After 18 months of Socialist Government, Saskatchewan is a small-scale display of what the Party would like to do with the rest of Canada

D. B. Rogers,Victor J. Mackie January 15 1946


After 18 months of Socialist Government, Saskatchewan is a small-scale display of what the Party would like to do with the rest of Canada

D. B. Rogers,Victor J. Mackie January 15 1946


After 18 months of Socialist Government, Saskatchewan is a small-scale display of what the Party would like to do with the rest of Canada

D. B. Rogers Victor J. Mackie

I SOMETIMES think we take ourselves much too seriously in this movement ... I hope we in the CCF will learn to laugh more.”

The voice was the voice of Saskatchewan’s premier, Thomas Clement Douglas. He was speaking before 500 CCF-ers at the Party’s provincial convention in Saskatoon.

About 100 miles to the north was a man who probably was wishing also that Saskatchewan’s CCF Government wouldn’t take itself so seriously. He was J. C. Mitchell, Prince Albert. The day before, the Government had taken his box factory away from him because he had refused to conform to the new Saskatchewan Trade Union Act.

And for all the words of Premier Douglas and the wishes of such businessmen as J. C. Mitchell, the Saskatchewan Government—first Socialist Government in North America—-is taking itself seriously. During approximately 1ft months in office the CCF has proceeded methodically with North America’s first working experiment in Socialism. In general, it apparently is attempting provincial-scale application of the Party’s master plan for Canada. The process has made the Party enemies as well as friends.

The outcome of the Mitchell case shook some businessmen more than slightly. When the dispute began Mr. Mitchell was not the box factory’s owner, although he was president, manager and principal shareholder. He had built up the business in 25 years from a one-man affair to a concern employing 50 persons.

He and his employees’ union, a CCL affiliate, had wrangled for more than a year over the signing of a collective bargaining agreement containing maintenance-of-membership and checkoff provisions. The management refused to grant these concessions, which, when requested by the employees, are compulsory under Saskatchewan’s new Trade Union Act.

Finally the CCF Government’s Labor Relations Board recommended appointment of a controller in the plant. Wishing to avoid such arbitrary action, the Cabinet asked the company to submit its side of the case. The company’s solicitor asked for time to prepare his brief. A week was granted. In that week the factory was sold to Mitchell, its manager. All employees were given dismissal notices.

The Government no longer could take action immediately under its Trade Union Act, because the company had a new owner. But angered by the attempt to circumvent its legislation, the Government used expropriation powers granted by a new Crown Corporations Act, seized the plant, put in a Government manager, and rehired the employees under a new agreement, granting all concessions sought by the Union.

The company had sold its assets to Mitchell for $11,439.42. When the Government seized the plant an expert was called in to set a price for the expropriation —not to exceed $11,439.42, although the actual value of the plant apparently is several times that amount. The exact compensation had not been announced when this was written.

In general treatment of such problems, however, the Government’s announced policy is one of support for private enterprise as long as it is “properly run for the benefit of the people of Saskatchewan.” But, “any enterprise which is so big that it controls the life of a community ought to be owned by the community.” This seems to be the guiding principle in the administration’s wide socialization program.

To raise money for its industrial development program the Government floated a $1 million issue of 10-year, 3% Saskatchewan bonds. Started a year ago, the loan eventually was oversubscribed by direct public sale. A second issue is planned for this spring. The Government has authority from the legislature to borrow up to $5 millions in this way.

Responsibility for directing this money into the CCF’s socialization plan for Saskatchewan rests with the 11-man Cabinet. Led by Douglas 40-year-old former Baptist minister and onetime linotype operator —it includes five farmers, three teachers, a lawyer and a railwayman. In the 55-man legislature are 31 farmers,

eight teachers, six railwaymen, four lawyers, two merchants, one preacher, one former Wheat Pool field expert, one trapper and one businessman.

This shortage of businessmen in the Government has been a main point in the five-man Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s socialization program— which, in the 18 months the CCF has been in office, has moved steadily into fields previously occupied in Saskatchewan only by private enterprise.

Most conspicuous among the Government’s industrial ventures are a work boot factory in Regina, a woollen mill at Moose Jaw and a brick plant at Estevan.

Boot Business

THE REGINA boot factory was established at an initial cost to the province of $100,000. Secondhand equipment from Winnipeg was installed. In November the factory employed 35 men and was producing 200 pairs of shoes daily. With additional equipment, now on order, it is expected to employ 100. Set up as a crown corporation the factory sells directly to the Provincial Government in addition to using regular retail outlets in Saskatchewan. , The work boots are used in the Government’s public institutions such as jails and mental hospitals.

A tannery has been established at Regina to operate in conjunction with the boot factory. The tannery so far has cost $85,000. It was scheduled to start operating last Oct. 1, but now is not expected to open until February.

Original cost estimate for the woollen mill was $125,000. This has been exceeded by $100,000. The mill will employ 50. Saskatchewan sheep will supply the raw wool. Products are expected to be marketed mainly within the province.

Before the Government laid its $150,000 on the line and took it over, the Estevan brick plant had been idle several years. The price was said by Opposition members of the legislature to be too high, mainly because the equipment was secondhand. It is expected to have a daily capacity of 500,000 bricks, and to employ between 75 and 100 men. Initial operations have been completed.

Two modern fish-filleting plants are l>eing erected in the north at a cost of approximately $100,000, and one former private plant has been bought. Fish will be bought from Saskatchewan fishermen, inspected, filleted, quick frozen, wrapped, packed and shipped to local and foreign.

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markets. The publicly owned fishfilleting plants (there are still two privately owned plants operating now but the Government says it will buy them this year) were scheduled to start production early this year. Each is designed to employ 20 workers and process a minimum of 500,000 pounds of fish annually.

Lumber for building the fish-filleting plants came from a Government sawmill, one of several provided for in Government plans. The expropriated Prince Albert box factory will be used to turn out wooden boxes in which the fish can be packed. Incidentally, one of the first acts of the Government manager after he took over the box factory was to raise the price of byproduct kindling from $2.25 to $4 a load, and the price of byproduct stove-wood slabs from $4.75 to $6. These prices, he said, were still well below the ceiling.

The Government also owns and operates a Regina printing plant. Cost wás $85,000. The plant is capable of turning out, under present conditions, about $125,000worth of printing yearly.

Total printing orders of the Government annually amount to $200,000.

The Government also is experimenting with a household cleaning powder— testing it out in selected Saskatchewan homes before making a definite decision to enter production.

That covers developments to date in industrial socialization. Important moves have also been made in the fields of fur marketing, power and transportation.

One of the administration’s first steps was to set up a publicly owned furmarketing service in Regina to serve trappers and ranchers.

In the power field there has been steady expansion of the Saskatchewan Government power commission, originally set up by a Liberal Government. The ultimate aim is to take over all private power lines in the province. Two private companies were bought out in 1945, one for $1,462,000 and the other for $420,000. Only two private power companies remain in Saskatchewan. The total mileage of power lines controlled by commission at the end of 1945 was 2,518 miles compared to 1,560 miles when the CCF went into office.

The Government will enter the trans-

port business next April 1. Private bus lines whose licenses expire on that date j will be allowed to operate only in areas j of Saskatchewan not served by the 3,300 miles of Government-owned lines. Regina will be the terminal.

When asked by reporters if the Government would interfere with interprovincial operations of larger bus companies, Public Works Minister J. '1'. Douglas replied: “The Saskatchewan Government cannot prevent the larger bus lines operating an interprovincial run across the province, but can stop private bus companies, operating interprovincial runs, from picking up passengers in Saskatchewan.” He said this question wall be a matter of negotiation between major private bus lines and the Saskatchewan Government.

The Government has not indicated how far-reaching are its future nationalization plans, other than to say: “We have only started.”

The insurance business long has been a favorite target for CCF speakers. In Saskatchewan the Government got into this field soon after its election, appropriating $12,000 to finance firstyear operations of the Government insurance office. Only fire, auto and casualty policies have been written so far. No figures are available on the amount of business handled.

Treasury Backing

Each policy is backed by the treasury of the province. However, the writers have learned on good authority that the insurance office has reinsured with Lloyd’s. Government officials have refused confirmation of this. One of their arguments against privately owned insurance companies has been that they took money outside of the province.

A move requiring all institutions receiving Government grants to take out their fire protection with the publicly owned insurance office has been contemplated by the Cabinet. Compulsory public liability insurance for all motor vehicles bas also been considered.

Laying the legislative basis for the CCF program has resulted in some minor dissension within Party ranks because of its emphasis on industry. Previous Saskatchewan Governments have always stressed agriculture— which produced $500 millions in cash income in 1944.

The Party’s planners contend, however, that as long as Saskatchewan concentrates on agriculture it will be subject to severe depressions resulting either from crop failure or collapse of world markets. They say they are determined to develop industries in the province to achieve what they consider a better economic balance.

Some Saskatchewan farmers have complained at so much attention being paid to industry when much needs to be done to better agriculture. These critics point to the need for an improved soil policy, increased land clearing, irrigation projects and similar undertakings. Also, at a recent provincial convention, the value of Party affiliation with labor unions was questioned by some farmer delegates. These critics were answered with the statement that labor and farmers must bury their differences and join in the fight against capitalism. The Party argues that as labor improves its position the farmer benefits, and vice versa—and, with the exception of one important act affecting agriculture, legislation laying the groundwork for industrial socialization has continued to be dominant.

One of the most important is the CCF’s Trade Union Act, legilsation which some CCF officials have said the

Party would like to make uniform across Canada. It is modelled largely after a draft act drawn up by the Ontario CCF Opposition in 1943 after consultation with Ontario unions.

The Act calls for compulsory collective bargaining, with compulsory checkoff and maintenance of membership if the employees ask for it. It provides for voting to choose a bargaining agency, and the vote may be called when a union can show a membership of 25% of the employees. Machinery also is provided for conciliation and arbitration, but it seldom has been used.

A list of unfair labor practices is set out in the Act, 10 for employers and two for employees. Among other rules,

employers may not interfere with employees exercising their rights under Trade Union Act or contributing financial support to unions. Employees are forbidden to use intimidation with a view to encouraging or discouraging membership in a labor organization or to strike while an application is pending before a conciliation board.

Carries Court Authority

The Act gives the Government power to take over and operate any business concern if the owner persists in disregarding or disobeying orders of the Labor Relations Board. That’s what happened to Mr. Mitchell and his