GENERAL ARTICLES

Cross-Country

September 15 1942
GENERAL ARTICLES

Cross-Country

September 15 1942

Cross-Country

B.C. discovers its other half Prairies mobilize for harvest Quebec workers join unions Co-operation pays in P. E. I. Salvage trouble on East Coast

WHEN CANADA’S transcontinental railways finished blasting their way through the mountains to reach the West Coast, they were content. They never bothered to right turn and go north.

The C.N.R. line through Prince George to Prince Rupert cuts British Columbia approximately in half. North of that line lie huge forests, extensive farm lands and mineral resources but no settlement—almost no population at all. B. C. governments have been elected and rejected over schemes to build a railway into the north, but the rails remained unlaid.

Today parliamentary corridors at Victoria are full of excited and jubilant talk—the war is going to open up the north. Already a string of air bases cuts across B.C.’s northeastern corner into the Yukon and Alaska. U.S. Army Engineers are rapidly cutting a highway through the same section and Victoria’s parliamentarians are more convinced than they were four months ago (Cross-Country, June 15) that Uncle Sam won’t rest until he has built a railway north from Prince George to Alaska.

U.S. Army surveyors are reported busy in the Prince George area, but they may be content to hitch their new northern line to the C.N.R. at that point, connecting with Edmonton and the Central States. B.C. still hopes U.S. interests may buy up the provincially owned Pacific Great Eastern Railway. The P.G.E.starts at Squamish nearVancouver (but lacking connections with Vancouver terminals) and runs 347 miles east and north to stop at Quesnel, eighty miles short of Prince George. If the U.S. doesn’t want the P.G.E. as an approach to the proposed new line from Prince George, Victoria talk says B.C. will do the job itself. Also plugging for development of the P.G.E. route are the western states below B.C.’s southern boundary. Determined to get part of the Alaska trade, they won’t willingly sit back and see the midwest monopolize everything via Edmonton and the C.N.R.

Vancouver shipyard workers don’t like the seven-day week. Some of them stopped work for a few hours to convince the authorities, but later agreed to carry on under the new schedule while telling their troubles to a commission appointed to investigate.

Though the yards run seven days a week the workers each get a day off; but a man doesn’t like having his free day when practi-

British Columbia

cally everyone else is working, it was testified, nor does he like working Sunday when his family and most all the folks he knows are having a day of rest. Anyway, claim the workers, production slumped instead of increasing with introduction of the new schedule. Management agreed with workers in criticizing the Government’s peremptory method of enforcing the seven-day week, declared that if given a chance bosses and men could have worked the thing out satisfactorily.

Business came to a halt at, noon in many Okanagan Valley towns during August as one of the largest apple crops in history ripened in the famous Okanagan orchards. Businessmen closed their stores, donned overalls and pitched in to help save the crops, threatened by a serious scarcity of pickers.

Despite their goodhearted efforts, it was feared much fruit might be wasted.

Alberta

HPWO YEARS AGO Alberta took if its A largest wheat crop—about 180,000,000 bushels. Many local experts think the 1942 crops may reach 200,000,000 bushels. But if wheat was never so plentiful (despite heavy conversion of wheat acreage to feed grains), harvest hands were never so scarce.

When unprecedented June and July rains sent wheat prospects sprouting, Alberta launched a volunteer farm army recruiting campaign. The Unemployment Insurance

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Commission, Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade and farmers’ organizations joined in the hunt for 15,000 extra harvesters.

As in the Okanagan valley, businessmen closed stores and offices and went into the fields. Men who hadn’t stooked or spike-pitched for years worked, sweated and ached through the long summer evenings. High school volunteers (given leave till Oct. 31 if necessary) added 3,500 students to the harvest army. Commercial travellers, whose prosperity goes up and down with the wheat crop, joined the big push to get the late harvest over before it could be sabotaged by frost.

In addition to wheat, prospects were good for a record harvest of hay, oats, rye and barley. And history’s' heaviest crop of blisters among the thousands of green field hands was an accepted certainty

Saskatchewan

THE PHRASE “manpower crisis” has almost become a national bogey. Saskatchewan saw that the manpower problem simply meant Farmer Jones needed a couple of extra hands if he was to get his wheat in before frost . . . And that chances were the local high school principal could spare a few husky students, or the town barber and the town jeweller could take a few days off to help Farmer Jones get in his crop.

Filling the estimated need for 30,000 extra harvest hands didn’t seem nearly so difficult when you broke it down and discovered that 154 men per municipality would do the trick.

So Saskatchewan was divided into ten zones, each with a town or city headquarters. Each zone organized a committee, and subcommittees set up at each marketing centre in the zone. Subcommitteemen interviewed every farmer who came to market, listed the manpower needs of each. They next canvassed every man in the district, listing those who could help.

In large centres the zone committees tackled every business firm, registering all employees available for harvest labor. High school boys were mobilized, permitted a late return to classes. Indian agents called for volunteers on the reserves. Subcommittees short of local help called on the zone committees, to tap the labor pool of the1 larger centres.

Ottawa turned down a request from zone committee headquarters in Regina that a ceiling be set for harvest wages. Federal Agricultural Minister J. G. Gardiner told the West it had to solve its own labor problem — and he congratulated Saskatchewan on the efficient manner in which it had organized its campaign.

On a September morning in 1905 an eager crowd gathered on a stretch of bare, treeless ground in Regina to hear Canada’s Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, welcome the new

Province of Saskatchewan into the Dominion. Lost in the crowd was a young fellow named Bill Patterson.

In midsummer 1942 another big crowd gathered in what is now Regina’s green-lawned and treeshaded Victoria Park. As part of Regina’s sixtieth birthday ceremonies, a grey stone shaft commemorating the founding of Saskatchewan was unveiled. The man who pulled the purple and gold drapery from the monument ‘ was the Hon. William John Patterson, premier of the province he had seen created on this spot thirty-seven years before.

The scarlet-clad Mounted Police had a place of honor at the ceremony, as well they might: Regina was the headquarters from which “the Force” administered the entire northwest, long before the city became a provincial capital. But the war managed to intrude even on this peaceful, historic occasion: the monument’s

inscription was set on a temporary plaque. A permanent plaque of bronze must wait for the end of hostilities and priorities.

Manitoba

THE ARMY has marched into the Grain Exchange! . . . Such news might have heralded dear knows what horrible social upheaval if it had happened in the boom years of wheat when the Grain Exchange on Winnipeg’s Lombard St. rocked to the frenzied howling of the grain traders.

Many a wrathful farm group did verbal battle with the Grain Exchange in those days but it never became necessary to invoke military law. Today farmers are too concerned about how to sell more wheat than anybody knows what to do with, to worry about the Grain Exchange whose wheat pit is now deserted. For years the Exchange was so busy that it was twice enlarged, an annex added, but today with wheat prices pegged the only bidding goes on in the coarse grains pit and traders spend most of their time playing dominoes in the smoking room.

So last month the no-longer-expanding Lombard Street landmark leased its three-story annex to the Department of National Defense . And the Army marched into the Grain Exchange.

* * *

Sewage contamination for years prevented Winnipeg citizens from taking full advantage of the two rivers which meet in their city, the Red and the Assiniboine. The rivers were beautiful to look at but not fit for swimming or even boating.

Finally after years of agitation and planning, a $3,500.000 sewage disposal plant was built, completed in 1938. Criticism dwindled as technical difficulties were overcome, and a boom began in river-front property. The Red and the Assiniboine could soon boast a lively fleet of boats from punts to cabin cruisers. About the same time the modern craze for recreation rooms had Winnipeg folk

hiring decorators to do over their basements.

Then July, 1941, brought a torrentiaf rain (2.56 inches in four hours). Streets flooded, beautiful basement playrooms were submerged. People muttered darkly about the inadequacies of the new sewage plant, claimed that allowance should have been made for cloudbursts so that flooded sewers could overflow directly into the river instead of piling up water in the disposal works. The muttering subsided, but this July another rainstorm heavier than last year’s hit the city. Householders whose basements swirled deep in muddy water began entering lawsuits against the city. City council met hurriedly and decided to bring in an outside engineer for an impartial judgment as to whether the sewage system or simply the unprecedented rain was to blame.

Ontario

ONTARIO has a new “award of merit” and is issuing them by the thousands to anyone, young or old, who has a set of workable muscles and a day or so to give to a good cause. The “award” is a circular white badge with blue rings and a flaming red inscription, “Farm Service Force—We Lend a Hand.”

Take the big business executive who read a newspaper appeal for agricultural help. He ordered out one of his company trucks, loaded it with a big tent, half a dozen cots and three employee volunteers. The three men established their camp in the Streetsville farming section and went to work. The next day the boss sent out three more men; the next he sent a third trio and took the first crew back to the office, and so on. That way one firm kept six men on the farm without disrupting work in the office.

Take the minister who went out to offer his services at a farm at Hornby, Ont., and found the farmer sick in bed. He took over and ran the farm with the help of two boys and two girls of fourteen and fifteen.

Take the Ottawa man who each year plans a camping trip for his wife and young son. This year he pitched the family tent on an Ottawa River farm, stooked, threshed and pitched hay from dawn till dusk for two weeks. Take the eighty-two-year-old who insisted on a farm job and was willingly accepted . . .

Take them all and you have 9,750 older public school boys and girls (mostly on home farms); more than 10,000 high school boys (Farm Cadet Brigade); (5,000 schoolgirls over sixteen (Farmerettes); 1,000 girls beyond school age (Women’s Land Brigade); 150 men (Boys of the Old Brigade) and thirty-five families.

That’s not all the Ontario Farm Service Force has done under the joint sponsorship of the Departments of Agriculture, Education and Labor. From a ninth floor office in Queen’s Park’s East Block, the Force has organized four boys’ and fifteen girls’ camps, supervised by the national councils of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. To the nineteen strategically located camps come help-wanting farmers, who pick up their re-

quired number of junior farm hands, take them off for a day’s work and return them to camp at night.

Advertisements in daily and weekly newspapers, in rural publications and on the radio, letters to school principals and direct appeals to city and small-town businessmen, bring out the recruits. All workers sent out by the Farm Service Force are paid by the farmers for whom they work at rates from two to three dollars a day.

Certain other groups work for nothing such as the “Bring-In-theFood” drive launched by Toronto’s Mayor Fred Con boy which reports some 500 volunteers dispatched for a day-or-more’s farm work in its first ten days operation. One hot August day the Mayor himself headed a band of 150 city folks who were rushed to the action front in Peel, Halton and York counties in seven trucks loaned by a department store. When the Mayor was unloaded at the farm of Robert Hix, near Clairsville, he found twenty-year-old Robert, Jr., giving his entire nine-days army furlough to helping dad with the crops.

Mayor Conboy hopes his drive will make for better understanding between Toronto and surrounding rural areas. Some of the big city recruits had a first lesson when they turned up on a farm one Sunday full of goodwill, energy and enthusiasm. Personally, the farmer told them politely, he didn’t work on Sundays. He said the Lord intended it for a day of rest. But, added the farmer, he didn’t object to acting as overseer. So he supervised while the Torontonians sweated in the afternoon sun.

Quebec

/QUEBEC’S man of the hour is René Chaloult, M.L.A. for Lotbiniere, recently found not guilty when charged under the Defense of Canada Regulations. Talk of the hour is a mooted new nationalist party. A significant social trend is the increasing support given trade unions by Quebec workers, along with the success of labor - management councils.

Only a few months ago, René Chaloult, charming and loquacious, was just another Quebec M.L.A. and a not-very-well-known lawyer. Overnight his name became a headline feature from east to west because, having been charged under the Defense of Canada Regulations, he was tried and acquitted. Montreal compatriots (1,200 of them) staged a great banquet to celebrate his acquittal. Chairman of the occasion was Dr. J. B. Prince, head of the Ligue pour la Defense du Canada, which sponsored most of the “Vote No” rallies before the plebiscite.

Dr. Prince and his Ligue are reputedly the group which plans to launch the new nationalist party. Philip Hamel, M.L.A. for Quebec Centre from 1936 to 1939, and who led the Quebec National Party, is popularly expected to find a place in the new party should it materialize. So is Paul Gouin, who helped Duplessis overthrow the Taschereau regime; also Edouard Lacroix, Federal member for Beauce, P.Q., allegedly a

disappointed man through his failure to attain leadership in the Liberal Party.

Covering the enthusiastic Chaloult celebration was a U.S. photographer of wide experience, who went away deeply impressed. For tenseness and fervor, he told other newspapermen, it recalled Nazi party gatherings he had attended in pre-war Germany.

At the head table, with other notables, was J. E. Grégoire, K.C., former Mayor of Quebec and now reported active in C.C.F. circles. The C.C.F. is said to be collecting considerable support in the Eastern Townships. But prospects for either the nationalists or the C.C.F. in Quebec may be marred by the influence of those whose stand was recently expressed in a pointed warning against third parties published in L'AdionCatholique,a leadingCatholic journal.

* * *

Thousands of young people in Quebec are being literally uprooted from villages and farms by the demand of the war factories for workers. The effect of this revolution on the future of the province may be considerable. Many of them may scarcely have heard of trade unions before, yet they are proving not unsusceptible to the arguments of organizers, and company efforts to set up competing “company unions” have been none too successful.

The A.F. of L. has announced it is out to organize every war plant in Quebec, then turn to civilian industries. “We shall close every shop in this province eventually,” representative Robert Haddow of the Metal Trades Council (A.F. of L.) has declared. A strong union argument to prospective members is evidence that comparable workers in other provinces make more money; the Quebec factory hands wouldn’t mind a raise—and they resent the apparent discrimination.

As a result of increased labor activity there have naturally been some minor strikes and stoppages—even gravediggers, in one case, laid down their shovels at least briefly. But unions have also been showing a desire and an ability to co-operate with management for greater production, notably in the Fairchild and Noorduyn aircraft plants. Genesis of the idea is said to have sprung first from the mind of Organizer Haddow, who was instrumental in establishing a Quebec War Production Council of unionists and management. From this have grown management-worker production councils in individual factories, which act to speed output, reduce absenteeism, and encourage employees to suggest timeand laborsaving ideas.

Maritimes

FEW PLACES can boast of giving more men to the armed services than the little fishing village of North Rustico, on Prince Edward Island’s north shore. Forty-seven per cent of all North Rustico’s fishermen have joined up—yet so hard are the other fifty-three per cent working that village fish production has not slumped.

North Rustico had made a name

for itself long before war came. In 1936 it was just another Maritime village of discouraged fishermen trying to live twelve months a year on what little they made from six months’ work. Then to the village came a young parish priest, Rev. J. D. McNeill, who had learned at Cape Breton’s progressive St. Xavier University how a small community like this might benefit from co-operative enterprise.

North Rustico’s hundred fishermen organized study groups that year under Father McNeill’s guidance, and a year later launched a credit union. Then came a buying club to help the villagers save money on all purchases.

Meanwhile a Fishermen’s Union, affiliated with the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Union, was formed and in 1937 the union local purchased a $2,000 cannery. The fishermen began to can and market their own product. The first hundred boxes of boneless cod were put on the local market as an experiment, and the next year North Rustico was also first in P.E.I. to pack mackerel fillets, which keeps the men busy in summer. A year’s total catch of nearly 2,000,000 pounds of lobster, cod, hake, haddock and mackerel brings in as much as $36,800 to the group-owned industry.

The village is perhaps proudest of the new Stella Maris school and hall, created with voluntary labor under direction of a hired foreman. An old warehouse has been converted into a large modern school with four classrooms and accommodation for 135 pupils. The basement recreation room offers pool tables, bowling alleys and other games equipment, and an entertainment hall occupies the third floor.

A pre-war version of the victory garden was organized to supply the village with all its fresh vegetable needs. A dental clinic has been established, a Boy Scout troop organized and a co-operative store is planned for the near future.

The Maritime co-operative movement began at St. Francis Xavier University at Antigonish, N.S., back as far as 1930, and North Rustico was not the first Prince Edward Island community to take up the idea. But its progress has been such as to make it a guiding beacon for other P.E.I. fishing communities to follow. Prof. A. B. MacDonald of the St. Francis Xavier Extension Department recently described the North Rustico development as the most balanced of any fishing community in the Maritimes.

TO THE average war-minded Canadian citizen, salvage is old newspapers, chunks of rusty iron and tattered bathing caps dug out of attics and cellars and converted to shell-packing, guns and rubber tires for army transports. The Maritime resident, however, knows that salvage has another definition as cargo cast adrift or ashore from shipwrecks. And possession of that kind of salvage is surrounded by barbed-wire entanglements of marine law which only a sea lawyer would be so daft as to get mixed up in.

What wTith storms and torpedoings,

I shipwrecks have become too much of : a commonplace on Canada’s East Coast. Halifax newspapers tell of “literally millions of dollars worth” of wrecked cargo scattered along coves and beaches. “Rubber tires, copper, gasoline, aluminum and foodstuffs in profusion have been either strewn along the coasts or are readily available in wrecks.”

It is reported that in one tanker stranded since March are thousands of gallons of gasoline and that fishermen and others who have attempted to save what they could have been driven away repeatedly from the wreck.

Despite their appreciation of the legal technicalities involved in ownerI ship, Nova Scotians have become i increasingly wroth at the waste involved at a time when waste shouldn’t be tolerated. If private citizens may not salvage the wreckage, they feel that some authority certainly should.

In mid - August the Halifax j Herald’s Ottawa correspondent re! ported the welcome news that “The salvage ‘situation’ — some call* it ‘scandal’—along Canada’s Atlantic coast is soon to be dealt with . . . Officials of the Department of Transport stated that strong government policy is organizing to intervene in a situation in which a conflict of private interests has resulted in literally millions of dollars worth of wrecked and submarined cargo remaining cn the Atlantic coast . . . simply because it has been impossible to effect a working arrangement among the various private interests legally concerned in its ownership ...”

One Halifax newspaper found a more urgent reason for removing the fuel from the stranded tanker than the mere need for gasoline. “A spark struck by a nail on a shoe, a backfire from a motor boat, a tossed match, a dropped hit of ash—in a moment, devastation ...”

Halifax knows all about explosions ; and the devastation they can cause.