Backstage at Ottawa

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 15 1942

Backstage at Ottawa

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 15 1942

Backstage at Ottawa


THERE IS this much to say about the Mitchell-Little row—it was well up to advance notices.

Time after time this capital seethes with rumor and controversy. It hears of resignations about to happen; of cabinet crises about to occur. Then the tumult and the shouting dies; the hue and cry run off in another direction and in the end it all appears as much ado about nothing.

Not so with Elliott Little, former head of National Selective Service, and Hon. Humphrey Mitchell, Minister of Labor. For weeks it had been common gossip in the street and a matter for speculation in the press that National Selective Service had bogged down and that there were violent differences of opinion among the senior officials of that organization and the Department of Labor. It was reliably reported that there had been cables exchanged between the department and Mr. Mitchell, then in England, and that the Minister had in effect said to his henchmen: "Hold everything till I return, boys." When some pressmen interviewed Mr. Mitchell on his return, they queried him about the reported differences of opinion. He is reported to have indicated that it would all be fixed up within twenty-four hours.

Yet when Mr. Little did fling his resignation in the minister’s face a few hours after the latter’s return from England, Mr. Mitcheil’s memory apparently went awry. He told two dozen newspapermen that the whole thing had come like a bolt from the blue; had been B sprung on him as a complete surprise; that he had "never had a cross word” with Little, and so on.

Ottawa has seldom seen such well-simulated professions of injured innocence.

How did these two men (both united and enthusiastic a few short months ago in eagerness to mobilize manpower) drift so far apart?

The answer seems to lie in the significant pronouncements of two leaders of organized labor who, when the storm broke, came out instantly in support of Mr. Little but had B few good words to say for the Minister of Labor.

The evidence suggests that Mr. Mitchell found it far from easy to let Mr. Little get the glory and the applauseapplause such as he won at the annual meeting of the Canadian Congress of Labor in Ottawa and at the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Congress convention this year.

Many observers here at Ottawa feel that irrespective of what plans the cabinet may or may not have had in mind, Mr. Mitchell had determined not to let Mr. Little steal the manpower show any longer. The rift widened when Mr. Mitchell (reportedly) beat Little to the gun by planning a sudden trip to England. By the time the Minister returned, B the internal conflicts within the department between Mr. Little and senior labor officials had risen to such a point that a bust-up was

almost inevitable. Since there was little or no prospect that Mr. Mitchell would come to bat for his manpower “boss,” it took only a few hours for Mr. Little to decide to quit.

Manpower Muddle

NO MATTER how much it may or may not be magnified or interpreted in terms of Canada’s larger manpower problem, the simple fact remains that the Little-Mitchell argument never did reach beyond a purely domestic and personal conflict within the Department of Labor itself.

Very rightly there is much talk about the urgency and the deplorable state of Canada’s manpower muddle. That situation has been aggravated by the fact that what machinery Mr. Little was able to obtain had almost completely bogged down for at least two months. But, because of failure to rise above a purely internal squabble, Mr. Little had actually not come to serious grips with the larger implications of Canada’s manpower problem before he resigned. He saw and understood these problems as perhaps few men in Canada. He realized very clearly the sort of authority that a manpower boss must be given in dealing with such problems. But he left this issue unsettled and indeed unapproached so far as cabinet decision and action was concerned.

This is the problem which Mr. Mitchell has now tossed into the lap of Arthur MacNamara, the new director of National Selective Service. Whatever part Mr. MacNamara may have played in the Little abdication there are few here who question the native political intelligence and the administrative ability of this man who served Manitoba well as a Deputy Minister of Labor and who did an outstanding job early in the war in putting the Dependents’ ¡

Allowance debacle on the rails. Mr. MacNamara is no “manpower boss.” He isn’t likely to make many speeches. He will not likely covet a share in Mr. Mitchell’s limelight. But he will probably turn what machinery he is given into a most competent manpower employment agency. (And perhaps that is all

Continued on page 45

Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 15—Starts on page If

the government really wants from its much-vaunted National Selective Service organization.)

Mr. MacNamara may well outlast by a considerable period of time the Minister he now serves.

Flattering Recognition

INSUFFICIENT attention has been paid to the belated but flattering recognition which Canada has received by elevation to full membership on the Combined Production and Resources Board.

When Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt met at Washington last Christmas, three Anglo-American committees were formed to administer and pool the shipping, munitions output, and raw materials of the two nations.

Though it was argued publicly that Canada did not require membership on these boards in view of her close association with the United States through joint committees already set up, the fact is that this nev “pooling” program affected nor only our war effort but our Empire and hemispheric relationships.

It seemed clear from the original statement of policy that it was the raw materials of the entire continent (Canada’s aluminum and nickel, for example) that were being pooled rather than simply the raw' materials of the United States. Canada’s official access to this pool at the top or “policy” level would be through Washington via her membership on a joint Canada-U.S. committee which had long been in existence.

This by-passing of Canadian affairs through Washington (especially in the matter of munitions output) was disturbing both to the Canadian Government and to London. It was offset only in part by the further complication that in matters of combined w'ar strategy, Canada’s approach to the high joint command was to be through London rather than through Washington.

To make a long story short, Canada made representations that in view of her unique position as a surplus-producing partner she was entitled to direct representation alongside Washington and London on at least one of these joint boards —the Munitions Assignments Board. During the summer, Hon. J. L. Ilsley and Hon. C. D. Howe flew to Washington to discuss such a proposition. Nothing happened.

Then on June 9, two additional new boards were created—the Combined Production and Resources Board and the Combined Food Board. In a statement to the House of Commons a day or two later, Prime Minister King admitted that Canada was negotiating for direct representation.

Exactly five months later (November 10) Canada’s admission to full membership on the senior committee of all—the Combined Production and Resources Board — was announced.

Mr. How'e becomes Canada’s official representative on the board

alongside Donald Nelson w'ho represents the United States and Hon. Oliver Lyttelton who represents Britain. There are no other board members at this “top” level. Each member has a permanent “deputy” to provide for continuous operation. Mr. Howe’s deputy (who will reside permanently in Washington and act for Canada) is E. P. Taylor of Toronto, who resigned a short time previously as director-general of the British Supply Mission and vicechairman of the British Supply Council in North America.

Chief purpose of the board as contained in its revised “charter” is “to combine the production program of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada into a single integrated program adjusted to the strategic requirements of the war as indicated to the board by the combined chiefs of staff and to all relevant production factors.” Chief reason for Canada being granted full board membership is the fact that out of present war output of almost $3,000,000,000 annually, seventy per cent or more than $2,000,000,000 is “surplus” production going direct to British, American and other theatres of war. Output needed for the Canadian forces is about thirty per cent of the total ($900,000,000); fifty per cent ($1,500,000,000) is going to British theatres of war including Russia; the remaining twenty per cent ($600,000,000) is going to the United States and Pacific battle zones including China.

Our shipments to Russia alone have exceeded $100,000,000, half of that amount being for tanks. Also, forty per cent of all the aluminum on the North American continent is now being fabricated by Canada.

Total Canadian war production in 1942 is placed at $2,500,000,000 with a possible $3,000,000,000 in 1943.

What figures like this mean, in terms of peacetime operations, may be gauged by the single fact that Canada’s automotive industry is now operating at ten times its pre-war rate.

This naming of Canada to a rightful place alongside Great Britain and the United States carries farreaching implications both for the duration of the war and for the postwar period. The immediate effect will be a revamping of the Canadian production program for 1943 (chiefly with a view to greater conservation of shipping space) and the direction which may be given toward answering the as yet unsolved national riddle as to how big an army we can support in view of our world production commitments in munitions and supply. Among the larger implications of our membership on this board is the ultimate effect on the dovetailing of Canadian productive effort into the postwar economy.

Mr. Howe has moved his office at Ottawa into a compact, modestly furnished room in the new north wing which has recently been added to one of the four temporary structures which house the 5,000 em-

Continued on page 49

Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 1+5—Starts on page 11+

ployees of his Department of Munitions and Supply on Wellington Street west of the new Supreme Court Building. His room overlooks the majestic Ottawa River but it is his visitors (not Mr. Howe) who view that mighty stream as it meanders through the busy lumber mills of Ottawa and Hull.

Most distinctive furnishing of Mr. Howe’s room is the bright red telephone which was presented to him some time ago by a friend. Mr. Howe’s hair is much whiter these days and he looks a lot less robust than when he came to Ottawa a few years back. His throat gives him considerable trouble but he refuses to take time from his tremendous responsibilities for an operation.

Vining Versus McCormick

Charles Vining, chairman of the Wartime Information Board, is having his troubles. Admittedly his Board was slow in getting into action but his job hasn’t been made any easier by an undercurrent of rumor and vituperation all tending to disparage his work and organization. One probable source of this innuendo campaign seems now to have been exposed by publication in the McCormick-owned, anti-British Chicago Tribune of a bitter, editorial attack on Vining because of the fact that he happens in private life to be the head of the Newsprint Association of Canada. The Tribune has powerful friends and lobbyists in Canada and there may be a direct connection

between the editorial and the Canadian “whispering” campaign.

Whether or not we are to have another national-wide “blitz” campaign for sale of the Fourth Victory Loan is a matter now being decided A few days after the third loan closed, officials met in private conference to review the successes and failures of the November campaign and plan a new savings programme for 1943 Best guess here is that the phenomenal success of the Third Victory Loan (it is said to have reached more people than have ever been reached proportionately in any other country) assures continuation of the same approach in April or May of next year.

The alternative (which still has a lot of supporters) is to have war bonds permanently on sale or “tap” as it is called. The “tap” idea is likely to fall by the wayside because it would lack the enthusiasm and national uplift of the periodic “blitz” campaigns.

Can you still buy gasoline in the Maritime provinces and eastern Canada? Then be thankful you don’t have to pay the real cost of putting it on sale at your local service station. It is reported that the war transportation costs of bringing crude oil up the Atlantic seaboard are so high that the gross subsidy being paid by the Commodity Prices Stabilization Corporation is running at the rate of about fourteen cents a gallon. Since most of this oil is used either for war purposes or for export, only a small amount of this can properly be charged to civilian consumption.