February 6, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Harry Bernard Short

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. H. B. SHORT (Digby-Annapolis):

This trawler question is one that has been before the house a number of times When it was last discussed on July 15, 1931, I thought it would be practically settled for some time because the government at that time announced their policy in connection with it. The present Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes), who was then Minister of Fisheries, made this statement as reported in Hansard of July 15, 1931, page 3790:
I am satisfied, and I wish to state very clearly that I accept it as beyond reasonable doubt at least, that if we are to enlarge our production of fish in Canada to cover this market, and to supply large quantities to the United States, we must have the trawler as an adjunct to our industry in order to take up the slack of which I have spoken.
That was the policy of the government in July, 1931, and I do not think it has changed since. As the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough (Mr. Duff) stated, a recommendation was made by the fisheries committee to the last parliament in June, 1929, that the matter of licensing these trawlers be left to the discretion of the Minister of Fisheries. At that time they decided that six trawlers were necessary to give us a sufficient supply of fish for our Canadian market. Since then the number has been reduced. Two years ago four licences were issued; last year there were only three and part of the time only two of those three trawlers were fishing. It is ridiculous to think this country is going to prohibit the use of trawlers when the country to the south of us have 115 large and 137 medium ones and their medium ones

are about the class of the three that are fishing in this country. They fish practically the same grounds as we do and we are not allowed to fish with three, as the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough stated. As to the number of trawlers that other countries are using, I have the same figures as my hon. friend has given so I will not repeat them. But during the summer months and late into the fall we have on our grounds some forty to fifty French trawlers three times the size of the ones that we use' and they are allowed to fish on the same ground that we do. We cannot prevent them because the ground is international Moreover, they can come in and fish within three miles of the shore while there is a restriction on Canadian trawlers that they cannot fish within twelve miles of the shore.
I presume the only reason why this matter is being brought up again is that it is suggested that the trawling companies have a monopoly of the fishing industry of this country. The hon. member for Inverness (Mr. Macdougall) made that statement to-day. The trawling companies have no monopoly whatever of our fishing industry; there are many other large concerns besides them. The Maritime National Fish Company is the only company operating trawlers in Nova Scotia but there are many other large concerns operating there as well. The total catch of fish during the season 1933-34 was 212,000,000 pounds and the Maritime National Fish Company handled 32,000,000 pounds. Is that a monopoly? My hon. friend speaks about this interfering with their fishing in Cape Breton. It does not do so in any way, shape or form. The island of Cape Breton could not in the winter time supply the markets of this country if they had them all to themselves. They have not the fish there at this season. They are now bringing in fresh cod from Newfoundland; these are coming into the island of Cape Breton right along. Only last week 55,000 pounds of fresh cod were brought in to North Sydney, Cape Breton, processed and shipped from there to other parts of Canada. That interferes with the markets much more than the trawler The company that operates trawlers never would have gone into the trawler business if they could have secured sufficient supplies from the boats and sailing vessels, because catching fish by trawler is a more expensive operation than catching them by vessel or hand line boat. That was proven in 1931 I think it was, when a conference was held by the department with the vessel owners and boat fishermen and those interested in the trawlers; it wras shown that trawler-caught

Beam Trawlers
fish cost considerably more. We had no market for our fresh fish in this country prior to 1910 when the first trawler was operated in the fresh fish business. The hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough speaks of trawlers coming in in 1905, but they were brought here by a salt fish concern, Robin, Jones and Whitman of Halifax and Gaspe; I think they were the first who brought an English trawler out. I do not know just the date, but a company in which I was interested afterwards bought that trawler in 1910. We bought it because we found we could not get from the boat fishermen a continuous supply of fish for the markets of the west. Prior to 1910 our fish markets in Montreal, Toronto, and the large centres in Canada were supplied from Boston, Gloucester and other United States fishing centres; not a carload of fresh fish came from the maritime provinces, because we could not supply the markets with fish on the days they required it. In the old days Friday was the only day in the week on which people ate fresh fish, and if you could not get your fish there for the Friday market it was a loss. They tried to get the producers in the mari-times to supply them, but sometimes they missed getting them there for the Friday and the dealers said, "We cannot depend upon you"; the result was they got their supplies from the United States.
Furthermore, that company is the largest purchaser of fish from the boat fishermen. The trawlers do not begin to catch all the fish they sell. I have figures here that were supplied to me the other day, showing the purchases of fish by this octopus of which the hon. gentleman speaks, this great American concern that monopolizes the fishing industry of Nova Scotia. During the year from April 1, 1933, to March 31, 1934, they purchased from the trawlers 18,617,000 pounds and they bought from the hook and line fishermen 14,365,000 pounds. That is, they purchased outside nearly as much fish as they caught themselves. For the nine months ended December 1, 1934, they purchased from the trawlers 11,984,000 pounds and purchased from the hook and line fishermen 14,242,000 pounds; that is they purchased from outside fishermen nearly 3,000,000 pounds more than they caught themselves. Therefore I say they are the biggest help that the boat and vessel fishermen have. In addition to their three trawlers they have had under charter this winter ten of the large Lunenburg schooners, so they have given employment not only to their own men but to outsiders. In their plant in Halifax they employ 150 to 200 men processing these fish. Most of these men are married and have 92582-35
families, so that a great deal of money is disbursed in labour.
Then as to their purchases. I have figures showing what this octopus has done for the province of Nova Scotia during the past five years. Their expenditures for the five year period from 1928-29 to 1932-33 were as follows:
Fish purchases $4,386,754
Packing materials 1,093,884
Freight and express paid 866,883
Refrigeration and storage 364'213
Payrolls including salaries 1,831,079
General expenses, including taxes. 475,710

In addition to the amount here shown as freight and express paid, probably three times that amount is paid to the railroads for goods sold f.o.b. I wonder if these figures are of interest to the fishermen of Nova Scotia. I wonder if that expenditure is any benefit to the country. There is not another industry I know of in which the money is so well distributed as in the fishing industry.
I am not actively in the fish business now and have not been for the past three years, but I still have the interests of the industry at heart, and I think I have done as much for the fishing industry and the boat fishermen of Nova Scotia as anyone in the industry. One section of the county which I represent is interested largely in fishing, and I feel that I have as many friends in that section of my constituency as in any other. I am certainly considered not as an enemy of the fishermen in any way, but as one of their best friends. If we are to continue to hold our Canadian market, I feel that it is absolutely necessary to have a certain number of trawlers, in order to ensure continuity of supply. This matter has been dealt with pretty fully before the price spreads and mass buying committee; as the hon. member for Inverness (Mr. Macdougall) said, they have not yet made their report, and I think this is an inopportune time to discuss the matter here. It should have been left until the commission's report is received and we see what conclusions they come to concerning it.
Before I close I should like to put on record the attitude of the government in connection with the trawler situation in 1931. On July 15 of that year the then Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Rhodes) made this statement in regard to compensation as reported at page 3791 of Hansard:
If we pass a regulation to provide that all trawlers shall be built in Canada, and those now here be disposed of, the government will

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have to compensate. A fairer method would be to license the trawlers we now have, deciding that hereafter any trawler to be licensed must be built and owned in Canada.
I may say to my hon. friend that, with that reservation, I am prepared to recommend to my colleagues in the government that as a matter of policy this be adopted with regard to the trawler question.
If their trawlers are to be put out of business there is no question but that the company will be entitled to compensation, and if this government is prepared to compensate I feel sure that the company operating these trawlers would be only too glad to hand them over to the government and take their chance of getting their supplies of fish from other sources. They went into this business when conditions were different from the conditions of to-day. At that time we had not the heavy motors in the fishing vessels that we have to-day. Then in the winter season we * could not get our supplies except by steam trawlers, and that was why this company went into the trawler business. We now have sailing vessels with heavy motors, and under ordinary conditions we could get a fairly good supply of fish. So if the government are prepared to compensate the company for the trawlers they now have I believe they would be glad to go out of the trawler business, because it would be cheaper to get their supplies from the other vessels. But while they have this investment in these trawlers which they brought out from the old country in good faith, and for which they were given Canadian registry, I see no reason in the world why the trawlers should not be operated.
I understand that my hon. friend wants this matter referred to the committee; I presume it will come up for discussion later on, so I do not propose to say anything further at present.

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