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Newfoundland National Convention, 11 October 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada

October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 75

October 11, 1946

Mr. Chairman At the request of the Fisheries Committee, Mr. Keough has been added to that committee.

Interim Report of the Fisheries Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

[The Secretary read pages 1 and 2 of the report]
Mr. Chairman That might be termed the first section of the report, gentlemen. Any member wishing to debate on the report may now speak. If you do not desire to discuss that section of the report, gentlemen.
Mr. Miller I acknowledge there is a fish plant in Long Harbour, Placentia Bay. I wonder if the government inspected that too, as it is not mentioned here.
Mr. Job The bait depots are not included.
Mr. Hollett With regard to the amount of capital invested, did the committee arrive at the amount invested by the government or did they not?
Mr. Job I don't know of any money invested by the government. That has certainly not been taken into account. There may be in one or two places advances made by the government which have been paid or partly repaid, but they have not been taken into account. These figures are rough I must confess, but they are the nearest we can get.
Mr. Hollett I saw in the estimates where a certain amount of money had been subsidised by the government for advances to possible corporations. I understood also that a certain amount had been put out, and it might be suggested that the committee arrive at the true situation.
Mr. Chairman The committee will make inquiries into that point, Mr. Hollett.
Mr. Newell Mr. Chairman. in the fourth paragraph the wording is a little ambiguous. It reads: "The frozen blueberry industry was also a very substantial business and of very definite value to the country owing to the fact that the cost of picking was very little ...." As it reads it might seem as if the value was of small return to the pickers, but I am sure that is not the thought of the Fishery Committee, or is it?
Mr. Job I think that the idea was that the cost of the picking was small comparatively, and it was a very worthwhile return to the pickers. I think it was because the price paid to the pickers was small in past years.
Mr. Hollett There is another question about bait sold to fishermen. The report states that "The bait frozen (squid and herring) was substantial, but nothing like the present-day volume because the fishermen were not generally so accustomed to using the frozen bait as they are now." I don't believe that, because years ago the only reason why fishermen did not use frozen bait very generally was because of the cost, which was almost prohibitive in view of the amount of money they received for the fish caught. I was wondering if the committee would be good enough to look into the present cost of bait as supplied to first, our shore fishermen, and second, our bank fishermen. It is absolutely essential if our fishermen are to use frozen bait that some means be found to supply that bait at the least possible cost. The committee might be able to get some figures with regard to that.... It is several years since I had anything to do with fishery conditions, but in those old days there were a good many cases of the fall fishing being given up merely because for that fishery it became necessary for the banking fleet to procure frozen bait, and after trying it for a number of years they discovered that the returns which the individual fisherman made on that trip were absolutely nil when they took into consideration the cost of outfitting for that fall trip, which is much more than for a trip in the summer or spring, and that cost was largely brought about by the money which fishermen were charged up with on account of bait. I think it is important for us to know just how the supply of bait now would apply to the possibility of fishermen prosecuting the bank fishery in the late fall, and whether or not we might not come to the conclusion that the fishermen are perfectly right. It is senseless for a man to go out on the last trip in the fall if they find when they come in with a loaded ship that they still have nothing coming to them towards their income for the winter... I would suggest that it would be wise if we knew just what it would cost a banker, or the individual member of a crew, to get sufficient bait to enable him to proceed on the fall trip.
Mr. Job That's an interesting point. I really don't know, but we could take it up. I should have thought that there would be no question at all that they would make a good deal of money on it, but I can't say definitely.
Mr. Hollett I am referring to the salt fishery more than to the fresh.
Mr. Job I was thinking of the fresh fish.
Mr. MacDonald Mr. Chairman, might I ask the committee if they can tell us by whom these ships are owned or who operates them? Another heavy investment is the draggers. Is that investment by private enterprise or is the government going to bill us for new draggers?
Mr. Burry Mr Chairman, there is a small item here regarding the smelt fishery. l have no doubt there will be more said about that, but I wonder if there is any idea of continuing this industry to any extent, of if it means anything to Newfoundland. I know there is a lot of smelt on the Labrador, and I was wondering if there was any possibility of the fresh freezing process being continued, as I think we might have some frozen and sent to the markets. I know the committee will be dealing with this further and they might go into that.
Mr. Job I think it is gradually increasing.
Mr. Chairman Any further comment on that section, gentlemen? Are you ready for the questions? Moved that section 1 be adopted.
[The section was adopted. The Secretary read pages 3, 4 and 5 of the report][1]
Mr. Northcott I wonder if the committee could tell this Convention just what is Newfoundland's quota on fillets, etc., under the preferential rate of l-7/8 cents.
Mr. Job We are really operating under a joint quota and it is to this country's advantage to get as many pounds as possible in under this quota at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Northcott Any duty on fresh salmon and lobster?
Mr. Job I cannot touch that question.
Mr. Smallwood Is there a race to get in that 18 million pound quota?
Mr. Job We produce as much as we can and get it in as soon as we can. There is no actual race. We want to get a quota of our own, and a special one, if we can.
Mr. Smallwood With the total quota for Newfoundland and Canada being 18 million pounds, is the situation now that the one who gets there first gets the larger share of the total quota? Might it not be a little dangerous to get a quota of our own? Our share of the 18 million pounds was 5 million, and unless the quota was increased might it not be dangerous? Last year we got 5 of the 18 millions; we succeeded to that extent but if a definite quota is obtained is not the position that it might be less than the amount we got last year? I have in mind the pitifully small volume of fishery exports of Newfoundland as compared with those of Canada. I am not in the trade and many of the members of the Fishery Committee are and undoubtedly they know of what is in the minds of the Fisheries Board and in Mr. Gushue's mind, but to me it does seem that there is a certain amount of danger.
Mr. Ballam I think there is a very great danger if we do not have a quota, in view of the fact that today you have a joint quota and this new plant is starting in Louisbourg....
Mr. Job That is why I referred to the necessity of making some special arrangements direct with the United States on this matter. Unless we do get some special arrangements we may not get any thing. We want to get a good quota but it will depend on ourselves.
Mr. Hollett There is one paragraph to which I would like to refer. On page 4: "The codfish sold October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 77 to the cold storage plants will certainly, in the long run, give the fishermen much better returns than those from saltfish." I wonder how long that run is going to be? We are trying to think of some way by which we can raise the standard of the people, and the only way is to raise the standard of the primary producer. I am afraid the price for fresh fish paid to the man who goes out in the morning and comes back in the evening, will largely depend on the amount of money that that man would get if he had salted the fish, provided there was no fish plant there. I have all honour and respect for the men who have been building up this fresh fish industry. The progress made over the last few years is marvellous β€” tremendous.... But the point is this: if the fresh fish industry is going to be of real benefit to this country, it must, primarily, be of a real benefit to the primary producer β€” the man who goes out and risks his life... At the moment a man goes out and catches fish and comes in hoping to sell in cold storage. He may be unable to do that; therefore he has to salt it, make it and dry it. How are we going to prevent some unscrupulous fresh fish man from taking advantage of that situation? He has, in a real sense, a gun which he can put to that man's head by saying, "All right, go salt your fish, you will get only $5 or $10. You do not have to work; you do not have to run the risk of weather." How are we going to prevent this? If this Convention is going to back the fresh fish industry, we have to be careful about that point. Fresh fish is all right β€” a lot of fortunes have been made out of it. You may say, "How am I going to gain by it? I will not have to get down on the flake and spread it? How much more is it going to raise the standard of living?" The answer to that is to unite. Unless the fresh fish trade endeavours to work up some sort of coβ€”operation between themselves, the fishermen and the packers, then I am afraid the fresh fish industry will go the way of saltfish. I put it through you to the Fisheries Board that is something that has to be taken into account. We have first to raise the standard of living of the people; from the fresh fish industry as well as the lumbering industries and everything else, and I suggest that one of the first things the promoters of the fresh fish industry have to do is to gain the confidence of the men who produce the raw material. How it is going to be done is not for me to say, but unless it is done, the fresh fish industry is ruined from the start. Any man interested in the fresh fish industry must take care to see that the price paid to fishermen for fresh fish is not going to be governed by the price for salt fish.
Mr. Job In replying to that, it is stated in the same paragraph, "one of the objectives of the cold storage operators is to pay as high a price as possible to the fishermen." But there is a lot of money invested and unless the operator can do well in the first few years of the industry, it is going to be a bad job...
Mr. Fogwill It is my opinion and the opinion of many others, that the objective of the cold storage operators is to pay as low a price as possible, and that sentence should not be embodied in the report.
Mr. Newell I was going to make somewhat the same remark. I would like to know just what evidence the Fisheries Committee has at its disposal on which it based this assertion? I am prepared to accept it on evidence from the committee, otherwise I am not prepared to accept it....
Mr. Job We have no evidence other than the statements of the cold storage plants. You could put the word 'alleged' or 'declared' in there.
[The section was amended accordingly]
Mr. Job I see the old suspicion still exists, that the operators of all commercial concerns are after one thing. In my experience the merchants have done a good job in the past and in the most part have the country's interest at heart.
Mr. Newell It is not a case of suspicion. I am of the opinion that business is business and I am sorry to have to raise the point, but I could not accept the statement as it stood. I want to have as little to say as possible on the subject, but I am in possession of certain knowledge with regard to the operation of fresh fish plants which made it impossible for me to accept that as it stood... Mr. Northcott On page 5, paragraph 5[1] it says, "There are only four or five large exporters to the USA market..." Who knows that in ten years' time there will not be 20 such plants? I would like the Committee to bear that in mind.
Mr. Job I suggest that be amended to read "There are at present only four or five large exporters."
[The sentence was amended]
78 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946
Mr. Hollett I hope Mr. Job did not think I was laying any charges against the merchants. I agree that merchants have many times done a good job. Our resources are of mushroom growth and mushrooms do not grow except under favourable circumstances. Our natural resources are our producers and unless co-operation is kept between the fresh fish industry and the producer it will go the way of the saltfish industry.
Mr. Job In the past the cake has not been large enough to divide. In the fresh fish industry we are trying to enlarge the cake so that there will be enough to provide for the primary producer.
Mr. Hollett If he believes that, why does he say the men who put up the money must be paid, must have their money back, must pay off capital expenditure?
Mr. Job I did not say "pay off" capital expenditure, but I do say "reduce" the expenditure. The plants will cost twice as much in say five years time.
Mr. Jackman In regard to merchants, we could leave them to organised labour. What we want to get at is the market. Have we any figures on the consumption of frozen fish in the United States?
Mr. Job We have figures.
Mr. Jackman How do they compare?
Mr. Job What we could supply is a mere drop in the bucket.
Mr. Jackman I think this mere drop in the bucket should be supplied in return for what we have given them in the past. I am referring to markets and prices.
Mr. Northcott In trying to get tariff concessions, I would suggest all fish produced in Newfoundland be embodied in this report.
Mr. Newell There is a very interesting item on page 6[1] showing the comparative years 1943 to 1946 β€” labour. In connection with operating plants, I wonder if the committee could make it even more illuminating. We might be able to obtain figures of how much fish was produced and what was the overhead and operating cost, and we might be optimistic enough to find out what the gross production was in dollars.
Mr. Job These figures were given us confidentially, and if it became necessary to ask for more information we could try to get it.
Mr. Ballam You notice that the amount paid to the fishermen in 1946 is practically four times the amount paid for 1943, whilst that for labour has just doubled; either the fishermen must have done exceptionally well or the labourers were very poorly paid.
Mr. Harrington This is an interim report as I understand, and so far we have had a reasonably illuminating discussion on the various points contained in it, but there is a great deal of talk about fishermen versus the merchants, etc, and the real purpose of this aftemoon's meeting was to get to the summary of the report, Mr. Smallwood has been very quiet, and I am sure that he has something to say, and would suggest we waive the rest of this discussion as time is passing.
Mr. Chairman Moved that the second section of the interim report as read and amended be adopted.
[The second section was adopted, and the Secretary read the summary]
Mr. Chairman Any comments on this concluding section of the report?
Mr. Ballam Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, in speaking on the interim report of the Fisheries Committee, the main object of which is the cold storage industry, may I first congratulate the committee on the excellence of their report, and the thoroughness with which they have reviewed the situation, in regard to the future of the industry, and the possibilities of its expansion. Mr. Job has given us an excellent resumΓ© of conditions under which our fisheries will have to function, and stressed the necessity of markets, with favourable tariffs and trade relations, primarily with the United States. We feel that the concessions granted to the United States in the way of leases of Newfoundland territory for 99 years, together with free importations for use at their bases, use of roads, etc., should justify some adequate returns, and I concur with the report as presented in its entirety, but will add that more stress should be placed on other phases of the industry, particularly the herring industry.
In section 5, page 8[2], you do mention herring and its by-products such as oil and meal.... Coming from the home of the herring, I would be remiss in my duty if I did not point out a few facts that are peculiar to the industry, and of great October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 79 importance when speaking of markets. The industry has grown from an export value of $236,000 in the year 1934-35 to $2,071,000 in the year 1944-45, and to a much greater amount in the last year. We know that herring are available in vast quantities, and amounts already procured can be maintained and probably augmented if we find the markets. The greater bulk of the herring exported in this last year or two went to contracts placed by UNRRA, and although we hope this will be maintained there is no guarantee. It is obvious, in order to keep this growing industry at its present level, new markets must be found. I did not hear Mr. Gushue's speech on this subject at Rotary[1], and also mislaid the paper containing his speech. I will say that he and his board have done a good job in respect to the herring industry.
Getting back to the cold storage industry, you will note that there is not a cold storage or quick- freezing plant on the west coast, north of Port- aux-Basques or Isle-aux-Morts. It would seem that where the herring are in abundance, as in the Bay of Islands, would be the most logical place to have such a plant, since bait could be obtained not only for our own fisheries, but exported for the same purpose. We do, during the winter months export quite a lot of herring to Canada, frozen by natural process. It is probable these matters have been gone into by the Fisheries Committee, or will be looked into at future meetings. I am not forgetting when speaking of herring to mention the importance of fish meal plants, and am happy to say we have one of the finest in the country owned by our mutual friend Mr. Chesley Crosbie, in Bay of Islands. I think that this phase of the herring industry can be developed on a far greater scale if given aid and encouragement.
When speaking of the herring industry, and I have mentioned Bay of Island particularly, I do not want to sectionalise the debate. I speak of it as it affects the country as a whole, not one particular part thereof, but, I do say, that in Bay of Islands we have been, and will probably continue to be, sadly neglected in our efforts to promote this great and coming industry. We have always had and will probably continue to have a shortage of nets and gear. Also, due to the fact that shipping closes at an early date due to ice, much of the produce must be shipped by rail. Incidentally, all of these products so shipped must be hauled from the waterfront to the railroad station, and we have only an abused cowpath on which to do this most important work....
At the present time in Bay of Islands quite a large processing plant is being constructed by a Canadian firm which will in all probability include refrigeration. Does it not seem strange that outside interests have to come and do a job which should be done by our own government or local interests?....
Mr. Butt Mr. Chairman, when the Fisheries Committee presented the report which we now have before us it raised a question which is more important than the apparent subject matter of the report proper. I feel sure that as it was listened to by the majority of the members of the Convention, and since that time by the public generally, there arose in the minds of the majority something of the past history of Newfoundland...
If we go back into Newfoundland's history far enough we have, on the authority of McLintock[2] in particular, a clear picture of how in her struggle to establish herself, Newfoundland had to grow up in an atmosphere where the whole power of great nations tended to depress the struggling colony. Newfoundland, and the potential and actual wealth of her fisheries, were treated as just another source of producing wealth for the mother country as well as a training ground for the defence of Britain, which at that time was looked upon as the chief preoccupation of government. In our studies of the problem of governing Newfoundland we are almost invariably faced with the fact that the greatest problem of government is the dispersal of our people. People may vary in their interpretation of the reasons for our having settled so far apart from each other, but if my reading of Newfoundland history is correct the repressive measures taken against settlement in the island were the main cause of our having to hide away in places where we could not be found. In addition, and because 80 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 of our settlement in isolated places and our preoccupation with the fisheries, there came down through the years a feeling that agriculture, which in most countries formed the basis of a stable economy, should not be pushed so far as it could. These facts helped it to form an economy which has never in our history made for stability, and has given us almost without regard to economic conditions in the outside world a long series of recurrent depressions.
In a world in which industries were organised more or less on an individualistic basis, Newfoundlanders were able to extract a tolerable though relatively poor living. When in more recent times the emphasis in industry changed from individual to mass production, the instability of the Newfoundland economy showed up, as ours was then an economy out of keeping with world progress In addition there were occasions when our own statesmen should have been able to alleviate conditions by reciprocity treaties with other countries, but there appeared always to be the interests of some power standing in the way. Witness the Bond-Blaine Treaty.[1]
Carrying on this sketchy remembrance of past history we see weaknesses which may or may not have been caused by circumstances in our own handling of the situation: for example, a too great contribution to World War I on the financial side β€” not that Newfoundland should not have given her utmost, but that she had no right to give far beyond her capacity; and afterwards, a complete lack of disinterested self-interest in handling the burden of debt at a time of world crisis; and further an apparent unwillingness or inertia on the part of Newfoundlanders to accept full responsibility for thinking out our own problems and carrying them through Arising out of this later weakness, and bringing ourselves down to the present day, we allowed ourselves to be put in a position where again we have found that the little margin between abject poverty and an ordinary decent standard of living has been jeopardised.
With these thoughts in mind I suggested yesterday the adjournment of the debate on the Fisheries interim report which was obviously designed to bring together a protest on behalf of what, I believe, is a majority of Newfoundlanders against concessions given at Newfoundland's expense and over such a long period. Coming straight to the point of the proposal, I must say that I realise that in the end governmental and economic influence lies where power resides. In other words, if a small population in a small island happens to get in the way of larger and more powerful interests, inevitably β€” in the world as it has been constituted in the past β€” that island is dealt with as the powers decide. I am not concerned at the moment with whether binding contracts or legal technicalities may be used as an argument for a fatalistic attitude on our part. I am concerned with a new world which places emphasis on the welfare of small countries as well as great....
I suggest, therefore, that this problem of appealing to great powers on a humanitarian basis should be pushed to the limit of our ability. I would not have any of my listeners feel that I subscribe to a begging attitude. I suggest the problem be approached with dignity and on the basis that Newfoundlanders have something to offer which should command a reasonable return from fellow human beings β€” a position of strategic and geographical importance which should be as much shared by us as the position of wealth and purchasing power might be shared by other countries in the interests of all. It may be argued that Newfoundland has already been paid for concessions which have been given to other countries in the form of a prosperity which we never before enjoyed, but I would point out that the prosperity came not so much by design as by accident and our concern is not with the temporary present as with the continuing future.
You will note that the Fisheries Committee left their recommendations as it were in mid-air, in that they suggested that negotiations should be initiated at once: they did not say by whom. I appreciate the committee's difficulties in this respect because their only appeal could be to a government which committed this country to the bases deal without making reservations for a reconsideration of the position after the stress of war passed. And at our stage of political in October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 81decision, it would appear futile to ask that government to initiate new proposals. Further, as a Convention we have not yet clearly defined our own status, I must confess that I read into our terms of reference wider powers than we as a body have yet assumed. This, although it has an important bearing on the question now before us, is a problem which will take more definite shape. In the meantime, I suggest that the committee's proposal be accepted unanimously and that we ought in the days before us clarify our minds as to how Newfoundland should proceed with the important question of seeking adequate returns for benefits shared.
Mr. Hickman This first report presented to the Convention is perhaps one of the most important on which debate will take place. I am not directly interested in the fishing industry myself, but am vitally concerned with the contents of this report inasmuch as it affects the welfare of this country as a whole. I have studied the report with interest and find that we have made some great strides in advancement in this particular phase of the fishing industry. From the original start, which covered only items such as salmon, blueberries and smelts, we have in a very short while through keen progressiveness reached the worthwhile figure of approximately 30 million pounds of fresh cod frozen in its various forms of fillets.
For this country to be economically sound and to continue as such, the economic welfare of the people and particularly of the primary producer must also be sound. This can only be in fact when we can have these dependent upon our first and largest industry earning an economic living wage. While the paper and mining industries may be the largest in certain respects, yet the fishing industry with its various types of production is the mainstay of the majority of the people in this island. While these larger industries provide employment and other sources of revenue, yet it is the primary producer who is the backbone of this country, even though there may be yet undeveloped mines and other natural resources which may come into operation within the next few years. There are approximately 25,000 fishermen directly employed in the production of fish and by-products, and if we allow them an average of four dependents to a family, that would give us approximately half of our population. We must not forget that in addition to these producers there are many who derive their living from the necessary work involved in conjunction with the handling, packaging and exporting of our production, such as coopers, truckmen, longshoremen and other intermediary workers. These, together with the fishermen and their dependents give us an estimated half of our population who are directly dependent upon the various phases of our productive economy.
Although great strides have been made in recent years it is obvious that our production must not only include codfish, but other types of fish as well. I cannot give an accurate estimate of what the country's total production need be to produce a secure standard of living. But I imagine it would have to be raised to something over one million, to possibly two million pounds a year, so that a lower cost could be gained, and at the same time give the maximum return and benefit to the producer.
The most important point of the interim report is contained in the introductory remarks of Mr. Job. He reported that "The United States market is our main hope for the future." I consider that a very pertinent point. Tariff arrangements should be concluded with the United States that will assure us of being able to dispose of our fish products on a fair competitive basis, and I feel that an assurance or arrangement must be concluded for a length of time that will give us a source of security for the Newfoundland producer.
It may not be within the rights of this National Convention to recommend or suggest policy to our present government, but I do feel that our point, if unanimously adopted by this Convention, should be brought as strongly as possible to the attention of both our present government and that of the United States, as well as our Canadian friends. In the event of any negotiations coming from this recommendation it might be wise to point out to our Canadian friends that in this instance we would not wish to have any repetition of interference or blocking, as occurred with the Bond-Blaine treaty.
The whole future of this country depends upon this great industry and we cannot be too strong in our efforts to obtain security for the future. The decision of this Convention as to the form or forms of government which should be recommended to the people of Newfoundland must 82 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 have a bearing on the future prospects and national welfare and economy of the country as a whole. I can do no more than support very strongly the remarks of my friend Mr. Job when he presented this report.
Mr. Smallwood I have very genuine admiration for the work of the Fisheries Committee in the preparation of this interim report. I am always filled with admiration by evidence of work done, particularly work of research, and the report, insofar as it is factual, statistical, insofar as it reviews something of the history and present dimensions of the fresh fish industry, is a very fine piece of work. I know that Mr. Job for many years has been something of a pioneer in the fisheries of this country and we find him now one of the pioneers in the fresh fish developments. I have often wondered whether it was a good thing for Newfoundland to turn away from her centuries-old method of fishing. I do not refer merely to the technical methods of fishing, but to the social or sociological; we have had 30, 40 and 50,000 petty capitalists β€” whether it is a good thing to turn away from that and to industrialise the fishing and increase the units of production; to increase mechanical processing; turn the fishery from what it has so long been, an adventure, a highly individualistic adventure, developing certain sturdy independence and individualism in our fishermen; turning from that into what can only be called industrialism in the fishery, reaching perhaps ultimately some day to the fishery proletariat β€” men engaged for wages as they might be in a clothing factory, in a mine or paper mill or any other industrial enterprise.... My head tells me we must change; we must become industrialised; we must go ahead or go under; yet I will watch this trend to industrialism in the fisheries with a great deal of interest in the next ten, 20 or 30 years, if I live that long. I know it must come; it is inevitable and indeed it may be regrettable. Mr. Bradley has told me of the developments in Bonavista in the last four or five years. I lived in Bonavista at a time of desperate privation; he has lived there latterly in the time of a partially industrialised fishery. He tells me that a social revolution has occurred there in living conditions and standards since the fresh fish freezing plant has been established. So, I have a great deal of sympathy for and a great deal of appreciation of the importance of this new development and also a great deal of concern. I am sure Mr. Crosbie will recall my expressions of concern and worry about future markets for fresh fish. I felt that in times of shortages of food, especially protein foods, we could ship fish into the United States and get our prices; leap over the duty and not feel it.... But what of the day when there will not be a world food shortage, when in the United States itself perhaps they will once again be ploughing under every third furrow of cotton, and the farmers will be paid by the government to destroy their pigs and their crops, or perhaps not to plant at all; when the coffee of Brazil will be used experimentally as fuel to run railways; when the trawlers dump their fish rather than block a market already glutted? What of the day when shortages will have disappeared, particularly the shortage of protein foods? What then about our fishery? What then of our fresh fish industry, whose markets have been in the Untied States of America?
I went this forenoon to the office of the American Consul General to ask him if he had statistics showing the quantities of fish imported into the United States. I brought back a statistical abstract of the published figures. The figures come up to as late as March past and in the short time I had I took up the figures from September last β€” 7 months. The figures are given in pounds and they sound astronomical. For the past seven months the figures are: *
Total of 250,000 pounds of fish, or 420 million pounds per year. I looked back over the period before the war when there was no shortage of protein food, and I find that in 1937-1940 the average imports of fish into the United States amounted to 328 million pounds or something like 100 million pounds less than what it is now October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 83 averaging.... I was interested to discover the production of fish in the United States, and I found that besides importing 425 million pounds a year, she is producing herself something over 4 billion pounds a year β€” 12 times as much fish as she imports. The American consumption of fish is 32 pounds per year per capita. Of the 32 pounds consumed she imports three and produces 29 pounds. I wonder seriously, as I have done for more than a year, what is the future of the fresh fish industry of Newfoundland in the United States when times come back to normal, which we hope they some day will?
Now, this business of approaching America for special consideration for the admission of our fish... I wonder honestly and sincerely what can we do with the United States. I ask the question sincerely, because I wonder sincerely what we can do. If they have indeed a multilateral policy, tariff action and trade agreements and trade treaties, and if it is a fact that they are trying to make up an international trade organisation, and if it is their policy not to deal in bilateral trade agreements, what can be done by this Convention or by the Commission of Government or by the Government of Great Britain or any other country? By all means let us try, but we have imposed on us in this Convention a very solemn and very important duty. We must face facts. It is because we did not that we lost self-government in 1934.
Whatever we can get out of the United States, I am all for it. I am all for having this Convention send a delegate there if they will receive us and if they are prepared to talk business with us.... I am as much concerned as any man for the future of this country, for the standard of our people's lives. I know that our people have never had a square deal, and I know they are not getting a square deal now, I know they are being looted and plundered. My own family, working class people, my father and mother and my brothers, are being looted. I happen to have been a bit luckier than the rest because a rich uncle educated me (after looting the people to get the money, and I happened to benefit from part of that looting), but I am still of the blood and guts of the class I spring from. If it becomes necessary to tell some of the truth I am quite prepared to tell it, but I do want facts to be faced. I don't want this Convention to be led down a blind alley, but let us try with our eyes open, knowing where we are likely to land before we begin.
Mr. Butt Mr. Smallwood gave a lot of figures on the fish imports into the United States, and from the facts shown they are importing an extra million pounds per year. Do you mean to say we will not be able to sell any more fish in the United States?
Mr. Smallwood No, I did say that from 1937 to 1940 imports into the United States then as compared with now showed the present level is one hundred million pounds a year higher than before the war, the increase being accounted for, I suppose, by the world shortage of food, and particularly of protein- containing foods, but when that shortage disappears, and with American fishermen producing 12 times as much fish as they are importing from abroad, it will come back to the normal figure which is a lot less.
Mr. Job The imports today are of frozen and fresh fish, and frozen fish a few years ago was not in existence.
Mr. Butt You left the impression that we should get out of the fish business. It seems as if there would be no object in our staying in the business under these conditions. You did not mean that, did you?
Mr. Smallwood No, I did not mean that. I am wondering what will happen to our fish market in the States when the food situation returns to normal.
Mr. Higgins I have been listening very attentively to my learned friend Mr. Smallwood and he has had me practically hypnotized for the past half hour, but the salient facts are these. If Newfoundland is going to go ahead we have to look to the fish industry for the future. Because, from that much discussed Chadwick-Jones report the fact emerges that the greatest number of people gainfully employed in the country come from the fishing industry. That being so, it is to increase the earnings of our people in the fishing industry that we have to look to. The suggestion contained in this report, and in the address of Mr. Hazen Russell given yesterday before the Rotary Club is that the pickup of the fish industry in Newfoundland must come from the sale of fresh frozen fish, and the people that run this industry, the pioneers and the people who are now putting their money into it, and in particular a man like Mr. Russell, seem to have an unbounded faith in 84 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 the future of this fresh fish industry. In reading his report and the report of the Fishery Committee the things that stand out seem to be that there will be necessary plant extension and there will have to be subsidising of the industry to the extent that the fishermen will be paid more money. By that I gather that we will have to keep in line with the other countries such as Canada and Iceland. But the whole point of this debate is the US market. If we don't have a United States market we are not going to have a fresh fish industry. Now that being granted, and I hope I am not going to be accused by Mr. Butt of being a fatalist, we have got this to face with the United States of America. They have a very large fishing population, and are very interested in the same industry that we ourselves are trying to increase in production. We all remember what happened here in 1938. That big General Seafoods Corporation[1] came in here and concluded an agreement with the government that would have been of immense benefit to the people of this country, and I don't know whether any local industrialist in the fishing industry had anything to do with it or not, but when the deal was practically through the American House of Congress, the American Senate, the fishing industries of New England were organised to such an extent that a prohibitive tariff was raised against that deal and that big industry was dropped and the General Sea Foods people went out of the picture. What power has that same New England bloc today? We know they are vitally interested, and they are watching this new Louisbourg proposition in Canada, and even the debates in this house. We saw yesterday one of the representatives of the US government present here and everything that goes on is going to be of interest. Now the point is, is the western bloc referred to by Mr. Russell, namely the western states, of sufficient power to overcome the lobbying effect of the New England fish bloc? If not, then we might as well forget our fresh fish industry. If only a 1% increase on the present tariff went on the fresh frozen fillets going in it would not pay the industry to operate. How are we going to block that? I would certainly try but the bases are here, that's an accomplished fact. We can't tomorrow or the next day say, "Give us these concessions or we will turn you out." We might as well forget that. The only thing we can do is trust to the humanitarian principles of the people we are going to sell our fish to, and that's why I am a bit sorry that all this debate had to happen in public. The Government of the United States might know about it, and the people of the United States may know what we are going to do, but if the American interests know that we are going into this industry in a big way they may take the steps necessary to see that we are squashed....
Mr. Crosbie I have been listening to what I consider to be an awful lot of pessimism. We have the finest fishing ledge known in the world. One American fish man told me the time would come when the US would have to come to Newfoundland waters to get her fish. Before the war, in the midwestem states very little fish was consumed. The methods of freezing and keeping frozen fish have changed entirely in the last ten years. The cost of a freezing unit is very small today compared to ten years ago. One town in the midwestem states did not consume one pound of fish per year. They put in a Birdseye freezer there, and they increased their consumption of fish in a few months from none to 15 lb. per person. We have no reason to be pessimistic. Why should we not ask for tariff concessions? We can ask, and if we don't get them, well, we can't be blamed. We can fight anyway. It is true there is a tariff on fresh fish in the United States, but that does not say that it can't be changed. I don't expect this government to go back and ask for a change in the base agreement. They can't β€” they signed it. The American market is not the only market for fresh fish. The methods of processing fish are changed entirely. You can take and consume huge quantities in this country year in and year out. Within the last couple of months I have had inquiries for a fairly large tonnage of frozen fish from Brazil, which now takes hardly any saltfish at all. We can't send it down because we have not the cold-storage ships and facilities, and they have not the facilities to handle it either, but I believe that will change in a year or two and we may have a market in Brazil or other countries. I say let's find out what procedure we have got to use, We have heard a lot about procedure lately. "Procedure" is a lovely word. You are told you can't do October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 85 this or that. Who are you afraid you will disturb, the United States, the Commission of Government, the Dominions Office in Great Britain? We have rather to ask and try to get some arrangement with the American government, and if we can't get markets in the US, let's go somewhere else.
Mr. Higgins I don't want to be misunderstood. I did not suggest no action be taken, but I do think it should be taken in such a manner as will be proper, and not belligerently.
Mr. Smallwood I am saying this for the benefit of the House and not Mr. Crosbie, and I don't want him to misunderstand me. Let us do something if possible, but not through the government that has betrayed this country for the past 13 years, let this Convention make the approach. Mr. Crosbie Now if you could tell me how to get over the question of procedure, I might be able to tell you how to get over the American tariff.
Mr. Reddy I think this question of trade should be brought into this. We import from Canada $19 million worth of trade; could we not inject it in the report. We keep 16 or 19 factories going on a million dollars each. I think that should be gone into thoroughly. The question of trade may help soften the Americans. I would like to see them more familiar with our trade. If Canada wanted to block it as she did in other industries, we could put up the question of trade.
Mr. Job I take it it will be seen by the Commission of Government in some form or other. I do not think We ought to take a pessimistic attitude. I listened to Mr. Smallwood and think he took a defeatist attitude. He referred to imports which America had from Iceland, but surely in the case of Newfoundland which has given 99 year leases of valuable concessions, we ought to have trade concessions different from Iceland.
Mr. Smallwood Who is going to do it?
Mr. Job It is a matter for development. I do not know. I hope it will be done by our own government, the British government and the Canadian government and that something may come of it.
Mr. Smallwood I hope so.
Mr. Hollett There are other points apart from actual tariff concessions which a good many gentlemen would like to speak about and I would suggest we adjourn until after dinner. I move the adjournment of the debate.
Mr. Cashin I did not propose to say anything on this matter because we are passing this interim report through the committee stage and it asks that the Commission of Government or the Dominions Office to do something with regard to getting for our fish favourable concessions into the United States. We have been working on this, reading it section by section β€” one would think it was a bill being introduced into Parliament, whereas it is an interim report of the Fisheries Committee, suggesting we do something about our fish. Whether we can get the concessions or not we have to try, and we should pass this report without debate. We should be as one and forget whether the merchant or the fisherman is going to get gypped. We have to get the concessions from the United States if we can, if not, we have to do something else about it. I suggest the debate be finished and let us be as one in this connection.
Mr. Ballam I agree with Major Cashin but I am not content that we should, in dealing with fresh fish, leave the other fisheries out. The report says "Herring and its by-products may be mentioned", it is not "may be" it must be. They have a right to a place just as much as fresh frozen fish.
Mr. Cashin I agree.
Mr. Ballam They must be mentioned on a common basis. The herring industry is just as important as the fresh fish industry and there is a possibility of losing the market because of UNRRA'S going out and we do not want to lose it; we want to get more, not less.
Mr. Bailey I take it all stages of the fishery will be considered in the same way. One kind of fish is just as essential as the other. I believe we may be able to get our fresh fish onto a firm footing. I am sure this report is good and we should back it and try and get something. One of the hardest things we have to face is selling in a cheap market and buying in a dear market. We have to buy where we sell and if we cannot sell, we should not buy. We are the largest customer per capita the United States has and we are the best customer of Canada. They have to make way for us. In 1922 we imported goods to the value of $287 million and they took goods to the value of $270,000 from us. How can we live like that? I do not believe anyone is fighting for our markets. We just want to swop. I say to the men processing fresh fish, go ahead, and I say to this Convention, let us go ahead. Let us vote anyway.
86 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946
Mr. Job I move that this report be adopted.
Mr. MacDonald Does it mean that these recommendations will be carried out? If it does, I hope that we are going to deal with the United States on reduction of tariffs, they will also consider other industries, such as paper, etc.
Mr. Cashin Pulp and paper have free entry into the United States. The Americans do not manufacture.
Mr. Hollett What is meant by "adopting the report". There are several points to be brought up. If we adopt the report, what follows?
Mr. Chairman The Convention resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider the report. Before that happened the report had to be read. Now the duty of the committee is to consider the report and having considered it, to rise and recommend that it be adopted by the Convention. After the committee rises that will be done.
Mr. Hillier I move that we adjourn the debate until Monday.
Mr. Chairman There is a motion before the Chair that the report be adopted.
Mr. Job I do not want to press mat if the Convention thinks it should be further debated.
Mr. Chairman There is a motion before the Chair that we rise and resume at 8 o'clock.
Mr. Hollett Before I can vote for the adoption of this report, I want to know why requests are made for action to be taken to get tariff concessions from the United States? I want to know why. Is it that the fresh fish industry cannot carry on longer at the present rates? If that is so, I would say adopt the report. But surely it must have some facts and figures to show that the fresh fish industry is in danger of extinction by reason of tariffs placed on it by the United States. They must bring figures to show that. We are told that Canada, who has hitherto blocked our efforts, is anxious to help, the United States is anxious to help, other countries are anxious to help, but these things have to be debated before I am prepared to adopt this report. I am not in favour of the motion to adopt the report.
[The committee of the whole rose and reported progress. The Convention adjourned]

Source:

Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).

Credits:

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Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Footnotes:

  • [1] Volume II:21 1. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • Volume II:212-213. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume 11:212. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume 11:213. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume 11:214. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] R. Gushue, speech at St. John's Rotary Club, 12 September 1946, as reported in The Evening Telegram, 13 September 1946, p. 2.
  • [2] Alexander H. McLintock, The Establishment of Constitutional Government in Newfoundland, 1783β€”1832. A Study of Retarded Colonization (London, 1941).
  • [1]A reciprocity treaty negotiated between Colonial Secretary Robert Bond and the American Secretary of State, James Blaine, in 1890. It would have allowed free access to the US market for Newfoundland products in exchange for allowing Americans to obtain bait in Newfoundland waters. As a result of Canadian protests, the treaty was not ratified.
  • * Imported from Canada : 177 million pounds of fish
    " Newfoundland : 33 million " " "
    " Mexico : 20 million " " "Β 
    " Portugal : 11 million " " "
    " Iceland : 7.5 million " " "
    " Norway : 6.5 million " " "
  • [1] The General Sea Foods Corporation wanted to establish a multi-purpose fish plant that would freeze fresh fish, use offal to make fertilizer, and provide bait for fishermen.

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