April 21, 1939

CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

Would the minister please indicate the name and address of the official in British Columbia to whom reference should be made in emergent matters regarding navigation aids?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

The agency either at Victoria or Prince Rupert. The name of the agent at Victoria is Mr. Willoughby; the agent at Prince Rupert is Mr. Stamford.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

Have these officials authority to replace, without reference to Ottawa, beacons carried away or destroyed by storms?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

They have the authority,

and it is their duty to do so.

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Item agreed to. Marine service. 424- Maintenance and repairs to wharves, $7,500.


CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

On this item I wish to

make another appeal to the minister for some action which will clear away our difficulties with regard to the appointment of wharfingers along the coast of British Columbia. I do so because at a number of points representative committees have made complaints to me and asked that something should be done, and I have endeavoured to lay the matter before the officers of the department and before the minister.

Under the act the minister has the power to avoid any difficulty, because, after all, section 6 provides that the minister may appoint such officers, clerks or labourers as he may think proper. That authority is permissive and not mandatory. But as soon as the wharfinger is appointed, it does become mandatory to collect top wharfage tolls and side wharfage dues. The wharfingers receive on the tolls collected a commission of 50 per cent for amounts up to $200 and 15 per cent for amounts above $200. In the majority of the communities with which I am familiar there is a great protest because the wharf is the only means of access to the outside world, and the people see no reason why they should be penalized by a special tax. They cannot understand why the government should do what is equivalent to erecting a toll-gate across a road. It is as obnoxious as a toll-gate would be.

The minister has advanced the reason that it is necessary to collect revenue. Sessional paper No. 155 shows that revenue is collected only from a comparatively small number of wharves. The wharves and piers in Canada under the control of the department number 1,899, and of these 267 were in British Columbia as at December 31, 1938. Some still remain

under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works, but the wharfingers appointed on such wharves in Canada number 632, there being forty-nine in British Columbia. That is to say, out of 267 wharves in British Columbia, forty-nine have wharfingers and only forty-nine communities pay top wharfage tolls. The residents of these communities pay not only top wharfage tolls but the dues and tolls on goods shipped to them from the port of Vancouver.

The question of revenue does not seem to be as important as formerly. According to the return brought down, the gross collections of top wharfage dues in Canada for 1937-38 amounted to $222,531. The commission to wharfingers amounted to $33,487, and expenses amounted to $14,194. The net collections were, therefore, $174,849. Gross collections in British Columbia amounted to $34,923 and commissions paid were $4,677, expenses being $10,919. Net collections were, therefore, $19,326.

I asked in my question for the returns of side wharfage tolls, because it was brought to my attention that in the case of some wharves where the residents paid top wharfage tolls the steamship companies do not pay side wharfage tolls. I am informed that the Union Steamship Company, whose ships visit the great majority of these points, pay a monthly commutation rate for only a given number of points, and at some points where they do not pay side wharfage tolls the residents pay top wharfage tolls. In the rates set for the carriage of goods to and from these communities many pay twice, because these rates are set to include tolls in and out of the port of Vancouver.

The minister should give consideration to the principle involved. Even though he may desire to collect revenue to reimburse the department for expenditures in connection with administration of wharves, this is an additional tax upon the residents of the communities, over and above the tax they pay for general service facilities, and it is a most serious handicap on them, particularly on producers who bring in hay and feed or in communities that ship out canned or fresh fruits for the outside market. The toll, however small it may be, is a hardship and is certainly a great inconvenience.

I realize that it is difficult to get men to accept the post of wharfinger because very few men of the right calibre are willing to undertake responsibilities that bring them into public disfavour. It is a job which few men want because sentiment runs high against the appointment in many of these communities. If, however, a man is appointed and is

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empowered to collect dues from the residents, then it is good business to have businesslike regulations governing the performance of his duties. On that point I have received a great number of complaints in the past year. The wharfinger appointed is usually a man who does other work, and very often the wharf is some distance from the village. He has no regular hours of work at the wharf. He is there during the hours in which the boat docks, and then he goes on to perform his other duties elsewhere. He carries with him the key to the freight shed of the wharf. Shippers in that community come sometimes during the day, if the boat docks in the evening, as it very often does, and they have to search for the wharfinger all over the community before they can get their goods out of the freight shed. In one community it has been the custom to leave the key of the shed at a nearby store, but that offered no protection to the public with regard to their goods, and the practice was discontinued.

In some communities this is a serious inconvenience especially in view of the opening up of logging operations. The logging operators are bringing in gas and oil and are shipping equipment in and out, and it is a great inconvenience when they cannot get their goods readily. If they send a truck driver to pick up goods on the wharf he has to search through the whole community to find the wharfinger before he can get goods unloaded from the boat the previous day. Surely it should be possible to issue instructions to ensure that the wharfinger is on duty during hours that meet the convenience of the public.

I suggest that the minister should institute a careful check upon the manner in which funds are collected in this way. I do not know what the procedure is, but as far as I can ascertain the wharfingers are not required to give receipts, nor does it appear that they retain any duplicates which are open to inspection by the department. I mentioned the other evening that fishermen in distress, tying up at wharves, were charged in two instances the sum of fifty cents. The minister was kind enough to look into the matter. I had intended to secure affidavits when I found that the wharfinger who had violated the regulations in regard to these fishermen had died.

There is no protection in this regard, and we hear rumours, which need to be verified, that some wharfingers levy extortionate charges upon fishermen. Clearly fishermen plying their trade are exempt under the regulations. I would urge that receipts be issued. Motor-car dealers shipping cars in and out of these communities have been unable to obtain

receipts. It may foe only forty or fifty or sixty cents for unloading a car, but the man handling the car for his client is unable to show a receipt. A truck driver or a taxi driver going to receive goods is required to pay a toll on the goods, and he cannot collect from his client because he cannot produce a receipt.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

May I interrupt? It is entirely illegal for a wharfinger to collect any money, no matter how small, without giving a receipt. Is my hon. friend able to give me the names of the wharves where these things happen? After all, he is making serious charges against the whole staff of wharfingers.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I trust the minister does not misunderstand me; I am not making charges.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Well, the hon. member is saying that illegal practices go on, because it is distinctly illegal for any wharfinger to collect any sum without giving a receipt, and the hon. member says it is done frequently. I think it is only fair to the officers of the department that he should name the localities where this occurs.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I am reciting facts brought to my attention.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Does the hon. member think it is fair to pass them on without some verification? He is slandering a large class of people, because we have a great many wharfingers on the Pacific coast.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

Well, the complaint was made to me that in some instances the wharfinger was unwilling to give a receipt, and I was unaware of any practice in the department that required the retention of a duplicate receipt.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

The wharfinger is required

to make it out in quadruplicate, four copies.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I thought that referred

only to bills of lading. I am glad to have that information from the minister. Other complaints have reached me. For instance, at another wharf the wharfinger is a little autocratic in the performance of his duties, he has assumed power to regulate motor-car traffic on these docks. This happens to be a summer resort with a considerable number of people embarking and disembarking-

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

May I ask the name of that dock?

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

This is Roberts Creek. Sometimes in the summer the boat may be tied up at the dock for forty-five minutes, and if the wharfinger decides that he is not going to allow any taxis or motor-cars on that

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wharf at that time it puts elderly people and invalids to serious inconvenience. Again I am not making any charge, but definite instructions should be issued so as to safeguard the convenience of the public.

Again, in another community it is reported that the wharf is a mile from the village and the residence of the wharfinger. The freight shed is locked except prior to the arrival of the boat. The shipper has to make out his own bill of lading, and the users of the wharf have felt that no more actual service is rendered now than in the years before the wharfinger was appointed.

In another instance a shipper was shipping a few boxes of apples by the mail boat; he put them in a rowboat and rowed them to the boat; the wharfinger made out the bill of lading, the shipper had to load the fruit on the boat himself, but the wharfinger made out his bill and got his share, getting extra money from his accommodating neighbour. My informant says that if you multiply these instances a number of times you get a large sized grievance. I submit something should be done to remove this penalty from these small communities. The permanent residents at these points are making a struggle, and the general policy is to encourage settlement in these areas to enable people to produce goods and ship them to the markets and thus keep off relief. In some instances the collection of these tolls is just enough to make the difference between success and failure. I hope the predicament of these people in regard to this matter will receive the sympathetic consideration of the minister, particularly because it can be demonstrated that in the great majority of cases very little revenue is secured and no service is rendered to the public in connection with the handling of goods over the wharves.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

The department simply carries out the legislation. I was mistaken when I said that the legislation was mandatory that a wharfinger must be appointed. That is not so, because a great many of the docks handle only fish or business that is exempt from wharfage. The branch handling these wharves recommends to the minister that certain wharves have a revenue for which a wharfinger is required, and recommends the appointment of a wharfinger at that place. Where the department makes that recommendation, under the act it is the duty of the minister, as I conceive it, to endeavour to appoint a wharfinger. I believe it is well worth while for any community to have a wharfinger. It is impossible for the department to give proper service to a dock and to keep it in repair unless there is someone looking after 71492-195

it, and it is impossible to do the writing and that sort of thing unless there is some little revenue. The Government Harbours and Piers Act provides that no funds can be spent except funds collected in the operation of the dock. W7e are not able to spend any of the funds of the department in operating any dock under the Government Harbours and Piers Act. Obviously, if there is a warehouse at the dock, someone must look after it or it serves no useful function. We try to appoint wharfingers as well located in respect to the wharf as possible, but of course sometimes a wharf is some distance from the settlement. I think that on the whole our wharfingers take their work seriously, endeavour to give service to their public, and that in the great majority of communities they have overcome the first prejudice which existed against anyone charging for the use of government property and have built up goodwill. I could name many communities in which the wharfinger is highly respected for the work he does.

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CON

Harry James Barber

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARBER:

Do any of these wharves

remain under the public works department, or are they taken over by the Department of Transport as soon as constructed?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

That is the intention. Sometimes the department carries them for a year or so before they are turned over; they usually wait until there are several and turn them over at one time.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

The minister says he knows

wharfingers who have collected, I think he said, or stirred up a considerable amount of goodwill. Well, it is not in the district I represent. I could tell him of a great deal of ill will that has piled up. The village wharfinger is about as popular in some places as Hitler. There may be places where the amount of business justifies placing a wharfinger to give the attention necessary, and in those places I think the minister will find there is no objection, because some service is given. Personally I would rather pay the very small fee required and be able to go down next day and get my freight and find it is there, instead of having to turn up at one or two o'clock in the morning when the boat comes in. But in these small places the people resent bitterly having to pay; they claim that the wharf is their substitute for a road, and that they should not have to pay a toll-gate fee. We know that very large sums, if my memory is right, running into millions, have been spent on the canals in the east, and I do not know that there is any toll collected on them. These people have no roads, this is often their only

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means of access. Apart from that, as I have so often, submitted to the minister, the revenue that the dominion government gets out of it after paying the expenses is so utterly out of proportion to the irritation that it generates that it seems a mistake not only from a business but a political point of view.

The charges are very small, so small that you can hardly get any man to take the job. I have again and again received requests from the minister-I remember one day I got nine letters from him asking recommendations as to appointments of wharfingers at various places, and it has been more or less a nightmare to me for the last two years. Where people were willing to do this work, I sent in the names, but it is not a case of political advantage, because most often you cannot get people to take the job as a gift. In many instances, not being able or willing to get one myself, the minister left it to his official who put up a notice of a rather flamboyant kind suggesting that the revenue was substantial. Then he got some wretched man to take the job, and after the man found what his revenue was he promptly threw it up. I wrote a letter the other day to the minister's deputy asking him how many of the appointments made by the minister's official still existed, and there was not one. They would take it on for a week or two, and then throw it up.

Let me give an idea of what is in it for this man who perhaps lived, as my hon. friend says, a quarter of a mile, half a mile or a mile away from the wharf. Bill Jones comes down in the morning after the boat has left, and he wants a barrel of flour, which is 196 pounds and upon which the government wharfage is two cents, of which the wharfinger gets one cent. He gets 50 per cent of all collections up to $200-which is a mere figure of speech, because he never arrives at that amount.

Bill Jones has probably had to go out of his way to get this wharfinger. He takes him down to the wharf. He doesn't feel like having to take him back again. He gets the barrel of flour, and he pays. Then various forms are made out. A wharfinger told me he had to make four copies, which he sent to different officers, and then he gets a cent out of it. He wanders home again, because the man who has come for the flour won't take him home. He is home half an hour, and somebody comes down and wants a case of coal oil, and the same process is repeated-but he gets only half a cent that time.

Can you wonder that the man, under those circumstances, does not take the job? No

man would be bothered with it-and that is part of the trouble. I would not go so far as the hon. member for Vancouver North when he said it made the difference of profit and loss in business, because the wharfage is so small. It is about ten cents a ton.

Many of these places are post offices as well. People come in their launches distances of two, three, five or ten miles and meet the steamer. They get stores at the same time, get the mail and go home. It makes no difference to them whether there is a wharfinger there or not. Then the government says, "Why can you not get that store man and that post office man to act as wharfinger?" But he says, "No, it is my business to get the mail out, so that these people who are waiting for it can get it." Incidentally, he sells them groceries.

Then there is another point; sometimes the situation is even accentuated. It would be difficult perhaps to understand it, but let me give an illustration like this: A steamer- generally the Union Steamship or the Canadian Pacific boat-calls at a wharf of considerable size. They put stuff off there. But there is a float perhaps five miles away at which the steamer does not call, because it cannot call there. A float is available only for small launches. It is a convenience for some channel or some fiord a distance from the main line of the ship's journey. Then, if this thing is in force he would have to pay wharfage at this main wharf, and then again when he took it ashore at the little wharf in his immediate vicinity. He would pay double the wharfage then.

But the main thing is that the government gets nothing from it worth anything. It is annoying to the public having to hunt up this wharfinger who, in nearly every instance, does not live near the wharf, because the wharf is generally set out on a point where there are no houses. The hon. member for Vancouver North said that something should be done, and I suggest the minister would save us an infinity of trouble if he said there would be no wharf collection, unless the revenue were above a certain yearly sum, say three or four hundred dollars. The wharfinger gets only 50 per cent of the first two hundred dollars collected; after that, it is only 15 per cent. You can figure out what 15 per cent of two cents comes to, and you will have a pretty fair idea of what it is-of how he is practically wallowing in luxury after he has been in the job a little while!

I must support the minister and the law to this extent that there are places where

Questions

steamers call where there have been considerable expenditures by the government, and where the wharves are large and costly, and the traffic considerable. There is no doubt about that. None of these wharves lasts more than from five to ten years, and they cost $8,000 to $12,000. It is quite proper that the government should get some revenue. But in connection with these little places, these small floats, which cost about $1,500, and where the revenue is not at all important, I believe the government should be able to draw a line and say, "Unless you can reasonably expect an income of four or five hundred dollars a year, we will not appoint a wharfinger." That would cut out a great deal of trouble to everybody connected with it.

Item stands.

Progress reported.

On motion of Mr. Mackenzie King the house adjourned at 10.08 p.m.

Monday, April 24, 1939

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April 21, 1939