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.

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1906

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 Board’s 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 line—the A & K Railway—to 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 railway’s 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 Board’s 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 wouldn’t actually open to students on the Point Grey site until 1925.]

Mail call

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.”

Coal call

A curious fact was brought to the Board’s 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 Lloyd’s 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.

Etc.

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!

AGM

NO POLITICS FOR BOARD OF TRADE was the headline on Page 4 of the Province for March 7, 1906 in reporting on the Board’s annual general meeting. “Politics,” the story began, “threatened to become a disturbing factor at last night’s 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 resolution—here’s where the trouble started—also 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.”

Tempers warm

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 ridicule—its 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 it.”

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.

Post control

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 (today’s 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. Hyman—the federal minister of public works—and 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) doesn’t give any details of what Jackson perceived as the World’s sins. Darn! And there’s no indication in the Province story of what decision the Board made in response to the World’s request.

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 city’s history because he wrote a set of words to O Canada that were sung for many years in the city, until Robert Weir’s words became the standard. You can read a fuller account here.

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 hadn’t 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 decision.”

Telephone service

In a discussion of difficulties being faced by the B.C. Telephone Company (former employees who had gone on strike were apparently cutting the company’s 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 company’s new switchboard would be in operation by the end of the year.

Royal visit?

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. Here’s 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.” That’s one up for the Board! (See the April 3 entry above.)

Market Gardens

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 would fail.”

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 of Vancouver.”

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 Council.”

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.

Labor Shortage

In its July 4, 1906 report on the Board’s 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 class.”

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.”

Deadman’s Island

At the August 7, 1906 meeting of the Board the subject of Deadman’s Island—the little lump of land off Stanley Park—came 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 city’s 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 board’s action was a good business enterprise if nothing else.”

The club’s 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.

Sweatshop

Postal workers asked for the Board’s 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 didn’t get it.

Workers who left weren’t 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 Molson’s 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 Board’s 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 & Pringle’s 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 man’s country.”

That dramatic lead, however, doesn’t seem to be reflected in the paper’s report on the Board’s 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 can’t get labor?

“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 interjected.

“We don’t 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 boats—all for want of labor.”

(Remember, Bell-Irving was the province’s 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 enlarged.”

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 Board’s 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 wasn’t 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 governments.

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.”

Bankruptcy

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 he’s referring to the mills on Washington’s 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 Vancouver’s poshest neighborhood is named) turns out to have been a quirky fellow. Check out this website for an eye-opening look at him. Here’s 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 country’s “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 didn’t 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 Province’s 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.”

Prince Rupert

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 railway’s 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 Company’s vessels when they called here—they 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.”

Civic Changes

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; we’d assumed they already were. It turns out, on further reading, the “boulevards” were the responsibility of the individual property owners. We’re 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&Y—Vancouver, Westminster, and Yukon Railway—was 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.)

Other matters

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 salmon—more especially upon the Fraser River.”

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 here.

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 »

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vancouver Daily World newspaper set up an office at the 1909 AYP Exhibition in Seattle. This is it.
The Vancouver Daily World newspaper set up an office at the 1909 AYP Exhibition in Seattle.
This is it.

[Photo: www.powerpioneers.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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