GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

The Sharks and The Sprats

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK March 1 1947
GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

The Sharks and The Sprats

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK March 1 1947

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

The Sharks and The Sprats

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

IN THESE inflationary times, the real Problem No. 1 for Canadian diplomats has nothing to do with protocol. It’s the problem of how to live on your pay and allowances, in a country where your money won’t buy as much this week as it did last week. Now, after working on it for about a year, the Foreign Services think they worked out a solution.

The thing had become pretty serious. In Paris, it’s lately been reckoned, living costs doubled between December, 1945, and December, 1946. You can imagine what that would mean for a Third Secretary (salary $2,520) whose living allowances had been fixed on the scale of 1945 or earlier.

Ambassadors, better paid, get less sympathy but deserve just as much. They have to entertain on a large scale, in most embassies, and the cost of doing this at local prices is often ruinous. When Fraser Elliott was appointed Ambassador to Chile, local Job’s comforters had fun showing him, by simple arithmetic, that his $10,000 salary was really worth about $4,000, if that. Even for a former Director of Income Tax, it looked like a pretty grim fate.

* * *

OF RECENT months the situation has been growing steadily worse. When our foreign missions were first reopened after the war, the problem of living costs was relatively simple—nobody knew what money would be worth in liberated countries, so the Government simply paid the board and lodging of its representatives. But as soon as enough data became available to fix a reasonable living allowance, this system was dropped. Now it’s continued only in Chungking, where the inflation is so utterly wild that no system could possibly keep up with it.

Elsewhere, everyone is on a living allowance with—in some cases—Canadian goods imported to supplement the necessities that are available in countries where the men are stationed. Moscow, for instance, has a standing order for tinned meats, cigarettes, tobacco, all kinds of tinned vegetables and everything in the way of soap or cleansers. The External Affairs Department does the buying and shipping, but the recipients pay for it in full—including freight. It’s reckoned that freight and pilferage between here and Moscow add 25% to the cost of all these items.

The Government pays freight charges only once—that’s when a man first goes to his new job abroad, when he may charge Ottawa for “removal expenses.” That’s why a man starting out for China or Chile or the Soviet Union tries to stock up three years’ supply of clothes, soap, household mops and a thousand other items that are either expensive or unobtainable where he’s going.

But it’s not only in remote jobs that the problem exists. Right in Washington, living costs have skyrocketed since U. S. price control died on Capitol Hill last June. The Treasury Board did permit an upward revision of living allowances by about 33% last summer, and did the same for London, for similar reasons, but in both cases the increase came late enough to be well

behind requirements.

Now External Affairs, Trade and Commerce and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics have collaborrated on preparation of a workable index of foreign living costs in terms of the Canadian dollar’s purchasing power in each country. It’s still in the testing stage, but if all goes well, it will be put up to Treasury Board some time soon as a permanent yardstick of what an overseas representative needs.

WHEN the CCF came out for $50 pensions at age 65, it was more than a declaration of policy. It was also a smart piece of political tactics at the opening of a ticklish session.

More than ever, the big political conundrum of the season is “Who will coalesce with whom?” The big parties would like to coalesce with little parties the way a shark coalesces with a sprat. Prime Minister King would like to gobble up the CCF, Progressive Conservative Art Smith used a chunk of his party’s radio time to hope that the PC’s could gobble up Rightish Liberals, leaving a Lettish rump for the CCF. Another wing of Progressive Conservatives is talking, and to rather more purpose, of a real tie-up with Social Credit.

Alone of them all, the CCF doesn’t want to coalesce with anybody. Sprat-sized now, it hopes to grow—not just to aid the growth of the Liberal shark. But, though the CCF is the only party that doesn’t want to join anybody’s team, it’s the very party most in danger of being swallowed up by sheer circumstances. It’s already plain that on a good many issues this session, the CCF will have to support the Liberals or run a grave risk of a disastrous general election.

It was no coincidence, therefore, that CCF Leader M. J. Cold well chose the eve of Parliament’s opening to proclaim that “all talk of our party coalescing or collaborating with another party is utter nonsense ... I cannot say whether the Conservatives will be swallowed by reactionary Liberals, or vice versa. What I can and do say, is that the next few years will see the CCF replace one of the two old parties, either as the official opposition or as the government.”

These brave words had to be backed by action, and the action lay ready to hand.

Liberals were committed to amendment of the Old Age Pension Act. Progressive Conservatives might or might not support them. Meanwhile, the CCF would get in a lick that was (a) a real part of its platform; (b) politically popular; and (c) sure to put the CCF alone on one side (except for the possible backing of Social Credit) and to lump the two old parties together on the other. For fond as most politicians are of old people, not many rightof-centre M.P.’s were prepared to go as high as $50 pensions.

* * %

NOT LONG before D-Day, a Canadian in London was introduced to a fairly high official in Whitehall. The British dignitary asked politely what had brought the Canadian to England.

“I’m here in connection with the Mutual Aid program,” was the reply.

“Mutual Aid?” said the British official. “What’s that?”

Not at all surprised, the Canadian explained, “You’ve heard about Lend-Lease?”

“Oh yes, of course.”

“Well, we have the same kind of thing in Canada, but we call it Mutual Aid.”

Up to that time, Canada had already given about a billion and a half dollars’ worth of war material in Mutual Aid, most of it to Britain; that’s without counting the billion voted as a straight gift, the year before the Mutual Aid Board was set up. By the time the program was wound up, after V-J Day, the total aid given to eight allied countries amounted to just under $3H billions, of which $3 billions went to Britain and the rest to Australia, China, New Zealand, India, France, the West Indies and the U. S. S. R. Russia’s share amounted to $167 millions, all in the last year of the war.

It was not surprising, though, that the words “Mutual Aid” meant nothing to the fellow in London—they meant little to the average Canadian. Not many of us knew Canada was the one allied nation who took no Lend-Lease aid from United States; even fewer knew, except in the vaguest way, that we ran a Lend-Lease program of our own.

It was in a last-minute effort to repair this ignorance that the Mutual Aid Board, now defunct, turned in its final report in the opening days of the parliamentary session. The report, a nicely bound booklet, doesn’t contain any new facts of importance; most of its material was available before, to anyone interested. But the story has been retold with some interesting analyses.

Continued on page 65

Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 15

Here’s one of them:

In the two years that Mutual Aid operated, Canada produced nearly $5 billions worth' of munitions. Of that, just under $2 billions—38%—went to Mutual Aid. Only 29% went to Canadian armed services.

* * *

The Carroll Coal Report, tabled when Parliament opened, is a mountainous job—663 pages with more information than was ever before collected about the Canadian coal industry. But in the recommendations, this mountainous labor brought forth not a mouse but a three-headed lamb.

There’s the majority report, signed by Justices W. F. Carroll and C. C. McLaurin.

There’s a minority report, signed by United Mine Workers’ secretary, Angus Morrison.

There’s a “supplementary note” by Chairman Carroll which, amafcingly enough, disagrees with his own majority report—just as flatly as does the so-called “dissenting opinion” of Mr. Morrison.

Ottawa’s still wondering exactly how all this happened. But here, for the record, are the known facts of the case:

The Carroll Commission was set up two years ago last October, at C. D. Howe’s request, to make a “full enquiry” into the Canadian coal industry. By last midsummer it had done so—

called in experts, pored over records and balance sheets, investigated every coal mine and every mining company in Canada.

Six months’ more work went into the writing of it. Most of this was done by Mr. Justice McLaurin of Calgary. He spent weeks in Ottawa last summer and fall with the Commission secretariat, whipping their vast mounds of material into 14 chapters and innumerable tables and charts. Each draft was circulated, not only among his Commission colleagues but among a flock of technical experts.

All through, the Report makes a steady case against any major change in pre-war fuel policy. Particularly, it comes out against extending transport subventions (which had run to $41 Yi millions all told by the end of 1944) to water-borne cargoes coming up to the Montreal market. Nova Scotia coal held that market unaided in 1939, and the majority report says:

“There is no adequate reason why the Nova Scotia mines should not recapture the Montreal market without subvention assistance.”

That was the recommendation Mr. Justice Carroll signed in mid-December. Mr. Morrison, the labor man, disagreed—he thought extra aid might be given “as a transitional measure.” But the other two commissioners came out flatly for a return to the pre-war arrangement.

At that point Mr. Justice McLaurin, having finished the report, went home to Alberta. In January Mr. Justice

Continued on page 67

Continued, from page 65

Carroll produced his “supplementary note,” saying that “notwithstanding the foregoing observations”—viz., his contrary recommendation on the preceding page—he thought Cape Breton mines ought to get “interim support” to help their coal to the Montreal market, when production subsidies are withdrawn.

At his press conference when the report was published, Mr. Justice McLaurin said he took no responsibility at all for this recommendation of the chairman. Production subsidies had run to $15 H millions during the war, practically all of it to Nova Scotia’s Dominion Coal Company, and production dropped from 2 V¿ tio 1 tons per man per day.

“I guess I’m hard-boiled enough,” McLaurin said, “to suggest that Nova Scotia had better get back to 2]/¿ tons per man-day—they did it in 1939 and they should be able to do it now. I wouldn’t attempt to assign the fault; it may be labor, may be management, may be both. I just think they ought to continue to get to Montreal under their own steam.”

* * *

A story has been going around about the Polish veterans brought to Canada as farm hands. These men, the story goes, got no medical examination overseas, nothing but a political screening by the RCMP “to make absolutely sure they were Fascists.” Now it turns out (according to this story) that about 10% of them have t.b.

Well, that’s not quite the way it all happened.

The RCMP did give the Poles a political screening—but they say it was to keep out Nazis, not Communists. There were no Communists in General Ander’s army; if there had been any, they could have gone home.

But of the 200,000 men in that Polish army, about 60,000 had come in “across the lines”—i.e., from German territory during hostilities—and some of them hadn’t arrived until after V-E Day. Some, moreover, had been conscripts in the German army. The object of the RCMP examination was to make sure that every Pole admitted to Canada had actually fought against the Axis.

As for their physical screening, the Polish veterans got a thorough clinical examination, the same given to any type of immigrant. The only thing they didn’t get was an X-ray — there were no facilities for it in Italy where they were examined.

All 2,900 men accepted for Canada appeared to be in perfect health, and if they’d been any other group of immigrants that would have been the end of it. However, among the Army, the Labor department and the Health department it was decided to make assurance double sure in these cases, so they were called in from their farm jobs for X-ray examination.

Sixty men, or about 2% of the total, turned out to be active cases of tuberculosis; another 64 men are under observation as suspected cases.

Even at that, officials are upset about the whole affair. Two to four per cent is a high incidence of t.b. among apparently healthy men. Will other European immigrants show a similar rate?

“I’d favor sending them back,” said one senior official, “if I weren’t fairly sure they’d get no treatment there. After all, we took these chaps in because we owed them something for fighting on our side; now I guess it’s up to us to look after them. But the whole thing does make a good case for setting up X-ray facilities in immigration offices overseas.” -fa