Joseph Warner Murphy
Mr. J. W. Murphy (Lambion West):
Mr. Speaker, may I associate myself with the previous speakers in this debate in complimenting the mover (Mrs. Shipley) and the seconder (Mr. Laflamme) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne.
First I should like to deal with a matter which primarily concerns my own riding: that is, the Polymer Corporation, a crown company, of which we in Sarnia are very proud-and I think this is the general opinion of people all across this country. I make this statement because of an article which appeared in a weekly publication published in Fort Erie some months ago. This dealt with the Polymer Corporation but unfortunately did not speak the true facts.
I make this statement also because while the Gordon economic royal commission was sitting in Toronto an hon. member of this house who formerly belonged to the socialist party took it upon himself to state in his presentation to the commission that the government should dispose of all crown companies, including the Polymer Corporation. It so happens that I represent the riding in
The Address-Mr. J. W. Murphy which Polymer is located and I am going to accept the responsibility of speaking as the member for that riding on behalf of the employees of this successful crown corporation. What I have to say will be confined to the Polymer Corporation and will not refer to any other crown corporation, especially the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Like most hon. members of this house, I assume on both sides, I believe in free enterprise. That may be a misnomer as things are today in Canada, but for what it is worth I believe in free enterprise. I believe also that private enterprise or free enterprise and public ownership can contribute jointly to our economic development. We have considerable evidence of that in our province of Ontario and I think some other provinces have shared a similar experience. It is possible that the hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre (Mr. Thatcher) in suggesting that the government dispose of this particular crown corporation had in mind the success or failure of crown corporations when they attempted to do business in Saskatchewan with such disastrous results.
The Polymer Corporation produces synthetic rubber. I want it understood distinctly that it is not in competition with any other industry in the Dominion of Canada. I have followed this corporation from its beginning. I recall quite well making several statements in this house concerning the responsibility of Polymer to the municipality in the way of paying taxes or making payments in lieu of taxes. I recall the arguments I made year after year but I regret to say that I did not receive any support from any quarter in this house.
The fact is that I met with a great deal of opposition from the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), who contended right along that this and other crown corporations should not have to pay taxes or make payments in lieu of taxes because of the great contributions they made to the municipalities in which they were situated. Any industry makes' a contribution to the municipality in which it is located, but it also imposes upon the municipality the necessity of providing services. I argued year after year that Polymer should make its contribution.
When the city of Sarnia enlarged its boundaries in 1950 and took in the Polymer Corporation in that year this crown company paid the city $45,000 in lieu of taxes. I was disappointed in the smallness of the amount and said so on more than one occasion. I expressed the hope that the government or the Polymer officials would reopen
The Address-Mr. J. W. Murphy the matter and renegotiate with the city for a larger sum. Apparently the city made no effort to obtain a larger sum.
I am happy to be able to say today that in 1955 Polymer paid to the city of Sarnia in taxes a total of $282,739. The amount paid in the year previous was slightly smaller, and in the year previous to that it was slightly smaller again. I expect and I hope other hon. members will share my optimism that in the next ten years this crown corporation will in all probability pay to the city of Sarnia well over $3 million. That is not peanuts for any municipality. I am very happy, and I have said so on more than one occasion, that a formula was announced by the former minister of finance, the Hon. Mr. Abbott, in November 1949 which obligated crown companies in this country to assume municipal responsibilities.
Polymer is a very successful corporation which is operated pretty much the same as any private corporation in this country. It has exclusive agencies in 23 countries. There was a period in the history of this crown company when it was touch and go. It was organized and brought into being during the war to play its part in the war effort in providing rubber for vehicles used in fighting that war. We were not able to get natural rubber and this corporation was organized to produce synthetic rubber. It was faced since with the wide fluctuations which occurred in the price of natural rubber, the price going up as high as 46 cents a pound and dropping to less than half that amount. All during that period it was necessary for this company not only to supply the local markets but to increase its production in order to supply the export market at the lowest possible price. As I said a moment ago, they have exclusive agencies in 23 countries selling rubber to most of the free world.
I should like to place a few more statistics on the record because I feel sure hon. members will be interested in the operations of this crown company. Last year it paid $3 million in dividends to the federal treasury and made provision for depreciation in the amount of $5,350,000. Its net income was $4,924,000 out of a gross income of just about $54 million. I am happy to say that it is the largest employer of labour in Sarnia. Only a few weeks ago there were 2,453 people in the employ of the corporation and the payroll for 1954 amounted to $9,790,669.
It will be noticed from these figures that the employees of Polymer are not being paid
starvation wages. They are highly skilled technicians. Sarnia is the centre of a large chemical industry in which hundreds and hundreds of engineers are employed. The chemical industry demands that type of employee.
The plant and equipment cost some $72 million. The working capital at the year end was a little over $15 million. The corporation retired $4 million of 4 per cent serial debentures during 1954. The greater part of the capital expenditure during the year went towards increasing productive capacity. Looking at the statements in the past three or four years, I have marvelled that more money was not spent for capital improvement or capital replacement, because this particular company is producing practically twice as much as it was set up to do when it was originally constructed.
I am also happy to see that, since the beginning of the construction of the Polymer Corporation, well over $200 million has been spent for industrial expansion in the city of Sarnia and the area immediately surrounding it. That does not include the immense amounts that are going to be spent by the Ethyl Corporation, the Imperial Oil, Dow Chemical and other companies this year, which will probably run into another $50 million to $75 million. In addition to that, Polymer had an export figure of $37 million in 1954. As I have said in previous years, this particular company has given leadership to private industry in its program of research and development.
There is every evidence from the figures I have quoted that this is a sound industrial enterprise, and I see no reason why Canadian industry should provide a luscious melon to satisfy the hungry taste buds of foreign investment seekers. We have heard about foreign investments, even this morning and on previous occasions in this house during this particular session. We had an eminent resident of Ontario speaking in Boston some months ago and saying that a little over 30 per cent of the investment in Canadian industry was United States money. I understand that this was somewhat qualified a few weeks ago by a United States economist in New York, who produced figures of a breakdown showing that United States investment in Canadian industry was about 44 per cent. That was startling to me, and I am sure it will be to the house.
I am going to say that today's welfare and the future security of Polymer employees should not be determined by any politician,
regardless of what party he happens to belong to, and especially one who has only so recently associated himself with the principles of socialism. The employees of Polymer do not have an inferiority complex as to their capabilities of competing in the competitive world trade in synthetic rubber. I say here emphatically that Polymer must continue to have the right to live as a prosperous Canadian industry owned and controlled by Canadians.
Over the years there have been some attempted disagreements by one of the senior ministers of the crown with statements I have made in this house concerning Polymer. Some of these have been made, of course, in the heat of an election campaign and have less weight, but at all times I have been interested in the welfare of the Polymer employees and the success of that particular corporation. I say that now because I think it is only fair to the taxpayers of Canada and to the members of this house that crown corporations officials should appear before the proper House of Commons committee and give an accounting of their stewardship.
In view of the suggestions that have been made by responsible speakers and by this weekly magazine, and because, too, as I said a moment ago, crown companies should give an accounting to the members who represent certain areas in the Dominion of Canada, I am going to ask that the government permit officials of Polymer to be called before a proper parliamentary committee. I am sure they will report on the remarkable achievements of this industry, which contributed so much to our war effort and which in peacetime has continued to expand at no expense to the Canadian taxpayer. I feel that the officials of Polymer would be glad to come before the committee and proclaim to the members of that committee, to this house and to the people of Canada how successfully they have managed to operate this particular crown company.
The next subject with which I wish to deal probably concerns not many municipalities in Canada, but last year-either during discussion of the estimates or during revision of the bill-it was made known that municipalities having within their boundaries Indian reservations would be entitled to be compensated for services they had rendered to those particular reservations. I immediately contacted the city of Sarnia and learned to my dismay that they had not made any claim since the enlargement of their boundaries, when the Sarnia reservation came within the 67509-10
The Address-Mr. J. W. Murphy city limits. As I understand it, it is the law of our country that where a municipality gives services to an Indian reservation it can be compensated by the government for those services-through the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, I suppose, since it is under that particular minister's department. As I have said, this probably does not apply to many municipalities, but in our particular instance this Indian reservation of some 3,900 acres which is still left in the city is very valuable property. A few years ago they sold 100 acres-one of the largest sales-to the Dow Chemical Company for $2,000 per acre. I think that since then they have been asking considerably more. True, other crown-owned property in the city, right on the St. Lawrence seaway, has been sold for some $350 an acre, but that, of course, was sold to a defeated Liberal candidate, and I hope the time has passed when that sort of thing is done. It is not ethical, to begin with, and it is to be hoped it will not happen again. Not every industry can pay $2,000 or $3,000 per acre for industrial property, but it is unfortunate that we have let the time slide by when property could have been purchased by the government and resold to the city for industrial purposes at a price much less than today's asking price.
I have asked the clerk of the city of Sarnia to prepare a table which might be used as a guide to other members who have Indian reservations within their particular ridings. It shows how they make up the amounts they have spent and the figures of the amounts for which they should be reimbursed. I have figures here for the last five years indicating what the reimbursement would have been since the Indian reservation came within the city limits. The table is broken down into the following headings: General government, fire, police, street lighting, public works, sanitation, health, welfare, education, recreation and community services, debt, land purchase and miscellaneous. These figures might be valuable to other members whose communities are in the same predicament as Sarnia, and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the table be incorporated in Hansard.