Mr. Chairman, I too was a member of the committee that considered this bill. As a rule I like to be able to come to the house and say that I was satisfied with what was done in committee, and that all that could be done was done. However I was not entirely satisfied with one phase of this bill.
This evening the hon. member for Gaspe took more than forty minutes to make what I considered was a good basic case for the shipping industry in this country. I understand he is engaged in that business. I listened to him carefully because, coming from the east coast, I have discussed this question on several occasions with people
who are engaged in that industry, and it seemed to me that tonight the hon. member voiced about the same opinions as I have heard expressed from time to time. My reaction is that unless we do something with regard to the industry itself, we will not need a shipping act in another couple of years, so far as Canada is concerned.
I shall not take more than a few minutes to discuss the first section of the bill. I am not satisfied with the bill in that it includes a British ship as a Canadian ship, and a Canadian ship as a British ship, and grants the rights and privileges to a British registered ship to ply the coastal trade in Canada.
The hon. member for Gaspe suggested that the Canadian government was trying to be more British than the British, and that it was because of sentimental attachment to the British commonwealth that we were extending this privilege to British ships. That is not my conception of it, and I believe my view is supported by documentary evidence when I say that money is the nigger in the woodpile. I believe those who ship coastwise in Canada, and overseas, have come to the conclusion that it is much cheaper to use British ships in their transportation by water than to use Canadian ships. As a result Canada is gradually folding up her merchant service and British shipping interests are taking over, not only in overseas shipping but also along the coast.
The United States does not permit this. In their coastal trade they have regulations which state that no other ships shall ply the coastal trade of the United States. There is no fear in Canada of competition from American ships, because American wages and costs are much higher than Canadian, and it would not be profitable from a monetary point of view for Canadian shippers to use United States ships.
Great Britain does not prohibit Canadian ships from plying in her coastal trade but because of their operating costs Canadian ships are not able to take any business from the British interests. As the hon. member for Gaspe pointed out a few moments ago, Australia and New Zealand have taken steps to prohibit the participation in their coastal trade of any ships which do not have wage rates and standards comparable to those of New Zealand and Australian ships. I objected to this clause in the committee and I was led to believe that no change could be made because of the commonwealth agreement, but in checking over since and listening to the hon. member for Gaspe tonight I find that that is not true. Regardless of the commonwealth agreement, Canada is still master in her own house and can make any changes necessary to benefit our merchant fleet.
Canada Shipping Act
There are a lot of people in this country who are concerned about this matter. The merchant marine in Canada could be a great industry and it is necessary to a country that exports such a large portion of its production. I have received resolutions, and no doubt the minister has also, demanding that the Canadian government take steps to protect the merchant service of this country through means along the lines suggested by the hon. member for Gaspe.
I am afraid that the perpetuation of the rights of British ships to ply our coastal waters is a studied policy. I say that advisedly because I have in my hand the 1949 report of the Canadian maritime commission. The Canadian maritime commission was set up on the demands of the shipping industry and those in the industry that something be done to stop the trend in the loss of shipping business and the scrapping of our merchant fleet. A reading of that 1949 report would indicate that the commission, rather than attempt to devise ways and means of protecting the merchant fleet of this country, did just the reverse. I should like to quote one section which I think is pertinent to this discussion from page 44 of the report as follows:
The case for the abandonment of Canadian flag shipping rests on the thesis that the nation or nations which can give the best service at the lowest cost should conduct the carrying trades. Canada is primarily interested in selling her products abroad and it is immaterial under what flag those products are carried. The cost of operating a Canadian flag ship is the second highest in the world. The average daily operating cost, excluding fuel and depreciation, of a standard 10,000-ton Canadian deep-sea ship is $810.50 as compared to $525.46 in respect of a similar vessel of United Kingdom registry. The industry is disorganized by constant labour troubles both of a major and minor nature. If Canadian ships cannot compete in the international market, the business of shipowning should not be encouraged in this country. Moreover the present inconvertibility of foreign currencies poses major problems in securing cargoes and in the payment of freights. The volume of our export trade depends upon the ability of our customers to pay for what they buy.
That repQrt definitely recommends the abandonment of the Canadian merchant fleet on the grounds of cost. If that suggestion is followed through, why not go to Japan or some other country where costs are still cheaper? Why is not the same recommendation made in connection with every commodity imported to or exported from this country? There is no use trying to fool ourselves. As long as we leave the Canada Shipping Act as it is now we are not going to have a merchant fleet.
I am interested in this because a large portion of the section of the country from which I come is directly affected. That is one reason. Secondly, I am a Canadian.
Canada Shipping Act
Despite the fact that we are in the commonwealth of nations I am not going to consent to the standards of any section of the Canadian people being pulled down because we can get something a little cheaper from some place else. The trend in this country and on this continent is to build up standards. Time was when those who operated ships in this country used to use Japanese and Chinese crews because they could get them more cheaply, but since the industry has been organized they cannot do that any longer.
But another trend is developing and British registry ships are being permitted to operate even though the wages they pay are fifty per cent of what we pay and their operating costs are much lower. The result is that our own ships are being beached because these other ships can be obtained -much more cheaply. I realize that there are difficulties in the handling of exports to and imports from other countries, but I say it is definitely 'the responsibility of the Canadian government to protect coastal shipping in Canada.
The hon. member for Gaspe has suggested two ways in which that can be done. Under the commonwealth agreement the Canadian government has the right to make regulations along the lines of those passed by New Zealand and Australia so that ships plying our coastal waters would have to conform to the standards and wage rates enjoyed on Canadian ships. If that were done there would be no more difficulty because British ships would not be able to come in and underbid on cargoes as they are doing today.
This country needs a virile merchant marine. We trained a lot of sailors during the war. Until such time as the thinking of those who make policy for the government in the matter of building up and maintaining our merchant service is changed, we are just going to continue to go on and on and our merchant fleet will peter out. There has been a terrific loss in the last couple of years. If we go on for the next couple of years as we have been there will be no need for an act at all.
I do not want to take up any more of the time of the committee but I submit that the minister should seriously consider bringing in regulations to protect our coastal trade, and as soon as possible. On the other hand there is the second alternative suggested by the hon. member for Gaspe, namely, that the commonwealth nations should be notified that a year from now we intend to ask for revisions and changes in the commonwealth agreement. The thing seems so ridiculous. First of all you hold a meeting of sixteen nations where wages, working conditions and
safety regulations are discussed. Then the convention is taken to the respective governments and an act is passed in the different countries embodying its contents. We write an act that practically hands over our shipping to British interests because they are not conforming to the standards maintained on the ships of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
I think it is a wrong principle in the year 1950 for the government of any country, so far as any of its industries are concerned, to start to lower standards in order to enable another country to take your business from you, thus causing the scrapping of what should be a large industry in Canada. I hope the minister will consider these two recommendations and see what can be done for the protection of our coastal trade. I have not much quarrel with the remainder of the bill. It is merely a matter of incorporating safety provisions adopted at the 1948 convention, and then there are some minor matters which needed adjustment. As to the protection of our coastal trade, however, referred to by the hon. member for Gaspe, I think the government should do some serious thinking and take immediate action.
Subtopic: CANADA SHIPPING ACT
Sub-subtopic: AMENDMENTS TO RATIFY INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR SAFETY OF LIFE AT SEA