June 4, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


Clarence Gillis

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


Mr. Chairman, my conception of the resolution before the committee, and particularly the first part of it, was that it dealt with unemployment. It would appear that the Department of Labour is asking for an appropriation of money for the alleviation of unemployment, and in order that the minister may fully understand the requirements af the situation I suggest that one of the first things he should know is the unemployment situation as it exists in the field.
I have read many reports on unemployment as it affects my own constituency, but in those reports I did not recognize the situation as I knew it. I did not recognize the situation from the report which had been drawn up by someone else. What I am endeavouring to do is to tell the Minister of Labour the story of labour when considered from the viewpoint of potential unemployment. Mines are being closed and the situation is growing worse. I should like to tell my story as I see it myself.
I want to draw this brief to the attention of the Department of Labour. For the past seven or eight years different ministers of the provincial government have done everything humanly possible to cure this situation. I do not say this with any political malice, but I believe absolutely that at the present time the Nova Scotia government is the British Empire Steel Corporation, especially as far as coal is concerned. That has been our experience. Not so long ago a mine in Thorbum, Nova Scotia, was to be closed. This meant that many men would be thrown on to the scrap-heap. The general manager of the Dominion Iron and Steel Company, Mr. H. J. Kelly, sat in with a delegation of citizens from that town. The head of the citizens' delegation asked Mr. Kelly if there was anything the provincial government could do to develop a mine in that area. I based my previous statement that as far as coal is concerned this company directs the provincial government upon what Mr. Kelly said to that committee. His answer was that as far as the government was concerned they had done everything they could, but the company had said there would be no new mine opened in that area.
The particular brief which I have before me emanates from a citizens' committee which was formed in Glace Bay. This was not drawn up by members of a union or by

workers alone. This committee was headed by Reverend Father McKinnon, a Roman Catholic priest. The Reverend Mr. Crew, an Anglican clergyman, was also a member. The Reverend W. T. Mercer, another clergyman, was a member. This committee represented a more or less united front as far as religion is concerned. There are approximately 900 men employed in this particular mine, and they have learned from their union that the mine will be totally closed down within eighteen months. There are many schools and churches in this locality, and the working people have a considerable investment in their community. Should this mine be closed down, it will be nothing less than a financial bombshell as far as the town of Glace Bay is concerned, because that town receives considerable revenue by way of taxation. The provincial minister of mines and his deputy came to Glace Bay and met the members of this committee. I was present at the sitting of the committee, and we went over the plans of the coal company and considered what prospects and possibilities there were to continue the operations of this particular colliery. We could receive no assurance that operations would be continued. I was then asked to bring up the matter before this house and draw it to the attention of the Minister of Labour. This brief is headed "Introductory brief " and reads:
This committee which is gathered here was selected at a large and representative citizens' meeting held in the legion hall, Passehendaele, Glace Bay, on the evening of April 8, 1940. The meeting was held as a result of the existing conditions in No. 11 colliery as affecting that community for the purpose of endeavouring to find some method to alleviate those conditions.
In the report of the royal commission respecting the coal mines of Nova Scotia which was made in 1932 (commonly called the Duncan report) certain definite proposals are recommended for the reallocation of coal areas and concentrations of the output of coal mines. As a result of the recommendations contained in the Duncan report and apparently with the approval of the government of Nova Scotia a situation has arisen in the No. 11 colliery which has become very acute. Present indications are that this mine will be totally abandoned in approximately eighteen months. A large percentage of the men employed in this colliery are so affected at the present time that no work is available for them and transfers to other collieries are a common occurrence.
We submit that the practice of transferring these men to other collieries operated by the Dominion Coal Company will not provide a practical solution to this problem. Twenty-two men who were previously employed in No. 11 colliery have been transferred to No. 4 colliery. No. 4 colliery is completely filled up at the present time, and there are no places available for any -more men. There is no development work being carried on in this mine but future operations will consist only of pillar work.

Unemployment Relief-Mr. Gillis
By way of explanation I would say that pillar work is done only when a mine is gradually folding up. This work is done only when it is considered a mine will eventually close. The brief continues:
Several men have also been transferred to No. 24 colliery. On April 10th, 13 pairs of men were without places in No. 24 colliery and another section in this mine is due to close in about two weeks which will displace another 10 pairs of men. In No. 2 colliery there are at the present time approximately 40 pairs of men without places and eighty per cent of the work in No. 2 colliery is pillar work. No. 1-B colliery is overcrowded at the present time ' due to the fact that a large number of men formerly employed in the reserve collieries have become transferred to this mine. There are now 40 pairs of men employed on each shift in No. 20 colliery and the company does not propose to employ any more men in that mine for the present. As No. 20 colliery is developed it will be used to take care of men who are displaced in No. 2 colliery.
Taking into consideration the conditions which exist in all these mines in the Glace Bay district, it can be clearly seen that the problem of providing employment for miners who are displaced in No. 11 colliery will not be solved by transferring these men to other collieries. There are at the present time approximately 800 men employed in No. 11 colliery, the great majority of whom live in the Passchendaele district. These men, together with their families and other residents of the district, make a total of approximately 3,000 persons who depend directly for their livelihood on the continued operation of No. 11 colliery. There are also many houses, halls, churches, schools and business establishments in this district which would in time be rendered useless if this mine were allowed to close without any adjustment being made. In addition to this the town of Glace Bay has in recent years carried on new development work in this district by providing the comunity with new sewer and water facilities.
The additional burden which would be placed upon the town of Glace Bay through unemployment caused by the gradual closing of No. 11 colliery would be one which the town is in no position to bear, and it would be impossible for the town to adequately cope with such a problem. We feel that such a situation should not be allowed to arise without a thorough investigation being made by those with the authority to make such an investigation into the possibilities of a continuation in operation of No. 11 colliery and also the possibility of the opening of a new coal mine in the same district.
We, therefore, respectively ask that an engineer with governmental authority conduct a thorough investigation into the conditions which exist in No. 11 colliery for the purpose of finding out what amount of coal is available for extraction in accordance with the terms of the leases granted to the Dominion Coal Company. If, as a result of this inquiry, it is discovered that the colliery will be worked out in a short time and closed down, we ask that every avenue possible be explored with the view to the opening of a new mine in the Passchendaele district.
The provincial minister of mines and his deputy are cooperating with the miners one
hundred per cent in an effort to find a solution to this problem. The leases held by the coal company are such that by the carrying on of certain operations these leases remain in force even though a mine may not be working. Therefore the company is in a position to hold the leases. The provincial government does not seem to have sufficient authority, or at least has not had up to date, to bring about a solution of this problem. Coal will probably be required in Europe. Press dispatches rep>ort that France is in a bad way as far as coal is concerned. Something should be done to develop those coal areas in Nova Scotia which are not being operated by the coal company at the present time.

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