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Newfoundland National Convention, 25 March 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada

376 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947

March 25, 1947.

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

Mr. Chairman Appendix B, gentlemen, Salt Codfish, is now under consideration.[2]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, on page 10 of the Appendix: "We suggest that salt be provided at the very lowest possible price, and the matter of heights on salt coming into Newfoundland be reviewed. We understand that the present rate of freight on salt brought here by the government boats is about three times its cost in the West Indies."
March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 377
Would Mr. Job tell us if that means that to take a hogshead of salt, say from St. John's on a government boat to some other place on the coast, costs as much freight as that hogshead of salt cost where it was purchased in the first place?
Mr. Job Most of the salt is freighted from the West Indies by the government boats, and the freight is about three times the cost of the salt in the West Indies. The freights are tremendously high.
Mr. Smallwood You mean that the salt is bought in the West indies and freighted to Newfoundland, and the cost of the freight from West Indies to Newfoundland is about three times the price of the salt in West Indies in the first place?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. McCarthy I wonder if Mr. Job would tell us what the freight is on salt from the West Indies to Newfoundland?
Mr. Job I can't tell you.
Mr. Ashbourne At the time that we were writing this sub-committec report the freight on salt was $12 a ton from the West Indies to Newfoundland, and the cost of the salt was about $4.02 in West Indies, so that would bring it to approximately three times the price. Added to that are certain charges for loading and for insurance. Representations having been made to the Newfoundland Fisheries Board,[1] an arrangement has been made whereby there is a rebate paid of $1 per hogshead to the importer, in the outports particularly. I don't know if that applies to St. John's as well, because the cargoes of salt to St. John's come in much larger vessels, and you can expect a lower rate of freight; I think such a large freight rate on the government boats was on account of their smaller carrying capacity. They go to the West Indies with fish and they bring back molasses, and sometimes rum, and also bring back salt for the outports....
Mr. McCarthy Does that mean $4.02 landed cost?
Mr. Ashbourne No, that's the rate in the West Indies, and there's a rebate of $1 per hogshead.
Mr. McCarthy That would be $3 freight approximately?
Mr. Ashbourne Yes, but the understanding is that the salt must be sold in the outports at $4.75 per hogshead, which is the same price as in St. John's when imported from the West Indies.
Mr. Smallwood On page 7 of the Appendix: "We appreciate the important work that the Newfoundland Fisheries Board is performing in its control over all branches of the fishing industry." I understand that the Fisheries Board has a definite policy to keep the exportation of fish in as few hands as possible. I heard or read somewhere that the idea was to keep the number of exporters limited to around 50.... Now if Mr. Job tells us that that is the policy of the Fisheries Board, would he tell us how the Board, or the fish trade, proposes to deal with small exporters, and how it proposes to deal with new exporters. How can a man become an exporter if he is not one already? In the old days we have had men, we have one on Water Street today who began as a fisherman in Bonavista Bay and started a small shop, and ended up one of the biggest exporters in this country. If there had been a fishery board at that time, could he have become one of the largest exporters in Newfoundland? Then I am wondering about the co-operative society. Can a co-operative society, as easily as anyone else, become an exporter?.... What do they look forward to, the day when they will succeed in having perhaps a dozen exporters in the country? Is that the ideal they are aiming at, a dozen, or 20, or just one?....
Mr. Job I don't know whether Mr. Ashbourne can answer that question; I can't because I am not a member of the Fishery Board, and I don't attend their meetings. I am sure they are not going to discourage any man who wants to go into the thing on a large scale. If the speaker will put his question into writing I think it might be passed on to the Fishery Board.
Mr. Ashbourne There is not much that can be added, except that I believe that at the time the licenses were given to codfish exporters it was stipulated that an exporter, to get a license, had to export up to a certain number of quintals of fish, a certain minimum for a year or two previous to the issuing of the license. Any person or cooperative who was in a position to export this quantity of fish β€” 3,000 quintals I believe it was β€” for a year or two before applying for a license was granted an exporter's license.
Mr. Hickman That might be all right, but following up Mr. Smallwood's point, if he decided to export fish, how would he acquire a license? 378 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 He may not have exported before, but he may be in the business financially. How can he acquire a license? Is it restricted to those who do have licenses arbitrarily? Can a new man get a license now, not theoretically but practically?
Mr. Job I think they would take a reasonable view, and if a man can show that he can make reasonable arrangements I don't think there is any fixed ruling. I think that during the war they made these regulations β€” that a man should be an exporter of at least 3,000 quintals to get his license β€” because they did not want to get into it men who were exporting three or four quintals, underselling, and that sort of thing.
Mr. Hollett I understood yesterday from Mr. Job that the fresh fish industry was at the moment more or less in the doldrums. I take it therefore that you, Mr. Job, would not be able to handle much more fish if conditions remain as they are? The amount of fish that you caught last year would be sufficient to supply the markets that you now have?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. Hollett I would like an explanation of this part on page 19A: "The Committee agrees that as many men as possible should be diverted into the frozen fish trade and other branches of the fisheries with as much urgency as conditions would seem to indicate."
Mr. Job You missed three important words β€” "and will permit". If the market does not permit, you can't do it. That's the position at the moment. Unless the fresh fish boards can pay the same or a better price than the people who are salting their fish and selling it, they won't get the fish. That's the position that may occur this year. Last year we handled around this time a considerable number of bankers. This year we are not going to be able to do that because the conditions are entirely different, but I think the quantity of fresh fish processed by the plant will greatly depend on the price of salted fish as against the price of fresh. We can't expect to get the fresh fish at a cheaper price than can be realised by salting it. It will more or less cure itself, that situation. At the present time it would seem it is better business to salt your fish. That situation may change, I hope it will. It will be a healthy thing to have both the plants and the salting go on together.
Mr. Newell I would like to have this clarified. As I understand it, all the sales of salt codfish at the present time are negotiated by the Salt Codfish Exporters Association. Is that right?
Mr. Job I think so.
Mr. Newell Which association is subdivided into marketing groups. Where you have a group of exporters who are fairly large handlers, marketing for a Specific market, they might be called the Portugal group, the Brazil group, or whatever it is. When a sale is negotiated by the Salt Codfish Exporters Association, the members of the particular groups which will have to make that sale are given their allocation as to how much each can ship, and they decide that allocation on the basis of total production. Now the difficulty in marketing for a small group would be in providing these allocations. One central agent, if I may use that term, marketing for a group of businesses around the country, can count in advance on getting their codfish, and is therefore able to fill in his allocation. For instance he may have an allocation for 20,000 quintals of fish, and may have an agreement in St. Anthony for 20,000 quintals, and another in Bonavista for 20,000 quintals, and ifone is not ready he can take it from the other. Shipping out little bits of fish now and then would not be satisfactory. I am vague on this information, which is as I understand it, but I think the system works very well. The large groups in St. John's act for the smaller people outside on a pretty reasonable commission basis. I don't know what the qualifications are beyond being able to export a certain quantity. I don't know if you have to put up a money qualification or not.
With regard to licensing, I understand the situation is that a small merchant, or small group of fishermen, whatever you have in an outport, that wishes to pack fish for export, secures from the Fisheries Board a license, not a license to export, but a license to pack for export. Their agent in St. John's does the exporting, and he has the licence to export. Before they get that license their premises have to be subject to inspection by the Fisheries Board. Which leads me to another point. The situation today is this, that if a merchant is exporting through a large merchant in St. John's say, his premises may be inspected before he gets this license to pack for export, but if a businessman or a group in an outport is merely putting up codfish which he sells outright to an exporter in St. John's for a fixed price, his March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 379 premises do not require any inspection, and I take it that it is that which is aimed at here: "The Newfoundland Fisheries Board inspection service should be extended as soon as possible to the inspection of fishing vessels and all premises where fish is handled."
Mr. Job Perhaps Mr. Crosbie, who is more familiar with Fishery Board regulations than I am, may be able to answer that.
Mr. Crosbie You don't have to belong to all groups. You can join a Brazil group, or a Portugal group, or a West Indies group, but you don't have to join all of them. You have to put up $1,000.
Mr. Smallwood If you had codfish to export to three or four markets you would have to join the three or four groups, and pay $1,000 to each of them, unless you are marketing it all to the one agent and then that agent would pay to all groups, is that it? Suppose Mr. Crosbie wanted to get a lot of co-operative societies operating, all fish producers. What is the obstacle, if any, to their being able to export their own fish? Has each society got to join each group, and pay $1,000 to each group? Or is it $1,000 to belong to the Salt Codfish Association? Can you explain that?
Mr. Crosbie You have to pay $1,000 to belong to each group. That's a deposit. You don't have to put it up every season. The past several years the return to the country has been high, and that's the only way you can control it. You can't set up a service to inspect all the people. There has to be some control somewhere. I may belong to one group and pay $1,000, and there is nothing against Mr. Bradley saying to me, "Well now Chesley, will you ship out this for me?" And I would do so; or someone else may belong to another group and ship so much for me. Anyone can get a license to pack for export, or he can become an exporter himself if he wants to.
Mr. Northcott Assuming fish is hard to sell and I have 1,000 quintals on hand, and I am barred from getting a license, but in the meantime I can sell that down in South America at a fair price, would the Fisheries Board give me a license or not?
Mr. Crosbie Definitely no,
Mr. Northcott Last year I sold to a firm in New York five cases of lobster, and this firm also wanted me to get fish for them. It was possible for me to send them a sample, and then they sent to me for 1,000 quintals. I contacted the Fisheries Board and I could not sell the fish. This was to go to South America, and this firm was terribly upset over the whole thing. If you can produce good fish and have inspectors to cull it, you should not be debarred from exporting that fish.
Mr. Job At any price?
Mr. Northcott No, at a good price, but I was not allowed to export it.
Mr. Ashbourne It must not be forgotten that the past few years codfish has been scarce and has been on allocation. Therefore it is natural that the countries that have been in the habit in the past of buying our codfish should not have to go short, and the time is hardly ripe or opportune for getting new markets; but it is when there is a surplus of fish, more than our regular customers require, that's the time we want to get these new markets opened up, and there will be no trouble for a person to arrange that through some exporter who already has a license. My suggestion to Mr. Northcott would be to contact some exporter so that if there is a surplus of codfish Newfoundland might be able to benefit from that market.
Mr. Smallwood There is something that I would like Mr. Job to tell me. I have been hearing now for the last couple of years that one of the big reasons why the fishermen are so much in favour of the Commission system of government is that in the spring of the year, before they have launched their boats, before they have taken the cod out of the water at all, they know what the price of fish is going to be the rest of the year, that sometime in the winter or the spring it is announced that the price of fish to the fishermen for the rest of the year is going to be such and such. That's been going on for the last two or three years.
Mr. Job You are generally up to date, but you are a little behindhand there. That is not so in the last two years.
Mr. Smallwood I hope you will see what I am getting at. How true is it that the fishermen, up to last year, would know early in the season, before they began fishing at all, what the price of fish was going to be? Fishermen before that would get up to the fall, and Christmas, and perhaps the middle of the winter, before they found out the price they were going to get for the fish they caught last year. All of a sudden an announcement is made in the winter or early spring that the price of fish was to be such and such for 380 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 the coming season, so that they knew what they were going to get before they went fishing at all. And they were very thankful to the Commission of Government for that, a wonderful government that would tell them ahead of time what price they were going to get, up to a year ago you say. I would like someone who knows to tell us how true that is. Was it the Commission of Government? This needs to be known. Mr. Job may take it very lightly, but it is far from being a joke....
Mr. Job I think it largely happened by the help of our friend Mr. Brown He was greatly interested in it at that time, and he was able to get the trade together, and it was easy enough in those days when the demand exceeded the supply; but when you are doubtful whether the supply will exceed the demand you can't fix it. I don't think you could. You ask whether the Commission of Government should get the credit for it β€” not any more than the trade and Mr. Brown and the Newfoundland Fisheries Board.
Mr. Smallwood What about the Combined Food Board,[1] did they set the price?
Mr. Job You mean our board?
Mr. Smallwood No, abroad.
Mr. Job Oh yes, they had something to do with it. When you could sell ahead it was easy to arrange with the fisherman and say, "We think the price should be so and so." It was an international association. The United States, Canada, Great Britain. I don't know if France was in it or not.
Mr. Chairman UNRRA?[2]
Mr. Job It may have been a subsidiary of that, I am not sure. Anyhow it was with a view of making full distribution of our Codfish where it was most needed. It was a very easy thing to come to an arrangement then as to what would be a fair price to pay the fishermen; we knew what we were going to get, but now we don't.
Mr. Smallwood How did we know?
Mr. Job Because the contract was made to take the allocation at a certain price.
Mr. Smallwood I am grateful to Mr. Job, and maybe he would not mind my pursuing the matter a little further. Is this what happened? When the war broke out the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Newfoundland and some other countries formed themselves into a Combined Food Board to regulate all the food there might be, wheat, fish, vegetables, meat, etc., so that they could portion out all the food so that no one country got more than its share.... This board would say to the Newfoundland Fisheries Board and the Canadian and American fish merchants. "In 1942 we want so many thousand tons of fish. Newfoundland how much can you produce? How much can Canada produce? How much USA?" They portioned it out, and fixed the price early in the season, and the Fisheries Board would be told what price the fish exporters would be allowed for their portion, and then when the exporters knew beforehand, early in the year, maybe January or February, what the price would be that they would get for the coming year, they could call their suppliers in and say to them, "The price of fish in 1942 will be such and such, and 1943, 1944 and 1945, etc." Is that what happened?
Mr. Job Yes, that is what happened.
Mr. Smallwood If that is what happened, we have all been making a mistake in saying, "Thank God for the Commission of Government."
Mr. Job I think they received credit where they should not have.
Mr. Smallwood I want to know if the Commission of Government fixed the price; if they did, we will give them credit for it.
Mr. Job You can give them credit for supporting the board that did it β€” our Newfoundland Fisheries Board.
Mr. Smallwood Did the Fisheries Board or the Combined Foods Board fix it?
Mr. Job Our Fisheries Board had a say in it β€” Mr. Gushue was the chairman. The Combined Food Board had all the negotiations?
Mr. Newell I think our friend from Bonavista Centre has lost a lot of his perspicacity. I thought we understood the difference between our market today and in the old days when it was every man for himself; he sold his fish where he could, when he could, for what he could. Under the new system the fish, as I understand it, is sold by the Salt Codfish Exporters Association by contracts. If that is to be continued in future, it is easy to see March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 381 how we can know in advance just about what our fish will fetch as long as there is a demand for it β€” we can make one big contract with the association. We have gone from free enterprise to a controlled enterprise system.
Mr. Starkes Can Mr. Job tell us how long this will continue. We are still under Commission government β€” are we still under the rule governing export of fish for 1947-48?
Mr. Job I cannot tell you anything about it. One thing it would be fair to say about the Fisheries Board, is that they have done wonderful work.
Mr. Hollett Since when? It has all been done on a rising market.
Mr. Job When the boot is on the other foot, it will not be so easy; then they will be more useful than at any other time.
Mr. Vardy I think there is some mistake. I believe this price started in 1937 with the FPU and the fishermen in Bonavista Bay β€” that is where this finding out what we were going to get for the fish started. I think Mr. Brown had something to do with it. I have some recollection of that.
Mr. Job I do not think it was as far back as that. I hesitate to say whether you are right or not. If we had notice of such questions, we could look up the information. I think it happened during the war. I do not think there was any fixed price for fish in the spring of 1937 or 1938. Maybe Mr. Ashboume could tell us something about it?
Mr. Ashbourne I cannot remember at that time what the procedure was; but as far as I am concerned, I think we have to thank the people for the high prices of fish; those who put the money here in Newfoundland β€” the consumers, those are the people we have to thank β€” people who were prepared to open up credits in Newfoundland and give us the money before the fish was shipped.
Mr. Smallwood Who were these?
Mr. Ashbourne The people who bought our fish. The price has been fixed in the past by the Combined Food Board, but that does not say that the people had to buy it; but they have been able to pay the high prices we got for fish this last few years. I saw in the paper two or three days ago a notice that codfish would not be under the Combined Food Board for 1947. As far as the 1946 production is concerned, the Food Control Board would look after that; I believe within the near future probably there will be meetings of the various groups in Newfoundland in order to try and formulate a plan for the profitable marketing of the 1947 catch, and I trust that this will be done because in the past we realise it has been the means of stabilising the market. I hope the days of consigning codfish to Europe, Spain and Italy is over and we will be able to profitably sell our fish here and get the money in Newfoundland before it leaves our shores.
Another matter mentioned by Mr. Newell, about the Newfoundland Fisheries Board inspection β€” that this should be extended to fishing vessels and all premises where fish is handled. As far as I know the Board does not have to inspect any fishing vessels on the Labrador or on the Banks. The idea is that it might be advisable for some fishery inspector to examine these vessels before they go to the Banks and also see them when they come back; also Labrador fishing vessels. Codfish is an article of food for human consumption and the better the quality the higher the price we will get. And the more satisfaction from our buyers, naturally, will be when we give the best quality of fish. The government is to inspect the exporters' premises; whether this would extend to every fisherman's stage, I do not know.
Mr. Hickman I cannot see that there is any credit due the Commission of Government any more than any other government which may have been in power. It was purely the circumstances brought about by the war when the supply was shorter than the demand. They could guarantee to take any production and could guarantee prices because it could not be possible to fill the demand required. But with Norway getting back and Iceland and Great Britain in the producing and exporting market β€” Great Britain was a competitor in Brazil, in Rio and other places β€” when they get back, the supply will be greater than the demand; and I cannot see any possibility of being able to continue the setting of prices except through an international trade agreement. If all countries can establish a price then perhaps the fishermen will know what they will get. Until that agreement is made, I do not see how they can continue knowing in the spring what they will get in the fall unless the supply is shorter than the demand.
Mr. Fudge As a member of the Fisheries Com 382 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 mittee, it is not my intention to keep you long. Referring to the Commission of Government getting the credit for the increase in price of fish, that may be all right; but this has been made possible by an export fee. Who pays that fee? Does it not come from the fishermen, to be given the Fishery Board or the Commission of Government to go to market and negotiate the price for fish? Taxes have been collected from fishermen by way of protection for the trade exporters. The fisherman has not been taken care of; Mr. Brown for a number of years was trying to get the fishermen and the exporters together. Last year there was a common understanding that a certain price would be paid; there was no agreement really made. I understand the fishermen on the average received about $13.50 a quintal. I am not at all satisfied with the price the fisherman has been getting. There is too big a gap between fisherman and exporter and that gap shall have to be bridged. If something is not done, in view of what we have seen happen a year ago, we may find the exporter becoming a millionaire too soon and the fisherman becoming a beggar too quick.
Mr. Fowler It is a fact that during the war 50 cents was taken from all the fish exported from this country; that was for the price of salt. Take a hogshead of salt for every ten quintals of fish; the salt costs the fisherman $11 a hogshead, is that a fact?
Mr. Job I do not know.
Mr. Fowler I contend ten quintals to a hogshead is a conservative figure. The section of the report dealing with the salt codfish industry is, in my opinion, the most important section of the whole report, from the point of view of the number of men employed, which the report shows to be about 25,000.
Coming as I do from a district interested in practically every branch of the salt codfish industry, I feel that there is not enough of the kind of information that the people are expecting from this report. There is an array of statistics, but these are published frequently in government bulletins and in the press and therefore cannot come as a surprise to many. Now, we have a Fisheries Board, an institution of recent years, but the most the Committee says about it is that there is a Fisheries Board and that, in their opinion, it is doing a good job. They do not tell us how they arrive at that conclusion. I would like to know the number of personnel of that Board, what it is costing, and who is bearing the burden of cost. Are we getting adequate returns for the money spent, and how? I would like to see set forth the ways the Board has helped, and plans to help, the fisherman, merchant and exporter. I understand the Fisheries Board is costing around $250,000 annually and an expenditure of this magnitude warrants more comment and explanation than is given here. I contend we should be supplied with copies of the Salt Codfish Act in order to get some information on the working of the most important of our industries.
With regard to the question of rebates on salt, as far as I understand it the rebate on salt applies to the man who has salt left over. If a man has 50 hogsheads of salt left over he gets a rebate of 35 cents a hogshead and the man who uses his salt gets no rebate. If the Fisheries Board had not entered the picture, what would the landed cost of salt be? Would it be $11 or $12?
Mr. Job I think it would be much higher.
Mr. Fowler Have we any expert advice on that? What do you say about it, Mr. Crosbie?
Mr. Crosbie I do not know very much about it.
[Mr. Fowler read an article by R. Gushue in The Atlantic Guardian
Mr. Harrington While we are on this salt codfish business, I have been under the impression for years that there were branches of foreign concerns here, which get a percentage of some sort on fish going out of the country. Who bears the brunt of that?
Mr. Job I do not know what you are referring to.
Mr. Cashin I have heard a lot of good things said about the Fisheries Board. in this report we should have outlined how it was set up. I believe it was set up under legislation which gave it power to control the export of fish. It is costing the country $225,000 a year; it employs 85 people; they have trade representatives abroad; I presume that these trade representatives sell the fish and that there are no brokers employed anymore and these trade representatives in the various capitals of Europe β€” such as Portugal, Spain and Greece β€” sell the fish; or are the London brokers we used to have still in business and get commission on the sale of fish? if this Fisheries Board are such wonderful people (and I do not know anything against them), if they sell March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 388 the fish, then outsiders should not be paid any commission. Their representatives abroad are paid. What are the duties of the Fisheries Board in the sale of fish? Are they controlling the export of fish or do they merely employ inspectors who go around and inspect the quality of fish to go to the various markets, or do they also sell? Are the fishery products sold through brokers abroad?
Mr. Job As I understand it, the Fisheries Board have handed control over to the trade. The trade sets up the various groups and each group contacts the markets. They sell some through agents in various places β€” Trinidad, Pueno Rico and Spain β€” they go through very much the same channels as before, but the Fisheries Board could not sell that fish without these people on the spot; it would be chaos if they did.
Mr. Cashin Therefore the Fisheries Board has nothing to do with the price of fish; they merely employ brokers, or allocate a certain amount to the Portuguese group or the West Indies group, etc.?
Mr. Job No, they negotiate through these people abroad. Mr. Crosbie can tell us about Brazil; sales were made through Mr. Crosbie's agents and it was done in the best interests of the exporters.
Mr. Hollett In one breath the Committee says they hand it over to the trade and in the other says the Fisheries Board negotiates the sales.
Mr. Job The Fisheries Board hands over its authority to those who make the sales The groups are not part of the Fisheries Board, but they appoint them.
Mr. Hollett All they do then is make allocations?
Mr. Job They set up organisations to sell the fish. They arrange the groups. A certain number of people depend upon the Cuban market and another depends on the Portuguese one.
Mr. Hollett To arrange groups is not a very big job, is it?
Mr. Job They have to keep in touch with them β€” they are very helpful; they have to send special cables.
Mr. Hollett Why does the trade not send cables?
Mr. Job They have the authority of the government behind them and it is advantageous to have such an organisation set up under government authority specially in these times. I am of the opinion that the Fisheries Board has done an excellent job; and we will need it more in times to come.
Mr. Smallwood I am not going to say anything about the Fisheries Board. A little bird whispered to me that an amount of money β€” $300,000 a year β€” is paid out here in St. John's to two men or two firms. The two firms are supposed to be the brokers representing the fish exported from this country β€” one handles all the fish going to the other side of the Atlantic. They get commissions which amount, in the case of one firm on Water Street, to $150,000 a year as brokerage. For doing what? In the last four or five years, since the Combined Food Board came into being, the United States, Canada and Great Britain have taken our whole output of codfish; they have not had much to do but to pass on the trade papers and see that the money is deposited in the bank. The Combined Food Board in Washington, where Mr. Gushue was a high official, says, "You can ship so much to Trinidad." The importer in Trinidad who buys the fish has to put the money in the bank in advance and this agent is supposed to see that he does. For that he collects $150,000 a year and is doing it now. The other firm does the same thing for the fish over in Europe. It was not a little bird that told me that, it was a member of the Salt Codfish Exporters Association who told me and he was feeling murderous about it. if I am driven too far, I will name the firm.... $150,000 a year, as the Americans say, is not hay. In the last four or five years no one had to work to sell fish; all you had to do was to get it.... I think perhaps that's what Major Cashin was trying to get at.
Mr. Hollett I don't think that Mr. Smallwood could name that man or his commission.
Mr. Smallwood Well Mr. Chairman, I won't name him, but it is a well-known fact ... that one man is the agent for all that fish, and I understand that he collects $150,000 hard cash for his services.
Mr. Hollett From whom?
Mr. Smallwood From the trade. In other words, from the fishermen of this country. The trade pays him, but the trade gets it from the fishermen. Then another firm that handles all the fish to Spain, Portugal, ltaly, England, etc., they also collect roughly $150,000 cash a year.
Mr. Harrington That was the point I was trying to bring out, but I did not make it as clear as Major Cashin and Mr. Smallwood. I am satisfied now.
384 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947
Mr. Hickman Surely there is a limit to what they can receive. I don't know, I am not in the fish business. Is that so, Mr. Job?
Mr. Job I don't know really. I don't think they would continue allowing it to exist unless they were getting service for it. One of the concerns to which our friend was referring is a concern that has a very large organisation through Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, and I have no doubt they have very heavy expenditures to keep up. That is quite possible.
Mr. Hollett That is what I can't understand. We have the fishermen getting the fish and the small man in the outports collecting it, and sending it in to St. John's. Perhaps he is an exporter, perhaps not, but all the Codfish Board has to do is allocate it to the trade β€”I don't know whether the trade has anything to do with the Salt Codfish Board β€” and the trade has to sell it. Now we find they don't sell it at all, but some commission agent here in St. John's who gets $150,000, is that right? I am not trying to decry the work which the Fisheries Board has done, but we have to remember that they did an excellent job from 1939 up to the present time when they were selling the goods and dealing with a rising market, the same as the Commission of Government during that period. I think everybody did an excellent job during that period, because we were winning hands down. Don't let anybody live in a fool's paradise. What we must not do is praise up the Fisheries Board too much or they might think they are little gods, and sit tight. If they were good during the war years I feel sure they will be good during the years to come.
One thing I would like to refer to is the statistics which the Committee has given us with regard to inshore, Labrador Stationers, Labrador floaters, and deep sea fishing. The average number of quintals caught by inshore fishermen was 32 last year, stationers 30 quintals, floaters 61 (these are the men who went down to Labrador in their own vessels); then we have the deep sea fishing (referring to bankers on the southwest coast), 122 quintals. If we are going to improve the fisheries, you have to get each man producing more fish. If you look at these figures you will find that you have to make it possible for the fishermen to get further away from their own stageheads. They must have ships to enable them to get further away and get back safely. The government of the day, whatever it is, has to see that each fisherman gets as much fish as it is humanly possible for him to catch. It is absolutely useless for us to depend to any large extent on the inshore fishery. These figures have proved it, that your banking fleet always got more fish per man, and thereby made a much better living. I say they did not make as good a living as they should for the amount of fish they caught. I don't know who is to blame, Spain, Portugal, or the St. John's merchants or whoever, but we must get ready for that future which is bound to come. You are not going to be selling fish on a rising market all the time. We will have at least a short period like we had after the last war. There is no reason why we can't, and it is our duty to try to plan to offset that depression as much as it is humanly possible for us to do....
There are certain recommendations by the post-war planning committee of the Fisheries Board. But what are they doing to implement them? They have a very nice plan laid down for our committee going to London, about paying tariffs, but what are they doing about it?
Mr. Newell In the middle of page 10 there is a little statement which I think expresses a whole lot: "We suggest that consideration be given to the idea that the codfishery be placed on a cash basis." The implications of that statement are very wide indeed. They have their roots right in the very question that we have here β€” whether or not the people of this country can be self-supporting. I notice they don't suggest to the National Convention how this desirable situation can he brought about. I don't blame them for not attempting to answer that, because it is going to be something of a headache. You can't just snap your fingers and have it done. I have certain ideas on the subject myself, which I do not propose to go into now because they have nothing to do with the Fisheries Report, but it seems to me that we have sometime or other to try to make a picture in our minds of a Newfoundland which will provide a decent standard of living for its people, and as far as fishermen are concerned this question of putting our codfishery on a cash basis is very important from a great many angles. From the angle ofeconomy, which is enough at the present time, let us consider what happens when the fisherman gets credit. I take it most of our salt codfishery is carried on on a credit basis. As a March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 385 matter of fact, when the people from my district read that the Convention is considering putting the codfishery on a cash basis they will probably lose all confidence in the Convention from then on, for the idea of putting it on a cash basis is blasphemy to them. Let us think of the economy that would be affected if it were possible to put the codfishery on a cash basis. Let us say that an important wholesaler needs credit, I presume he goes to the bank and gets credit. Presumably he pays whatever the bank's usual charges are, and these naturally are tacked on to the cost of his goods. Now that wholesale merchant has to deal with a smaller retail merchant somewhere in the outport, and he has to give this particular man not only six to ten months credit (because very few of them are in a position to buy for cash), but in addition to waiting for payment for his goods he has to undertake considerable risk as to whether he will get paid for it or not, therefore the cost of credit under such circumstances is fairly high. In turn the smaller businessman, who has secured credit from the wholesale merchant, lets out these same goods to your average fisherman, again on possibly six months credit, and again taking considerable risk as to whether he shall within six months or ever be paid for these goods. All these credit charges have to be tacked on to the cost of the goods, and must therefore be reckoned when we are considering the cost of production of salt codfish, because the cost of living of the individual in the primary enterprise must be reckoned in the cost of production. Now if we consider what all that means to our economy, and what a difference between prosperity and the opposite for a great many people in the fishing industry this means, we begin to see just how important this sentence is: "We suggest that consideration be given to the idea that the codfishery be placed on a cash basis". That's a very important point, and I would hate to see it passed over without due consideration. As I say, the Committee did not have the temerity to suggest how it should be done. It is a pretty tough problem, one of the main problems of our fishing industry, that is our codfishery. A great many abuses that exist today from every side are tied up with the same thing. A little while ago we were discussing the supervision of codfish that's going to be exported, because if we are going to stay in the markets we have to have a good quality, and look, if a fisherman comes to me, an outpon merchant, and gets a supply for the fishery and pays for it in cash, it's no business of mine what kind of codfish he produces, or whether he produces any or not β€”but it's definitely his business He has paid his account in cash and is depending on the sale of his codfish to provide himself with a living through the ensuing months when the fishery is over. It is to his best interests to produce the best quality β€” otherwise he will not dispose of it.
I have never been in the salt codfish business, but I know a good many who are, and many of them have reiterated that if a man comes along who has a credit account of $2-300 and has 60 or 70 quintals of fish to dispose of, and he has the codfish which is in place of cash, the natural feeling is to say, "I am sorry I can't take that fish at the price you want for it." Usually he has been fortunate enough to get the money for it somewhere else, and the other man has to whistle for it. Personally I hate the sound of the words "credit system", and I think whether or not we can put our codfishery on a cash basis in the coming years will determine whether or not the codfishery can become a paying proposition I congratulate the Committee on bringing this to the attention of the Convention.
Mr. Job The fresh codfish business has been on a cash basis, and one of the things the Committee had in mind was the possibility that the purchase of codfish might eventually be made for cash, which would mean that the plants, or the operators, would have to make arrangements for curing the fish, and then the question arose as to how much more is it going to cost to cure fish in that way than when a fisherman cures it himself. That's a question which requires very careful consideration, but that would be the ideal sort of arrangement. It is made a little more encouraging now by the fact that if you can bring the fish into one locality you will largely increase the value of your by-products, especially the offal for fishmeal. That's one of the things the Committee had in mind. It is a very difficult matter, and one that has to be enquired into. It is easy to put it on paper, but not so easy to carry it through.
Mr. Newell With regard to the cost, I know one group who went into this, and it was their estimate that in a great many instances practically 30% to 35% of the cost of consumer goods which the fishermen used could be charged to credit 386 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 before it passed to the consumer; a markup on the original cost of say 25%, and with the cost of handling, etc,, added on, the percentage of selling price could not be decided with any degree of accuracy. But the markup on the cost could be arrived at with a fair degree of accuracy and would work out at 25% or over.
Mr. Ashbourne There is another point too that should not be overlooked, that is the stimulus that's given to the fisherman as he gets up in the morning and goes out realising that for his day's catch of codfish, before the evening sun sets, he will have the money in his pocket. That's a very important thing, and I am rather of the opinion that the great production of fresh and frozen fish that's been made in Newfoundland the past few years has been practically the result of the fact that cash has been paid for fresh fish.
Mr. Penney Many delegates are going out for a rest and it almost looks as if we are getting tired of this informative debate and that it ought to be soon ended in order to move on to another section. Before we do, I would like to say that to me the Fishery Board as constituted today is one of the bright sides in the marketing and control of the fishery products of Newfoundland. The personnel are doing a fine job, and one of the persons who had perhaps a great deal to do initially with that great undertaking is Mr. Brown. I am sorry he is unable to see the job through, at least in the House. The fishermen over across our way are very pleased and satisfied that things are going so well. I congratulate the members of the Fishery Committee who so far are giving us a fine report and doing a good job.
Mr. Keough Before the Convention passes on to another section I have some information which I think the Convention should have. It has to do with the export of fish. I just checked with the Newfoundland Fisheries Board, and the information I have is as follows:
This guaranteed system was discontinued in 1941. The price has gone up and there is no further guarantee in that respect. In 1943 the Combined Food Board allocated all the world's supplies of salt codfish and under that allocation system certain prices were agreed on, and when these export schedules were established the exporters and fishermen in this country met and agreed on prices. These were minimum prices, and they could pay more if they so desired. In 1944 the same procedure was followed. The price represented some increase on the 1943 price. In 1945 the exporters and fishermen did not come to an agreement. Apparently they felt that competition would take care of providing a good price. Apparently it did, and the same story was true in 1946. No agreed to, or set price was determined by a meeting of exporters and fishermen, but the price ran higher than in 1945. Incidentally for 1946 the fishermen may have further saltfish cuts. That seems to be the story.
Mr. Smallwood In 1938-39 the government guaranteed the merchants a certain export price on small Madeira and Brazil, and on Labrador fish. It is a remarkable fact that for that very year the total value of codfish exported from Newfoundland was only $4,190,000, which was less than the year before that, when the catch was bigger. That's an average of only roughly $4 per quintal.... Now in the following year, that would be 1940, they guaranteed all did they?
Mr. Keough Correct.
Mr. Smallwood So the exporters are naturally paying a bit firmer price to the fishermen, but in that year the catch was 1,208,000 quintals, and the value was up to $6.5 million. I can't make that up in my mind just now, but it's a bit more; but 1940 was surely the first year of the great world up-swing of prices. The war broke out in 1939, but we did at least sell the fish in spite of the exchange trouble. What was the position in 1941?
Mr. Keough Apparently the guarantee system was in existence up to a certain time in 1941, at which time it was discontinued.
Mr. Smallwood 750,000 quintals. Now in 1942 the price jumped to $9.25 million, and the next year $12.5 million, and the next year $13.25 million and 1945 $16.75 million, that is of course when the Combined Food Board was controlling all the prices was it not?
Mr. Keough Yes.
Mr. Smallwood The total export value was 1,097,700 quintals β€” over $17.25 million. That year, 1946, did the Combined Food Board have anything to do with it?
Mr. Crosbie Yes.
Mr. Smallwood When did the Combined Food Board's control over Newfoundland come to an March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 387 end β€” did they control up to the end of 1946?
Mr. Crosbie The 1946 catch was marketed.
Mr. Smallwood Then that is the end of the Combined Food Board as far as Newfoundland is concerned; we are on our own from this year on?
Mr. Job It looks like it.
Mr. Smallwood What we will get is what we can get from now on. There is nobody to control it.
Mr. Newell I do not know what the point of the discussion is at the moment. It does seem to me that the action of the Fisheries Board or the govemmentin guaranteeing a certain price would tend to set a minimum price to the fishermen, where if a guarantee is not made, it might well be less. That is what I gather from this discussion.
Mr. Hollett It might be more.
Mr. Vardy It has been proven it could be more. Take the case of herring β€” we had an experience last year, when we could have gotten $2 a barrel more for the herring had it not been for the action of the Board.
The report is a well-worded document; long enough to digest and plain enough for the average man to understand. Mr. Hollett touched on an important matter just now, that there should be more small boats, 15-25 ton boats. I am in accord with that. I am disappointed as a member of the Public Health and Welfare Committee over the little consideration given through the civil re-establishment department to the fishermen. We all know that the fishermen received amounts varying from $100 to the top man getting $700. In View of the fact that the present government is handing out in the vicinity of over $8 million to rehabilitate the men from World War II, under various headings such as back pay, gratuities, land settlement, university courses and various other brackets, in a country where the fishery is still the leading industry, it has received by far the lesser amount. I cannot find words strong enough to condemn those responsible for creating such a scheme. I am not satisfied that this country has spent or is spending sufficient to modernise the fisheries. We know there is plenty of room for more cold storages. I would like to know from Mr. Job whether these 15 quick-freezing plants are owned by private companies or if the government has any interest in them?
Mr. Job As far as I know, it is entirely private enterprise. I do not think the government had any interest as shareholders. They did make certain advances at one time, comparatively small amounts. In that connection, Mr. P.H. Dunn introduced the act whereby loans could be made, but very little advantage was taken of it. The loans were not wanted. I think that is one of the sad features about it β€” that $4 million was voted for that purpose and none was used. It was earmarked for loans and people did not want loans.
Mr. Smallwood They would rather sell the shares?
Mr. Job They did sell shares and they put in their own money. The end of it was that the loans were not required. At least part of the trade thought it should be earmarked for certain things like the development of cold storage. It was simply cancelled. It was reduced to something like $500,000 and I think it is still available. The trouble is, under the act, the government takes no risk. The government simply says, "We will vote $4 million, anyone who wants a loan may get it under certain terms β€” safe terms to the government." The government should take part of the risk. I think there is a great deal to be said for the reason they give, they want to safeguard the public funds and not make loans without proper security, but it does not help the trade.
Mr. Smallwood How would bank credit and government credit compare as to the easiness of getting loans and time of repayment?
Mr. Job About the same, I think. We could not see any advantage. The interest was perhaps a little lower in the case of the government. There was no term given. They were extremely particular about the matter of titles. There was so much exactitude that the people would not be bothered; they would rather go to the bank and get a loan; if their credit was good, they could get it. If you have to mortgage your plant, you do not like doing it.
Mr. Vardy It does not make good reading when we have the figure of $l.8 million to be spent on 300 men for land settlement, and then look at the figures given here for I938-l939 of the amount of money earned by the fishermen, We are heading in the wrong direction. I do not think the people responsible for this knew anything about the fishery other than the experience gained in catching a few salmon on the rivers.
I wonder if the Committee paid sufficient attention to the smoked fish business. We know 388 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 that all over Newfoundland there is a considerable amount of smoked fish used for local consumption. I know the export figures are not very large. There are quite a number of smokehouses situated all over this country. These smokehouses turn out kippers, fillets, salmon, caplin and various other qualities of fish, being consumed by the local market largely.
Mr. Smallwood Are they of sufficiently good quality to be exported?
Mr. Vardy Yes, I have exported them myself as much as 25 years ago. There is a market for them.... I feel the Committee has done a good job and we want to get on with it, but I also feel very strongly about this matter of putting the fisherman off with such a small allocation, some as low as $100 and $500 each β€” the top men get $700 each. Then they turn around and give men who want to start farming β€” very often men who know nothing about it β€” $6,000 to $7,000. I will say, as I said before, that time will prove that the $6,000 will be more like $10,000. If they had given those poor fishermen one of these little boats, these fishermen, after they were discharged, if given that $1,000, plus the bounty, could have built their boats and owned them. It would have been an asset to the country. I know what these men from Bonavista and Trinity are up against, they have to go offshore to get their fish. I am firmly convinced that if the government had spent half that money to rehabilitate the fishermen and created a job somewhere else for the others, the money would have been spent in a better way. I would like to see more cold storages and more bait depots all over the country. The fishing industry is still the backbone of this country. I have been around South America, Jamaica and Cuba; there are very few cold storages there, they are like ourselves. The fresh fish industry is only in its infancy. We have not enough sharp-freezing facilities to take care of all the fresh fish. I was a firm believer in the Fisheries Board, but like all other departments of government it has gotten out of control; it is costing more than it should for the service rendered.
Mr. Vincent For the first hour I thought the Fisheries Board was the white-haired boy to the fishing industry but some of our associates do not seem to think so. I think that Mr. Gushue has done a good job. There are a few things to which I would call your attention. Appendix B, page 7, last paragraph: "The matter of inspection is most essential to insure that high standard of quality." Did your Committee investigate the culling of the different grades of saltfish? Is there a specific yardstick of grading used in Trinity Bay and another in Bonavista Bay? Or do they all conform to one hard and fast rule? That is important. I have an interest in the Labrador salt codfishery. In 1946 a schooner in which I had a large interest discharged her cargo at a certain firm at St. John's. I left this Convention chamber one evening and went down to the schooner. It was raining hard. One of my friends across the way took me down in his car and he remarked it would be a poor day for handling, inspecting or culling fish. Arriving at the pier, what do 1 find? 15 or 20 men on the wharf opening barrels and packing fish. When I went on board I said to the captain, "It is not a good day for handling fish, is it?" He said, "Do not say anything, this is coming out No.1 Labrador β€” top grade." That is a very essential article of food and 1 am not going to stand for the fishermen being blamed for some of the curing. I was told that one of the inspectors of the Fisheries Board was on the wharf that day. That does not tend to create a good market for our staple product.
Further to Appendix B, page 11. Here I would make the accusation that a too trenchant pen, mayhap, makes the worthy scribe responsible for the generalities. I am conversant with the inshore fishery, and I cannot conceive how a fisherman with his crew of four or five men can carry out to a trap berth half a load of ice, haul his codtrap, and bring in, say, ten or 12 quintals of codfish.
On page 9 of Appendix B, I find something rather amusing. I refer to the elderly men prosecuting the inshore fishery β€” "Quite a number of inshore fishermen are elderly people." This certainly does not apply to districts of the North. In Bonavista Bay the prime young men are the fishermen, who consider their calling an honoured one, and are making a success of it.
Mr. Job Your reference to ice β€” I would like to make one remark about that. We had a discussion, and I must say we were all strongly in favour of that, because I have often seen fish coming into St. John's, fishermen waiting before they can get a chance of landing their fish, and that fish in hot weather soon deteriorates. There is no suggestion March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 389 that they carry a load of ice. But they could take a certain amount of ice out in hot weather. There ought to be some way of keeping the fish cool and not have it exposed to the heat.
Mr. Hillier I have not been a fisherman, but I know you cannot have ice aboard a trap skiff. However, I understand the Bank fishermen carry out ice. In this connection, I think the boats should have equipment to bleed the fish and make it in a good state.
Mr. Ryan How does the Committee suggest the fishermen keep ice over from the previous winter?
Mr. Hillier I know there are cases of fishermen who have erected small ice-houses, and they secured some sawdust to cover the ice and thus are able to get it during the summer time.
Mr. Job It is a matter of co-operation and I expect the co-operatives will fix all that.
Mr. Hickman I would like to ask Mr. Job, does he know whether the Icelandic or Norwegian fisheries are subsidised at the present time?
Mr. Job I have no definite information but I understand that they are not.
Mr. Ballam I saw an article in the paper where the Icelandic government had put up an amount of $50 million to subsidise the fisheries in the building of deep sea draggers.
Mr. Job That was to assist the building, not to subsidise. It was used to assist in the promotion of the fisheries.
Mr. Harrington Page 10 of Appendix B: "The whole problem of the fisheries is quite complex and is linked up ultimately with the matter of subsidies which our competitors have used and are using to bolster their own production of fish. This matter always will have to be borne in mind, as it has a most important bearing on the ability of one producer to compete for any particular market." I was wondering how that stood up in relation to what you have just said?
Mr. Job I said I was not quite sure. My impression is they are not using it at the present time. These matters will be matters of discussion at the ITO meeting. The hope is that subsidising will be done away with
Mr. Smallwood They are definitely subsidising in Portugal and Spain.
Mr. Job They subsidise boats that catch fresh fish
Mr. Reddy I was very much struck with the remarks of Mr. Newell and of Mr. Ashboume regarding getting salt codfish on a cash basis. That is important. It gives fishermen a great incentive when they can get cash instead of waiting months and months before they can get returns. I also agree with Mr. Fudge. I am afraid there is too big a spread between what the fishermen receive and what the exporters obtain. That is a question to be gone into thoroughly.
Mr. Hollett Might I ask Mr. Job if it is not a fact now that fishermen on bankers are paid on a cash basis when they come in with a load of fish? They are not like your fresh fish men that catch the fish and deposit it on your wharf and get paid for it, they are fishermen who are co-operative in a sense. They make fish on a certain share, and I did understand that when they come in, although they cannot get all settled up. they can get an amount reasonably equal to what their share will come to.
Mr. Job I don't know. I know that any fish landed by the bankers at the fishery premises is paid for in cash. What the owner does with the sharemen I do not know.
Mr. Hollett What particular branch of the salt codfishery were you trying to get on a cash basis? Take the shore fisherman. He goes out in his dory and he brings in his fish and puts it in his own stage and salts it and washes it, but when he takes it to his merchant he gets cash for it if he wants it. There is an act to that effect. What branch is not on a cash basis?
Mr. Smallwood What branch is on it?
Mr. Hollett I am asking Mr. Job.
Mr. Job You mean if a fisherman salts his own fish? I think the fisherman should bring his fish in and sell it as it is, and receive cash for it.
Mr. Hollett But you are talking about the salt codfishery.
Mr. Job But even with sailfish the shareman sells his fish when it is cured. I don't think the idea was that the fisherman who cures his own fish should necessarily sell that for cash. I don't know, but he has generally received some credit and has to pay for that.
Mr. Hollett What you mean is that our fishery should be re-organised to this extent, that all fishermen should bring in their fish and sell it to some central market. Well, naturally he would get cash then. But what particular branch of the salt codfishery are you referring to there when 390 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 you say: "We suggest that [it] be placed on a cash basis?"
Mr. Job I think what was in the minds of the Committee was central curing stations, where the fishermen would bring their fish and it would be salted by someone; an expansion of the cold storage plants might take care of that. It might be a curing place for saltfish. I don't know how far you can carry that, you might have difficulty, but it would be a great help.
Mr. Ryan I wonder if Mr. Job would tell us if they had any success with artificial dryers here?
Mr. Job We have had success with them for the past 40 years. We have been using them all the time. You can go over to our Southside premises and see them. Up to the present we have not been able to make as good an article of an artificially dried fish as you can of a carefully sunβ€”dried fish.
Mr. Ryan The fishermen won't get so well paid?
Mr. Job You would save a lot of your West India fish. I am afraid it is not practical to cure all fish by artificial drying, because there is no fish that can be cured as well as the shore fish, which is sun-dried. I don't think it has ever been done. We are the only people in the world that are attempting to make that very fine light-salted, sun-cured fish. The Norwegian and Iceland fish is not by any means in the same class as our fine, merchantable, light- salted cod. It has got a salty appearance, and the salt comes up on the face of it. It is preferred in some markets, but no one has been able to beat our sun-dried fish when it is properly cured.
Mr. Ryan But still you recommend the individual fisherman not drying his own fish, but selling it to be dried artificially?
Mr. Job Well, it would give the fisherman his cash and the ability to go and catch more fish, especially with those 25 foot boats. I think that's a very important suggestion, and the government can help them buy these boats. We are building some of these boats ourselves, and are going to put them into trial this year, but there is a good deal to be done, and I was going to suggest in the report that the government might build a few of these boats for each bay, and test them out.
Mr. Smallwood I wonder if Mr. Job has read anything about the new method of artificial drying?.... It is a sort of tunnel, or cylinder, and a blast of hot air goes in and dehydrates it....
Mr. Job You will see that at our Southside premises, we have been using it for five or ten years....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Job touched on a point a moment ago about this light-salted fish. We would not be here today but for the fact of that light-cured fish. The shortage and high cost of salt in England compared with the plentiful supply and low cost of salt in Spain, Portugal and Italy 350 years ago, that enabled the latter to start a vessel fishery. They could catch their fish, salt it on the Banks and bring it home. The English had to light salt it, and that's why they settled in Newfoundland in the first place. That's why our light-salted cure is so famous and unique.
I am going to ask Mr. Job this: suppose you had your choice of having all fish brought by the fishermen to central curing stations, whether to be frozen or salt cured, and no fisherman making his own fish at all, or to go on as we are, where each fisherman makes his own fish, what does Mr. Job think would be the best of these two methods? I think that theoretically the former would be the better β€” fishermen merely to be fishermen, devoting their time almost entirely to catching. But has Mr. Job considered this side of it β€” in normal times when the price is normal, if a fisherman makes his own fish he is in a sense getting paid for his own labour and the labour of his own family for making that fish. That's a very important point when prices are low. When prices are high, sell the fish round if you like, but if the price is down would the merchant taking that fish and curing it himself pay the fisherman enough to live on, or might he not be forced to get the few cents extra by making the fish himself? If he is not making fish time is on his hands. If the price is low, you try to get fishermen to sell fish round when he can get more by making the fish!
Mr. Job That's a question that would have to be very carefully gone into. No one can tell how that would turn out. It might prove to be too costly to cure it. It is being tried to some extent now. There are plants in the country now that buy the fish and dry it.
Mr. Smallwood Moores, Crosbie, Monroe, etc.
Mr. Job But as to the experiment of buying it fresh and making it altogether in one place, there are a lot of things to be considered. The thing is that if it could be done you would get the offal. It March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 391 would cost the manufacturer extra to make it above what the fisherman would do it for.
Mr. Crosbie But you would have a better cure.
Mr. Job A more regular cure.
Mr. Crosbie First when we started we could not get our men to sell us the fish, but now they won't make it themselves any more.
Mr. Job But you are handling heavy-salted fish?
Mr. Crosbie We take both.
Mr. Smallwood Where do you get the shore fish?
Mr. Crosbie Down around Harbour Grace.
Mr. Smallwood You make it?
Mr. Crosbie Oh yes, we have not money enough to put in a dryer....
Mr. MacDonald Might I ask Mr. Job if the quality of artificially dried fish is as good as fish dried under the sun.
Mr. Job For certain markets it is. It makes a very good Madeira fish, but you don't get the light- salted fish, you can't do it.
Mr. Hickman I would ask Mr. Job to turn to page 11 of the Appendix, where your Committee "see the need of additional staff to investigate scientifically our fisheries". I was wondering if you could give us a little detail on that. Has the Committee gone into the cost, or how many would be required, or what scientific investigation would have to be made over and above what they are doing today?
Mr. Keough The Committee goes on to say that a proportion of public money should be spent on research, and some on the herring industry, but the Committee did not go into it in any detail. The money being spent is decidedly inadequate.
Mr. Job I noticed yesterday that a biologist had been appointed to assist Dr. Templeman.
Mr. Hickman It probably came out of your report.
Mr. Chairman Is the Committee ready for the question? It has been moved and seconded that this section do pass as read β€” carried unanimously.
[The Secretary continued reading the report, and the committee then adjourned until 8 pm. When the committee reconvened, the Assistant Secretary read Appendices C and J.[1]]
Mr. Hickman On page 3 of Appendix C, talking about research, it says "Unfortunately in our country, our government has not had the vision or courage to spend large sums of money in research work on our fisheries." I understood that some time last year there was some arrangement made with the Canadian government β€” I was wondering if the chairman would clear that up?
Mr. Job That is correct.
Mr. Crosbie Two years ago our government agreed with the Canadian government to make a certain amount of research in the Gulf and around Canadian shores; but it was not until last fall that the boats were completed; our government subscribed $12,000 towards that research.
Mr. Hickman How far would $12,000 go? Would it get them outside the heads?
Mr. Crosbie I do not know what the Canadians are paying. That is our proportion.
Mr. Smallwood Yearly?
Mr. Crosbie Yes. My experience in operating research boats is that $12,000 will last about four months. When we got the boats we were short of web to make the seine. I asked a fellow in Vancouver to let me have the loan of a seine. I found I could not get it out of Canada. I asked the Commissioner about sending someone to Canada to get some more web. He asked me if I knew that Newfoundland was a small place and did I not realise there was a shortage of twine. Through Mr. Gushue, who had met some people in Ottawa, we got the loan of a seine for which we have not been charged a penny.
Mr. Harrington As far as the $12,000 is concerned I have here an editorial I wrote on the same matter some time ago.... I do not know if they pay $12,000 each.
Mr. Hickman I would like to ask how long the survey would take β€” how long before we have definite knowledge?
Mr. Crosbie I am no expert, nor am I a biologist; it took the Icelandic government five years to make a complete survey. It may take one to five years. We have a large area in the Gulf, Bay of Islands, Green Bay, Fortune Bay and Notre Dame Bay. Whether there are any large quantities, we do not know. We do not know definitely about the Bay of Islands.
Mr. Job They have assisted in the Explorer?
Mr. Crosbie The Western Explorer came to this country in 1939, and cost $52,000. After the war, when the navy was through with her, she was stripped of everything in the way of fishing 392 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 equipment. The government asked $45,000 for her, but after some dickering, they agreed to sell her to us for $25,000. As regards to the money which the government has in the fresh fish business, the answer is that it has none. They have money in the Newfoundland Dehydrating Company[1] and the terms of repayment are reasonable β€” over 20 years.
Mr. Job Bonds?
Mr. Crosbie First mortgage.
Mr. Smallwood Is it a straight loan, or have they got shares?
Mr. Crosbie Straight loan β€” first mortgage.
Mr. Smallwood Would Mr. Crosbie say a word on this $4 million forecast. Appendix C, page 5: "We believe it is only fair to estimate the value of our herring fisheries over a period of a few years will be not less than $4 million annually and this is a long way from $181,406 in 1933."
Mr. Keough The value of exports of herring, according to statistics, is $4,894,852; and with the development, the plant envisaged and actually in construction at Petrie's Point,[2] it was felt that the annual returns from the herring industry would be up in the vicinity of $4 million, even though the price may drop.
Mr. Crosbie It is not over-optimistic.
Mr. Hollett On that same page, "We must bear in mind that there are many opportunities in Newfoundland, such as Fortune Bay and Notre Dame Bay that have herring in abundance which Β  have not been productive for some years." Where did you get that information? I am informed that 50,000 barrels went to UNRRA from Fortune Bay. Herring also supplies the bankers with bait.
Mr. Crosbie We got it from the people from these sections. They are not nearly as productive as they were in 1921. We are not talking about the last 12 months.
Mr. Hollett They always got what they wanted.
Mr. Crosbie There is no one to pack them.
Mr. Hollett There was no sale before.
Mr. Crosbie Therefore they are unproductive. We do not say there are no herring in the bay.
Mr. Hollett 50,000 barrels is a lot for one year.
Mr. Smallwood Page 1, Appendix C β€” you say that you have not been able to get figures from Iceland except 1936, and you go on and give it, $3 million. The year before last Iceland exported 15,000 tons of herring oil.
Mr. Crosbie We do not say that.
Mr. Smallwood I am saying it. If that was doubled, 30,000 tons, what would the value be?
Mr. Crosbie $3 million.
Mr. Smallwood That is not oil alone?
Mr. Crosbie Oil, meal and herring β€” $2.8 million.
Mr. Smallwood Have you the figures for BC?
Mr. Crosbie I think it is $9 million.
Mr. Smallwood That would be three times as much. From 1939-1945 they packed one million cases a year of canned herring β€” and in 1942 1.5 million cases.
Mr. Crosbie These figures are given by the Dominion government.
Mr. Hollett On page 4 of the same report: "We understand that the Icelandic government has spent somewhere in the vicinity of $800,000, but we have not heard any figures mentioned for the Norwegian government. We are given to understand the British Columbia govemment, in conjunction with the federal government spent annually about $300,000 in fishery research". Has the Committee any authority for that statement?
Mr. Crosbie As far as I am concerned, I got it in Vancouver in 1943 from Major Sullivan and others interested in the herring fishery. All you have to do, if you want to check it, is to ask the Fisheries Board. In connection with the Icelandic government, we have that information from their ambassador in the United States.
Mr. Smallwood In Holland, pre-war, they had 265 vessels in their hening fleet alone; it wentoff during the war; but in 1946 they had 140 vessels, just after herring. It looks as if we should stop the codfishery and go in for herring.
Mr. Crosbie That is part of my argument. There are fish which have much more value, but that runs into tremendous amounts of capital. The Icelandic government realised that they could not go ahead without government assistance. I think in Iceland it is state controlled and private capital. Mr. Hollett "To purchase and equip a purse seiner in British Columbia prior to the war, was approximately $35,000 and today is about $50,000." What was the cost to this country for a purse seiner?
March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 393
Mr. Crosbie They built the Eastern Explorer in Clarenville. She is equipped for purse seining. So far the government has not been able to say what the cost will be; they think it is in the vicinity of $85,000 for 110 tons. Originally, when Mr. Dunn was here, the government intended building boats which they would chatter to private concerns, but when he left, everything was changed. I certainly would not pay $85,000 for anything of 110 tons.
Mr. Northcott The herring fishery has been a godsend to this country; it means so much to the individual fisherman. They all can get a license to pack. Therefore if you get $3 million for herring, it means a lot of money spread throughout Newfoundland. A fisherman can get an early start and it makes him independent. I hope if UNRRA does go out, the Fisheries Board will be able to get contracts from time to time. Our herring has gone throughout Europe and we should get some good markets there. The herring fishery will be a great thing for this country.
Mr. Hickman On page 4 of Appendix J: "when one considers the quantity of herring which I have found in the Bay of Islands area, coupled with the experiences gained by the herring fishery in British Columbia, there is no reason for any boundary lines and the present prohibiting of the use of purse seiners in this area should be abolished." I was wondering, in view of Mr. Gammon's report, could it be possible to use purse seiners unrestrictedly?
Mr. Crosbie I think the position is this. We had the right to use purse seiners inside Blow-Me- Down and Liverpool Brook. Last year the fishermen objected and we took the seines out of the water. Last July an agreement was made between the Fishermen's Union and the company that for the present year we would not operate inside Blow-Me-Down and Liverpool Brook. Actually, from the legal point of view, you could go ahead and use the seines if you wanted to. Until last fall, in the Bay of Islands, no one knew the quantity there. The fishermen thought the herring moved out and they had to wait for them to come inside. Actually, from researches we made, the fishermen were getting a great deal of fish in the Humber flats; there are large quantities also in Mclvers. The figure we give is 150,000 tons. Mr. Gammon said it should be 450,000. I said that was too big a joke to give the public.
Mr. Smallwood Has he been estimating schools of herring for some time?
Mr. Crosbie He has been his own master for 30 years.
Mr. Smallwood Can they do that with a fathometer?
Mr. Crosbie They use a feeling wire also. We have checked the fathometer against his wire and satisfied ourselves that there is an unlimited quantity in that area. You can estimate within 15 tons.
Mr. Smallwood What would that 450,000 tons be? Green? How would you convert that?
Mr. Crosbie All depends on what you do with it.
Mr. Fudge Ten barrels to the ton of herring.
Mr. Smallwood Converting that into meal or oil?
Mr. Crosbie Five tons of fish is one ton of meal.
Mr. Smallwood Would you get some oil out of that besides?
Mr. Crosbie It would not be a very profitable business if you did not.
Mr. Hollett What is your authority for saying 70% of all herring originated in Bay of Islands?
Mr. Crosbie From the customs exports.
Mr. Hollett 70% of all the herring caught?
Mr. Crosbie Exported, over the last 14 years.
Mr. Hollett On page 5, it says: "In Bay of Islands, where 70% of all herring originates...."
Mr. Job Originates, as far as Newfoundland is concerned, for export.
Mr. Hollett 70% of all herring caught in this country were caught in Bay of Islands, is that it?
Mr. Job That is what I meant.
Mr. Hollett The Santa Cruz Oil Company was set up here in 1937. and I believe the government guaranteed bonds up to $225,000. I believe when they clewed up, they owed the government $141,000. Did you find out what happened?
Mr. Job I did not.
Mr. Crosbie I do not think that that concerns this report. If the government did not have sense enough to protect themselves, it does not affect this Convention.
Mr. Hollett At that time the Santa Cruz Oil Company were given a monopoly to catch herring in Placentia Bay and in Fortune Bay for a period of 12 years. They were also given sole monopoly to catch and cure herring on Labrador for a period of 15 years. When they clued up, not 394 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 being able to find sufficient herring they owed our government $ 141,000. I think it should be the duty of the Committee to find out whether our government got anything. If they can put up $225,000 for outside concerns, we might persuade them to put some up for local firms.
Mr. Crosbie Where did you get those facts?
Mr. Hollett From Mr. MacKay's book.[1]
[The section was passed as read. The Secretary read the next section and Appendices B and D[2]]
Mr. Job Some of this report is out of date. The government did agree to make a survey. I got permission from the committee working on this section to send a copy of it to the Commissioner for Natural Resources before we presented it here. I think that is what brought about the survey.
Mr. Smallwood That is one thing the Convention has done, anyway.
Mr. Job Another matter, we have quite stringent regulations regarding inspection of ships prosecuting sealfishery. These were supposed to apply to ships coming in here. It is interesting to note that within the past few days a ship arrived here under the Panama flag and sailed for the sealfishery without inspection.
Mr. Smallwood That is inspection under the Sealing Act?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. Job That matter has to be taken into consideration by those who are prosecuting the seal fishery and have to compete.
Mr. Smallwood Why was it allowed?
Mr. Job They claimed that, being under the Panama flag, they had no authority to inspect. They may be right. If that ship comes in here to land her seals, they have the right then.
Mr. Smallwood It is too late then.
Mr. Job Looking at this report, we have to provide for the good and the bad years. It does not look very promising this year.
Mr. Hollett Does Mr. Job know if the Norwegians carry any insurance on their fishermen?
Mr. Job I do not know. We have no insurance on our fishermen except against the chance of their being caught out after dark as in the case of the Newfoundland disaster and the Greenland disaster.
Mr. Hollett To what extent?
Mr. Job It covers the amount provided in the act.
Mr. Crosbie $1,000.
Mr. Hollett The reason I ask is that you arrive at this figure of 1/8th of 1% casualties; you could easily arrange a nice insurance.
Mr. Ballam These men, do they not come under the Workmen's Compensation Act?
Mr. Job No, they are sharemen.
Mr. Ballam Is the liability insurance looked after by the firm or is it paid by the firm?
Mr. Job It is paid by the firm.
Mr. Smallwood The firm insures its own risk.
Mr. Job We are liable under the act if they are caught out after dark and lose their lives.
Mr. Hollett What happens if they lose their lives before dark?
Mr. Job There is no insurance.
Mr. Hollett Do you think that is detrimental to the sealers?
Mr. Job I would not think so because the risk is so small. If you are going to apply that to the seal fishery, it ought to be applied to everything.
Mr. Hollett If the risk is so small, it should be easy to work up a nice insurance.
Mr. Job It adds considerably to the expense.
Mr. Hollett I cannot see that, if it is only 1/8th of 1%.
Mr. Job Would you accept the risk of 1/8th of 1%?
Mr. Hollett I am not a broker; if I were I would take a chance.
Mr. Crosbie The rate of insurance is $4 per $1,000 per man.
Mr. Hollett It is not very much, is it?
Mr. Job It is a lot more that 1/8th of 1%.
Mr. Smallwood The loss has been more than 1/8th of 1%, since 1862. That may be so if you take the four disasters when 323 lives were lost and divide that into 250,000 men, that gives you 1/8th of 1%. But you can double that since 1862 β€” not on sealers, but on sailing craft.
Mr. Job We have taken into account the loss since the introduction of steamers.
Mr. Hollett I feel strongly about this insurance. For a good many years I lived in Burin. I was born there. That is where men go out to fish in all weathers at all times of the year. I have seen many cases where men lost their lives β€” where a whole 1 R.A. MacKay, Newfoundland: Economic, Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (Toronto, 1946). 2 Volume II:215, 226. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection] March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 395 ship's crew has been lost, and what do they get? The Customs pays the widow $85; the Permanent Marine Disaster Fund[1] β€” which has done a tremendous amount of good work and all credit is due those responsible for that β€” from that fund the widow gets a very small amount, $80 a year. I am sure that any fisherman going out there, if he felt there was some security for his wife and children, would make a much better fisherman than he would be at the present time. I think it most important that some sort of scheme be worked out. Some years ago I took it up with the government β€” I sent to Ottawa and got their fishermen's insurance scheme which applied to Louisbourg. It was too ambitious for us, so I asked the government to do something along those lines. It went in the wastepaper basket. I think we should do something about fishermen's insurance.
Mr. Smallwood I agree with Mr. Hollett. I sympathise with it but for rather a different reason. It is not so much for the protection of the men themselves β€” although Mr. Hollett has said they would make better fishermen, and probably they would β€” but it is for the rehabilitation of the families when they need it most.
On page 5 you say that the very high cost of outfitting and repairing ships is caused by a wrong method of taxation. Would Mr. Job, Mr. Crosbie or Mr. Ashboume tell me one reason why materials used in the outfitting, manufacturing and repairing of sealing ships should be imported free of duty β€” m one reason that does not apply equally strongly to the materials imported for the use of the cod, herring and other fish industries? If you are going to have free trade in that particular branch of our basic industry, why not free trade in all the other branches?
Mr. Job I can give you one good reason: the seal fishery is a hazardous speculation. Take this year, it cost between $30,000 and $45,000 to outfit each steamer β€” that has to be hazarded. If you get no seals you lose the whole thing. You have paid on that $5,000 or $6,000 duty. When you take a risk, you want that risk to be cut down as much as it can be, in order to encourage them to take the risk. It is not the same with cod fishery.
Mr. Smallwood Suppose you send a ship out and it costs $35,000 to outfit her, including $5,000 or $6,000 to the government, and she comes back clean, what is actually your loss then?
Mr. Job $35,000 assuming she has consumed all her stores. She may have a little left β€” all you have left is a small amount of stores; and then you have the expense of cleaning her up.
Mr. Smallwood I was reading in either the Halifax Chronicle or Halifax Herald that two or three steamers had gone out to the seal hunt this spring β€” let us assume that is true β€” if they have not gone this year, no doubt they will go in future years. Say three ships went out from Halifax and three from St. John's, what is the difference in cost of prosecuting the seal hunt from St. John's and prosecuting it from Halifax?
Mr. Job Mr. Smallwood is trying to lead me into confederation. It would be very much less in Halifax but they have not got the men to prosecute the seal fishery; they have got to come to Newfoundland.
Mr. Smallwood We have the men.
Mr. Hollett Insure the men!
Mr. Fudge I wonder if Mr. Crosbie could tell me what it would cost per thousand to insure the men provided the sealers were protected day and night. This $4 insures them if they are out at night.... What would be the cost of full coverage, morning, noon and night?
Mr. Crosbie $4 is full coverage day or night. I disagree with Mr. Job over some things. He says that it would cost less for a ship to prosecute the seal fishery out of Halifax. From the point of view of repairs I cannot agree. I had a certain amount of work done on a Whaler, converting from coal to oil, and the quotation I got from Halifax was $25,000 higher than our own dockyard, and that included duty on the materials. It was quite a shock to me.
Mr. Smallwood How would that compare with the cost of Canadian ships in Halifax?
Mr. Crosbie I would get the same preference as any Canadian ship going into Halifax.
Mr. Smallwood Canadian owned and registered ships?
Mr. Crosbie Exactly the same.
Mr. Job I was not referring to repairs, I was referring to outfitting. I know you would save a lot on coal.
Mr. Crosbie But you have 560 miles to travel.
Mr. Job Not if I went into the Gulf.
396 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947
Mr. Starkes That $4 β€” is that per trip or per month?
Mr. Crosbie That is for a trip.
Mr. Reddy Does the government compel you to have these men insured? Or is it voluntary?
Mr. Crosbie The government does not compel you, but under the act you are responsible for payment of $1,000 if anything happens to the men. For years all of our men have been insured.
Mr. Reddy The bank fishermen only get $180. I consider their lot just as hazardous as seal fishermen.
Mr. Job Much more.
Mr. Reddy Therefore I am alarmed at the small insurance of bank fishermen, compared to the sealers.
Mr. Ballam I suggest we leave this report on insurance until we come to that section.
Mr. Harrington ....The point strikes me that considering the fact that these ships cannot be used for ordinary purposes, it might be possible to employ them in the fresh frozen food business, is that possible?
Mr. Job I do not think that a properly built sealing ship could be equipped to combine with insulation. Take the Beothic and Ungava β€” it was the serious competition and they could not compete, it cost so much more for insurance. We were paying insurance on an extra $200,000 all the time and competition was so keen, we found we had to lie them up.
Mr. Harrington They were good cargo carriers.
Mr. Job Yes, carried more than 2,600 tons.
Mr. Smallwood Any talk of new steamers for the seal hunt?
Mr. Job Nothing definite. We are all waiting to see the results of the sealing survey.
[The committee rose and reported progress, and 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:181. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:215. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Created in 1936 by Commission of Government to regulate the production and export of fish.
  • [1] The United States and Britain formed the Combined Food Board in June 1942 to coordinate the utilisation of food resources. It remained in effect until l946. For further information see Peter Neary, Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929-1949 (Kingston and Montreal, 1988), p. 184.
  • [2] United Nations Relief Rehabilitation Association.
  • [1] Volume II:223, 244. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] This company, owned and operated by Chesley Crosbie, was located in the Bay of Islands.
  • [2] Bay of Islands.
  • [1] Set up after S.S. Newfoundland disaster, 1914.

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