Robert Wellington Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries)
Hon. R. W. Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries):
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo (Mr. Carter) asked two questions on the orders of the day, and I agreed to try to answer them today on motions; with your permission I shall do so at this time.
The first question was:
Will the minister indicate what action, if any, has been taken by the federal authorities to implement this undertaking with the Newfoundland fishermen?
The hon. member was referring to an undertaking that had been made on October 27 last with respect to shore fishing. On October 27 last I made an announcement to the fishermen of Newfoundland regarding Labrador fish. At that time the merchants would not accept this type of fish from the fishermen, and the federal government, through the prices support board, gave a guarantee to the trade that would allow them to pay fishermen $7 per quintal on genuine Labrador fish. At the same time I announced that no immediate action was being taken on shore fish, but an assurance was given to the fishermen that we would review the shore fish situation as the marketing season advanced and as the results of the market operations became clearer. We have every intention of fulfilling this promise to make a comprehensive review of the prices paid to shore fishermen.
In reply to the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo, I am able to say that the prices support board has been making preparations to investigate the shore fish prices. Hon. members will understand that the final export price of this commodity cannot be truly determined until the end of the export season, which normally runs into June. Likewise, with the late fishing last fall the total volume of shore fish was not then known. Accordingly, as I indicated in October, we are preparing our investigation as the season advances.
For the first time in Newfoundland we hope to provide complete and accurate information with respect to prices received by the fishermen for the various grades and
sizes of shore fish. We shall ask each fisherman to provide our board, on an appropriate form, with a statement of the prices received from his merchants for the various grades and sizes. Already we have taken steps to prepare the necessary forms, to enlist the services of the dominion bureau of statistics and the post office; and already one of our accountants is in Newfoundland helping to prepare for this comprehensive survey.
This morning I received a wire from the Hon. J. R. Smallwood, premier of Newfoundland, indicating that the provincial government intends to appoint a royal commission to examine fishermen's prices in that province. This is the first intimation I have had of any such intention. I did make a commitment to the fishermen of Newfoundland last October to review the shore fish situation, a fact that was known to all in Newfoundland concerned with fisheries, and we shall proceed to make good this particular investigation. The facts provided should go far to answer the questions raised by the hon. member for St. John's West (Mr. Browne) in the house on the 6th of February. It will be clear that I am in no way defending the prices paid by the merchants in Newfoundland to the fishermen for shore fish. Until the true facts are known, it is dangerous to draw conclusions from only a few cases, and our investigations are designed to produce these facts on a large scale.
The further question asked by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo was:
Will the minister indicate what action the department has taken for the development of Newfoundland's fisheries?
Because so much of Newfoundland's trade is in salted fish, and because marketing problems proved difficult from 1949 onwards, it was necessary to provide some props to that trade while seeking other means to develop and modernize the fishing industry. A series of steps had to be taken to support the older salt fish branch of the Newfoundland fishery. Arrangements had to be made with the United Kingdom for the sale of Newfoundland salted cod to -European markets with payments in sterling. No other Canadian industry, including the maritime salt fish trade, has such a privilege. In March, 1950, in order to relieve the surplus of Newfoundland salt fish, the federal government provided $600,000 to UNICEF as a grant. The entire order, some 38,000 quintals, was filled
from Newfoundland and ordinary Newfoundland markets were relieved to that extent. In June, 1950, because fish was being left in fishermen's hands, the prices support board purchased 11,387 quintals of salted cod from fishermen. Six hundred and sixty-one fishermen had fish left on their hands, and the prices support board paid them $85,243. In October, 1950, the federal government was again requested to assist the trade, and, as I mentioned earlier, the prices support board gave a guarantee on Labrador fish. The federal government's loss on this guarantee cannot yet be assessed.
While providing these aids to the salt fish trade, our department concerned itself with the more general problem of development, and a year ago I recommended to Premier Smallwood that together we establish a fisheries development committee for Newfoundland. This committee has recently been set up, and it begins its operations this week under the chairmanship of the Hon. Sir Albert J. Walsh, chief justice of Newfoundland. This committee is composed of representatives of federal and provincial governments with two representing the trade and two the fishermen. These representatives are Mr. Raymond Gushue, of St. John's, chairman of the Newfoundland fisheries board, representing the Department of Fisheries; Mr. Clive Planta, St. John's, provincial deputy minister of fisheries, representing the provincial government; Mr. H. A. Russell, St. John's, president of Northlantic Fisheries Limited; and Mr. H. A. Dawe, Port Union, president of the Fishermen's Union Trading Company Limited, representing the trade. Mr. George Groves, of Bonavista, and Captain Williams, of Grand Bank, represent the fishermen.
This committee will examine fisheries resources of the province, the economics of the existing methods of fishing and of processing, and will recommend a program capable of implementation by both federal and provincial governments and those engaged in the fishing industry. The recommendations will be based on the respective responsibilities of each party and will be carried through by each party taking an agreed share in the final program of development.
There is a great change going on in Newfoundland. There are new frozen fish plants in St. John's and elsewhere, and indeed the southwest coast is becoming dotted with them. In the salt fish business many plants have installed the mechanical driers, designed by our experimental station in Halifax, for heavy salted fish. There are thirteen of these now on the island. There remains the problem at the northeast and east coasts, the
improvement and the greater standardization of the quality of light salted fish. We propose to instal in Newfoundland this summer a pilot plant for the artificial drying of light salted fish.
As these driers get into operation and as frozen fish plants extend, it becomes possible for the trade to buy raw fish from fishermen and then to produce a quality of product under control. Since the fisherman then does not need to make his own fish, he can spend more time fishing if means are resolved tc help him equip himself better.
The federal department has given attention to this question also. Last summer we had two Cape Island type boats from southwest Nova Scotia demonstrate their operations in the Bonavista area, and the fishermen there have shown a great deal of interest in this particular technique. We shall continue this experiment this year out of Bonavista, putting the test boats on a purely commercial basis. The improvement of the boats and the gear of the inshore fishermen of Newfoundland is a major problem, and intimately tied in with the whole development program. We in the federal government do have a vote to help finance fishermen in the construction of draggers and longliners, and we are prepared to modify the present regulations to enable the help to go perhaps to boats of the 45-foot class and up.
We shall send to Newfoundland this summer three of our most experienced field technical men to advise industry on all matters relating to the production and preservation of fish. In addition, our top salt fish expert will be there to help answer the problems of drying light salted shore fish and to organize the pilot plant experiment mentioned above.
Since confederation the amount of money spent on fisheries administration in Newfoundland has doubled, and in addition the provincial government is doing its share. Our staff has increased from around 200 to 300 men to help in the administration, inspection and protection throughout the province. We have added several new vessels to the local patrol fleet, these being fitted with echo sounders to help locate herring and other species. We have made considerable improvement to bait depots, and have plans for installing one of the most up-to-date type. We are beginning a daily fishermen's broadcast, in collaboration with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to give fishermen round the island information on market conditions, weather, to provide mercy calls and all other matters of information interesting to them.
We shall co-operate fully with the committee just set up to study and make recommendations for the future development of Newfoundland's fisheries, and our biologists, technicians and economists will be available as working parties. I mention all of these things to indicate the high priority we are ready to give to the people of Newfoundland. Of course there are other provinces also requiring attention, none of which can be neglected. Our resources are not unlimited, but we are ready to co-operate to the fullest to help Newfoundland maximize the great advantages it has in fisheries production.
Subtopic: NEWFOUNDLAND SHORE FISHING
Sub-subtopic: SUPPORT, MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT