Vincent-Joseph POTTIER

POTTIER, Vincent-Joseph, Q.C., LL.B.

Personal Data

Shelburne--Yarmouth--Clare (Nova Scotia)
Birth Date
April 11, 1897
Deceased Date
February 4, 1980

Parliamentary Career

October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Shelburne--Yarmouth--Clare (Nova Scotia)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Shelburne--Yarmouth--Clare (Nova Scotia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 66)

August 12, 1944

Mr. V. J. POTTIER (Shelburne-Yarmouth-Clare):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take my stand beside those who favour this legislation. Representing as I do a constituency where a large number of the people depend upon the fishing industry, it gives me great pleasure to support this measure. I support the principle of this bill on its second reading on two grounds. First, I favour the recognition of federal responsibility in the matter of fisheries and, second, I favour this immediate measure for the benefits that the fishermen will derive from the legislation.

I should like to refer briefly to the history of government responsibility from confederation on and indicate the difficulties that have been experienced because of the attitude taken by both federal and provincial governments. These difficulties end to-day in this measure which indicates a breaking of new ground, so to speak, by the federal government. The British North America Act gave jurisdiction over the seacoast and inland fisheries to the federal government. Immediately a bouncing procedure began where this jurisdiction was tossed back and forth between the federal government and the provinces. We find the federal government saying, "True, we have jurisdiction in so far as seacoast and inland fisheries are concerned, but that means only jurisdiction with regard to regulation and control; the responsibility

fMr. Kinley.]

Fisheries Prices

for the individual fisherman, to see whether he is prosperous is not ours; that is for the provinces under property and civil rights and the general responsibility of taking care of the individual."

In the midst of that argument the British Columbia fisheries case was decided by the privy council. Under that case the rights to fish in tidal waters were decided as belonging to the Dominion of Canada, not to the federal or provincial governments. In other words, fisheries in tidal waters were considered to be the right of the people of Canada as a whole, not of the dominion or provincial governments. That simply complicated the matter a little further, and the bouncing procedure between the federal and provincial governments continued until 1935. I do not want to make this a political speech because the matter is more serious than that.

In that year we were in a great depression. From 1930 on, the responsibility had not been recognized by either the provinces or the federal government, and nothing had been done to take care of the fishermen while they were going through the depression. On October 3, 1935, we find Mr. Bennett, then Prime Minister of Canada, addressing a public meeting in Bridgewater, in the constituency of the then Minister of Fisheries. Mr. Bennett made this terrible admission, according to a report in the Halifax Herald of October 4, 1935:

Turning his attention to fisheries policies of the Conservative party, the Prime Minister declared an immediate survey of the entire industry was essential, to spur the industry along a forward march of progress. The remedies he suggested, were: first, we must have better knowledge of the requirements of the people who buy our fish. . . . Second, trade commissioners should have complete knowledge of the fisheries. . . . Third, we must find out how we can assist the fishermen. I confess I do not know. I tell you, frankly. . . . Fourth, we shall continue extensive advertising to make your fish better known.

I think he was telling the truth. Because of this lack of responsibility by any government the Department of Fisheries at Ottawa had become nothing more than an unwanted child thrown from one minister to another. Sometimes a real minister was in charge of the department; sometimes only an acting minister was at its head. The result was that we had Mr. Bennett saying that he did not know how to assist the fishermen. The department had been unable to deal with the situation, to find out what the remedies should be. The same thing can be said of the previous administration.

In March, 1937, when I spoke in this house I referred to what I thought was the first

thing that had to be settled, namely, the responsibility for the industry, whether it belonged to this government or to the provincial governments. I placed the fishing industry in the same category as our agricultural industry and I contended that our fishermen should be treated the same as our farmers. That is now being done by the measure before the house. At that time I said:

I realize that it would be unreasonable for me to ask for discrimination in his favour. We cannot favour one against the other. I therefore propose, briefly, that we follow the policy adopted to take care of another primary industry in another part of Canada.

Then I went on to refer to the farmer. I felt that the first thing that had to be done in order to take care of the fishing industry was to remedy the terrible conditions existing. This is a great day for the fishing industry when we find a measure of this kind before this house. We have had bill No. 168, providing minimum prices for the farmer, and we now have bill No. 169, making .the same provisions for the fishermen. There is some difference in the amounts, but perhaps that should be so. One after the other these industries are coming into their own; measures have been introduced to take care of the primary industries of fishing and farming. I am happy to stand here to-night as a member of this house representing my constituency and support this measure.

This measure is necessary. I should like to indicate the situation that existed in 1935 at the end of the great depression. Let me give again some figures that I gave previously to the house indicating the earnings by different boats:

The status of a large number of fishermen in the maritimes has become desperate. For example, in one district in my riding, which was once a prosperous and successful fishing district, the catch for 1935 followed the general trend. I want to see it improved. I should like to give some examples of the earnings of some of the fishing boats. I shall not give the names, referring to them only by number.

Boat number one, with a crew of twenty-two men, fished for fourteen weeks. It stocked $4,000, and the average share per man per week was $4. Boat number two, with a crew of twenty-one men, fished nine weeks. It stocked $2,272 and the average share per man per week was about $2. Boat number three, with a crew of eighteen men, fished twenty-two weeks. It stocked $4,600 and the average share per man per week was about $1. Boat number four, with a crew of twelve men, fished thirteen weeks. It stocked $2,100 and the average share per man per week w'as $4.50. Boat number five, with a crew of six men, fished thirteen weeks and the average share per man per week was fifty cents.

Fisheries Prices

That was a general picture because those were not isolated cases. They were not the worst cases; they simply showed what was happening in the fishing industry when men were making from fifty cents to $4 a week over a period of ten, fifteen or twenty odd weeks. That was the condition facing the industry. That was the condition after we had had a period of prosperity following the last war.

I should like to indicate further the number of people who will be affected by this measure. We have approximately 80,000 fishermen in Canada, engaged in an industry that produces from $30,000,000 to $75,000,000 of fish each year, depending largely upon the prices at which the fish is selling. There is no great variation in the quantity of fish caught, but there is a great variation in the prices paid for the fish. That is why I support this measure. I think it is necessary.

We have on the Atlantic coast what are known as fishing banks, an area of 75,000 square miles, the greatest cod and haddock fishery in the world, bar none. On the pacific coast we have one of the greatest salmon fisheries in the world. These are assets which the Canadian people have to take care of, and the people engaged in this industry have a right to look to this and other governments for assistance when conditions beyond their control make it impossible for them to gain a decent and proper livelihood.

A word as to Canada's position in world fisheries. Canada exports about seventy per cent of its fish products. Canada produces only about four per cent of the world's production of fish. I am quoting from the 1937 figures which were given by the United States tariff commission and I believe that they are approximately correct. They show that the total world catch of fish in 1937 was approximately twenty-five billion pounds, of which twenty-five per cent was produced by Japan, seventeen per cent by the Soviet Union, ten per cent each by the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway; four per cent by Canada, three per cent each by France, Germany, Spain, Newfoundland and Iceland, and nine per cent by other countries. Norway, Canada, Newfoundland and Iceland were primarily engaged in producing fish for export. So that we are just a part of the world's picture. How can we expect, therefore, that the individual fisherman can stand up by himself without assistance in a competing world when conditions over which he has no control make it impossible for him to, carry on?

Let us look for a moment at what happened after the last war, and let me say that I think

[Mr. Pottier.J

the same thing is going to happen after this war. Speaking in this house on May 25, 1939, on the bill to establish a salt fish board and giving it my support on these same grounds, I said:

During the period, of the war

I was referring to the war of 1914-18, and it is my considered opinion that in a general way we shall face the same situation after this war, and should be ready to meet it.

-owing to disturbances in Europe interfering both with the fishing grounds and European fishing operations, there was in Canada a favourable reaction upon our fishing industry. There was increased demand and prices went up. After the war, however, and since that time they (other countries) seem constantly to have gained ground to our disadvantage.

I went on to show what the government of Norway had done in voting $3,000,000 as bounties for the three-year period beginning in 1920, and I showed what other countries had done. I summarize the situation in this way.

Bounties for fishing operations were given by Germany and Japan. Bounties on exports were given by France, the Irish Free State, Italy and Newfoundland.

Grants for the construction or repair of vessels were made by Germany, Japan and Newfoundland.

Grants for the construction of freezing establishments were made by Japan and Norway. Government loans and guarantees were made by France, Iceland, the Irish Free State, Italy, Netherlands, Newfoundland, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

One after another these countries were priming their fishing industry, granting assistance of various kinds which made it impossible for the Canadian fisherman who did not have this assistance to carry on.

Promotion of the home market was undertaken by Denmark, France, Germany and Japan.

Other aids by governments of different countries were preferential transportation rates; tax or duty exemptions; emergency relief; other governmental aid such as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I am going to take codfish as an illustration of what happened generally in the fishing industry. It will show the trend of what has happened in our fisheries since the last war. I have a table taking five-year periods, showing the weight of the fish caught in

Fisheries Prices

pounds, the landed value and what this

represented follows: per pound. The table is asYear Weight Landed Cents(pounds) value per lb.1919 260,677,000 $8,288,243 3-11924 188,831,600 4,260,882 2-21929 197,944.000 4.040,562 2-01931 146,362.600 2,044.371 1-31936 162,000,000 2,030,779 1-21939 161,918,300 2,026,607 1-21942 193,556,700 5,570,400 2-81943 207,646,800 7,201,570* 3-3* Estimated.

The table shows that the price of fish to our fishermen to-day is two-tenths of a cent, per pound on the average higher than it was in 1919. Unless something is done, we shall fall .back from the 1943 price of 3-3 cents per pound to the prices we had in 1939, 1936 and 1931, when the returns to the fisherman were respectively 1-2 cents per pound, 1-2 cents per pound and 1-3 cents per pound, or approximately one-third of present prices. The house will understand that the prices I have given in the table were average prices, and that in some places the prices were higher and that in other places the prices were lower. But the point I wish to make is that we have gone up from a price of 1-2 cents before the war to 3-3 cents to-day, owing to the war and other causes which I have indicated. I emphasize that point because we do not want to go back to where we were before, and that is why this measure is so necessary to prevent a return to the low prices that we had before the war.

The United Maritime Fishermen had this same thought in their minds in the brief which they submitted to the Minister of Fisheries this year. I should like to quote the following passage from their brief:

In the past years, especially during the period between 1923 and the beginning of the present war, the fishery of the maritime provinces was in a state of chronic depression. Ample evi-deuce of this is to ibe found in the fishery statistics. These figures indicate that in 1939, which was not by any means one of the worst years, 30,524 fishermen in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick received for their total landings of fish the sum of $7,467,919 gross, making an average of $244 each.

Out of this had to come the fisherman's operating expenses.

Just imagine what a terrible situation you have when the average person in an industry gets $244 a year, and out of that has to pay his operating expenses, bring up a family, and carry all the other responsibilities incidental to him as a member of the community I

We cannot allow the fisherman-and a number of these after the war will be returned men-to be left on their own responsibility,

having to compete not only with individual fishermen of other countries but with the advantages these other countries will give to their fishermen in turn.

This measure will protect the price to the fishermen to the tune of $25 million. The important powers under the bill itself are contained in section 9, subsection 1, subparagraphs (b), (c), (d) and (e), to which I will briefly refer.

The first power is:

(b) to purchase directly or by means of agents at such prices any fisheries product if such product on inspection meets standards as to grade and quality prescribed by or under any act of the parliament of Canada.

The second is:

(c) to pay to the producer of a fisheries product directly or through such agent as the board may determine the difference between a price prescribed by the board with the approval of the governor in council for such fisheries product and the average price as determined by the board at which such product is sold during a specified period if such average price is below such prescribed price.

The third power is:

(d) to sell or otherwise dispose of, directly or by means of agents any fisheries product purchased by the board.

The fourth power is:

(e) to package, process, -store, ship, transport or export, directly or by means of agents, any fisheries .product.

Increase or decrease in the price of fish depends on a number of things; among others, on production, markets, processing methods, marketing and general conditions in the country itself, as well as general world conditions. That is to say, prices tend to increase if there is a decrease in production; further market# are found; improved processing methods are brought into play; orderly marketing is taken advantage of, and there is general prosperity in this and other countries. If, however, there is temporary overproduction, loss of markets, loss to other commodities owing to better processing, disorganized marketing and general depression, then the price of fish will decrease.

Generally speaking, I take it that if there is temporary overproduction or loss of market, the board will purchase to take care of the oversupply. If there is loss to other commodities owing to processing or disorganized marketing, the board has power to process or organize marketing. If a general depression takes place then the board can pay the producer an- amount toward assistance to a price to make up for the general depression.

I know some will say that we depend on export markets and ask, how can the government control prices in view of that fact; how

Fisheries Prices

are you going to get around the difficulty of placing prices for different areas, different conditions, different qualities of fish, and a hundred other arguments? I am not afraid of these, because I have come to the conclusion that any matters of this kind can be adjusted and expedited if sufficient good will, effort and energy are spent by those who try to put them into effect. If, on the other hand, the people who are affected realize that these conditions and regulations are for their general benefit, you will have no difficulty in bringing such conditions and regulations about and having them put into effect; and I believe that this measure will be worked out with that end in view. I would say this about the officials of the fisheries department, that they know the fishing industry, have the fishermen's problems at heart, and are willing to grapple with them. On the one hand we are going to have officials who are inspired by this resolution, and on the other hand, the people in the fishing industry realize that this measure is being brought about for their benefit. Under these conditions I am convinced that the necessary measures will be made effective and benefit the fishermen. I have no doubt that this measure will prevent prices of fish going for starvation wages or earnings. That is the point in which I am interested. I do not mean that this measure will hold the price of fish on the market; I mean that it will bring about returns to the fisherman which will enable him to carry on.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, may I say that the inscription over the entrance to these buildings has now a different meaning to me. I have in the past often wondered, when passing under that inscription, "The wholesome sea is at her gates, her gates both east and west", whether one could correctly say that a wholesome sea was one which produced hunger and want to those who went down to it.

This measure, if it is put into effect, will enable those of us who live in our kingdom by the sea to say with the rest of Canada, as in the poem, "There is a Land":

And 0. her skies are bright and blue,

Her waters bright and pure;

There's balm within her forest shades All world-Worn men to cure:

The wholesome sea is at her gates,

Her gates both east and west,

Then is it strange that we should love,

This land, our land, the best?

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August 12, 1944



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August 12, 1944


Is there not a representative of the fishermen on the salt fish board?

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August 12, 1944


Once they were attacked.

Subtopic:   THE WAR
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August 12, 1944


Where is that in the bill?

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