Desidn for a Future
H. NAPIER MOORE
"Nation-building requires national doing and national thinking"—Herewith the postwar plans of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as reported by Maclean's editor
YEARS AGO, when the Saskatchewan drought was at its worst, I wrote a piece about two children I had seen standing on a prairie dustcarpeted railway platform gazing at the passengers in the dining car. They told me that they often walked the mile or two from their farm just to look at the diner for a moment or two. They liked to see people eating.
That was the time when in the hardest stricken areas mothers were boiling thistles for soup and making the kids’ clothes out of flour sacks.
I have never forgotten those children. Neither has Saskatchewan.
This year the crops were good. The farmers have money in the banks. The store shelves are cleared as rapidly as they are stocked. But the memory of those bleak years is burned deep into the Saskatchewan mind.
That is why when you ask about postwar planning the answers cover much more than the matter of providing jobs for returning servicemen. To CCF Premier T. C. Douglas and his Cabinet, to the Saskatchewan Reconstruction Council (whose report also embraces the views of individuals and organizations not CCF), and to people generally, Reconstruction means an adjustment of the province’s economy that will prevent a repetition of such distress. It means, in a broad sense, an insurance against the caprices of Nature and the maintenance of a decent standard of living for everybody in the province.
Premier Douglas had only been in office a week or two when I put to him the question, “Were the war to end tomorrow what job-creating projects would you have ready to start on?” His answer was immediateand blunt. “We have no funds for postwar projects. We have plenty of plans for such works, but they hinge on declaration by the Dominion Government of an over-all financial policy.”
Premier Douglas believes that there isn’t going to be any immediate employment problem when the war ends. He figures that the filling of war-deferred consumer needs in the way of house building and renovation, clothing, feeding, transportation, etc., and industrial conversion, will provide sufficient work to tide over the first few postwar years, and that public works projects, while they certainly should be planned now, should be dispersed so ns to feed out employment as it becomes needed. But what concerns Premier Douglas more than anything else is whether the provinces are going to work things out as independent units or whether they are going to work them out in concert. That, too, is very much the concern of the Saskatchewan Reconstruction Council. There are differences in the approach, but Saskatchewan, like Manitoba, is federally minded.
The provincial Reconstruction Council was brought into being by the late Patterson Liberal Government, which placed F. C. Cronkite, Dean of Law, University of Saskatchewan, in charge of the studies. Cronkite was retained by the incoming Douglas administration to function under Reconstruction Minister J. H. Sturdy. Sturdy, incidentally, served four years overseas during World War l and three years overseas in this war as a Canadian Legion educational director.
The council’s report contains some 500 recommendations based on submissions by 200 organizations. It visualizes a “continuous period of social reconstruction based on a realization of human values,” and it ranks as the No. 1 priority “constitutional adjustments” designed to make governmental action possible in the ideal that has been put forward—that ideal being higher standards of material living, social security, greater cultural advantages.
It doesn’t think that present constitutional arrangements are such that either provincial or Dominion authorities are in a position to deal effectively with present-day problems; suggests amendments to the British North America Act.
It thinks the Dominion should have control over labor and labor relations in order that standards be uniform throughout the nation; argues that in the event of a major crisis through the paralysis of industry only the Dominion can deal with the matter effectively.
It wants the Dominion to have a greater control over marketing, which is complementary to trade and commerce, but would be satisfied with “concurrent jurisdiction with the provinces.”
It wants the Act to make it clear that legislative jurisdiction may be delegated by the Dominion
Parliament to fl Provincial Parliament and vice versa, and that the Parliament of Canada has power to “implement treaty obligations.”
And it wants the BNAA subsidy provisions repealed with substitution of a provision for payment to the provinces of such sums from a federal treasury as will enable the provinces to perform their constitutional obligations without resort to taxation higher than the Canadian average, such sums to be paid on the recommendation of an independent commission having full authority to make adequate investigations. As part of this readjustment the Dominion would be given exclusive jurisdiction to levy income taxes, corporation taxes and succession duties.
Claiming that the unsatisfactory economic position of Saskatchewan is in part attributable to federal policies in past years, the report submits that correction is plainly a national problem and that it is “reasonable and imperative that the Dominion should undertake vast irrigation and power developments in this province.” It adds that the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars will be necessary “is of
little moment since the manpower and materials will be available.”
In order that immediate preparation of plans might be made for works that will bridge the war-to-peace transition period, the report urges the Provincial Government to make strong representations to the Dominion Government for financial assistance, and for announcement of policy regarding long-term, lowinterest loans to municipalities.
The CCF Government needs no urging in this regard. It considers that first responsibility for reconstruction lies upon Ottawa.
The very basis of Saskatchewan is agriculture. Apart from irrigation of the dry belts, the Reconstruction report would like to see violent fluctuations made impossible by means of floor prices and crop insurance. Also it would like to see some diversification. It recommends more scientific research in the matter of processing farm products so that small industries may be established. Chemurgy is a word you hear often on the prairie. Moose Jaw is having it visualized. Taking over an old brewery building, a company named Prairie Chemurgy Limited is starting in to manufacture glucose and starch from wheat. While some of the politicians are a bit lyrical about the potentialities for industrialization, the council report is more realistic. For instance it accepts the fact that alcohol cannot be made from wheat as cheaply as it can be made from molasses or petroleum or wood; that the manufacture of rubber from wheat is an uneconomic method. But it does see possibilities in the utilization of wastes and in the processing of animal and plant food products.
To Premier Douglas and his Cabinet co-operative enterprise is the solution to the small industries problem. Private business, if it is willing to fall in with the CCF’s labor code and taxation ideas, will be welcomed. But if it doesn’t want to come in on that basis then the Government will stimulate co-operative business, or, if necessary, go into business itself. Already the legislature has passed an act empowering the Government to go into business so far as natural resources are concerned. Under it the Resources Minister can operate and extend any mine, factory, plant machinery or equipment.
The co-operative principle also figures in the Government’s land settlement planning. The administration is offering free land for use by returned men (soil surveys are under way now) and will co-operate with the Ottawa Government in applying the Dominion Land Settlement Act. Individuals will be helped to get good land. But co-operative farming looms large in the mind of Reconstruction Minister Sturdy. As he expressed it to me, “The day of the pioneer farmer is past.” He thinks that the ex-soldier isn’t likely to make a go of it; that the cost of land, clearing and necessary mechanical equipment is too great for a veteran starting off with a Government grant; that he’d be better off inside a co-operative farming scheme under which united effort would clear land and finance machinery for community use. Co-operative farm plans are not definite, but an experiment may be tried soon with a group of 150 families.
With an eye on expanding development of natural resources, the Reconstruction Councils report recommends surveys of mining potentialities, a forest protection and development program, encouragement of the fish and fur trade. It calls for improved highway and railway facilities; wants more use made of the Hudson’s Bay route; urges intensive study of electrification.
Then it outlines needed social, health and medical services and improved conditions for the civil service. It urges early implementation of the Rowell-Sirois recommendations regarding federal aid to ensure the maintenance of a national minimum standard of education; higher salaries and qualifications for teachers and larger administrative units; establishment of agricultural schools; better housing on farms and in urban centres; town planning and various cultural activities.
And, of course, there are detailed the various construction projects submitted by scores of municipalities, towns and cities—street and road improvements, extension of utilities, new hospitals, new city and municipal halls, community centres, and so forth.
Few of these projects could be started without borrowing.
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Regina is one of the exceptions. It could make a start. From reserves taken from the city-operated utilities it has set aside about $110,000 for postwar emergency use. Its council has authorized the spending of $11,800 on engineering surveys and plans for road improvements; water, power and sewer extensions, etc. There are long-term plans for a civic centre, with new city hall, art gallery, museum and auditorium. For more immediate work, aside from the $110,000 starter, Regina’s civic officials feel they are in a favorable borrowing position. The city has never defaulted on an interest payment or missed a payment of principal. It has steadily reduced its debt, has money in the bank and no bank loans.
According to a survey made by I Regina’s Board of Trade, the number ! of postwar jobs arising from the needs j of the population will be something j like 830 fewer than the estimated j number of men and women who will j need placement. Local businessmen j are not pessimistic about that. They 1 are not optimistic about new industries j being established. They are doubtful I about the General Motors plant start! ing up again. But they believe that if agriculture gets a reasonable break the resulting prosperity of present businesses in the capital will take care of the slack.
Saskatoon, too, has been accumulating reserves; has an emergency fund into which $60,000 has gone this year, i The city treasurer points out that the fund Ls fluid, in Victory Bonds, and could be used to make a start on post-
war works. But the city council, as one of its commissioners put it, is “anxiously awaiting the Dominion Government’s financial policy in reconstruction matters.” Not a few of Saskatoon’s citizens also are wondering how the CCF Government’s policies are going to affect the insurance and loan companies who provide money for house construction under the National Housing Act.
Up in Prince Albert there is one project which isn’t going to wait for an announcement as to where the money can be obtained. The citizens there want a community civic centre. They want it badly. So, by popular subscription, they have put up some $70,000 themselves.
There are similarities between Manitoba and Saskatchewan in some respects. Not in matters of governmental paternalism, government-owned businesses, state industries or financing, in connection w'ith all of which Premier Garson and his Cabinet supporters are sitting with their fingers crossed, hoping that Premier Douglas next door won’t go too far out on a limb and dampen the credit of the West as a whole.
Nor are they alike in the matter of provincial funds for postwar purposes. Manitoba has about $4 millions, transferred from annual income to a reserve fund for use in postwar emergencies. That fund will be augmented by the end of the year.
Manitoba assumes that constitutional and financial adjustments will be made to enable it to carry out its share of a national postwar program.
It believes that the desirable basis for
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these adjustments is contained in the Rowell-Sirois report.
It is “federally minded.” As Premier Garson put it, “We in Manitoba are not interested in establishing our right to do things we know we cannot possibly do.” To him the all-important question is whether Canadians generally want to function as a nation or as a collection of entities. His conviction is that they want to function as a nation.
But so far as provincial planning goes Manitoba has done well. It has an efficient reconstruction committee of deputy ministers headed by Deputy Treasurer Ralph Pearson, one of the most capable public servants in the country. That committee functions under a Cabinet subcommittee with Premier Garson in the chair, but has direct access to the Premier.
Generally speaking, the reconstruction committee believes that consumer needs will supply sufficient employment for several years after the war, and that provincial and municipal projects will not be actually needed until the reconversion impetus has waned. Then they will serve as reservoirs from which work can be fed as required.
Development projects are placed under three headings: (1) Works
necessary apart from the need to provide employment, (2) a reserve pool to provide employment as needed, (3) hydro and connected developments.
Projected works include rural electrification, agricultural settlement and rehabilitation, forestry developments, mining, provincial road building and improvement, public health and educational programs, and numerous municipal projects.
Completed are town planning designs for Morden, Killarney, Russell and Minnedosa. They are demonstration plans. Each town represents a different set of conditions. Other communities could work to one or other plan. In a preliminary stage is a metropolitan planning scheme for Greater Winnipeg.
Prof. William Waines, the reconstruction committee’8economic adviser, reports a bottleneck in all planning of these types—that of a lack of technical help. Until they are released from war work, engineers, etc., just can’t be had.
The province, of course, is co-operating with the Dominion Government in the matter of soldiers’ land settlement, and soil surveys are now being made.
The committee has before it completed reports on such broadscale matters as agriculture and farm rehabilitation; on the industrial utilization of plant and animal products, and possible new uses for farm wastes.
The latter reports are realistic. With much further research needed, they see possibilities in the use of wheat for starch; proteins for plastics; oil seeds for paint, food products, soap, etc.; in the use of straw for fibre board; in the making of artificial fibres from this and that. But they dismiss as uneconomic the making of alcohol from wheat; see little reason for expecting that an industrial development could be based on grain screenings.
In Manitoba there isn’t much talk about co-operative enterprise in connection with such small industries. But the Provincial Government has chipped in its third of $250,000 put up by Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in support of a co-operative farm implement manufacturing company which has acquired a plant in Winnipeg. And there is an undertaking to advance further funds to this project at a later date.
The City of Winnipeg itself feels fairly optimistic about the future. It has experienced no big war boom so there isn’t likely to be a slump when
the fighting is over. Enlistments from the district have been heavy, and large numbers of skilled workers have been weaned away to eastern war plants. Yet, while more dwellings are being built this year than for many years previously, Winnipeg continues to have a housing problem, acute in the low income brackets. The city hasn’t been deliriously busy. But it has been busy. And it is confident that when its boys and girls come out of the services and war plants there are going to be jobs for them.
The city council has long-term plans for rehabilitation of its street railway system, for a new city hall, for street paving, construction of storm sewers, and so forth. No really big postwar projects can be carried out on the city’s money. There is a public improvement plan under which repayments are made over a period, but in general Winnipeggers believe in paying as they go. So, if the ratepayers approve, postwar projects will have to be financed by bond issues.
But it is to general business expansion that Winnipeg looks for its postwar employment. The Manitoba Industrial Development Board estimates that apart from servicemen some 8,000 persons employed in local war industries will have to be placed in peacetime jobs. Alderman R. A. Sara, managing secretary of the board, doesn’t think that the change-over is going to be accomplished overnight. But he hasn’t a doubt that it will be accomplished. In fact it does one good to have a chat with Mr. Sara. “We think we’ve got everything for industries,” he says. “We have power to spare, perfect railway facilities, ample labor supply in normal times. The time lost through strikes in Manitoba is but one thousandth of the time so lost throughout the Dominion. We have a marvellous water supply. The cordite plant here is using 10 million gallons a day. The $25 millions postwar plan of the Manitoba Power Commission for rural electrification offers a unique opportunity for the manufacture of millions of dollars worth of apparatus and equipment not now made in this country. It can be manufactured here.
“There will be a tremendous need for new buildings. We’ll need sash and door mills. There’ll be need for help in the railway shops, rehabilitating equipment; in iron, steel, flour and packing establishments. There is room for a great deal of expansion in established industries such as men’s and women’s wear, house furniture, etc. There’ll be all kinds of opportunities.”
From Vancouver Island to the eastern boundary of Manitoba, then, there are designs for a future. They have been plotted. They can be seen. The extent to which they can be put into effect depends upon the extent to which they can be financed. And that depends upon the national policy that has yet to be announced by the Dominion Government.
But when the leaders of all the Canadian provinces sit down with those from Ottawa, the West, I think, will speak clearly and emphatically on one point. Which is that nationbuilding requires national doing and national thinking; that assistance cannot be regarded as sectional, must be considered as benefiting the whole.
That, of course, is not a new idea. It was the concept of Confederation. The West’s point is that it never really has been followed through.
(Editor's note: This is the second and concluding article on postwar planning in the Western provinces. Central Canada and the Maritimes will be covered at a later date.)