CANADA AS THE FUTURE CENTRE OF THE EMPIRE
By RICHARD DE BRISAY, Editor of The Canadian Forum.
TO one who contemplates England with the detach- ment afforded by residence in another country, two things appear to be wrong with her. Both of these troubles are serious, and in the opinion of the writer they can only be cured by radical measures which may not at first sight commend themselves to Englishmen.
England's great industrial development in the past century was largely due to two natural advantages, her coal and her geographical position, which combined to make her the workshop of the world. The coal age is now ending, and England's geographical position has changed : during the nineteenth century she was at the centre of the world ; but with the development of the United States and the progressive industrialization of Japan and China the centre of the world has shifted to North America. It seems, then, that the fortunes of the English people depend on their ability to adapt them- selves to these new conditions which a changing world has thrust upon them.
As regards coal, the fundamental cause of the present disorder in the industry itself is that there is not a market for all the coal which the miners can produce. The new schemes under consideration for turning coal into power at the mine and for increasing the efficiency of the industry as a whole are excellent in themselves, but they will not overcome the primary difficulty, which is that the industry is overmanna. At maximum efficiency there is now only work in the coal industry for two-thirds of the men who depend upon it for a livelihood ; it is difficult, therefore, to see how any of the palliatives suggested can be effi- cacious, since the industrial trend towards labour economy is definite and inexorable, and yet Labour in England wields sufficient power to prevent labour-saving devices being properly exploited, while the increasing general utilization of oil and hydro-electric power will cause the foreign demand for English coal to diminish in the future rather than increase. Similar causes are responsible for the depressed condition of some of England's other great industries, whose world trade was founded on their abundant supply of cheap coal in an age when coal was paramount, and which cannot therefore be expected to regain and hold their former supremacy, whatever international agreements are made to standardize labour conditions and increase world markets.
As regards England's new and less fortunate geographical position, this is the more serious trouble of the two.
It is irreparable. Taken in conjunction with the decline of coal, it means that even if England ultimately solved her domestic problems she would have to stabilize her birthrate and settle down to the position of a small, highly-industrialized and moderately prosperous nation— a second-rate power in the new world that is coming and in which Russia, America and China would then be the " Big Three." But that would mean an ignoble surrender to circumstance, and since the natural fecundity of the English is still strong it would seem a pity 'that it should be partially sterilized and wasted .if, after all, there is any alternative.
What is to be done ? Clearly, since the centre of the world is now the North American continent, and since that continent is rich in natural resources and in the hydro-electric power that is superseding coal, the solution of England's dual problem is to be found in the shifting of her people to North America, i.e., Canada, where they will be once more at the centre of things and properly equipped to make the most of it. This idea is only an enlargement of the vision of many of England's statesmen who have sponsored schemes for the development of the Commonwealth ; but when the comparatively meagre results of those schemes are considered it is clear that the movement suggested could not be entrusted to Dominion immigration authorities, assisted by sporadic bursts of Imperial enthusiasm on the part of English Cabinet Ministers ; it would have to be handled by a permanent organization including representatives of the Canadian and English Governments, the great industries, the trade unions, the agriculturists and the transportation companies—a sort of Super-Board of Migration which would have the power to co-ordinate all the various interests and forces involved and give the necessary push and direction to the whole movement.
A commission of inquiry, composed of representatives of the above mentioned interests, might first be formed to determine what industries could be transferred to Canada, and what labour could be absorbed by Canada's natural induitries if their development was assisted by English co-operation. The Dominion has several large industries which are at present competing with English rivals, such as the steel industry of Nova Scotia and the woollen and textile industries which have developed in Ontario and Quebec, and the first step would neces- sarily be the amalgamation of these industries with their English competitors with a view to expediting the transfer of as much as possible of the English industry in those fields to Canada.
Consider the industrial opportunities which Canada presents. In Nova Scotia is to be found the same com- bination of coal and iron that exists in England, and will probably be essential to the production of steel for some time to come. The two great industrial provinces of Ontario and Quebec, with their abundant water-power and free access to the sea, offer opportunities for the expansion of the woollen and textile industries which it is unnecessary to dwell upon ; while the northern areas of these two provinces, recognized now as the richest mineral district in the world, can furnish the raw Materials for the development of a hundred industries as yet in their infancy. The western provinces are rich in oil, Alberta has coal deposits conservatively estimated at over 600,000 million tons, British Columbia has practi- cally unlimited resources of the finest timber, and the fishing-grounds of the Dominion are richer and more extensive than any others on the globe. Hydro-electric power is available throughout the country, the recorded resources being officially estimated as permitting a turbine installation of 41 million horse-power.
The prairie provinces, as yet sparsely populated, but already the greatest food-producing area on the continent, would absorb all the agricultural settlers which the combined efforts of the two Governments could transfer to their soil. Mr. Lloyd George is at present sponsoring a " back to the land " movement in England, but does any large number of the English people believe that it will accomplish any more than similar attempts have done in the past ? It has never been possible to get people to go " back " to the land ; on the other hand, it has always been easy to persuade them to go on to a new one.
It may be argued that an organized migration of England's people to Canada might only result in a division of the race that would be a fatal weakness, since there would be three thousand miles of sea-water between the two communities. But industrially (i.e., . as regards freights) Ontario is as near to England as Nebraska is to New York ; and with the development of air transport it will soon be little farther physically. Even considered from the military point of view, would not this disposition of the English people be more advantageous than the present one ? For here again the change that has come with time has been fundamental. England's -greatness as a fighting power was founded on her maritime position, which naturally made her the great sea power of the world ; but the isolation which for so long was her strength • is now her weakness, and it is clear that in the future sea power will mean less in the event of war. If the world's peoples permit another great war to occur, England would be safer if she were not the heart of the Commonwealth, and the North American continent would- be a better stronghold for the race than an island off the shores of Europe.
Our future relations with the United States remain to be considered. If Canada remains under-developed and numerically a small nation, the question of annexation may well become a real one in time. But with an English population of the size that we are contemplating, Canada could regard with equanimity the possibilities of geography making history ; while the " two great English-speaking democracies " would be in a better position than they now are to co-operate for the benefit of each other and of the world.
In the new industrial era that has opened with the entrance of the great Asian nations into the society of active producing and consuming countries, Canada, with her gates opening on the Atlantic and the Pacific, occupies that central position between the old world and the new which England held between Europe and America ; she offers the space and the wealth essential to the continued growth of the race ; if she can be made the great English country of the future, the English people will hold their own with those of the United States, China, and Russia. All that is needed is the transfer of twenty-five millions of England's population to Canada in the next half-century. It would be one of the great- migrations of the world's history ; something on an unprecedentedly intensive scale ; but facilities for such a migration are available which were non-existent when the other great treks of the world's peoples were made ; if we do not take advan- tage of them and make them serve our need, then we shall have proved ourselves the slaves and not the masters of the colossal industrial fabric in which we glory.