Hon. R. W. Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on salt fish markets and prices support. At this time last year there was, particularly in Newfoundland, much doubt about salt fish market prospects for the 1950 catch. Today prospects and outlook for 1951 are, however, more optimistic.
Last year there was a substantial carryover of salted fish from 1949 still in merchants' hands. The government took action to help dispose of this fish and thereby to relieve the whole Canadian salted fish trade from the pressure of over-supply. We bought substantial quantities for distribution through relief agencies. The fisheries prices support board provided guaranteed prices to fishermen for the Labrador cure. The government undertook to review the results of the 1950 marketing season on shore fish as well, and the study covering returns received by the shore fishermen in Newfoundland is now under way.
At present, prospects for the 1951 season are encouraging. In the past year in Newfoundland all the 1949 carry-over and the 1950 catch have been sold. At present forward sales are being made for fish still in the sea-a marked contrast to the situation at this time last year. There is practically no carry-over of old fish. The world supply of salted fish is likely to be slightly under last year's production. Markets are more buoyant. I was able to announce only a few days ago the sterling convertibility arrangement for Newfoundland, so that the way has been cleared for sales to Europe. Arrangements have been made to permit full sales of Gaspe cured salted fish to Italy for dollars.
We understand that the Newfoundland salt codfish association will meet this month with the Newfoundland fishermen to set minimum prices, with an undertaking to meet 80709-198
together later in the year with the fishermen's groups to work out final payments. This brighter outlook for Newfoundland sales should strengthen the export position of the maritime and Quebec salt fish trades.
As to the 1951 season, therefore, with market prospects good, the prices support board could see no justification for general prices support action in salted fish. During the year there may be some localities where, because of poor fishing, or poor quality fish, returns may not prove adequate to the fishermen. That, however, is more a question of local relief than of national prices support action.
We, along with the departments of finance and trade and commerce, will continue to be ready to help overcome marketing difficulties abroad, should these arise, and to encourage the expansion of the domestic market. Keeping in touch with the market, however, should not put us in the fish business. The responsibility for production and marketing in the Labrador cure, as well as in others, rests with the industry itself, with both fishermen and merchants. It is only under special conditions that government action under the support act should be contemplated. There is, in our opinion, no need for such special action at this time.
I have on several occasions discussed in this house the alternatives to prices support -the constructive plans for future development of our fisheries, particularly on the Atlantic coast. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that joint federal-provincial fisheries development committees have been established in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. These committees are seriously studying the problems of these provinces, and I believe they will give us sound and practical advice towards securing a better-balanced fishing industry. This better balance is already being achieved by the fishing industry in the eastern provinces. In Newfoundland, while cod provides the basic income, fishermen's earnings from flatfish, salmon, lobsters, capelin, and herring are continuously growing. Improved fishing techniques are providing more such varieties and also better sizes for marketing. New mechanical driers are producing better standards of quality in salted fish. The industry has built, and is adding this year, several
new freezing plants for fillets. It has added oil and meal plants. It is such development we want to encourage.
In the meantime, and while the development committees prepare their recommendations, we are aiding by research and application the modernization of both the salted and the fresh and frozen fish trades in eastern Canada. For example, in Newfoundland this summer we shall have nine research board engineers-some engineering new fish plants, others checking present installations in freezing plants, in smokers, and in cod liver oil plants. We are installing a new experimental drier for light salted fish at Bay Bulls. We have arranged for two Nova Scotia long-liners to fish with their special techniques in Bonavista, both as an experiment and as a demonstration of techniques.
For the shore fishermen throughout eastern Canada we are expanding our assistance to help them modernize their vessels. The federal government assistance to the construction of draggers and long-liners is now applicable to Quebec and the Magdalens, as well as to the maritimes, and it can be made available to Newfoundland on agreement with the provincial government. The regulations have been changed to increase the assistance. Whereas the payments were formerly made ;o draggers or long-liners fifty-five feet and jp they are now available to vessels forty-five feet and up. This should greatly extend the scope of the grant, which is $165 per gross ton; and it is available to single fishermen or to groups.
We believe that the progress of our Atlantic fishing industry is dependent greatly on the successful application of modern techniques, both in fishing and in processing, in doing old things in better ways, or in doing new things -new methods of fishing, processing, and distributing. Federal assistance in these directions, rather than prices support, will redound to the long-run benefit of the fishermen and their families as well as to all the coastal communities.
Subtopic: STATEMENT WITH RESPECT TO SALT FISH MARKETS AND PRICES SUPPORT