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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 17 January 1920

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The Faults of its Qualities

In an economic system based on law and order, on freedom to do what one likes with one’s own, on freedom of contract, all part and parcel of an Order of Nature, complications are bound to come to the surface once in while.

There is a bunch of sheets in Western Canada—the kept press—that are managed and edited by men carrying the bush culture in full flower and maturity. No others could make a success of these papers as their constituency carries the bush-culture as a pervasive culture. The first settlers who came to Manitoba didn’t carry anything else away from home with them and they have succeeded in imposing that culture on all of the first arrivals from Britain who settled alongside of them. That is why the bush-culture is a pervasive culture in Manitoba and largely influences the other communities further west but gradually thinning out as the population is less and less of bush origin.

The Kept Press is perturbed, that is, it is excited and anxious. A bad man named Backus, down at Fort Francis,is manager of a paper mill and pulp wood limit that cost much money. This man is bad because he wants to manage the property entrusted to his charge, with the one and only object of making all the money that can be made out of the property. This sufficiently describes Backus.

All the Kept Press supported the Union Government. As a war measures act, they got the government to appoint R. A. Pringle as a paper controller of the news print supply. Pringle is a man who has had a peculiar, a checkered and rather adventurous history, mostly in finance and politics and activities in near-politics. The kept press expects a supply that is from the Backus plant at Fort Francis. The situation stands now with the kept press on one side short of paper, and Backus in the other side with orders on hand and contacts made at prices to suit Backus, on the other side, and with Pringle between. The real trouble is that some of the Winnipeg papers expect to be out of paper tomorrow or any day now. They depended on their pull with the government that they supported to do their little trick and keep up the supply. Wouldn’t it be awful if the Free Press failed to come out for a week or two?

Then old Backus represents American capital. Lots of American capital in Canada these days. In fact, America is the only source of capital since Britain went broke to the extent that loans come no more from Britain. Backus, no doubt, feels safe in telling the kept press to go hang. He shipped all his paper on hand to the United States and tore up the track so that none could be shipped out and this in face of the sheriff and a seizure order which found nothing to seize. These American representatives of capital are a tougher bunch to deal with than a Canadian labor union. They have a habit of laughing at law when the law is not on their side and being able to keep up the laugh indefinitely. Big capital remembers that the Winnipeg bunch led by the kept press made an awful mess of it last summer when they failed to keep industry going to Winnipeg because they were stubborn in getting along with labor. This may be a lesson for the good of their souls. If Americans don’t get all the profits that are in sight they don’t take excuses, they act.

Perhaps this is their plan of operations to discipline stubborn people who are married to the bush culture. Anyhow we are shedding no tears.

Page revised: 31 July 2013

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