Mr. I. 1). MACDOUGALL (Inverness) moved:
That, in the opinion of this house, in the interests of the fishermen of Nova Scotia, no permits should be granted or renewed with those who own and operate beam trawlers in the province of Nova Scotia.
He said: Mr. Speaker, although I am deeply interested in the subject matter of the motion standing in my name I do not know whether it would be parliamentary for me to proceed with it at the present time, because of the fact that it has been given very close attention by the committee on price spreads and mass buying, and on account of the fact that the question is somewhat controversial. All I desire is to have the question brought to the attention of the select standing committee on marine and fisheries, where I and every other hon. member will have the opportunity to discuss it fully and frankly.
Those of us who have given some thought and study to the historical background of the Canadian confederation realize that at the preliminary meeting held at Charlottetown in 1864, when the province of Nova Scotia was asked to join the Canadian union it was made a sine qua non by Sir John A. Macdonald that the control of the fisheries of the province should be vested in the central or federal power. That may or may not be generally known by hon. members, but it is a fact.
That was strenuously opposed by Sir Charles Tupper of Cumberland, who did not desire to have the control of what was then, and what still can be made, one of our most important industries vested in the federal power. Sir John A. Macdonald, however, with his prophetic vision, saw the possibility of a Canadian union. He looked ahead to the time when British Columbia would enter confederation; he knew, as we all know, that in dealing with the problems pertaining to the fisheries of British Columbia and Nova Scotia there would be divergent interests, and he considered it prudent, in a national sense, that the fisheries should be controlled by the central power. Eventually Sir Charles Tupper agreed with him and after the consummation of confederation the control of our fisheries was vested in the central power.
I realize that this is a controversial resolution; I realize that there are Conservatives and Liberals who will oppose it, but the fact is that so far as the fishermen of the island of Cape Breton are concerned their condition is worse than that of the industrial population of any other part of Canada. I make that statement advisedly, because I know whereof I speak. Only a few months before I went to the hospital I was in the county so ably represented by my tolerant friend from Richmond-West Cape Breton, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes), which was represented many years ago by my grandfather, first as provincial secretary in the legislature and later, after confederation, in the federal House of Commons. I found that in one district, where the people depend entirely upon the fisheries industry for the maintenance of life, there was dire distress on every hand. We hear a good deal about the right of workingmen to a living wage, but the most fundamental right of all is the right to live. I found that in that district they were not able to support a school, because the company that has control over these beam trawlers in the province of Nova Scotia has a monopoly. We might as well be fair and frank about it; they have a monopoly of the fishing industry in the province of Nova Scotia. There may be those who are spineless enough to disagree with me, but I think whatever may be said of me when I quit public life it will be agreed that I always had the spunk to say what I thought, whether a Conservative liked it or a Liberal liked it. To-day the fact is that we have a monopoly of the fishing industry of the province of Nova Scotia, and a United States controlled monopoly at that. These people dictate the prices of fish to the shore fishermen, when they can sell their fish, and in many cases they cannot sell it at all. Along the shores of the county so ably represented by my hon. friend from Cape Breton North-Victoria (Mr. Johnstone) last summer the price of hake was 35 cents a hundred pounds. I would be casting pearls before swine to talk about fish in this part of the country, but I can tell hon. members that you cannot get anything better to eat than hake. The fishermen go out at three o'clock in the morning and bring back two hundred pounds of hake, for which they do not receive enough to pay for the gasoline for their motor boat. That is a fact, and the same condition exists all along the coast of Inverness and Richmond. The very essence of a monopoly is the power to fix prices, and in Nova Scotia that power is vested in a United States controlled corporation.
I say there is an obligation on the part of this government to take some action. Something was done by the previous government; in 1927 a commission was appointed, consisting of eminent men, to investigate the fishing industry of the maritime provinces.
I believe they went into this question fairly, dispassionately and without prejudice of any kind, and four of the five members of that commission agreed that the beam trawler should be abolished. Even Judge Maclean, although he dissented from the view of his colleagues, did not do so very strongly. It was proposed by the then government that a duty should be levied on beam trawler caught fish landed in Canadian waters, and that was done. Unfortunately it was by order in council, and that order in council ultimately was held by the courts to be ultra vires.
As a private member it is not open to me to move that a duty be imposed on beam trawler caught fish; everyone familiar with the rules of this house knows it is not competent for a private member to do so, but I would point out that after this commission heard evidence in different important fishing centres of the maritime provinces their findings were endorsed by Liberals, Conservatives, Progressives, Labour men, and everyone else. On consulting the record I find that petitions were presented to the commission, urging the abolition of beam trawlers, from many communities in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
As I have said, Mr. Speaker, I know this is a controversial question, and I want to say frankly that I am not a socialist. I do not believe in the confiscation of private property. The fishermen of the maritime provinces believe to-day that by curtailing for a time the operations of the trawlers they would derive great benefit, and I believe it is the duty of the government to make arrangements with the beam trawler owners whereby operations of those boats may be suspended for two years. Give the shore fishermen of the maritimes a chance to live; that is all they are asking. They are not looking for doles, but are anxious and willing to work. They have a product which is needed right here in the city of Ottawa, in Toronto and in Montreal, one which is not produced on a competitive basis, as is coal, or some other commodities. If they are given any chance to make a living I will say that those fishermen in the maritimes will not want doles, or anything else. They are looking to this government, just as they have looked to previous governments for the right to live. I agree with what the hon. member for Antigonish-
Guysborough (Mr. Duff) said only a few nights ago, namely, that never since the maritimes entered the Canadian union have the interests of the fishermen been considered, whether by a Liberal or a Conservative government. There has never been a proper appreciation of the importance of the industry to the people of Nova Scotia. The time has come when we should consider earnestly the measures to be taken to give these people a chance to live.
In my observations I do not wish to be provocative because I know there are those who will oppose the resolution. However if they become too strenuous in their opposition I shall reserve my right to reply. May I say frankly I am not looking for votes but have spoken in all good faith. I have no interest whatever in the fishing companies of the province of Nova Scotia, but I have a very keen interest in the fishing hamlets of that province. I say the population in those hamlets has in the past forty years been reduced by 47 per cent. It is time something was done by those under whose control the fishing industry was placed when the maritimes became part of the Canadian union. They should try to do something to see that these people are given their rights, and the right not only to work but to live. They can earn a profitable living if they are given the proper encouragement and opportunity, and if they have a chance to sell their fish.
I submit the house should consider carefully this question relating to the licensing of beam trawlers, and I would urge that the fishermen of that province can earn their own living without the dole or any other assistance if they are given the opportunities they were promised when in good faith the province of Nova Scotia entered the union.