Price and quantity; we desired full information. When we ascertained from the packers what quantity they could put up, without adding additional equipment to their plant, and basing their figures on the prospect of this year's catch, the deputy asked them what their price would be. In order to get a definite reply the packers had to deal with the fishermen to find out at what prices the fishermen would sell their fish. They were told to get together, because we wanted the information. The deputy returned within a few days with the information which had been given to him, and that information was passed on to the Department of Trade and Commerce, the department of government which had asked us for the information. That is all there was to it. Then we were told it would be better for the government to commandeer the whole
pack. That would be a big job, because it is a S30.000.000 industry. In the past it has operated with a fair degree of satisfaction to both fishermen and packers, and has been worked along ordinary business principles. We are not at all anxious to step in and take charge of a large industry which in this year should be worth about $35,000,000. Further, we are not going to step in until we are told that we must do so, or until we are satisfied that it cannot run on its own feet. That is the present situation.
So far no representations have been made to us that the fishermen are not going to get enough. Of course there are some who may claim that they should get more, and that whatever the British government is willing to pay, the fishermen should get what they think they ought to get out of it. The same applies to some canners. They will say, "Our cost of operation is going up, and the British government is not willing to pay enough to meet our costs, plus a fair margin of profit." It is urged, therefore, that the Canadian government ought to supplement the price. We have not given any thought to an appropriation of public money to supplement the difference between what the packers ask and what the British government will be willing to pay. So far we do not know what they will pay.
I think the point raised by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni is a most important one. Last year at the beginning of the salmon season in British Columbia there was a dispute between the fishermen and the canners which held up fishing operations for a considerable time. I imagine the pack was not as large as it otherwise would have been if the fishermen had gone out when the season opened. I suggest that we ought to give consideration to this matter so that a food supply as important as salmon, and so great a factor in the economy of British Columbia, will not be held up this year. Let us not have the same situation as developed last year. It will be recalled that, before the
winter was over, there was a good market at a good price, which permitted the canners and packers to make a very good profit. The Department of Fisheries and the government should be prepared to take a chance. It is not a big chance, because salmon is a valuable food at any time. Certainly in our war economy $35,000,000 is not a great sum. We must remember that we are operating in a war economy, and the government should have a plan prepared so that when the fishing season opens, every fisherman will be able to go out fishing. I think the minister should take that into consideration and assure the committee to-night that a plan of that kind will be put into effect.
The relations of the fishermen with the packers under ordinary circumstances are a matter of provincial concern, not federal. Provincial laws have been enacted to establish and adjust the relations between the fishermen and the packers when conflict arises between them. We cannot treat present conditions as a war emergency because there is apparently a good market for the output of the industry, and any interference between the different interests under ordinary circumstances only makes for disturbance and disorganization without any beneficial results. I believe that these people can adjust their difficulties among themselves, and if they cannot, there is the machinery of provincial laws to assist them in adjusting their difficulties.
Mr. Chairman, in answer to the request of the leader of the opposition I will tell the committee briefly what in my opinion is the situation both of the fishermen and the fishing industry on the Atlantic coast.
First of all, the war has had some good and some bad effects on the fishing industry as on other industries, but the effects of the war on the fishing industry on the Atlantic coast have been beneficial in this respect-
Beneficial in this respect, that they have eliminated a number of people who were classified as fishermen because they had no other occupation but who were fishing for only a few weeks of the year and who *were expected and who expected to live twelve months of the year on a few weeks' work in an industry producing low returns. They had poor equipment, and they were interfering with the legitimate fishermen who in the past had made fishing a calling, had made some kind of livelihood at it and had worked hard at that calling. On the Atlantic coast, with a few exceptions, the fishing season lasts from three to five months of the year at most. Outside of a very much limited number, the people who call themselves fishermen, and who are classified as fishermen fish for no more than five months of the year.
There is very little winter fishing. In the past, many people depended for their existence upon the returns of five months in the year; they were supported for the remainder of the year by people who allowed them just enough to keep them alive. That is about the situation. In some sections -of the Atlantic coast there were so-called fishermen who never saw real money until we distributed some relief among them.
were w'orking for three or four months in the year, or at most five months, dropping the products of their work into the warehouses of the dealers, getting credit on the books for the weight and quantity of fish, and receiving from the dealers a few bags of flour, a few gallons of molasses, sometimes lard-never butter-and enough clothing to keep the body covered. That is the most that the majority of them were getting. That went on for some time.
Then came the depression and prices tumbled, markets disappeared. The reserves of many years, sometimes generations of work, were in the hands, not of bankers, but of people who had invested in property, or sometimes, after dealing on the stock exchange, lost everything. All the reserves of the fishermen had gone, and they had to resort to relief. Consequently the situation had to be changed.
Socially-minded people were made aware of the conditions and became interested in the fishermen. Many suggestions w'ere put forward, but I believe the best which was offered was that the fishermen should be educated to look after themselves, to cooperate, and to try to become independent of those who had failed them in the past. That work was started by the fishermen and by the extension department of the St. Francis-Xavier university of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who have been carrying it on now' for ten years.