GENERAL ARTICLES

Cross-Country

April 15 1942
GENERAL ARTICLES

Cross-Country

April 15 1942

Cross-Country

GENERAL ARTICLES

B.C. Wants the back door locked

• The Yukon catches spring fever

• Alberta gets a road to Alaska

Ontario has a baby bottleneck

Spinning wheels whirl in N.B.

British Columbia

JAPANESE strength was greatly underestimated when the Japanese drive south began, and now Jap air fleets are hammer-

ing at Australia. Why scorn Japan’s power to strike north toward Vladivostok and Alaska? Singapore fell when the enemy marched in through an ill-guarded back door. Why take any chances about our own back door?

This is what a great many British Columbians have been saying; these are the questions they have been asking. The possibility of hit-and-run air raids upon vital coastal points is accepted calmly enough. True, some Victoria tourist hotels, jammed earlier in the year with winter guests, were not so full in March, and a few people have

moved to interior towns.

This self-evacuation is small but it shows how clear is the realization that British Columbia is now part of the war zone. The majority of people deplore the “flight” of the panicky few and consider the possibility of attack by a back-door invasion force to be of more vital concern than a few bombs on Victoria,

Vancouver or Prince Rupert.

West Coast citizens don’t know what measures Ottawa and Washington have taken to safeguard the Alaskan approach. They are concerned because of reports that the Canadian General Staff is inclined to minimize this danger, believes the coast need worry only about nuisance raids. While the Vancouver Sun has openly

demanded that the Fourth Division, scheduled to go overseas, be kept home for coastal defense until an equivalent force can take over, the Province objects to any move which would divert attention from the main needs of United Nation strategy.

But British Columbians who have heard the Defense Minister report that Canada has about 100,000 Active Army troops in the country, apart from the Fourth Division, wish that these could be concentrated on the West Coast. They could be moved later if trouble developed elsewhere, but B.C. feels that the coastal danger will be greatest during the next six months, before the United Nations are on the offensive.

That offensive, they argue, might well be launched through the Alaskan back door,

across the Aleutian Islands bridge toward Tokyo, and isn’t it reasonable that the Japs may try to grab the bridge first?

Austin Taylor and his B.C. Security Commission are in the throes of the mass Jap-removal project, involving the transportation and accommodation of 23,000 people—a fair-sized city. Mr. Taylor has had little time to worry about such incidental but aggravating problems as how Canadian tailors are going to press all the trousers on the coast, with Japanese establishments closed, or just what’s to be done with Japanese farms in the Fraser Valley.

Meanwhile, Okanagan farmers want no repetition of the earlier “invasion” of the Fraser by cheap Jap labor; for the duration Japanese quartered in the Okanagan may buy no property, but what about afterward? Canadian fishermen are confident their industry can get along without the Japanese fishermen, and have protested the suggested movement of Icelandic fishermen from the Lake Winnipeg region to the coast.

British Columbia has had no violence against these enemy aliens. Everyone seems to realize how instantly the Japanese across the Pacific would retaliate against Canadian

prisoners — atrocities having already been reported.

Yukon

WHEN’S the ice going out?”

There is more eager speculation than ever this year on spring’s number-one topic for debate at Dawson, Yukon Territory. In the first place, there has never been such a mild winter in the memory of the most grizzled old-timer, the thermometer bobbing around zero except for one sub-zero plunge in December. In the second place, the electric timing device which clocks the precise moment the ice starts to move out of the Yukon River in front of the town, last year failed to function. Now tickets on Dawson’s famous

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“icepool” are in tremendous demand because $4,248 remains in the pot from last year.

Third, and most significant: Dawson knew the war would boom the western sub-Arctic like another gold rush. Every plane brought in Northerners who had spent the winter “outside,” brought miners and ministers, merchants and government officials, and with them news of great hustle and bustle at Whitehorse, 268 miles southeast.

Whitehorse is the transportation hub of the far northwest. The railroad in from the Alaskan coast ends there. The White Pass and Yukon Route sends its steamers down the Yukon River system to Dawson and beyond almost to Fairbanks, Alaska. It is a main junction on the new “Bomber Road” from B.C. and Alberta to Alaska. And with Uncle Sam pushing air bases and other defense works throughout Alaska, a big part of the great northbound river of materials must pour through Whitehorse.

Old steamers that haven’t been off the ways in years are being refitted for service at Whitehorse. And after the ice goes out, thousands of tons crunching and grinding their way toward the Bering Sea, the heavilyladen river boats will go steaming down river from Whitehorse to Dawson and on to Fairbanks.

But by radio and plane from Ottawa and Edmonton came the greatest piece of war news yet . . .

Alberta

IT WAS the biggest thing since the railroad went through and the drillers struck oil in Turner Valley. It had been the West’s dream project for twelve years or more and it suddenly came true overnight. The news burst simultaneously upon Dawson in the Yukon, upon Edmonton, and upon U.S. Army camps in Kansas, Oregon and California.

At Fort Reilly, Kansas, Corporal J. Lenninger, veteran of a year in training, jumped eagerly from his bunk when the bugle called, because this was the day he was to go home on leave and be married. But half an hour later Corporal Lenninger was bundled aboard a train for an unheard of destination hundreds of miles from his waiting bride. He didn’t even get a chance to send a wire back to Topeka till he reached Edmonton. The wedding was off— Corporal Lenninger and thousands of other U.S. Army Engineering Corps troops were going to build a highway to Alaska.

As trainload after trainload of soldier construction gangs and their equipment were trundled 600 miles northwest of Edmonton on the Northern Alberta Railway, the Dawson Creek terminal just over the B.C. boundary became a bustling boom town. Acres of army tents mushroomed on all sides, lunch counters and construction shanties sprang up everywhere. The men in khaki plunged their bulldozers, graders and ten-wheel trucks over the snow-covered bush trail, hoping

to make the 300 miles to Fort Nelson before the rivers broke loose and the muskeg thawed beneath their heavy machines.

The road will wind 1,300 miles through forest and mountain, from the end of steel at Dawson Creek, B.C., to Fort Nelson, over the Yukon border to Dawson City and across the Alaska line to Fairbanks. The U.S. Government expects to spend between $35,000,000 and $50,000,000 on the job. The army road gangs will first construct a pioneer road nine feet wide, but once the new inland military route to Alaska is open it will be widened to twenty-four feet of gravelled highway. Should the road be “built back” from Dawson Creek to Edmonton, another 600 miles will be added.

* * *

Alberta, land of wheat and cattle, has become Canada’s greatest hograising province. Every farm girl and boy has a sow. Pigpens spot the barnyards even in the foothill country, where hardy cattlemen can be seen weighing and feeding little porkers. From January 1 to March 8 Alberta could boast of 367,000 hog carcasses graded—to Ontario’s 318,000, Manitoba’s 248,000 and Saskatchewan’s 138,000. Alberta raised 1,999,047 big pigs for market last year, this year expects to reach 2,750,000.

Saskatchewan

THE Moose Jaw teachers’ strike was over; the pedagogues were back at their blackboards, the children were back in their seats, and only eight school days had been lost. But the settlement was nowhere regarded as a solution of Moose Jaw’s educational problems, which were shared by other municipalities through the province.

Saskatchewan faced a prospective shortage of more than 1,000 teachers by the end of the year (1,460 left the profession last year according to Minister of Education Hubert Staines), and still owed present teachers about $1,500,000 in salary arrears.

When 125 Moose Jaw public and high-school teachers went on strike in February it wasn’t because they were mad at their bosses. “The Moose Jaw school board is . . . not responsible for the existing situation,” declared the Federation Bulletin. The teachers saw the Saskatchewan Local Government Board as their immediate opponents, but the trouble had its roots in the depression and the dust bowl.

Moose Jaw’s onetime municipal assessment of nearly $52,000,000 had shrunk to about $14,500,000 by 1942. Teachers’ salaries had been cut as much as fifty-six per cent and in seven years little restoration had been made. In 1937-38 Moose Jaw applied for the protection of the Local Government Board to shield it from legal action by its bondholders, agreeing to submit all annual estimates for the board’s approval. .

Recently when the teachers persuaded the school board to restore

salaries to approximately eighty per cent of the 1926-29 level, the L.G.B. vetoed the increases, ordering costof-living bonuses which satisfied neither teachers nor trustees. The teachers called a strike vote and walked out, giving their pupils an unexpected holiday. The holiday ended when the teachers accepted a slightly amended offer from the L.G.B.

Manitoba

WINNIPEG has a housing problem with peculiar complications. Manitoba’s capital is built on hard, yellow clay. During the past decade of drought the clay has been drying out and contracting, causing concrete foundations to settle unevenly and crack. Many large homes have had to be torn down.

To solve the problem Winnipeg builders use steel-reinforced concrete for basements and the National Housing Administration at Ottawa refuses home-building loans unless they do. But recently the steel controller denied builders the half ton of steel rods needed per dwelling.

Winnipeg’s housing shortage is steadily increasing, so new homes are badly needed. Moreover, the city still has 800 families on relief plus about 1,200 building tradesmen on the borderline—chiefly middle-aged workmen who haven’t joined the migration to Eastern warplants. They’d like to build the homes that other Winnipegers would like to live in. Everyone hopes the steel controller may relent.

For forty minutes Lewis St. George Stubbs, Winnipeg Independent, urged the Manitoba Legislature to support his resolution that horse racing should be prohibited for the duration. If the members meant what they professed in their resolution for an all-out war effort last December, he declared, this was the time to show it. Mr. Stubbs said he had no quarrel with the usual racing at fairs, but that legalized betting at race tracks was inconsistent with today’s grim realities.

Outjockeyed, Mr. Stubbs saw an amendment passed in which the house expressed willingness to forego provincial revenue from racing ($85,000 last year) and pledged co-operation if the Dominion Government decides to ban horse racing in wartime.

Ontario

FOUR-YEAR-OLD Mickey is a bright-eyed, red-haired bottleneck in Canada’s war production. So is his two-year-old sister, chubby Jean. Munitions plants need labor. The mother of Mickey and Jean wants to work . . . The hitch is she can’t find anybody to leave her children with while she is away from home. They stand between her and a factory bench ...”

So wrote a Toronto Star reporter who has been digging into an increasingly serious problem in many warproduction centres. In one large company married women were found to comprise fifty-nine per cent of employees, and most of them have children. Toronto’s day nurseries and nursery schools can accommodate only 300 children. Welfare

authorities believe that perhaps 4,000 mothers have unsuccessfully tried to place 8,000 children with the day nurseries so that they might be free to work. These mothers may thus be denied to industry—but many are working anyway, leaving young children to fend for themselves.

Toronto surveyed seven schools in working-class districts, found that twenty per cent of the pupils had no one at home to get meals; mothers leave early, have no time to prepare a proper breakfast, are absent at noon, and are often too tired to cook dinner at night. Many youngsters wear a wartime “badge of honor”— house keys on strings around their necks. Principals are concerned about truancy, school nurses about children’s health, and police about juvenile crime.

The Toronto Welfare Council and its secretary, Miss Bessie Touzel, are sponsoring a plan to open day nurseries in empty school and church rooms. The Ontario Department of Public Welfare is reported to have drafted legislation, for approval at the present session, authorizing the department to provide financial assistance for day nurseries. Toronto Board of Education so far has set aside rooms in two industrial-area schools for the purpose.

Meanwhile, forty women volunteers have already graduated in a special course given by the Institute of Child Study, and more are expected to take such training as will fit them to be permanent staff heads for the proposed child centres. The Welfare council, which is also considering arranging for the foster care of children in private homes, has received enquiries from such cities as Hamilton, Welland, Windsor, London and others beyond the province, all trying to cope with the same problem.

Quebec

FOR YEARS Quebec motorists and visiting tourists have had to pull to a stop at what seemed to them to be almost every bridge and pay a toll before crossing. The visitors forgot their irritation in the thrill of seeing outdoor ovens and dogcarts, and the home-grown motorists merely grumbled and bought endless books of tickets. Now at long last the Government has lifted the tolls on all but five or six bridges in the province —now that few tourists can spare the gasoline or the tire-wear for a trip anywhere. Local motorists, buying gasoline tickets instead of tolltickets, grumbled sarcastically as they rattled over the bridges.

Quebec’s Government was removing other nuisance taxes too, however. Faced with repayment and refunding of the debts of the Duplessis spending spree, the Government had previously ignored voluble protests against provincial tax policies. But tariffs on income, sales and motor vehicles have finally restored Quebec’s budget balance. Burdened with increasingly heavy federal taxes, Quebeckers were grateful.

New Brunswick

TNTO THE isolated districts of

New Brunswick, districts which

are often cut off from almost all out-

side contact during winter months, aregoingspecial representatives of the provincial Department of Education. Their task is to instruct some 1,500 men, women and girls in an almost lost art, the home-manufacture of tweeds and other woollens. The plan is that rural residents will raise their own sheep to grow wool, spin and dye their own yarn and weave dress and suit materials. Homespun materials already produced are said notable for their great wearing quality. The home craftsmen will also be encouraged to make woollen knickknacks for summer tourist sale. It is said that practically fifty per cent of the rural population has always been economically unproductive during eight months of the year. * * *

Carrying sands to the seashore is no joke to Saint John City Council. To fill all the little pails in city homes and office buildings with sand for the quenching of possible incendiary bombs cost close to $1,000. The sand was obtained from the ballast of ships arriving in Saint John harbor and distributed at the city’s expense.

New Brunswick has been designated a “vulnerable area,” giving a new impetus to A.R.P. work. Saint John’s D. L. MacLaren is director of civilian defense for the province, and a supply depot has been established at Fredericton. A. Dodge Rankine has given up his biscuit business duties for the duration to organize Saint John evacuation plans.

Nova Scotia

IIVELY activity of German sub4 marines along the Atlantic coast has made citizens of Halifax and other centres take such things as blackout curtainsand anti-incendiary sand a little more seriously. But there were other signs of the wartimes in Nova Scotia.

Mines Minister L. D. Currie tossed an extra $4,000 into the estimates for field survey work to spur the hunt for war-prized minerals (tungsten, manganese and fluorite have been found in the province). Major oil companies are said to be investigating oil production possibilities and the Legislature has approved a bill regulating the search for, and production of, petroleum and natural gas.

Nova Scotians generally endorsed the Dominion-Provincial tax agreement (on which legislative approval was pending at time of writing) solely as a war measure, with both Liberals and Conservatives charging that the province got a worse deal than any other. The deal: Nova Scotia to

vacate the corporation tax field (there being no provincial income tax) and surrender succession duties, in return for which Ottawa will pay annually $2,909,430—the net cost of servicing the provincial debt.

Halifax wants an extra $103,000 from business firms to pay for such mounting war costs as expansion of the police force and water-supply system, upkeep of a harbor fireboat ($1,000 monthly).