George Brecken Nicholson
Mr. G. B. NICHOLSON (East Algoma):
Mr. G. B. NICHOLSON (East Algoma):
Mr. MACDONALD (Antigonish-Guysbor-ough):
Will my hon. friend permit me a question? WThy does not this company go on mining this 120,000 tons of coal and bank it?
My hon. friend for
Pictou (Mr. Cantley) stated a few moments ago that prior to the importation of Sir Henry Thornton from the United States, the Canadian National Railways purchased banked coal, and the mining company was able to bank the coal during the winter months and sell it in the summer.
Mr. MACDONALD (Antigonish-Guysbor-ough):
Sir Henry Thornton is willing to do
What about the price?
Mr. MACDONALD (Antigonish-Guysbor-ough):
In regard to the price, my hon. friend for Pictou knows that the price of coal is never fixed until April or May, and any company would be foolish to buy coal three months in advance of fixed prices.
I do not know anything
of the kind, and neither does my hon. friend I do know, however, that Sir Henry Thornton could make a contract for coal to-morrow if he wanted to. An attempt has been made during the past two weeks to have such a contract made, but without success. My hon. friend might assist.
The question the hon. minister asked me was why the coal company did not continue to bank coal. It is impossible for me to go into details in connection with the management of the coal mines of Nova Scotia, since I live in northern Ontario, but we heard statements this afternoon to the effect that the practice of the coal company was to do that very thing, shipping the banked coal during the summer season mixed proportionately with freshly mined coal, until the present management of the Canadian National Railways refused to accept coal of that character.
Will my hon. friend permit
me a question? The hon. member made the statement that the Canadian National Railways should be expected to buy this coal. As a matter of principle and as a matter of information I would like to ask him whether he thinks the Canadian National Railways have a special duty in this connection because of the fact that they are owned by the people of Canada and are thus distinct from any other railway company, such as the Canadian Pacific Railway, for example.
I have no hesitation
in saying to my hon. friend that the Canadian National Railways have an absolute responsibility, and they have the matter entirely in their own hands. Without losing one single dollar, they can buy all the coal as suggested here this afternoon, and make it possible for these miners to go on working, as they ask to be permitted to do.
Perhaps I did not catch my hon. friend's answer correctly. Does he say that the Canadian National Railways have a special responsibility because of the fact they are the property of the Canadian people?
Mr. Speaker, they
have a special responsibility, for the reason that they control the one railway in Canada tapping this coal mining area, the railway which was projected into that country for the very purpose of carrying coal from these mines. I will even go further, Sir. Without attempting to go into details, I say that if the Canadian National Railways will adopt the same policy as their competitor has adopted, these people will be given relief.
Would the same thing
apply in western Canada, where the Canadian Pacific Railway enters the western coal fields?
Mr. Speaker, let me
again say that I did not intend to enter the wide range of discussion which the questions of my hon. friend open up, but if you will visit the terminals of the two great railways in western Canada you will find that the competitor of the Canadian National Railways is now following a policy which gives the miners of Alberta continuous work; for they bring the coal to their terminals and store it there. They do not wait until a locomotive is actually there to buy the coal, but they purchase ahead for it, and the Canadian National Railways could do exactly the same thing. It is the duty of this House to say to the government-if there is such a
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thing; if there is a medium through which this House can communicate with the Canadian National Railways-that we expect them as representing the Canadian people to take steps to make it possible for these miners to go to work.
Mr. O. B. PRICE (Westmorland):
Mr. Speaker, it was not my intention to enter into this discussion with regard to the coal areas of Nova Scotia and the carrying by the Canadian National railway of a portion of the coal produced there. But I wish briefly to point out to hon. members that the people of the Maritime provinces are under no obligation to the rest of Canada for any favours in connection with the supplying of coal for the Canadian National railways; for any expenditure which is made on that account has already been well provided for by the people of the Maritime provinces themselves.
The Canadian National railways have cost this country upwards of two billions of dollars. Of this huge expenditure the people of the Maritime provinces contributed $478,000,000. Of that amount $131,300,000 has been spent on railways and canals, so that the Maritime provinces have contributed $347,000,000 more than they have received. Do you not think, then, that the Maritime provinces are entitled to consideration? What occurs across the line to the south? Whenever any industry in the United States is suffering, the railways there will go fifty-fifty in order to help them out, but since this country has been over-ruled and the railways of the country run by Sir Henry Thornton, the Maritime provinces have been forgotten; they have been practically backed off the map altogether. Should we be kept out in the cold, or should we be given the opportunity, even if it does cost fifty cents or one dollar a ton more to ship coal from the Cape Breton areas, to produce the coal that is within our own borders? This parliament can vote $5,000,000 for the Home Bank depositors; you can buy hotels in Paris, and Union club buildings in London; you can spend money on golf links; while down in the Maritime provinces the people in suburban districts even cannot get a fair show in train service. Furthermore, freight rates have been raised so high that shippers within a radius of fifteen miles cannot ship their lumber into the centres like the city of Monoton, as they have previously done, and to-day they are labouring under the difficulty of hauling the material which goes into the construction of
barrels and other wood work into the centres by horse and sled.
I also wish to point out briefly that there has been spent in this country upwards of $211,000,000 on canals, and of that amount the Maritime provinces have contributed $26,000,000, while only $1,000,000 has been expended in their territory. We also contributed $3,000,000 towards the construction of the Quebec bridge, which cost $20,000,000. Is there nothing else the Canadian National Railways can take from us? Is there nothing else they want? Have we a government to-day that is willing to say to Sir Henry Thornton: You have to provide for the
people of this country, and in such emergencies as the present one down in Cape Breton, with the people suffering and starvation staring them in the face-and they have had plenty of that, Mr. Speaker-you must give these people a chance-give them ah order that will keep them going for six months. We are supposed to be a free people; then let the government of this country stand behind the people: let them rise up and protect our natural products.
There is another matter which bears largely on the coal situation, but into which I shall not go in detail at this time. We are importing from the United States not only enormous quantities of coal, but large quantities of other products that come in with the coal. The iron and steel imported into our markets from the United States in November last were as follows:
Canada, 68,828 tons; Japan, 16.610; Cuba, 6.975; Colombia, 9,303; China, 6,975; Mexico, 5,859; the United Kingdom, 5,111; Argentina, 5,038; the Dutch East Indies, 4,755; British India, 4,674; the Philippine Islands, 3,913; Venezuela, 3,670.
I have mentioned only a few of (these imports, to show you how the Maritime provinces have suffered. We have the coal and steel and other products right at our own doors, ready to enter into the construction of the products which we formerly made. We should have the opportunity to manufacture these products in our own country, and until .this government wakes up to the fact that we must protect our natural resources, our pulpwood, our coal mining and' our other industries, Canadian business is going to keep sliding over into the United States. Millions of our dollars are crossing the line and going into the pockets of workingmen over there, skilled workers, railway employees and others, which should be going into the pockets of our own Canadian people. So far as the particular question before us is concerned, instead of importing coal from the United States let the
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government of this country have a heart; let them view the situation as it would appeal to them if they were residents of Cape Breton. Let them tell Sir Henry Thornton-surely he is no bigger than the government of the country-
Oh, he is.
-surely he is at present
supposed to be exercising his powers without interference from this government. In a matter of national importance like this it is up to the government to give an order to the coal mines of Cape Breton in order that our coal miners may get work and that our people may get a small share of what they have more than paid for.
Mr. A. de WITT FOSTER (Hants-Kings):
I did not intend on this occasion to offer any remarks, the subject having been so well covered by the hon. members who have spoken. But the seriousness of the situation, it seems to me, ought to commend itself to every member of this House, whether he comes from the east, the central portion of Canada, or the far west. As has been pointed out, this question is more or less of a perennial, and some lead or direction should be given by the government in the way of a policy which* will have the effect of settling the matter so that it will not be continually coming before the House. Any condition in Canada, no matter in what part of the country it exists, which is productive of starvation and hunger and all their accompanying miseries, ought to be dealt with in a statesmanlike manner; there should be no attempt at playing petty politics as between the government of a province and the government of the Dominion. [DOT]
The facts in this matter have been placed before the House; it is in possession of all the necessary information. What is the House going to do? What can it do? The suggestion has been advanced that Sir Henry Thornton, president of the Canadian National Railways should be communicated with. I may say to you, Mr. Speaker, from a rather intimate knowledge of events in the past, that he would lend a ready ear to suggestions coming from hon. gentlemen opposite. In making suggestions to Sir Henry Thornton, hon. gentlemen opposite would not be invoking a new rule, nor would the president himself be adopting an innovation if he listened to suggestions from my hon. friends. In saying this I wish to be clearly understood that I am not insinuating that the head of the National Railways listens to improper suggestions from 14011-26
hon. gentlemen opposite; I am merely pointing out that it is within his power to do so. It is also within the power of the government of the day-or such of it as we now have- to cease passing the buck to the National Railways, the British Empire Steel Corporation, and the provincial government of Nova Scotia, and give a lead which will tend to bring about a settlement of this important matter.
Now what are the facts with regard to Nova Scotia? This question is one of the most important which has been beiore the electors of that province during the past twenty-dive or thirty years. It was the question upon which the local government largely depended for support during the greater portion of its forty-three years of existence prior to the change last June. But what happened? The situation got out of hand so far as the government of the late premier, Mr. E. H. Armstrong, was concerned. It got out of hand so far as the Minister of Labour in the late government was concerned; and the two governments, the federal and the provincial, were unable to do anything that tended to alleviate the unfavourable conditions in the coal mining area. However, one of the very important planks in the platform of Premier Rhodes, at the time he was leading the opposition, was that if his party were returned to power he would immediately take steps to examine to the fullest extent into all the various problems affecting the mines and the miners. Mr. Rhodes redeemed that promise immediately he became premier; notwithstanding his strenuous labours during the campaign, the very moment he succeeded1 to the premiership he bent all his energies and directed all his efforts towards a settlement of the difficulties which had proved too great for solution at the hands of t'he government which had preceded him, or at the hands of hon. gentlemen opposite. Mr. Rhodes appointed a royal commission to investigate this problem, and I have never heard it suggested by anyone that there ever was a better commission than the one w'hich he selected. I need not point out that the chairman was a very prominent Englishman, an'd that the other two *members were the president of St. Francis Xavier University, Dr. MacPherson. one of the very ablest men in Nova Scotia, and Major Hume Cronyn, an extremely competent gentleman from Ontario. The commission made an inquiry and reported their findings a few days ago. They certainly have been the means of creating far better relations between the company and the men. So far so good. We are now reasonably on the way to
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a permanent solution, a step has been taken in the path of progress. But it is true that there is a problem calling for immediate consideration, arising out of the lack of employment and the conditions which obtained last winter when a motion identical with this was introduced and debated here. Human life is at stake. There is humanity to be considered on the one hand as against politics on the other. I appeal to hon. gentlemen, regardless of their political leanings, not to endeavour to play petty politics in this matter, but to see if something cannot be done immediately which will settle the problem for all time. I appeal to those qualities of heart and mind exemplified] by the only representative of the better half of our people in this House, the hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss MaePhai'l), and I say if there ever was a time when hon. members to my left should stand by their professions in regard to the amelioration of the lot of humanity, it is now. Here is an opportunity for them to sit down and discuss the question with the government if they will; and I will not object if they sit as closely to them as they see fit on this particular occasion, because something needs to be done, and that, immediately. I appeal to them to give this matter due consideration, and to give a lead to a government which does not seem to be any better able now to take the lead than it was when the late Minister of Labour addressed the House ten or twelve months ago, on the occasion of a discussion of the same topic. I believe hon. members to my left are sufficiently studious-I have listened to the speeches of some of them and have spoken with others privately, and I believe there are many able men among them; perhaps they are all able- and here is a chance for them to give the government some idea of what progressive legislation means and how to bring about a settlement of a very important problem. In making that suggestion I do not mean to suggest that recourse should be had to the shifting of obligation or responsibility upon someone else. I believe that every hon. member, regardless of party, feels deep down in his heart that this is a matter which merits and should receive his closest attention.
Hon. gentlemen may hesitate to adopt my suggestion because it would be establishing a precedent. Well, they were very anxious the other day to establish a new precedent in this House, and why should they hesitate now if it is a precedent that stands in the way? I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that no precedents should prevent an individual, anv party or any government from taking action
on behalf of the people of this country. No precedents should prevent a free people from saving themselves from starvation. From the point of view of the constituency which I represent, this coal question is in a sense miles removed, so that I cannot be accused in addressing this House of desiring to make political capital out of it. But conscious of my own responsibility as a member of this House-and I am sure that feeling is shared by all hon. members-I say that this debate ought not to close until the government has given some indication, either through the hon. gentleman who leads the House or through some other responsible minister, that the justifiable and altogether moderate demands or suggestions that have been made will be accepted; and that a definite course will be immediately outlined, ini order thait relief may be afforded as soon as possible.
I have under my hand the speeches made by the previous member for South Cape Breton, who is not now in this House. My personal relations with him were very friendly, but I do not find any great fault with his not being here. As a matter of fact, I rather congratulate the present hon. member for South Cape Breton on his being here- and I am very sincere in saving so. But if hon. members desire to tou*h upon the features of this matter which bear upon the question of protection, I refer them to a speech delivered here on the 24th of February, 1925, wherein the hon. member at that time pointed out that even with all the millions it had spent since it undertook the reorganization and development of those areas. Besco found itself unable to compete with the coal brought in from the United States, and that was the reaso.n why they had to close down their mines. We have not said that that was the reason. It has not been necessary to do so; Besco has said it, I have no brief for the British Empire Steel Corporation: I do not know any of those who manage it nor have I had any business relations with them. I speak of them only as employers of labour and as developers of the great coal area down there. But they come forward in this particular case and1 exhibit what? A desire to do nothing? No, a desire on the other hand to meet the Canadian National Railways half way in this particular matter. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that a way can be found of having the company and the railway get together, and I ask the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough (Mr. Macdonald) in no political spirit whatsoever, to use his great offices to that end. Should he subsequently go to
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a constituency in Nova Scotia other than Antigonish-Guysborough I promise I would not use that against him on the hustings in his county. I know that his mind and his heart are with his native province, and I give him some credit for that-I only wish I could give him more. But in this case he has an opportunity at least to start along the good way, and perhaps it will be the only opportunity he will have for a long time.
I leave the matter with the House, in the feeling that the House will deal with it along lines that are constructive, and. above all. along lines that are progressive, in finding a remedy.
Mr. A. A. HEAPS (North Winnipeg):
I am extremely grateful to the hon. members who moved and seconded this resolution and thus brought to the attention of the House a matter that it is really worth while considering. I had hoped this afternoon, when the two hon. members brought this urgent and important matter to the attention of the House, that we might have been spared' some of the discussion which has been carried on for the past hour or so. We have been appealed to in different ways, and this matter has been used as a kind of political issue; if the hon. members who have spoken on the subject had not interjected so much politics into it I would have been a little more pleased. When it comes to a question of Maritime rights, and particularly in regard to the miners who today find themselves in this unfortunate position, I will say that I yield to no one, that I am second to none in standing for the rights of the miners of Nova Scotia. In that regard I may be classified as a Maritime righter to the same extent as anyone who may have been elected on that particular ticket. ^1 have a very strong recollection of the sufferings of ,fhe miners of Nova Scotia last year. I remember when they went out on strike we in the west received a message asking for our support, and I, who live in the west, proba'blj' two thousand miles from the scene of the trouble, became chairman of the committee which actually went through the city of Winnipeg and surrounding districts and helped to raise $20,000 to relieve the distress among the miners of Nova Scotia.
In addition to that, the
women of Winnipeg collected about twelve tons of clothing. They worked on that clothing, repaired and cleaned it and sent it down in first class shape to the miners of Nova Scotia who were suffering on account of the strike.
Assuming that the reduction of freight rates, which has been suggested by hon. members opposite, were brought into effect, one of the first questions that arises in my mind is, would that relieve the situation? I am heartily, in accord with the hon. member who sits opposite me when he says that if it is merely a question whether or not the Canadian National Railways can bring down their freight rates, it should be done. If these rates can be brought down, I say there should be no difficulty in doing so, and giving the miners the opportunity of mining that coal which might be used on the railways of Canada. I am not well versed in the question of freight rates; I do not know as much about them as I know about other phases of the situation. The freight rates problem is not peculiar to the Maritime provinces; it affects the people as far west as Winnipeg. I am told, and I believe it to be absolutely correct, that you can take .freight from the city of Liverpool, England, and ship it via the Panama canal to Vancouver and thence as far east as Brandon, 120 miles west of Winnipeg, at a lower rate than you can ship direct from Liverpool to Winnipeg. There is something radically wrong with a freight rate structure that permits inequalities of that kind to exist; consequently the question of the whole of our rate structure is more than a question of carrying coal from Sydney to Montreal. On the other hand, if it can be done, I shall be the first one to advocate the reducing of rates between those two cities. We ought to use all the Canadian coal we possibly can. I do not believe we ought to ship any coal into this Dominion when we can supply coal from our own mines. I remember away back in 1918, before this question had become as important as it is, I was one of a committee of three representing the city of Winnipeg who went to the mines ,of Alberta to see if they could supply the Winnipeg market. Prior to 1918 practically all the coal that came into the Manitoba market was United States coal. I made an investigation in probably a very humble way; /but I found that Canadian coal could be used for the Canadian market and I made a recommendation along those line^. To-day the Alberta coal mines have practically a monopoly in* the markets of Manitoba. If we can develop the coal mines of this country, it ought to be done. But when we are told that the developing of our Canadian coal mines would do away with the question of unemployment, I must take issue with my hon. friends on both sides of the House. Even to-day, favourable ,as I am to the proposal that the Canadian National Railways should give orders to the
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.mines of Nova Scotia, that would not do away with the problem of unemployment in that province. The problem will still exist, although it may not exist in its present aggravated form.
Another phase of the question that I want to deal with was raised by the seconder of the motion. I was pleased indeed to find that the miners of Nova Scotia had at least one of their own ranks in the House, but he is sitting on the wrong side of this chamber if he hopes to get redress for them. If he wishes to accomplish anything for them he must come over and sit in this little group of which I am one representative in the House of Commons. He stated, as one of the arguments by way of condemnation of the Liberal party in this House-and I condemn them just as much as he does
that they sent troops down to Nova [DOT]Scotia last year. Anyone who sends troops into a place like Nova Scotia, where the men are out on strike to fight for decent living conditions, will always have my condemnation. But I have not forgotten how in 1919 his own leader sent troops into the city of Winnipeg. I have not forgotten how those troops shot down men, women and children on the streets of that city, and before he starts looking over to this side of the House and condemning others, he had better look to his own leader.