June 3, 1961

PC

Gordon Campbell Chown

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Chown):

may intercede at this point, I would say the matter does not appear to come within the administrative responsibility of the department under discussion. Inasmuch as the estimates of the Department of National Defence still have to come before the committee, I think the hon. gentleman should defer his comments until that time.

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CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

If I have definite assurance that this gentleman is not a civil servant, I shall defer my remarks.

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PC

Noël Dorion (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dorion:

That is true.

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Item agreed to.


PC

Gordon Campbell Chown

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Chown):

That concludes the estimates of the Department of Secretary of State.

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DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES


131. Departmental administration, $473,500.


LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Chairman, there are several matters of a general nature about which I wish to say something on this first item of the Department of Fisheries. The most urgent is a matter which I mentioned in connection with the estimates of the Department of Trade and Commerce. I am not sure whether or not the Minister of Fisheries was in the committee at that time.

I am referring to the surplus of salt fish which is overhanging the market, and the grave uncertainties in the markets for salt fish resulting from the Cuban revolution, as well as the economic difficulties facing the government of Cuba. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm for Cuba shown by the Minister of Trade and Commerce some time ago, he seems to have repented more recently of his earlier enthusiasm. Of course recent events in another market for our salt fish give us no cause to feel confident that there will be the kind of political stability in that area which would give us an assurance of the maintenance of the market.

The plain fact is, sir, that the market for salt fish in the Caribbean is, on political grounds, not as good as it was. As the minister knows very well, the market for salt fish in Europe is not being completely satisfied because fish of the right quality is not being produced in adequate quantities. The minister knows very well that for some time I have been an exponent, and I am an unrepentant exponent, of the view that serious steps should be taken to retain that market. In order to forestall the question, "Why didn't you do it", I shall say at once that I urged his predecessor to do so, but without success. I think a mistake was made by the previous government in not taking action when we were in office. I think that mistake is being perpetuated at the present time.

I do feel that during the period while we are developing the necessary technical knowhow to produce light salt fish of Italian and Spanish quality in sufficient quantities to meet the market, an incentive bonus should be paid to the fishermen in order to keep the market alive. I feel this could be done in exactly the same way that the government, before the second world war, provided a bonus for quality bacon in order to maintain and expand the British market.

I regret that no steps of that kind have been taken. I feel that such action is all the more urgent because, as the minister is well aware, there has been an increasing tendency in the last two or three years to produce more and more heavy salted fish which cannot be sold in Europe but can only be sold

in the Caribbean at a time when, for political more than economic reasons, the market in the Caribbean is not as good as it was.

I know the minister is thoroughly aware of this problem. I think the matter is sufficiently serious that, if we are going to have any assurance of a market at all at a decent price for this year's catch and the salt fish that will be made this year, then the surplus from last year should be taken off the market and used somewhere else outside our normal commercial markets. This has been done, of course, over and over again with farm products. This government has been fortunate in that it has not had to take such action so far as salt fish is concerned since it came into office. Action of this nature was taken on one or two occasions when the previous administration was in office.

The minister is very familiar with the speech given at Charlottetown on February 27, 1958 by the Prime Minister, of which I have reminded him every year since and which I think ought to be on the record again. This was one of those "Let no one suffer" speeches by the Prime Minister. The first paragraph of this report by Mr. Bruce Macdonald, who was then correspondent of the Toronto Star, reads as follows:

Prime Minister Diefenbaker intimated here last night that a Conservative government will place a floor price under fish and contended the agricultural support bill passed last session will provide "crash insurance" for all farm products.

I read the whole sentence, and for this reason. The agricultural prices support board, as the minister knows-it is now called the stabilization board, I think, but it is the same thing-has spent millions and millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money supporting farm prices, but nothing whatever has been done so far as salt fish is concerned. Happily, up until this year, nothing has been needed in any critical sense. This year action is needed. The fishermen are not going to be very well pleased unless they are treated with the same consideration-I do not mean sympathetic consideration, either; I mean action-that has been given in respect of farm products on many occasions.

This is a crisis or an emergency. There is only one way in which it can be met, and that is by taking the surplus off the market and disposing of it somewhere else. It is good food. There are many people all over the world who are starving. The cost of dealing with this situation would not be very great. The funds are available. The Fisheries Prices Support Act is there. The funds are there. All that is required is a decision and action by the government. I am sure that we can expect the minister, before the conclusion of his estimates and probably on the item 90205-6-367J

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relating to the fisheries prices support board, to give a considered statement on what the government intends to do to meet this urgent problem.

At the same time I wish to say something about another matter; about which the hon. member for St. John's East had something to say the other day. I was a little surprised when I asked the hon. gentleman if he had ever been to Valleyfield, after he had criticized the operation of the experimental station there, and he admitted that he had never been there. He also suggested that it was so remote that it was not reasonable to expect him to go there. I may say, of course, that the view taken by the hon. member for St. John s East is a view that is taken by a good many others in St. John's about the rest of Newfoundland, namely that the places are so remote that nobody could be expected to go there.

But I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, and the Minister of Fisheries that in those areas in which is caught a great part of the fish that is made into salt fish-that is, on the northeast coast-Valleyfield is not as remote from the fishery as is St. John's geographically. It may be true that it was more remote before the road was built, when one had to travel by boat or by aircraft, but today you can drive from Gander to Valleyfield in, I suppose, three hours. Valleyfield is centrally located so far as the fishery on the northeast coast of Newfoundland is concerned.

I have talked to a great many of those who are interested in the work being done at Valleyfield. My experience has been that those engaged in the salt fish industry, not merely in Newfoundland but in the other Atlantic provinces as well, have been keenly interested in what has been done at the Valleyfield experimental plant.The only regret many of us have is that more is not being done, and that there is not an even bigger program. The department has had an admirable staff there. They have had one man, a scientist, who I think was close to being a genius. We were sorry to see him leave Valleyfield in order to serve the department somewhere else, but already a great many useful things have been discovered there. If the minister will continue to give that experiment the support and encouragement he has given to it up until now-and I commend him for it and if he will not be discouraged by observations made by people who have never taken the trouble to go to see the place, I am quite sure that it will pay great dividends over the years to our fishermen.

There is no doubt whatsoever that if we are to maintain a proper balance in the cod fishery and not depend entirely on a single market, namely the United States market,

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we shall be obliged to continue to produce salt fish as well as fresh fish and fresh frozen fish. If we allow the salt fishery to decline steadily it means that the fishermen will have only one market, as was pointed out earlier in the discussion of these estimates by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo. We shall be dependent entirely upon what the United States market will take.

There is an opportunity for an admirable balance between the two markets. If we can maintain our market for salt fish and our markets for fresh fish, it is unlikely-it has rarely happened, except in great world depressions like that in the thirties-that the markets for both kinds of fish would go down at the same time. One year you get a good year in the fresh fish markets and more fish can be sold there. Another year you get a good year in the salt fish market and more fish can be sold there. That diversification of markets is of great advantage to the fishermen and to everybody engaged in the fisheries. It is a position that we ought jealously to guard and also to encourage in every possible way.

We know that in the British West Indies great changes are taking place. We know that in Puerto Rico great changes are taking place, and that there is an improvement in the economy of both those areas. We have reason to hope that improvement will continue. In both those areas we have seen the practical effect of the kind of aid to underdeveloped areas which this country has pioneered and which is bearing fruit there. But what that means is this. As the standards of living and the income of the people in those areas improve and, we hope, will continue to improve, they are going to want a better kind of food product. I think they are still going to want salt fish. I do not think there is any doubt about that. I am no expert on these nutritional problems, but I am told that in those hot countries salt is necessary in the diet, and that salt fish is going to continue to be required.

However, we should be preparing a better kind of product, a better packaged product, and should be experimenting with every kind of improvement so that as the standard of living rises in those areas, we can continue to satisfy the demand.

Of course the more we do in aiding the development of this area, the better; particularly in the West Indies Federation which is on the verge, one hopes, of becoming another member of the commonwealth and a united one. We know that there is a great problem there at the moment. We have high hopes of that. It seems to me that there is no area in the world outside the borders of Canada that

[Mr. Pickersgill.l

is so closely connected by historical, traditional, geographical and economic ties with Canada as is that particular area. Not just for the good of the salt fishery but for the good of this whole hemisphere and for the economic advantage of Canada itself, we should seek to foster closer relations between Canada and that area; I refer particularly to closer financial and economic relations. We are natural complements of one another economically. It seems to me that we should particularly seek to conserve and to exploit, in the best sense of that word, the market there for our Canadian products, and particularly for the traditional product that we have exported to that area over the years, namely salt fish. In order to do that I suggest that marketing and production research and research of all types will be required.

I have said on many occasions in the last two years that there are many areas in which the market for salt fish could be extended right here on the mainland of Canada. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has not followed in my footsteps in many respects, but in one she has. The hon. lady has continued to permit the entry to Canada every year of many thousands of Italian immigrants, all of whom are fish eaters, and most of whom are salt fish eaters. I do not believe the Department of Fisheries or the fish industry have made an adequate effort to maintain a market for our salt fish products among these new inhabitants and future citizens of Canada. Some are no longer future citizens. Most of those I admitted are now qualified for citizenship by the efflux of time, and I assume that by next year all of them will be qualified to be citizens.

Here we have a large section of our population concentrated to a very great degree in three or four metropolitan areas, Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton being the most conspicuous, accustomed to shops run by their own people, with a press of their own. It is a market that should be easy to reach and develop if we have the initiative and energy to do it. I suggest that here again there can be that combination of public and private initiative which has been characteristic of the Canadian economy in every dynamic period we have had in our history, and which is needed in this field as it is in so many others.

I dwell a great deal on the salt fish industry simply because I represent a constituency, as do most of my colleagues here from the province of Newfoundland, in which perhaps more persons are concerned with the salt fishery than with any other occupation, even the woods industry, which is the other big source of employment in Newfoundland.

I wish to say something about unemployment insurance in relation to the fisheries. I shall not talk about those aspects of unemployment insurance for fishermen that are properly the concern of the Minister of Labour. I recognize, of course, that the Minister of Labour would have to sponsor any amendments to the unemployment insurance regulations or to the act itself. I do not think amendments to the act are needed to accomplish what I am going to suggest should be done, but I do think amendments to the regulations are needed, and I believe the Minister of Fisheries should be urging these changes upon the Minister of Labour because they are changes which affect the balance between the fish that goes into the salt fish markets and that which goes into the fresh fish markets.

As the minister very well knows, a fisherman who makes his own salt fish is allowed to average his catch over the whole season and get stamps in proportion, but those who sell fresh fish to the fish plants are not allowed to do that. There may be occasions when the earnings for a two week period are averaged, but not more than that, and generally speaking the earnings of each week have to be treated separately. This has the effect of interfering with the proper economic distribution of the fish as between fresh and frozen fish plants, and the making of salt fish or the selling of fish as salt bulk.

I know from my experience in my own riding that in one or two promising areas where there were fresh fish plants, those plants have been closed because the fishermen would not sell to them due to the fact that they could not get their unemployment insurance stamps, whereas they could obtain stamps by selling salt bulk to be sent to Nova Scotia to be processed there. I have no objection to the Nova Scotians buying salt bulk in Newfoundland. There is no doubt but that it has helped a great deal to keep up the price of fish and has contributed to the income of the fishermen. But I do say it is a shame to have fish plants closed in Newfoundland which are willing to pay the same price and perhaps an even better price than that paid for salt bulk, but which the rigid regulations of the unemployment insurance commission make the fisherman unwilling to sell to them.

I know there are those who go about in a sneering way-most of them seem to come from areas a long way from the Atlantic region-and say that all the fishermen have done since they obtained unemployment insurance has been to fish for stamps. I say that is a libel on a hard working section of our population. The fishermen, like working men in other sections of the population, want

Supply-Fisheries

reasonable protection under unemployment insurance. I know this is not very well understood in many other parts of the country, but let me say that the fishermen want unemployment insurance and not some other form of social security, because, with unemployment insurance, they are able to continue working in periods when they cannot fish and thus, by getting additional stamps, build up their social security. There are those who say that instead of unemployment insurance there should be a special scheme for fishermen, but that would not suit the fishermen in that it would mean they could not go to the woods when the fishery is over to earn their living with the continuing advantage of unemployment insurance. What they want is to have the two kinds of employment under the same unemployment insurance scheme.

Mr. Chairman, may I call it one o'clock?

At one o'clock the committee took recess.

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AFTER RECESS The committee resumed at 2.30 p.m.


PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell:

I wonder if I may ask the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate a question. If I correctly understood him, he said this morning that a certain type of fish is not being so produced that the best quality is reaching the various markets. Would he please say something further on that subject before he resumes his seat?

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

The situation is this: there are certain markets in which only what is called heavy salted fish is acceptable. There are other markets which insist on light salted fish. Of course, light salted fish is a product, almost exclusively, of Newfoundland. I say "almost exclusively'' because I see the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Fisheries looking at me, and I believe the only other place where it is produced is in Gaspe. There is no market for heavy salted fish in Europe. The market is only for light salted fish of a high quality.

I was saying this morning that there was not enough of this high quality fish being produced to satisfy the demand. No one has yet found a way of processing light salted fish in mechanical dryers cheaply enough to enable it to be produced successfully for export. There was an experiment carried out at Bonavista which proved that Italian fish could be made successfully, in artificial dryers, but it cost more to make it than it would sell for. The problem is one on which the department is working at the present time particularly in Valley field and in co-operation

Supply-Fisheries

with cetrain fish processors and those engaged in this work are hoping to find a process of making light salted fish at a cost sufficiently low to enable the product to be sold at a profit. Meanwhile, production of the light salted fish now going on to the market depends on the fishermen making their own fish on the flakes-the expression "making" means drying and curing. Increasingly, the fishermen are reluctant to do this work. If they can sell their fish for practically the same price as fresh fish or as salt bulk to be made into heavy salted fish, they prefer to do that, and catch more fish, than to make light salted fish themselves. What I suggested was that we should pay an incentive bonus in respect to this light salted fish made by the fishermen until such time as we have overcome the problem of making light salted fish in mechanical dryers economically, as I am sure, in time, we shall do. That is the nature of the problem.

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PC
LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

At one o'clock I was speaking about unemployment insurance for fishermen and about one of the problems which had arisen because of the different methods of allowing stamps in the case of fresh fish and the case of salt fish. I was suggesting that because the regulations as they now stand have the effect of encouraging fishermen to sell fish as salt fish, particularly in some parts of the country, we should adapt the regulations to the economic problem instead of aggravating the economic problem by maintaining the existing regulations. I felt I must enter a caveat at that point, and that is what I was in the process of doing when we reached one o'clock. It is this: I hope the government will not consider for one minute the abandonment of unemployment insurance for fishermen.

There are many advocates of the abandonment of unemployment insurance for fishermen and the substitution of what is called a special scheme. The fishermen do not want this. They want to continue to be covered by unemployment insurance in order that they may cumulate the stamps they get through fishing with the stamps they get through other kinds of labour. Fishing nearly everywhere in Canada is a seasonal occupation and it is very difficult to get enough stamps during the season, in many places, to qualify for unemployment insurance. Contrary to what many people suggest, most fishermen do not want to qualify for benefit if they can get jobs. If the employment service is able to offer them work I believe, speaking for the people that I represent, that they would be very glad to take a job rather

than the insurance payments. But they must not be allowed to fall between two stools. In the days when unemployment insurance was introduced in 1957 it was still relatively easy for fishermen to get jobs in other occupations. In the preceding five or six years there had been a tremendous exodus from the fishery. The introduction of unemployment insurance halted that exodus. It kept the fishermen in the fishery during the season; they realized that when the season was over they could get work in the lumber industry, or in carpentry and get stamps which would qualify them for a short period of benefit if they became unemployed. Unfortunately, it does not work that way now, because work has been so scarce.

I was pained to read in the Toronto Star on April 21 an account of the statement made by the minister before the Fisheries Council of Canada in Toronto. I am sure that if the minister is not satisfied with the way he has been reported he will say so. I should just like to quote from a story which appeared in the Toronto Star of April 11, 1961 which reads as follows:

Hon. J. Angus MacLean, Minister of Fisheries, said the government is looking for a new approach for unemployment insurance for fishermen-

I do not mind that part of the statement at all, because I think there should be a new approach to this situation as long as it is within the ambit of unemployment insurance. Then the article reports the minister to have said, and this is in quotation marks, the following:

"-to remove the incentive which appears to he so prevalent in some areas to fish for unemployment insurance stamps."

I do not think the minister meant that in the way it sounds. I feel that fishermen naturally want to be protected by unemployment insurance just as everyone else who is covered by it does. That is not dishonourable on their part. It is not dishonourable at all. Fishermen should certainly receive the benefits of this great social security measure. The implied suggestion that fishermen just fish to get enough stamps to live without work is, I think, quite wrong, and certainly quite contrary to any experience I have ever had. I receive letters every fall from individuals who have been fishing, who are looking for jobs in the woods, in Labrador, or anywhere else so that they may earn a living for their families. I think that is the general experience in this regard.

I suggest we change the regulations so as to rid them of some of these anomalies, but let us not contemplate for a moment the abandonment of unemployment insurance for

fishermen, I hope the minister will reassure us, when he speaks, that he intended no such thing.

I should now like to say a word in commendation of the government regarding two things it has done. First, the portable bait freezers have been very successful, and I am very glad to know that one is going to be placed in my constituency this year, but I could inform the minister of six or seven other places in my constituency which have a need for these freezers which is almost as great, if not as great, as the need of the community that is receiving one. I understand these portable bait freezers cost in the neighbourhood of only $15,000 to $20,000 each.

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LIB
LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

My friend the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo informs me they cost much less than I understood. He says they cost $5,000 to $6,000. It seems to me that, in view of the small expenditure of money required to make the fisheries so much more efficient, we ought to have a blitz and situate them, all in one year, in every settlement where they are required. I do not suggest they be placed at every place along the coast, because there are some communities where only two or three fishermen operate. However, these freezers are portable and, if a mistake is made in placing one, that mistake is not irrevocable; the unit can be moved to another community. Why does the government not spend $250,000, if it is even that much, and put these fishermen in a position to fish with much greater efficiency, and thereby increase their income?

I should also at this time like to say a word regarding community stages, which have already proven to be very successful.

I admit they are not portable, and it is very important that they be placed in the proper areas.

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PC

Gordon Campbell Chown

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Chown):

Order.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. gentleman but his time has expired.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Carry on.

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PC

Gordon Campbell Chown

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Chown):

Is there unanimous consent in this committee to allow the hon. gentleman to carry on?

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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I appreciate that very much because I think in five or six minutes I shall be able to say everything I wanted to say of a general nature, and the body of my remarks will then appear on the record in one place instead of in bits and pieces.

Regarding community stages, I merely intended to say that where they had been

Supply-Fisheries

well located-most of them have been so placed, and some have been exceptionally well located-they have increased the productivity and profitability of the fisheries of the community out of all recognition. I am sure that within a relatively few years the increased returns to the exchequer alone, to say nothing of the returns to the economy as a whole, will pay for them.

Again I say that I do not know why we do not do this job thoroughly rather than just building two or three, or six or seven stages per year. I feel that they should be placed immediately everywhere they are needed to stabilize the fisheries and thereby place the fishermen in a position to make a better living, under more satisfactory conditions and, incidentally, to make it possible to produce a better product. These community stages, with a reasonable water supply, with greater sanitation and so on, do result in the production of a better product than is produced by the use of the old stages of individual fishermen.

I must say that I was rather disappointed when I asked the minister a couple of weeks ago if the government was contemplating any legislation for the fisheries comparable to the legislation introduced by his colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, and I refer to the rural rehabilitation legislation. The rural rehabilitation legislation is, of course, designed for the improvement of the rural economy in those areas which need rehabilitation. It is certainly true that, as far as the east coast fisheries are concerned, there is just as much need for community rehabilitation, for the improvement of fishermen's gear, boats and other implements of production, as there is in any rural area of this country. I urge the minister and the government to seek to do something comparable in respect to our fisheries. I admit that such a program would be carried out on a long term basis and would have very little immediate effect. That is of course true of the rural rehabilitation program. However, this is a patrimony that we ought to seek to preserve.

It is very extraordinary that we have, off the coast of Newfoundland and the east coast of Canada, the greatest fishery in the world; a fishery that has been exploited for 500 years by the Portuguese, the French and the English, and which is being exploited today, not merely by the historic fishing nations, but by the Russians and the Germans, all whom have to cross the Atlantic, making voyages from 3,000 to 4,000 miles, and who feel there is an economic advantage in doing so. Here we are right at the front doorstep of this great fishery and yet the fishery is perhaps the most depressed of our industries. Surely that

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is not a situation we can regard with satisfaction. Surely we should not throw up our hands and say that we have developed such a high cost economy and such a high standard of living in this country that we cannot take advantage of that great natural wealth at our doorstep. We cannot take advantage of it by using nineteenth century methods. It is impossible to do that. Technological advances have enabled other countries to maintain their fisheries.

This is the most ancient of all our industries, and one which is of great importance to a large segment of our population living in the five eastern provinces, as well as, of course, in the province of British Columbia, where the fisheries are rather different, and about which I would not attempt to speak because of my lack of direct knowldge. This is the industry from which many of the people living in the five eastern provinces derive their livelihood. Surely no industry is in more urgent need of the kind of consideration that is being given to those agricultural rural communities which need rehabilitation.

I suggest this is one area where there is a demand for vision and for action.

Mr. Chairman, since I have been transgressing on the time of others, that will be my last word regarding this subject at this stage of the estimates.

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June 3, 1961