April 26, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)


Mr. TISDALE (for Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper) asked:

-that as far as the coal industry of Nora Scotia is concerned, it is independent of duties of any kind. The coal production of the Dominion Coal Company will be more than consumed by the works at Sydney, and by the works at Everett in Massachusetts, and it will take all the time of the other companies to supply other markets. I do not want to be misunderstood-I am in favour of duties upon coal, and of bounties upon iron, and of anything and everything that is considered to be necessary for the protection of every industry now established or hereafter to be established in the province of Nova Scotia or in the Dominion. But I have been assured by those deeply concerned in the business that the coal business of Nova Scotia is absolutely independent of the result of duties. This is the state of the coal industry in Cape Breton, and I am sure there it like prosperity in every other part of the province.
The result of this enterprise has been that the people engaged in this coal industry, and whose living depends upon it are happy and prosperous. It has been a fact that in the past, for four months, and perhaps five and six months in the year, the people of Cape Breton who depended on the coal industry for their livelihood were idle and that the wages of the other six months were eaten up by getting goods on credit, and that in that wJDr lhey were continuously in debt and unable to have a dollar in their pockets. But to-day the conditions are changed, and these men can obtain employment continuously throughout the year, and one sometimes hears the complaint from a man that he does not get a moment of rest. That is a complaint, however, with which we can .have no sympathy.
Now, these are some observations from hon. gentlemen opposite in speaking about the coal question. And, in view of the observations of the hon. member for Cape Breton and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) in the legislature of Nova Scotia, it does seem to me it might well be difficult for the Minister of Finance to know what to do under the circumstances. The coal industry in Nova Scotia has had a hard time of it during the last two or three years, and particularly during the last year. The capability of the coal operators to compete with American coal, of course, depends on the cost of production in the province of Nova Scotia, and I wish to point out to the members of the House that the responsibility for the cost of production in Nova Scotia rests in large measure with the local government of that province, for, during the regime as premier of the province of the present Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) and during more recent years under the present administration headed by the Hon. Geo. H. Murray in that province, the manner in which the coal leases are dealt with and handed out in that province has gone a long way to hamper the cheap production of coal. The railway charters have also cut no unimportant figure in the Mr. iMADDIN.
province in that matter. In the county of Inverness, in 1887, Hon. Geo. H. Murray, now Premier of Nova Scotia, who was not then even in the legislature, but merely a private citizen, along with some other gentlemen, secured a charter to build a railway from the Strait of Canso up through Port Hood, Mabour and by St. Hose and Mar-garee to Cheticamp. That covers the section of which I wish to speak, though it was to proceed further and eventually join tSe Intercolonial near Grand Narrows. This charter called for the building of the line in five years. The gentlemen who had secured the charter had the charter renewed from time to time, and eventually it was handed over to Messrs. Mackenzie and Mann. These gentlemen had secured coal areas in Inverness, and these they proceeded to develop and they built the railway as far as their own mines. It is a fact that there are large and valuable coal areas north of the town of Inverness which are undeveloped, this lack of development being due solely to the fact that Messrs. Mackenzie and Mann have not completed the railway for which a charter was granted in 1887. As I have said, they completed the railway up to their own mines. But from time to time they found the government of Nova Scotia so plastic as to assure them of the renewal of the charter, and the county council of Inverness so plastic and pliable as to renew their free right of way through Inverness. The Nova Scotia Collieries Company hold coal areas at St. Rose, three or four miles from Mar-garee. They have two or three valuable seams of coal, six, seven and nine feet in thickness, which they are unable to de-velope for: want of railway facilities. Messrs. Mackenzie and Mann are not disposed to complete this road for the benefit of one of their competitors, yet the Nova Scotia government has allowed this charter to be renewed from time to time at the behest of these gentlemen and to the prejudice of the development of valuable coal areas in Nova Scotia. There is another feature in the cost of production of coal in Nova Scotia, and that is the manner in which the coal leases in that province are dealt with. There are no less than 148 coal leases in Nova Scotia held by speculators. We must all admit, and it must be apparent to hon. gentlemen whether acquainted with the coal trade or not, that coal, in order to be cheaply produced, must be taken from somewhere near the surface, that if coal is produced at a great distance from the surface the cost of production is necessarily increased. In the county of Cape Breton, the Dominion Coal Company is the only company in a position to produce coal at a reasonably low cost. The Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company, on the other side of the harbour, is producing coal in a number of instances from a dis-

tance of a mile and a half or a mile and three-quarters from the foot of their shaft. Only last July, in company with the chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Professor Adam Shortt, I had an opportunity to go down the Queen pit.shaft of the Sydney mines, which is on the shore near Cranberry Head, and is sunk to a depth of 800 feet. We travelled 2,460 yards to a tool house or station where the miners' lamps are tested and they get their tools to proceed to their work. This will give some idea of the cost of mining coal to that company. When it is borne in mind that this company were obliged to drive through crushes in order to win the coal at even this great distance, one can form a still further idea of the cost of production. The company cannot develop the areas to the south because they are bounded by the Dominion Coal Company, or to the north because these areas are held by private individuals and concerns that axe not developing.
Let us leave that county for a moment and go up to the county of Pictou. There the two principal producing concerns are the Acadia Coal Mining Company and the Intercolonial Coal Mining Company. Both these companies are circumscribed in their operations and the result is that their slopes have been sunk to a depth now of over 7,000 feet and the great output of coal comes from a distance of over a mile from the surface. When we remember that driving for such a distance the roof and pavement becomes bad and a great amount oi unskilled labour is required to keep up air ways, timber and ventilating, we can form some idea of the cost of producing coal theTe. This condition exists notwithstanding the fact that there are over 140 coal leases in Nova Scotia tied up in the hands of non-producing speculators. We are givn to understand that the coal in that province is vested in the Crown and may be mined on payment of a royalty of so much a ton, but still this large number of leases have found their way into the possession of speculators. The member for Cape Breton North and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie), in his observations before the local legislature in 1901, was very proud ttf point out that in past years the miners of the county of Cape Breton were obliged for four and even five or six months of the year to go without employment, and that their earnings during the months they worked were sometimes eaten up, and they were obliged to go into debt in some instances in the four or six months of loafing. I would point out to him that the conditions of the miners of Cape Breton county and of the province of Nova Scotia were very much better from 1878 to 1896 than they have been from 1896 until the present time. I wish to show that the miners in the province of Nova Scotia are in a more deplorable condition at present than they ever were under he regime of the Liberal-Conservative party. In 1878 when Sir Charles Tupper came to the east to announce the national policy of the Liberal-Conservative party, the coal industry of Nova Scotia was at its very lowest ebb. At that time, standing on the site now occupied by the Dominion Steel Company in the city of Sydney, Sir Charles pointed out that before any great length of time iron and steel works would doubtless grow up under the national policy. He announced that it was the intention of the Conservative party if returned to power to place a duty on coal, and to make the duty so adequate as to develop the mineral resources of the country and to afford adequate protection to its industries; that protection would be given to the iron and steel industries of the country, and he said the time was not fax distant-waving his hand toward the shores of Sydney harbour-when great smoke stacks would rise up from iron and steel and smelting works upon those shores. He spoke as a prophet. In 1878 Sir John Macdonald commencing at the west and Sir Charles Tupper at the east, went through the country and preached the national policy. The people of Nova Scotia and of the Dominion took them at their word, and they were swept into power in 1878. In 1879 they brought down that tariff affording us adequate protection for coal. In 1883 they commenced the bounties on iron and steel. The legislation providing for bounties on iron and steel was introduced by the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster), who was Finance Minister, in 1891, and during those eighteen years the development of the mineral resources of the province of Nova Scotia was an established fact. It only required the continuation of the fostering care of the Liberal-Conservative administration to secure the growth, development and extension of these industries. It is quite true that up to 1896 the output of these mines was not so large as to warrant the shipment of coal in winter. Some of the mines banked .more coal and some less; some none at all, and so at some of the collieries of Nova Scotia work during the winter fell off considerably, with the result, as the hon. member for Victoria quite rightly said, the miners for four and sometimes six months in the year were unable to find employment about the colieries. But they were enabled to make their daily bread the year around ; they brought up and reared about them large families and enjoyed as good a measure of prosperity as they do to-day. What is their position to-day? It is practically true that for eight or nine or ten years the miners of Nova Scotia have been afforded 1 employment for twelve months ot the year.

and if these twelve months were to be proportionately as remunerative as their employment during the months they were at work prior to 1896, you would expect that, having their employment practically doubled, they would be twice as well off. That, however, is not the case. In the county of Cape Breton the miners do not own their own homes; they live in company's houses; they trade in company's stores, and it is safe to say that at least 30 per cent of them have never known for the last seven years what it is to be out of debt in the company's books. Striking instances have been brought to my attention time and time again. There are at least hundreds of instances where the indebtedness of a family in the books of a coal company in Cape Breton aggregate from $600 to $1,000. If the condition of the miners in Nova Scotia was deplorable before 1896 because they were able to work only six, seven or eight months in the year, but were still able to make a livelihood, I submit that they were very much better off, having the additional four or five months off to improve their minds, than they are to-day when they are able to work for twelve months but are still in the unfortunate position I have described. I am not viewing their position from any pessi mistic point of view. I would be very sorry indeed, coming from amongst them as I do, to make their case out as worse than it is, but I have been brought in personal contact with so many instances such as I have described that I cannot allow the opportunity to go by without pointing out that the condition of the miner of Nova Scotia is to-day not as good as it was pervious to 1896, notwithstanding that the men are now able to work for twelve months in the year. I have brought these matters to the attention of the government. The Minister of Finance in a by-election in the county of Cape Breton in 1896, he being then premier of Nova Scotia, seemed to have very little sympathy with the coal duties as enjoyed by the operators of Nova Scotia. I do not wish to be understood as a suppliant on behalf of the mine operators in Nova Scotia, because as a class I do not think Boswell ever slobbered over Johnston as abjectly as the mine operators of Nova Scotia as a class fawned over the government in power, whether it be Liberal or Conservative. This was true of them previous to 1896, and it is true now. Thus it is not out of any feeling I have for the coal operators of Nova Scotia, but rather out of feeling for those who are employed that I speak. Their interests are so interwoven and so closely associated with those of the coal operators that it seems to me the government should introduce some remedy to relieve the situation in connection with coal in the province of Nova Scotia. i

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