DESIGN FOR A FUTURE...
What postwar plannina is beng done in the West? Herewith the answers from B.C. and Alberta as reported by the editor of Maclean's
H. NAPIER MOORE
IN CASE you are a crossword puzzle fan, there is a three-letter word which means a contented demobilized serviceman or warworker, a happy wife, a child’s future, a comfortable home, humming machinery, prosperous farms, thriving communities, good citizenship and a well-knit, sturdy and progressive nation.
It is spelled J-O-B.
It is a word that means everything to the man who one of these days will be through with fighting. And the man in uniform will be relieved to know that a great many Canadians who have the biggest job of all —that of providing jobs—are working hard at if.
This doesn’t mean that plans are so far advanced that within a few weeks after the last bugle blows there is going to be a job waiting for everybody simultant*ously. It does mean that in most districts from which men enlisted, or from which they moved to war factories, projects are at least charted for the provision of employment.
The Dominion Government’s rehabilitation scheme, of course, is functioning now. Something like 100,000 men have been discharged from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Some are in vocational schools, learning a chosen trade. A few (but a rush will come) are taking university courses. There are men like the ex-Alberta coal miner who won a commission in the artillery, was wounded in Italy, discharged, and is now working furiously to become a graduate engineer. There are chaps who moved from job to job in pre-war days who are wholeheartedly studying medicine, law, chemistry, scientific agriculture while their country pays their fees and maintains them. But the bulk of that 100,(M)O have either returned to their old jobs or been placed in new ones.
What of the remaining 650,000 when they come home?
Apart from the grants and initial assistance to which they will be entitled, what about that many jobs?
This report has to do with what provinces and
cities and municipalities are planning. It also has todo with some pretty deep but very interesting t hinking. For in the West particularly, postwar reconstruction means vastly more than planning tide-overs for the few years of readjustment that will follow the end of the fighting; more than finding employment for returned soldiers. It means a reappraisal of the whole national setup of this Dominion and its economy. It means a decision as to whether we are going to really be a nation or a st ring of dependencies; whether we are going to be Canadians or British Columbians, Maritimers, Ontarians, Quebeckers or Prairieites.
You may think you have heard all this before. Not. the way it is meant today. There is nothing platitudinous about these discussions. They get down to brass tacks. They affect you and me; our sons and daughters.
IN MID-AUGUST I set out for the West to ask a question. I was asking it until mid-October. I have yet to ask it in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. But. there isn’t much point in waiting until I complete t he survey. 11 will take time. Canada is so geographic.
The question was, “Were the war to end tomorrow, what job-creating projects would YOU have ready to start on?” I asked it several times a day; of premiers, Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, members of legislatures, chairmen of rehabilitation committees, mayors, reeves, community leaders, businessmen, and the ordinary fellow; asked it in places large and small. Summarized the answers show this:
Reconstruction planners in all four Western provinces believe that fulfillment of wrar-deferred consumer needs and reconversion itself will provide sufficient employment to tide over the immediate postwar years; that such things as public works projects, while they should be planned now, should be dispersed so as to feed out employment as it becomes needed.
All four Western provinces have broad-scale plans.
British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have tucked away funds with which a start could be made on construction projects.
Saskatchewan has no such moneys.
Implementation of the plans of all four provinces hinge on the assumption that the projects, or most of them, will represent a share of a national postwar program for which the Dominion Government will supply the means.
The four Provincial Governments agree that adjustments will have to be made in the matter of Federal and Provincial powers. There are differences of opinion on details.
Some cities have been building up reserves for a beginning on local works, but will need cheap money for long-term developments.
Most smaller municipalities need cheap money with which to make a start; await governmental assurance in this regard.
All four provinces have research programs to find new uses for natural resources, plant and animal products, agricultural waste, etc., with the hope of establishing small, decentralized industries.
All four administrations realize that until Canada’s population is big enough to provide adequate markets (and that’s a long time off), maintenance of production is going to depend a lot on our share of world trade. In short, the big problem is where we are going to sell all we can grow and all we can make. And the answer lies in the sort of peace that is evolved.
NOW TO take things province by province.
British Columbia, first to get down to charting the future, has, under Premier and Finance Minister John Hart, tucked away a not inconsiderable sum for postwar emergency purposes. The exact
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Design For a Future
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amount has not been divulged; is not less than $15 millions; perhaps more.
It was in Januax-y, 1943, that following considerable study an allparty committee of the B. C. legislature issued a long and comprehensive report on postwar planning. The Government followed up that report by forming the B. C. Rehabilitation Council to forward the recommendations. The council functions under a Cabinet committee of four ministers, with Education Minister H. G. T. Perry as chairman, includes deputy ministers and departmental experts; has a full-time secretary, J. T. Gawthrop.
In the council’s offices you can see what is almost a visualization of the rehabilitation report. On charts B. C.’s enormous territory has been divided into 10 regional areas. For each area there is a geographic and economic breakdown covering climate and soil conditions. The idea is that nobody is to be encouraged to settle in any area, to farm or attempt other work, where Nature says he can’t make a living.
Surveys among some 60,000-odd British Columbians in the armed forces show that to date about 5,000 want to go on the land. To the Dominion Government the province has offered one million acres, free, for settlement by veterans fromB. C. units; 160 acres to each man who qualifies under the Dominion Land Settlement Act.
For work projects on which an immediate start could be made there is a highway and secondary road building program involving a good many millions; an institutional building program, which includes new blocks for the University of B. C. in Vancouver.
A priority in the road building program is the building of a highway from Prince George to the Peace River district. For the Government has one eye firmly focused in that direction. There is good hard coal up there. Great seams of it. It’s a question of getting it out through fairly mountainous country. That means a railway. And a railway might provide the long missing link of the much buffeted Pacific Great Eastern, popularly described as beginning nowhere and ending nowhere. There is oil, too, in B. C.’s Peace River area. The planners think it can be made a commercial
proposition; that transportation can be made possible and markets found. But the highway is a preliminary essential.
In the field of longer term planning an extensive program of forest research is under way. A hydroelectric commission is studying rural electrification and plant locations for possible decentralization of industry. More than 60% of the province’s entire population is clustered in the Greater Vancouver area. This is recognized as an economic headache. There are recommendations regarding the creation of small industries—the making of plastics, processed wood products and so forth. There are suggestions as to the initiation of a scrap steel industry and promotion, by subventions, of an out-and-out-steel industry, from ore to finished product. There are ideas for a drug industry—the growing of plants and processing; for the development of bulb production in the lower Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island; for production of fibre flax and the establishment of a linen industry.
Who Supplies the Money?
Part and parcel of the council’s survey are the various city and municipal projects. Some are detailed and definite. Some are nebulous. Most j mayors to whom I put my question j replied, “We have plans, but nobody j tells us where the money is coming j from.”
Assuming that the money is forthcoming on easy terms, Victoria, for ! example, has schemes for improving its j causeway by the erection of a civic j centre, including a new city hall and court house; for widening Government Street; for developing its outer harbor; for improving its water supply.
Vancouver has a long list of street improvements, new bridges, parks, schools, etc. Down in the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna plans a community centre with city hall, auditorium, sports | arena, library and health centre. Vernon has long-term improvement iJsas. Penticton’s first priority is the diversion cf a creek which runs through the town, occasionally runs amok and washes houses away. There are irrigation projects throughout the Valley. There are soldier settlement schemes. Near Kelowna 40 soldier settlement houses, on one-acre lots, should be under construction by the time this appears in print.
When it comes to Dominion-Proi
vincial relations B. C.’s reconstruction report recommended that subjects under review by the Sirois Commission should be reopened before the end of the war, so that the province and the Dominion can know the responsibilities which they will have to bear and be in a position to consider plans and policies. It states that the credit and monetary system should not be allowed to add to the postwar problems of municipal and provincial governments. The present Government wants to know definitely where it is going to stand in the matter of taxation. It does not favor a dual tax system (Provincial and Dominion) but thinks it should receive a percentage of income tax revenue. It considers Dominion co-operation essential in postwar administration but feels it has no right to hand over provincial rights without some sort of referendum. It is a little leery about the growth of Federal bureaucracy getting out of hand and the danger of its impingement on provincial administration. But it does think that it’s certainly time that there was a Dominion-Provincial conference to straighten things out.
Premier Manning of Alberta was away, so it was A. J. Hooke, provincial secretary and chairman of the Rehabilitation Committee, and A. V. Bourcier, M.L.A., chairman of the Alberta Social Credit Board, who supplied the first answers to my question in Edmonton.
Were the war to end tomorrow. Alberta’s Government would have $2 millions, voted by the Legislature to date, with which to make a start on construction work. But the projects to be initiated are subject to the necessary financial facilities being made available by the Federal authorities.
On main and district highways, tourist roads, local and development roads, work, estimated to cost $130 millions, would provide employment for 5,000 men for 10 years. Construction of public buildings, normal schools and colleges, police buildings and institutions, would provide employment for 800 men for 10 years at an approximate cost of $13,775,000. And it is estimated that there would be 847,000 man-days employment in forestry work.
It could make a start in the placing of some 8,000 Alberta soldiers who want to go on the land. The Government has its own land settlement scheme (civilian and veteran); Inis offered 1^2 million acres free and co-operation with the Ottawa Government’s rehabilitation plan. Soil and land surveys are under way now.
But the Social Credit belief is that “full employment” as the objective of the peacetime economy is an “obsession”; that any attempt to “create employment” as a means of distributing purchasing power inevitably will lead to the emergence of a totalitarian state. “Full employment,” says Mr. Hooke, “is the policy of State Socialism.” He explains it this way: “Private industry cannot initiate such projects. Governments are forced into large-scale public works. In order to finance these, governments resort to taxation and borrowing. Apart from the lowering of the standard of living it creates by depleting incomes, to the extent taxation is employed, it adds to the costs of industry and thereby reduces the inadequate purchasing power distributed. In the process the general standard of living is depressed. To the extent governments resort to borrowing from the banking institutions, new money is put into circulation and purchasing power is temporarily increased. However, the mounting charges to service the resulting public debt pro-
gressively increase taxation, which in time aggravates the situation.”
“Then,” says Mr. Hooke, “the Government, having assumed responsibility for maintaining ‘full employment,’ and industry being faced with a diminishing home market—with all the dislocating consequences of uneconomic competition resulting from this condition—and with Government controls and interference, it is inevitable that the situation will develop with increasing momentum toward the stifling of private enterprise and the emergence of a socialistic state.”
Social Credit claims that the solution is simple—that industry and trade should be provided with all the financial facilities to ensure unrestricted production of wanted goods and services, and their transportation to points where they are required for sale at remunerative prices. Then the public should be provided with purchasing power. This all to be accomplished by the creation of new money, partly in the form of a subsidy to reduce the price level and partly of a supplementary income in addition to wages, salaries, etc., paid to every individual whether employed or not, provided his services are available if required for the type of work for which he is qualified.
In short, the Aberhartian dividend theory hasn’t disappeared at all.
The financial system bulks large in the interim report of the Alberta Legislature’s postwar rehabilitation committee. That report contains 180 recommendations covering long-term development projects; says that before any provincial or public works programs can be launched it is imperative that the Federal Government announce its policy with respect to financial assistance to such projects. And again the theory is propounded that all money required for Federal Government services should be issued, on the instructions of Parliament, without increasing the national debt, and that Federal taxation should be used primarily for the purpose of withdrawing surplus purchasing power, if any, to prevent inflation.
Apart from the methods of finance, the rehabilitation committee’s report is comprehensive and far-reaching on a long-term basis. Concerning agriculture, its recommendations cover not only land settlement, preservation of watersheds, irrigation, variety and quality of produce, but markets, chemurgical research into new uses for wheat and investigation of the possibility of establishing small industries in rural areas for the manufacture of starch, paint glutens, glues and plastics from wheat; wallboard and briquettes from wheat straw; oil from plants, and for the processing of foods and of wastes.
It recommends studies of rural electrification, crop insurance, provision of agricultural credit, agricultural education, improvement of farm homes and living quarters for help.
In the realm of industry it thinks chemical research can increase employment in Alberta’s coal mining areas (now employing 8,000) by the byproduct route—medical compounds, dyes, perfumes, etc. The same with the province’s petroleum, bituminous sands natural gas and salt. It sees possibilities in a ceramic and glass industry and developments in cement, metal refining and wool products. Established before the war, the woollen mills at Magrath, south of Lethbridge, have been turning out army blankets in quantity.
The report recommends an extensive educational and vocational training
program, improvement of teachers’ salaries, status and living conditions; the replacement of one-room schools by graded rural schools built to standard plan; university courses in farm mechanization and management, and social welfare schemes to ensure better nutrition, housing, clothing, light and water systems, home and health services, child guidance, etc.
Then there is a long list of city and municipal projects. Most of them couldn’t be started without financial assistance. Edmonton is an exception. It could make a start with a $5 millions reserve fund it has tucked away for a five-year plan, covering street improvements, bridges, sewage and drainage schemes, and work on the civic airport.
Every city official and businessman with whom I talked was confident that the fulfillment of postwar consumer demand, the city’s position as gateway to the North and its importance as an international airways centre will provide opportunity for full re-establishment of its returning citizens. In the distribution field there are definite plans for the erection of new warehouses. There have been enquiries from firms interested in starting up small industries. A new “motor row” is in prospect. Also a new Federal Building, hoisted for the duration.
In spite of the completion of the Alaska Highway and the departure of its workers, the population of Edmonton is going up.
Calgary, too, has been building a reserve from surpluses on public utility operations, which is where Edmonton got its fund too. Calgary’s fund is about $1,650,000, with which a start could be made on planned cross-town highways, street improvements, subways and bridges. There’s a need for new schools and a hospital, for a civic auditorium and a new union railway depot. “We have lots of work to do if we can find the money,” say the city fathers.
So far as industries are concerned Calgarians are hoping that the nitrogen plant, which employed 500 people making wartime explosives and is now making fertilizers, will keep at it, and that the Ogden gun plant, employing 1,500, will quickly be converted to peacetime production when the war ends. Expansions in the packing business are expected, and, of course, being close to the Rockies, Calgary has high hopes of the tourist trade.
The Board of Trade sees developments in coal and natural gas, but thinks such industrial developments will depend on scientific research and sound management to offset the disadvantages of distance from markets.
In both Edmonton and Calgary the majority of businesses have their own postwar plans, but they prefer not to say too much about them. As one businessman put it, “I’ve a horror of holding out false hopes to returned men. Agriculture plays so important a part in this province’s economy that if peace terms were such that export trade would be throttled, the plans we have might be useless.”
Up in the Peace River District most people will tell you that their chief postwar reconstruction hope is the same hope they have been cherishing for many years—a direct outlet. They want a long promised railway that will reduce the haul now provided by the rambling Northern Alberta Line. In Grande Prairie there are strong supporters of a route that would cut straight south to a point near Edson on the main line of the CNR, not 300 miles away, providing a link with Vancouver and Prince Rupert and also with the East. And the call for a highway following the shortest route to the coast is insistent.
But whether you are in the Peace River District or in southern Macleod, in Edmonton or Calgary, in the tranquil Okanagan Valley or the throbbing port of Vancouver, in a premier’s office or sitting on a barnyard fence, when the person you are talking to has answered your question he will ask you one. It is, “Where in the future do we sell all we can grow or all we can make?”
Tt is impressive, this general realization that no matter how we plan and contrive our economic destiny is beyond our own domestic control.
There are differences of viewpoint, of course, depending on how certain things affect certain people. There are Westerners to whom tariffs and preferences are anathema. They rail against the prices they pay for automobiles and farm equipment compared with prices prevailing across the border. And there are Westerners to whom tariffs and preferences mean very existence—the Okanagan fruit growers for instance.
There is broad thinking too. I talked with an executive of the B. C. fruit growers’ selling organization. He pointed out that protection was essential to that industry’s being. Then he said this: “If for the welfare of the Dominion as a whole the Okanagan has to go, all right. But not if tariffs are to be so manipulated as to benefit but a few people or but one section.”
“If it’s for the welfare of the Dominion as a whole” is a phrase you hear very frequently.
(In a second article Mr. Moore will deal with postwar planning in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.)