March 7, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


Robert Knowlton Smith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. K. SMITH (Cumberland):

Mr. Speaker, I regret on account of lack of knowledge of the French language it was impossible for me to follow the remarks of the hon. member who introduced the resolution. I gathered from the previous speaker's remarks that the resolution placed on the order paper and the arguments used by the sponsor in support of it are not sufficiently cogent to justify the application of the remedy he had in his mind, or to warrant its being employed as a medium to control the importation of coal into Canada.
Just before resuming his seat the last speaker pointed out what he thought were certain anomalies in the resolution, and in that connection I must wholeheartedly agree with him. My main purpose in rising at this time, however, is to inform the house that the importance of the coal industry to the province of Nova Scotia cannot be overestimated. I woud like to say also that it would be impossible for me to express in words sufficiently high praise of the present government for the various aids it has given since 1930 to the coal industry of Nova Scotia. The industry is a difficult one to operate and manage. There is such a vast spread between costs of production of coal mined in Canada and coal mined in the United States that it is impossible for the coal industry in any part of Canada to survive unless it receives some sort of governmental protection, aids or other assistance by
way of bonuses and reduction in freight rates to enable it to compete with the cheaper mined coal coming in from the United States. I have not the figures before me, I shall speak in round numbers and subject to correction.
May I point first of all in a general way to the tremendous shrinkage in the importation of bituminous coal from the United States to Canada during the last four years. As I recall the figures, there has been a shrinkage of approximately 5,000,000 tons in a single year, which means that about 5,000,000 tons less bituminous coal came into Canada from the United States last year than in 1929. As has been suggested, the tonnage imported is practically cut in two. With respect to the coal sold in what is usually termed central Canada, figures which have been made available only recently by the fuel board indicate in a very forceful manner the splendid results to the industry brought about by the government aids granted during the last three years. In order to make the facts known to the house I shall put on record a few figures for the past five or six years showing the amount of Nova Scotia coal marketed in central Canada on account of the aids this government has supplied since it came into power.
In 1928, through the government aids in existence at that time, Nova Scotia marketed in central Canada 114,080 tons; in 1929, which was the last complete year of the old government that figure had increased to 304,533 tons; in 1930, to 372,056 tons; in 1931, to 401,597 tons; in 1932, to 703,691 tons; and in 1933 the amount of Nova Scotia coal marketed in central Canada jumped to 1,482,961 tons. In other words, Mr. Speaker, the figure jumped from 114,000 odd in 1928 to nearly 1,500,000 in 1933, and that increase was due exclusively to the assistance granted by the present government for the marketing and movement of Nova Scotia coal to central Canada.
The coal industry in the province of Nova Scotia has been struggling during the past number of years on account of many causes, including the general shrinkage in markets for fuel in Canada due to world conditions, and on that account it has been doubly hard for the industry to survive and compete. I agree with the assertion that were it not for the assistance granted by the present government a number of the coal mines in the province of Nova Scotia would be closed to-day. My hon. friend from Inverness (Mr. MacDougall) says that we would not have a pit working to-day, and I have no doubt that is correct. There are between twelve and fifteen thousands miners engaged in the coal industry in Nova Scotia, and about one hundred thou-

Importation of Fuel

sand people in the province directly dependent on that industry. Coal royalties in the province run to approximately $500,000 a year; last year it was a little higher. As I said at the outset, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of this industry to the province.
The hon. member for St. Mary (Mr. Des-lauriers) states in his resolution that the coal business of Canada should be altered. If by altering he means changing the present regulations reducing the present government aids to the coal industry, then absolutely the province of Nova Scotia is firmly opposed to any such policy of alteration. If altering means increasing the assistance or aids which this government has so generously supplied, naturally I am not opposed to that, but I do not think we are in a position to-day to come clamouring to this government for an increase in the assistance which they have given. The results are showing just exactly what we hoped. I would not go so far as to say that they are all we require, but under the conditions that exist to-day we have no complaint in respect of the policy inaugurated by this government in assisting the coal industry of Nova Scotia.
With respect to the appointment of a commission to control the importation of fuel into Canada, possibly it might be set up with some beneficial results, but I am not sufficiently acquainted with what the hon. gentleman had in mind in that regard to elaborate on the question. I want to say, however, that in Nova Scotia we have had two royal commissions in recent years dealing exclusively with the coal industry in the province, and then we had another Duncan commission dealing generally with maritime claims and the coal industry and all other industries in the province. So we know pretty well the exact position of the coal industry, the costs of production at home and the- costs in other countries. Those of us who were here previous to 1930 felt and urged that we should have additional tariff protection for the coal, and that was granted by the present government when it came into power. In 1930 there was a duty of 50 cents a ton on bituminous coal, and this government increased it to 75 cents a ton, the highest duty that ever was imposed on bituminous coal in Canada. There was no duty on anthracite coal when this government came into power, and the government imposed a duty of 40 cents a ton on anthracite. A duty of one dollar a ton was placed on the importation of coke. Bonuses were also given to coking plants which enabled a large quantity of

Nova Scotia coal to be processed in a plant near Montreal, the amount so used last year amounting to nearly 150,000 tons. These, together with the reductions made in the railway rate and the other aids granted, make the contribution of this government to the coal industry of Nova Scotia of a magnitude never previously experienced in Nova Scotia with respect to any industry, and I doubt if it has been exceeded by any other government in respect to any other industry in the dominion.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, may I say that, the people of the province of Nova Scotia appreciate what the present government has done for the coal industry and appreciate it all the more because if it had not been for that assistance some of our mines would have been closed and hundreds of our miners thrown out of employment, and we would have had many thousands more on unemployment relief throughout the province than we have to-day.
At six o'clock the house adjourned without question put, pursuant to standing order.
Thursday, March 8, 1934

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