Labour Shortages Expected to Impact Harvests (31 July 1915)

Tens of thousands Canadian soldiers had left for overseas service by mid 1915 and more were being recruited all the time. With so many young, able-bodied men leaving the domestic labour market, many were concerned about the war’s pressure on the Canadian workforce. In the summer of 1915, one particular concern was a possible shortfall in unskilled labour to harvest Canadian crops. The anxiety was such that many municipalities were cancelling public works projects in order to make more unskilled laborers available to bring in the harvest.

While much of the anxiety was targeted toward the prairie provinces, even Waterloo Region was not immune to this. On July 31st, both the Ayr News and the Elmira Signet, published the statements of Canadian Pacific Railway representatives who warned of the coming shortfall and the looming demand for temporary, migrant labourers in the western provinces, particularly those from central Canada. They stated: “It will be impossible to get men from the east, where men are scarce, and in any case the west does not want men who, after the harvest, would be a burden on the people.”

(“Harvesting the Crop,” Ayr News, 31 July 1915; “Harvesting the Crop,” Elmira Signet, 31 July 1915.)