June 11, 1951

CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

It is clear then, Mr. Speaker, that whatever happens tonight it is the government's intention to move to go into supply tomorrow?

Topic:   II, 1951
Permalink
LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

Yes, and to proceed with the estimates of fisheries.

Topic:   II, 1951
Permalink
PC

Motion agreed to, and the house went into committee, Mr. Dion in the chair.


DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE PRODUCTION


76. Departmental administration and payments to Canadian Commercial Corporation and other corporate agencies for services provided in connection with defence purchasing and production, $5,000,000. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND COMMERCE


General administration- 449. Departmental administration, $513,280. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS


535. Departmental administration, $2,208,070. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS


335. Departmental administration, $475,765. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES


140. Departmental administration, $281,298.


PC

Gordon Francis Higgins

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Higgins:

It is rather late in the

evening to start discussion, but if there is no objection I have some comments I should like to make. I make no excuse for speaking on this subject, coming as I do from a province that produces one-third of all the fish caught in Canada. The Newfoundland catch is roughly equal to that of the maritime provinces and Quebec, and the remaining one-third is made up of British Columbia and the great lakes fisheries.

iLast year the marketed value of the dominion's fisheries, that is the entire fisheries of the dominion-I suppose I should now say of Canada-amounted to approximately $180 million. Newfoundland's share of this amount was not one-third, but one-sixth. The reason for the difference in the returns for the Newfoundland product and that of the rest of the dominion is that the other provinces catch a greater variety of fish, particularly the more highly priced varieties such as lobster, than does Newfoundland. Whilst Newfoundland caught approximately the same quantity of fish as the maritime provinces and Quebec, those provinces received twice as much in payment for their products.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

Better fish.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
Permalink
PC

Gordon Francis Higgins

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Higgins:

Not a bit of it; don't let anybody tell you that. Quebec and the mari-times sell greater quantities of their fish fresh; whereas the product of Newfoundland is sold as a dry salted fish, and consequently it can be sold only in the lower priced markets.

It is true that in Newfoundland we are producing more and more fresh frozen fish; but

Supply-Fisheries

for many years, until the market has been converted, Newfoundland will have to depend, in the selling of her fish, to a very large extent on the salt fish trade. And as this fish is sold principally to the countries in the sterling group, the question of the convertibility of sterling is one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest problem, in connection with fisheries in Newfoundland.

That is a problem which, as the minister realizes, will continue for years to come. I trust that those of us from Newfoundland who sit in this and in future parliaments will not have continually to be bringing this problem of convertibility to the attention of the present minister and his successors; because it is a problem which will continue for many years to come, before the fish trade switches to fresh frozen fish. As the minister is aware, and possibly some hon. members are not, the Newfoundland salt codfish trade has continued practically without interruption for some four centuries. Before Newfoundland joined Canada, she received preferential treatment from Great Britain in this particular connection. There is no question in my mind or, I am sure, in the mind of the minister or the minds of those associated with him in the department, that there is no better service Canada could render to its newest province than to see to it that this particular currency problem is looked after regularly.

When the minister made his statement with regard to convertibility, I joined with the hon. member for Trinity-Conception in saying that I welcomed that statement, in which it was pointed out that convertibility was being arranged for this year. While the arrangement has been made only to the extent of $4 million, I feel if it comes to the point where we have to arrange for an extra $2 million, we will not be knocking at a completely closed door.

There is no doubt about the fact that unless we in Newfoundland continue to make our sales of salt codfish to Mediterranean countries, and this sterling problem is satisfactorily handled, it will be a serious matter for our province-and serious not only for Newfoundland, but also for the maritime provinces and Quebec. It means that if we are not able to sell in these age-old markets we have had, and try to sell in markets in which fish from the maritime provinces and Quebec is being sold now, it will seriously interfere with their markets for that type of fish.

It is for that reason therefore I say that the maritime and Quebec members should not feel in any way jealous of what they may consider as Dreferential treatment, in

Supply-Fisheries

so far as the arrangement for the convertibility of sterling, for Newfoundland is concerned. Because without this arrangement for convertibility, and with Newfoundland challenging the markets enjoyed by the mari-times and Quebec, it would be catastrophic for all these provinces. That is why I say there should not be any real difficulty in so far as appreciating the problem is concerned, when the members from those provinces understand that situation.

It is generally admitted that Canada is one of the great exporting countries of the world. It may be of interest to hon. members to point out that the ratio of exports of Newfoundland to its gross national production is practically three times as great as that of the dominion as a whole. Newfoundland's ratio of export trade to total national income is 67 per cent, whereas the ratio of the dominion is approximately 24 per cent. Newfoundland's ratio of imports is about 85 per cent while that of Canada as a whole is 21 per cent. The over-all picture therefore indicates clearly how our export trade works considerably to the benefit of the country as a whole. As I have pointed out, and as has been pointed out by hon. members before, the great bulk of exports from our newest province is to countries dealing in dollars. Those dollars are American dollars, and they aid materially in the economy of Canada as a whole.

But the fishing industry, in so far as salted fish is concerned, because of the particular circumstances I have pointed out, does require preferential treatment, and will continue to need it for many years to come. The chief reason is that by far the largest percentage of the working force of Newfoundland is directly engaged in fisheries, and the money goes directly back to those people.

Then, we come down to the type of fish caught. There are three types, namely Labrador, shore and bank. As the name implies, the Labrador fish are caught in Labrador waters, while the shore fish are caught along the shores of Newfoundland, and the bank fish are caught on the Grand Banks.

In view of the higher cost of living, as it has been going up in the last year, and in view of the low prices which prevailed last year for fish, it appears to me that the fishermen will have to have an increase of at least from 30 to 35 per cent in the prices of their f\ph, if they are to get through successfully at all, even with a good average voyage.

With all due respect to the minister, and the hopes he expressed in his statement on May 17, particularly his belief that the prices are going to be good this year, I doubt very

much whether they will be as good as he thought they would be. If they are going to be good, they are certainly not going to keep up with the increased cost of living. Consequently fishermen will not be any better off.

And this gets back to the statement made by the retiring president of the fisheries council of Canada at its sixth meeting in Ottawa in March last, when he said:

The fisheries would seem to afford a great opportunity to Canadians to demonstrate the democratic way of life. Fishing is a noble, a wholesome, venturesome calling. It should bring forth the best that is in the fisherman and businessman, but I submit the industry will have failed in its destiny if the fisherman has not prospered and enjoyed a fair measure of the good things of life.

That should be the keynote of the fishing industry; it is the keynote, I am sure, of what the minister is trying to do, the keynote of what those associated with him in the department and in the fisheries council are trying to do-to give the ordinary, common fisherman a better share of the good things of life. I submit the only way the ordinary fisherman, as I know him, is going to be given a fair share of the good things of life is to have his catch sold in such a way that he will have a better return than he is getting at the present time.

This gets right back to what we have been talking about for some time. Newfoundland members have not been squawking unnecessarily; they have just been trying to make their point clear-and I believe the minister is aware of that. I believe I am justified once again in asking him that very, very serious consideration be given to setting a floor price for fish. I know the minister has given this matter consideration and I know he has had the advice of the prices support board. I know also that he is aware of a meeting that took place last week in St. John's between the fishermen and the salt codfish association. I understand that the minister stated the other day that there was not a great difference between the prices asked and what the merchants were prepared to pay. I do not know whether the minister is prepared to indicate what those prices are because if he is not I will be arguing more or less in the dark. The price that has been asked by the fishermen for the best grade fish I understand is around $12 per quintal, and I do not think that has been met. That would not appear to be an unfair price to ask. I am not saying that it is or is not, that is just what I am told.

This is not an altogether new problem. We have had price support for other commodities produced in Canada. Our friends from, the west have seen their commodities subsidized extensively and I

believe there is still a hot argument as to whether proper payment has been made for wheat. We have had subsidies on potatoes and cheese and I see no reason why the same principle should not be applied to fish. In the brief submitted in 1944 by the United Maritime Fisheries, as a result of which the Fisheries Prices Support Act was passed, the following statement appears:

It is the view of our members that, if the fishery is to be reconstructed upon a basis that will provide freedom from want for the fishermen, some means must be devised to maintain fish prices on a parity with other commodities. If the price structure in other branches of food production is to be supported by a floor, it is equally necessary to make a similar provision for the fishery. It is well known that in the past the discrepancy between the prices received by the primary producer and the general commodity levels has been greater in the fishery than in any other branch of production.

The concluding paragraph of that brief reads:

We urge, therefore, that in order to ensure our fishermen a reasonable measure of security, a floor be established under fish prices on a basis which will put them on an equal footing with other producers.

I understand that Norway and Iceland, both of which are competitors of Canada in the sale of salt fish, have established floor prices. I believe that this information,

which I obtained from a departmental publication, is correct.

I am not too well prepared tonight at this late hour and for a moment I shall leave fish and deal with another part of the fisheries that comes under the minister, our seal fisheries. As the minister is aware, there was considerable competition in sealing this year from the Norwegians and other nationalities. The killing date of March 13 was established many years ago by Newfoundland, which date gave the seals time to deliver their young. This year the Norwegian sealers came in without waiting for that date and the seals were killed before they had a chance to deliver their young. This was very cruel killing and it has been commented upon strongly by the Newfoundland press. In the Daily News of April 2 Captain Sidney Hill of the Arctic Sealer commented on this fact as follows:

A crime was committed, one for which there should be no excuse. I saw the crews of the ships sculping the whitecoats within a few hours after they were born. Many of these seals were not more than twelve pounds in weight. The Norwegian and other ships were taking seals ar.11 this forced all ships to do the same. There should be some international agreement made to prohibit the taking of young harps before the old Newfoundland killing

Supply-Fisheries

date, March 13. It is a murder to take the seals so early and I cannot condemn the practice too strongly.

In the Evening Telegram of April 19 appeared a strong editorial headed, "The .sealing industry imperilled." I shall not read it all, but there is one paragraph dealing with this type of slaughter which reads:

That is a matter of importance. The other damning aspect of this early killing is that the slaughter is perpetrated so soon after, or even before, propagation occurs, to the complete disregard of all the laws of conservation. It is asking men to engage in a barbarous slaughter. It is also asking them to disregard laws which have been made to ensure that species, no matter what kind, will not become extinct. Under such unregulated conditions it is futile to expect that the seals can long survive.

Item stands.

Progress reported.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
Permalink

RAILWAYS, CANALS AND TELEGRAPH LINES PRESENTATION OF SIXTH REPORT AND CONCURRENCE IN RECOMMENDATION

LIB

Frederick Primrose Whitman

Liberal

Mr. F. P. Whitman (Notre Dame de Grace):

By leave of the house, I should like to revert to routine proceedings in order to present the sixth report of the standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines. By leave of the house, I should like to revert to motions and move:

That the recommendation contained in the sixth report of the standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines presented this day in respect to the capital stock of Bill No. 321 be concurred in.

Topic:   RAILWAYS, CANALS AND TELEGRAPH LINES PRESENTATION OF SIXTH REPORT AND CONCURRENCE IN RECOMMENDATION
Permalink

Motion agreed to.


June 11, 1951