Charles Colquhoun Ballantyne (Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Minister of the Naval Service)
Yes. I wish to explain why the Government found it necessary to pay British Columbia shipbuilders $10 per ton more than eastern shipbuilders. First of all, I endeavoured to place contracts with British Columbia shipbuilders at the eastern prices, but they pointed out. that the labour cost was $7 per ton more in British Columbia than in the East, and that freight rates were very much higher. After a great many interviews, extending over some months, the Government agreed to pay the British Columbia shipbuilders $10 per ton more than the eastern price for a similar type of ship. For instance, if an 8,100-ton ship was being built by Vickers of Montreal for $180 per ton, the price for a similar ship in the British Columbia yards would be $190 per ton.
There has been some criticism of myself, especially by the British Columbia ship-
builders, because I would not allow them to take foreign contracts. When the war was on, France, Norway, and Italy were urging us to allow ships to be built here for them. I would gladly have consented had we been able to get sufficient ship plates, marine engines, boilers, and the other necessary equipment for our own needs, and at the same time have a surplus for ships to be built on foreign accounts; but unfortunately, notwithstanding the fact that we had an agreement with the United States for 80,000 tons of plate; up to the time of the signing of the armistice we had only been able to get some 6,000 tons. So I could do nothing else than say to these gentlemen that Canada could not afford to delay her own shipbuilding programme by building ships on foreign account.
With regard to the slowness of the construction of some of our ships, I admit that the yards have taken very much longer than I anticipated, but the delay has been unavoidable owing to the shortage of skilled and unskilled labour, and the great difficulty in getting shipbuilding plate from the United States, as well as engines, boilers, and other equipment. The ships are coming along more rapidly now than when the war was on. Before I leave the subject, I might say that quite recently there has been a great demand for space. Our ships are going to be operated by the Canadian Government Merchant Marine Limited, and naturally manufacturers and firms who have large orders for shipment abroad halve been coming to the Marine Department to know whether or not they can get the tonnage. I have been approached, for instance, by the Dominion Coal Company, who told me that all their ships had been requisitioned by the British Minister of Shipping, and they wanted tonnage to send t*000,0(X) tons of coal to Montreal. They said that unless the Canadian Government could provide the tonnage they might have to close down their mines, which would be almost a catastrophe. The steel men, the pulp men, the sugar men and the general produce merchants all want to know what tonnage the Canadian Government can provide. The British ships that are plying from 'Canadian ports at the present time have seventy per cent of their available cargo space reserved for the British Minister of Shipping, which leaves only thirty per cent for the Canadian export trade.