Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa



IT IS not surprising that the man who unleashed the proposals for Canada’s social security Utopia should have come to Canada on the recommendation of Sir William Beveridge. Dr. Leonard Marsh studied at the London School of Economics under Sir William and came to McGill University in 1931 on the latter’s recommendation. Since then he has made important contributions to social and economic studies in Canada as Director of Social Research at McGill. He is author or joint author of half a dozen standard works on various employment and social questions in Canada. When Principal James of McGill was named chairman of a special Advisory Committee on Reconstruction Dr. Marsh was asked to come to Ottawa as Research Adviser.

Until last December no spade work had been done on social security apart from intensive study of health insurance. With the Beveridge plan sweeping the continent and the Conservatives clamoring for “pie in the sky” at Winnipeg, something was needed for Parliament to chew on. Marsh was given the job. He hired a suite at the Chateau Laurier and gathered some experts together. For a week they scarcely left the hotel.

Different people were asked to draft special chapters. Then the rough drafts were put together by Dr. Marsh and overhauled once more at Montreal before being sent to the Government.

When the study was first started Dr. Marsh and the James committee were working for Hon. Ian MacKenzie, Minister of Pensions and National Health. Half way through, the James Committee was overhauled and Dr. Marsh now reports direct to the Prime Minister through Dr. James.

It was a curious occurrence which allowed the Marsh report to steal the spotlight from Ian MacKenzie’s long-contemplated health insurance measure. The health program was to be the crowning achievement of Mr. MacKenzie’s political career. Groundwork for its publication had been carefully laid. It was hoped the plan would win-friends-and-influence-people from coast to coast for the Minister of Pensions and National Health.

Either by design or by pure mischance the two schemes hit the front pages the same day. Compared with the billion-dollar dream castle which Marsh projected for all peoples, the fifth of a billion MacKenzie bill looked small and insignificant.

The health bill is the only concrete program the Government has ready to offer Parliament. The Marsh proposals are little more than a hasty and informational foray into a vast and highly controversial field—a field, by the way, in which John Bracken is something of an expert. It will be very surprising if Mr. Bracken does not raise the shades of the Rowell-Sirois findings to confound and embarrass the more imaginative Marsh proposals.

Careful study of the Marsh report reveals

that it raises many more problems than it attempts to solve. Biggest of these is what to do with health insurance under Canada’s antiquated constitution. In his own report Marsh comes out flat-footed for federal control (by amendment of the B.N.A. Act) and provincial administration. But Dr. Marsh’s signature is also to be found among those who approved the proposed health insurance measure which plumps for nine individual provincial schemes, supported by federal grants-in-aid.

There has already been untold argument behind the scenes on this very controversial point. In fact the inability of the Government or its experts to make up their minds is one reason why the health insurance measure was tossed into committee and not brought down as a Government measure.

This constitutional argument is important because it gets at the very root of Canada’s postwar problem.

In the present impasse the Federal Government simply lacks the power to introduce a Canadian Beveridge plan without amending the B.N.A. Act. Had the health insurance bill been introduced in its present form it would have meant the Government was shying away from any such amendment in its eagerness to get this politically desirable measure on the statute books.

The change in the policy, when taken alongside the pretty strong attitude of the Marsh proposals, may be significant.

But Ottawa has yet to be convinced that Mr. King is ready to take a strong stand in the matter.

Refugee Conference

BEHIND the appalling diplomatic blunder of the U.S. State Department in the matter of the refugee conference lies a disturbing, deep-rooted weakness in United Nations relations.

It is an actual fact that plans were well advanced between Britain and United States for the holding of a refugee conference in Ottawa, without the slightest hint of what was planned having been dropped to the Canadian

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Government. There were a lot of red faces both in the State Department and in London when the story leaked out, and Canada was told for the first time what had been going on.

What is lacking among the United Nations (and the Anthony Eden visit is closely related to this problem) is some procedure whereby United Nations other than Britain and the United States can be given an opportunity to make their views known in respect of discussions which affect them either directly or indirectly.

Admittedly it isn’t possible or desirable to have every one of the United Nations participate in all the many discussions which are taking place on war and postwar matters. But the other extreme has become equally dangerous and unwise — namely that Britain and U.S.A. should carry on discussions between themselves which are then presented to other nations as a fait accompli for signature and approval.

Unless some proper machinery or procedure is worked out a head-on conflict with possible disastrous effect on the United Nations’ bonne entente may be possible.

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Had Canada been more willing to assert herself at Washington it’s not impossible that we might have helped avert what is now conceded to be one of the major strategic blunders of the war—the failure of the U.S. Naval authorities to admit that escort vessels were necessary or desirable.

British authorities pleaded with the U.S. for more than two years to get escort vessels built. Instead the Naval Command in that country went ahead building all manner of other craft.

Today second front invasion plans are in considerable jeopardy because of insufficient escort craft to protect the gargantuan “pipe lines” which are needed to place and maintain a huge armed force in Europe. All the United States has been able to produce is a few vessels, launched with great eclat early in March and which are a cross between an escort vessel and a destroyer. They have been over two years abuilding and the number that will be available is said to be small compared to the need.

Of course big orders have now been placed for escort vessels in the U.S. and Canada’s quota increased. But it will be many months before

the U.S. Naval authorities will be able to make amends for their blunder.

U.S. Price Control

THERE is continuing gloom and alarm in Price Bo&rd circles as to the effect on Canada of American price control. Prentiss Brown, the new U.S. price czar, admits that he won’t be able to keep food prices in that country from advancing at a rate of less than six per cent a year.

Most immediate and troublesome evidence of the widening “spread” between the two countries is the battle over export of feed grains which threatens to be as difficult and contentious as the Battle of Beef.

Canadian farmers covet the higher feed prices now prevailing in the U.S. The problem is how to make this rapidly expanding market available without breaking the Canadian ceiling wide open.

This is only one phase of a problem which threatens to recur over and over again as U.S. prices keep rising.

Meanwhile Canada’s price control liaison office in Washington grows in size. A new addition is Professor Drummond, agricultural economist from Ontario Agricultural College, whose job is to study and report on U.S. agricultural controls and problems.

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By establishing our own proving grounds to test Canadian-made war equipment and supplies, it is hoped to avoid the repetition of the previously unpublicized fact that protective equipment used at Arvida was found to be completely frozen and useless this winter. The grease used was apparently quite unsuited to Canadian winter conditions.

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Instrument Plant

BECAUSE it will be used for the assembly and adjustment of magnetic compasses and precision instruments for aircraft, a nonmagnetic building recently completed at Elmhurst, Queens, N.Y., is without a trace of iron or steel anywhere in its structure. In place of these metals, brass, copper, aluminum and wood are used for conduits, pipes, nails, bolts and girders. Some of the pipes are terra cotta instead of cast iron. Brick was used for the outside. —Popular Mechanics.