June 17, 1947

LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Unity in diversity!

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

Frequently I find myself in the right, even though in the minority. This time I happen to be in the right, and the majority is with me. The member for Peace River (Mr. Low), in the remarks he has just made, has indicated clearly his reasons, and I believe the reasons of others who have spoken, for his opposition to this measure. It is not just that they are opposed to the granting of these privileges and immunities. It is rather that they are opposed to the structure of the united nations and are afraid that we are heading towards the loss of Canadian sovereignty in a world government.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

We are certain of it. *

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

In other words, I have stated the hon. member's position quite correctly.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

Certainly we are running into difficulty.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

The fact of the matter is that sovereignty, as we know it today in individual nations, simply is not good enough to protect the peace and welfare of the people of the world. The time has come when we must create a larger and wider sovereignty for the protection of mankind.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. LOW:

How about the United States

forces in Canada? *

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

That, Mr. Speaker, was not a case of creating wider sovereignty. That, in our view, was a case of surrendering our sovereignty to another nation in the government of which we are not represented. But with respect to the united nations the matter is one of creating a new world sovereignty in which we have a very definite voice.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I would call the attention of the hon. member to the fact that the measure before the house is not one to create sovereignty for peace. The bill which is before the house is entitled "An Act to provide for privileges and immunities in respect, of the united nations", which is already organized, "and related international organizations" which are already organized. I would ask hon. members to confine their remarks to the principle of the bill which is actually before the house.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

Mr. Speaker, if I may say so, I think you have not only given a good ruling but made a good argument in the debate itself. That is exactly the point that I was seeking to make in reply to the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot), the hon. member for Lethbridge (Mr. Blackmore) and the hon, member for Peace River (Mr. Low)-that what they are opposing is not the bill which is before us but the united nations organization, together with its specialized agencies, which are already set up, and of which Canada is a member, and to which this parliament agreed unanimously.

In deference to Your Honour's ruling I shall cut short my remarks. I contend that we are not surrendering sovereignty; we are creating a new sovereignty for the peace of the world. In the charter of the united nations we have agreed to accept these terms. Article 105 of the charter states that the organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its members such immunities and privileges as are necessary for the fulfilment of its purposes. That is the meaning of this bill, and any attempt to defeat it is contrary to the spirit of the charter and would be nothing more or less than an attempt to defeat the purposes of the

Dominion Coal Board

united nations. Such an attempt I regard as a disservice to mankind. For these reasons I think the bill should be passed and the principle approved.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink
SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. LOW:

On division.

Motion agreed to on division, bill read the second time and1 referred to the standing committee on external affairs.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ACCESSION OF CANADA TO CONVENTION ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
Permalink

DOMINION COAL BOARD

ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT


Right Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply) moved that the house go into committee to consider the following resolution: That it is expedient to present a bill to establish a corporation to be known as the dominion coal board to administer subventions or subsidies relating to coal voted by parliament, to exercise and perform certain other powers, duties and functions. Provision is made further for the advisory functions of the board, for the employment of professional and technical advisers and assistants and their remuneration, and for all expenses of the act to be paid out of moneys appropriated by parliament for the purpose. Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Macdonald (Brantford City) in the chair.


PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Will the minister make a statement on this resolution?

Topic:   DOMINION COAL BOARD
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes. This resolution provides for the establishment of a dominion coal board as a further step towards solving a problem that has been before this house and the people of Canada for the past seventy years. The first report on coal which has come to my notice is by a select committee of the House of Commons, dated April 27, 1877, dealing with "the state of the coal trade and for the promoting of interprovincial trade". That report suggested that bounties and subsidies be granted for the movement of Nova Scotia coal to points in Quebec and Ontario.

The intervening years have produced numerous reports on coal by parliamentary committees, royal commissions, and provincial commissions. The last report on the subject is entitled "Report of the Royal Commission on Coal", which was tabled in this house on January 31, 1947. The report represents months of careful and conscientious study by the commissioners, and I commend it to all members of this house for careful study.

Direct intervention by the government in the production and distribution of coal dates

'

back to June, 1917, when the government appointed a coal controller to deal with fuel difficulties that were an outgrowth of the war period. At that time it became necessary to make regulations to protect the production, sale, delivery and consumption of all fuels to meet wartime requirements. The final report of the first coal controller, dated March, 1919, stressed the necessity for having a continuing body to deal with coal supplies generally. The dominion fuel board was created by order in council in November, 1922, and since that time has functioned within its original terms of reference. The recent royal commission report states that the powers of the present board are not sufficiently wide in scope to deal with the present problem.

Shortly after the outbreak of the second world war, the government appointed a coal administrator under the wartime prices and trade board, with jurisdiction over the supply, distribution and price of coal. The staff of the dominion fuel board was taken over by the coal administrator. By 1942 the problem of coal supply became of paramount importance and to deal with it the government appointed an emergency coal production board under the chairmanship of the coal administrator. Shortly after this, since supply problems generally were being dealt with by the Departs ment of Munitions and Supply, the duties and responsibilities of the coal administrator were transferred to that department under the direction of a coal controller.

Coal control ended on December 31, 1946, and the functions of coal administration ended with the lifting of the price ceiling on coal on April 15, 1947. At that time, the dominion fuel board was reconstituted and is at present functioning within its original terms of reference.

The government is in full agreement with the recommendation of the royal commission on coal that a dominion coal board be established and charged with the responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the report. The board will take over the records of the dominion fuel board, as well as those of wartime controls, and these will form a valuable background for the work of the new board. I might add that, if proof is needed that these records are valuable, it will be found in the fact that during the period of wartime coal control it was possible to arrange for supplies of coal that maintained full industrial production without one day's loss of time from coal shortage, as well as a full supply to the household consumer.

Much has been said and written about the Canadian coal problem. This is not a single problem-we have many coal problems, differ-

Dominion Coal Board

ing in kind and degree. There is the problem of maintaining an adequate supply of coal for our national requirements, and there is also the problem of building up in Canada a sound and healthy producing industry. There is the problem of finding steady and adequate markets for Canadian coal, and the problem of providing reasonably full employment at fair wages for our miners. Each section of Canada has its own coal problem, differing from that of other sections.

The report of the royal commission on coal accepts the necessity for industries in central Canada to secure the major portion of their coal requirements from the United States. Developments in low cost production and transportation may possibly alter this concept in some measure in the future, but it would appear that for many years industry and households in central Ontario will continue to secure supplies from the nearest source, namely, the immense deposits in the Appalachian field in the United States. However, this finding need not preclude the growing development of a stable and prosperous producing industry within this country; nor need it preclude the provision of an increasing and remunerative field of employment for Canadian coal miners.

The commission has found that the government policy of subventions to assist transportation of coal, arising out of investigations made by a special committee of the House of Commons in 1921, has been both well designed and reasonably adequate, and should be continued. This subvention policy has been directed primarily to the marketing phase of the Canadian coal industry. The problem of providing and maintaining an adequate market for Canadian coal is constantly changing, and does not, by its very nature, lend itself to the establishment of a rigid and invarying policy. Therefore the commission recommends that the present dominion fuel board, composed of civil servants, be replaced by a new statutory body which will serve full time in the administration of present subvention policies and such new measures of assistance as may be required from time to time. In this way the marketing problem will receive the constant attention of a body set up for the purpose. The resolution now under discussion has for its purpose the implementation of this recommendation.

I will now discuss the other main problem, namely, the production of coal throughout Canada at the lowest possible cost. The report of the commission gives the salient features of the operations in each of Canada's main coal fields. In normal times, and during 83166-271J

the war, the industry has been in a healthy state in Saskatchewan, and in Alberta, including the southeast corner of British Columbia. On the other hand operations on Vancouver island, and particularly in the maritine provinces, have not been in a healthy condition for many years. The mines producing industrial and railway coal in the mountain regions in British Columbia have had a particularly good record. The profits of the group are not excessive, but in wages paid, in constant and increasing output, and in efficiency of production, these operations stand out over the general average. The production of domestic coal in Alberta has suffered from seasonal operation, inherent in the nature of the coal, but even under this handicap shows a sound and encouraging record. The lignite coal mines in Saskatchewan have built up by their own efforts a sound and profitable market, and have a record of expansion that is by no means ended. There are few serious problems in the operation of this section of the industry that cannot be solved by the industry itself. The provision of a stable market for the industrial and railway coals is bound up with the general prosperity of the country, but there would appear to be good prospects for the maintenance of an adequate and orderly marketing of the output from this area. The greatest improvement can be effected by developments in research that will solve the present seasonal fluctuations in the production of domestic coal in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. When the solution for this problem can foe found, the freight subvention policy recommended in the commission's report should be adeqaute for this section of the industry.

The coal fields of Vancouver island represent a special problem. The output per man day has been consistently lower than in the mountain and prairie mines, and the market has been restricted and highly competitive as against other fuels, such as oil and wood. For the past four or five years there has been a market for every ton of coal that could be produced, but for a variety of reasons, the mines have not increased their output to meet the challenge. In fact production has gone down, and it has been necessary to sustain operations by means of production subsidies. The ending of production subsidies calls for a reorganized production programme, required to maintain a sound and healthy coal producing industry on Vancouver island.

A still more serious outlook is presented by present conditions in the maritime provinces, and particularly in the Cape Breton area. We have here the largest concentration of the Canadian coal mining industry, located

Dominion Coal Board

in a heavily populated area, that is almost wholly dependent on this industry for means of livelihood. The other large maritime industry, steel, depends for its wellbeing upon an adequate supply of coal, at a cost that will permit the sale of its products at competitive prices. Maximum production from the maritime coal fields has been a matter of national necessity during the two great wars within our generation. Thus the maritime coal problem is of the highest importance, not only to that locality but to all parts of Canada.

Mining has been carried on continuously in the Cape Breton field for a longer period than in any other Canadian area, and part of the problem arises from the technical difficulties,, inherent both in the nature of the deposits, and in the very fact that mining operations have continued along lines laid down years ago. The methods adapted to mining of coal in earlier years may not be best adapted to the present situation. The royal commission report devotes considerable space to mining methods in these areas.

The production of coal in the maritime provinces, since early in the war, has presented an increasingly difficult and distressing problem. Production in this area has dropped by over two million tons per annum from normal, and the cost of production has skyrocketed to the point that the federal government has been obliged to provide upwards of twenty million dollars to the mine owners since January 1, 1942, in production subsidies, to prevent the industry from collapsing. The operators have placed the blame for decreased efficiency and higher cost on labour, and in turn, labour has been very critical of the management.

Special production subsidies no longer can be justified. The royal commission recommends the ending of production subsidies, but two of the commissioners suggest continued government aid to the maritime industry for a short reconversion period. The report is definite in its indication that the industry must expect to stand on its own feet, except for enlargements of its markets through freight subventions. Unless increased production' can be obtained, subvention assistance is likely to be of little benefit, as production of coal, and its consumption, are at present about in balance within maritime provinces.

In pre-war years, wages for coal miners in the maritime provinces have been lower than in other fields, and the necessity for this disparity was recognized and accepted. It is, however, an unsound policy to attempt to Derpetuate an industry through low wages.

Therefore every effort must be exerted to provide,. through a return to low cost and efficient production, for the payment of wages that will return a fair and reasonable standard of living to the workers. We are faced with the outstanding fact that if production in [DOT] the mines were brought up only as far as the pre-war level of efficiency, the present difficulty would fade and disappear. Such an improvement would provide for increases in wage scale, as well as for surplus earnings available to management for necessaiy mine improvements.

I would sum up the maritime situation by saying that unless the problems facing, the industry are quickly solved, the industry is heading for disaster. The problem of restoring the coal industry of the maritime provinces to a healthy condition is wrapped up with the continued prosperity of the area, and constitutes a plain challenge to private enterprise, as it is also a challenge to organized labour.

The coal report concludes with both majority and minority recommendations, but it is interesting to note that there is in fact a substantial measure of unanimity. There is agreement with the policy of assisting Canadian coal to find a wider market by means of subventions and the present tariff, as that policy has been developed and administered in the past, is sound and should be continued, although there are some small differences of opinion as to the future scope of the policy. The commissioners are unanimous in the opinion that nationalization of the industry, in whole or in part, does not offer any promise of improvement over present conditions. There is agreement that a statutory board should be established to carry on the functions of the dominion fuel board and to assume additional responsibilities in the national interest.

Returning to the supply problem in Ontario and Quebec, geography and economics make it inevitable that these provinces must depend largely on imported coal. Thus the supply is subject to interruptions beyond the control of Canada. We had an example last summer, when you will recall that a protracted coal strike in the United States was followed by a protracted seaman's strike in Canada. Strikes in the steel industry in the United States, result was that at September 1 our imports were three and one-half million tons lower for that period than would supply our minimum requirements. I had every reason to fear that Canada would face a situation this winter similar to last winter's situation in the United Kingdom. However, the coal controller and his staff combined with the Canadian shipping board, both of which had war emergency powers, in a determined effort to correct the situation. Lake carriers

Dominion Coal Board

were taken out of their normal trades and diverted to the carriage of coal. Emergency arrangements were made to transport Alberta coal to Ontario markets and to move American coal by rail into this area. The result was that the close of navigation found us with our minimum requirements provided for, plus one and one-half million tons of bituminous coal, and one million tons of anthracite coal, as an additional cushion against further interruptions to supply. This correction could not have been made without the agency of overriding emergency powers. If in future Ontario and Quebec are to have reasonable security of coal supply, it seems necessary that the new statutory board must be clothed with emergency powers adequate to enable that board to deal quickly with any dangerous situation that may arise. The bill based on this resolution will provide accordingly.

Hon. members will find in the resolution and in the bill to come before them, the details of the constitution, responsibilities and authority of the proposed new board. These have been drafted in general accordance with the recommendations of the royal commission, and it has been considered advisable to avoid any attempt to circumscribe the usefulness of this new body by too precise a definition. In the last analysis the responsibility for policy must rest directly upon parliament and government, since the expenditure of public funds will be directly concerned. The matters with which the board will deal are, however, so diverse in character that it will be necessary, for the efficient discharge of the responsibilities imposed, that a wide area of authority be provided for investigation and consideration. The implementation of the findings of the new body will remain the responsibility of government.

Topic:   DOMINION COAL BOARD
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT
Permalink
PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

The report of the royal commission on coal has been in our hands for some time. This resolution provides first:

That it is expedient to present a bill to establish a corporation-

In the first place, the minister has given us no reason why this should be a corporation. It is just one of the many crown corporations which we have been forming in times gone by, although in this particular case I can see no reason whatever for clothing this arm of government with corporate powers and then taking it, like other things, outside the civil service, outside audit by the auditor general, and so on. The minister did not mention that in his statement. There may be a reason, but if there is it is quite unknown to me. The resolution continues:

-to be known as the dominion coal board to administer subventions or subsidies relating to coal voted by parliament, to exercise and perform certain other powers, duties and functions.

The last remark the minister made was, I think, the only one he made with respect to these other powers, duties and functions, when he said that he intended to clothe this board with emergency powers. The recommendations of the royal commission are found on two pages, 582-3, of their report, and Mr. Justice Carroll and Mr. Justice McLaurin had this to say. The last paragraph is really the acting one:

It is not generally practical to fix subvention aid by statute because the assistance must vary from time to time with changes in the competitive situation. It is exceedingly important that any aid extended should be attended by scrutiny of the efficiency of operations.

Mr. Morrison, at page 600, in his summary puts it in this form:

A Canadian coal board should be established, to advise the government on assistance to the industry and protection of the public interest, and to administer such assistance as the government deems necessary.

There is this distinction. He thinks the government should determine the assistance necessary, and in my opinion perhaps the other two think it should be a function of the board. The second paragraph of the resolution reads as follows:

Provision is made further for the advisory functions of the board, for the employment of professional and technical advisers and assistants and their remuneration, and for all expenses of the act to be paid out of moneys appropriated by parliament for the purpose.

I have now read it all. All I am urging now is that I am not in favour of this bill at this time, and I intend to explain why at this time I can see no necessity for it. If I had a much better idea than I now have or a much better idea than the minister has given me about it, I might then be in a position to support it. But what does it amount to? It is nothing more than a resolution saying that we should set up a new corporation to do what certain employees in the government, in the very language of the coal commission, have been doing satisfactorily over the years. At the moment I can see no reason whatever why these functions should not be performed by the men on the fuel board, one of whom I know very well and whom I regard as one of the greatest authorities on coal in the Dominion of Canada; he would certainly be better than any chairman the government can pick out of the air and put at the top of this board.

Dominion Coal Board

The point I am making ia that, at the moment and with the brief explanation we have had, I cannot see why we should go to the trouble or expense of creating a new corporation with all the attributes and functions- that is, aside from the civil service and so on-which attach to corporations of that kind.

I realize that what I am going to say will be quite unpopular with some people where I live, but I intend to say it anyway. What happens is this. We set up this commission, and I commend them for the immense amount of work they did. I also add that they could have found ninety-five per cent of this information in the files of the government right now. That could have been done, because I know it is there. All these vast summaries have been done again and again, as the minister pointed out, from the time we first started investigating this business many years ago. But that commission was appointed, and they are not blameworthy. They were appointed to find a national policy with respect to coal. I mean, in my own language that is the function for which they were set up. As is admitted by everybody, in discharging that function they have found no answer whatever. In this book there is no answer to the Canadian coal problem. It may be, as the minister said- and I think he is right because he has great knowledge of this business-that as far as central Canada is concerned, we must rely perhaps for a considerable time on imported coal. But he added that we got into an emergency a short time ago and had to switch railroad stock from other purposes in order to save this situation.

This whole thing comes down to a matter of dollars. The big problem is, is the coal problem in the Dominion of Canada a national problem, or is it not? I think we all admit that it is national. Then the only thing we have left to consider is whether it is worth while, I mean to provide the dollars necessary to give coverage to this country for our own coal. There is no doubt whatever that we have the coal. Unfortunately it lies largely on the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains, at least in that area right from the border away up through the coal branch to those mines in there. That difficulty may be insuperable. I must say I am discouraged; I have no ready cure to offer the minister at the moment. But it does seem strange that in a land like this, where we have the coal out there and the great need for it down here, we have developed no scheme by which those two elements may be brought together and thus create industry.

The minister covered our various fields, and I was very happy to hear him say what he did about Alberta. But in justice to those who operate fields in other parts of the country, let it not be forgotten that in Alberta they work under rather good conditions. You find seams anywhere up to sixteen feet in height. On the Highwood river, where I have been myself-I am not like the hon. member for Davenport; I have not travelled much, but that is only sixty-five miles from my home- I have seen seams of solid coal forty feet in thickness, and I may say that is quite a thick seam of coal. There you will find three and four seams underlying each other, perhaps three feet, six feet, eight feet and forty feet in thickness, all in the one formation. So that there is no problem there as to competition with any other place, one might say, with respect to price. Then on the coal branch, that is the branch running south, at Edson I believe they are stripping their coal, which, of course, means that the cost has been brought down to a very low figure. I understand that they operate both a deep mine and a strip mine at the same time. Then you come into Saskatchewan, about which the minister spoke; and if I am not mistaken the successful operation in that area is largely a stripping operation. Then he spoke of British Columbia. I am very far from being an expert in this business, and I am not referring to the district around Fernie, Shelley and so on, but is it not a fact that the Vancouver island field is practically worked out at the present time? I have not been there for several years, but at that time I was in very good company-[DOT]

Topic:   DOMINION COAL BOARD
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   DOMINION COAL BOARD
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT
Permalink
PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I do not blame the minister for laughing. I was in the company of mining men; one of those places was available and we patronized it. The point I am trying to make is that at that time it seemed that those fields had practically reached exhaustion. Certainly it was a matter of not many years before they would reach the end of the blocked-out supplies.

Then the minister went to the maritimes. I am not going to say anything about that, save this. It seems to me that there of all places our national coal problem is simple. It is obvious that if things proceed as they have been proceeding in the last four or five years, as the minister says one can see the thing fading and disappearing as an industry at that place. As the minister stated, this coal commission has said that subsidies to the industry must cease, and I believe such steps have been taken. They do favour subven-

Dominion Coal Board

tions, by which they mean assistance with respect to freight rates in carrying the coal from one place to another. But I just wonder if at this time we can say that subsidies there should cease. As I said to the Minister of Labour in a previous debate in this house, and as the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply just repeated, down there the men blame management, the reason they give being inadequate machinery and inadequate power. On the other hand, management blames the men, saying they simply are not doing the work. The taxpayers have spent $20 million there by way of subsidies. As the minister has said, if we return to conditions as they were prior to the last war, then the industry can carry itself and pay a decent wage.

So, sir, with great respect I say I do not think we can ever thoroughly understand and, having done that, handle that problem unless we find out which of those statements is true. If it be that the ton and a half per man per shift, approximately, is the best that can be accomplished, then I think it is obvious that the worst fears of the minister will come true unless something more than subventions is done; and of course the only other thing is subsidies. But I do not see how this government or this parliament can say we should stop doing this or that until that specific and simple question is answered. And it can be answered; that can be done in a month by sending some experienced people down into those pits. The minister shakes his head. I do not often disagree with him; he is an authority on coal and many other matters, but perhaps I might get a little shot in somewhere edgeways. I say that can be solved by four men going under ground in those pits; I make that statement, and in it I have the support of a number of people engaged in the business with whom I have discussed it. Until we have that question answered, what are we doing? We are groping in the dark with respect to one of the greatest national problems facing us, and with respect to what may be one of our greatest assets if it can be properly and profitably handled.

Before we are through with this discussion I want the minister to tell me one thing. Having regard to the limitations on this board which I see in this resolution; having regard to the fact he has told us that the commission itself found that subventions had been satisfactorily handled in the past, what gain is there to anybody by transferring that function from officials of the department to a new and expensive corporation? That is a simple question which I think is worthy of an answer, and which I believe can be answered simply. I had something to do with

subventions in connection with the late Charles Stewart and the late Wesley Gordon. At different times I have come here with different sides of the coal industry trying to wangle subventions out of these people for certain areas, and I am very happy to say that at times I met with certain success. But I do not see how bringing a new face into the picture will make it any more efficient than it is at present, particularly when we have the finding in the report, as the minister said, that the subventions question has been well handled. The two commissioners have said that conditions change quickly; and at page 583 of the report they object to the statutory form. But let us remember that, as the minister has said, the money can be provided only by statute. If we should have a change in the business during the course of a year, when parliament is not sitting, I do not see why an official of the government, keeping in touch with and studying the matter, cannot make up his mind just as quickly as another official of the government who is called a corporation. I am utterly unable at the moment to see any necessity for setting up a board at this time.

I do not want any one to think I am speaking against the general recommendation that subventions to that industry be continued. I remember coming to Ottawa some years ago to appear before the railroad board. The results were bad, but now that we are to pay them better, perhaps my luck will change next time. I endeavoured to find out what it costs to haul a ton of coal from Drumheller, Lethbridge and the Crowsnest pass, first to North Bay and then to Toronto. The board made a finding and I admit that the figure was prohibitive. After that finding, the subvention situation was carried on.

May I say with respect that I do not think we yet know what the cost is. It is probably my fault that we do not. I was not good enough and I certainly did not have the same kind of help as the railroads had. I felt rather like a fool and I probably acted like one. I do not think anyone knows what it costs the railroads to haul a ton of coall from Cape Breton to Montreal or from Drumheller or the Crow to North Bay or Toronto. I believe there is an opening for our domestic coal in the area north of North Bay, but I cannot prove it. If we could really get down to it and find out what the cost of doing this thing was, then perhaps we might find a basis for a coal policy.

Coming back to where I started, I should like to have the minister explain, first, why the creation of a corporation and, second,

Dominion Coal Board

what more will this new group or body do or what more can they do than has been done already by some efficient people who at one time formed the dominion fuel board?

Topic:   DOMINION COAL BOARD
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF SUBVENTIONS OR SUBSIDIES VOTED BY PARLIAMENT
Permalink

June 17, 1947