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In the Power of the Government

In the Power of the Government: The Rise and Fall of Newsprint in Ontario, 1894-1932

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    In the Power of the Government
    Book Description:

    Mark Kuhlberg challenges the orthodox interpretation of the relationship between the corporations which ran the Ontario's pulp and paper mills and the politicians at Queen's Park in the early twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6620-7
    Subjects: Business, Environmental Science, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps, Charts, and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    As the twentieth century dawned, a few sage Ontarians recognized the awesome industrial potential of the province’s northern forests and water powers. Although there was little accurate information about the extent of these resources, the few existing oral accounts and written reports exuberantly described their bountiful nature and their as-yet-untapped value to pulp and paper producers, specifically newsprint manufacturers. Thomas Southworth, the Ontario government’s Clerk of Forestry, was one such visionary. Commenting on the future he envisaged for “New Ontario,” he proclaimed in 1897 that it “requires no prophetic eye to see the time now near at hand when this...

  6. Section I. The Setting and the Liberals, 1894–1905

    • 1 The Natural and Political Landscapes
      (pp. 17-57)

      While it is axiomatic that trees are at the root of any story about the forest industry, woodlands have long been a unifying thread that have woven their way through Ontario’s social, political, and economic fabric. In many respects, the development of the province, especially in its nascent stages, has been dictated by the nature of its forests. Even today, with scant evidence in the southern part of the province – where the overwhelming majority of Ontarians live – of the rich woodlands that once covered this region, many residents of this area remain intimately connected to the province’s forests...

    • 2 “Intent upon getting grain-growing settlers upon the new land”: The Liberals, 1894–1905
      (pp. 58-82)

      A number of forces made northern Ontario a highly attractive place to construct a pulp and paper mill by the mid-1890s, and its attributes in this regard attracted the attention of a string of industrialists from both the New World and Old. The region’s prodigious supplies of readily accessible spruce pulpwood and water power, the construction of new railway lines into the hinterland, the rapid rise in the demand for news­print in the nearby Midwestern United States, and the opportunity to build mills on the Great Lakes all drew the interest of paper makers to the province’s northern reaches. In...

  7. Section II. “Large tracts of land are not necessary for the business of any company”:: The Conservatives, 1905–1919

    • [Section II. Introduction]
      (pp. 83-92)

      The Conservatives under James Pliny Whitney defeated the Liberals in the 1905 provincial election, and their victory held the promise of a new age in Ontario. A major plank in the Tory platform was a commitment to correct the deficiencies which they argued had pervaded the Grit administration of Crown resources, particularly timber. This task fell to a trio of ministers of lands and forests: Frank Cochrane (1905–11), William H. Hearst (1911–14), and G. Howard Ferguson (1914–19).

      This triumvirate shared a few traits. Considering they held the portfolio that dealt with the province’s northern reaches, it was...

    • 3 “We have been most lenient in allowing the company to run on”
      (pp. 93-117)

      Prior to 1905 the Liberals had awarded pulp and paper makers pulpwood concessions and/or water powers in northwestern Ontario and the “Spanish River” territory (i.e., Sault Ste Marie, Espanola, and Sturgeon Falls), and industrialists had erected mills in the latter region and prepared to do so in the former. Nevertheless, the Grits had demonstrated that their priority in terms of northern development in these areas was to protect the lumbermen’s interests against intrusion by the paper makers. This was only natural considering the sawmillers had represented the major manufacturing industry in these areas for some time and enjoyed tight connections...

    • 4 “The jack-ass methods of that Department”
      (pp. 118-144)

      The victory of the Conservatives in 1905 signalled both continuity and change in terms of the Ontario government’s handling of the pulp and paper industry in the Thunder Bay District and on the northern Clay Belt. Certainly filling these areas with settlers remained the provincial state’s primary goal during the Tories’ fifteen years in office, but they pursued this agenda with unprecedented vigour. There was a particularly pressing reason for them to have done so. The millions of home­steaders who flocked to Canada’s prairies in the early 1900s represented living, breathing proof of that region’s irresistible allure to aspiring farmers....

  8. Section III. “In order to keep in office, they must play politics”:: The United Farmers of Ontario, 1919–1923

    • [Section III. Introduction]
      (pp. 145-150)

      The election of the upstart United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) in 1919 held the potential to effect a dramatic shift in focus as far as northern development in general and forest administration in particular were concerned. The premier, E.C. Drury, demonstrated a keen interest in issues involving the province’s trees, and his campaign platform had explicitly identified the need to end the government’s penchant for allowing patronage to dictate how it handled Crown timber. In addition, Drury selected Beniah Bowman to be his minister of lands and forests. A farmer from Manitoulin Island, Bowman was also involved in the local...

    • 5 “This Government should … exercise responsibility of dealing with tenders”
      (pp. 151-168)

      The Farmers’ approach to dealing with the pulp and paper industry in both northwestern Ontario and the Spanish River territory revealed how quickly and tectonically relations between the provincial state and this business could change. Since at least the turn of the twentieth century, and much to the dismay of pulp and paper entrepreneurs, the provincial state had given its highest priority to assisting the local saw­millers in both regions; the Tories had gone one step further during their decade and a half in office by actively hindering the establishment and development of pulp and paper mills in these areas....

    • 6 “Established industries which … have but scant supply”
      (pp. 169-190)

      In the Thunder Bay District and on the northern Clay Belt, the Farmers dealt with the pulp and paper industry while considering a host of factors both old and new. The former included the state’s traditional drive to realize its pre-eminent goal in both regions, namely to populate them, by creating for the settlers the most dynamic market possible for their spruce. The UFO was committed to furthering this agenda and did so both by denying most existing mills’ requests for fibre resources and by facilitating the work of the pulpwood exporters, a group whose close association with the government...

  9. Section IV. “The chief is the whole show”:: The Conservatives, 1923–1932

    • [Section IV. Introduction]
      (pp. 191-200)

      As with every newly elected administration in Ontario since the turn of the century, the Conservatives won power in 1923 under G. Howard Ferguson promising to modernize the government’s administration of its hinterland Crown resources, particularly timber. One of the crucial challenges they faced was dealing with the province’s newsprint industry, which had matured and now represented a major presence in the hinterland. By this time, converting spruce into newsprint had become Ontario’s and the country’s primary manufacturing activity, and it led the nation in terms of gross value of production and wages paid and was second in employment. It...

    • 7 “For political purposes”
      (pp. 201-217)

      Nothing spoke more directly to Ferguson’s preoccupation with political expediency in handling Ontario’s pulp and paper industry than his dealings with the mills in the Thunder Bay District during the first few years of his premiership. This region was home to three newsprint interests that lacked pulpwood concessions, but by early 1925, each had hammered out an agreement to obtain one with the blessing of the minister, James Lyons, and senior departmental officials. In fact, these deals embodied some of the fundamental changes for which government bureaucrats had been lobbying for years. These included accepting that the industry’s requests for...

    • 8 “Political connections … of the strongest kind”
      (pp. 218-236)

      By the end of 1925, Ferguson had yet to address Fort William Paper’s application for Crown pulpwood on the west side of Lake Nipigon, but when he finally did so, the firm may have wished he never had. The company had built its newsprint mill four years earlier on the promise that the Ontario government would provide it with a pulpwood concession. Soon after the Tories had won power in 1923, the company reached an agreement on an area with James Lyons, the Conservatives’ Minister of Lands and Forests, and on this basis it tendered for one of the tracts...

    • 9 “Excluded from the area given to Spruce Falls”
      (pp. 237-254)

      The northern Clay Belt was home to three pulp and paper mills when the Tories won the election of 1923: Spruce Falls Company in Kapuskasing, Mattagami Pulp and Paper in Smooth Rock Falls, and Abitibi Power and Paper in Iroquois Falls. While all these enterprises looked to the Ferguson administration for assistance in procuring Crown resources on favourable terms, the premier decided for a host of political reasons that only one of them would succeed in this endeavour. Kimberly-Clark (KC) had taken over the mill project in “Kap” in 1920, at the very time when the Ontario government desperately needed...

    • 10 “No definite commitment has ever been made by this Department”
      (pp. 255-273)

      One could hardly have faulted newsprint makers E.W. Backus in north­western Ontario and Spanish River Pulp and Paper Mills in the north­east for fretting that the Conservative victory over the Farmers in the 1923 provincial election potentially represented the beginning of their worst nightmares. The Tories had proven inhospitable to these firms during the Conservatives’ earlier reign, particularly during Ferguson’s tenure as minister (1914–19), and both feared that this icy treatment would continue – if not intensify – now that “the chief” was premier. This foreboding was particularly acute for Backus, who had plugged into the Farmers’ patronage network...

    • 11 “A policy which had cost Ontario’s industry a good and plenty”
      (pp. 274-296)

      By 1927, the operations of Ontario’s newsprint makers were being fundamentally altered by the paradoxical forces that were shaping the industry across Canada. After practically a decade of prodigious growth, the Dominion had emerged as the world’s largest newsprint producer and most firms were still highly profitable. The country’s industry as a whole was operating well below capacity, however, causing some mills to suspend their operations for months at a time. Under these trying conditions, intense conflict began marking relations among the players in the industry. What emerged between the late 1920s and early 1930s was a struggle for survival...

  10. Conclusion: “The availability of wood for industry is ambiguous”
    (pp. 297-312)

    With Ontario’s forest industry in disarray at the depths of the Depression, William H. Finalyson, the minister of lands and forests, called the province’s lumbermen to a special meeting in his office. He told them that his goal was to learn their plans for coping with the current crisis and how the Tories could facilitate a solution to it. In his address, Finlayson spoke warmly of “the old lumber industry, which used to be white pine in Ontario and now has developed into other lines. We have the feeling,” the minister announced on behalf of his government, “that the lumber...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 313-376)
  12. Sources
    (pp. 377-394)
  13. Index
    (pp. 395-404)