Political Thieves Sometimes Prosper

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1953


Political Thieves Sometimes Prosper

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1953


Political Thieves Sometimes Prosper


THIS ANECDOTE is a hit out of season now, but I only heard it the other day: Paul Martin, Minister of Health and Welfare, went holidaying in the West Indies during the Christmas recess. He intended to come home right after New Year’s, but had such a good time he was tempted to stay a little longer. He cabled his deputy minister, George Davidson, to ask if anything important was coming up. On Friday, Jan. 2, he got the following caille in reply:

’Tis the day after New Year’s, a day of remorse;

Not a creature is stirring, not even a horse.

IN ALL THE fuss and furor about the “stolen” copy of the Currie Report that was handed to the CCF, neither side seems to have recalled the distinguished historical precedents. Twice before a similar thing has happened, and each time it won an election for tlje “receiver of stolen property.”

Liberals won the election of 1873 on the strength of the Pacific Scandal, the revelation that Sir John A. Macdonald and the Conservative Party had exacted money from the prospective builders of the CPR. The most damning bit of evidence was a telegram from Sir John A. Macdonald to Sir Hugh Allan, head of the CPR group:

I must have another ten thousand.

Will be last time of calling. Do not

fail. Answer today.

Previously Sir George Etienne Cartier, Macdonald’s chief lieutenant had written to Sir Hugh that “the friends of the Government will expect to beassisted with funds in t he pending elections, and any amount which you

and your company will advance for that purpose shall he recouped to you.”

How did the Liberals get hold of these incriminating documents? They paid five thousand dollars to a disgruntled secretary of Sir Hugh Allan’s lieutenant, J. J. C. Abbott, who had stolen them from Abbott’s office. The thief was also rewarded with a government job when the Liberals got into power.

Conservatives won the election of 1891 with the help of a similar theft. The Liberals’ newspaper, The Globe, had lately hired as chief editorial writer one Edward Farrer. Before coming to the Globe Farrer had written a little pamphlet for private circulation (only a dozen copies were ever printed) suggesting a policy whereby the United States might force Canada to beg for annexation.

Proofs of the Farrer pamphlet were stolen by a printer and turned over to Sir John A. Macdonald, who revealed them at a mass meeting in Toronto and set going his campaign slogan against the “veiled treason” of the Liberals: “A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die.” He won the election.

If history should repeat itself verbatim, M. J. Coldwell would be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

BY THE TIME this item is published Canadian Civil Defense authorities will have completed an Experiment that seems to have been unique, at least on this side of the Iron Curtain. They have been trying to find out how long a human being can survive, unwounded but without special clothing, if he is pinned in a shattered house in sub-zero weather.

They had to gamble on the weather, of course, because the timetable was set up months ago for the second and third weeks of February, but in Ottawa that is a reasonably safe bet. About twenty hardy souls volunteered as guinea pigs.

Site of this and many other Civil Defense experiments is the old Gamble farmhouse on the Connaught Rifle Ranges, fifteen miles upriver from Ottawa. This dwelling, partly frame and partly brick, has been pushed, pulled and blasted into a good simulation of a bombed-out home. Normally the house is used for training Canadians in what to do in a blitz. The February experiment is different.

If a Canadian city were attacked in winter how fast would the rescuers have to be to rescue even the unwounded from the rubble-blocked basements? How long before hope would be gone, and the victims all frozen to death?

Some of the twenty-odd volunteers go into the Gamble cellar fully clothed. Others wear pyjamas with perhaps a scrap of blanket. Some crouch in spaces big enough to let them move about and keep circulation going, others are pinned in one position.

Of course, nobody is allowed to freeze. Doctors take careful note of the fall in body temperature, changes in the pulse rate and so on, during the first few hours. From these data they are able to calculate with reasonable accuracy how much longer it would be before the victim lost consciousness and finally died.

• •

Of the 2,562 men and women who have taken Civil Defense courses in the past two and a half years about three hundred have had a special training which will be no use in wartime but is essential in preparing to meet the threat of war. These three hundred are trained as “casualty fakers.”

The idea is that when a first-aid team finds a casualty it has to be able to form some notion of what’s wrong with him. For one thing the rescuers have to be hardened to the mere sight of grave wounds. Major Richard Bingham, one of the full-time staff at Civil Defense Headquarters here, has devised a number of ingenious props that make squeamish onlookers faint.

They also have to know what happens if a casualty is mishandled. For example, if a victim is crushed under debris he is likely to have a lung hemorrhage if he is moved without the utmost care. So the “casualty faker” carries a little ampule of red liquid in his mouth. If the stretcher-bearers handle him roughly he bites it, a shockingly realistic gush of “blood” pours out of his mouth.

Some casualty faking is pure unassisted acting, and it is no coincidence that many of the three hundred are active in amateur dramatic groups. One outstanding example is the simulation of the effect of “nerve gas,” the new and horrible weapon which the Nazis had perfected and didn’t dare use.

Nerve gas kills by paralysis. A very slight whiff of it knocks a man’s co-ordination askew—he sees double, can’t walk straight, has convulsive facial twists and a dropped jaw. Even doctors can mistake these symptoms for drunkenness, hysteria, shock. Casualty fakers are trained very carefully to reproduce the nerve-gas symptoms with precision. They rather enjoy hearing reputable physicians describe their spasms as “fits.”

When Stanley Woodward relinquished his post as U. S. Ambassador to Canada last month the embassy staff gave him a silver tray. Normally this gift is inscribed with the signatures of the donors. Woodward’s tray is decorated instead with an outline map of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Woodward’s big contribution to the project was made when most Canadians thought it was already a virtual certainty. Congress had failed again to ratify the 1941 agreement for a joint undertaking so Canada was “going ahead on her own.” Authority was still needed for the U. S. share of the power development as distinct from navigation, but that was a matter for the Truman Administration not for Congress, and the Administration had been pro-seaway all along. There seemed to be no real obstacle left.

Actually it wasn’t as simple as that. The Administration had been wholeheartedly in favor of the 1941 agreement, which would have tied power and navigation together and thus assured federal control of the power development after the model of the famous Tennessee Valley Authority. But many of its people were so dedicated to public ownership of power, that they’d almost have preferred to have no St. Lawrence project at all than have it fall into the hands of private utility firms, or even of the State of New York.

There was plenty to negotiate. In a job as big as this, any change is complex. There were new divisions of cost to be worked out, new decisions about what was to be charged to navigation and therefore to Canada alone, and what to the power development and therefore split fifty-fifty. It took months to resolve these questions. It could have taken years. That it didn’t has been largely Woodward’s doing.

He broke many a deadlock, not by any special technical knowledge (he has none) but by his personal access to and influence with his very close friend, ex-President Truman. Woodward could see the President any time he wanted to, something very few ambassadors could do, and he never hesitated to use this personal entree when the seaway deal ran into any trouble. Ordinarily a matter of this magnitude would have been handled entirely by staff, with the President merely signing the documents drafted for him. Thanks to Woodward the President’s interest became personal, and effective, whenever negotiations stalled.

The job isn’t finished yet, of course. The U. S. Federal Power Commission is holding hearings now to determine the proper U. S. agent for power development. But there is strong hope in both capitals that delay is nearly over and that Woodward, like Moses, has retired on the very threshold of the promised land. ★