Newfoundland National Convention, 10 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 10, 1947

Report of the Local Industries Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Hickman I think perhaps it might be best if the Secretary would finish reading the report, and we could then take it all and debate it....
[The Secretary read the second part of the report, and Mr. Hickman answered a number of questions]
Mr. Smallwood Let us consider the appendix compiled by the Industrial Development Board, which strikes me as a constructive. report. They seem to have the same idea I have — to use up the raw materials we have here in the country rather than import. I do not think sealskins are mentioned, but that is an important item. They are exported raw. Why are they not manufactured here? Then the birch. What possibilities are there for manufacturing that here? Then, limestone. It seems from this report that limestone is subsidised in Canada. To encourage agriculture, the government subsidises limestone to make it cheaper for farmers. Fish offal — perhaps Mr. Crosbie can tell us something about that. I was into a place in Labrador where there was machinery for turning fish guts, sound bones, and heads into fish meal. Then we come to seaweed. What do we find? "Processing firms in the USA when contacted re the establishment of branch plants in this country immediately asked for data on the quantities of the various species of seaweed available. This information, unfortunately, has never been compiled." Why not? They make blancmange out of seaweed. Blancmange is the usual Sunday dessert in Newfoundland; and here we are importing blancmange. Then wallboard, If they can make wallboard out of sawdust, why can't we put up a place to make wallboard?
Mr. Hickman They are doing experimental work on that now.
Mr. Smallwood I know the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Co. have been experimenting with it. We have the raw materials for all those things. I know of one local factory in St. John's — it is true they are importing raw material — they are milking that factory to put the profits into another industry of the country. I like that very much.... I hope Mr. Job will tell us about sealskins and Mr. Crosbie about fish offal.
Mr. Job I take this opportunity of making a few remarks about Mr. Smallwood's ideas in regard to different industries. I am in accord with some of his ideas but I am not in accord with the drastic way in which he thinks local industries should be dealt with. Any local industry must have a small amount of protection and the most important thing about local industries is the employment. There are 3-4,000 men employed in local industries, what would be the position if they were out of employment now? It is serious. I think it is helpful to the country generally. The other point is the enormous government revenue from those industries. I do not know how much. I do say that if any industry is receiving excessive protection, it should be remedied. Now, with regard to sealskins. The answer is simple. It has been tried on various occasions. The main trouble is foreign tariffs. Our sealskins go into the United States 304 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 absolutely free of duty. If we make them up into a manufactured article we get a 50% tariff or something like that. The same thing applied to the British market. The tanning of sealskins is an art -- it is an art learned in Great Britain at very heavy cost. We have had factories —— one on Water Street West and another in Harbour Grace —— and much effort was, made to turn out a good article. It was discovered utterly impossible to do it. I do not want to transgress on the questions asked of Mr. Crosbie, but I would like to say one word about ïŹsh offal. it may not be known to Mr. Smallwood, but about 70 years ago, my ïŹrm lost ÂŁ20,000 trying to deal with fish offal. It has a very enticing appearance, you sell all this stuff being thrown away. You think, "This is ridiculous", but I am sorry to say my firm and others put up factories in Catalina, Bay Bulls and L'Anse-au- Loup; I am told it cost my ïŹrm ÂŁ20,000 and it very nearly ruined us. The day will come when fish offal will be used, but it depends on the question of centralisation of the ïŹsheries. Mr. Crosbie is doing a lot towards that. I hope it will be a successful adjunct.
Mr. Smallwood There was a time when we got 500,000 sealskins a year; if we get it back to 200,000 it will be good. Even these could be made into boots and shoes and consumed locally — manufactured locally for the home market. I have seen in the States pocket hooks, women's purses, all kinds of leather goods made in England and exhibited in the States and Canada, paying the high duty and selling. In New York you will see a ïŹne class of leather goods made in England, and on which they pay high duty. I was once given a pocket book made of Newfoundland seal —— it was soft as silk —— if you were to buy it, it would cost $30 or $40. If England can do it, we can...
Mr. Higgins ....I believe I understood Mr. Smallwood to refer to the Imperial Tobacco Co., and the protection it received.
Mr. Smallwood No.
Mr. Higgins Well, you corroborated Major Cashin's ideas in the matter, and the suggestion that the amount they were receiving in connection with salaries after all did not warrant the protection they were receiving. The suggestion was that the protection is not given in other countries. I believe those familiar with Canadian and American tariffs will remember that the price of American cigarettes, if you can buy them in Canada, is very much higher than here. Obviously it is the same subsidiary of the major company who are making the lines of cigarettes that are sold. They must enjoy a very much higher protecion to be able to charge a higher price for American cigarettes. I thought it was worth menioning, because the Imperial Tobacco Co. was under attack, because I knew the position myself, and I am sure a lot of you know it.
Mr. Crosbie Mr. Chairman, l have taken very little part in the numerous debates which have taken place, for the simple reason that I prefer to listen and learn; besides, Many of my fellow delegates have said, in certain instances, what I would have said myself. However, I cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing my views on some phases of the Report on Local Industries.
I would first say how disappointed I was at the small number of replies received by the Committee to the questionnaires sent out to local firms. Can you imagine, that out of 150 firms, only 35 showed sufficient interest to answer. Those who failed to reply have nothing of which to be proud. If we had our own government, and if l were a member of it, I would see that these firms produced the answers to the questions which were asked. It is regrettable our government did not have the faith and foresight to implement and entrust this Convention with power to demand information, and get it. In many ways (and I agree with my friend the Major) this country has been put to unnecessary expense at this National Convention in ascertaining certain facts when the government should have, and must have, figures and statistics which, after proper analysis, would show if our country is self-supporting or not.
I was sorry and disappointed, but not surprised, at the tirade that bellowed forth from my genial friend, Mr. Smallwood, who like Pathé News, professes to see all, hear all, and know all. I am far from convinced that he knows all the correct answers to all the questions all the time. After the Local Industries Report was tabled, my friend, with his usual gusto, for 15 minutes or more, told us what he would do with local in- dustries which were not producing from our own raw materials. Now, what did he tell us'? Exactly nothing, except that he would do away with them, even if it meant paying something like $4 million February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 305 per annum to the people, who thus became unemployed, to do nothing. Mr. Smallwood did not suggest that the industries receiving protection be investigated thoroughly, and the unessential and uneconomic ones be eliminated, and the others maintained and encouraged. No, he eliminated them all.
I cannot agree with this attitude. There are some very worthwhile local industries which are great assets to our country. I am a shareholder in many, and no one realises more than I how dependant they are on the income from the forests, the fisheries, and our mines. I receive — and I don't mind admitting it — some local dividends which, in turn, are used to help finance the things I am endeavouring to do in our fisheries. I would like to congratulate the Committee; they have done their best, and have brought in an excellent report when you consider the many handicaps they had to face. As far as local industries are concerned, I would suggest to our present government, and to whatever form of government we will have in the future that they thoroughly investigate all local companies receiving high tariff protection, and if they are not operated in the best interest of the people, remove this protection.
As a closing word I appeal to you gentlemen, no matter what form of government you favour, do not let us knock our country; Newfoundland too often has been knocked by her own sons and daughters. If we cannot praise our country for something, the least we can do is wash our dirty linen in private.
There will be a report on fish offal in the Fisheries Report. Some 70 years ago Mr. Job's firm lost a lot of money on utilising fish offal; but in the last six years I have been greatly interested in this, and it is only within the past 18 months that we have found a new process which will greatly reduce the cost of producing, or processing this.
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, I wonder if the convenor of the Committee could tell me what material is used in the blankets that cover the paper machines?
Mr. Hickman Perhaps Mr. Fudge might be able to answer that better than me.
Mr. Higgins They are made of wool.
Mr. Fudge Very heavy wool.
Mr. Bailey Because I noticed in the report that these blankets are made in the United States and Canada because they have the materials in their own country. I happen to know that they have not got the materials. Any time you are in Boston if you go down to the station, you will pass through a section of the city which is nothing but wool warehouses, mostly Australian wool. I am interested in the Riverside wool....[1] Here is an industry which is worth building up. I came to know about this during the war, I was in New York and one of our women, who originally belonged to Newfoundland, happened to go to her closet and take out a white blanket and spread it over the bed. An American woman who was there said, "Where in the world did you get a blanket like that?" She said, "That's a Newfoundland product, the wool is grown there, and the blanket made there".... These are industries which can be expanded. If in the future we can get machines to utilise cotton with the wool, and if we get wool direct from Australia, without passing through American and Canadian brokers, here is an industry worthwhile. I can't see why in the future all our clothes cannot be made in this country.
Now here is another industry. I was in Costa Rica during a time of famine and I was talking to a man about what our country is doing as regards fruit, and he happened to say, "We were fortunate to get 800 barrels of loganberries, I wish we could get 8,000." He said, "You have a wonderful fruit in panridgeberries." I know one of our women went to the States to join her son, and because she was not satisfied to lie around and do nothing, her son opened a Newfoundland store up there. She got the berries and started putting up so much jam in the kitchen. It went from one to another, and she could not make as much as she could sell.... There is something that can be made worthwhile if it was looked into.
Mr. Jones I was going to refer to the blueberry industry. I quote from the report of the Industrial Development Board: "A report of blueberry production over a period of years shows that this industry has decreased alarmingly over the past few years." I wonder if anything has been done to revive this industry, which means so much to the people, especially the people of the Avalon Peninsula. I know the department has urged the burning of certain areas. Has this been beneficial to the industry or not? This matter concerns this 306 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 Committee, and we should find a remedy to revive this industry which does not cost anything at all. It would be a wise thing to do.
Mr. Hickman I am not in the blueberry industry and I don't know much about it, but I understand the decrease in the blueberry production was mainly caused by the volume of employment at the bases, and the people did not have the necessity of going blueberry picking. That was the main factor in blueberry production, the price was definitely set, and perhaps as unemployment increases, which we trust it won't, it may bring back a greater production. That is the answer you get from businessmen engaged in it.
Mr. Smallwood I wonder if Mr. Bailey could tell us something in connection with wool. I followed his argument on herring with great interest. I thought it was completely sound....but now about this wool. He suggests importing wool from Australia as the United States does and as Canada does. If we were to import wool from Australia to manufacture into blankets and men's suits, does he suggest that that is an economic proposition for export, or is he picturing merely importing enough wool to supply our own needs? And has he considered the cost of a plant large enough to do that? Has he worked that thing out?
Mr. Spencer I have noticed that this report does not say anything about our local shipbuilding industry. Can Mr. Hickman tell us if that is covered by another committee. In view of the importance of this to the fisheries I don't think it should be overlooked.
Mr. Hickman We did not make that investigation, as we thought it would be covered by the Fishery Report.
Mr. Northcott The enemies of man are fire, floods, earthquakes and disease, and it looks as if we could add local industry as an enemy. I think we should encourage every local industry, whether small or large. Every industry started in this country means a few more people get work, happier people and happier homes. Our people are not crying out for money, but for work, therefore we should encourage those local industries and place no barrier in their way. It seems too bad that there are barriers in the way.
Mr. Spencer I wonder if the convenor of the Local Industries Committee will answer the following question. It is on page 19 of the report in connection with cardboard cartons. I wonder if you have any idea of the price of them?
Mr. Hickman No, the cartons come in for so many products that we have no price on the various types. It would take quite a bit of computation to get all that.
Mr. Bailey Replying to that question, I did not have any idea of exporting, I thought it would be a long step ahead in the industrial development of this country if we got as far as where we could clothe ourselves, and I shall have something to say on this later when another report comes in....
Mr. Ashbourne Rather than import raw wool from Australia and New Zealand I would be in favour of raising it in Newfoundland ourselves, even though we have to subsidise every man who keeps sheep, and the time may come when the government pays them to do it. I realise that the Committee had quite a job owing to the lack of statistics. One of the things the govemmentmight look into how is the formation of a bureau of statistics. It already has the personnel, and let it be simplified so that we can get government statistics, not only for these local industries, but upon everything pertaining to the economy of Newfoundland.
When Mr. Bailey was speaking about wool, I was thinking of the amount of hams and bacon used in Newfoundland, and I am of the opinion that we don't raise enough pigs. Talking about sealskins, Mr. Smallwood mentioned my name just now. It is quite true that I had a pair of sealskin boots. We had quite a number of harps and hoods, and the price was about 63 cents for a damaged skin, so we decided to send some of them to Harbour Grace and have them tanned. It was an expensive process, and we have not yet got rid of all those skins, but we used them in the manufacture of certain articles like pouches, purses, school bags and also for furniture, leather for chairs, etc. It was quite suitable and I feel sure there is quite a market for that in Newfoundland, but not in sufficient volume or quantity to take the whole of our catch....
Mr. Hickman Some sort of statistical department should be set up.
Mr. Higgins On the question of wool products — I do not know if I got Mr. Bailey's story right, but I do not see how we can compete with outsiders. I do not know if your Committee has any information about the Riverside Woolen Mills? I do not see why they cannot be increased. I February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 307 wonder if we could have your views on that, Mr. Hickman?
Mr. Hickman We have no views — only statistics. We have had no reply from the Riverside Woolen Mills.
Mr. Smallwood This business of wool and woolen mills is a very good example of the point I am trying to make. Perhaps when the Committee on Agriculture brings in its report we may have some information on the practical possibility of rearing sheep.... Mr. Hollett wanted to know if they have protective tariffs everywhere. Yes they do. They caused the big war. Mr. Hollett will agree there is a difference between Great Britain with a big home market, and the United States with 140 millions, and Canada with 12 millions, setting out deliberately with a policy to start local industries. But take a country like Newfoundland with 318,000 population, counting Labrador — if you are going to start an industry where you have to import raw material and fabricate it into a finished article, the cost of doing so is great. You are turning out a small quantity. Your overhead is high. If you do it on a large scale, you get modern equipment and turn out large quantities, you cannot do it in a small country. If you do, you turn out enough in a week to last the country for years....
What are we doing today? We are looking at one of the great issues that has divided man, free trade. We must export or die. We must export our fish, our paper and our minerals. Whatever lies in our power we must do to help industries bringing money into this country.... When I say local industries, I am talking about fish, ore, forests — they are not the kind of industries we are talking about. I am talking about the industries that are artificial, made possible by a protective tariff. We are making it expensive to produce through the customs tariff. Ithas been a grave issue which has divided man and made enemies, this question of free trade versus protection. They come to the government as infant industries, need just a little bit of help, little bit of fostering care, protective tariff. "When we get on our feet, we will not need it", they say. While they are infants they want the government to help them. They want a little bit of nursing. Some of them are now pretty lusty infants, and they are still getting the protective tariffs — they were infants in the 1870s. You are unpatriotic, you are destructive if you get up and mention it. I do not care if it costs me my place in public life, I will mention it. I do not want a place in public life if I have to suppress the truth. I want to see free trade and cut out the cursed tariffs.
Mr. Reddy Every member has a right to express his opinion on any matter that comes before this House, and being a member of the Local Industries Committee does not debar me from that privilege.... I am very much in favour of local industries, but I am certainly opposed to the exorbitant protective tariff that is enjoyed by the main local industries of St. John's, which is conveniently called a revenue tariff. This burden of taxation falls most heavily on those least able to bear it, our woodsmen, miners and fishermen. Some people argue that if you close down local industries, you put a certain number of people out of employment. I would say, if the rights of the masses are infringed upon, the cause of the minority is not a just one. In my opinion this peculiar set-up of local industries in St. John's appears to be the greatest imposition yet perpetrated against the working class of Newfoundland.
I feel it is the duty of this Convention to recommend that this taxation be reduced to the minimum... I am of the opinion that the exorbitant protection enjoyed by the several local industries amounts to well over a million dollars per annum. Isn't it time that the powers that be recognised this protection and did something to reduce taxation from the shoulders of the masses of our people?
Mr. Higgins I was wondering if the Committee had investigated the possibilities of electricity. The making of electricity by windmills is now a well known factor in the country, and I was wondering if you investigated the potential electric power that we might be able to harness.
Mr. Hickman No.
Mr. Crosbie Can you tell me what protection these local industries have? How great is it? Mr. Reddy talked a lot about it, what is the tariff they have in their favour? Let's have the truth.
Mr. Reddy The Imperial Tobacco Co. gets a protection of $552,000, and the Newfoundland Butter Co. $250,000 more.
Mr. Crosbie I would like to tell Mr. Reddy that his figures are entirely wrong. If he does not give the correct facts, I will.
Mr. Reddy I don't think my figures are wrong about the Tobacco Co. or the Butter Co., but we don't know about the Standard Manufacturing Co. or some of the others.
Mr. Crosbie It is easy enough to find out.
Mr. Fogwill I would like to ask if the Committee did break down the fourth column, "Wages, Salaries and Commission"? What part would be wages?
Mr. Hickman The answer to that question is that that column includes wages and salaries, or the compensation for work done which in one form or another was paid out to their employees. It was not broken down.
Mr. Fogwill That's all the information you have? It is not broken down into wages, commission, etc.?
Mr. Hickman No, it was not.
Mr. Fogwill Do you know what is the total number of employees? Does that include all employees in a particular industry, including directors, etc.?
Mr. Hickman Well, the question asked was, would they give the total number of employees. I presume that would include directors if they had any. In most cases there are only from three to five.
Mr. Fogwill In asking that question I was interested because in Mr. Liddell's report he made a survey of employees in the manufacturing firms in St. John's for March and April 1939.[1] You have got it for January to December, which is also quoted in his report, that is a total of 31 concerns in St. John's. In a further report which he made he has it from 64 firms in St. John's.
Mr. Hickman Did he include all employers?
Mr. Fogwill No.... He gives a total of males and females in that table, that is for firms employing 15 to 50; 22 firms reported, males and females, and firms employing from 50 to 150, for males and females. I thought perhaps that was available to the Committee, but I understand now that it is not included in the report. He gives the average returns for all firms in his survey.
Mr. Fudge I would like to see as many local industries in this country as we can possibly get. It has been my duty for the past eight or ten years to inquire as to what those particular industries can afford to pay by way of wages. Then we would seek the wages that we think that industry could afford. Now there is a lot said about this protection tariff, or subsidy as I call it. In Canada they use that word A lot of people are complaining about the high cost of living, but I have had nobody yet tell me that anybody has complained about ways and means of getting protection of profit. Let's look at our local industries here in St. John's — the clothing factory for instance. I wonder would anybody be honest enough to tell us what it costs the White Clothing Factory to make a suit of clothes, and what they charge our people in the outports for it? Most of us have an idea. I don't know what committee this would come under, but I hope that in the near future some of this will be brought up. Then talk about the cost of living. I know why it is, we have too many like Ananias and Sapphira here — they keep back part of the price! If I was challenged on this I can willingly give more particulars.
Mr. Cranford As a member of the Local Industries Committee I think I should add a few remarks to what has already been said. When I was selected as a member of this Committee I took it as a coincidence that I should serve as a member. I do not believe there are many in this assembly more acquainted with the doings and advantages given to the promoters of local industries, such as the factories here in St. John's that have enjoyed protective tariffs, than I am....
I am a person who has passed through the hard school of knowing how to raise a large family in an outport with all the odds against him. I come from the rank and file, an orphan at the age of 14 years, when my father was lost at sea in pursuit of a living by fishing which left me stranded.
For 45 years I have been trying to eke out a living by fishing, lumbering, trapping, importing dry goods and exporting fresh salmon and raw furs. It can be expected of me to know something about the conditions under which we live, and how present and past governments have been the means of upsetting our economic structure. I am firmly convinced that one of the principal pests that ate the props from under our economic structure was the protective tariff. It ate the life out of our main industries, particularly the fisheries. The fishermen do not have any protection. They are obliged to sell their product in competition with similar products throughout the world and it is not altogether the juice that a fisherman gets February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 309 for his products, it is really the amount of the necessities of life in return for his fish that counts. So I say that local industries such as factories, that handled a large part of the earnings of the people, obtained from all other major industries including the fisheries, should be conducted in such a manner as to be a benefit to the poorest worker as well as to the richest of this country. When a person or corporation is about to start a so-called factory the first thing is to take it up with the government with the aim and object of getting all the protection they can produce. That's so they could prevent competition and be able to satisfy their dealers with a substantial discount and commission without any consideration of what any other industry would have to suffer by their arrangements. They do not care if the workers of the country starve to death as long as they could live in luxury. If that state of affairs is to be continued it will not matter what form of future government we may have. In other words, if we do not take our fishery as a guiding star in all our undertakings we are doomed to failure.
In describing local industries there are two kinds. One that I am trying to describe and the other that is going on in the outports, for example sawmills that take the raw wood and convert it into commercial articles, and meet all kinds of competition and even help to keep the protected ones going. I must say that since the advent of Commission of Government the protective tariff has not been so great. But the sting of past years still lingers, demonstrated a few days ago when one of the members of the Board of Trade who attended a meeting of the Local Industries Committee told the story of a person who was eating an article of food made in a Newfoundland factory; when that person was told it was a local product he spit it out. Doesn't that story prove that it was not the taste of the article that made that person spit it out, but the sting of protective tariff?
When the words local industries are even mentioned it sends a thrill through me. It brings back to my memory what happened over 20 years ago because of protective tariff. It was at a time when I had a shipment of goods landed here from New York bought in the regular way without any strings attached whatever. It happened to be the same kind of goods that were made in the local factories I could not make entry on my invoices but was told that my goods had to be appraised by officials of the factories here. I had to prove without doubt that I could not buy from the local factories. I was placed in the same category as the foreign business people whom we all call Jews, forgetting that the people who built up their businesses by the protective tariff are the worst kind of a Jew — a Newfoundland Jew. I have no hesitation in saying that the protective tariff was never meant to foster industries that would give employment to the people, but is merely a concocted manipulation of trade. The consolation I have, that I can thank God for, is that my family was not raised by the protective tariff. If it was I would not be seen here in this assembly. I would be found home in an armchair shedding crocodile tears over the condition of the country.
I do not believe there is another country under the sun that protects foreign products as we do, and I am fully convinced that these so-called factories that reap the benefit of protection are really parasites on the fishermen and workers of this country. I will stick to my conviction until such time as an independent accountant can convince me otherwise. I predict that accountant's report will show a loss to the public treasury of the tidy sum of approximately $2,000 a year at least, for each individual employed in these establishments where foreign material is processed. In other words, if the government would pay the employees of these establishments the full amount of their wages and let them go idle if they wish, and import the finished article, the government would save at least $2,000 a year on each individual so employed and in one or two cases it will be double that amount.
If there are any persons or firms that wish to dispute my prediction, I suggest they produce a comparative statement showing the difference in the regular duty that would be paid on the same quantity that they processed during the past year, and what they really paid. and the amount of excise duty paid for that period, and have it certified by the Department of Customs as being correct. If that is not done I will consider myself as being correct.
Mr. Chairman If there is no further discussion I shall put the question.
Mr. MacDonald Going back to a question concerning the corporation taxes paid by these local industries, which has a definite bearing on the 310 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 value of these local industries. I understood it was impossible to get these figures from the different companies, but does the convenor of the Local Industries Committee think it would be possible to get them from the Finance Department in the aggregate amount? Do you think they would give you the aggregate amount of the corporation taxes that are paid?
Mr. Hickman The Assessor of Taxes could be asked if they would give us the total figure paid.
Mr. MacDonald That's it. I could see where the companies don't want to make a public acknowledgement. I would not. But I think it is due to this Convention to know the amount that these 35 companies have paid in as a whole. Considering the value of the local industries to the country as a whole I think it is a most important thing. There is no way of averaging or considering what it might be for any one concern, and it would not give away any of the business secrets of these concerns if we got the total amount.
In looking over this list I see there are three concerns that export some of their products, to the amount of $133,000. Would the convenor of the Local Industries Committee say that it is possible to manufacture in this country and export?
Mr. Hickman That might be possible in certain cases, but I would not be able to give a general answer. There are some items that could be exported. For example in this report here, one export is margarine. I imagine that is what went to St. Pierre. There must be items that can be exported. There has been such a demand locally in the last few years and such a shortage of imported goods that I don't think we could touch the export market.
Mr. MacDonald I was thinking of the old country, they are like ourselves, they must export or perish. That country lives purely on industry, and most of them are conducted by importing raw materials. They have very little of their own, but everything is imported, manufactured and then exported to other countries and compete with those from which they imported the raw materials. How do they do it, and can it be done here?
Mr. Smallwood The other name for Great Britain is "the workshop of the world". She imports raw materials in hundreds of steamer loads, fabricates them in vast mills and factories and then exports the finished products, She has the greatest merchant marine in the world. There is a great difference in that and a little country of 300,000 people importing for local consumption alone.
Mr. Ashbourne Regarding the export of margarine, I presume that is not allowed today. Certainly we are not allowing that to go out of the country now with our imports cut by 15%?
Mr. Hickman I don't know, these figures are back in 1945.
Mr. Ashbourne I notice that $2,400 worth of brick was exported. It might be capable of expansion. These bricks are in great demand today, because it is quite ajob to get galvanised iron to make stovepipes, and we are very fortunate in being able to make brick in Newfoundland. I would also .like to have seen some reference to the matter of plastics. As I understand it, that's quite an important industry, particularly in those countries that have large forests, and I hope that Newfoundland will be able to do something in this regard, and also in the matter of pottery.... Perhaps when the investigation that's going to take place shortly materialises, many of these industries will be brought into a flourishing condition. We would have more industries if we had more coal. If we had the coal we could manufacture some of our own iron ore.
Mr. Harrington There are a few general observations I would like to make on several of the matters referred to in the report or inferred during the debate. In leading off, I would refer to a statement which I made in a radio broadcast during the short election campaign that preceded the election in June last. In speaking of the purpose of the Convention, I said: "You are not electing a government; you are notelecting members to the House of Assembly who will repair the public wharf or fix the highroad through the settlement; or see that new industries are created in the West End of St. John's before they are started in the East End. That is not the purpose of the National Convention — that is the job of the government which will take over when the National Convention is history...." Some weeks ago too, in a Christmas message to the people of St. John's West, I said I did not intend to apologise for the debates that had taken place in the Convention, which in some quarters have been criticised as irrelevant and inclined to wander. I make no apology now, and you may be entitled February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 311 to wonder if I am going to contribute to that irrelevancy, which though perhaps unnecessary, is nonetheless natural, in view of my first quotation, which speaks of new industries being created in the city of St. John's.
I assure you I am not, although, when it is considered that the bulk of the secondary industries are concentrated in the city, both myself and the other four gentlemen on my left here, who represent that city, as well as the convenor of the Local Industries Committee, Mr. Hickman — all five of us might be more than justified in holding forth on the merits of such local industries, as long as some other members have railed against them, and advocated their abolition or their restriction in one form or another.
I don't think the people of St. John's either expect or want such defence or explanation. They will agree that the pros and cons of such a policy are something for a government to concern themselves with, a democratic government too, when perhaps one political party might make free trade and anti-protectionism and even abolishing of local industries a plank in their platform on which they might try to be elected, and then bring about such reforms.
From the days of Adam Smith, the famous English economist, whose treatise The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, the doctrine of free trade has been known. Its first application came with Pitt's commercial treaty with France in 1786, which removed many of the prohibitions and duties that had previously obstructed legitimate trade between the two countries, but the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars checked its workings. Down through the centuries the protagonists of free trade and protective tariffs have been battling the subject, and there is still a wide difference of opinion as to the respective merits of either policy, and the existence of protective tariffs in most countries of the world today would seem to prove that the free trade doctrine has not as yet won the allegiance of an overwhelming number of disciples. The breaking down of all international barriers and tariffs would seem to be essential to the satisfactory working of the doctrine, and perhaps it may be said that the ultimate fulfillment of the dream of men like Adam Smith, Mercier and Le Trosne lies in the present dream of the peoples of the globe for the "one world" that Wendell Wilkie sought, and which today has its shaky beginnings in the United Nations Organization.
I do not wish to become involved in a theoretical discussion on free trade and tariffs — protective or preferential. Such a discussion can be highly academic and of little value to the ultimate conclusions of the Local Industries Committee or the Convention as a whole. I do agree with the Committee's conclusion "that the local industries of the class investigated by us do have a definite bearing on the economy of the country and contribute in no small way towards the employment and support of a large number of people, and that encouragement should be given to the establishment of all local industries that could in any way contribute the same benefits to the economic structure of Newfoundland". I also find myself in agreement with their statement in the last paragraph of page 9 — "The question of local industries in relation to tariffs and customs duties, as affecting the cost to the consumer, was taken up by your Committee, and it should be noted here that your Committee is not satisfied that the high customs tariff under which certain local industries operate may be in the best interest of the country as a whole, and we believe that such matters should be investigated." Again I say, that it is a government's duty to conduct such an investigation, and it is not a task that comes within the scope of this Convention.
Quoting again from the report: "...the Committee felt that it would require the investigation by accountants and/or economists in order to determine the degree of protection in connection with revenue tariff." I have to disagree with Mr. Smallwood's inference in Friday's debate that the Committee was lacking in appreciation of its task as well as its powers, by not getting such accountants or economists to assist them. By the same token all committees of the Convention would be so lacking, including the Committee on Transportation and Communications, which on certain matters, notably the railway, professed its inability to make a proper assessment of all the figures and factors that went to make up their comprehensive report.
This observation serves to give an opening for my own opinion as to the degree of co-operation which the Convention on the whole has received from the existing authorities in the carrying out of its task. When this Convention began, the 312 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 present government should have set up a small staff of accountants, perhaps an economist among them and so on, to materially assist the Convention in its fact-and-figure Steeplechase. I am the first to admit that the co-operation we received on these lines among the civil service in the various departments was whole-hearted and valuable, but many of these people were already overworked and the amount of help they could give was limited.
I agree with Mr. Hollett's remarks in connection with the second paragraph on page 10. It seems strange to me also that there should be in existence since 1938 an Industrial Statistics Act, which however appears to be more honoured in the ignoring than in the implementation". I strongly support the Committee's recommendation that it be implemented, after careful revision which would produce some worthwhile changes. In this regard, I must add a few words, on the same matter which was one of the first obstacles met by the Local Industries Committee The Committee says, "...we might say that from the outset we have been very much handicapped by the lack of figures and statistics in relation to employment, production, invested value and other figures regarding the secondary industries. There is a complete lack of the necessary figures". That last brief sentence has now become the official refrain of all committees; for, as was pointed out, the Mining Committee has been so handicapped, and it is no secret that the Public Health and Welfare Committee, of which I am a member, has been up against the same problem In the debate on the supplementary report of the Forestry Committee and in previous reports of other committees, the same thing is found; the same abysmal ignorance of the various statistics that go to make up what Mr. Smallwood has been so much concerned with — namely, the gross national product. It is one of the great sins of omission of which the present government, with its 13 years of undisputed authority, has been guilty. I note too with some disappointment the lack of co-operation that the Committee had to contend with in connection with the questionnaires which were issued to various local firms for completion. It is regrettable that they did not consider the matter of sufficient national importance to supply the information desired, and it is to be hoped that the country will make note of such an unco-operative attitude, or lack of interest. It is a small matter, but it serves to prove what insurmountable barriers lie in the way of the Convention's getting a true picture and a thorough appraisal of the general position of the country.
Only one other observation would I make. That is with reference to the rather sweeping remarks in connection with the figurative burning down of all local industries and paying the people so employed out of the treasury. I am aware that no one means that literally, but saying it does create a false impression in the case for local industries. I do not agree, any more than other speakers, with excessively high protective tariffs, but I do agree that local industries should have some protection, though within reason. That is a matter which requires much investigation as the Committee has said, and until such time as it has been thoroughly gone into, we should not so sweepingly condemn an avenue of employment which takes care of a fairly large section of the community. The process of reduction of duties should be a gradual one, over a period, so that those whose livings may be affected by the subsequent loss of local industries may become absorbed by other industries and in other occupations. It is a vexatious and highly complex matter and is not something which either the Local Industries Committee or the Convention as a whole can either solve or dispose of in the brief period of its existence.
All these comments have dealt with the first part of the report for to my mind it is the only controversial part; the second portion which consists more of an account of stewardship by the Newfoundland Industrial Development Board is not controversial and in the main is most satisfactory and encouraging. In the comparatively short time that this Board has been in existence, it has accomplished a variety of excellent projects, that have more than justified the setting up of this organisation. For those people who favour either complete governmental control or nationalisation of everything, and those who are equally in favour of governmental abstention from everything, especially where it may conflict with private enterprise, here is an example of how these two extremes can be more or less reconciled to bring about a mutual co-operation between government and private enterprise, with benefi February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 313 cial results to the people of the country as a whole. I endorse the work of the Newfoundland Industrial Development Board and recommend that they receive all the encouragement possible.
[The committee rose and reported that it had passed the report. The Convention adjourned]


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).



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:54. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Riverside: Woolen Mills, Makinson's, Conception Bay, owned by the Royal Stores of St. John's.
  • [1] Thomas K. Lidell, Industrial Survey of Newfoundland (St. John's, 1940).

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