April 4, 1949

PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

The whole pack was either shipped to England or supplied to the Canadian forces. Mr. Buchanan gives those figures too. He says:

Of the 1941 to 1946 packs, 7,600,000 cases (or 80 per cent) were used for the forces or shipped to the order of Great Britain for overseas needs.

Then he goes on to say:

Probably no other similar food industry made the same sacrifice in its domestic market.

A year or so ago it became obvious that the overseas market for canned salmon was falling off. We on the coast hoped that the Marshall plan would enable European countries to buy our canned salmon. I have here a dispatch of April 8, 1948. The heading is "Marshall Plan may aid Province's Industries". With regard to salmon its says:

Canned salmon, one of the province's big natural crops, was being faced with declining dollar holdings in the United Kingdom and other markets, and looked as if it might become a surplus at home.

Both the salmon and the herring catches, which are much more than can be used in Canada, will probably be needed to supply foodstuffs to Europe.

The belief was that the Marshall plan would mean that our market in Great Britain and on the continent of Europe would be continued. But the situation became steadily worse, and I find here a clipping of January 21, 1949, again in the Vancouver press. The heading is "Salmon Gets Last Chance" and the first paragraph reads as follows:

Fisheries Minister R. W. Mayhew has begun last-chance negotiations toward agreement for sale of British Columbia canned salmon to the United Kingdom, and upon his success or failure will depend to great extent the prosperity of this province's fishermen in 1949.

The next day we had a press dispatch to the effect that Ottawa might agree to accept sterling currency for British Columbia salmon. But on January 27 a further dispatch appeared reporting an interview with William F. Bull, who apparently is director under the Export and Import Permits Act. Mr. Bull said in Vancouver that one of his headaches was what to do about a market for British Columbia's tinned salmon. The dispatch reads in part as follows:

"Talks are now under way in London, but we don't know the answer," he told members of the shipping and foreign trade bureaux of the Board of Trade Wednesday. British commonwealth countries took from 50 to 60 per cent of British Columbia's tinned salmon prior to the war. But this year it was feared they might take none.

Then the next development was a statement by Sir Stafford Cripps reported in the

Canadian press of February 22 of this year. He had this to say with regard to canned salmon being purchased from Canada by Great Britain:

"Normally we buy canned salmon from Russia or timber from Scandinavia or bacon from Poland because we can pay for it in sterling, whereas similar Canadian supplies would cost us dollars."

The canned salmon market has now been cut off completely. I have here a further dispatch of March 23, just ten days ago, which again appeared in the British Columbia press, and which reads in part as follows:

Fishing, among B.C.'s top four industries, faces a threat of disaster this year due to failure of last-minute negotiations for sale of canned salmon to the United Kingdom.

A surplus of 250,000 cases is now backed up in warehouses and a pack of 1,500,000 cases was expected this year. This may be sharply cut by lack of markets.

B.C. Packers'-

That is the largest fish company in British Columbia.

-vice-president R. E. Walker says "if we don't get rid of present stocks, fish prices will drop this season -enough to put many small fishermen out of business."

I am afraid that is an accurate description of the situation. We have this difficulty with regard to selling the salmon in the United States: there is a tariff of 25 per cent against our canned salmon. It is so high that I believe it is practically impossible to get the canned salmon into that market. So unless the Minister of Fisheries has some hopeful news for us today, it looks as though the fishing industry in British Columbia will be hard hit during the present year. You will have noted, Mr. Chairman, that there is quite a large carryover from last year and a large pack is expected again this year!

I have no doubt that the minister has given deep consideration to the problem. Different solutions have been suggested. One is that Canada accept payment in sterling. Another is that some arrangement be made for exchanging our goods for goods produced by Great Britain; for example, exchanging canned salmon for steel produced in the old country. The suggestion has also been made that the government should take steps to underwrite the 1949 pack. Those are various remedies that have appeared in the press from time to time. I am not at the moment advocating any one of them, but I suggest to the minister and to the committee that it is absolutely imperative that a market be found for this canned salmon. It looks as though the situation may be disastrous; I hope it will not be. I am afraid, however, that the situation is bad. Certainly there is a serious problem to be met in this particular industry.

Supply-Fisheries

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LIB

Robert Wellington Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Mayhew:

The situation with regard to canned salmon, Mr. Chairman, is not as hopeless as the hon. member for Vancouver South would indicate in his remarks. About 200,000 cases of chum salmon are left with the industry. What they are concerned about now is the 1949 pack. Negotiations have been going on with the British ever since last fall. Two delegations have been over there to see what could be done. Up to the present time the British have pretty well refused to buy the salmon because they want other goods in preference to the salmon, on the same basis as they do their apples. But I have every reason to hope that something will be done that will enable the British Columbia people to sell a good portion of their salmon in England for this next year.

I do not wish to say anything more about it than that at the present time. We know the situation and we are keeping closely in touch with it; when I say "we", I mean this department, the Department of Trade and Commerce, and also my friends in the Department of Finance. This part of the industry will not be overlooked, and the fishermen are not going to be ruined at all.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Has any consideration been given to taking sterling for the 1949 pack?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

Perhaps I could answer that. As I said before in the house, taking sterling for part of the 1949 pack is nothing more or less than extending further credit to the United Kingdom.

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PC
LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

Plus taking an exchange risk. If we extend further credit I can see no purpose in extending credit in sterling, which involves not only lending money but taking an exchange risk as well. It may be that salmon could be sold on credit; that is a matter of policy. But there is nothing to be gained by taking sterling. If individual packers are prepared to sell their salmon, take sterling for it and hold the sterling, they would be permitted to do so. But I do not believe they would want to do that.

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PC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Merritt:

The reason would be that the individual packers do not consider sterling is worth $4.03; is that not correct?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

That is for the individual

packer to answer, not for me.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. Blackmore:

I have become interested in this discussion, although I live in the interior of Canada. Would the minister tell us what measures he has adopted to arrest the deterioration of the salmon situation of the Atlantic, which was discussed by the hon. member for Saint John-Albert.

Supply-Fisheries

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LIB

Robert Wellington Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Mayhew:

If we are going to get into a full-dress debate on the administration of fisheries, then we will certainly not get through these few estimates this year-or today, I should say.

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?

An hon. Member:

Right the first time.

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LIB

Robert Wellington Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Mayhew:

I suggest that they be referred to at the proper time, upon which occasion all answers can be given. The problem in the east is entirely different from that in the west. In the east it is a lack of salmon, and in the west it is too much salmon. We cannot resolve all those points here.

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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Smith (Calgary West):

Mr. Chairman, the confusion in which I find myself is not entirely due to certain hospitality extended to us last week. I find that these are called the further supplementary estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1949. Perhaps the Minister of Finance would enlighten me on a point which is causing me some concern. While I speak only from memory, I think this is an unusual procedure. Here in this fiscal year 1949-1950 we find ourselves asked to pass estimates for the preceding year. I know this matter was discussed on another item called a few days ago.

May we not assume that these moneys as set out in this little booklet-and I notice it runs into substantial figures; one item alone accounts for many millions of dollars-have been spent; or have the commitments been made in these amounts? Then, if that is so- and it must be; there cannot be any other answer for it-does it not sound sort of foolish that this committee of the whole of the House of Commons, after the ending of the financial year, should be passing estimates for the year which died only a few days ago. Am I correct in my assumption that that is exactly what we are doing at the present time?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

As I am sure the hon. member knows, the answer is that for many years, perhaps since confederation, so far as the payment of accounts is concerned we have operated on a thirteen-month basis. Throughout the month of April payments are made for accounts relating to the preceding fiscal year. Government books are kept open, and have always been kept open until the end of April, and payments made in April are made with respect to obligations incurred in the preceding year.

I am told that this procedure is not unusual. The final supplementary estimates for the year are brought down almost invariably before the end of the fiscal year, and would not be passed until the early part of the following fiscal year. In the case of these estimates, it is clear that with the month of April being the month in which

payment is to be made, they would have to be passed before the end of April. In the present instance it is hoped they will be passed this week, before parliament adjourns for the Easter recess. That is in conformity with the usual procedure.

Turning to the second question, it is true that a large part of these estimates relates to what might be described as commitments which have been made. The first of the large items is that of the Canadian National Railways. This item is invariably voted in the final supplementary estimates-if there is a deficit.

The other major item is that concerning the wheat board. It represents the cost of a subsidy on feed which went into domestic use. In order to enable the wheat board to pay the farmers for whom it has acted as agent the full price of $2 a bushel, or whatever the amount may be, this vote is offered. Those are the two major items.

None of these payments has been made, unless items are being specifically voted to reimburse payments made out of contingency votes, or votes for unforeseen expenditures. Very frequently we will make urgent payments out of one or other of the votes set up for unforeseen contingencies. Then, as a matter of correct procedure, we bring in a specific item in the final supplementary estimates, and obtain a specific vote from parliament to cover those items.

With those reservations, these supplementary estimates represent the final toting up at the end of the year of what is needed to cover the services of the government during that year; and I am informed it is quite usual that the formal vote should be put through in the early days of the new fiscal year.

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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Do I understand there is no commercial fishing in the Hudson bay area? I ask that question, because I notice in the press that a commercial organization is going to that section to kill white whales for their oil. I suppose this product would be used in the manufacture of margarine. When I visited that section last the white whales were an attraction for tourists. I understand this commercial organization goes out in canoes with Indian guides or Eskimos to shoot and harpoon the whales. I wonder if we are paying out money to attract tourists, and then throwing away one of our attractions. My understanding is that these whales are first shot and then harpooned. I wonder if the minister would answer that question?

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LIB

Robert Wellington Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Mayhew:

There are no commercial fishermen going to Hudson bay, so far as I know. Last year we did send up a boat to

do some fishing so that the Eskimos in there might have food. However, there is no commercial fishing.

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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Then, has the minister's department issued a permit for commercial fishing up there, or does it have to issue a permit?

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LIB

William Henry Golding (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

I would ask the hon. member to address the Chair when he speaks.

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PC
LIB

William Henry Golding (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

It is difficult to give each member an opportunity to speak if hon. members, upon rising, do not address the Chair.

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April 4, 1949