Japs a Threat to B.C. Forests? Prairie Lads Make Good Sailors OntarioM.L.As Feel Frustrated East-Coast "Spotters" on Alert
BEFORE the war many British Columbians felt that West Coast concern over Japanese immigration was treated altogether too lightly in the East. Therefore ironical smiles greeted the news that the Ontario Cabinet had rejected proposals that Japanese be taken east to work in Ontario lumber camps and on sugar beet farms. The suggestion was raised by sugarbeet growers and one lumber-camp operator, it was learned at Queen’s Park, but all other lumbermen were said to be opposed.
C. D. Orchard, British Columbia’s chief forester, doesn’t approve of Japanese in timber areas, either.
He says there are 100,000 acres of unburned logging slash lying in cut-over timber lands—a summer tinderbox which a few Japanese sparks might easily turn into a coastal holocaust.
Forester Orchard hopes to organize boys to patrol his bushlands. Harry Stevens, former Federal Minister of Trade and Commerce, would organize bands of guerilla fighters throughout the province to protect forests, bridges and utilities from possible sabotage.
The wording of Ottawa’s Jap ruling at first was found baffling, but its meaning now seems clearer. It is expected that all Japanese males between eighteen and forty-five will be removed from the coast.
Native-born Japanese will move under compulsion; those of Canadian birth will be invited to move inland, and all are expected to accept. British Columbians can’t quite understand why a Japanese automatically becomes harmless at forty-six, but they place their trust in the R.C.M.P. to keep an eye on “oldsters.”
A. R. P. organization is gradually being straightened out; sixty-eight units pow function in British Columbia. Vancouver has registered every conveyance—including boats and trains— available for emergency use, and has surveyed downtown basements and 'other likely shelter spots. Hundreds of extra hospital beds are reported to have arrived from the East.
When Vancouver submitted a plan by which the federal treasury was to pay upward of $60,000 a year for the salaries of city employees assigned to A. R. P. duties, Ottawa rejected it
flatly. Ian Mackenzie wrote Premier Hart, wondering why Vancouver had to hire workers when places like Halifax could organize volunteers. It is now thought that Ottawa will pay half the administration costs under a new plan calling chiefly for volunteer labor.
Premier Hart has maintained his reputation for producing balanced budgets; the new Coalition Government expects to spend some $33,000,000 in 1942, collect somewhat more. This includes a $711,000 increase for old-age pensions, raising the individual monthly stipend from $20 to $25.
Meanwhile the economical Mr. Hart has diminished the flow of British Columbia’s money into a hole in the ground. Ex-Premier Pattullo started drilling the hole, 'way north in the Peace River Country, at not inappropriately-named Commotion Creek, hoping that oil would gush out to British Columbia’s benefit. So far it hasn’t, and Mr. Hart doesn’t like to stop when borings may be within a few' feet of hitting the jackpot. He halved the $200,000 appropriation, but if oil isn’t reached soon some half-million dollars must be written off the public ledger.
Dashing cold water down the hole the Vancouver Sun noted that the hoped-for oil would first have to be hauled to the railhead, then freighted to Vancouver at $31.60 per ton. Crude oil from California, added the Sun, can be landed in Vancouver at $7.58 per ton.
SINCE the outbreak of war more than 5,360 prairie lads have joined the Royal Canadian Navy. Why this great yen for a life afloat among far-inland youths whose forefathers sailed nothing saltier than a prairie schooner? “Probably because they have never been to sea,” suggested one veteran North Atlantic commander. Then he added quickly: “But by heaven—they make sailors, these prairie sodbusters!”
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The story is the same in Alberta (1,958 recruits), Saskatchewan (1,651) and Manitoba (1,840). The country of wheat, cattle, oil and rushing northern rivers has produced officers and ratings for the R.C.N., boasts sons with the Royal Navy and the British Fleet Air Arm.
Chief credit for prairie recruiting belongs to the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Winnipeg’s station, H.M.C.S. Chippawa, was opened in 1924, gradually mustering an enthusiastic crew of young men who shrugged off jibes like “Dryland sailors!” and spent their summers on Lake Winnipeg or the Pacific Coast.
H.M.C.S. Tecumseh, in Calgary, remembers a lanky cow hand who came rolling aboard with clinking spurs. “I want to get into this here war, and as they don’t seem to want cavalry, guess I’d be content to ride a ship. I don’t want to walk and I’ve been on the hurricane deck of a bronc often enough, so I guess the pitchin’ of a ship ain’t goin’ to hurt none.” Three months later he was topping a bucking corvette and writing home to his ranch pals to join him.
The stream of husky plainsmen through the western naval stations continues unabated. Those who sign up in Regina find their new course clearly charted on the crest of H.M.C.S. Queen: “From the
Prairies to the Sea.”
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The westernmost prairie province likes to call itself “Sunny Alberta,” but in the other two, at least, subzero winter cold is something to boast about. In January a coal shortage developed in Saskatchewan. Short of labor, operators were far behind in their deliveries. Much anxiety was reported, especially in small towns. Newspapers warned against panic buying. Mutterings of discontent were heard—directed chiefly at the coal administrator. Then suddenly January blossomed into April.
Pan’s pipes were heard down
Weyburn way, calling up the gophers, summoning the blackbirds and horned larks out of winter hiding. School kids chased January butterflies in Moose Jaw. Pussy willows caught the contagion at Alameda. Most amazing, a Fillmore farmer reported snakes sunning themselves along the shores of Buffalo Lake. People said the Russians must have taken the West’s weather on leaselend account. The coal administrator heaving a sigh of relief, highly approved the deal.
Manitoba’s January was the warmest on record (mean temperature 11.8 degrees above zero). Manitobans, one of whose favorite winter pastimes is comparing porch thermometers and fuel bills, felt almost embarrassed. “Wait till February—it’ll go to fifty below!” they assured each other. But February came and rolled along without a redeeming cold snap; if the month ended without at least one plunge to forty below, Manitoba would feel cheated.
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Perhaps the disturbing state of the weather upset Manitoba’s usual ready appetite for any sort of a political argument, but the plebiscite question roused no furore as it did in the East. Manitoba’s Premier John Bracken, who enjoys a fight as well as the next man, called the plebiscite a “crowning indignity”— and then went curling. In the Winnipeg bonspiel he won ten and lost three, but failed to lift any jewellery. Maybe the weather again.
Although Mr. Bracken didn’t accompany Saskatchewan’s farming four hundred to Ottawa, to seek action wheat, that doesn’t mean he is entirely satisfied with the Dominion agricultural policy. Observers here believe the gulf between him and the Federal Government is still widening. At present he is engaged in long-range negotiations with the United States agricultural leaders. He has visited Governor Stassen of Minnesota, and the resulting conversations have already assumed considerable significance. It seems
that the agriculturists in the centre of this continent intend to have something to say about the kind of peace which is made after this war. They will demand that the markets of Europe be opened to Canadian and American agricultural products, and that of course will mean that tariffs against European goods will have to be cut.
FOR SIX lackadaisical days Ontario legislators sat in session at Queen’s Park. Then they adjourned for three weeks, having accomplished approximately nothing. Conservative Leader George Drew criticized the Government for failing to offer a program of legislation. PremierTreasurer Hepburn said it was impossible to produce a program and a budget “until we straighten out our tax problems with Ottawa.”
For the most part, other members sat on their benches feeling useless. Pondered one Conservative M.L.A.; “It makes you think. If the country can be run by one central government in wartime, why can’t it be run by one central government in peacetime?”
Ontario has its newspaper and private voices who call provincial legislatures “Confederation’s fifth wheel” and say they should be done away with entirely. There are others who deplore this proposition as an attempt to kick another spoke out of democracy’s wheel.
The only impressive moment of the six-day session was when 136 officers and men of the U.S. Army marched into the legislature, on a visit which marked the launching of the Second Victory Loan. When U.S. soldiers visited an Ontario assembly building 130 years ago they burned the place down. But this time they filed into the members’ benches, from which the regular occupants had been evacuated to the galleries, and remained standing smartly at attention until a young lieutenant barked an order and a warning: “At my command we will be seated. Sit on the forward edge of the chair. Be careful not to scratch the furniture.”
FROM THE Ottawa River to the Gaspé French Canada rallied behind the Victory Loan drive in its own inimitable style. The big towns had their demonstrations, Victory beacons and parades. But down in the deep French country, in Beauce and Bellechasse and Lotbiniere, thevillage notary, theMayor, the lawyer, the doctor and all the community orators were out on t he hustings, just as at election time. Jean Baptiste dug into the mattress and bought plenty of bonds.
Not everybody outside Quebec realizes in just what degree support was given to the war effort in the two federal constituencies where the by-elections were fought, one of which, Quebec East, resulted in the return to Parliament of Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent with a majority comparable to those which Ernest Lapointe used to run up. The new minister, no politician, met
the anti-plebiscite arguments of his opponent, Paul Bouchard, who offered first to be Canada’s De Valera and toward the end of the campaign its George Washington, with the flat statement that he would be coming back to ask Quebec East to vote “yes” on the plebiscite and wouldn’t even promise not to support conscription at some future date. Reports in political circles indicate that Ligouri Lacombe’s so-called Canadian party is not destined to go far, though it may contract a marriage of convenience with ex-Premier Duplessis’ Nationalist rump. A Provincial by-election late in March will provide another weathercock to the plebiscite wind.
Another practice blackout has been staged in Montreal, for three quarters of an hour this time, but like those before was not much more than a workout for wardens. At such times Montreal simply suspends all normal services of community life, tramways, street traffic, house lights, etc., permitting war industries to run fully illuminated while people gather on roof tops and try to pick out which factory is which. This in a community where advertisements begin to appear telling the public it can’t happen here. More constructive seems the suggestion made in Montreal by the president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada that something be done about shelters particularly in new buildings.
IN THE midst of the HalifaxSaint John race to find buses to relieve overtaxed transportation systems it was revealed that the United Services Corporation of Halifax had purchased the Saint John tramway lines from the New Brunswick Power Company. The new firm announced that it would bring in a few buses without delay, the entire system to be motorized within a few months. Saint John seemed to have the lead, but suddenly the race ended in a draw, with the prize withheld. The Dominion transportation controller announced that no city could substitute buses for trolleys as long as the war continued, due to gasoline and rubber shortages. Meanwhile, Saint John has staggered school hours so juvenile passengers won’t add to the rush-hour burden.
Storekeepers, housewives, fishermen, barbers and farmers serving as civilian spotters in Nova Scotia’s Aircraft Detection Corps have come through their first test with flying colors.
Just after dusk one mid-February evening a snowflurry blotted out earth and sky. Suddenly the telephones began ringing at Detection Corps headquarters. Spotters along Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy flashed reports of a lone plane droning about unseen overhead. Quickly a check was made of flying fields from Halifax to New York. A Nova Scotia Air Force station reported that the aircraft and the two pilots-intraining who were aloft in it belonged to that base.
As the plane circled low over Parrsboro, resourceful residents lined
up their motor cars on nearby Lake Abiteau, provided a floodlit runway across the frozen surface with their headlights. The plane landed safely, and delighted R. C.A.F. officials commended the spotters and the Parrsboro folk for their good work.
It was reassuring to know that the Aircraft Detection Corps was on the alert, but with ships being torpedoed in coastal waters and a Caribbean Island being openly fired on by a German submarine, Halifax was more concerned with attack from the sea. Major O. R. Crowell, lastwar veteran, was appointed full-time civilian defense chief. At the time he took over his new job air-raid sirens still did not blanket the city, the Fairview exit bottleneck still remained as a threat to evacuation, and many citizens who had provided themselves with sand to fight incendiary bombs were using it on slippery sidewalks. Two-hour blackout tests were announced, the longest yet. Many residents delayed their preparations and a last-minute scramble to buy blackout curtains seemed certain.
The Ajax club in Halifax, founded after the Battle of the Plate, is a civilian-operated recreation centre which.has played host to thousands of men of the British and Canadian Navies. The club offers sailors the hospitality of a cafeteria, reading room, card tables, lounge, a garden in the rear, and, until lately, a bar where beer could be had. When the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission recently declined to renew the club’s beer license, club president Mrs. C. Stuart McEuen declared the reason to be protests issued by Rev. Gerald Rogers, pastor of Fort Massey United Church, which is across the street from the Ajax club on Tobin Street.
Mrs. McEuen promised to campaign for renewal of the beer license. Mr. Rogers invited the sailors to attend special Sunday afternoon programs, with refreshments, in the
church hall, remain for the evening service and be entertained in the homes of church members afterward. Support for his stand came from the Halifax and Dartmouth United Church Ministerial Association and the Lunenburg-Queens Presbytery of the United Church.
Mrs. E. M. Murray, prominent Halifax worker for total abstinence, declared: “It cannot be said that any church in this East Canadian Port has been unmindful of, or indifferent to, the welfare, temporal or spiritual, of the servicemen in our midst. If one such interested church should, nevertheless, take steps to see that the law is enforced, why should its minister immediately become a target for abuse?”
Citizens joined the controversy, via newspaper-letter columns. Objected one: “The only place in Halifax where a sailor can get a drink legitimately is closed...” A Tobin Street resident wrote: “I feel it my duty and a pleasure to record that our household has at no time or in any way been disturbed by the sailors. The club closes its bar at 9.30 and by 10.30 the street is deserted. . .”
The Liquor Commission kept silent as to why the Ajax license had not been renewed but Commissioner A.S. Mahon advised that it would not be reissued wffiile the club remained at its present location. Mrs. McEuen began looking for another site.
Nova Scotia’s liquor law's do not permit the sale of beer in public beverage rooms, but provide special permits for sale of beer in civilian clubs organized before Oct. 31, 1927. The Commission’s report for 1940 showed 153 such clubs in the province. Special wartime provision was made for licensing clubs for the armed services, under order in council. The Allied Merchant Seamen’s Club, operated by the Navy League for merchant seamen and naval men serving with merchant ships, is the only other licensed service club in Halifax, but there are some wet canteens.