AN ATTACHE of one of the important legations at Ottawa was discussing the question of Canada and the Empire. He was astounded
to learn that Canada was something more than a “Dominion,” that we were not attached to Britain through her Dominions Office; that we did have the right to our own decisions in foreign affairs. Though he has lived in Canada for more than two years and has travelled widely across the Dominion he had missed the significance of our sovereign status. He had assumed “Dominion” meant about what it did mean back in 1867.
This use of the word “Dominion” has worried East Block officials. They have contended that it is misleading and inaccurate to talk of the selfgoverning nations which comprise the Commonwealth as Dominions.
The British North America Act did not, contrary to the general view, designate us as the “Dominion of Canada.” To quote the original phraseology we are “One Dominion under the Name of Canada.”
At this writing the Government is wrestling with one of the big postwar dilemmas—the future relationship between itself and the Provincial Governments so far as finances are concerned.
One by one the “have-not” provinces have made it clear to Ottawa that their postwar planning is largely, if not entirely, dependent on the degree and manner in which Ottawa is prepared to extend financial aid. Any number of projects for postwar reconstruction are hanging fire, as are the majority of projects which have been recommended or endorsed by the Government’s own advisers and experts.
What is said to trouble the Cabinet and the Prime Minister is whether to risk a full-dress constitutional discussion based on the RowellSirois report at this period of approaching political crisis or whether merely to carry on for the present on some temporary basis.
What is being urged on Ottawa is the weakness of any grandiose scheme of postwar development which is not based on proper fiscal arrangements between Federaland Provincial Governments, what
happened during the depression thirties is cited as a case in point.
On the other hand there is concern about what may happen if Ottawa raises the constitutional issue just prior to Quebec and federal elections.
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There is talk that at the forthcoming session the Government will take a step toward settlement of some of our constitutional difficulties by introducing legislation to abolish appeals to the Privy Council.
How far the Government can go in this direction without again opening up constitutional arguments with the provinces is not clear. But it is said if Mr. King were to have a chance to represent Canada at preliminary peace negotiations he wouldn’t want his hands tied in the way which seems implied by the Privy Council decisions which followed the Bennett New Deal legislation of 1935, and which cast grave doubts on the Federal Government’s treaty-making powers.
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The bacon issue came to a head when federalprovincial representatives met in Ottawa in December to map the nation’s farm program for 1944.
The fact that the hog production goal for this year was left unchanged from 1943 at 7,000,000 hogs was indication that the earlier policy of lowering the British contract by one third and at the same time removing all restrictions on domestic marketings made no sense.
British Minister of Food, Col. J. J. Llewellin, came to the meeting unexpectedly and told the delegates quietly and impressively that, despite any opinion to the contrary, Britain needs about as much bacon from Canada in 1944 as she received in 1943—approximately 600,000,000 pounds. He also made it clear that unless she got at least the guaranteed Canadian minimum of 450,000,000 pounds this year she would have to reduce the present civilian ration from four to three ounces per person per week by about midsummer.
Mr. Gardiner seemed to make an attempt to save his Government from eating too much humble pie, when he suggested that the provinces pay half of any additional subsidy. This would have given the Cabinet an obvious excuse to reopen the question.
Speaking of things to eat, an instructive and useful table came from the Dominion Bureau of Statistics the other day, which traced our national consumption of foodstuffs over the past five or 10 years. Here are some of the highlights:
Pre-war consumption of milk and milk products in Canada was less than 55 pounds per person per year. In 1943 it was almost 65 pounds.
Pre-war meat consumption was 120 pounds per year per person (carcass weight). In 1943 the average was 134 pounds.
Egg consumption rose from 30 pounds per person per year in the five-year period, 1935-39, and rose to almost 38 pounds in 1943.
Despite the ration, we consumed almost as much butter as in pre-war days, although the average for each person dropped from 33 pounds in 1942 to 29.6 pounds in 1943. Our coffee consumption was actually higher at four pounds per person in 1943.
About the only foodstuffs whose consumption were considerably lower than previous or pre-war years were canned fruits (they dropped almost 50%) and sugar, which dropped from 91 pounds per person (pre-war) to 72 pounds in 1943.
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