The Problems of Our Provinces

The Fifth of a Series of Ten Striking Articles

JOHN NELSON August 15 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

The Fifth of a Series of Ten Striking Articles

JOHN NELSON August 15 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

The Fifth of a Series of Ten Striking Articles


V. The Maritime Provinces-The second of three articles discussing the problems of N. B., N. S. and P. E. I.

STRONGLY as do the provinces by the sea feel in regard to their exclusion from the central Canadian markets, they are equally pronounced in their protests with respect to federal policy in regard to the lands and provinces of the middle West. This they have elaborated in a formal case which has formed the subject of many de-

eg isla tu res and which ha: been Torv, of the N. S. body. into a * for reparations to the Atlantic

unt of the »rn lands. The 170. by Imperial íe lands of the Bay in the Northwest ¡he Dominion of lantic provinces in those lands, that they had a ■d with regard to ven though they tion to the policy .much as the aefederal. and all the a voice in federal uggestion that any d have been consulted 3t be valid. The facts it. at the time of the led of, the representant ime provinces were they afterwards beipiaint arises out of aside of school lands in est. I nder the Dominion passed in 1872. by which provision was made for the administrations of all these lands which had come into possession of the federal government, certain generous provisions were made for the purposes of education on the prairies. It was provided that in both Manitoba and the Northwest Territories (the other two prairie provinces having not as yet been established two sections

In every township should be set apart as an endowment for educational purposes, the sums realized from tneir sale from time to time funded, and the interest, less cost of management, paid annually to the provincial or territorial government concerned for the support of its public schools.

Was the Dominion Right? A CCORDING to a return made to the House of Com1 mons in 1919. more than 24,000,000 acres have been set aside under the act and. up to March, 1918. more than f7.000.000 had been paid by the federal government to the three provinces on that account, as interest. There stood to the credit of the three provinces at that time on account of these lands nearly $17,000,000 while the vaiue of unsold lands was close to $175,000,000. The claim of the Maritimes is that the Dominion had no warrant to set aside this huge endowment for the benefit of one section of the Dominion—a section which at the time this return was made was less than twenty per cent, of the population of the Dominion. They point to the United States, where the federal power administered the huge areas which came into its possession for the benefit of all the states and not for the new ones only. The premier of Prince Edward Island claims, on behalf of the maritimes, the right “to alter, oppose, or modify“ that policy. It imposed, in his judgment, a double hardship on his and neighbour provinces. First, it appropriated a big acreage in which they were interested, and diverted it to the three prairie provinces. Second, by unduly endowing the western provinces at the expense of the eastern ones, it enabled the former to increase salaries west of the Great Lakes to such a degree f3 to attract thither the very cream of the teaching profession. The claim made on behalf of the three lower provinces is that there be an equalization, whereby they be credited with an amount equal to the cash already paid and the amount now standing to the credit of the West, the interest of which should be

paid them by the central government, for educational purposes. Based on relative populations, this would give the Maritimes $853,000 in annual interest, $17,000,000 in credits, and $125,000,000 in contingent credits for

unsold lands. But the claim does not stop there. Still Further Claims GREAT areas were used in setting up the new provinces. Others were employed in subsidizing railways. But enormous tracts of country were alienated in enlarging the boundaries of provinces already territorially rich in comparison with the three under consideration. Quebec, for instance, which started in Confederation with an area of 123,875,200 acres, has had added to her ample limits a tract as large as British Columbia, making a total of 452,573,561 acres—about a fifth of Canada. Territorially, to use the language of David Harum “them as has, gits.” Ontario, rich and extensive, was endowed only a little

less liberally. With an original area of 144,961,636 acres, sh^has by repeated visits to the Federal cupboard swollen her holdings until she has reached the respectable figure of 260,657,636 acres. The true maritimes, British Columbia,. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, have paid, dollar for dollar, per capita, with the resi-

dents of the fortunate provinces mentioned, in providing the dower. - ■ Exploration and development have shown that much of the territory in question, far from being barren and

question, far from being barren and valueless, as was contended when the annexation took place, are rich in minerals, in timber, in agricultural lands, in fisheries, in pulp, and in water power, which is the key to the industrial development of the future, The pretence that they were of little or no value, and hence that it was in the interests of the Dominion to get rid of them and thus escape the expense of administration,' is pretty well exploded. And here Premier Bell again bangs down his geometrical formula: “These lands were handed over to the provinces in question because they were contiguous. “Had the Maritimes been contiguous to these lands they would have had their share. “Not being contiguous we were debarred from that privilege. “That is no reason why we should not have an interest. “We therefore set up our claim for an undivided share of the lands given to Ontario, Quebec and the prairie provinces to enlarge their areas.”

Will There Be Oppression? JT IS not the value of thé lands alone which gives concern to the Atlantic provinces. Already they are confronted through a relative lóss of population with a shrinkage in the number of their representatives in the House of Commons. This is a

very tender matter with them, and already it is held against the fathers of Confederation that they should not have anticipated the situation which has now developed and have “pegged” the minimum number of members which each of the coastwise provinces would permanently retain. The enlargement of boundaries of provinces, already greatly disproportionate to those now being consiâered, renders that danger still more acute. J. C. Tory, whose figures are quoted in the foregoing paragraphs, sets down this danger as follows: “In view of the tremendous increase in land values and the tremendous development of minerals in northern Ontario and in other sections of that province, these lands have added great material wealth to those provinces in the soil, in the forest, and in the possibility of population coming to them. This is the most crucial point because it gives them a weight of influence and control in the affairs of the Dominion, which pushes us aside, diminishes our ratio of population and, consequently, our representation, until we finally reach a state of insignificance which is serious to be contemplated, all growing out of the fact that, being small, we are not able to withstand the pressure brought against us in federal affairs. The testimony of history is that the strong invariably oppress the weak.” It is a sense of this preponderance, first of the older provinces, and more recently in the solidarity of the western groups, which lends argument to the agitation, not for secession, but for such a maritime union as was occupying the attention of the little group which sat in the chamber in the old buildings at Charlottetown in 1864 when the missionaries of Confederation swept in upon them and brought them the larger vision of a “dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” The Maritimes think they see in the co-operation of the mid-west provinces when they seek some concessions of common value and desirability, a hint of how, only,-smaller provinces can get their rights. And the persistence of these prairie provinces in seeking a return of their natural resources. notwithstanding the substantial concessions given them in lieu thereof, and the promises already made by politicians on both sides that this ultimately will be done, constitutes another major grievance.

A Prairie Lands Anomaly

IN THE six original provinces the lands and minerals in the possession of the colonies when they entered the Dominion, were handed over to them. When the western provinces were set up these resources were retained by the Dominion which, besides allocating to them the liberal school lands already mentioned, granted them a special subsidy “in lieu of lands” (as already mentioned in the articles of this series relating to the three prairie provinces). The demand for a return of these lands, in spite of the special subsidy given as an equivalent, has been persistent and aggressive and already both political parties are committed to their restoration to the provinces affected. The Liberal convention at Ottawa in 1919 resolved that the provinces should be granted the ownership and control of these lands on terms that were fair and equitable to the other provinces. Sir Robert Borden, as early as 1911, drew attention to the anomaly that “in six provinces the Crown in dealing with the public domain acts upon the advice of the provincial ministers, and under laws enacted by the provincial legislatures. In the three prairie provinces the Crown in dealing with such lands acts upon the advice of the Federal ministers and under laws enacted by the Federal parliament. The day is not far distant when .... they shall receive the just recognition of their undoubted rights, to their public lands and their natural resources.”

Some of the public men of the Maritimes are disposed to dispute strongly the case which is now being advanced in the West for the return of these lands.

“The prairie provinces have shifted their ground,” said one. “They now rest on the principle of British precedence whereby when a British colony becomes autonomous and is granted responsible government it follows as a matter of course and practice that all remaining lands shall be handed over to pay the civil list. They claim that all unsold public lands within their boundaries and minerals belong to the province from the time they were created by the Dominion.

“We maintain that the principle does not apply because when these provinces were created by the Dominion the latter continued to pay and still pays a large part of the cost of provincial administration, partly by per capita grants and partly by assuming certain rights and duties.”

Exporters of Brains

/~\NE of the products of these provinces has found a ready market both within and without the Dominion. It is perhaps unfortunate for the Maritimes that there is no export tariff upon brains and no customs line to discourage the flow of talent into larger and more attractive fields of activity. The public life of the Dominion has benefited enormously through Confederation by the stimulation which it has received from its far eastern section. Howe, Tupper, and Tilley, Fielding, Foster and Borden have left an impress upon the affairs of Canada quite out of proportion to the relation their home provinces bear, in the matter of population, to the rest of the country. Indeed the complaint is sometimes met that, among the other disabilities under which Confederation laid this part of the country was that of draining its public life for the larger theatre of affairs at Ottawa and impoverishing local politics to that degree. It is easy to understand how the loss of sovereign powers enjoyed in an earlier day has robbed the legislatures of much of the authority and consequent appeal -, to men of outstanding genius which made of Halifax, Fredericton, and Charlottetown centres of great influence and importance in what was the golden political, as well as commercial, age of the communities in question.

Unfortunately that drain upon the intellectual resources of the Maritimes has operated outside the boundaries of the Dominion. It has enriched both the public and the business . life of other nations as well. A notable example is that of the smallest of the Canadian provinces, the little island of Prince Edward.

Lying out in the Gulf, rather detached until recent years from intercourse with the regular tides of travel, it was exposed less than any other part of the Dominion to those incursions from the outside which arouse the wanderlust in the hearts of the young. It had no free homesteads or industrial opportunities to offer. All its lands were cultivated and settled with a stock which is not surpassed in the Dominion. Indeed, if one were to seek a distinctive and undiluted Canadian people, with all the moral virtues, with the primitive

qualities of frugality and industry, no better selection could be made than that of the residents of this wonderful little island whose beauty is so well expressed in the old Indian name—Abegweit, “afloat on the wave.”It is studded with schools and churches. It has no poor. Nowhere are the comforts of rural life in greater evidence, nowhere is sordidness less.

Sentimental Reciprocity

YET the Great Adventure would not be denied its youth. One generation has given to the people of the United States two of its great figures, in President Schurman, formerly of Cornell, and later U. S. minister to China, and the late Franklin T. Lane who, but for the accident of birth which denies the presidency to all but the native born, might have been the chief magistrate of the Republic. The resources of character and personality of a little community of one hundred thousand people may be fairly judged from the . two examples quoted.

• And the people have a physique to match their mental qualities. It has been developed on the river drive, in the woods, on many a hazardous voyage at sea, in the virile sports which mark the winter seasons. Both Prince Louis of Batten-berg, and Admiral Pakenham when they came to Charlottetown, found that the crack tug-of-war teams of their respective ' squadrons, the pride of the whole British navy, . were no match for. the sailors and farmers of the gem island of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

There has long been a sentimental relationship between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. Halifax had its tea incident at the same time as had Boston, and Massachusetts appealed to its Canadian neighbor to join in resistance to the Stamp Act. Although there was a section which wished to do so, the great majority, while perhaps differing from Britain’s way of collecting the impost, agreed that the Old Country had spent enough on the colonies to justify seeking the revenue. This did not alter the warmth of the traditional friendship between the two cities. -

When disaster overtook Halifax a few years ago a relief train from Boston was on the ground in forty-eight hours. In a few nights ten thousand Haligonians were sleeping on Massachusetts beds. Eighteen hundred homes were refurnished out of $120,000 of the first relief. In all $700,000 was subscribed by Massachusetts and, after the first demands were met, a sum in excess of $300,000 was left,

out of which was provided $75,000, a year for five years to make a health survey and to establish a health centre in Halifax, one of the most unique on the continent. In addition to a staff of doctors this centre has sixteen nurses who accompany women to market, teach them how to buy and cook properly, superintend impending confinement cases, attend to the care of teeth among children, and do other constructive social work. When this commenced the death rate among babies was 186 out of 1,000; now it is ninetyseven. The general death rate has been reduced from 22.3 to 14.6. This contribution of the people of the state in question is regarded by the people of Halifax a3 even more important in its permanent results than the immediate relief work so promptly undertaken after the catastrophe.

The Lure of Youth

THE lure of the near-

by states is as old as the provinces themselves. It is said that there are half a million Nova Scotians in^ the New England states. Geography plays the same tricks here with national purposes and policies as it does elsewhere along the long frontier line. Just as more Winnipegers know St. Paul and Minneapolis, and more Vancouverites know Seattle and Portland, than know Montreal or Toronto, so the young fellow in St. John or Halifax, who seeks a holiday or a business opening, turns much more readily to the cities of Portland and

Boston than he does to remote centres of the Dominion. The rather abnormal building boom which swept the American union during the earlier months of 1923 greatly accentuated this tendency. Even the visitor could not fail to be impressed and, if he were Canadian, somewhat depressed, by the throng of husky young fellows—the very flower of the country—who crowded the immigration offices to pay their $8 and receive their permits to emigrate to another country. With the passing of the immediate occasion many will doubtless return. But great numbers will inevitably find in the larger life which à more populous country affords a permanent lure; will marry, and make their homes there; and like Schurman and Lane, will be lost permanently to their native land. One is led to believe that it is this ceaseless drain upon the very best of its young life which is the principle concern of the Maritime Provinces to-day, because it creates a permanent problem which colors the entire life of the country. The migratory class are the adventurous section of every community. It is this class which seeks the new, and the untried, and it is willing to sacrifice comfort to find it. A movement which year after year robs the provinces of a big section of its youth, at exactly the period of life when it is seeking virile and creative expression, cannot fail to leave a serious mark upon the tone and vigor of the general community. The inevitable tendency is to halt enterprise and to slow down production. It is an indication of the inherent vigor of the people that they have not suffered more from this exodus.Yet it is not unlikely that had this youthful aggressiveness been retained it would have been reflected in the development and organization of some of the great resources the potentialities of which are as yet but lightly realized.

The coal and steel industries of Cape Breton are a good illustration of the effects of vision and enterprise such as they might have supplied to other sections in organizing natural wealth into a producer of actual revenue to the state, and a community builder. There were a number of coal mines on the island which had The Problems of Our Provinces

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been giving the province a royalty of some seven and a half cents per ton. As the leases began to fall in the government sought to increase this royalty, and were met by a storm of protest from the owners, who declared, possibly with reason, that they were unable to pay more an.d that to increase it would result in the shutting down of the mines, and the loss even of such revenues as already came to the coffers of the province.

Hon. Mr. Fielding ascribes the credit of saving, presumably, the coal situation in Nova Scotia to the late Hon. B. F. Pearson. Impressed with the necessity for intelligent action, he went into the whole situation and concluded that a merger of small interests in an adequately financed corporation was the' only cure for the difficulty. “tie succeeded,” says Mr, Fielding,” in interesting H. M. Whitney, , of Boston—a man who was very wealthy himself and represented great financial resources. They formed the Dominion Coal Co., which took over most of the going mines in the Cape Breton district, consolidated them into one, introduced vim and courage into the situation, modernized the equipment and put the whole industry on a basis such as it had never before known. We granted them a ninety-nine year lease with the right to acquire any other mines in Cape Breton, and they in turn undertook to pay us twelve and a half cents royalty instead of the ten cents which the individual miners feared would ruin them.”

This company, starting with seventyeight square miles of territory, has greatly increased its holdings, has raised wages, improved housing conditions and, inspite of the periodical strikes and other difficulties seemingly inseparable from the operation of coal mines, has transformed the whole character of the country. Out of this merger, fifteen years later, grew a great corporation for the manufacture of steel products—a company which eventually absorbed the parent organization, acquired the iron deposits of Bell Island, Newfoundland, and the limestone and dolmite mines in the vicinity, and gradually expanded its leases to cover the bulk of the coal areas of Nova Scotia.

It is significant that of a population increase of approximately 80,000 in Nova Scotia in the last forty years more than 50,000 has been in the coal mines area. In fact the city of Sydney had in the census of 1881 less than 1,500 people while that of 1921 showed a city of more than 22,000. The coal and coke products of the province of Nova Scotia yielded last year nearly $33,000,000, practically the same as the combined products of the farms.

New Brunswick, also, has large coal measures at Minto and at other points which doubtless will contribute ultimately as markedly to the revenues of that province as is the case in Nova Scotia.

HERE, as in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the greatest problem is a technical one. These coals are soft, and cannot bear profitably the freight rates inseparable from a long haul. It is this which handicaps maritime coal in the great coal consuming, and non-coal producing, areas of Ontario and Quebec. The shorter haul of soft coal from nearby U. S. fields brings the latter into advan' tageous competition with Nova Scotia. It was partly a desire to use this soft coal, particularly slack, as near as possible to the pit mouth, that led to the organization of the steel company at Cape Breton/ Already, by means of the water haul, the Montreal market is largely filled from this souree, while larger coking facilities are projected in Montreal and other centres where the gas bye-products can ,be ‘ marketed profitably. Hon. Arthur Meighen is of the opinion that the deepening of the St. Lawrence canal system, permitting cargo carriers of much greater capacity and consequent cheapness of handling, to proceed to Toronto may enable Cape Breton coal to find as ready a market further inland as it now does at Montreal.

Relief may come, even sooner, from another source. English experiments in the low temperature carbonization of soft coals have evolved a residue which, relieved of extraneous matter, and yet retaining ten per cent, of its volatile substances, is more radiant, and emits more heat units than coal. One ton is said to equal one and three-quarter tons of coal. The gas, which is only half of that produced in the ordinary coking processes, is used in heating the retorts and most valuable bye-products of motor spirits. Diesel oils, lubricating oils, and sulphate of ammonia are obtained. Maritime enterprise which once sailed 808 ships out of St. John, may find in the laboratory the answer to one of her problems for which no adequate answer is yet forthcoming from the freight and tariff expertsof the railways.

The reply of the Greek god to the appeal of the carter who had become mired is cited by one of the most distinguished of Canadian statesmen who was himself born within sound of the Atlantic: “When you put your own shoulder to the wheel, Hercules will be with you.”

And if a modern instance be demanded to confirm an ancient legend, it is furnished in what Cape Breton, under the stimulation of a far-seeing man, and with the co-operation of a financial Hercules, has already done.

(The third and concluding article on the Maritime Provinces will be published September 1. This will be No. VI in the entire series. No. VII, devoted to Quebec, will appear Sept. 15; No. VIII, Ontario, Oct. 1; No. IX., B. C., Oct. 16. There will be a tenth and concluding article, discussing the various problems from a co-related, and federal, viewpoint.)