You’ve heard of Show Biz. This is Biz Biz, the history
of business in Vancouver, told through the activities of The
Vancouver Board of Trade.
Post Office Blues
The design of the new post office [which today is the clock-topped
building, part of the Sinclair Centre at the northwest corner of
Hastings and Granville] was one of the subjects of the Boards
February 6, 1906 meeting. (The Province report of February 7, page
2, was headlined POSTOFFICE BUNGLES CANNOT BE REMEDIED.) It seems
there were too many steps up from the sidewalk to the entrance,
the entrance was too narrow, there was an awkward revolving door,
and the street letter-box was placed so high that a person of normal
height would need a step-ladder to reach it. "The doorways
are narrow in the extreme." R.G. Macpherson, the MP for Vancouver,
said construction was too far along for any changes, but there would
be an attempt made to bring the letter-box lower.
Trout Lake protests
The February 6 meeting heard from the residents
of the Trout Lake area, who were angry with the CPR. The railway
had been promising for some time to build a linethe A &
K Railwayto link Trout Lake to Vancouver (which, remember,
extended only to 16th Avenue at the time), but nothing had been
done. The railway was planning to petition the Dominion Government
for an extension of their charter, but the Trout Lakers opposed
the extension. They wanted the line built now, and they asked
the Board to join them in their opposition to the railways
petition on the ground that it had been held so long without
building that there was no guarantee that the CPR would ever build
the line, although they would bottle up the charter. There
was general sympathy for the residents, and it was resolved to send
the question to the Boards committee on railways.
Freight Rates again
The Board was informed by its vice-president, Robert
McLennan, that the services of Joseph Martin, KC, had been secured
to argue its case before the Railway Commission with regard
to the demand of the merchants of Vancouver for an equalization
of the freight rates into the Northwest as between Vancouver and
Winnipeg. [Note: Joe Martin was a former premier of the province,
so the Board had brought in the big guns.]
Point Grey land
The Board intended to ask the provincial government to place its
land at Point Grey on the market. Alderman Jonathan Rogers, also
a Board member, said the land should be brought under cultivation.
He advocated the clearing of the land by the government, and the
sale of it to individuals on easy terms. It should be kept out of
the hands of speculators.
[The government, of course, kept the land and eventually made it
the home of the University of British Columbia. They would set it
aside for that purpose in 1910, but the university wouldnt
actually open to students on the Point Grey site until 1925.]
Board secretary William Skene informed members that
mail was now being sent to Seattle both by the fast and slow
trains of the Great Northern Railway, thus affording Vancouver a
double daily service.
A curious fact was brought to the Boards attention
by W.A. Ward of Victoria, who wrote that steamers bound from Seattle
to Nome, Alaska were practically forced to take the
outside passage because of an insurance surcharge by Lloyds
of London on ships using the inside passage. Ward said that if this
charge were not made, those steamers could stop at Comox to take
on bunker coal, and thus considerable trade would be diverted
to British Columbia. (There was nothing in the Province
report February 7, 1906 on where the said ships got their coal at
the time.) This item was referred to the committee on navigation.
The Board endorsed a call to the Dominion Government
by the Victoria Board of Trade to safeguard navigation on the west
coast of Vancouver Island, and also to establish life-saving stations
there. And endorsement was also given to a petition from settlers
living along the old road between Vancouver and New
Westminster to the effect that the road required improvement. [We
know that road today as Kingsway.]
The CPR! Boo! Hiss!
The Board made the front page of the Province
for Friday, March 2, 1906 as a result of the Board council deciding
(at its regular monthly meeting the afternoon before) to petition
the provincial government to refrain from permitting the Columbia
& Western Railway Company, subsidiary to the CPR, to make a
selection of lands along its line until the CPR gives Vancouver
fair freight rates into the Northwest. And see the AGM item
below for a lively sequel!
NO POLITICS FOR BOARD OF TRADE was the headline
on Page 4 of the Province for March 7, 1906 in reporting
on the Boards annual general meeting. Politics,
the story began, threatened to become a disturbing factor
at last nights annual meeting of that institution. Because
of this possibility considerable difference of opinion was expressed,
and for a time affairs promised to become lively.
The cause of the ruckus was a proposal by Board members W.J. McMillan
and A.G. Thynne that the Board approve a resolution supporting A.H.B.
Macgowan, MLA. What Macgowan was attempting was to persuade the
legislature to hold up the Columbia & Western Land Subsidy Act
by an amendment to the effect that the C&W railway (a CPR subsidiary)
should not be allowed to select its lands until the freight rates
question had been solved, i.e., until Vancouver had been given equal
freight rates with Winnipeg into Calgary, Edmonton and Fort Macleod.
The resolutionheres where the trouble startedalso
censured the four other Vancouver members of the legislature "for
their alleged neglect in not giving the amendment proposed by Mr.
Macgowan that measure of support which the mover and seconder of
the resolution thought the amendment was entitled to."
This resolution, the Province story continued, "savored too
much of politics for many of the members of the board to swallow,
and these spoke their minds freely."
The resolution was finally withdrawn holus
bolus, in the interests of peace among the members of the board,
and in its place was passed a resolution thanking Mr. Macgowan for
his efforts in respect to the matter.
Even after the passing of a hundred years and the matter-of-fact
reporting of the debate, it was obvious tempers had become warm
at this particular Board meeting. It transpired that it was the
Council of the Board that had asked Macgowan to introduce the resolution
in the legislature.
Member C.F. Jackson said that in his opinion the
passing of such a resolution as that proposed would hold the
board up to ridiculeits members would appear as a lot of children.
He said it was a doubtful piece of policy to mix up a freight rates
question with land grant legislation. Member W.G. Harvey agreed:
The resolution is too strong, is uncalled for, and the like
was never passed by any Board of Trade in Canada.
H.T. Lockyer said it had always been understood
that the Vancouver Board of Trade steered clear of politics. He
could not take the resolution as anything but politics, and he advised
that as a commercial body the Board should be very chary of adopting
it. R.H. Alexander weighed in by saying the dispute over freight
rates had been referred to the Railway Commission, which is
the court of appeal for shippers against any injustice they may
receive from the railways. If the CPR was entitled to land on account
of the building of the Columbia & Western, it should receive
The embattled Mr. McMillan declared that if his resolution was
modified the local political representatives would not pay any attention
to requests of the Board in future, as they would know they had
nothing to fear in ignoring it.
In the end, the resolution was not even voted on, but simply evaporated
into thin air, and the resolution thanking Mr. Macgowan passed .
. . although not unanimously.
Member Robert McLennan turned the attention of the
board to the architectural deficiencies of the post office then
being built at the northwest corner of Granville and Hastings (todays
Sinclair Centre). That was a subject that popped up again at the
April 3, 1906 meeting, and this time, the Province reported
the next day, with some heat attached. A communication was read
from the Hon. C.S. Hymanthe federal minister of public worksand
its tone irritated the Board members. It stated that the present
plans of the new Postoffice building were satisfactory to those
connected with the institution, and that they could see no way by
which they could alter the plans. Mr. R.G. Macpherson, MP, representative
in the House for Vancouver, also wrote saying there was little use
of making any further protests.
Member W.H. Malkin, the paper reported, was
quite indignant over the matter. He stated that the Government gave
no thought whatever to the views of those most interested. He considered
their rights were being trampled upon. No reason was given whatever
for the refusal to make the alterations suggested by the board.
[A reminder that they had to do mainly with the narrowness of the
entrance, the steps from the street to the main floor, the height
of the street letterbox, etc.]
Other members also took objection to the manner
in which their views had been sidetracked, and it was finally decided
to draw up a strong protest and forward it to Ottawa at once.
The protest worked. See the June 5, 1906 entry.
This April 3 meeting began with a spirited discussion
about the need for new roads through that tract of land in
the vicinity of Point Grey. The Board thought it the duty
of the provincial government to do the clearing and build the roads,
and a committee was formed to present that view to the government.
The government, said the Board, can clear the lands on a larger
scale and have the work done much more cheaply. It could then place
the properties on sale in a more marketable condition and at a figure
which would permit of persons with only limited means buying there.
Farming at Point Grey
Point Grey was also being looked at as an agricultural
centre. What was needed right here in Vancouver, member
Ald. Jonathan Rogers said, according to the Province, was
a place where produce and other necessities of life could be raised
cheaply. When that was accomplished it would not be long before
the manufacturies would follow. He had made many inquiries
as to the amount of money sent out of this province for such things
as could be profitably raised here if the opportunity was given.
In the poultry line alone he had found that between July,
1904 and July, 1905 a hundred cars [boxcars] of eggs and 200 tons
of poultry had been brought in, which meant an expenditure of $300,000.
This might all be spent right here if land could be secured and
cleared at any reasonable figure.
Rogers had heard of two men seeking property in
the Point Grey vicinity, each seeking a thousand acres. He
thought it would be a serious matter if these lands fell into the
hands of speculators. If the Government cleared the land, it could
make money and sell as fast as cleared. He wanted only settlers
to get the land.
We get letters
Member (and past president) A.B. Erskine stood,
holding sixteen letters in his hands. They had been received by
the Tourist Association, he explained, and passed along to the Board.
The letters asked for information regarding lands in British Columbia.
They were from all over the continent, only one being from Canada.
We have no information to give, Erskine said. The Government,
he thought, should make some effort to place the available lands
in the province in a marketable condition, and at the very least
devise some scheme by which those inquiring could be given the information
asked for. As it was, no information was available.
Board secretary William Skene said he also received
letters asking for the same information nearly every day. He
had no information to give on the matter, so forwarded them to the
provincial Bureau of Information.
What in The World?
The Vancouver World came in for some strong
(if frustratingly incomplete) criticism at the regular Board meeting
April 3, 1906. The World was planning an extra edition
to be issued about June 1, and had asked the Board to purchase some
copies. Member C.F. Jackson was against any truck or trade with
that newspaper. While it has done a great deal of talking
about blowing up the advantages of the city, he said, it
has done a great deal which has been harmful to its interests. The
line it has taken in some very important matters has been most harmful
to the best interests of the province.
The Province story (April 4, 1906, Page 4)
doesnt give any details of what Jackson perceived as the Worlds
sins. Darn! And theres no indication in the Province
story of what decision the Board made in response to the Worlds
That April 4 report, by the way, listed the names
of the members who attended. One name jumps out: Ewing Buchan. Buchan
was the manager of the Hamilton Bank in Vancouver, and figures in
the citys history because he wrote a set of words to O
Canada that were sung for many years in the city, until Robert
Weirs words became the standard. You can read a fuller account
Freight rates again!
A subject that had bedeviled the Board for some
years popped up again at the June 4 meeting: freight rates. The
Railway Commission still hadnt handed down its decision (local
wholesale merchants wanted rates equal to those paid by their opposite
numbers in Winnipeg, who paid much less), and the Board was anxious
to know what was happening. Member James Ramsay thought they should
write the Commission and ask if they had reached a decision. Several
other members of the board thought any such communication . . .
would be injudicious and might tend to prejudice the case of the
wholesalers. It would be tantamount to pressing a judge for his
In a discussion of difficulties being faced by the
B.C. Telephone Company (former employees who had gone on strike
were apparently cutting the companys cables) the Board president,
Robert McLennan, said the telephone service was abominable,
and it was a question how long the people of the city were going
to stand for it.
H.W. Kent, the telephone company superintendent, had recently appeared
before the council of the Board to inform them that the companys
new switchboard would be in operation by the end of the year.
King Edward VII and Queen Mary were contemplating
a visit to Canada, having been invited by the federal government.
The Board wanted to ensure that Vancouver was included on the tour,
so they sent a telegram to His Majesty. Heres a tiny sample
of its florid wording: . . . impressed with the conviction
that the presence of our sovereign and his gracious consort in the
Dominion of Canada could not fail to be of the highest importance
in fostering and cementing the ties of loyalty which already bind
the Dominion to the Mother-country . . . etc., etc.
Stamp of Approval
The Hon. C.S. Hyman, Minister of Public Works, wrote
to say that the entrance to the new post office shall be immediately
widened, and trust that the inconvenience you complain of will thus
be remedied. Thats one up for the Board! (See the April
3 entry above.)
The Board supported the idea of market gardens to
the west of the reformatory and in the vicinity of Jericho,
but its regular monthly meeting July 3, 1906 showed the idea was
in peril. The provincial government was clearing the land, but member
H.A. Stone reported that it was being said around town that the
land was not be sold to small settlers, but would fall into
the hands of speculators. If such a fate befell it, the move of
the board to get it cut up for small holdings for market gardeners
But, said the Province in its July 4 report
(Page 2) some of the members present did not think that settlers
could ever hold the land." It was, they declared, unsuitable
for farming purposes, "and besides was far too valuable to
be profitably devoted to the raising of garden truck.
Member H.O. Bell-Irving said the land would cost
about $800 an acre to get it ready for cultivation, too much for
ordinary settlers. He thought it would be a most desirable
move to get the Government to lay out the property with extreme
care, as eventually it would form one of the most attractive suburbs
He went on to say that he knew of several places
on the continent, notably in the vicinity of Boston,
in which suburbs had been laid out with care. Great attention
was paid to making wide avenues which were laid out with artistic
relation to the contour on the ground and not on the old-style rectangular
plan. Mr. Bell-Irving thought if pains were taken with this land
near Jericho, Vancouver would in time have one of the finest suburbs
man could desire.
In the end it was decided to send a letter to the
Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works asking for a status report.
The board is of the opinion," the letter read in part,
"that before any definite plan is decided upon, the public
should be given an opportunity to express itself in the matter,
and on receipt of reply the matter shall be referred to the City
Freight Rates *sigh*
A perennial topic of debate, freight rates popped up again at the
July 3, 1906 Board meeting. It was decided to contact Joseph Martin,
KC, who acted as counsel for the freight shippers before the Railway
Commission, to get his opinion as to when a decision might be expected.
Small Debts Court
The Small Debts Court was considered by the Board to be a very
efficient organization for the collecting of debts, but member W.J.
MacMillan thought it would be a good idea to have the government
increase the amount that might be sued for in that court from $100
to $200. The matter was referred to the committee on legislation,
and the thought was expressed that the Board likely would approach
the government on this matter.
In its July 4, 1906 report on the Boards meeting
the previous evening, the Province had this: The shortage
of labor consequent on the shutting out of Chinese by the $500 headtax
was brought to the attention of the board by Alderman Heaps, who
declared that all the sawmills in the country were now in a somewhat
crippled condition because of labor shortage. He suggested that
it would be a good idea if labor could be brought in from outside
points, and mentioned that French-Canadians would be a desirable
That triggered a memory and led us onto the net
for a history of Maillardville. We found, on this site www.coquitlam.ca
this relevant quote: Mill owners, in search of workers, turned
their attention to the experienced logging culture of Quebec and
in 1909 a contingent of 110 French Canadians arrived, recruited
for work at Fraser Mills. With the arrival of a second contingent
in June 1910, Maillardville was born.
At the August 7, 1906 meeting of the Board the subject
of Deadmans Islandthe little lump of land off Stanley
Parkcame up. It seems there was a possibility a sawmill could
be established on it, and the Board was adamantly opposed. Our
board is anxious to encourage industries, member Jonathan
Rogers said, but industries are not everything. Stanley Park
is a valuable asset to the city, and better than many industries.
Now, are we to have a sawmill at its door, with the great risk of
fire in the Park? I would propose that we ask Ottawa to include
the little island in the Stanley Park lease, and so prevent its
possible use for any manufacturing purposes.
Said chairman Charles Tisdall in support of Rogers
motion, It has been estimated that the hotels and hackmen
alone make $70,000 a year out of visitors to the Park, while the
city spends $10,000 on it. That is, the city gets $7 for every dollar
she spends on the Park.
A resolution embodying the sentiments expressed by the Board was
sent to Ottawa August 8.
Support for Point Grey
The August 7 meeting of the Board took up the Point
Grey question. A circular letter for the attention of the provincial
government had been sent out to various groups in which the Board
urged the government not to allow any part of the lands there to
be placed on the market until a comprehensive plan of the
whole reserve has been prepared.
There were four considerations as a basis
to work upon, said the Province in its August 8 story
(Page 2). First, the construction of two main avenues , two
hundred feet wide, connected by crossroads and extending to the
Fraser River; second, preservation of the scenic features; third,
a minimum placed on the value of the houses to be erected, and fourth,
the securing of a reserve along the entire waterfront to provide
for a continuous marine driveway at some future date. (The
reason for the two-hundred-foot wide avenues was to allow for tramways,
riding and footways, boulevards, etc.)
A reply to the circular had been received from the
citys Hundred Thousand Club. (This was a booster group, one
of whose mottos was In 1910 Vancouver then Will have One Hundred
Thousand Men.) They heartily endorsed the idea and sent a six-man
delegation to the Board meeting to underline their support. The
delegation was led by R.W. Holland, who said Point Grey could become
another Stanley Park. The government, he said, held
some 4,000 acres at Point Grey which now in the rough were worth
about $250 an acre. He thought the value could easily be increased
to $400, and the boards action was a good business enterprise
if nothing else.
The clubs reply was welcomed, and laid
on the table until those from the government and the local
members (MLAs) were received.
Entertainment laid on
At its September 4, 1906 meeting the Board decided to cooperate
with the BC Lumber and Shingle Manufacturers Association and
the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Manufacturers Association
(CMA) to arrange for entertainment for the members of the Forestry
Convention and the CMA, who would be gathering in Vancouver later
in the month.
Postal workers asked for the Boards endorsement in a call
for an inquiry into their hours of work and their pay. The Board,
stressing the importance of an efficient postal service for the
city, happily gave that endorsement. It seems that the government
had delayed acting upon the question of annual leave, with the result
that the summer was now over and two-thirds of the workers eligible
for such leave didnt get it.
Workers who left werent replaced, those who
stayed worked in sweatshop conditions, the hours were
too long and the pay was 50 per cent lower than that given to common
laborers. (The average wage of a letter carrier at the time was
$40 a month.)
We have appealed to our Postmaster,
the posties petition said, and to our member, Mr. Macpherson,
time and again; they tell us that the department has been asked
to better our condition, but without any result. We now make this
appeal direct to you, as the highest tribunal, believing that now
your personal attention had been called to the matter something
will be done to our betterment.
The population of this city is increasing
with a rapidity which is unprecedented and arrangements should be
made by the department to cope with it without delay.
The Board agreed to a resolution to communicate with the Postmaster-General
and endorse the call for an inquiry.
One Big Hall
A suggestion from the Trades and Industries Committee that the
Board and other business-oriented groups and clubs in the city join
in the rental of a common headquarters was turned down, mainly on
the basis that the Board was an incorporated body and some of the
other groups were just clubs. They might be gone in a year. The
suggestion died, but one remark in the report of its debate stood
out: member Francis Carter-Cotton said he hoped to see a Board of
Trade building in the city some day.
The Board of Trade, said President McLennan
in support of that idea, may be a dignified body up here in
the corner of this building [the Molsons Bank Building, northeast
corner of Seymour and Hastings], but nobody knows anything about
it save on the first Tuesday of each month.
A digression: on the same Page 2 Province
on which the Boards September 4 meeting was reported on was
a small advertisement from the Vancouver Opera House. (It stood
where Sears is today at Granville and Georgia.) They wanted readers
to know that Richards & Pringles Famous Georgia Minstrels
were appearing. 40 Noted Funsters! 10 Big Novel Acts! 6 Comedians!
Tickets were $1 for the best seats, 75 cents and 50 cents."
Times have Changed
Last night, the Province reported
on October 10, 1906 (Page 14), the Board of Trade decided
to keep British Columbia a white mans country.
That dramatic lead, however, doesnt seem to
be reflected in the papers report on the Boards meeting
the previous day. Member H.O. Bell-Irving introduced the subject
[a severe labor shortage], the paper said, in a bright
and brief, yet exhaustive address. He declared the shortage
one of the most serious problems British Columbia was facing, causing
great injury to almost every industry.
Yet bad as it is now, Bell-Irving went
on, it is bound to become worse, for now there will be increased
demand for labor owing to railway construction and the growth of
industry, and no labor coming in to supply that demand.
We have illimitable wealth in our undeveloped
province . . . but of what use is it to us if we cant get
The Chinese were of some service, but now
with the $500 tax we are not getting even these nor any others to
replace them. Besides, how can we hope to obtain the full benefit
of the markets of awakening China, if we persist in excluding her
people? I doubt if the Hindu is as desirable as the Chinaman, and
he competes to a great extent with the white man.
We must have cooks and servants. I will venture
to say that there is room in Vancouver today for five hundred.
For a thousand, member Charles Tisdall
We dont even get a share of the labor
coming from England to the prairie provinces, Bell-Irving
continued, because transportation from Liverpool to Vancouver
is nearly double that from Liverpool to Winnipeg.
He concluded: For want of labor we are compelled
to eat badly cooked food, travel on abominable roads and live among
untidy streets . . . we shall see crops of fruit wasting on the
ground and salmon rotting in the boatsall for want of labor.
(Remember, Bell-Irving was the provinces biggest salmon exporter,
and many of his employees were Chinese.)
Hammering, Hammering, Hammering
He thought, said the Province, there were
only two ways of dealing with the subject, either the inauguration
of a policy which would bring in from Europe the needed labor, or
a reconsideration of the policy of excluding Chinese. Failure
to do either, Bell-Irving ended, means indefinitely
retarding the development of the country.
Member J.G. Woods said he understood Canadian immigration
agents in Great Britain were sending out only farmers and farm laborers.
If this were the true scope of their duties they should be
Charles Tisdall added: I would rather see
the laborers come from northern Europe, for they are our own kith
and kin, rather than the Asiatics. If we could once get the tide
of immigration past Winnipeg, where it now seems to end, I think
it would continue to come to the coast.
A resolution was passed to send a memorial
to the federal and provincial governments. (This word memorial
was what we could call a memo today. It pops up often
in reports of the Boards activities in these decades-old reports.)
One member, Charles Wilson, a KC, said it would be idle
to send it to the provincial government. Immigration wasnt
in their bailiwick. But Bell-Irving and others disagreed. If
the provincial Government makes up its mind on the subject, it can
do a great deal . . . If we are going to wait until Ottawa alone
acts, we will wait a long time. It is only by dint of hammering,
hammering, hammering that we get anything approaching the attention
we deserve. The memorial would be sent to both
Dredging up dredging
The federal harbors board was considering dredging
the Narrows (this refers to the First Narrows), and
the Board wanted to them to know they approved of that idea. They
worked up a resolution in support of it. Board President McLennan
brought up a related matter, the driftwood and rubbish often
seen in the harbor. I think some steps ought to be taken to have
it kept clear. Member William Godfrey agreed: It is
not only unsightly, but a great menace to small craft. It has caused
many launches to break down during the past season.
If only one man were employed, McLennan
concluded, he could keep the harbor as clean as a lawn.
(By the way, the spelling harbor is
the one used in the Province in these aged reports, including
the place name Coal Harbor. That surprised us a little.)
Still on the water, a recent fire at the Heaps Mill
on Burrard Inlet spurred a resolution that the city should provide
a fireboat. Between Coal Harbor and the Second Narrows,
H.O. Bell-Irving commented, there is a great amount of wealth
centered, industries which need the services of a modern fireboat.
BC Premier McBride was going to Ottawa for a federal-provincial
conference, and the Board approved a resolution to send him a telegram
in Victoria stating the urgent need for a General Bankruptcy
Law for the Dominion, and pressing him to bring the matter up before
the federal government and the other provincial premiers.
Freight Cars Needed
There continued to be a shortage of freight cars
serving the province, and the Board struck a committee to act in
partnership with the Lumber & Shingle Manufacturers Association
to induce the CPR to build such cars here. The situation at
the present time, said member Alderman E.H. Heaps, is
worse than ever before; it appears there is no chance of relief
until lake navigation closes. I have heard that a number of mills
are now hampered by lack of cars. Down on the Sound the mills are
experiencing the same trouble. [We think hes referring to
the mills on Washingtons Puget Sound.] There the question
of the building of cars on the coast has been taken up.
Heaps cited a famous name: This matter was
taken up with Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, when he was last in Vancouver.
He said that it would cost $200 more per car to build here than
in Montreal. I understand that carwheels and other parts are purchased
by the CPR in Germany. These could easily be laid down here, and
by building cars here the company would avoid the necessity of hauling
the lumber east to make the cars in Montreal. There would also be
the advantage of one long haul east after the cars were built.
A digression: Thomas Shaughnessy (after whom Vancouvers
poshest neighborhood is named) turns out to have been a quirky fellow.
Check out this website
for an eye-opening look at him. Heres an excerpt: Shaughnessy
was a perfectionist. He had a particular compulsion for cleanliness,
washing his hands many times a day. Whereas [William] Van Horne
ordered mountains moved if they got in the way of his construction
program, Shaughnessy was more likely to berate employees about a
speck on the dining car cutlery, imperfectly washed passenger cars,
a spelling error on a CPR hotel menu, and, of course, even minute
irregularities in any invoice.
Canadian Bottoms Preferred
The December 4, 1906 meeting of the Board tackled
the problem of the countrys coasting laws. The
laws, which the federal government annually suspended for the sake
of convenience, required goods originating in Canada and passing
through foreign territory en route to another Canadian point to
be shipped in Canadian vessels. The rule was regularly suspended
because it was usually more convenient to have such goods sent on
American ships simply because we didnt have enough ships to
handle the volume.
For instance, said the Province
in its December 5 report (Page 13), goods shipped from Vancouver
to Dawson [City, YT] are in this category. Since the early days
of the Klondike rush American boats have been free to take these
goods to Skagway. If the coasting laws are re-established American
boats will no longer be able to touch this class of freight, which
will be reserved for Canadian bottoms.
Member W.J. McMillan dissented. He said his firm
preferred the existing situation because American ships carried
the goods cheaper, and handled perishable goods better. This
is a very dangerous matter to interfere with, and I will not support
any motion to have the laws enforced.
The Provinces report continued, in
general explanation of the subject for the benefit of those present
who were not shippers, Mr. R.P. McLennan, president, went into the
history of the subject. He explained how in the early days of the
Klondike rush Canadian bottoms were few on this coast, and it had
been necessary for the merchants doing business with the Yukon,
to secure the suspension of the coasting laws in order that American
steamers might call at this port to handle their freight.
McLennan cited Prince Rupert, which looked to be
an important port in a few years what with the Grand Trunk Pacific
coming in, and that railways plans to work with the Great
Northern and Northern Pacific Railways in shipping goods from the
East . . . to be routed via Seattle! There is nothing,
McLennan said, to prevent American boats gobbling all this
freight up and carrying it to Prince Rupert. We have the Canadian
Pacific Railway, Union Steamship Co., and MacKenzie Bros. operating
steamers north from this port, and they stand a poor show to get
any of this freight. The Great Northern and Northern Pacific may
still carry the freight to Seattle, but if the coasting laws are
applied they will be compelled to get Canadian bottoms to carry
it north to Prince Rupert.
More discussion ensued. Then W.J. McMillan told
the members that this year every shipper in Vancouver had
taken advantage of the opportunity to ship goods north on American
boats. They had to patronize the Pacific Coast Steamship Companys
vessels when they called herethey found it necessary.
Member W.H. Malkin said the Union Steamship Company had never run
its boats to Skagway because it could not issue through tickets
or bills of lading. The CPR and the Pacific Coast Steamship Company
got all the trade. If the coasting laws are enforced, Malkin said,
the Union Steamship Company might get some of the business.
A resolution was passed, W.J. McMillan the only dissenter, to ask
Ottawa to stop suspending the coasting laws.
That put the cat among the pigeons! A Province
story December 15, 1906 (Page 3) showed that Yukon and local merchants
strongly protested the suggestion that the coasting laws might be
enforced, fearing that if the American boats are prevented
from calling here, the tariffs from this port might be advanced.
A committee had been struck to suggest changes in
civic administration. They reported at the December 4 meeting. Among
their recommendations to the Board: a larger proportion of frontage
taxes should be charged against the property-owners; the ward system
currently in effect should be abolished, with aldermen elected in
the same way as the mayor, the school trustees and the park commissioners;
all railway crossings in the city should be either overhead or under
the roadbed, and that the care of the boulevards should be
taken over by the city. [That last one mildly puzzled us;
wed assumed they already were. It turns out, on further reading,
the boulevards were the responsibility of the individual
property owners. Were not sure what was specifically meant
in this case by boulevard.]
Speaking for the committee, Charles Tisdall said
it considered it desirable that the city should be formed into one
ward, so that it would be broader-minded in the City Councilmen,
who would not bicker over ward interests, but would look to the
interests of the city as a whole.
As for the railway crossings question, that had
been sparked by the move of the VW&Y Railway to cross streets
in the east end of the city on the level. Tisdall said that while
it might be costly to put railroad tracks overhead or underground
in the city, Vancouver is growing so rapidly that it will be only
a short time before such action is imperative.
(The VW&YVancouver, Westminster, and Yukon Railwaywas
started by Vancouver industrialist John Hendry. It built a line
from Ladner to New Westminster and then to Vancouver via Burnaby
Lake. The line later went bankrupt.)
A message was sent to the federal minister of Marine
and Fisheries pointing out the decline in the numbers of salmon
and praying that the minister will promptly take such steps
as he deems necessary to facilitate in every way possible the natural
and artificial propagation of salmonmore especially upon the
The Board endorsed a resolution of the Vancouver Tourist Association
to the federal government supporting a scheme to erect a Yukon Building
at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition to be held in Seattle in
1909. (There is a fascinating display of photographs from this exhibition
What else was happening
locally in 1906?
For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The
Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.
Next: 1907 »