Following in the footsteps of my illustrious predecessor on this side of the house I, too, intend to raise my voice-perhaps in humility-on behalf of my constituency and the people of Newfoundland generally.
Before continuing with my remarks I wish to join with hon. members who have preceded me in this debate in extending to the Speaker and to you, sir, congratulations on your elevations to the very important posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker. I would also offer my congratulations to the hon. member for Calgary South (Mr. Smith), and the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault) for doing such an admirable job in moving and seconding the motion for an address in reply to the speech from the throne.
It was on August 3, in the year 1583, that Sir Humphrey Gilbert landed in St. John's with a charter from the first Elizabeth. A few days later, on August 5, in the same year, Gilbert made preparations on the site of what is now the Queen's beach in St. John's and which constitutes part of my constituency
The Address-Mr. McGrath of St. John's East. At an appointed time he proceeded to this spot where his officers, masters of the fishing fleet and many local merchants were assembled-and remember, hon. members, this was in the year 1583-he then read his commission from Her Majesty, Elizabeth I, and after so reading his commission a piece of soil was dug on the spot and together with a twig were presented to Sir Humphrey as a symbol of English sovereignty over the new found land. Thus, sir, was established Britain's oldest colony. And today, in speaking on the motion for an address in reply to the speech of Her Majesty Elizabeth II I wish to affirm on behalf of Britain's oldest colony and Canada's youngest province her undying loyalty to Queen Elizabeth.
The province that I represent in this house, Mr. Speaker, together with my hon. colleague in the government and those hon. gentlemen on the other side of the house, has been a partner in the Canadian federation for eight years. The success of this union has yet to be proven, sir, and no one expected otherwise. If we are to measure success in terms of geographical or financial advantages only, then, yes, has it been a comparative success. Geographically speaking, Canada is now one from sea to sea. But these things alone, sir, or together, cannot complete the picture.
Newfoundland came into confederation with no thought of being a junior province and least of all of being second-rate citizens. And, sir, in fairness to the government that I have the privilege to support, I wish to imply that such was not their intention. However the best intentions sometimes are not enough, and I must state here that the union of my province with the other nine provinces of this nation was perhaps founded on the best intentions. But governments, sir, like people, have their human failures and if I pursue a slightly critical theme at this time, Mr. Speaker, I pray the hon. members of this house will accept it in the spirit that it is offered; that it not be interpreted, sir, as bitterness on my part or on the part of the riding which I so humbly and proudly represent in this House of Commons.
Newfoundland, sir, in its turbulent and tragic history has gone through a series of misfortunes that would break the spirit of a lesser people; yes, suppression of even the barest minimum of human rights, the denial of personal freedom to a degree unknown in the western hemisphere and brutality of massive proportions; injustice, that was motivated by the horrible greed of merchants interested solely in reaping the rich harvest from the seas that ring our 6,000 miles of coastline.
It was in such an atmosphere, Mr. Speaker, that Newfoundland struggled for survival and hon. members will do well to remember that those conditions existed not in the 16th century, not in the 17th century, but in the 18th and 19th centuries. When the rest of North America was making glorious strides in all aspects of human endeavour military governors ordered gallows erected as symbols of fear in Newfoundland. When courts of justice in other parts of North America were serving the people with impartiality and fairness a man's hand was seared in Newfoundland with a red hot iron for stealing a sheep so that his family might eat. When the bill of rights was a historical document, and when the fathers of confederation laid down the course of action for this federation, Newfoundlanders were still struggling under the suppression of greedy merchants. Indeed, sir, it was unlawful for them to cultivate the soil of their adopted land.
May I be permitted, Mr. Speaker, to quote the way in which one impartial historian has put it:
Modest and unpretentious as is its story, no student of history can set it aside without feeling strangely moved at the wonder of human pertinacity in creating from "a great ship" an amazing colony which, in spite of inherited weaknesses and economic disabilities, stands today as a great testimony to the power of a people to nullify Britain's greatest experiment in retarded colonization.
This, Mr. Speaker, was the historical misfortune of Newfoundland. If I strive a little harder or perhaps speak a little stronger or even urge a little more vehemently than most hon. members have done in their maiden speeches I do so, sir, with the knowledge that Newfoundland has not yet caught up; that even in 1957, eight years after confederation that was to solve all her problems, we still do not have sufficient hospital beds to meet the barest minimum requirements of our people. Our institutions are dangerously overcrowded, resulting in our people not getting the full advantages of the modern advances in medical science. Our communications are still pitifully inadequate, with many of our people still living in almost total isolation. Our schools, too, fall far short of the barest minimum requirements; and this, Mr. Speaker, coupled with the teacher shortage, I am sad to say, is one of the more serious problems we are faced with in Newfoundland today.
If I may be permitted to use Nova Scotia for comparison, in the province of Nova Scotia there are some 1,500 miles of paved highways while in the province of Newfoundland, which is more than twice the size of Nova Scotia, there are no such highways, only secondary roads which in most cases
do not even measure up to the standards of secondary roads. After eight years of confederation and the relative prosperity which accrued to Newfoundland as a result of the second world war, one still cannot drive across the island of Newfoundland. The Canadian National Railways system, which operates the antiquated, narrow-gauge line, is still the only means of transportation from east to west, in spite of what Mr. Smallwood may have tried to convey to the contrary. And, Mr. Speaker, the folly of it all is that our fisheries, sir, which we have always taken pride in, and which form the backbone of our economy and which are basically our chief resource, have been grossly neglected.
In order to rectify this situation, Mr. Speaker, the present provincial government, no doubt with the best intentions, started on an ill-fated industrial development program which for the greater part I must reluctantly state has met with dismal failure.
Let me hasten to dispel the idea, Mr. Speaker, that my words might convey. Eight years of confederation have been of tremendous importance to Newfoundland. Indeed, rapid strides have been made in trying to catch up with the maritime provinces but we still have a long way to go, and our own provincial government confesses that we are still some 35 years behind the province of New Brunswick. I am convinced, sir, that the government I support will approach our problems realistically and will help Newfoundland find her way in the Canadian family.
There are many people, Mr. Speaker, who looked upon confederation as the immediate solution to all our problems. But, sir, I submit that the joining of two peoples is never that simple, and the original terms of union, which unfortunately have proven most inadequate, could never convey, much less find, a solution for the complex problems that arise in the struggle to belong to a greater economy, to become truly Canadian in every sense of the word, to share in the prosperity of a great nation.
All hon. members in this house with the exception of my Newfoundland colleagues- I stress the word "Newfoundland" and not those who would find in our hospitable shores political refuge-have been born Canadians. You know the heritage of Canada in its fullest meaning. Yes, indeed, you feel the pride of being a Canadian beat within your hearts. You glory in all that is great in the past and you look forward to a future that holds great promise. That is what is making this nation profoundly respected in the world today. I, sir, feel the same way but not quite as you do because in terms of being Canadian we are less than nine years
The Address-Mr. McGrath old. There are some 425,000 new Canadians of the finest British stock who are still learning, still striving to understand what being truly Canadian is, and surely there is more to it than family allowances.
The people of my province are proud, perhaps stubbornly so, and if they cling to the past with one hand and grope for the present and the future that is most uncertain, they are not to be condemned. The past, sir, is their history, a history of a people struggling for survival against sometimes insurmountable odds. After eight years they are just beginning to grasp the true feeling, the real significance of belonging to a nation that is truly great. It is only now, Mr. Speaker, that our children are learning from their textbooks the greatness of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with its glorious history and the promise of an exciting future. These young Newfoundlanders when they come of age will, I pray, be truly Canadian just as the concept of union of our two countries becomes truly of age.
I am in this house, Mr. Speaker, to contribute what I can to the governing of Canada. My days here will be humbly dedicated to the principles of good government. But in contributing to the over-all picture I must of necessity be specific in my thinking. We in Newfoundland know little of the problems facing the wheat farmers in western Canada and until we have achieved that equality of opportunity which is ours by right of union we must of necessity confine ourselves to our own specific and peculiar problems.
In terms of comparison Newfoundland today is Canada's third largest market. If I may illustrate that point, just prior to confederation we imported from Canada $50 million of foodstuffs. Six years later our imports from the Canadian mainland were up to $200 million. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the things we use to make life a little more pleasant, we buy from the Canadian mainland. That is why I feel that we too are important to the over-all economy of this nation, and that is why, sir, I am in this House of Commons.
My riding of St. John's East has many problems but they are so interwoven with the over-all problems facing my province that I must speak for the most part in general terms. Right now Newfoundlanders are faced with rising unemployment. Our fresh frozen fish industry has been hard hit by a falling demand, which coupled with the Jamaican situation has resulted in many fish plants having to close their doors with unemployment as the net result. As a result of these fish plants closing hundreds of our people are actually on relief.
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Indeed, sir, the anti-inflationary policy of the previous government has resulted in construction, which contributes a great deal to the economy of a growing province, being down 50 per cent compared with last year, with unemployment as the net result. The problems besetting the pulp and paper industry, which are well known in Canada, are proving disastrous for Newfoundland. A serious reduction in the output of our two paper mills has also contributed to the widespread unemployment.
In other parts of Canada the depression of one industry can usually be absorbed by another industry, but this is not so in my province. In Newfoundland there are no other industries in spite of the policy of the present provincial government. With regard to mining, Newfoundland is barely holding its own, but here too there are disquieting rumblings from the United States that it must protect its own base metal industries with higher tariffs.
It is not a pretty picture I present to the house, Mr. Speaker, but were I to do otherwise I could not face my people for I would be guilty of fraud and deception. In Newfoundland today there are more than twice the number unemployed as there were at this time last year. The government must take grave note of this situation. Social security benefits-here I must interject how pleased we were to know that the government had brought in legislation to increase old age security benefits-were not intended to be the sole source of revenue for any Canadian. On the contrary, they were merely intended to augment. But, alas, in Newfoundland there is nothing to augment in many cases. As a matter of fact, many hundreds will be unable to receive unemployment insurance benefits because the available work during the past year was not sufficient to entitle them to benefits, and here we are only just approaching the height of seasonal unemployment.
I am particularly pleased to note the establishment of a greater number of unemployment insurance offices in Newfoundland. I believe that through this greater coverage the problem of unemployment will be greatly eased. During the coming winter months, I believe that this government, with all possible haste-and I know it will-must institute a program of action that will alleviate the desperate unemployment situation which is rapidly growing now in Canada as well as in Newfoundland.
In the fisheries of Newfoundland there lies our greatest promises for the future. The federal Department of Fisheries must concern itself more actively in the peculiar and
varied problems of the Newfoundland fisheries. It must find a market for fish products, not only abroad but amongst Canadian consumers. It must help to provide a scientific approach so necessary to the actual procurement of fish and so necessary for better production and better marketing. Indeed, it was the proud boast of Premier Smallwood's government that he was going to take Newfoundlanders out of fishing boats and place them in new industries. Undoubtedly, his intentions were sincere. I submit, however, that this has proven to be the greatest folly. We in Newfoundland must unite, in conjunction with the government of Canada, to reverse this trend which is so obviously doing so much damage, and pursue a more vigorous and determined policy of fishery development.
In closing I should like, Mr. Speaker, to speak briefly on the transportation problems that beset Newfoundland and that are contributing to making our cost of living higher than that of any part of Canada, I repeat, higher than that of any other part of Canada. The Canadian National Railways system which operates in Newfoundland is not a gift from Canada. Hon. members should please bear this in mind. The Newfoundland Railway, with its rolling stock, its coastal fleet and its various other facilities, was handed over to the Canadian government to be operated by the Canadian National Railways system. I say this, sir, to dispel from the minds of hon. members the fact that Canadian National Railways is one of the benefits that have accrued to Newfoundland from union. As a matter of fact, today our railway system is little better than it was ten years ago. The only thing that has been added is the ill-fated and infamous William Carson.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that Newfoundland is an island and until the trans-Canada highway is completed and the William Carson functions as she was intended, our highway is still the sea. I would, therefore, point out that we in Newfoundland, and particularly in eastern Newfoundland, are prayerfully awaiting word of the decision of the government on the proposed development of St. John's harbour. This development would mean that a greater volume of freight could be handled in St. John's at considerably less per ton. In due course, this would result in a decrease in the cost of living.
The revision of the terms of union of Newfoundland and Canada, as called for in clause 29 of the terms of union, is now in the hands of a royal commission. The findings of that royal commission will probably be tabled in
the house within the next year. I would, therefore, ask hon. members to recall the importance of this report when it is tabled in this house, and to bear in mind that the final chapter in confederation, as visualized by the fathers of confederation, will not be written until Newfoundland's case is finally settled and Newfoundland is given her just dues. With your leave, sir, I would read to the house clause 29, which has been called Newfoundland's court of last resort:
In view of the difficulty of predicting with sufficient accuracy the financial consequences to Newfoundland of becoming a province of Canada, the government of Canada will appoint a royal commission within eight years from the date of union to review the financial position of the province of Newfoundland and to recommend the form and scale of additional financial assistance, if any, that may be required by the government of the province of Newfoundland to enable it to continue public services at the levels and standards reached subsequent to the date of union, without resorting to taxation more burdensome, having regard to capacity to pay, than that obtaining generally in the region comprising the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Here, sir, lies the hope, the dreams, the desires of 425,000 new Canadians of the finest British and Irish stock who want to be part of this nation but who do not intend to be second class citizens.