The minister says he knows
wharfingers who have collected, I think he said, or stirred up a considerable amount of goodwill. Well, it is not in the district I represent. I could tell him of a great deal of ill will that has piled up. The village wharfinger is about as popular in some places as Hitler. There may be places where the amount of business justifies placing a wharfinger to give the attention necessary, and in those places I think the minister will find there is no objection, because some service is given. Personally I would rather pay the very small fee required and be able to go down next day and get my freight and find it is there, instead of having to turn up at one or two o'clock in the morning when the boat comes in. But in these small places the people resent bitterly having to pay; they claim that the wharf is their substitute for a road, and that they should not have to pay a toll-gate fee. We know that very large sums, if my memory is right, running into millions, have been spent on the canals in the east, and I do not know that there is any toll collected on them. These people have no roads, this is often their only
means of access. Apart from that, as I have so often, submitted to the minister, the revenue that the dominion government gets out of it after paying the expenses is so utterly out of proportion to the irritation that it generates that it seems a mistake not only from a business but a political point of view.
The charges are very small, so small that you can hardly get any man to take the job. I have again and again received requests from the minister-I remember one day I got nine letters from him asking recommendations as to appointments of wharfingers at various places, and it has been more or less a nightmare to me for the last two years. Where people were willing to do this work, I sent in the names, but it is not a case of political advantage, because most often you cannot get people to take the job as a gift. In many instances, not being able or willing to get one myself, the minister left it to his official who put up a notice of a rather flamboyant kind suggesting that the revenue was substantial. Then he got some wretched man to take the job, and after the man found what his revenue was he promptly threw it up. I wrote a letter the other day to the minister's deputy asking him how many of the appointments made by the minister's official still existed, and there was not one. They would take it on for a week or two, and then throw it up.
Let me give an idea of what is in it for this man who perhaps lived, as my hon. friend says, a quarter of a mile, half a mile or a mile away from the wharf. Bill Jones comes down in the morning after the boat has left, and he wants a barrel of flour, which is 196 pounds and upon which the government wharfage is two cents, of which the wharfinger gets one cent. He gets 50 per cent of all collections up to $200-which is a mere figure of speech, because he never arrives at that amount.
Bill Jones has probably had to go out of his way to get this wharfinger. He takes him down to the wharf. He doesn't feel like having to take him back again. He gets the barrel of flour, and he pays. Then various forms are made out. A wharfinger told me he had to make four copies, which he sent to different officers, and then he gets a cent out of it. He wanders home again, because the man who has come for the flour won't take him home. He is home half an hour, and somebody comes down and wants a case of coal oil, and the same process is repeated-but he gets only half a cent that time.
Can you wonder that the man, under those circumstances, does not take the job? No
man would be bothered with it-and that is part of the trouble. I would not go so far as the hon. member for Vancouver North when he said it made the difference of profit and loss in business, because the wharfage is so small. It is about ten cents a ton.
Many of these places are post offices as well. People come in their launches distances of two, three, five or ten miles and meet the steamer. They get stores at the same time, get the mail and go home. It makes no difference to them whether there is a wharfinger there or not. Then the government says, "Why can you not get that store man and that post office man to act as wharfinger?" But he says, "No, it is my business to get the mail out, so that these people who are waiting for it can get it." Incidentally, he sells them groceries.
Then there is another point; sometimes the situation is even accentuated. It would be difficult perhaps to understand it, but let me give an illustration like this: A steamer- generally the Union Steamship or the Canadian Pacific boat-calls at a wharf of considerable size. They put stuff off there. But there is a float perhaps five miles away at which the steamer does not call, because it cannot call there. A float is available only for small launches. It is a convenience for some channel or some fiord a distance from the main line of the ship's journey. Then, if this thing is in force he would have to pay wharfage at this main wharf, and then again when he took it ashore at the little wharf in his immediate vicinity. He would pay double the wharfage then.
But the main thing is that the government gets nothing from it worth anything. It is annoying to the public having to hunt up this wharfinger who, in nearly every instance, does not live near the wharf, because the wharf is generally set out on a point where there are no houses. The hon. member for Vancouver North said that something should be done, and I suggest the minister would save us an infinity of trouble if he said there would be no wharf collection, unless the revenue were above a certain yearly sum, say three or four hundred dollars. The wharfinger gets only 50 per cent of the first two hundred dollars collected; after that, it is only 15 per cent. You can figure out what 15 per cent of two cents comes to, and you will have a pretty fair idea of what it is-of how he is practically wallowing in luxury after he has been in the job a little while!
I must support the minister and the law to this extent that there are places where
steamers call where there have been considerable expenditures by the government, and where the wharves are large and costly, and the traffic considerable. There is no doubt about that. None of these wharves lasts more than from five to ten years, and they cost $8,000 to $12,000. It is quite proper that the government should get some revenue. But in connection with these little places, these small floats, which cost about $1,500, and where the revenue is not at all important, I believe the government should be able to draw a line and say, "Unless you can reasonably expect an income of four or five hundred dollars a year, we will not appoint a wharfinger." That would cut out a great deal of trouble to everybody connected with it.
On motion of Mr. Mackenzie King the house adjourned at 10.08 p.m.
Monday, April 24, 1939
Subtopic: DEPARTMENT OP TRANSPORT