The present is a critical time for men in | the Borough of Ashburton and surrounding districts, upon whom the dull state of trade is inflicting severe hardships through the inevitable want of employment that follows commercial depression. At this juncture—when all public works in the Borough have been suspended, when the Road Boards, with one or two exceptions, arc not expending their funds at a rate proportionate ‘to the state of the labor market, and the County Council, though holding a hu'go amount of money do not seem prepared to put it in circulation by a channel that would enable it to benefit tin laboring man, and when private employers of labor have nut yet sulliciently recovered from the recent shook their financial confidence received to allow their enterprise full sway and find employment for the hands now forced to he idle—the district >s threatened with an efflux of the population it was our pride to see congregate within our boundaries. The sufferings of the population are not just now commencing, but we would fain hope that the present is the darkest hour of night that comes before the day dawn. All the winter through want lias hold a threatening finger over the doors of our cottage homes, and the entrance of real distress was only averted by the laudable efforts of the Road Boards ami the Corporation, who, to their credit did their very utmost by putting works in hand to relievo the glut in the labor market. But the funds of the Borough were not sufficient to hear the strain put upon them, and now when the last available copper lias been spout upon work that our unemployed could do, the labor gang has had to bo reduced to the neucleus represented by the foreman. One Road Board in the immediate vicinity of the Borough has reached the point in the length of its tether beyond which it is unsafe to go with any assurance of avoiding disaster, so that unless the well-
found County Council can set free a portion of its funds at once, or Government do more in the same direction than it is doing, the future must remain as difficult of realisation for the toiler as over.
The County Council were willing enough to advance to the Borough a sum of £2,000 to assist the latter body to tide over their financial difficulties, but as it appeared that in consequence of the Borough not being within the boundaries of the County, the Act would not permit of any County funds being expended in the Borough, and wo believe the Chairman and members were sincere when they expressed their regret at their inability to assist the municipality in its distress. The County, however, can, if so disposed, render assistance to another local body which requires funds to carry out a large number of necessary works, such as would give employment to manual labor. The Longboach Road Board have spent all their moneys and their district is still in want of considerable expenditure on drains, and as this district is within the County’s boundaries, the latter body will not have any legal difficulty in the way of advancing funds to prosecute the necessary works. “ Bis dat qui cito dat,” and any advance made now would he of greater value than one made at a future time.
Wo hear much of the duty of the General Government in the matter of finding employment for idle men. We hear it asserted that it is no more the duty of the Legislature to provide work for the labfiring population at a time when work is scarce than it is their duty to pull private firms through in a time of financial difficulty. The principle is sound enough from one point of view, and would, perhaps have been a fair one to act upon had t!ie Legislature acted upon it throughout. But they have not done so. In response to the colony's demands a public works and immigration policy was inaugurated, with the result that thousands of human beings—all workers —were poured upon the shores that now refuse to find them food. Those workers came here at the invitation and at the expense of the Government, induced to emigrate from their native land by representations made by paid agents of the Government, that the land was a very Canaan flowing with milk and honey. Once on these shores, to leave is a matter almost impossible to the vast majority of those who have chosen them as their adopted home. We do not claim for the working men that they should be supported like so many paupers, but we do claim for them that having been brought here by the Government, Government should stand in the gap made by the present financial depression, and create, as far as lies in its power, new outlets for the toilers’ labor to supply the place of those that have closed through the difficulties or caution of private employers and the impecuniosity of public bodies. The district represented by Mr. E. G. Wright has been singularly unfortunate in the share of public works that have fallen to it, and beyond the through railway, the so-called Mount Somers lino, and the extension of the Malvern line known as the Springfield contract, now in progress towards the Kowai Pass, nothing whatever has been done for it. For the through lino we have to thank the desire of Dunedin and Christchurch to he connected by T railway, and not any goodwill towards ns by the powers that be, and as for the Mount Somers line it is still incomplete, not only in construction but in plan. It is impossible to say whether or not the Mount Somers line will be extended as we all desire*; and wo would certainly have wished, in the interests of the unemployed that the County Council had made very strong representations to Government on the subject. But we are glad to learn that strong private influence is now being brought to bear upon the authorities to make the extension required. Wc do not wish to raise any false trust as to the success of that influence, but we are not without a faint hope that the repsesentations made will not he without their weight in the matter.
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