March 6, 1950 (21st Parliament, 2nd Session)


Emmett Andrew McCusker


Mr. McCusker:

Because we would have some compensation for it.
On this occasion the ordinary private member has an opportunity to review the requirements of his constituency. As it happens, I am fortunate today in that I am asking for my constituency something of national importance. I wonder if the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) is aware of the condition of disrepair into which the buildings of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Regina have fallen. This condition is not due to neglect, but rather to the age of those buildings, some of which were built as long ago as 1882 or 1883, and
The Address-Mr. Higgins some even earlier than that. They are on rubble foundations and are no longer safe. The small chapel was at first a wet canteen. That building was enlarged and converted into a chapel. Today it stands as a pleasing memorial to those in the force who lost their lives while in pursuit of their duties. It would be a shame to fail to repair that building, or to permit it to be destroyed. It has great tourist attraction. Then, the barracks buildings are inadequate because, as we know, the force is constantly being enlarged. Regina is a training centre, and there is great overcrowding at that point. It is also necessary to provide additional accommodation for the instructional staff. I hope the Minister of Justice will bear these facts in mind and see that attention is given to them.
Since coming to the House of Commons I have heard many hon. members tell us what a great people we are. We take pride in our new national status. Our representatives return from abroad to tell us of the high esteem in which we are held. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to prove whether we are worthy sons of those great pioneers. Though the international horizon be cloudy, though our defence burdens be heavy, though our domestic problems be great, our opportunities are equally great and unlimited. In the manner in which we apply ourselves to our duties will be found the answer as to whether or not we are a great people, a nation.
Mr. G. F. Higgins <St. John's East): Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure again today to speak from the newest province and to extend congratulations to the mover (Mr. Larson) and the seconder (Mr. Dumas) of the address in reply. Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of hearing them speak, but I read their speeches carefully and I must say they were excellent in every way.
I did not hear them for two reasons. The first of these, the weather, is something over which we have no control. However, the Canadian National Railways, the second of those conditions, is something about which I feel the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) could do something. I have in mind particularly the conditions at Louisburg, Nova Scotia. However, I shall not deal with that matter now because I believe it might be discussed more appropriately at a later time.
Referring to the speech from the throne my leader (Mr. Drew) said, as reported at page 38 of Hansard:
As to the speech from the throne itself, it contains so little of a definite nature that any remarks which may contribute to the effective consideration of our problems necessarily must be related more to what the speech from the throne does not say than to anything it does say.

In the old days of the parliament in Newfoundland we had an expression which would seem to sum up what was said by the leader of the opposition. We would have said that the speech from the throne was more remarkable for what it did not contain than for what it did contain. Or, as one of my constituents said in a letter to me the other day, "Heap big smoke; no fire".
In the few remarks I shall make I intend to deal only with provincial matters. Perhaps it is better that I follow this procedure because the problems of the new province are not yet well known. I believe that, on every possible occasion other members from Newfoundland and I are permitted to inflict our views upon the house, we should try to direct the attention of hon. members to Newfoundland and its problems.
When the other day the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg) unequivocally refused to set up a parliamentary committee on veterans affairs I was greatly disturbed, because among the requests received by members from Newfoundland was one from our great war veterans association asking in particular that such a committee be set up. I found it necessary to reply to them by stating that for some reason or other, which we had not yet been able to ascertain, we had received only a blunt refusal to their request. Furthermore, in the letter received there was a request that we support the Legion's recommendation for increases in the basic rates of war veterans' and widows' allowances from $40 to $50 per month for single veterans and widows with no dependents, and to $80 per month for married veterans and widows with dependents. The brief of the dominion executive council of the Canadian Legion, presented I believe in November of last year, stated that in some provinces the recipients are receiving less than they would under the Old Age Pensions Act. The Legion appreciated the extra aid given but stated that it feels strongly that a general increase in the basic rate would be more satisfactory to all concerned. I trust that the minister and the cabinet will take under advisement the necessity of reconsidering the decision already given in this matter.
I notice the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) is not in his seat, but I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to draw to his attention a situation that exists at Gander airport. Owing to a regulation passed during wartime the erection of new buildings is not permitted within five miles of the airport. The result is that housing conditions are simply scandalous. Families are paying $110 per month to live in old converted

barracks. This is a ridiculous situation and I trust the necessary action will be taken to have the regulation rescinded immediately.
As the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) just said, all hon. members are receiving requests with respect to old age pensions and the removal of the means test. Along with the other Newfoundland members I have received a great number of these. The Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) more or less intimated the other day that Canada could not afford to pay for such pensions, but in view of the able argument put forward by the hon. member I am convinced that that legislation should be on the statute books.
I concur in what was said by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Applewhaite) with regard to the establishment of a coastguard. I spoke in this chamber last session with regard to that matter. The hon. member indicated the necessity for such a service on the west coast of Canada. As you know, the wise men come from the east and all I can say is that the need on the east coast for such a service is as great as it is on the west coast. I am in favour of a coastguard modelled on the United States coastguard. No blame can be attached to the R.C.M.P., who operate the present set-up, but I submit that they certainly should not have to do that work.
There is another matter I should like to raise but I do not know just what value my argument may have. As hon. members know, there are now three senators from Newfoundland and three more are to be appointed. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he act in accordance with past precedent when new provinces came into confederation and not appoint all the senators on party lines. When the new appointments are made I suggest that he go outside his party and appoint those who are other than Liberals.
There is another matter I should like to bring up, and here again I do not suppose there is much hope. Owing to the uncultured state of Newfoundland before we entered confederation all books were allowed to come in duty free. Since confederation any books coming into Newfoundland from the United States must pay duty. It would not cost the country very much and would be of great help, even to the people in older Canada, if the duty on books were removed. I can assure the government that the people of Newfoundland would welcome that move very much.
The speech from the throne referred to the dominion-provincial conference held in January. The parliamentary assistant to the premier of Newfoundland stated on February 15, when the Newfoundland legislature was
The Address-Mr. Higgins opened, that he had been present and could not help but notice the high regard in which the premier of Newfoundland was held by all the people in Ottawa. He said that from what he could see and hear there appeared to be only three premiers at the conference, the Prime Minister, the premier of Quebec (Mr. Duplessis), and Mr. Smallwood. He compared them to Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, although he did not particularize which was which. I would think that there was a fairly good foundation in fact not to compare the Prime Minister with Joe Stalin. I doubt if the parliamentary assistant would compare his own premier to Stalin. It would appear to me as if we may be getting ready for war between Quebec and Newfoundland over the Labrador boundary. That by the way.
It was stated in the speech from the throne that employment and prosperity remained at a high level, but as far as my part of the country is concerned that statement is not borne out by the facts. As I stated earlier, I am not going to refer to the over-all picture but only to the picture as it presents itself in Newfoundland. The present outlook there is bleak indeed. The number of unemployed is high and the prospects are far from bright. In January the men engaged on relief work, apart from those receiving unemployment insurance or unemployment assistance, numbered 10,237.
The minister of finance of Newfoundland issued a message at the end of the year in the Daily News, stating that it was expected that that province would close the year on March 31, not with a cash surplus of $40 million but with one just under $32 million. He said that a total of $8,500,000 would have been expended from the cash surplus during the year. For the eight months April to December there was a deficit of over $4 million on current expenditure. When it is realized that the entire revenue for that period is around $20 million you will realize how grave the situation is.
Iron ore for Dosco at Sydney is supplied largely from Bell island, but the mines there are having a difficult time. It was expected that a contract with the British steel makers for the delivery of 1,500,000 tons per year for ten years would have been entered into last year, but the British government would not consent because of the exchange situation and the deal fell through. Permission was given to complete the balance of the 1949 contract. Last November a possibility appeared to sell 1,125,000 tons to be delivered this year, made up of 300,000 tons to Western Germany-Germany before the war was always a great market for our ore-
300,000 tons to England and the remainder to the steel plant at Sydney. Unfortunately

The Address-Mr. Higgins this deal also tell through. I understand it was to be financed more or less by means of Marshall aid, and whatever happened-
I think it was the curtailment of funds more than anything else-the deal also fell through. At the present time the only prospect in sight is the amount of ore to be shipped to Sydney, some 700,000 tons, and from the latest information we have it may be reduced by another 100,000 tons.
The present position at Bell island is that they are only operating two mines on a five day a week basis, and that there are some
1,000 men actually unemployed out of a working force of 2,000. From the best advice that we can secure this situation is going to continue, and there may be an even bigger reduction in the number employed because I understand they are modernizing the plant and putting in new machinery, which naturally will cut down on employment. I take it that is generally the result of installing machinery. That is what the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis) tells me, and he should know. At all events the situation is causing grave concern not only to the people of Bell island but also to the provincial government.
In order that the necessary action may be taken, I should like to draw to the attention of the minister concerned the fact that some difficulty has arisen in the payment of unemployment insurance cheques and there has been great dissatisfaction. Cheques have not been received regularly. Some of these people have been kept waiting over two months, and they have to travel twelve miles by land and water to St. John's to get their cheques. I trust that action will be taken to see that these people who have no money, and who have to get to St. John's as best they can, will be able to receive their unemployment insurance payments without having to wait two months and be paid at Bell island.
The provincial government have undertaken relief work in Newfoundland, as I think I said during last session, and the burden has been considerable. So far the Newfoundland government has expended $1,250,000 on unemployment relief, a tremendous amount of money for that little province, and how long it will be able to keep it up is very difficult to say. So long as we have a voice in this house there is one matter which we will raise. We want the terms of confederation revised upwards. They must be revised if Newfoundland is going to be able to keep up with the other provinces of Canada.
There is another matter that has only come to my attention recently, although it should have before. In talking to some of the business people of Newfoundland they have

pointed out that there is a factor which was never mentioned in the confederation discussions, and which should have been. I refer to the great benefit that Canada is receiving now from increased trade, something that she did not have before. Most of our former trade with the United States is now being carried on with Canada. In other words, Canada is selling to Newfoundland $40 million more than she sold before confederation. That is a considerable factor and should certainly be borne in mind when we ask to have the terms revised, as we will have to very shortly.
I had hoped that fishermen would be included in the amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act. I presume they could not be, although I do not know the reason why. It seems to me to be a great pity that some scheme cannot be worked out whereby fishermen could be covered under the Unemployment Insurance Act. What has become of these poor people who do not qualify for unemployment insurance? There is no federal agency taking care of them. They are left chiefly to charitable organizations, and that is a most ridiculous situation in a country which we heard described last year by the hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Croll) as a welfare state. As I have already said, there is a considerable amount of unemployment, and a lot of it can be attributed directly to confederation. That is a pretty harsh statement. I realize that even the most rabid anti-confederationist cannot blame confederation altogether for that fact, but even the most partisan-and I include hon. members on the other side of the house from Newfoundland^-supporters of confederation must agree that the hitting of our secondary industries and the closing of a number of them can be directly attributed to this fact. I understand that some half a dozen have closed already, and the remainder are making a very gallant effort to keep running, but what happened in the case of the maritimes, as is known so well to maritime members of the house, will happen in Newfoundland in so far as the secondary industries of the province are concerned. The best proof I can give of that-and I am sure you will understand that I do not say this because I was an anti-confederate

is that, if I may use slang language, it comes right from the horse's mouth.
I should like to refer to the submission of the government of the province of Newfoundland to the royal commission on transportation, and particularly to that section of it dealing with the economic outlook for St. John's. Practically all of our secondary industries are located there. The submission reads:

The impact of confederation upon St. John's as the chief trading and distributing centre of the island will be revolutionary. Heretofore it has been the chief receiving centre and distribution point for imports into Newfoundland. Because of the diversion of trade from sources of supply in the United States of America and Europe to Canadian suppliers, and because of the re-routing of imports through gateways more contiguous to the mainland than St. John's, this import business, with its consequent distributing trade, will be lost irrevocably to the capital. It is safe to say that in time the trading and distributing activities of St. John's will be limited largely to the Avalon peninsula. This prospect poses a matter of grave concern to that section of the population residing within and around the Avalon peninsula. It is of particular moment to those resident in St. John's.
No basic industries exist in St. John's. No natural resources capable of providing a basic economy are to be found within its immediate vicinity, with one exception. It therefore follows that with the falling off of import trade through this port, and the consequent loss of its primary position as the distributing centre for the island, an alternative economy must be built up or St. John's will not only fail to maintain its present position, but must inevitably suffer a decline in trade and employment of serious and1 far-reaching proportions.
The local industries located within the area may exist precariously for some time to come, but it is difficult to see how manufacturing concerns within St. John's can compete effectively with mass-producing units engaged in the same line of business on the mainland.
There is one ray of hope in this dark outlook. It is to be found in the establishment at St. John's of a great producing and processing centre for the products of the sea. The harbour is ice free all the year round-
This is a misstatement so far as this year is concerned.
-and for this reason it can be utilized as a base for such an operation.
So, Mr. Speaker, in the vernacular this submission, which comes from the Smallwood administration and can therefore be taken as unbiased, means that the outlook is for St. John's, one of the oldest cities on this side of the water, as a result of confederation to become nothing better than a fishing village. That is the most it can hope for; and that is not a nice picture. I do not know what will become of the people who are going to lose their livelihood as a result of our local industries closing. The sad part of it to me, and to many others who think as I do, is that the only alternative appears to be for the people who are now engaged in these secondary industries to increase the population of the other provinces of the dominion. Without doubt we are going to see mass emigration from Newfoundland in the years ahead.
I am glad to learn from the speech from the throne that it is proposed to amend the price support legislation. I trust that these funds will be made available to the fishermen of Newfoundland because, as I have said before, the backbone of our economy is the salt fish trade. A number of Newfoundland merchants 55946-311
The Address-Mr. Higgins engaged in the fish trade are in this city today; and their chief purpose in coming to Ottawa is to interview the cabinet in an endeavour to arrange for the conversion of sterling. I know this problem of sterling conversion exists throughout Canada, but I do submit that the people of Newfoundland must be given special treatment for some years to come. After all you must remember that here on the mainland you have a pattern that has been woven over many years. We are now trying to come into that pattern, but it is utterly impossible to expect us to do so at once, particularly with respect to our export trade, chiefly the fish trade, where we have been dealing in markets that have no substantial attraction for the other provinces of Canada. So it is going to be very difficult for us to be assimilated into your general trade pattern unless special treatment is given our province. The special treatment we ask-and I know this will be supported by all hon. members from the province

is that for a few years to come you arrange for the conversion of sterling in connection with the fish trade. It will not amount to very much. At the most in a single year it will not exceed $15 million, but that $15 million means the difference between life and death for Newfoundland. So I ask the members of the cabinet to give serious consideration to the request which I understand was presented to them today.
There is still another matter; we are great people for asking, and it is just as well to put all our needs on record. As hon. members are aware, our seal fishery has been of historic note for many years as a source of livelihood for our people. This year the seal fishery is being carried on by only three ships. One of those ships comes from the mainland of Canada; the other two are being sent out by the firm of Bowring Brothers, I believe chiefly for sentimental reasons, because of their long connection with the seal fishery. What is the cause of this? The reason is that seal oil is no longer used by manufacturers in Canada, who instead are using United States dollars to buy vegetable oils. I submit in all honesty that these manufacturers should be required to buy marine oil at the same price they are paying for vegetable oil from the United States. The seal oil is just as good, and I do not know why they no longer use it. Certainly I feel this action should be taken. It would be a great help to us; it would relieve a good deal of unemployment and at the same time would conserve United States dollars. So I believe this suggestion is well worthy of consideration.
In discussing the matter of secondary industries in Newfoundland the question of freight rates is most important. I feel very
The Address-Mr. Higgins strongly about this question, and there has been a great deal of publicity about it at home. When I say "at home" I am referring to my province; I cannot quite fit into the pattern here as I should, even yet. The position with respect to freight rates is this. As a member of the original delegation to Ottawa in 1947, accompanying the present Secretary of State (Mr. Bradley) and the hon. member for Grand Falls-White Bay (Mr. Ashbourne), I had a very clear understanding of the matter, and I am sure those two hon. members had the same clear understanding. As far as freight rates were concerned we understood that Newfoundland was to be placed in a position which would enable it to compete, by being treated as the maritime provinces are treated. That was the definite, clear understanding and undertaking that we took home with us. That was the understanding and undertaking given to those who signed the terms of union in 1948, and that has been the understanding of those who have discussed the matter.
What has happened? Instead of carrying out that undertaking an entirely different tariff rate has been applied to Newfoundland. Our tariff rate is C17 as against tariff rate C19 for the maritimes, and as a result my province has had to pay an overcharge of 28 per cent. Let me give a few examples so hon. members will be able to follow the trend of my argument. The figures I intend to give do not include the last 16 per cent increase; they were made up before it went into force, and I could not get up-to-date figures because the tolls have not been filed as yet. These are the old figures, which I presume will be increased by 16 per cent; and here is the position. From Bic, Quebec, to Campbellton, New Brunswick, the distance is 133 miles, and the charge for carrying 100 pounds of class I freight is 66 cents. The distance from St. John's to Clarenville, Newfoundland, is 131 miles, and the charge for the same quantity and class of freight is 76 cents. From Saint John to Blackland, New Brunswick, the distance is 254 miles. The charge for the same quantity and class of freight is 79 cents. For a distance of 253 miles from St. John's to Lewisporte, one mile less, the charge is $1.02. From Saint John to Campbellton, New Brunswick, is 276 miles and it is also 276 miles from St. John's to Grand Falls, Newfoundland; yet to carry 100 pounds of class I freight in New Brunswick the charge is 83 cents, while in Newfoundland the charge is $1.05.
By a peculiar coincidence, the tariff rates on all classes of freight from Oak Bay, Quebec, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a distance of 405 miles, are exactly the same as the rates on the same quantity of freight from St.

John's, Newfoundland, to Grand Falls, Newfoundland, a distance of 276 miles; the same price is charged for 405 miles as we Newfoundlanders have to pay for 276 miles.
The final example I shall give you, Mr. Speaker, is from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Upsalquitch, New Brunswick, a distance of 547 miles; the charge is $1.14 for 100 pounds. Yet for exactly the same distance from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Port aux Basques, the charge is $1.62.
In order that hon. members may be aware of what has happened, may I point out that the government of Newfoundland applied to the board of transport commissioners to cancel the existing tariff-that is, the tariff from which I have just quoted-and to substitute therefor tariff and tolls based on the rate structure now in effect in the maritime provinces. This application was based on section 32 of the terms of union, and was refused by the board in a judgment delivered on February 14 last. Subsections (2) and (3) of section 32 of the terms of union read as follows:
(2) For the purpose of railway rate regulation the island of Newfoundland will be included in the maritime region of Canada, and through-traffic moving between North Sydney and Port aux Basques will be treated as all-rail traffic.
(3) All legislation of the parliament of Canada providing for special rates on traffic moving within, into, or out of, the maritime region will, as far as appropriate, be made applicable to the island of Newfoundland.
As many hon. members will recall, when this matter of freight rates was being discussed at the first session of this house in 1949, a number of those still here engaged in the discussion. As reported at page 608 of Hansard, the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), referring to this particular agreement and these freight rates, stated:
This matter was fully gone into with the representatives of Newfoundland, who were also quite concerned about it, and the best we could tell them was that the board of transport commissioners would have to take that into account.
Then again on the same page:
That is something also which was carefully discussed with the representatives of Newfoundland, and they were told that all these matters would have to be taken into consideration by the transport commissioners. What is provided is that this connection to Port aux Basques is a part of the railway rate, but the maritime rate will apply within Newfoundland. It does not apply now to the traffic carried by water from Halifax to any point in Newfoundland; but in determining what will be proper rates to charge for rail movement the board will have to take all appropriate factors into consideration. The delegates from Newfoundland finally were satisfied with this position; that we do not want to have things happen which will interfere with the economy of Newfoundland, and we do not want things to happen which will interfere with the usual trading practices of the maritime provinces. We hope that instead of there being interference there will be promotion of trade relations, and that is something with which the board of transport commissioners will have to deal.

Then as reported at page 619, the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) stated:
Under the bill the Canadian National Railways is required to file tariffs with the board of transport commissioners on March 31, assuming that confederation takes place on that date, and assuming also that the lines of railway on the island of Newfoundland and the steamer service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques are entrusted to the Canadian National Railways on the same date. Such rates will have to conform to the general pattern of rail rates in the other provinces of Canada; otherwise they would be discriminatory. Discriminatory rates, either higher or lower than in the same general territory, cannot be maintained under the Railway Act. Therefore, as stated, the rates will follow the general pattern of the rates in the other provinces.
I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to note that word "discriminatory", because it is exactly the same word that is found in the judgment of the board of transport commissioners, and I read from the last page of that judgment:
This subsection may also mean that the rate structure in Newfoundland is to be in general conformity with the rate structure in the other maritime provinces. But we do not think there is anything in this subsection to affect in any way the principles upon which the board has acted in the past in regard to discrimination under the provisions of the Railway Act.
The board apparently thinks it can discriminate; the Minister of Transport apparently thought it could not. The present position is that this matter is now met by the formal approach of the premier of Newfoundland to the cabinet, I believe made today, and a request from him that this section of the terms of union be honoured.
All I have to say is this, Mr. Speaker. As it was generally understood by all of us, and as the Secretary of State (Mr. Bradley) was a member of that delegation, and the hon. member for Grand Falls-White Bay (Mr. Ashbourne) and I myself were members of the first delegation, and as members of the Liberal party in Newfoundland campaigned using that understanding as one of their arguments, I therefore say that there is only one thing for all the members from Newfoundland in this house to do with the exception of my learned confrere the hon. member from St. John's West (Mr. Browne), who did not actively participate at that time. I say in all sincerity that if the cabinet does not honour that agreement that was understood by us, the Newfoundland members should resign. It may be said that it is not written into the terms of confederation but certainly it was understood by us. Unless therefore we are put on the same basis as the maritimes, in the matter of freight rates, then I say that in all honour the only alternative is for the Secretary of State, the hon. member for Grand Falls-White Bay and the other members of the Liberal party from Newfoundland, to resign from this house.
The Address-Mr. A. W. Stuart

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