Mr. H. C. GREEN (Vancouver South):
At the outset, may I say that I approve the general principle of this bill, and that I have great admiration for the Minister of Marine (Mr. Howe), who is bringing in the measure. I believe that in Vancouver he is regarded as a minister of exceptional ability and fairness. 1 do suggest, however, that there should be in the bill some provision for the appointment or election of advisory local councils. That may not be so necessary in the case of ports that are near Ottawa, but I suggest that there should be at least the power to appoint or to elect such a local advisory council. That recommendation has been made by Sir Alexander Gibb in his very able report, and I would refer the minister to page 4, paragraph 9, in which Sir Alexander says:
Adequate representation of local interests and of the port users, which at present is almost non-existent, is essential to the progress and efficiency of a port, and a strong local harbour council should be established on an elective basis.
The idea is, I imderstand, that such council should serve without remuneration. A local advisory council would be particularly helpful to the port of Vancouver for the following reasons. That port is very far removed from Ottawa and it will be very difficult for a central control board to keep in touch with the problems of the port; further, there is bound to be delay in handling those problems. Then, the port is the only one on the Pacific coming under the terms of this act; our problems are those of a Pacific port and not of a port on the Atlantic or on the St. Lawrence. I suggest to the minister that the problems are quite different and are those of the ports of Seattle and Portland, with which we are in direct and strenuous competition. Again, private business interests have had far more to do with the development of Vancouver than is the case with these other national ports.
Again, I refer to the report of Sir Alexander Gibb, quoting from page 178:
I feel inclined to emphasize the tendency of Vancouver to develop on rather different lines from those of other dominion ports, in that there is there a much greater participation of private enterprise. Vancouver is a national port and its policy must be directed accordingly, but so long as local business continues to play the part in its development that it does at present, it should be given full scope, subject only to the overruling considerations of the national policy.
That is a direct finding on this particular question which I am discussing to-night.
We have in Vancouver a port manager who is an excellent man; he knows the port and the work; but managing that port is very big business, and it is physically impossible for a port manager to keep in contact with the various groups using the port. Sir Alexander Gibb also realized this point, and I would quote from page 31 of the report:
Considerable latitude should be allowed to the port managers, so long as their activities are directed to carrying out the policy laid down by the central authority. It is essential to avoid emasculating the local administration, since no centralized control can replace an efficient and active local administration, or the special knowledge and initiative of the local business community, both of which are vital to a port's prosperity.
Then he goes on:
For this reason I strongly advocate a local advisory council. There are very many aspects of port working which such a council can properly care for, such as the representation of the interests of private wharf owners, of local merchants and distributors, of local consignees and exporters, of the labour view, and of the attitude of boards of trade, chambers of commerce, corn exchanges and other such trade organizations, in addition to shipping.
National Harbours Board-Mr. Ryan
It serves very usefully to identify the community with the port; and to secure the support and interest of local members of parliament, the city council, or provincial government in schemes, and so anticipate and meet criticisms from any such quarters, or action that might be prejudicial to the port.
It is invaluable in exploring the possibilities of local markets, in carrying out advertisement and propaganda, and in cooperation with interests likely to promote industrial developments. Finally, a local council provides a useful check on the tendency of more or less permanent officials to become stereotyped or arbitrary.
I cannot emphasize this too strongly, because our port is vital to the development of Vancouver. Sir Alexander goes on;
The port manager would be ex officio chairman of the council, which would meet regularly and be consulted on all such matters as proposed developments, alterations in rates, important changes in operation. The members of the council should have the right of initiating discussions on matters of policy affecting the port, on any complaints raised by users of the port, and on questions of rates, charges, etc.; but not on any purely executive matters, and they would have no executive duties or powers.
The advisory council's proceedings and recommendations would be submitted to the central authority, and they should have the right of direct access to the central authority, but not to any other department of government.
I suggest to the minister that without a local council of some sort there is bound to be misunderstanding, there is bound to be friction in a port so far removed from Ottawa as is the port of Vancouver.
In closing, may I say that I have every confidence that the minister is trying to do the right thing for all of our great national ports, but I hope that he will consider again this question of appointing or electing local advisory councils. I cannot too strongly or too earnestly impress upon both the minister and the members of the house the need of such a council in the case of the port of Vancouver.
Subtopic: NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD