“But the miners and all the other men
Saw the prices go up once again;
And the workers began to blame the laws
That always acted against their cause.
Yes, the very men that they used to cheer
were greeted now with a hiss and a jeer.
For they said that now, to change the law,
They would send McLachlan to Ottawa.”
There are two main political parties in Canada. Although there are superficia1 differences between them, on basic principles there is no real distinction. This is because they are both paid for and run by Canada’s big businesses.
To win elections the parties resort to lies and promises, threats, intimidation and bribes. In Cape Breton the food and whiskey wagons were standard parts of Liberal and Conservative Party apparatus.
The 1921 election is a good example of what happens at election time. The whole country was in a turmoil that year. Unemployment, high prices and poverty were the rewards Canadians got for fighting a war for freedom and democracy. Because the cost of living rose so rapidly, Cape Bretoners actually suffered a drop of 30 per cent in their earnings from 1918 to 1920. In 1921 the two party system (one party in office, and the other one out but waiting to take over) did not perform well. The Conservatives, who ruled through the war, were thrown out. The Liberals became the government. But a crucial new force had appeared on the scene -- the Farmer and Labour men. A group of 67 candidates nominated by Canadian farmers and workers was the second largest group elected to the House of Commons.
In Cape Breton it was logical that Farmer and Labour candidates would run in the election. In 1918 labour men won elections to the town councils of New Watèrford, Glace Bay and Sydney. For years candidates picked and elected by the working people of these towns occupied the most important positions on these councils.
J.B. McLachlan was the popular choice for a labour candidate in Cape Breton. His campaign was so turbulent and enthusiastic that local politicians and the mineowners panicked. Their newspapers raved bitterly against “Bolshevism” and the clergy preached the evils of “atheism.” The general manager of the British Empire Steel and Coal Company (Besco had replaced Dosco as the owner of the mines and steel plant) 1eaped into the fray himself, shutting down several mines as a warning calling for “a return to sanity.”
Big business and frenzied finance control both Govern-
ment and Opposition and both Mr. Meighen and Mr. King
march to the click of typewriters in the offices of
Canadian Pacific Railways, British Empire and Steel
Corporation, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Meighen
and King are but corporals working under a general
staff composed of bank presidents, railway owners
and captains of industry. It is from this source that
Meighen and King get their marching orders and have
their election expenses paid.”
The night before the election the Liberal candidate, a Besco lawyer named Billy Carroll (all the other candidates were lawyers), produced a forged document aimed at discrediting McLachlan. He produced this document -- which alleged that McLachlan had betrayed the miners by making a secret pact with Besco - - in the final ten minutes of the last public meeting of the campaign.
Before he actually made the charges, they had been printed on the front page of the Sydney Record. Naturally, McLachlan had no chance to make a reply to the charges, later shown to be ridiculous.
But the dirty work had its desired result. Although McLachlan won handily in the mining districts of his riding, he was defeated in Sydney. When the totals were added up Carroll had defeated him by just over 1800 votes.