B.C. purchasing is under fire Fast work on Alcan highway Blackout Ont. Christmas trees Bad situation in Quebec mills Halifax housing trouble worse
SINCE THE provincial election a year ago and the excitement of the Pattullo Government’s grisly end the Parliament Buildings at Victoria have been almost ignored by the public. The Hart coalition government of Liberals and Conservatives, has been allowed to go its own way pretty much while the attention of the public has been focused on national problems. But now British Columbia is turning, for a moment at least, to its own affairs. The troubles under the great green dome at Victoria make the native remember rather wistfully the good old days when the news of the provincial capital received larger headlines than the news from Europe.
The first trouble of the Hart government, oddly enough, concerns boots. The boots of the Provincial Police, who are considered one of the finest forces in the world. The Police must have big, husky boots for the kind of work they do in the wilds of British Columbia and they cost money. Recently the new Conservative Attorney-General prosecuted a high police officer and several shoe merchants for allegedly cheating the government in the purchase of police shoes and in one case (others are pending at this writing) the accused men were found guilty. This might be considered of no great importance politically but, in fact, it has opened up the whole question of Government purchasing and the operations of provincial politics in the same.
In the court case the Government purchasing agent testified that he had been influenced by the chief Liberal Party boss in Victoria, that this man had been given lists of the government’s purchases from time to time and that he was regarded as being on the same plane as a member of the Legislature, as representing the “consolidated Liberal thought” of Victoria.
This revelation threatened to blow off the green dome which, however, has resisted many explosions in the past. At once the C.C.F. opposition in the legislature demanded a Royal Commission, said it had been trying to uncover the purchasing scandal for years and now had the evidence it needed. The government said nothing but was deeply worried. Obviously its whole purchasing system was due for a complete shakeup. Obviously, too, the Hart government’s honeymoon was definitely over.
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Vancouver’s Cabinet Minister, Ian Mackenzie, continues to get more deeply into controversy because of his order, issued under the War Measures Act, to have the city’s water chlorinated for reasons of public health. The Greater Vancouver Water Board, holding that the water, flowing from nearby mountains, is the purest in the world, and has never caused disease, is opposing the order in the courts, will carry the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Board’s position is that the Federal Gov-
ernment may not use the War Measures Act as an excuse to invade local affairs not concerned with the war.
But Mr. Mackenzie was not thinking about legal technicalities when he sent his secretary, Norman Senior, to Vancouver to organize a drive in favor of chlorination. Mr. Senior wrote a letter to a small group of the Liberal hierarchy in Vancouver, the very elect of the Liberal organization, and laid down a plan of campaign which left nothing and hardly anyone untouched. One man was to organize the Board of Trade, another to get speakers into the Canadian Club, another to see so-and-so. The letter, to a native British Columbian, involved many of the most prominent people of Vancouver. Somehow it appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Liberal paper which has been feuding with the Liberal machine. Such a sensation the town has not seen for years. The Liberal machine, feeling betrayed, said nothing. Mr. Mackenzie said nothing. The Sun demanded that Mr. King
repudiate such methods, but Mr. King said nothing also. The city water still is unchlorinated.
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People living at Prince Rupert may still take their washing to any of the city’s laundries—but
they are likely to be asked to go into the laundry and do the actual washing themselves!
This state of affairs has been brought about by —you’ve guessed it—the labor shortage. As far as plant capacity is concerned the city’s laundries can take on all the dirty linen that is sent, but there just aren’t the number of workers any more to do all the extra work, so residents, having no place to do their own washing, find ample facilities at the big laundries.
Like a good many other places in Canada, Prince Rupert now has a population much greater thafl normal. The newcomers are war workers, cori* struction gangs, and others w-ho have taken up quarters because of the war. The laundries are not the only places suffering lack of help. Crowds wait for service in long queues at hotels, restaurants, cinemas and other places.
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ALBERTANS, who have recently • returned from jobs on the new Canada-Alaska highway, 1500 miles long from Dawson Creek, B.C. on the Alberta border to White Horse in Yukon Territory, are calling the new highway, completed five weeks ahead of schedule, an “engineering marvel.”
In five months United States Army Engineers assisted by several hundred civilian truck drivers built the road that previously it had been estimated would take four years to construct. As early as November 3, a Royal Canadian Air Force truck supply convoy left Calgary for White Horse to replenish stocks at air bases along the route. The convoy completed the long drive without mishap and in record time. The U.S. Engineers had promised their War Department that the road would be ready for truck traffic by Christmas. Actually it was open on November. 10.
The new highway is a modern gravelled road, thirty feet wide in some places, not less than eighteen feet wide anywhere along its length. Alberta contractors, who played no small part in the building operations, give full credit to the United States troops. They reported that the U.S. Army used the biggest and finest road building machinery they had ever seen.
“They cut their way through virgin forests like a hot knife through butter,” one of them said. “I thought I was dreaming when I saw huge trees suddenly jump into the air and fall all around us. Those big bulldozers just went through everything in their path. Behind the bulldozers came the ground troops, clearing and grading as they came. I thought that I knew something about road building, but shucks, those fellows showed us we were just babes in the woods.
“Then I thought—‘wait until they hit the muskeg that will stop them’ —but it didn’t even slow them up. They didn’t try to dig it out, they just corduroyed it and it worked. They cut down big fir trees and dropped them across the swamp. They used the boughs as a nest.
“They then poured everything into the nest that was at hand, rock, gravel, brush, timber anything that would form a base. Sometimes they went down eight or ten feet or even twelve feet before they were satisfied that it would hold. When they came to the streams, they put in bridges. Some of these will he washed out in the spring floods but, when high water time comes, the men will he ready with bigger and better bridges.” The contractor said that during the summer he had caught a glimpse of the United States army officer in charge of the Alaska portion of the highway.
“That baby knew his business. You could tell it by just looking at him. They tell me that he built the tunnels in the Corregidor fortress in the Philippines. The way the troops
worked when he was around was amazing. They just cut through everything.”
Now there is a highway clear through from Great Falls, Montana, to White Horse in the Yukon.
Saskatchewan has found another way to make a contribution to the metal shortage during the next, couple of years. In 1944, motorists will not he issued metal license plates when they pay their annual license fees. Instead, they will he given a paper receipt which may be .stuck to the windshields. The Saskatchewan government will ease up to this measure next, year by issuing only one marker instead of the customary two—fore and aft. The single marker will probably he attached to the rear of the car, as is the case in those provinces, and a few states, where a single marker is now the normal issue. * * *
Whatever is to happen at the Conservative Party’s Winnipeg convention will he water over the dam by the time this appears. Whether or not Premier John Bracken attains prominence at the Tory conclave, it becomes increasingly evident that the Manitoban is regarded by many as a nationally important figure.
In all Canada, John Bracken is the provincial premier with the longest continuous record in office, and some of his recent public utterances have attracted nationwide attention. Notable among these was the address he delivered at Gladstone, Man., in November. Incidentally, he made a four hour trip by air from Churchill to arrive at Gladstone’s Canadian Legion gathering.
Premier Bracken outlined to the Legionnaires a fourteen point program. His fourteen points emphasize the right of every man to hold a job, to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, the right of farmers to a fair share of the national income, the right of public and private enterprise to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, the right of private enterprise to a fair return on the investment it risks, the right of every child and youth to equality of opportunity in state education, the right of every citizen to security against loss of income from accident, unemployment, old age or other disability, the right of provinces with depressed areas to rationalization of dominion-provincial relations, and the right of the state to obtain through taxation the revenues necessary to provide these securities. Further he included in his tally the right of the public to expect of the government efficient administration of the funds entrusted to it, the right of future generations to a world of peace and plenty, and finally “the right of ail people to expect of their leaders a determination to remove barriers of world trade, and the right of public men to support from them in removing trade harriers.”
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The manpower speech was especially appreciated in Winnipeg where citizens are wrathy because, while
other provinces are clamoring for men and women workers, there are not enough jobs in Winnipeg to go round. Official estimates show 2,000 jobless men and 500 jobless women. Consequently Winnipeg workers are being shipped east to war plantaas many as fifty a week to a single Ontario point—Manitoba has some war plants but some embittered Manitobans claim that so far as bigtime munition production is concerned, theirs is a forgotten province.
IT IS A little more than two months since southern Ontario was dimmed out for the duration—most of the dimout having been done voluntarily.
A check up shows that the people have responded a hundred per cent, or rather ten per cent, for a ten per cent reduction of normal, non-essential, power use is what was asked by the Hydro-Electric Power Commiasion. The result is that—with all store window and display lights out, and street lights dimmed —it’s hard to tell the difference between Toronto’s main streets after dark and the turnpike of Podunk Centre. (Yes, yes, we know what you’re thinking.)
This saving in power has enabled war industries to go ahead at full blast, and, as mentioned above, it has been possible with a minimum of compulsory regulations.
But the real testing time is now at hand. This is the time of year when the sun isn’t as much in evidence as we would like it to be. Power loads are generally at their peak during December and January, for added interior lighting is generally necessary in homes and offices. This winter the people have been asked to bring their work a little closer to the windows and let Old Sol contribute all the candle power possible to the day’s toil.
The power situation will rob Christmas of much of its traditional glitter. Outside Christmas trees may not be illuminated this year, at least they may not be illuminated by electric power. The same goes for all other exterior Christmas lighting which usually had streets and squares ablaze. Christmas trees inside homes may be lit up with low-watt bulbs, as in the past, but trees in stores or other commercial establishments may not be illuminated, unless candles are used—and in most urban centres there are strict fire precaution regulations about that sort of thing !
Such Christmas lighting as will be permitted must be doused on January 1. That means that people in the habit of carrying on the old English tradition of Twelfth Night will have to move it up a bit to Seventh Night.
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As mentioned above, in the dispatch from Manitoba, workers from that province are coming East, since there aren’t as many war plants as Manitoba would like being set up in the West.
The first experiment has caused a certain amount of grief, although it was well on the way to being ironed out as this page went to press. About 100 women who had left their
Manitoba homes to work in Kitchener’s rubber plants hadn’t been on the job many days before they registered an emphatic kick.
They claimed that they had been lured to Ontario by false promises and that the expected twenty dollars a week (held out as probable pay) hadn’t materialized. The girls also alleged that a letter circulated in the West by Selective Service officials painted a glowing picture of wages and working conditions in the Kitchener plants —a picture which they say had faded considerably by the time they reached Kitchener.
After a few protest meetings, and some talk of marching on the city relief offices, civic officials looked into things and found that some of the girls were making the promised twenty, even before the probationary two weeks were up. There were a number who weren’t, of course, but they have been assured that a fair wage can be earned when they get into the swing of things.
That would just about settle the matter except for one thing. The Manitoba girls who are making the promised money—and more—are believed to be knocking down more, for the same work, than local help. That little fact has made quite a few people indignant, including Mayor Meinzinger. His worship is reported as saying that highter wages for outside help will not be tolerated, and he has promised to investigate.
AMERICAN officials have given convincing evidence that they are going to co-operate with Canadian authorities in rounding up lumber workers who, without authorization, drift across the border from Quebec (and New Brunswick) into the lumber camps of the northeastern states.
In a sweep of the Maine woods a short time ago, thirty Canadian lumbermen were found who had slipped across the border, contrary to manpower regulations. They have been given in charge to the R.C.M.P. at Woburn, Quebec, and, as this is written, it is expected that fifteen of them will be charged under the War Services Act.
The situation reflects the problems faced by Quebec lumber operators this year—problems which involve bad camp discipline as well as the universal labor shortage. It is reported that while wages are at an all time high in many Quebec camps, it is next to impossible to keep men on the job. Faultfinding is painfully common; experienced help is hard to get, and they have a habit of hitting for the border; a lot of the greenhorns who are going into the woods this winter are insolent and inefficient. One large eastern dealer says that it is common for a lumberman to tell a foreman to go to blazes if ordered to a job not just to his liking, and that in several mills the foreman and superintendents have just about thrown up their hands as far as getting full capacity operations from the men is concerned.
There is considerable drifting from camp to camp by workers, much to
the chagrin of the Selective Service officials, and the entire situation appears to be alarmingly unstable. Operators never can be sure on Saturday how many men will be back on the job on Monday. And this at a time when lumber is among the most urgent needs for the war effort.
NEXT TO Ottawa the housing situation is probably worse in Halifax than anywhere in the Dominion. Some Haligonians claim that it is worse than in Ottawa, and drastic proposals are being made to deal with the situation.
When Dalhousie University opened its fall term it seemed for a time as though many enrolled students would be utterly unable to find living quarters within reach of their classrooms. In response to an appeal from the University authorities, homes owners who had never before dreamed of letting rooms to transient guests opened their houses to the college boys, until every one of them had a temporary home.
The gesture does nothing to help the men and women employed in war industries, the shipyards and the naval and military establishments. Moreover there are—or were — restricted areas in the suburbs where room-renting is forbidden by law. One woman who took in a Dalhousie student was prosecuted by the city and fined. Shortly thereafter a Wartime Prices and Trade Board order abrogated all such zoning laws for the duration, but the pardon came too late to save the hospitable Rosebank Avenue landlady. The fine stood.
City Solicitor Carl P. Bethune is indignant over the Ottawa order, sees it as “an invasion of the private rights of citizens.” Mr. Bethune wants Ottawa to repatriate all newcomers who are not actually engaged in essential war industry (this would include the wives and families of men who are at work on war jobs) then to prohibit all but essential war workers from entering Halifax for the duration.
Related to the housing difficulties is the transit problem. The tramway system is already heavily overburdened, two of the new Wartime Housing areas are without either bus or tram connections, and recently Transit Controller, G. S. Gray through Regional Controller A. C. Wagner, recommended the pooling of all the city’s taxi services, at about the same time that the Munitions Board issued an order limiting taxis to 2,000 miles a month. Meanwhile Mayor W. E. Donovan is attempting to obtain for service in Halifax some of the buses removed from long runs by yet another order of Transit Controller Gray.
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For once the fox ranchers of Prince Edward Island got a break. This sorely tried industry, holding its annual live fox show in November, was greatly cheered by the news that at the New York silver fox pelt auctions, prices were up from ten to twenty-five per cent.