Mr. J. J. KINLEY (Queens-Lunenburg):
I want to express first a word of commendation to the minister for bringing forward this bill. I should also like to congratulate him on the concise and brief way in which he explained it to the house. It was very clear, and I believe we all agree that it is a step forward for the security of the fishing industry. The hon. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Neill), in his inimitable way, and rather facetiously, criticized the bill. Perhaps some of his criticisms will have a salutary effect, but I have come to the conclusion from the numerous criticisms he has made that he is " seeing ghosts." However, it is a matter of providing for the future, and there is always some uncertainty about that.
This bill is similar to the farmers' bill which was put through this house a few days ago. That measure was not intended to interfere with free enterprise. One hon. member, I believe, referred to it as the "if, as and when" bill. I believe that that is a good description of both measures. It means that if the occasion arises we shall have legislation which we can invoke for the purpose of keeping up the standard of living of the fishermen, so that
they will not suffer as they did in the past, owing to depressions and absence of markets. It will put the resources of the nation behind the fishing industry in times of peril.
The fishermen are doing very well now. I do not think there was ever a time when our fishermen received better returns than they do at present. I might add that in so far as the run of fish is concerned, of which mention was made by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni, fish are extraordinarily plentiful on the Atlantic coast, and this, added to the price, means that fishing is now in a really buoyant state.
I do not think we should interfere with the fisheries so long as the prices are fair. We must realize that fish is a very perishable product; it must be handled quickly, and marketing organizations, transportation and equipment are essential in this industry. The firms who are handling the business on the Atlantic coast, at least in some of the centres, are well equipped for these purposes. I must say, however, that there are parts of Nova Scotia where equipment is not so good and transportation is slow, where entrance to the markets is such that there is danger of deterioration in the quality of the fish before they can be put into the proper storage. This organization is wanting in many parts of the coast. In my county it is well developed, especially in the 'towns of Lunenburg, Liverpool, also in Halifax and some parts of Cape Breton. I know it will be difficult to put a floor price under fish. Seventy per cent of the fish is exported to foreign countries, and anyone who is acquainted with foreign trade knows that the price in the foreign market will largely determine the price of fish, so that a floor price is something that might not work to the advantage of the fishermen. But this bill does not fix a floor price. In effect the government says, "We stand by, and if the price received is not sufficient to give the fishermen a decent living we will supplement that price. Furthermore, if there is not a sufficient market we will buy the fish ourselves and use the resources of the country in order to stabilize the situation and sell the fish to the best advantage of the industry."
It will be recalled that some years ago we had a price spreads committee, which developed afterwards into a royal commission, and that commission investigated price spreads in Canada. Fish was in the forefront, from the point of view of the price paid by the consumer and the price paid to the primary producer. There was a wide spread, and people expressed concern in many places over the difference between what they paid for the fish that appeared on their tables and
what the fishermen received on the coasts of Canada, That is something that is not well understood by the uninformed. The price paid the primary producers is paid for an article that is different from that for which the price is paid by the person using the fish. For instance, fish must be processed, and in the processing a great dteal of it becomes offal; also, in the drying of fish a great deal of the weight is lost by the elimination of water. To the uninformed a picture is presented which is not quite intelligible, so that a wrong impression may be created.
However, one thing that this board might do, and in my opinion can do, is to see to it that this vexed question of price as between producer and consumer shall receive its attention, and the board can deal with it in a definite way and for a specific situation. This feature will always be a factor and, in my opinion, one of the factors that will operate not only for the benefit of the fishermen, and the industry generally, but also in the interests of the country. It will create an intelligent idea of what price spreads mean in connection with fishery- products. When you set a floor price the dealer might go to the fisherman and say, "I will give you so much for your fish." The fisherman says that the fish is worth more than he is offered, and the other replies, "That is the government price and I am giving you the government price." A floor price is, therefore, apt to be regarded as the price that should be paid. That, I think, is something that is carefully guarded against in this bill because it is not intended to set a floor price. What is said to the fisherman is this: "If
you do not get enough we will buy the product or make up the loss to you, and in that way we will see that your price is brought up to the level at which it should be in a fair economy." That shows a scientific approach to the question and in my opinion it is an admirable feature of the bill. For that reason I think it should receive the enthusiastic support of all elements in the industry and of people generally.
There will be difficulties of course. I suggested to the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) the other day that he might anticipate embarrassment from other countries dumping products into Canada if we had this sustained price. There has been considerable criticism in Nova Scotia about the dumping of fish from Newfoundland. Fish comes from Newfoundland into Nova Scotia, and they have a lower standard of living there in Newfoundland than we have. One of the difficulties of the fishing industry in our province is that we are in competition with countries where there
are lower economic standards-such countries as Iceland, Norway and Newfoundland. All these countries, the European countries especially, are economical in their living and in their work, and they seem to be able to enter these foreign markets and in the past have done so perhaps more advantageously than Canada was able to do.
There is another thing to be considered. In our reciprocity agreements there is a paragraph that provides that if you stimulate industries in certain ways so as to disarrange the exchange, or if you try to stimulate your business in an artificial way, the result may be a cancellation of the agreement. But there is also a clause that provides that anything that is done for the social or physical welfare of the people in the way of social security or health shall not be regarded as a subsidy. For this reason I was enthusiastic about family allov'ances, because I can see among the fishermen along the coast of Nova Scotia that the man with a large family who has been unsuccessful in his industry will have something coming from his country to sustain his family. It will not become a part of any countervailing trouble with another country so far as trade arrangements are concerned. Family allowances will be especially good for the fisherman because they will make him more secure and place him in a better position with regard to export trade. Suppose some year world prices fall very low-and we must remember that we market our fish in the world market. The fisherman has his backlog of family allowances, and he will be in a much better position to stand the strain of some of those prices than he otherwise would be. And so, above everything I can see, there is nothing to compare with family allowances, so far as the fishermen along the coast of Nova Scotia are concerned. It is a floor under the family.
There is another feature of the bill which I think is important. It does not fix things in a static way. It is flexible, so that it can be used if, as and when it is needed, in order to stimulate the trade in the country. In my view this is a step forward.
The fishing industry in my county has been cooperative for many years. I believe the success of the fishing industry in the county of Lunenburg, which I have the honour to represent, has been for years a romance in industry. I say that because it has beeh outstanding in its success, it has been outstanding in the community it has built up, and it has been outstanding in that it has survived the depression of other years. To-day it is growing in a way which bids well for the future.
I do not quite agree with the minister in his statement of the production theory. There was a time when it was hard to find a market for fish, and I think that day will come again.
I do not believe in immense production, just for production's sake. Industry is for a purpose, that purpose being to sustain the people of one's country. In so far as it sustains the people of the country it should be promoted. And, so far as I can, I wish to keep it that way.
Many Lunenburg fishermen, operating in h :ooperative industry, own shares in vessels. That was done in this way: The vessel is divided into sixty-four shares. A young man might want to have a vessel. He might consider himself equipped to be a skipper of a schooner, and if he felt that way he would go around to get people to take shares with him. If they had confidence they would take shares; he would then go to his crew, and his crew would take shares. And if one man did not have the money he would say to another man, "Let us join .notes in the bank; you take part and I will take part and we will put it into the vessel."
I attribute the success of the Lunenburg fisheries to that cooperative effort. .That was cooperation between capital and labour; it was not a class movement. It was a movement where each shared in the' industry, where each had an incentive to work, and where each and everyone had a stake in the success of what was going on.
This went on until the depression. Then, when the depression came along, the fisherman who did not have very big resources, did not as a rule retain his share in the vessel. He took an opportunity to sell. When the vessel lost money he was even more anxious to sell, because he could not afford to bear the loss. As a result, the merchants got control of most of the vessels. I think that was to the detriment of the fishing industry, and I hope that the industry will be developed in the future so that, so far as possible, the men will have a stake not only in the production, but in the venture as well. In that way we would have the cooperation in a healthy form, and one which gives the best results.
In connection with the production of fish let me remind the house that in the last three years we have tried to build fishing vessels. However, the navy, the air force or the army have come along and said, "We would like to have this vessel"-and they, would simply say, "We will simply change her over, to suit our requirements." For that reason there has been no opportunity to build vessels for fishing purposes along the coast of Nova Scotia,
because to a great extent the shipyards were engaged in the war effort. That, of course, is the way it should be. Furthermore, if one looks up the records he will find that men along our coast are either in the army, the navy, the air force or the merchant marine. There are very few men left-certainly there are no young men. It is nothing short of phenomenal that we have kept up our production, in view of the conditions we have had to face.
Topic: PRICES1 OF FISH AS LANDED EAST COAST