904, and which were associated in both countries with “clogged, inefficient administration of the Army.” This is the sort of reform which the Conservatives fell short of uncovering at the time of the Hong Kong enquiry. Whether they will do better at the next session of Parliament is a matter which is about to be decided —also at Winnipeg.

Meanwhile there are rumors at Ottawa that the Army administration has entered an entirely new phase with the naming of Col. George Currie recently as Associate Deputy Minister of National Defense with Col. H. DesRosiers. It would not be surprising to see Col. Currie emerge as a very important influence in the administration and direction of the Canadian Army in respect of the civilian or “public interest” point of view.

If this be true, then the man who is going to wield a tremendous influence over Canada’s Army policy in the future is the stocky, determined Montreal accountant who was Col. Ralston’s executive assistant for many months and is now reputedly clothed with more authority than any civilian Deputy Minister of Defense has ever had before.

If Your Maclean’s Is Late •

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