Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)
I will read the drawback item.
I will read the drawback item.
I would rather have your expression of opinion.
This is the drawback
Bituminous coal when imported by proprietors of coke ovens and converted at their coke ovens into coke for use in the smelting of metals from ores and in the melting of metals.
Bounty on Coal
It is confined to the coking process.
But is it?
I assure my hon. friend that in practice it is.
I would like to have the
opinion, for instance, of the hon. member for Pictou, who I know for many years has been interested in this manufacture. But coke alone is not used in the processes of manufacture, is it? I am a perfect novice in these matters, but I have been so many times in those steel works and seen coal used in the manufacture of gas and other ancillary processes. Do I understand the minister to say that the Hamilton Steel Works, for instance, which receives a drawback, receives it only in respect of coal imported to be converted into coke?
That is quite right.
That applies to the
Algoma Steel Corporation too.
That clears up the misunderstanding in my mind.
I assure my hon. friend that only the coal imported which is converted into coke and used as ooke in smelting is, to coin a word, "drawbackable."
I thank the minister for
the explanation, I did not so understand it.
Section agreed to. On section 2-Restriction. Mr. iMactDONALD (Cape Breton South): Has any estimate been made as to what the amount of this bonus would be per ton of steel?
On the basis of their
normal output we calculate about $360,000.
Mr. MadDONiALD (Cape Breton South): That is very gratifying indeed. I propose that the following 'be added to section 2:
and money so paid or a portion thereof shall be devoted to the improvement of the condition of the men employed in such plants, either by way of increased wages or shorter hours or both.
Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a word or two in connection with Ithis subject. At this late stage of the session I shall be very brief. I have listened to two debates on the question of steel bounties and assistance to the steel industry and I do not propose to traverse (the ground already covered. I can say at once that I have every sympathy in the world and I agree fully with the remarks which have been
made with regard to the men working eleven and thirteen hours in the steel plants. I do not think I can over emphasize that point. What we are considering is the practical situation which is facing this parliament. May I say thalt for the last three years I have been intensely interested in this subject, and I think my colleagues will bear me out when I say that I have not permitted them to lose sight of the fadt that the steel industry of Sydney is a matter worthy of consideration, and I have endeavoured to bring that fact to the attention of the government on every possible occasion. With other members of the house I have realized the difficulties, first with regard to litigation which prevailed, secondly with regard to the situation of the company respecting the over capitalization and the unwieldly organization composed of the large number of companies which were grouped together, some fourteen in number, with a capitalization of over $100,000,000, a matter which seemed to me ought to be Straightened out, and thirdly with regard to the fact that the whole matter was before the tariff board. Hon. gentlemen will remember that we are not simply dealing with the question of a straight bounty; we are dealing with something which will compensate for a rebate of duty. Duties have tc do particularly with the tariff board, and the whole question had to be considered by the tariff board in the light of the application which was being made regarding the tariff on steel and coal. Those matters have been before the board and no one is more pleased than I that the Minister of Finance has been able to bring in a bill to-day in order to carry out the recommendations contained in the Duncan report. I feel sure the explanation given by the Minister of Finance will be sufficient for hon. members of this house who have questioned whether or not this bill carries out the recommendations contained in the report. The present bill does for the steel industry of Sydney exactly what section 1019 of the tariff act does for the steel industry of upper Canada, namely, iit pays to the steel industry of Sydney a bonus of 49J cents per ton for every ton of coal used for coking purposes, and afterwards used for the production of iron and steel. On the other hand the tariff act pays a rebate of 49i cents per ton on coal brought inito Canada and used for exactly the same purposes.
Let me say to the committee that this measure has been urged by everybody in Sydney who could be interested in the matter, lit has been urged by hon. members on the other side of the house. As I have said before it has been urged by me, and I have
Bounty on Coal
repeatedly discussed the matter. It has been urged not simply by those who are in public life but by the associated boards of trade of Cape Breton. I have in my hand a resolution passed by them asking that these recommendations of the Diuncan report be carried out; they do not suggest any conditions, nor do they suggest that there should be any restrictions, bult they simply ask that the provisions of the Duncan report be put into effect. A year ago I had the pleasure of being present when a delegation was received from Cape Breton. Dr. Coadry acted as chief spokesman, and the delegation consisted of men holding different political views and representing various public interests in Cape Breton. That delegation asked that these recommendations be carried out. In addition to that I have had similar representations on behalf of the miners themselves through their president, Mr. D. W. Morrison. I have had representations from the three thousand steel workers asking that Ithis report be carried out, that the tariff recommendations be carried out and that the suggested bonus be carried into effect. In not one single instance has there been a suggestion of a condition being applied in regard to wages or hours of labour.
I had been convinced, and I think other hon. members also had been convinced, that the iron and steel industry might be on the verge of disaster; it was said the industry was going to languish and decline. Those expressions have been used in this house on more than one occasion. That there was danger of collapse of that industry; people were not making large profits, but on the other hand there was the possibility that the whole industry would close down. The object I had in view was to try to help save the iron and steel industry of Nova Scotia. On this occasion we are trying to do that, and we are using this bill to effect that end. As pointed out by the leader of the opposition last night this steel industry has been in the hands of the receivers for the last four years. There has been talk about the profits which have been made; someone mentioned a surplus amounting to about $2,000,000. We must remember however that that $2,000,000 was met by a deficit of about $1,700,000, and leaving a net surplus for the British Empire Steed Corporation, from the time of its organization until the end of last year, of something like $300,000. That is not the type of concern in connection with which it could be said that we are bonusing for the purpose of putting money into -the pockets of the shareholders. The object of this government is to try to put money into the pockets of the workers. The people who
will benefit by the assistance given to the industry will not be the shareholders or the bondholders, but the men who are working in the industry. That is the result which we have been trying to attain. During the last three or four weeks the company has completed a reorganization. As one particularly interested in the province of Nova Scotia and interested- in the iron and steel industry I have scanned as carefully as I possibly could the reorganization proposals which have been published in the newspapers. If hon. members will take the trouble to investigate they will find that several companies with a combined capitalization of something like $100,000,000 have been dealt with so that their capitalization is reduced to about $21,000,000. On the balance sheet the properties are shown at cost at something like $130,000,000. I do not think we can say there has been a very large payment so far as the shareholders are concerned; the bond interest has not been paid for the last four years.
It was -paid last year.
On the two junior issues of bonds there has been no interest paid for the last four years. I am referring to bond interest and not to dividends on shares. That is a resume of the condition of the industry we are trying to help to-day.
As to labour conditions and the statements in regard thereto I wish to congratulate my hon. friend from North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) and his colleague from Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) in calling the attention of the house to this matter. The remarks of these hon. gentlemen have served to focus the attention of the Canadian people on this matter of labour conditions. I say that these hon. members have done a great service to labour, and in bringing the matter to attention they have done a service to this house. I am not sure my hon. friend from South Cape Breton (Mr. MacDonald), for whom I have the greatest friendliness, can be credited with exactly the same disinterested motives. My hon. friend was good enough to give the government the benefit of his confidence and the benefit of his vote in connection with the budget. I am not so sure the hon. gentleman was prompted by his love for the government, or by the fact that he loved more his seat down in Nova Scotia. He may have been prompted by both motives, however.
I have listened to the debate in connection with this labour question, and I have decided that it has not been an argument in favour of the labouring man so much as it has been a debate between two schools of thought, one
Bounty on Coal
protectionist and the other free trade. I am not concerned with protection or free trade in the abstract in connection with this debate. On the contrary I am more interested in trying to help this industry and to assist the men engaged therein. I would be very much afraid that the labouring men would be crushed between the upper and nether millstones of those who are talking about free trade on the one hand and protection on the other. The workingman would foe forgotten entirely if some of us did not try to stick to the real issue, and the real issue in this particular case is the bill before the house which has for its object the placing of the steel industry on its feet. I want to say to my hon. friends from Winnipeg North Centre and North Winnipeg that since the report to which they referred was made there have been some improvements in regard to the hours of labour. I understand that the mills have come down to ten hours. That may be far too much, but at least there has been some improvement. The continuous operations to which my hon. friends referred, as the hon. leader of the opposition said last night, are still continuing at eleven and thirteen hours, and I agree that such a condition is not good for an industry or good for a country. My hon. friends cannot speak any more strongly on that point than I can, but the question is what to do.
It seems to me that this brings us really to our function in this house. My hon. friend from South Cape Breton, in his second attempt-a rather shrewd attempt and perhaps good politics-sought to focus the attention of the men on himself by moving a rather specious amendment to this bill. What was the amendment? It was that .the whole or a portion of this money should be applied for the purpose of improving the condition of the men. That does not mean anything at all; it is simply eye-wash. The whole or any portion of it means that you could spend five cents, or you could paint some workman's house, and get away with it.
No, not five cents.
The slightest assistance in the world would be enough to comply with this resolution, and my hon. friend would walk out and claim that he had done something for the labouring men of Cape Breton. Let me say to him that I do not believe this kind of resolution means anything except that it means -he is going to endeavour to be the champion of the labouring men down there if he can, but I believe that what the labouring men want is some real asistance to this industry in order .to put it on its feet. I have
under my hand the resolutions to which I have referred, and just the other day, since this discussion came up, I received a telegram which I am going to place on Hansard. It is from exactly the same men, and headed in exactly the same way as the telegram which my hon. friend read two years ago from the steel people of Sydney, that is, the representatives of 3,000 men. It is as follows:
At a regular meeting of the general works committee, employees representative plan, Dominion Iron and Steel Company, representing over three thousand steel workers in session this afternoon unanimously decided on the following resolution: We the representatives of the employees of the Dominion Iron and Steel Company Limited do hereby recommend that the budget as handed down be approved without further amendment regarding bonus on coal and tariff on steel. We have confidence in the management to the extent that they will as soon as conditions warrant instal the eight hour day.
That .telegram is dated May 22, and it followed the telegrams and letters which I have received from time to time as indicating the attitude of the men down there. I d-o not question my hon. friend's knowledge of local conditions; they are far better than mine, but if he knows anything at all he knows that men are walking the streets of Sydney to-day and that the first thing to do is to get .them employment. That is what this bill is intended to do.
May I ask by whom that telegram was signed?
Yes. It is signed by P. W. McDougall, secretary of .the employees' representative plan.
At one o'clock the committee took recess.
The committee resumed at three o'clock.