Robert Emmett FINN

FINN, Robert Emmett, K.C., LL.B.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Halifax (Nova Scotia)
Birth Date
June 10, 1877
Deceased Date
February 23, 1951
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Emmett_Finn
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=895c4cad-3c13-40aa-a4f8-6c40237c8f59&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
barrister, lawyer

Parliamentary Career

December 4, 1922 - September 5, 1925
LIB
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
LIB
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 155)


May 31, 1939

Mr. FINN:

It was occasioned by one of the worst storms experienced in many years along the western coast of Nova Scotia, coming up from the south probably as the result of a hurricane in the West Indies, striking in off Hatteras to the bay of Fundy and then moving eastward along the coast of Nova Scotia to a point east of Halifax harbour. It was a major disaster, an act of God, that left the lobster fishermen wondering whether or not the future held anything for them. While this question was in the minds and hearts of all our people, irrespective of their occupation or politics, the Minister of Fisheries and his department were bending their best efforts to meet this serious situation and give material aid. The essence of that aid was the rapidity with which it could be given; but it was not forthcoming very quickly; a

Supply-Fisheries-Assistance

great deal of time was lost, so that I have no doubt the fishermen were not enabled to get their traps ready as soon as they would have been if that assistance had been immediate, as it should have been.

It distresses me to be obliged to criticize the Liberal government of Nova Scotia, believing as I do in Liberal principles; but the members of the Nova Scotia government had no first-hand knowledge of the situation. In the nature of things they could not have, because fishing was not their profession; they were not experts at it and had to depend upon what they were told. I am sorry to say that some of these gentlemen lacked what I might call the human element, and the moment administration is placed in the hands of gentlemen of that type you have indifference; with indifference you have want; with want you have privation, and with privation you have suffering and discouragement. All these were concomitants of the situation arising from that terrible storm. The minister-and to his credit be it said-refused to permit any of the money from the federal treasury to be spent on the highways and byways of Nova Scotia, in shoveling snow and digging ditches in weather five or ten degrees below zero. These people were neither road makers nor road builders, / but this fact was disregarded by the provincial government despite the entreaties of the minister that aid should be given immediately.

I do not know how much of that 8140,000 was received by the Nova Scotia government, or how it was spent. I was told that in Prince Edward Island the money was handed out in the way of gifts or in small amounts to buy a barrel of flour or a barrel of pork to tide the fishermen over the hard season. The same thing was done in certain sections of New Brunswick, but it was not done in the little province of Nova Scotia. The department and the government were criticized by the premier of Nova Scotia. The province did not want to have a burden placed upon its shoulders because of gifts to its fishermen, when such gifts carried with them a responsibility on the provincial government to pay a small portion of the amount expended. That argument is untenable.

1 submit that the time has come when the Department of Fisheries should control the spending of every dollar that is voted by this parliament for the assistance of fishermen on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. This should not be left to the Minister of Pensions and National Health because he happens to be in charge of a particular branch, or to the Minister of Labour because expenditures to the extent of $20,000 were made through his department. The Minister of Labour is not in the chamber at the moment, but I do not think {Mr. Finn.]

I am doing him an injustice or saying anything that is beside the mark when I say that if time had not been of the essence the $20,000 which was spent for snow-shoveling and drain-digging on the highways would not have been granted for that purpose. That was the main element that entered into the question and caused the Minister of Labour to agree to the suggestion of the premier of Nova Scotia who came here to obtain that money. This was done without any conferences with those who represented these different constituencies.

The minister was quite candid and aboveboard in the statement he made a little while ago. Two-thirds of this money is donated by the federal treasury provided one-third is put up by the provincial government, but the minister practically admitted that they kiss the money good-bye. The local government may take a note, but if they get anything back from the fishermen there is no return to the dominion government. Many of these fishermen have a hard struggle to make a living, and they worry when they know they have notes outstanding with the government. At times their worry must be sufficient to make them feel it is almost useless to continue in their occupation and to-day the world is not offering many new occupations. I cannot for the life of me see why we should pay over the public moneys of Canada to the provinces and permit those moneys to be used for purposes other than direct relief. This money should not be used for other purposes which do not inure to the benefit of the classes of people intended to be helped. The dominion government puts up two-thirds and the provincial government one-third, and when the provincial government keeps any money that is returned, it has no more right to it than I have. That money belongs to the federal treasury and it should be returned to it. Otherwise, the money paid out should be a gift to the fishermen and they should be relieved from the worry of how they are going to pay it back.

This is only by way of a suggestion to the minister and his technical officers. A deputy minister is to be appointed, and when there is a proper set-up in the department a policy should be embarked upon which will carry out the suggestions I have made to-day. The Department of Fisheries should control every dollar that is paid out in any province of Canada to aid fishermen or any other class. About a year ago I asked the premier of Nova Scotia how much of the $150,000 which was available to fishermen along the shores of Nova Scotia had been spent, and he told me it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $42,000. When I asked how that money had

Supply-Fisheries-M arke ts

been expended he told me that some mitts, jumpers and rubber boots had been bought. That was the total amount spent. If the provincial government, whether it be Liberal or Conservative, feels that it is going to have a deficit or if it wants to show a substantial surplus-

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
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May 31, 1939

Mr. FINN:

I see, forty minutes is the limit, I thought it was forty-five. There is no ten per cent leeway one way or the other in this particular instance. I should like to say in conclusion-

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May 31, 1939

Mr. FINN:

With the consent of the committee, I should like to conclude. Such consent has been given quite often, but at times I think I am becoming a bit of a political martyr. I am nailed to the cross as soon as my time is up. Well, the gibbet still has no one hanging upon it; it is there for some other hon. gentleman. It will take me only three or four minutes to say what I have to say in conclusion, if I have the permission of the committee to continue.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
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May 31, 1939

Mr. FINN:

I do not rise for the purpose of being critical, and I do not rise at this late date for the purpose of lessening the expedition of the passing of these estimates. But I think this is an opportune time to ask for a word of explanation and also to make a suggestion to the Minister of Fisheries as to the policy under which these moneys are expended. Since these various amounts have been voted and spent I have taken the position in this house that the system is absolutely all wrong. I do not mean as to the manner of distribution or the manner of the exercise of authority over the expenditures. The Minister of Fisheries a few minutes ago stated that amounts were given to the various provinces- I am speaking now of the Atlantic coast- in the way of either loan or, in some instances, gift in order to help the poor fishermen to get lines and hooks so that they may be able to get at least the wherewithal to live from day to day.

In this dominion there are two separate branches of departmental government that deal with the question of the expenditure and the handing out of public moneys to the fishermen. One comes under the Minister of Labour and the other under the Minister of Fisheries. I well remember this last winter, through an act of God a situation arose not only in Nova Scotia but in the other mari-

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time provinces, resulting in conditions that were worse than hardship, and most discouraging to the fishermen of the three maritime provinces and also, I believe, those in the lower stretches of the province of Quebec. The Minister of Labour handed out-and I do not mean that in any irregular sense- under the provisions of the act, as a gift in aid to Nova Scotia at the solicitation of the premier of that province, the Hon. A. L. Macdonald, some $20,000. It was on the basis, I believe, of fifty-fifty or else two-thirds and one-third. But that money, when handed out, was used by the government of Nova Scotia for the purpose of putting the fishermen, who desired the money in order to get the trappings and other equipment necessary to earn a living, on the public highways in midwinter to shovel snow and dig drains as preparatory work so that in the spring the highways department under the Hon. Mr. MacMillan might go ahead on these secondary roads, and in some instances first-class roads, in the way of permanently rebuilding them, this work being the foundation work. I took the view at that time-and I have had no reason to change my mind-that this was an absolutely wrong procedure.

My judgment leads me to the conclusion that with regard to the expenditure of federal money in connection with the fisheries of Canada, whether on the Atlantic or on the Pacific coast or on the St. Lawrence, every dollar that is voted by this parliament through either the Department of Labour or the Department of Fisheries should be expended under the supervision, scrutiny and direction of the officials of the fisheries department. I do not think any person who knows the facts will dispute the statement that we have an excellent gentleman in the person of Mr. Sutherland as inspector of fisheries for the maritime provinces. He has had long experience in connection with the Department of Fisheries, and his suggestions and ideas so far as they might have been expressed were not expressible because of the fact that these moneys were handed over to the provincial authorities to be expended by them as they saw fit.

I have said to the Minister of Fisheries personally and have said in this house that the fishermen to-day are more in need of financial assistance, with the proper safeguards, the proper instructions hnd advice, than ever before. I make this broad statement, that there is not in Nova Scotia-I speak of my own province more particularly-a combination of men or technical advisers connected with the government of Nova Scotia who

know anything comparable with the knowledge of the officers of the department over which my hon. friend the Minister of Fisheries presides. That being so I ask why we should continue to follow a policy which leads up a blind street and under which hon. members are not in a position to know how much has been spent, who has received it and how much has been put up by the various provinces, in this instance, Nova Scotia.

A certain amount of money was made available last year to aid the lobster fishermen, after a proper survey had been made, under the direction of the minister, by the officials of the federal department and particularly Mr. Sutherland, the inspector for the maritime provinces. That survey was complete and satisfactory. It was conducted in each fishing county of Nova Scotia by Mr. Sutherland's assistants, and the result of that investigation was made known to the officials here at Ottawa and eventually to the minister himself. To-day I am in the position, as I think every hon. member for Nova Scotia who represents a fishing constituency is. that I do not know how much of the $177,000 that was to be made available for the assistance of lobster fishermen-

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
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May 31, 1939

Mr. FINN:

I wish just to congratulate the hon. member for Queens-Lunenburg (Mr. Kinley) on this matter of the salt fish business. He evidently found that the salting was not as good on the other side of the chamber as it is on this side, so he came over to join his colleagues from Nova Scotia. Following that little bit of facetiousness, I say with all goodwill that we hope he will stay here with us.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES
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