I have a record of the quantity going forward in the various steamship lines, but I would have to get the other information from the Intercolonial Railway, and also from the Canadian Pacific Railway, which, of course, is not under our control.
The: MINISTER OF TRADE AND COMMERCE. Certainly, if you want them. There will be an opportunity on the supplementary estimates.
A line or lines of steamers to run during the summer months between St. John, Halifax and London, and during the winter months between St. John and London direct and Halifax and London direct, $40,000.
With regard to this item. I may say that in the past the contract has been given to the Furness-Withy Company, and there have been very serious complaints as to the manner in which
they have performed said contract. During the year 1901, complaints were very loud amongst the apple shippers in the province of Nova Scotia. The contract for the year 1901 was made much more stringent, and it stipulated that the company should run certain steamers of a very high class, but unfortunately during the year they took off two or three of their best ships, and in their place put on others of a much inferior character and a much lower rate of speed, with the consequence of a direct loss to the shippers of many thousands of dollars. These claims are now standing against the company. There have been negotiations, I understand, between the shippers and the company, and there have been constant promises by the company to adjust and pay these eiaims, but nothing has been concluded. The contract drawn last year was much more stringent in its terms, and the shippers felt confident that they would receive every satisfaction. I am informed, however, that the company did not live up to the terms of that contract-they did not put in the forced ventilation as soon as it was stipulated for, and that the rate of speed was not as great as was contracted for. There was not as much complaint last year, because the apple crop of Nova Scotia was comparatively light. But this year. I am informed, the crop will be the heaviest that has been gathered for many years : the
fruit is of most excellent quality ; and it will tax the capacity of these steamers to carry it in proper condition. It is important that the fruit should be carried in proper condition, and I am satisfied that it will be if such a contract as was entered into last year is carried out by the company. But the shippers have small confidence in the promises of the company. I am informed by many of them that they would sooner there were no subsidy granted at all than that the service should be performed as in the past. Their argument is that the contract with the Furness-Withy Company prevents other companies competing, and therefore they do not have the open competition they would have if no subsidy were granted. I understand that it has been impossible for the department to obtain tenders from any other concern. This I assume is owing to the smallness of the subsidy, and I would urge that this subsidy be increased in the suiople-mentary estimates to a sufficient extent to induce different steamship companies to compete. I would also urge, in the interest or the shippers, that if the minister is not in a position through bis officers to compel the Furness-Withy Company to live up to their contract, no direct contract be given to them. This is a matter of the very greatest importance. Hon. gentlemen can understand that where there is a shipment of 500 or 000 thousand barrels of apples, if there is a loss of even 25 cents per barrel, in consequence of the manner in which the fruit is carried, I Mr. WADE.
that means a very serious loss to the country. I would urge on the minister with the utmost earnestness that if the Furness-YVi-thy Company is to be given this contract, it should only be given it on condition that the department shall be iii a position to see that the company carry it out. There has been a demand on the part of the shippers, and it does seem to me that it is a reasonable demand, that these people should not be contracted with until they have satisfied these claims for damages, or demonstrated that they are not just claims. It may be said that the parties have the courts open to them, where they can go and assert their claims. But it is difficult for a man who ships one or two thousand barrels of apples, and who meets with the loss of twenty-five or fifty cents a barrel, to go into the courts and fight a powerful steamship company. There are hundreds of these shippers, and I think it would be only fair that this company, before they are given another contract, should make a fair adjustment of these claims. It is unfortunate that the country does not seem to have confidence in the Furness-Withy Company ; and, from the information that I have received, I am sure that the Fumess-Withy Company merit the estimation in which they are held by the country.
I desire to concur in what the hon. member for Annapolis (Mr. Wade) has said. I have received memorials from the Fruit Growers' Association of Annapolis, in which they make a very strong case against this company. It is idle to say that these individual farmers have a remedy against this company. It is irony to tell these people to go into court and fight for $200 or $500 damages, which may be the profit of the whole year's growth, with a company which might lead them from court to court, and compel them to spend their whole profit in a lawsuit, leaving the question at the end in great doubt. I would follow the suggestion of the hon. member for Annapolis so far as to say that I would be perfectly willing to support, as far as I am concerned, a greater subsidy, if that Yvere the remedy to secure proper and safe exportation of the fruit products of the Annapolis valley. Those products are becoming a source of great wealth to the province of Norm Scotia ; and all the people of Canada, especially all the people of the maritime provinces, should be most anxious to see that the fruit reaches the market in such a condition as to command the highest prices and give the largest profits to the people engaged in that business. There may be several ways of effecting this. One way would be to establish a large forfeit in the contract, which the company would be compelled to make, in case there was any substantial complaint of non-compliance with the contract ; and that money should be held back from the company until every claim in connection with the shipments of
each year was settled, and the matter should be adjusted by some officer of the department. The shipper should not be compelled to so into court and perhaps waste three or four years and the whole value of his shipment in contesting the right with this company. Tlie company could, by appealing from court to court, secure an absolute denial of justice. Consequently, I urge on the minister that every means be taken to secure the fruit-growers of Nova Scotia in the matter of the shipment of these fine fruit products. I have received document after document, and paper after paper, asserting that the greatest injustice has been done to that community. I do not wish to charge this injustice to the Department of Trade and Commerce. I have no doubt that it is due to the greed of the company to make money at the expense of the shippers of Nova Scotia without regard to the consequences. I think that can be cured by the officials of the department In some way making it so costly to this company to do wrong that they will be compelled to do right.
I have taken careful note of what the hon, gentlemen state. The present contract was made with two or three very stringent clauses in it to secure proper ventilation and proper accommodation for the conveyance of apples. If the company fail to carry out these, I will most assurdly cut their subsidy.
I have on one or two occasions sent down to examine and inspect; but whether the fans are kept in motion on the voyage or not, I cannot say. Except through the intervention of the shippers, I do not see how I can obtain that information. I cannot despatch men on each of these vessels to see that that is attended to.
The difficulty last year was that the company did not put the forced ventilation in as soon as they should have done. The ground of complaint was first the uncertainty of the sailings. They advertised their sailings for certain days. The shippers sent fruit down by train to the point of shipment, and there it had to wait sometimes for several days. Then that the speed of the vessels was not up to the contract. Instead of making the trip from Halifax to London within contract time, they would be two or three days longer, which was most serious for the shippers, especially of apples, it being most desirable
that the fruit should only be on board during the shortest possible period.
The hon. gentleman should wait until I had finished. He has made the charge against the government that the government entered into a contract with the steamship company to ply between these two points. He has further stated that after that contract was entered into, the company changed the vessels and put on others which were not up to the contract at all.
The contract provides penalties for infraction of the contract. In several of these cases, particularly in the ease to which reference has been made, a considerable deduction was made from the subsidy that would otherwise be paid, on the score that they had not fully performed their contract. Beyond that or beyond the drastic remedy of dropping this contract altogether, I do not see what we can very well do. These complaints have been investigated. I do not think there was any change in the vessels during the last year. The changes to which the hon. gentleman referred were made a couple of years ago. We have been at pains to insure the introduction of proper apparatus, ventilating and other, for the purpose of carrying these fruits in the best possible condition. That was not put in until somewhat late in the season, and I fined these people for their neglect. If they do not do better this year, I shall either cancel the subsidy altogether or fine them in proportion.