February 20, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


Henry Herbert Stevens (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Quite so. I am glad my
hon. friend mentioned that. I was saying that the Japanese and Russians being now in the picture are tremendously keen competitors not only in respect of quality but of quantity. The price competition is accentuated by the presence of these two additional competitors, particularly the Russians. They have made it extremely difficult to sell our fish in the world markets. These facts are inescapable, they are factors beyond our control, and they cannot be lightly brushed aside. We must face them; we must recognize them. What the government of the day are trying to do is this: We are tlying to maintain the high standard of Canadian salmon, and we dare not allow the conditions that obtained in 1930 or 1931 to return. In those years quite a substantial quantity of very inferior fish were packed and placed on the market, and I know that as Minister of Trade and Commerce I received some very very strong protests. Speaking from memory I recall one large distributor who said that he would never take any more British Columbia salmon. In any case we know that it did injure our reputation, and it is with the desire to win back and maintain the excellent reputation we have had on the world market in years gone by that these regulations were brought into force.
Let me say first-and I say this to my hon. friend from New Westminster very courteously-that I do not think any further diminution of the catch by gill net fishermen has resulted from the use of purse seines in the area to which the order in council refers than would have obtained if we had done nothing and simply allowed matters to take their course. I would go further. If there has been a slight diminution-and I do not think there has been very much-we are making up for it in the better condition of the fish and in being able to meet the keener competition I have just mentioned.
Then I was going to say a further word with reference to the other order in council which was passed and later repealed. My hon. friend from Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) spoke in rather scathing terms of that order in council. I recall that he protested at the time, but I want to say that it was an effort

to meet a condition which I think is inimical to the best interests of the canned salmon industry. I will give an illustration of that. A certain individual had a cannery in the harbour of Vancouvex-, which obviously is not the place for a cannery except to take fish locally. Not being able to get fish locally, he encouraged men to go away into the north-and we had abundant evidence that they went for several hundred miles- and there buy up fish and bring them down to Vancouver to this cannery, so that when the fish reached the cannery they were several days old. I am sure that neither of my hon. friends will assert for a moment that fish handled under those conditions are calculated to give the best results in our canning operations; indeed, sir, it is a menace to the canning industry. I do not want to say that the man who builds a cannery in the harbour of Vancouver should not be given a chance to live, but there is reason in all these things. A man who will build his cannery there and expect to get his fish from around Rivers inlet or the Skeena river, is foolish. He should not be encouraged, and it is obvious that he has no claim on any government for protection or assistance. If he were getting his fish at his pier certainly he should be entitled to every consideration, but the effort should be to get the fish to the cannery as quickly as possible after they arc caught.
Let me remind my hon. friend of another matter, and I do not refer to this because I am a Conservative and the government to which I am going to refer was Liberal, but rather in order to give the point of view that was taken by a government in which undoubtedly he would have confidence, and in order to disabuse his mind of any thought that the action was taken by a government whose whole outlook was out of sympathy with his own. During the entire period Sir Wilfrid Laurier was in power there was a very strict boat rating system in operation in British Columbia, and what was the boat rating system? It was a most ai'bitrary system. In the light of all that has passed I am not prepared to say that it was not the best system, although I fought it when I first came to parliament nearly twenty-three years ago. Under that system the Department of Marine and Fisheries, as it was then, without any particular rule but in an arbitrary fashion allocated to each cannery a certain number of boats. I think it ran from about twenty-five boats to fifty or sixty, and the average would be about forty. The cannery secured the allocation of boats, and then it allowed certain individual fishermen to take

Salmon Fishery-Mr. Stevens
the cannery boats and fish, but no one could fish in the area contiguous to that cannery and allocated to it but the boats of the cannery itself. In other words, under the regulations that obtained for about a score of years, the cannery had an absolute monopoly of the fishing in the area in which the cannery was located. I am not prepared to say that this was wrong; after seeing free fishing in operation all over the coast, with the grief, the trials, the tribulations and losses that have occurred, I am inclined to think that some such system in operation to-day might have a better result. For instance, a moment ago the hon. member for Comox-Alberni asked why the acting minister did not adopt something along the line of the N.R.A. in the United States. That is precisely what the N.R.A. is doing to-day; they are simply restricting the competition in business, shall I say, insisting upon an arrangement between business and workers, and arbitrarily controlling it.

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