April 11, 1945 (19th Parliament, 6th Session)


Clarence Gillis

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


I hesitate to make any
extended remarks at this stage, but the department now before the committee is perhaps one of the most important departments of government at this time. I consider that the Minister of Munitions and Supply, who is also Minister of Reconstruction, is going to be the man of the hour in the post-war period. That is why I wish to speak of the future of that department as related to the reconversion of industry.
I am sure we all appreciate the interest which the hon. member for Davenport takes in the maritimes. But the maritimes have been struggling along on sympathy for the last fifty years, and that sympathy has not been reflected very much in any economic betterment of the maritimes. I am going to suggest that in future, instead of just sympathizing with the maritimes we actually try to do something tangible that will be reflected in an improvement in the economy of that part of the country.
I am not going to discuss the fuel question. For the past five years in this house I have put on record my opinions as to what should be done. The government has seen fit to appoint a commission, which to-day is travelling Canada from coast to coast, examining the whole problem with the end in view of establishing a national fuel policy. I have some hope for this commission. I met them, and listened to their deliberations while in Sydney. I think they know their business, and I am reasonably sure that out of that commission will come some concrete suggestions for the organization of fuel in this country. When they bring down their report, based on the evidence they will receive-and they are getting the real evidence this time-I trust that, whichever party is governing this country, something definite and tangible will be done for the reorganization of the fuel industry because it needs reorganization. I will leave the matter there: it is being attended to.
My main concern with the minister's department is as to the future of what war industry there is in Nova Scotia. Most of the people

War Appropriation-Munitions and Supply
in that province are considerably worried. For example, there is the Pietou shipyards. Although it is not a big industry it gives considerable employment, and to the best of my knowledge there is no programme for maintaining it after the war. I had the pleasure of visiting the town and I found that the matter is pretty well tangled up. I shall not go into it in detail; I think the minister has probably heard all the stories which I have heard. The Maritime Foundation company is operating it on a management fee basis. It is my information that they would stay there and continue that operation provided that they could buy the repair plant which is owned by the Ferguson Brothers. On the other hand, the Ferguson Brothers are prepared to take the shipyards over if they could also retain the repair plant. That is a matter of negotiation between the government and the companies; but before the minister concludes the discussion I should like him to say something definite as to the future of that industry in Nova Scotia in the post-war period.
There is also the gun plant at Trenton, Nova Scotia. It is a purely war set-up. The possibilities are that when there is no need for the commodity it is producing, the plant will close up. If it does, a considerable number of people now employed there will be out of work, and there will be no provision for returning service personnel there or in the Pietou area in the matter of employment. I should like the minister to give us some indication of the future of that particular industry.
Another one, in which I am more personally concerned, is the plate mill at Sydney. The minister and most hon. members will remember that in 1940 considerable discussion took place here concerning that plant. It was built in the last war-built and paid for by the Canadian government. The machinery at that time was moved somewhere else. In 1940 the government rehabilitated the mill and put it to work. It has done a good job. At the present time it is working, I believe, only one shift or half-time. There is considerable anxiety as to the future of that mill.
I wish to make a few remarks as to the matter of wages at the steel plant, because it ties in closely with the future of that plate mill. The steel-workers' union, local 1064, functioning at that steel plant in Sydney, have been trying for several months past to renegotiate or revise their wage agreement. Recently their representatives were in the city, and they left, I understand, without much assurance as to what could be done. The old wage agreement was in fact an order in council passed by this government. That order in council was No. 689. Most hon. members will
remember the complete tie-up of steel in most of Nova Scotia and Ontario. Arising out of that dispute was the order in council that fixed the wage agreement and revised bonus arrangements and so forth; and that has been in effect since. I am informed-and if I am not correctly informed I want the minister to put me right-that an order in council, No. 1952, was passed on March 23 of this year constituting an agreement in the matter of subsidies as applied to steel. My information is that the subsidies are being revised. As I am informed there is a proposal under that order of three dollars a ton as a subsidy on the basis of present operations and four dollars a ton if the plate mill at Sydney closes. Now that arouses considerable concern. What I should like to know is, why the increase of a dollar a ton in the subsidy if the plate mill closes down? I may be wrong in this. I am merely raising it because I w'ant the minister to answer concerning a matter which is causing anxiety, and if I am not correctly informed the minister can put the record straight. It would look as though there was a bonus of a dollar a ton to be paid for the closing down of the plate mill- which means unemployment, and the unemployment situation in that area at the present time is anything but good. There is actual unemployment there now. Returning service personnel are not able to get work in that area. I say "not able" advisedly, because just prior to coming into the house, and after having a lot of boys in and out of the office, I checked with selective service as to what the unemployment situation was like, and they told me there just is not any employment in any of that Cape Breton island area. It is a heavy industry section, with mining and steel plants. Service personnel coming back at this time are generally medically unfit for one reason or another; and while you may be only ten or fifteen per cent disabled from a medical point of view you are one hundred per cent disabled from an employment point of view if you wish to take employment in either of these industries. As a result, men coming back in that category are just unemployed. There is no provision for vocational training; it has not yet been started; there are no schools to send them to; things are at a complete standstill; and if the small bit of war industry which was established in that province during the war is to be done away with we are going to be much worse off than we were in 1939 when this war broke out. When the minister answers, having had a chance to check the facts, I suggest he should set the record straight as to the future of that plate mill in Sydney.
War Appropriation-Munitions and Supply
There is another matter about which I should like to jog his memory. For three sessions of this parliament there functioned a reconstruction committee, which, under the capable chairmanship of the hon. member for Cariboo, did a good job. It is one of the best committees on which I have had the pleasure of serving while in this house. It was the duty of that committee to endeavour to get the post-war picture in the field of employment. That committee met and examined witnesses from every class of industry, and they made certain recommendations with respect to the future. The Minister of Munitions is also Minister of Reconstruction. That committee tabled in this house, on Monday, January 24, a report which will be found in No. 39 of the minutes of the reconstruction and reestablishment committee. The committee made certain definite recommendations. This was from the last report. My conception, as a member of that committee, when the report was tabled in the house, was that the minister who would be handling reconstruction in the post-war period would have at his disposal and would hand to his staff the several recommendations made by the committee together with the evidence taken, so that they might plan the future in the field of employment. I wish to call the attention of the minister definitely to a part of that committee's report with respect to the maritimes. It will be found on page four. The committee states:
Your committee has given a great deal of thought to the economic situation of the maritime provinces.
I can say that they did; they discussed the matter thoroughly.
We recommended that in cooperation with these provincial governments the federal government undertake a survey or study of conditions, with the object of advising and helping in the taking of any steps that will bring about an improvement in the economic life of the people of those provinces. This improvement can be brought about in part through a proper development of the fishing industry; through assistance to farming community, by the application of the provisions of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, by the installation of rural electrification, and the extension of cold storage facilities; through proper forest services and extended utilization of forest products; through the introduction of additional secondary industry, where the operation of such industry is economically sound, by reason of proper markets and of primary production within the maritime provinces or in the neighbouring lands, such as Newfoundland.
This inquiry should include the extent, if any, to which the maritimes have suffered because of lack of proper distribution of secondary industry in Canada and also the possibility of securing extended markets-both Canadian and international-for all maritme production. [Mr. Gillis.J
We are convinced that after the war-if prewar conditions are permitted to prevail-the Nova Scotia coal industry will not be able to exist without assistance in the marketing of the output of the mines. The coal industry situation would therefore be an important part of the proposed survey.
That has been taken care of.
After the war transportation will play an even more important part than previously in economic development.
This is the: part on which I wish to focus the committee's attention.
Therefore, in dealing with conditions in the maritime provinces, we strongly urge that the government give earnest consideration to certain proposed improvements in transportation facilities. These include:
(a) improvements designed to make communication between Prince Edward Island and the mainland constant, reliable and adequate;
(b) improvements of transportation across the straits of Canso by the construction of a causeway or in such manner as may be judged most satisfactory, considering the amount of traffic and the conditions of ice, tides and current;
(c) regrading, realigning and double-tracking of the Canadian National railway from Sydney to points in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Your committee has had a great deal of evidence and some discussion concerning transportation in Canada generally. There are some features of this problem upon which we are not yet ready to report. . . .
Such as matters affecting railways, bus companies, and so on. This matter of bridging the strait of Canso, realigning and doubletracking the main line is a very important part of any national fuel policy that may be set up in Canada. What I am concerned about is this. Though the reconstruction committee, after approximately three years' deliberation, and having discussed the matter from all angles and on many occasions submitted that report to the house, just about a month ago the Minister of Transport had occasion to visit Nova Scotia and in Halifax, either at a meeting or in a press interview, he was questioned on this particular project. The answers he gave at that time would lead everyone in that province to believe that so far as that project was concerned it was just a matter of determining its value as a project that would assist in the war effort. The minister said that the problem would be considered if it was still a problem, but that the maritime provinces, or the people of that area, would have to determine what they would be prepared to pay for the project, and so on.
My conception of his statement was that the report was forgotten; the government had no intention of doing anything about it; the war was over now and the problem was considered to have disappeared. I raise strenuous objection to that, and I should like the minister to clarify the situation when he gives his

War Appropriation-Munitions and Supply
answers in the house. There is a great deal of interest and much anxiety in Nova Scotia with regard to the post-war period. We had no industry in the province to speak of when the war broke out and what has been established has been gradually siphoned off. The project that we were oinning our faith on in the eastern end, particularly for the purpose of relieving immediate post-war unemployment, was that project across the strait of Canso, in addition to some other little undertakings which the Department of Public Works would likely be carrying on, such as breakwaters and the repair of hafbours.
This strait of Canso causeway proposal, in addition to tying the island of Cape Breton to the rest of Canada, would greatly improve the transportation problem from that end and would assist the coal industry. It would be definitely a major project that could be started in that end of the country and would relieve the shock of immediate unemployment on demobilization. I would ask the minister to consider that matter and give an answer when he gets an opportunity.
There is something else I would mention for the minister's benefit. Just before coming into the house I had occasion to meet representatives of the Cape Breton labour council. That consists of delegates of miners from all the different local units. They meet regularly and probe employment possibilities, the extension of social legislation, compensation and matters of that kind. They have also been dealing with selective service in the matter of employment. They received the same answers that I got as far as selective service was concerned. There was no immediate possibilities that they could see of assuring anyone of employment in that end of the country. This labour group took it upon themselves to meet with the regional directors of selective service. Representatives from the office in Moncton were there, and from the local selective service offices in the community as well. The object of the meeting was to discuss ways and means whereby the situation might be improved.
They made one concrete recommendation which I believe, when discussing post-war problems with reference to the mining industry, the minister should know something about, and that is the question of retiring older miners. They proposed at the meeting that the government should examine the possibility of retiring men from the mining industry after they have reached the age of sixty. A lot of people will say that at sixty years of age one is still able to do a good job. That is true in many fields of endeavour but it is not true in coal mining. When you reach fifty-five or
sixty years of age in the coal mining industry, particularly if you have been shovelling coal, your back is pretty well broken. You have passed the peak of your maximum productivity. Everyone who knows the industry knows that is true. Let me give an example of what they do in New Zealand. In that country the pensionable age is sixty, but coal miners are pensioned at fifty-five. They are laid off that much sooner because they are broken down that much quicker in that heavy industry.
It was pointed out at the meeting to which I have referred that in that area there were approximately a thousand miners who had passed the age of sixty but were still obliged to work underground because there is no legislation of any kind to help them, or any other employment in which they can be placed. Because of that they must remain in the industry and try to eke out an existence. If the government considered the proposition of taking those thousand miners- and that figure is an approximate one; there may be more and there may be a few less- laying them off and giving them something to live on they would be providing room for a thousand younger men in that industry. Productivity under the ground would be increased in that way and production generally would be increased. It would create employment for the younger men and it would give the men who are worn out in the industry an opportunity of living perhaps a few years longer by getting above ground. That pension could work out something like the burnt-out allowance paid to war veterans. A man burns out much quicker loading coal in a coal mine than by fighting a war because the physical strain is a great deal greater. I can say that with some conviction because I have had some experience in both. The pension so established might work in this way-I am now giving my own opinions only-a man working underground might be given a pension of $40, $50 or $60 a month, or whatever figure was arrived at. After a few months' rest he might feel like doing some other kind of work. If he was able to find some other employment in a lighter industry he could then augment his pension.
Saskatchewan has established a pension for the totally incapacitated father. I am not stating this for political reasons but because it is a fact. It is not very much but it is a start. I understand that the pension or the allowance is only about $10 a month. But the wife also receives an allowance of an equal amount and there is an allowance of $12 for each child. The income is not adequate; it
War Appropriation-Munitions and Supply
is low, but it is a start. What I am arguing now is the principle that has been established in that province with regard to men who are incapacitated. I consider that those men in the coal industry are incapacitated for the job they are on, but they are obliged to stay on it because there is no other means by which they can obtain a livelihood. I consider that those old men are really a drag on the industry. They have given their best days and have passed their maximum production peak. Money spent by the government in that way to take them out of that heavy industry would be well spent. If those men were retired and rested for a while, given a little sum of money to live on, the chances are they could be routed into some other form of employment and ultimately become gainfully employed at something else. At the same time younger men would get into the industry; production would rise, and probably enough could be collected in taxes on the additional earnings in the industry to offset what may be contributed1 as pension to the older people who are taken out of the industry.
I rose this afternoon merely to focus attention on the few points that I have made in regard to the maritime provinces because the session will be ending very soon. The Minister of Munitions and Supply and Minister of Reconstruction will be on the job for some considerable time. We do not know when the election will be called, but those who are working on planning the future, reconverting industry and preparing for demobilization must go on. We cannot slacken our efforts. The cabinet will be carrying on that work. I wish to leave those thoughts with the minister because definitely in Nova Scotia the points , which I have brought out require clarification if for no other purpose than to relieve the minds of the people there as to their future, which is very uncertain at the present time.

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