LONDON LETTER

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

POWER POLITICS

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 15 1948
LONDON LETTER

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

POWER POLITICS

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 15 1948

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

POWER POLITICS

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

IN ADDITION to their more publicized combats, Ottawa and the Ontario Government have been conducting a lively argument lately over power development in the St. Lawrence River.

Ontario’s power shortage is desperate and it’s recognized as a national problem. A power famine in Ontario could cripple the industrial production of Canada. That famine could be averted (though not for at least five years) by the enormous job of developing Canada’s half share of the 2,200,000 horsepower that now runs to waste in the international rapids section of the St. Lawrence. But the question is how to go about developing it?

Ontario Hydro and the New York State Power Authority have announced their willingness t.o spend $225 millions apiece on the project, starting as soon as possible. Ontario has asked Ottawa, and New York is asking Washington, to refer their plan to the International Joint. Commission for approval and authorization.

So far, Ottawa hasn’t said yes. There’s been no refusal the matter is “under study’’—but the Ottawa reaction has been chilly. The reason is that Ottawa hopes for ratification, at the next, session of Congress, of the St. Lawrence seaway agreement of 1941.

That agreement was very favorable to Canada. We got. full credit for the work already done on the Welland Canal, and for t he $127 millions we’d have to spend on the purely Canadian section of the waterway below the international rapids. The actual joint, enterprise would cost a total of $515 millions (at 1947 prices) of which the United States would pay $414 millions. Ottawa argues the end result would be that Canada would get both

the seaway canal and the power develop ment for less money than Ontario Hydre would have to spend on the powei development, alone.

The Ontario Hydro’s attitude is that if Ottawr can get bot h seaway and power at a lower cost foi power than would be the case if power were developed alone, they’d obviously be all for it. But, they add, Ontario has been waiting decades for the seaway with no results and Ontario has got to have power quickly, with or without seaway. Up to now getting a treaty through Congress has been the stumbling block and if Ontario and New York State use the machinery of the International Joint Commission they argue they can get a power agreement without having to get a treaty through Congress. Power developed without the seaway will cost more t han power developed with the seaway, but even on t he higher-cost basis it is the cheapest large block of power in sight.

Power Agreement Needed

IN CONGRESS, the seaway has been bitterly opposed by spokesmen and lobbyists for various American ports that might, lose some trade if the canal system were deepened. It’s been favored partly by the Middle West,, interested in cheaper access to the sea, and partly by northeastern states t hat are hungry for the power development.

So far these combined influences have been not, quite enough to push the seaway through Congress -—when it came up last February it was shelved. This year, with the Ungava iron development and the war scare, the seaway may pick up enough recruits to win especially

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as Dewey has always been a seaway man.

But, Ottawa argues, if the power job were begun separately, power-hungry states would have no more reason to hack the seaway as a wrhole. They’d lost: interest—and that might be enough to defeat the seaway again.

Ottawa says it, isn’t trying to block the power development indefinitely. If the seaway is rejected by the new U. S. Congress in 1949 as it was in February, 1948, it’ll be dropped for the time being; so far as Ottawa is concerned the power job can go ahead alone. But they don’t want the applecart upset until they have one more crack at the seaway.

To which Hydro replies: Get us the power—quick.

Even in Ottawa not many people noticed it—just a fire in a farmhouse about 15 miles from town—but Canada suffered a major national calamity last month. The entire library of Dr. O. D. Skelton, the late great, Undersecretary for External Affairs, was destroyed by fire.

A few years ago Dr. Skelton’s heirs refused $25,000 offered by an American university for his books. He had intended them to be a gift to Canada, perhaps the nucleus of the national library that we’ve been talking about for 50 years and still haven’t got. It was probably the finest collection of its kind in North America.

Part of it was Canadiana. There were irreplaceable volumes of early memoirs. There were boxes and boxes of manuscripts, including the private papers Dr. Skelton had accumulated during years as head of the Department of External Affairs. To the historians

of 20th-century Canada they would have been a gold mine.

It also contained the most coreplete collection on the continent, perhaps in the world, on the development of Socialism in Europe. Dr. Skelton wrote 8 hook, some 30 years ago, entitled ‘Socialism: A Critical Analysis.” Not bng after it was published he got a fetter from Moscow which ran some:hing like this:

“Dear Sir: I have read your book and I consider it the most honest and most competent crit icism of Socialism I have ever read. I invite you to visit the Soviet Union.—(Signed) N. Lenin.”

All the documents on which that critique was based has now been lost. The letter from Lenin was burned with them.

* * *

In the race to organize the new province of Newfoundland, the Liberals appear to have won the first heat.

Joseph Smallwood, spark plug of the confederation campaign, hopes to be a Liberal premier of Newfoundland next year. His political organization in the plebiscite was a good one—the best in the island, he claims. And he also believes that it can be converted intact into a Liberal organization throughout Newfoundland’s seven federal and numerous provincial ridings.

This operation hasn’t actually been performed yet, though it will be attempted as soon as the Newfoundland delegation gets back home from Ottawa. Rut the Grits are rejoicing in the conviction that the vote for confederation was, or will be, a Liberal vote. Leaders in the confederation campaign, they say, were mainly Liberals and that goes for the anonymous workers in the polls as well as for the big-name spokesmen. They’re confident that the same men could get the same support, or better, in a general election.

On that assumption, the Liberals think they can win five out of Newfoundland’s seven seats. Their over-all majority in the plebiscite was small— 52% to 48% of the popular vote—but the anticonfederation vote was heavily concentrated in the two urban ridings. In the rest of the country, the majority for confederation was substantial.

Conservatives and CCF have very definite plans for political organization in Newfoundland, but at this writing

they have not gone far toward execution. The CCF intends to send down Joe Nose worthy, the Toronto schoolteacher who defeated Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen in South York in 1942— Noseworthy was born in Newfoundland. But he couldn’t be spared until after the by-election in Algoma East, where he was one of the few outside helpers sent in against L. B. Pearson. Conservatives have had several scouts out, and have made various preliminary arrangements for lining up a Newfoundland organization, but the solid and definite work was delayed until after the election of Hon. George Drew as party leader. Consequently, it hasn’t jelled yet.

It’s taken for granted that the Conservatives’ primary support, for the moment at least, will come from the responsible-government faction, which showed itself powerful in St. John’s but weak in the country. If that’s the way the parties do line up, Conservatives will have some ground to make up before they can hope for victory in the new province.

* * *

CCF-ers didn’t care two hoots about the Algoma East by-election. They did enter a man against L. B. Pearson there but the CCF says he was running not so much against Mr. Pearson as against the Social Credit candidate.

The CCF says it had nothing against Mr. Pearson, personally, and nothing against the Government’s foreign policy —they’re just as strongly for North Atlantic Union and the containment of Soviet agression as any other party. They were ready to issue a statement, saying they wouldn’t contest Algoma, when the Social Credit man threw his hat in the ring. That changed the mind of the local CCF people in Algoma.

The CCF’s serious intentions in Ontario, however, are focused on two provincial by-elections that haven’t yet been called—Parry Sound and Cochrane North. Both these seats were CCF in 1943, both went Liberal in 1945, and both Conservative in 1948.

Both seats are largely rural. Last June in rural Ontario the CCF got nowhere. They feel that if they could take Cochrane and Parry Sound, they would take the urban curse off their farmer-labor party. ★