William Alfred ROBINSON

ROBINSON, William Alfred, Q.C., B.A.

Personal Data

Simcoe East (Ontario)
Birth Date
July 12, 1905
Deceased Date
November 15, 1957

Parliamentary Career

June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Simcoe East (Ontario)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Simcoe East (Ontario)
  • Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole (May 23, 1952 - May 14, 1953)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Simcoe East (Ontario)
  • Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons (November 12, 1953 - April 12, 1957)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 697 of 700)

April 28, 1949

Mr. W. A. Robinson (Simcoe East) moved

the first reading of Bill No. 238 (from the Senate), to incorporate the Interprovincial Pipe Line Company.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

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March 11, 1949

Mr. Robinson (Simcoe East):

I was paired. Had I voted I would have voted against the amendment.

Topic:   II, 1949
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March 11, 1949

Mr. Robinson (Simcoe East):

I was paired, Mr. Speaker. Had I voted, I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   II, 1949
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February 4, 1949

Mr. W. A. Robinson (Simcoe East):

Mr. Speaker, first I should like to join with hon. members who have spoken already in this debate in extending congratulations to the mover (Mr. Brown) and the seconder (Mr. Demers) of the address. I am sure my colleague from Ontario will forgive me if I make particular mention of the seconder, the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains. We on the back benches to your right, Mr. Speaker, welcome him to our midst and predict for him a long and honourable career in this house.

I should like also to congratulate the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol) on starting his journey the other evening over the great lakes at the port of Midland. He mentioned our wonderful harbour and he said something about our elevators, but he failed to mention our shipyard. I propose to spend some time this evening in a discussion of shipbuilding and of six words contained in the speech from the throne. Those words are, "assistance for the Canadian shipbuilding industry."

Those six words were of considerable interest to the municipalities in Canada in which are situated our seventeen great shipyards, and also to the numerous other municipalities in which our smaller yards are located. Shipbuilding is one of Canada's oldest industries. I understand that the first two ships built in Canada were two small vessels that were launched by Francois Grave in 1606 at Port Royal, now Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia. A seagoing vessel was constructed at Quebec as early as 1663 and others soon followed.

It is reported that in 1715 shipbuilding was a busy industry in Quebec, but it was suffering from a lack of encouragement by the governing authorities in France. This is an instance of the way in which history repeats itself. We find that in recent years the Canadian shipbuilding industry has been complaining about a lack of governmental encouragement. The words in the speech from the throne which I have quoted bring great hope to all those engaged in this important industry.

We had a striking experience last fall in Midland of the way in which history repeats itself. At that time there were launched two hopper barges for the French supply council. On that occasion my thoughts inevitably turned back to the past history of the Georgian bay district. Three hundred years ago this district was as densely populated as it is today, but in that far-off time the population was made up of Huron Indians who were living peaceably in their numerous villages.

Fort Ste. Marie stood as the westernmost outpost of New France and was the sanctuary of a gallant band of Jesuit missionaries who had left the comforts of France for the hazards of life in Canada in order to bring light to the aborigines. Three hundred years ago- this is where history has repeated itself-the natives supplied the visitors from France with Canadian-made transportation in the form of birch-bark canoes. Three hundred years later the natives were again supplying visitors from France with Canadian-made transportation, but this time it was in the form of fine steel ships. I need not remind hon. members of the disasters which overtook the Huron Indians and their Jesuit friends at the hands of the Iroquois. However, I would remind them that the year 1949 marks the tercentenary of the murderous attack on Father Brebeuf and Father Lalemant. This historic occasion will be commemorated next summer by appropriate ceremonies and pageants at the original site near Fort Ste. Marie, close to Midland.

I have mentioned the early days of shipbuilding in Canada, but I do not intend to trace its history down through the years from 1715 to date. But I should like to say a few words about the development of this industry on our upper lakes. The first Canadian shipyard on the upper lakes was established at Collingwood, Ontario, in 1902 for the building of steel steamships to be employed in those waters. I understand that their first important contract was the building of the s.s. Huronic of 3,329 tons and 308 feet in length, built for the Northern Navigation Company.

In 1912 another shipyard followed at Port Arthur, larger in size and designed to take

care of the increasing size of the upper lake freighters. One of this company's first ventures was the building of two steel canal type freighters which were completed in 1912 and 1913. Later in 1913 they built the celebrated passenger steamship Noronic for the Northern Navigation Company.

The yard at Midland was established a little later but it proved itself during the first war and in 1926 had the distinction of launching the great bulk freighter, the s.s. Lemoyne. That ship was 621 feet in length, it had 70 feet of a beam and a gross tonnage of 10,480 tons. This steamer, which I have mentioned before in this house, holds many records for cargo carrying.

Sad to relate, all these yards, which had proved their capacity in war and in peace, fell on evil days. During the fifteen years preceding the last war our Canadian yards constructed about 42 steel ships exceeding 150 feet in length, or an average of less than three such vessels a year. Twenty-three of those were canal size freighters; three were St. Lawrence river passenger steamers; six were upper lake bulk carriers, of which two were the s.s. Lemoyne and the s.s. Stadacona; the remainder were in various other categories. Those vessels were built at Midland, Port Arthur, Collingwood, Montreal, Sorel, Levis and Halifax. Some of those yards built no more than one of the larger vessels during that entire period.

One of the causes of this situation is not hard to find. It has been estimated that in 1931 only about one-third of the Canadian-owned ships of the larger class were Canadian built. Out of approximately 530 vessels exceeding 150 feet in length, 234 were British built, 118 were foreign built, and only 178 Canadian built. During the depression and up until the start of the war in 1939, our shipyards had constructed only about 14 larger vessels. Repairs and minor construction work kept some of the yards in operation at a low level of employment, but some of them were closed entirely.

I think the hon. member for Levis (Mr. Bourget) and other hon. members who represent ridings in which large shipyards are located would be glad to bear testimony with me to the calamity which overwhelms such a community when the big yard begins to lay off its men. How much better it might have been, in view of the approaching war, to have helped those yards to remain in operation rather than to pay out fantastic sums in unemployment relief, to have kept intact the skilled staffs of workers rather than to allow them to scatter? As a result we found ourselves unprepared for the challenge which met us in 1939.

The Address-Mr. W. A. Robinson

Accordingly, the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 found the Canadian shipbuilding industry in rather poor shape. Expensive machinery had been rusting for years in the yards, and the skilled workers, who are so essential to the success of the industry, had scattered far and wide, and had taken other employment. As you will well remember, submarine warfare soon broke out in its full fury, and the cry went out for ships and more ships. I think it is significant that one of the very first references to Canada in Winston Churchill's book, "The Gathering Storm", occurs in his account of his activities shortly after he took over his old post at the Admiralty. I should like to quote from that account:

The usual conflict between long term and short term policy rises to intensity in war. I prescribed that all work likely to compete with essential construction should be stopped on large vessels which could not come into service before the end of 1940, and that multiplication of our anti-submarine fleets must be effected by types capable of being built within twelve months or, if possible, eight.

Mr. Churchill was referring there to the program for corvettes, frigates, trawlers and motor launches, in which we in Canada played so large a part. I go on to quote:

Orders were placed to the limit of our shipbuilding resources, including those of Canada. Even so, we did not achieve all that we hoped, and delays arose which were inevitable under the prevailing conditions and which caused deliveries from the shipyards to fall considerably short of our expectations.

I think these remarks by a world statesman of great experience in these matters should have great force in emphasizing that, if only from the standpoint of national safety, our Canadian shipbuilding industry must not be neglected. We all realize that we are living in troubled times. In fact, the dreadful word "war" was heard in this chamber only a few days ago. There seems little doubt that the signing of the north Atlantic security pact will increase, rather than diminish, our responsibilities.

I listened with great interest this afternoon, as did other hon. members, to the magnificent speech by our new Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson). I am sure that none of us could help feeling that there is a situation of gravity which must be faced. Some of the parties to the proposed north Atlantic security pact lie across the Atlantic. Should hostilities ever commence again- which, of course, I pray will never happen- it is plain to see that the need for shipping will be very great, and that the time will be very short. In other words, in the national interest, it is important that our shipyards be kept in constant operation, and that they be ready to expand their activities at a moment's notice.


The Address-Mr. W. A. Robinson

I now turn to some of the physical aspects of our great lakes fleet. We have in Canada 61 upper-lakes freighters, and 116 canalers, making a total of 177 vessels of an aggregate of approximately 510,000 gross tons. The year before last, I believe, I put on Hansard figures as to the age and comparative obsolescence of some of these vessels. Suffice it to say now that the average age of our upper-lakes fleet is approximately forty-two years, of the canalers twenty-four years, and of the whole fleet thirty years. With the average age of our dry bulk carriers at approximately thirty years, and with only two bulk carriers in process of building at the present time, one at Collingwood and one at Midland, some definite action must be taken at an early date if the great lakes shipping industry is to survive.

I mentioned the bulk carriers at Collingwood and Midland. I should like hon. members to bear with me for a few minutes while I say something about those vessels.

I only have particulars of the vessel under construction at Midland, but I think the one at Collingwood is similar. These vessels will surpass the Lemoyne in length, and I think it is a Canadian achievement in which hon. members might be interested. The bulk freighter now under construction at Midland is scheduled to be launched in June and to be completed in September. Provided there is no delay in the delivery of steel from the mills, it is considered that the program can be accomplished. When completed, the freighter will be one of the two largest vessels in operation on the great lakes. It will have an ore-carrying capacity of 8,000 tons. Other interesting features of the vessel are over-all length of 640 feet, over-all breadth of 67 feet, and depth of 35 feet. The engine is being built by Canadian Vickers of Montreal and will have an indicated horsepower of 3,200.

As I said before, these two vessels when completed will be two of the largest on the great lakes. In many trades our upper-lakes fleet is in direct competition with ships of the United States, and the average age and carrying capacity of their fleet is much better than our own. In the United States upper-lakes fleet there are about 325 vessels of approximately 2,000,000 tons, with an average age per ship of thirty-six years,while Canada's upper-lakes fleet consists of only 61 vessels of approximately 292,000 gross tons, and with an average age of forty-two years. The passenger fleet on the lakes is also far from satisfactory. The only part of the great lakes fleet which has been increased in recent years is the tanker fleet, and there is still a need for an increase in this trade.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that it is imperative that effective steps be taken without delay to replace the ageing Canadian lake fleet. We must keep Canada independent in lake shipping, and in a position to take care of Canada's domestic business, both in peacetime and in times of emergency. I think it was sufficiently demonstrated in the last war that our very life may depend upon our ability to move our commodities; and it is of almost equal importance in times of peace.

This situation is urgent, requiring immediate attention. I have already mentioned how disastrous it is when skilled employees leave the shipyards and are scattered throughout the country, and then we find that an emergency must be met. Already this scattering process is in full swing, as I think I can show from the employment figures. In 1944, at peak employment during the war, the shipbuilding industry in Canada employed approximately 75,000 workers, of whom some 9,000 were in great lakes yards. The average monthly figure for the fourth quarter of 1948 was only 12,449 workers, of whom 2,181 were employed on the great lakes.

Then there is the matter of steel. Information from the office of the steel controller as to monthly shipments of primary steel and steel castings to the shipbuilding industry, in relation to the total Canadian production, is equally revealing as to what is happening to the shipbuilding industry. In March of 1944 that industry received 34,404 tons, which was 15-4 per cent of total Canadian production. In September of 1946 the industry received but 367 tons or -6 per cent of the total. In the first six months of 1948, shipbuilding got 2,990 tons in its worst month and 5,327 tons in its best month, ranging from 1-4 per cent to 2-3 per cent of the total Canadian production. Here again we see evidence of the recession in this important industry. Some of it, of course, is the result of the ending of our huge war program, but some of it is working to the disadvantage and detriment of the industry. I was informed that in Midland our contracts for French hopper barges were held back considerably through lack of steel; and I am also informed that for almost two years a very large Canadian steamship operator has wished to build a large passenger steamer, but that steel has not been made available. Surely the least we can do is see that essential supplies reach this important industry.

United States policy with regard to shipping was clearly defined in the United States merchant marine act of 1936, as follows:

It Is necessary for the national defence and development of its foreign trade and domestic commerce, that the United States shall have a merchant marine sufficient to carry its domestic water-borne

commerce and a substantial portion of the water -Dorne export and Import foreign commerce of the United States.

In implementation of this policy, four government aids are available in the United States. First, there is the construction differential subsidy, which consists of absorption by the government of part of the higher labour and material costs of building in United States yards. Second, is the operating differential subsidy, which is based on five items, the chief of which is labour. Third, is a countervailing subsidy, designed to offset any bounties which may be paid by foreign governments. When last I inquired into that feature I understood it had not been invoked. Fourth, is assistance in the financing of new construction-trade-in allowances on old vessels and a system of tax exemption and tax deferments to channel profits into the acquisition of new tonnage.

What is our Canadian picture? One of the most recent statements of policy I think was contained in the address of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) last year in this house when moving the adoption of a resolution for the establishment of the maritime commission. I should like to summarize some of the points he made in that address.

A merchant navy adequate to our needs should be retained . . .

The merchant navy has to pay its way if it is to survive . . .

It is a definite part of a nation's defensive armoury and a considerable factor in a nation's economic structure . . .

The efficiency of such an important industry is therefore a matter which must be of concern to any government . . .

Inseparably related to the merchant navy is the shipbuilding and repairing industry which must also be taken into full account . . .

The continuation, development, prosperity and welfare of these enterprises is of national importance both economically and strategically . . .

Naturally I stress the reference to the shipbuilding and repairing industry. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I hope the words "assistance for the Canadian shipbuilding industry" in the speech from the throne mean immediate implementation of that part of our policy relating to shipbuilding. I think it is clear that the Canadian shipbuilding industry is confronted with special problems and, at the same time, is of special importance in the economy of the nation. At this time I do not intend to discuss what form the assistance should take, but I do urge that it should be entirely adequate to the needs of the industry and the great national interest to be served. I therefore urge this with all the force at my command, not from the standpoint of national 29087-17|

The Address-Mr. J. M. Macdonnell prestige, but from the standpoint of the national welfare and the national safety.

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March 9, 1948

Mr. ROBINSON (Simcoe East):

To What breaches of the constitution does my hon. friend refer?

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