Mr. T. S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):
Mr. Speaker, as the third member to take his seat in this house representing the people of Comox-Alberni within the memory of any of the members of the house, with the exception I believe of the hon. member fox Quebec
South (Mr. Power), I feel it would not be amiss if I were to make at the outset one or two brief references to my predecessors from Comox-Alberni.
Since coming to Ottawa I have discovered that the high personal regard and friendly relationship that I enjoyed with Mr. Jack Gibson, who I knew principally of course as a political opponent, is very widely shared by the members of this house. I am sure that all hon. members would join with me in wishing Mr. Gibson well in the future. I shall have no objections, Mr. Speaker, to maintaining, in some respects at least, the independent tradition which has long characterized the Comox-Alberni riding. In fact, I should not be at all surprised if there are occasions when some of the members on the opposite side of the house feel that I am perhaps a little more of an independent, as far as they are concerned, than was my predecessor.
I would like to refer to Mr. Neill, who sat in this house as the member for Comox-Alberni from 1921 to 1945. I am sure he is well remembered by all the older members in the house and I am sure they will be interested to know that he recently celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday, in reasonably good health for a man of his years, amid the congratulations of his fellow citizens and all the city councils in the area in which he lives. He still takes a very keen and active interest in the debates in this house and in the public affairs of the country generally.
There are several matters, Mr. Speaker, which I would like to bring to the attention of the house and which are of particular interest and concern to that part of Canada from which I come. But before I do so I would like to refer to something which in my opinion has a significance in the province of British Columbia at the present time, that extends beyond the boundaries of my constituency. It is a situation that vitally affects the whole interior of the province of British Columbia.
The other day a question was asked in the house regarding the present tie-up of the mining industry in Ontario and Quebec and at that time the minister concerned replied that he was not doing anything about that situation. I presume that if the question to which I am now about to refer was raised in the same way his reply would be similar. Nevertheless, I feel that the members of the house should be made aware of a situation which affects the whole of the interior of British Columbia and which affects the production of approximately one-third of the lumber produced in the province.
The whole of the lumber industry in the interior of British Columbia is virtually at a standstill because of a strike which is now 83276-30
The Address-Mr. Barnett in progress in that area, and I feel that hon. members should have some idea of the background to that situation. I think they should realize that it is not something which has come into being overnight, but a situation which has been built up over the period of the last two or three years. It has reached the point where the workers in that industry came to the conclusion that they have no recourse but to take the action they have taken.
I would like hon. members to recognize that the predominant element among the employers in the lumber industry in the interior of British Columbia appear, in my opinion, to be still living in the nineteenth century as far as their attitude to labour management relations is concerned. I could quote, if I wished to take the time, some rather pointed examples of that. But for the moment I would like to draw briefly to the attention of the house one or two excerpts from a statement which came into the hands of the I.W.A. Perhaps I should explain for the benefit of some members of the house, possibly some of them sitting fairly close to me, that in British Columbia I.W.A. stands for International Woodworkers of America and not international wheat agreement.
This document that I have before me is a photostatic copy of a communication which accidentally came into the hands of the union. At the top it is marked "Highly confidential. Important. Please read carefully." At the bottom above the signature it is marked "Keep this bulletin confidential. We must not allow the union to become informed of our strategy."
The document in fact gives instruction to the employers concerned as to how they might go about dealing with their recalcitrant employees, and it states:
Most, if not all, action will probably involve picketing. Under the law persons may locate themselves anywhere outside a private property to "impart information" to anyone, but the actions of such person or persons determine the extent to which such person or persons are obeying or breaking the law.
Then a little later on-I will not read this whole document, but this to me is rather significant-it says:
In the case of pickets appearing before an operation that voted against strike, in addition to all the above, try to have pickets admit that they are picketing, or that it is a picket line-name person or persons who made the statement (It is important to get the admittance that it is a picket line-if necessary get into an argument to get the admittance).
Mr. Speaker, I have quoted from that document in order to illustrate the attitude that has been over a period of years and is now being taken by the employing interests in
The Address-Mr. Barnett the interior of British Columbia. I should like to suggest that the situation is thrown in marked contrast by the fact that right in the centre of the strike area there is today operating at full capacity and peacefully a plywood plant where the employers took the position that they wanted to sit down and to reach an agreement in a reasonable fashion with their employees, and where the union which has the rest of the interior struck at the present time sat down and wrote a long-term agreement with that particular firm. That concern is operating and it will continue to operate. The only interest the employees of that plant have in the strike is the fact that each man in that plant is making every month a substantial contribution to the support of his fellow employees in less fortunate situations.
From time to time I have heard made statements that the union to which I happen to belong and also other unions take a most unreasonable and unrealistic position. I would not argue that that has necessarily never been the case. After all, unions are made up of human beings and sometimes human beings can be unreasonable in any walk of life. Nevertheless I think this situation of unreasonableness is brought out, in a way which makes it clear that it is not always on one side, by this statement which appears here. One of the things that unions have sometimes suggested is that if unions have more factual information on which to reach their conclusions as to what would be a reasonable basis for settlement of disputes, possibly some of the industrial strikes which we experience from time to time could be avoided. This to me at least points up that very fact. It says:
Clumsy efforts of Northern Interior Lumbermen's Association-
This, I should explain, is a publication put out by the union, in case you might think it is something from the operators that I have gotten hold of. The quotation continues:
-to fool the public regarding alleged production losses were neatly exposed last week by the IWA, leaving the operators with scarlet faces.
A full page advertisement in the Prince George Citizen, October 19. over the signature of the association, headed "Where are our Profits?", professed to be an analysis of production and marketing costs based on the average 1,000 board foot unit.
The calculation made placed the net loss to the mill on each 1,000 board foot unit as $10.83.
This announcement was found surnrising to all those with knowledge of the marked increase in production and shipments which has occurred during the past two years. It seemed incredible that production and shipments should have been stepped up. if the looses claimed had been actual.
The advertisement closed with the following statement:
"These figures can be substantiated by examination of actual records and documents, and any person or group desirous of so doing is invited to visit our office".
As the most interested group, the IWA district policy committee immediately took advantage of the offer, for the committee was prepared to consider the true facts as a guide to future action.
Accordingly, the firm of Griffiths & Griffiths, chartered accountants, was retained and representatives of that firm journeyed to Prince George, with instructions to get the facts, as promised by the association.
The full text of the report of Griffiths & Griffiths is reprinted below:
GRIFFITHS & GRIFFITHS Chartered Accountants
W. Griffiths F. A. Griffiths R. F. Gardiner F. T. G. Chester T. W. Donovan
1292 West Georgia St.,
Vancouver 5, B.C.
29 October, 1953.
International Woodworkers of America,
Pursuant to the instructions received . . . we have made a trip to Prince George, B.C. with a view to examining the actual records and documents supporting the full page advertisement entitled "Where Are Our Profits" published by the Northern Interior Lumbermen's Association in the 19 October, 1953 edition of the Prince George Citizen. The following is our report thereon. Availability of Records and Documents.
We were informed in the association's office, on 27 October by Mr. R. J. Gallagher, secretary-manager, and on 28 October by Mr. T. Schmidt, president, that no records or documents were available for inspection by any person or group. The statement was made that a meeting of the association's membership had been held on 24 October at which time the decision had been reached to withhold all information related to verification of the statistics shown in the advertisement.
Under the above circumstances, we have nothing to report as to substantiation of the figures appearing in the advertisement, the copy of which is returned herewith.
Yours very truly,
GRIFFITHS & GRIFFITHS
Mr. Speaker, I will not dwell on that matter any further at this time; but when there exists a situation which affects as seriously as that situation does such a wide section of the province, I do feel that this house should be aware of some of the facts pertaining to it.
To come a little closer to home, Mr. Speaker, I should like to quote frpm an editorial which appeared in the West Coast Advocate published in Port Alberni on November 19 last. It says:
It is gratifying at this time to learn that the federal government has advanced its program to construct an addition to its local assembly wharf . . .
At the present time also the federal government is calling for tenders for improvements to the boat basin at French creek...
From these two projects alone it can be seen that Ottawa is not forgetting the west coast even though it did not return one of their party members.
Mr. Speaker, I would not presume to occupy the attention of the house with that reference were it not for the concluding sentence. As far as I am concerned, the particular projects mentioned are normal expansion of government services. It appears to me that the inference therefrom is that it is clearly a matter of surprise on the part of the publisher of that paper that these services continue even though a member of the government party was not returned. It is almost as if the publisher of this paper-who incidentally was the Liberal candidate in the last election-half expected the members of the government to act as arbitrary, autocratic and narrowly partisan individuals prepared to wreak their vengeance on the hapless constituents of any riding that presumed not to return one of their members to parliament. As far as I am concerned I should like to make it clear that I have some confidence that events will prove the publisher of this paper to be wrong in that assumption. As the member for Comox-Alberni, I shall proceed on the assumption that ministers of the crown are interested in extending the benefits of normal government services equally to all Canadians.
I do not intend to dwell at any length upon the glories of the Comox-Alberni constituency. The only remark I would make in that connection is that I believe we have a considerably greater mileage of seashore than, I would say, all the constituencies of Alberta and Saskatchewan put together. Nevertheless, the miles of rugged seacoast, the long inlets, the mountain ranges and the numerous islands do create some problems which may or may not exist in other parts of Canada. One of these, Mr. Speaker, is in the matter of elections.
I recall that in one of the earlier sittings in this session the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), in reply to a question, said that he was aware of no widespread disfranchisement. Perhaps in a narrow, legal sense the Prime Minister is correct in that most of the people in Canada who were eligible to vote had an opportunity of getting their names on the voters' list. But what, in actual fact, did happen on August 10? I should like to give one illustration. In the city of Port Alberni there are three industrial plants of roughly equal size employing between 500 and 800 men. Normally these plants close for the summer vacation period on a staggered 8327G-30J
Mr. Barnett basis each year. It happened that one of these plants had its annual two-week shutdown period at the time the federal election took place. While most of these people were on the voters' list, I submit that they had a choice of either forfeiting their right to the ballot or forfeiting their right to their annual holidays.
I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that that is not a fair choice or a democratic choice to place before the citizens of this country. As I understand it, that situation existed in a great many parts of Canada. If it were a purely passing situation, due entirely to the timing of last summer's election, I might not be disposed to raise the matter now. So far as Comox-Alberni is concerned, however, that situation occurs every time there is a federal election because of the way in which the election act is drawn. Hundreds of the voters in that area have a choice between bread and the ballot, because of the nature of the constituency and the nature of the work which the people in that area do.
I am prepared to agree that the technical changes in the election act are properly matters for the chief electoral officer. I could not agree, nor do I think many members of this house would agree, that the principles behind our federal election act are not properly the concern of this parliament. Great expense is undertaken in some instances in order to give people the right to vote under the present act. I have been told that during the election last summer four-engine airplanes were employed to take the ballot boxes thousands of miles so that a few people could vote. I have no quarrel with that. I submit, Mr. Speaker, however, that it should not be beyond the power of reasonable men to draw that act in such a way that loggers and fishermen may have the opportunity of voting at every election.
It seems to me that what creates this dilemma for people in such occupations is that the act, as it is now drawn, gives priority to the matter of residence rather than to the matter of citizenship. Today we live in an age of movement, and the residence we occupy from time to time may be purely incidental to the occupation we are following. I have some ideas as to how that act might be amended in order to cope with the needs of fishermen and loggers. From what I have been told by some of these people I would say they have ideas, too. Some of the loggers I know resort to the old principle of hedging.
I was discussing with some of them the problem they would face if the particular logging camp in which they were working happened to close down for the fire season a
The Address-Mr. Barnett week before the election. This is a common occurrence in every federal election. When the camp closes the loggers have to go to Vancouver, and their board and lodging ceases when the work ceases. Many of them said to me, "Oh, we fixed that. We had the old lady put our name on the voters' list at home, and we did the same thing up here. We are protected whichever way the thing goes." I did not take the time to explain that such procedure might involve them in some conflict with some sections of the act. Nevertheless I think it does indicate that these people were genuinely interested in having the opportunity to vote. Certainly they had no intention of abusing the privilege.
I shall have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I made one pledge, and only one pledge, to the people of Comox-Alberni. I said that if I had to make a nuisance of myself in Ottawa for the entire period of this parliament, I would certainly continue to press for some suitable revision of the election act.
Another matter which I should like to draw to the attention of the house and the government is the situation which exists with respect to communications in that area, particularly as it applies to the government telegraph and telephone service. From my travels I have gradually come to the conclusion that for some reason or other the government telephone and telegraph services must be the Cinderella of government departments. The whole pattern of equipment, and the whole set-up, seems to be a carryover from the days of the trail of '98, when if I recall correctly they built a land line to the Yukon.
This matter was drawn rather forcefully to my attention, and I believe also to the attention of the minister in charge last summer, by a situation that developed on one of the islands in the strait of Georgia. I shall quote briefly from one of the communications I have had in this connection. As it happened this island was connected by marine cable, and something happened to this cable with the result that these people were left without telephone service for more than a month before the cable could be repaired. I am not being particularly critical of that situation, because it may have developed accidentally. The communication says:
Our problem does not start nor end with repairs to the marine cable. Practically no useful maintenance work has been done on the land line for the past five years. This land line consists of 12 miles of rusted wire supported by rotting poles which have been in for 25 years, none of them now fit to climb, and many of them with insulators gone, and the line either lying in the ditch or shorted on limbs of trees. We maintain that if
this line was an essential service 25 years ago it is much more essential today as we have had exactly the same mail service for the past 30 years and no improvement in it at any time since.
That, to me, does illustrate a situation which, as I know from my observation, is not confined to that immediate vicinity. That is something which I feel should not continue to exist in an area which is not in the midst of a dying economy. If the people were moving out of the northern end of Vancouver island and the adjacent islands there might be some excuse for letting a service of that kind die away. But I should like to point out that virtually an industrial revolution has taken place in that area in the last ten years, and that in the course of that time there have been three or four huge feudal empires of modern industrialism set up there, so that virtually the whole northern end of the island is now divided up between them.
I realize that this is partly because of forestry policies followed by the present and previous governments in British Columbia. Nevertheless, there it is; new communities are going in, and the people who are producing in those industries are living in the communities.
I am not now suggesting that the government of Canada should attempt to do anything about that situation. I think it is going to take something more than silk-hat socialists to do very much about it. But the thing I do want to point out is that while this communications system is being let fall into a state of decay, these new communities are being left without the facilities afforded by proper, public communications channels, and that comes very close to the question of the rights of free speech and free communication.
I could tell the house of instances where prearranged code words have had to be brought into existence between parties so they could enjoy free communication, because such facilities as there are have been the private concern of the industrialists. I would submit that while this government may not be prepared to do anything about the economic situation, or to do anything about creating a state of industrial democracy, at least it is in accordance with the best traditions of the Liberal party, as I understand them, that the rights of free speech and free communication should be protected and developed.
I think my suggestion is somewhat in line with one made the other day by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Applewhaite) in relation to post office facilities. I should like to draw to the attention of the government
the importance of giving some proper consideration to the development and improvement of this government telephone and telegraph service.
There is one other matter I should like to mention briefly, and that has to do with transportation in the coastal areas of British Columbia. We have a situation now where, almost without notice, steamer services are being withdrawn or reduced. People are worrying. Those who have been on the islands for the last thirty years or more are suddenly left without the means of getting in their supplies. We have up the west coast of Vancouver island, and to all those isolated communities, what amounts to a most unsatisfactory steamer service.
Of course we cannot overlook the impact of air travel upon the facilities that can be provided by a coastal steamship service. Certainly no one would suggest that the advantages of air travel should be removed from those people. It seems to me a revolution is taking place in the whole transportation set-up in that coastal area. I draw this to the attention of the house because I believe it is a matter to which the government should be giving very careful study and attention at this time.
There is a need for the development of an over-all and co-ordinated policy in respect of the type of services that can be supplied to and maintained for the people on the coast. I think some study must be made as to how those services can be co-ordinated, keeping in mind possible highway developments which, of course, would involve some form of study in respect of the authority of the provincial government.
This is a most important matter for those people who live in communities separated from each other by arms of the sea or by mountain ranges, and who should have regular communications with the outside world. So I am asking that this matter receive more consideration and study by the appropriate government departments, so people will have some confidence that they are not going to be suddenly left without adequate transportation facilities.
And while we are on the subject of transportation I should like to suggest that this matter of a coastguard service on the west coast of Vancouver island, and along the west coast generally, is not something which should be brushed aside lightly, as the minister appeared to do the other day when the matter was raised. The two lifeboat stations to which he referred are located a relatively few miles apart on one section of that coast, and certainly are not to be considered as being in the class of a proper coastguard
The Address-Mr. Studer service. I would not suggest that they de not perform or have not performed at times a necessary and useful function, but certainly they are not performing the function of a coastguard service as we understand it.
In closing I should like to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, and to the attention of the house, the fact that even in the prosperous coast lumber industry at the present time there is a situation developing which has a ring rather similar to that raised with respect to other industries such as coal mining and textiles, and with regard to the surpluses of wheat. Just recently some 700 of the plywood workers of the British Columbia coast were laid off. When they will go back to work I do not know. I thought it would be of some interest to the house to know the reason which has been given for that lay-off, in a release by the company concerned. The release is from MacMillan and Bloedel Limited. It says:
Due to expanding Canadian economy, the company in 1951 laid plans for increased producing capacity which might come into effect in 1953. But completion of these facilities, and the engagement of larger crews to increase production, coincided with a wheat policy in Canada, whereby delay has occurred in selling a big part of the 1953 crop to Britain.
Whereas for many years past, fall and winter purchasing power for plywood and other products has been supported by a wide distribution of cash for grain, this year the prairie farmer's available funds from the current crop are much reduced. Plywood buying is being delayed there and elsewhere in Canada to such an extent that the expected increased demand in the fall season has not occurred this year.
I should like to draw this to the attention of the house as some indication of how closely the welfare of the people in one part of Canada is tied to that of the others. I for one, as a member from the coastal area of British Columbia, am quite prepared to take an interest in what some of my colleagues from the central part of this country say to us about wheat.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY