Newfoundland National Convention, 27 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 27, 1947

Report of the Committee on Agriculture:[1] Committee of the Whole

[ The Secretary continued reading the report.]
Mr. Butt Mr. Chairman, I skipped one small detail yesterday. We have the recapitulation of imports in detail, so if anyone wants any particular item you can have it. Further, you will find on your desks a memo on the feed pool situation. We did not look upon this as part of our report, because it was more or less an emergency measure about the distribution of feeds. I apologise because we only got it on February 25, and I barely read it myself, and some of you have not even seen it.
[The Secretary read the feed pool report.[2]]
Mr. Smallwood I wonder if Mr. Crosbie would tell us, how serious is it to take 5,000 sacks of fish meal and export it? Does it leave enough to meet local needs? There is a shortage of high protein fish meals. Have our local dairy and pig men February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 327 enough protein concentrates to bring up the protein content of their other feeds? Does this mean that our local demand will be curtailed?
Mr. Crosbie No, the government has kept enough in the country for our own use with the other feeds that come in. We were not allowed to export that.
Mr. Smallwood Is there a shortage?
Mr. Crosbie No, there is not now.
Mr. Smallwood I think there is, but it is only now beginning to show; we are in the dead of winter and it is now that they need it. That 5,000 sacks, is that a big proportion of last year's production?
Mr. Crosbie Only about one-tenth of it.
Mr. Smallwood Well the rest of it, what happened to that, apart from what was held here?
Mr. Crosbie As far as I know the government purchased the 5,000 sacks for Canada because the Canadian price is much higher than ours. To get the fish meal they had to give us a certain amount of other feed and our government absorbed the extra loss. We are only allowed to export sufficient fish meal so that there would be enough left for the country. As far as the shortage now is concerned, I don't think it can be serious because there is a firm in Burin (the Monroe plant) making a lot every day
Mr. Smallwood It is rather serious. I was on a farm Sunday night where they have 50 head of cattle and they are definitely short of protein. If it's being made daily now in Burin, could not the feed pool or the government bring it into town where it is so badly needed?
Mr. Crosbie You may find isolated cases, but I don't think it is serious.
Mr. Hickman I may be wrong, but I understand that if they had not exported those 5,000 bags of meal we would not have been able to obtain our allocation from the Canadian Feed Control. There is a lot of meal in Halifax, about 80,000 sacks but the transportation is at fault.
Mr. Figary Mr. Chairman, on pages 18-19,[1] speaking of tonnages for shipping in 1946 due to shortage of freight cars, railway and other labour troubles. Do you mean in Canada, United States, or where?
Mr. Butt That was intended to be outside Newfoundland.
Mr. Higgins I have a couple of questions. On page 1[2] you have, "The government soil analyst informed us that about 3% of our soil, i.e. 700,000 acres, is first-class agricultural land, and that in addition about 30% is second-class soil." Where would that be situated?
Mr. Butt There are two main areas around the Codroy and Humber valleys as one area, and around Conception Bay and a small amount around Eastport. The 700,000 acres would be made up not so much in that area as from what he has done all over the country. Most of it is in that big area on the west coast and around Conception Bay.
[There followed a series of questions and answers dealing with livestock prices, and government assistance to land clearing]
Mr. Harrington In connection with land settlements,[3] I notice here that in Markland the number of holdings is 73, expenditure $644,000, acres cleared 385; Brown's Arm, 24 holdings, expenditure $133,000, acres cleared 123. The com» parison is about three times the number of holdings at Markland as compared to Brown's Arm; and three times the number of acres at Markland, as compared with Brown's Arm; and the cost is approximately five times. Incidentally, too, the expenditures on Markland began in 1934 when costs were much lower than in those days. Could you give us some information on that?[4]
Mr. Butt Do you want me to attempt to defend Markland? I do not intend to. There were certain things involved in Markland, e.g., they were getting experience.
Mr. Harrington In an expensive way.
Mr. Butt At Markland they had a number of people who are today in charge of land settlements in the country. After they had the experience in Markland it helped them get down the costs. I do not want to go too deeply into this.
Mr. Harrington Perhaps you had better not.
Mr. Starkes Touching on that paragraph referred to by Mr. Harrington I notice 251 holdings — is that farmers?
Mr. Butt The average was six acres per family when they started in 1934, but it is a few more since then. The 1939 average was eight acres.
Mr. Starkes Am I correct in saying that each farmer cost the taxpayer roughly $700 per year since they settled there?
Mr. Butt It is $5,400 altogether.
Mr. Smallwood We read the totals spent and the total number of acres, we did not read the names of the settlements.
[Mr. Butt read from the report]*
Mr. Smallwood Could Mr. Butt tell us about those 251 holdings, are they all occupied now? This 1,534 acres? All under cultivation?
Mr. Butt I really do not know. In some settlements there may be possibly one or two families' places unoccupied, waiting for someone to come in. That is the case in Brown's Arm. They are filling them up. Presumably when you have the total 251 families on these holdings, you will then have all the land worked.
Mr. Smallwood This total expenditure. How lately was money spent to make up that total?
Mr. Butt I do not know.
Mr. Keough My guess would be up to 1942 or 1943; they are not spending any money on these land settlements now.
Mr. Smallwood Would the managers' salaries be coming out of public funds, or are they coming out of their own groups?
Mr. Keough As far as I know there are no longer any managers there. They are on their own.
Mr. Northcott You have given no returns for this large sum of money — $1,370,000. Is it really gone as far as the treasury is concerned? Has any of it ever been paid back? I might have a house built there; I am to pay back some of that money over a period of years. Has any of this ever been paid back?
Mr. Butt As far as I know none of that has ever been returned.
Mr. Northcott Then it is a sad affair.
Mr. Keough There was one time when the department concerned did have under advisement a plan for collecting a small sum in respect of some holdings. I do not think it was ever decided upon. I do not know of any specific instance where any amount was collected.
Mr. Butt This land development was started from the Colonial Development Fund — it was started out of that grant of £100,000; one interest payment was made and the rest cancelled.
Mr. Smallwood Interest cancelled, or principal?
Mr. Butt Principal. Actually because of that gift, it was $870,000 on total overall cost.
Mr. Smallwood That is not entirely a sad story. There are people living there and earning their living; they have homes and something to show for it.
Mr. Butt We did not attempt to justify this. It is all over and done with.
Mr. Hollett I am concerned with this February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 329 $1,370,000. They are now in the process of starting another settlement in the Humber area[1] Did the Committee endeavour to find out to what extent these families are actually rehabilitated? How many families in the nine settlements are making their whole living from the soil which they have developed with the aid of government? Did you find out what were the actual returns in agricultural products for last year or attempt to draw any conclusions from that experiment?
Mr. Butt No. You will see there our note, "We did not consider it our business to justify or otherwise to assess the returns to the country for the expenditure involved in this project."[2]
Mr. Hollett What are the actual bona fide results accrued to the country by reason of these nine settlements?
Mr. Butt There are 251 people with homes.
Mr. Hollett How many are there now? Have not some gone into the woods or mining?
Mr. Butt They do leave and come back. I understand that practically all those 251 would be in the various settlements now
Mr. Hollett Has their condition been improved by reason of that expenditure?
Mr. Butt Definitely, yes, in many, many instances. The original settlers were people who found it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living in the circumstances in which they lived at the time. As to whether the government was justified in spending the amount of money to give them the standard of living they now have — in many instances, yes, their condition has been improved.
Mr. McCarthy I refer to the question asked by Mr. Northcott regarding payments having been made. I understand that when the grants were issued to these people, they would pay about $50 for them; that would include holdings of land, buildings and barns — just a nominal charge. These grants are all made out now for members of the settlements; there are some negotiations going on as far as land is concerned with Bowaters and some other company. The number of acres, 1,534, that has been cleared by 251 families, this has been increased — I know it has been doubled in some settlements at the present time.
Mr. Smallwood Since the 1,500 were cleared, there might be more now?
Mr. McCarthy Yes.
Mr. Smallwood You said something about the upper Humber, settling 300 ex-servicemen at a cost of $6,000 each.To what extent is that $6,000 made possible by the experience gained in opening up the other land settlements? I have been through Sandringham — it was quite a job to clear that place, build homes and get the men settled — that gave them a certain amount of experience that now I suppose is useful to them in opening up the settlements in the Humber Valley for the ex-servicemen.
Mr. Butt I would say yes. In the first place the Director of Rural Development is a man who went from Markland to Midland. His deputy is also a man who went through Markland. He afterwards graduated from an agricultural college. There are a number of people like that. The experience gained by these people makes a lot of difference in other settlements. They are new building schools out of land settlement funds; they have a better method of getting original land cleared.
Mr. Newell I would like to refer to the point made by someone who was wondering about the returns we got by settling people on the land. The convenor made a classical understatement when he said the situation of some of those people was such that they found it difficult to earn a living. I happened to be on the south coast, where some of those people came from in 1938 — you remember the tidal wave of 1929 destroyed the fishing grounds there — and the average catch of fish had been estimated by the government to be ten quintals per man. I went around with one of the clergymen who was trying to do something about the economic condition of the people, and I can assure you that Mr. Butt's statement is very much an understatement. I would not wish to interfere with the digestion of your dinner this evening by giving a description of the graphic details of the conditions of those people who had been taken off the barren rocks; had not even soil in which to grow vegetables; and I wish to go on record that every $5,000 spent on these people out of any fund, they are welcome to it. I would 330 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 like to make one query. I note two settlements were started in 1934, Markland and Lourdes; Markland had 73 holdings at a cost of $644,000 which was $8,000 plus; and Lourdes had 27 holdings at a cost of $86,000 which was $3,000 plus. Since both started in the same year, I was wondering if the Committee had anything to say on that point?
Mr. McCarthy I might be able to clear that up. In the $644,000 spent in Markland we included equipment which was afterwards transferred to other land settlements. When Lourdes started there was no equipment except two old horses.
Mr. Keough As Mr. McCarthy has said, they had considerable equipment at Markland, whereas at Lourdes the stumps were pushed out with cattle.
Mr. Higgins Your figures, even with all the experience of these land settlements, come to $5,400 per family; and this new settlement is going to cost $6,000.
Mr. Butt That is at today's prices.
Mr. Higgins While on the subject of the upper Humber — possibly Mr. Keough could revert to this more because it is his district and he is pretty well aware of the situation. It strikes me that instead of having the land settlement in the upper Humber, breaking new ground, bringing new people together where there are no experienced farmers located, it would have been infinitely better to have settled them on the numerous acres in Codroy Valley not being farmed by anybody. It is true that these acres, though not used, are owned usually by the people around there; great quantities are also owned there by people in St. John's and it has never been used. You will agree that some of the best soil is situated in that valley, Would it not have been better and cheaper to have that new settlement in the Codroy Valley? Mr. Job and I had a talk with Mr. James Tompkins of Tompkins; he is a practical farmer and he was strong on the idea that the settlement would have been much more profitable to the settlers themselves had the land in the Codroy Valley been used. He said he and a number of his neighbours would have been prepared to advise these settlers, not only with local knowledge, but to give them if necessary actual help in developing their holdings. It is right on the railway line and has everything to make a perfect land settlement. Did the government make a mistake in that matter?
Would it not have been better to have bought up private, unoccupied, untilled land in the Codroy and put those men there?
Mr. Keough I am not prepared to say on what grounds the government decided on the upper Humber. It is a matter the Committee did not go into. I imagine they did have some specific reason for putting them there.
Mr. Higgins What is your own personal view?
Mr. Keough That is rather a question!
Mr. Smallwood Are there actually enough unoccupied grounds in the Codroy Valley?
Mr. Keough I am not prepared to say. I doubt if there is.
Mr. Higgins I do not doubt it.
Mr. Smallwood I walked from Port-aux- Basques to Corner Brook and counted the number of farms vacant.
Mr. Job When?
Mr. Smallwood A few years ago. There are a large number of farms vacant, but they are scattered here and there. If you have a bunch of ex-servicemen, it may be easier if you settle them together. All have certain adventures in common; have roughly the same outlook. If you settle them as a community so that they can get their clubs, societies, churches and their schools all there together, I imagine you would have a better chance of success than if you merely scattered them throughout an area of 100 miles.
Mr. Higgins It is not anything like that.
Mr. Smallwood Would not me Codroy Valley itself be from Cape Ray to Black Duck and up to Stephenville?
Mr. Higgins You could settle them right in the valley.
Mr. Keough Come to think of it, the thing envisages the settling of 300 families on the soil with a minimum of 50 acres per family; I do not think there is that much acreage in the Codroy.
Mr. Butt That was where they found the most soil; it is cheaper to work machinery in one area.
Mr. Higgins The point is you have to break the soil, absolutely new; it is miles away from local habitation; you are putting men in the bush.... It strikes me as being infinitely more suitable to have steady farmers there than to put in a crowd of men because they can get together and form clubs.
Mr. Northcott We don't want to get anything for nothing. I expect to get part of it back a few February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 331 years from now. We want to make them independent. A few years ago we had 8,000 on the dole, today they are not, thank God. The same thing applies. If these people were given $10,000 to build a place they should pay something back when they can, It makes a man independent. You can go on with this forever.... We have farmers working all their lives and never got five cents from anyone.
Mr. Hollett This matter of land settlement was started in the first place as a measure of relief. People were taken from the seaport towns where they could not get fish, and if they did they could not sell it or get any price for it. It was not a case of putting a man on the land and expecting him to pay the whole amount back. The real complaint is that they took the fisherman, who was not a farmer, and cleared some land and gave him some seed and he grew some vegetables. Then they said to him, "Now you are established", and cast him out on the open market to dispose of his own produce without any assistance whatever, and consequently he had no means of improving his existence. I am inclined to think that this agricultural business, as far as Newfoundland is concerned, is as much a local industry as a factory. To that end I want to quote some figures which were not included in this report.
Under the heading of plug tobacco, cut tobacco and cigarettes, we find that the cost of the material imported to manufacture these articles last year was $1,109,571. The excise paid by the people who manufacture this amounted to $1,057,567. If that manufactured article had paid the regular rate of duty the government could have received $1,818,000, whereas they only received $1,807,000 in excise. You may call that a loss to the government of $11,000. There were engaged in the manufacture about 131 people, and the average wage paid was $2,250.29, which means of course that that is $533,323.60 gross coming in to the directors after all wages are paid. I grant there are other overheads which were not taken care of, but this means that the industry was protected to that extent.
Come with me to Brown's Arm in l940. I went through the settlement and talked to the people, and at least three men had from 100 to 200 barrels of potatoes in the cellar, and I asked why they were keeping them and what they were asking for them. They said if they got $1.50 a barrel for these potatoes they would be glad to take it, but they could not get that much. It was easy for me to understand why some of these people were in distress, here they were with all those potatoes in the cellar and they could not sell them. In the meantime potatoes were coming into this country and being consumed. Here you have two local industries, one controlled by a very few people who employed 131 men and women and they are able to pay good wages, comparatively good at least as far as this country is concerned, and can make $533,000 in profits. Here we have a settlement Brown's Arm, I don't know how many are there (yes, 24 men) and the government had spent $133,000 to put them there. Don't you think if they are going to talk protective tariffs that these men, on whom the people of this country had to spend $1,370,000 to rehabilitate, don't you think they should be protected to the extent of making it possible for them to sell their products at a reasonable rate?.... We protect local industries which are handled by a very small number of people and we are sure that their employees shall be paid reasonable wages, and apparently we are sure that the shareholders will make a fair dividend. I have no objection to that but I do have objection to the government spending $1,370,000 to rehabilitate men and then saying, "Here's your land, and if you can sell your produce OK, ifnot we can't do anything for you." They should do something to make it possible for these people to make a fair living. Of course, as soon as the war came they went on the bases, and in some of the land settlements today the men are no more farmers now than they were when they fished out of Lamaline or elsewhere.
Mr. Figary Take the case of Midland[1] where 25 families had been settled and 231 acres cleared at a cost of $120,735.67, which is approximately $13,000 less than Brown's Arm where 24 families were settled and only 123 acres cleared at a cost of $133,090.78. What caused the difference of $13,000 there?
Mr. Butt I can't answer you.
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, I was struck there with the difference in the cost of land clearing. I don't know much about Brown's Arm, but it is easier to clear 20 acres of land in Lourdes than one acre where I am in Trinity South.
Mr. Butt Going into one settlement you take 20 men, five of whom will break up a field in a short time; and in another place you take the same number of men and it will take much longer. I don't know the answer, but there are a lot of factors to be taken into consideration. This land settlement scheme originally was started, not by the government, but by private individuals who said, "If we would take ten families and you give us what they would normally receive in relief we will look after their rehabilitation." The government thought if private individuals could do it, so could they.
Mr. Smallwood What do you mean, referring to the demonstration farm, where you say that the Committee felt "that the farm is not properly constituted to attract farmers to it as an authority on their problems"?[1]
Mr. Butt The information we had was that the farmers were not, going there as much as the government would like to see them.
Mr. Smallwood You go further than that, you say that the Committee did not feel that the farm was properly constituted.
Mr. Butt "Constituted to attract farmers".
Mr. Smallwood You must have had a reason for feeling that.
Mr. Butt Because farmers do not go there as they should.
Mr. Smallwood You don't necessarily infer that. In fact the farmers don't visit, therefore you infer that there must be something wrong with the farm.
Mr. Butt I think if you added something to the farm, maybe a radio program, or moving pictures — in other words, something was missing. That' s all we intended to say, I drew attention to that in a short note in the introduction.
Mr. Hillier In connection with these homes and the land, I was wondering if these people had any legal claims to their homes. An outport man especially is very keen on being able to claim ownership of the property on which he works. A few years ago the settlers at Midland were not satisfied because they had no guarantee that they had any legal right to their homes.
Mr. Butt I think that question was answered by Mr. McCarthy. He says the papers are going out now. Up to this year they did not give them.
Mr. Hillier With regard to the lack of success of some of these land settlement schemes, might it not be that most of these men were chiefly fishermen, and fishermen do not take very kindly to farming? Sometimes they leave these settlements when other work offers.
Mr. MacDonald Mr. Smallwood asked a question regarding the farm being properly constituted. If he reads down a little further the reason was given by the Committee. it says: "To have it so constituted would undoubtedly call for more expenditure than is apparently being made." That is the reason, but may I ask, expenditure on what?
Mr. Butt We intended to convey that there was something wrong in the whole farm set-up, in that it did not attract the farmers as it should. There may be certain expenditures necessary to add something else to it for the special purpose of attracting farmers.
Mr. Hollett Why do you want to attract them?
Mr. Butt People go there to learn new ways of doing things, to see the results of some new kind of seed, how to use DDT, etc. On the professional work we did not comment, as far as we could find it was pretty good....
Mr. Job Just one question, it is at the end of the report: "The gross annual value at present of agriculture to the country is roughly estimated at $12 million. It is probable that this value will relatively increase as people get back to their normal pursuits. The Committee hesitates to indicate what the increased revenue may be as any figure is not likely to be more than mere guesswork."[2] That $12 million is made up at today's high figures, and you cannot expect the future to keep up to that $12 million, let alone increase.
Mr. Butt That's why we put in "relatively". The actual dollars and cents value, as of today's price, may go down, I think it was $6 million if I remember correctly, and it may go back to that. What we are trying to convey is that people who were away on bases or overseas, and other people from outside, are now going back to the land, so that in the near future it might go up a little beyond the 1945 figure, but it will relatively February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 333 increase....
Mr. Job ....I would like to refer to a remark made by my friend from the same district. He was referring to the settlements on the west coast, which I know very well, and I have had many talks with people from there. I am sorry to see that the Committee had not been able to contact very closely these west coast farmers. I talked with Mr. Tompkins, who has one of the ideal farms in the country.... He could do much more if he could get help. The reason is possibly that there is not enough attraction to the place itself.... They also stressed the fact that roads, roads, is what they want to make their farming a success. They have increased enormously their cleared land in that vicinity, and they have actual value there, but they don't get a very big thing out of it from a living point of view.
Mr. Smallwood I was interested in the appendix that the Committee brought in on the feed pool. You say the Dairymen's Association pointed out that the costs of production were high because of the necessity of importing so much feed, hay, animals, etc.;[1] as one man put it, what we are doing now is selling Canadian milk. He meant they imported the cow, the hay, the feed, etc., put them all together and got milk, but it all came from Canada. Iwonder if the Committee has gone into the question of a feed mill in Newfoundland. If you look at the figures[2] it is very discouraging as you look back over the years. Look what you find. In 1945 we had, according to the census, 14,000 cows. You go back ten years earlier, in 1935, and again it has 14,000 cows. You go back to 1921 and it is 18,000 cows, and in 1901 we had 14,000. The population has gone up from less than $250,000 in 1911 to 318,000, and still we have 14,000 cows. We are going backward very badly. Now you take pigs. In 1945 we had 11,400 pigs, but in 1921 we had 14,500, and in 1901, 34,000 — 50% more population almost, and only one third as many pigs. Now it is true that in poultry there is a big increase.... The number of sheep has increased also, but it is down as against 1935 and 1945. These are not very romantic, cows, pigs, hens, sheep, not very romantic at all. Some people don't like the smell of them, but it is by these things that we live, and we are going backward. We have not got as many pigs, or cows, or sheep as we used to have compared with our population.
I know a lot of the troubles back of it, but one of them is right here — we have to import our feeds, we have to import our hay, and the cows and the sheep and the pigs to begin with and the equipment used in the farm. They are duty free and it is a good thing, but are we importing feed in the most economical way we can?.... Why cannot we have a feed mill?.... Why cannot we import the grains separately and mill them here? We would need only a little hammer mill.... You could run a schooner to Montreal or Fort William, load up at the elevators, bring them down here and mix them here and cut the cost of feed. Why some businessmen are not doing it, I do not know. Maybe there are too many firms on Water Street who are agents for the balanced feed. Why has not the Committee gone into this question — it is the crux of the whole business; that, plus the fact that we did not have any hay in Newfoundland. I know dairymen in the suburbs who imported from 60% to 90% of their hay. Just picture that! And all their feed.... Importing that hay and selling it in the form of milk at 80 cents and 90 cents a gallon. That is not a square deal to the farmer, nor to the consumer of milk. If we are going to raise our own milk and livestock, there are two things we have to do. First, we must grow our own hay. It is a good climate to grow hay. Look at the figures,[3] the amount of land cleared, and then we call ourselves farmers. In 1901 there were 215,000 acres cleared-roughly speaking an acre per person. In 1945 you are back to 124,000 acres, with a population of 318,000. You expect to make a living out of that?.... In the course of three generations in Newfoundland we managed to get 15 acres of land cleared and cultivated, which has to support an entire family. It cannot be done. It could, if the price we get for the produce is way up high. Then who pays it? The consumer. Then up goes the cost of living. Ido not want to say one word against the farmer. I am one-eighth farmer myself —- at least, I have had ten acres under cultivation and worked like a dog until I knew the movement of every worm and insect; and I raised pigs and poultry. Clear more 334 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 land.... The second thing is to bring down the cost of feeds through a feed mill.... You can produce fertiliser out of fish offal. They do it in the United States and Canada; we can do it in Newfoundland too.
Mr. Butt The evidence we got was that you must import 90% of the ingredients.
Mr. Smallwood I find it hard to believe. You have the raw material here.
Mr. Keough It is more profitable to turn it into fish meal than fertiliser.
Mr. Butt We have clear evidence from the Industrial Board, which went into it. They told us there was a possibility of looking into a fertiliser plant, but 90% of the ingredients would have to be imported; it may bring the cost down by $5 a ton, and in addition Newfoundland would have the labour. They are looking into the question of milling feeds here.
Mr. Smallwood Talking about fertiliser, I went into a firm in Toronto to find out about double super-phosphate. The price was $25 a ton, and the man said that no double super-phosphate was manufactured in Canada now. It is manufactured in the United States.... He gave me the names of three firms in Philadelphia and I wrote them; what do you think the price was? $12 a ton. How much is it on Water Street today? $48 a ton.... What chance has a farmer got in this country if the farmer in Canada can buy double super-phosphate for $23 a ton or less? What chance has he got to grow hay or anything else? And in the outports, God knows how much it is.
Mr. Vardy I support Mr. Northcott. In looking over the land settlement business, it is a pretty dark picture. If money had been spent in encouraging local farmers by giving them a good bonus for clearing land, this country would have had better results. I refer to page 21:[1] "It envisages the settlement in the Upper Humber area of 300 full-time holdings by ex-servicemen by the end of 1948. The total estimated cost is $1,800,000 or an average cost of $6,000 per holding." In connection with the Public Health and Welfare Report, I had occasion to go to the Civil Re-establishment Committee and they gave me the figures as being $5,000 per holding. Further down on that page[2] — part-time holdings, 300 ex-servicemen, grants $724, total cost $757,200. That works out at $2,524 per applicant. The figures they gave me in Civil Re-establishment work out at $900. I hope someone down there is listening to me, because these figures were given me as correct. It shows what is happening with the work covering the same project, the same group of ex«servicemen, and one department does not know what is happening in the other. I am not blaming the Committee, they have done a good job; like ourselves, they have to accept the figures given. But if you check the figures you will find they do not work out right.
Mr. Butt The part-time holdings are not covered in the summary at all.
Mr. Northcott I agree with Mr. Smallwood on the feed business. If the government wanted to help the farmer, the farmer should be in a position to import his feeds direct. If a farmer wants 100 sacks of fertiliser he should be able to get a permit from the government to have that landed at his own place, instead of having it come to St. John's first and brought back again. The same thing applies to feeds. The farmer pays $1.50 per sack more than he should, by reason of the fact that it has to come to St. John's first.
Mr. Fudge I visited Midland a number of times and I know quite a number of men there. They find it very hard to get their living; they have to go into the woods and so on. I regret that we have no report from some of our independent farmers on the west coast—such as Mr. Earle, the Whites and others.... In connection with assistance to farmers to grow potatoes, cabbage and so forth, I fail to see the use of encouraging those men and spending a lot of money, without giving them protection in connection with marketing. We see ads in the papers advertising local potatoes. Surely those men should be able to sell their vegetables. I regret that we get potatoes from Prince Edward Island, and that's the reason why some of our small farmers are unable to sell. I believe the government should see that their vegetables are sold before any are brought in from outside. Someone is going to say, "We can buy them cheaper". I believe it, but I want to show you something. I have before me the Labour Gazette, December, 1946, from Canada, and I find there that there are 2,902 Polish war veterans brought into Canada. They signed a two 1 Volume II:174. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection] 2 Ibid. February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 335 year contract with the government at the rate of $45 a month. I wonder what our people would say if they were asked by the government to work for that rate. Some of our farmers are paying their hired men 50 cents an hour. Surely if our potatoes are a bit higher we should patronise them anyhow.
Mr. Burry I find this debate on this report very helpful and interesting. I am bound to point out, however, that there is no reference made to Labrador. The members can very well be excused for that, because no one would think that Labrador is an agricultural country. I bring it up, because I think the agricultural prospects of Labrador are based on the future welfare of Newfoundland and Labrador.... I foresee that a lot of Newfoundlanders will be called upon to go to Labrador to take part in the mineral and timber operations there, and I think that Newfoundland should know something of the agricultural prospects of Labrador. When families are asked to uproot themselves from our fishing villages they will want to know the possibilities of growing some vegetables. It would not have been a bad idea if the Committee had brought in something along that line. Because they have not, I want to tell you that there are possibilities for agriculture in a small way, for gardening, in Labrador. Anyone should not have any fear about the climate or the weather.... It is better than the Avalon Peninsula, Mr. Higgins.
A professor from Nova Scotia did a scientific test of the soil in Labrador, and it is very interesting. Along the coast nothing much can be done, but when you go inland 20 or 30 miles vegetables can be grown, and at Lake Melville, 150 miles in, lots can be done. The Hudson's Bay Co. at North West River and all the families around there, can grow all the vegetables they need if they put the time on it. The Grenfell Mission grows from 75 to 100 barrels of potatoes, and cabbage by the hundreds of tons, and all the ordinary vegetables. I have grown celery and bleached it, and tomatoes, although the season is rather short, but all the ordinary vegetables can be grown in these bays.... In 1938 Dr. Paddon,[1] a great doctor, encouraged gardening in Labrador, said in the Daily News that gardening in Labrador was three weeks ahead of Newfoundland. That does not mean we are three weeks ahead in setting out gardens, but around the middle of the summer the result is about three weeks ahead of the east coast of Newfoundland. I left my own home on the north side of Bonavista Bay when the potatoes in our garden were just peeping through the ground. I went to North West River, it took me about a week to get there, and when I saw my own garden there our potatoes were out in flower. The explanation is the long sunny days that we get in the great dependency, I suppose....
Mr. Reddy I must agree in part with the member from White Bay in speaking of his experience on the southwest coast. I am very familiar with the activities at Winterland. The people there are in a fairly comfortable condition, selling their produce and getting a high price for it, and there is no question they have bettered themselves considerably. The settlement at Marystown is not nearly so successful. I don't know why, but it is a fact. I would like to know the cost of these field workers, and how many there are.
Mr. Butt There are only three at the present time, although the estimates provide for 16. The reason for the shortage is that they can't get the men.
Mr. Vincent ....In his comprehensive study of Newfoundland, Professor R. A. MacKay[2] has this to say: "Agriculture's claim to recognition in this country is as a handmaid to other industries rather than as an industry in its own right." I believe the report bears out the truth of this statement and refer you to page 1, when the Government Analyst states that about 3% of our soil (some 700,000 acres) is first-class agricultural land, and 30% is second-class soil. Of the 3% comprising 700,000 acres, the 1945 census shows total holdings of 124,953 acres, which still leaves some 600,000 acres for those who believe in the back- to-the-land movement. It may be an accident of birth that some of us grew up in districts where a normal size potato, or a turnip with an attractive figure, was as rare as a $100 bank note, but the fact remains that in a large part of our island the development of agriculture is severely limited by the availability of the soil, by soil fertility, and the preoccupation of the people at the fisheries and 336 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 other major industries You just can't foster agriculture on parts of the northeast coast — unless you first import the soil. On page 2,[1] he report says, "It seemed to us and still does that our fisheries are of prime importance." Coming from a fishing district where the word "farmer" humorously applies only to a sea-sick, third-rate fisherman who is usually also a bungler, I can appreciate the truth of that statement; but isn't there something in this centralisation idea? Isn t it possible for the fisherman to fish from sheltered inland harbours where he could produce enough vegetables for his own family? Are there to be found around our bays and inlets, sites where towns could be built for fishermen-farmers? The big problem is the centralising of our fisheries in selected communities where men can till the soil and reap the harvest of the sea as well. Some will say this is but a vision, but it is a vision that we must keep before us, and while large scale commercial farming can never be carried on on the coastal belt, there is a lot which can be done. We must in the future have men big enough to put the centralisation idea into effect, and I can only visualise success through the fisherman-farmer method. I am not suggesting a Markland land settlement idea, rather places where the cod- fishery can be profitably prosecuted, for example Glovertown and Eastport — Glovertown in particular, built on a good harbour, up to last year (when that disastrous fire occurred) possessing lots of available timber and very fertile soil. Here a fisherman could prosecute the Labrador fishery and grow enough vegetables for himself and some to sell, thus being able to produce fish at a much lower cost than his fellow Labrador fisherman at Wesleyville, who buys every spring and fall the agricultural produce of Glovertown and Eastport.
On the matter of expenditure the government reconstruction scheme proposes to spend in the next nine years $3,892,000 on land development, $8,000 for soil survey, and a further $691,000 for schemes to further promote development of agriculture. Against this they propose spending only $650,000 for fishery development. So it may be that quite a few of us may nine years hence share in the beneficence of this approximately $5 million expenditure, and under the benign influence of the Commission of Government find ourselves gathering eggs on lovely farms where sleeping chickens grow.
Mr. Smallwood I wonder if Mr. Keough would care to give us a little dissertation on the main problems of the professional farmer. He comes from a farming district. What are the obstacles in the way of a professional farmer, and does he see any general solution of these problems?
Mr. Keough I would need more than a minute's notice to tackle that.
Mr. Higgins I will give Mr. Keough time to answer the question. Reverting to protection for farmers, the question that's been agitating me and a great number of us who are not farmers, is whether we ever hope to compete in our sale of vegetables with the people of the continent next door. Have we the land, and can we ever get the price down? If you can't, what is the best thing to do? is it better to subsidise the farmer or put the duty up and also the cost of living? That's the general question. Could you give your Committee's opinion on that?
Mr. Butt The evidence that we got varied very considerably as between individual farmers. We were informed that it was possible to get down the cost of certain items. For example, I don't think we had any evidence to show that potatoes could be grown as cheaply as we could import them, but turnips, yes. The reason was that there is so much land that we have not yet cleared for growing potatoes with the help of machinery, and we could not afford that land. But turnips, you require so much less land that you can produce, not perhaps as cheaply as they can be imported, but pretty nearly.
Mr. Higgins Under no circumstances can you produce potatoes, is that it?
Mr. Butt in subsistence farming the more potatoes you grow, provided people do not stay away from productive work, the better, but on a commercial basis it is doubtful if you could grow them as cheaply as we can import them. Do you follow that?
Mr. Higgins If you can't grow them as cheaply as you can import them, should we cease to protect the farmer and bring in these imported potatoes?
Mr. Butt We did not follow on that far, because it is a very important issue of the economy of the country, wider than the Committee could go. In February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 337 England at one stage there was a fine balance between agriculture and industry. Great Britain found she could make more money by going into industry to the neglect of agriculture. At the present time she is going back and spending a lot of money to try and build up her agricultural possibilities. It seems to me that if we could build up a lot of industries which would return to us greater wealth than farming, then maybe we should not do much farming. My opinion is that we should always do so much, because if one of your vital industries sadly failed, you would have something to fall back on. Do you not agree?
Mr. Higgins Definitely.
Mr. Butt It is a question of the whole economy and stability. I believe in 1870, France, because of the fine balance between industry and agriculture, was able to pay off her debt to Germany and she came back quicker than if she had depended on industry.
Mr. Higgins That is likely what is happening in England today. I am sure your Committee gave thought to the matter.
Mr. Butt Yes, we thought of the soil which is rocky and rough; but you read the history of agriculture in Norway, and it is almost word for word the description of the soil in Newfoundland. If you read the history of the founding of the New England states, almost word for word would be the language used about the soils when they took over first. It seems to the Committee we are starting agriculture 300 years too late. We have the advantage now, of course, we will be able to use modern machinery, whereas before, it was done by back-breaking work.
Mr. Higgins Do you think we might be able to catch up?
Mr. Butt Some people think we might be able to do much more than at the present time. We will in time compete in various fundamental items of agriculture
Mr. Smallwood Livestock?
Mr. Butt Not for a long time. It might be possible to rear calves for milk production and afterwards sell the cows. To go in for production on a big scale might be questionable. The same thing is true for sheep. A man has eight or ten sheep on a normal size farm; that can be worked all right; but to have sheep as acommercial proposition is not feasible.
Mr. Smallwood I could add to that. I was talking to a farmer in the west end of St. John's; he grew 2,000 barrels of potatoes. He did not grow them on his own land, he did not have enough, but he got the use of two or three farms and he grew 2,000 barrels, ... sold them and made money on them. He himself said the trouble is that if you plant out five or ten acres in potatoes, you have not got enough land to do it on a large scale. Your unit of production is very low; and your cost per bushel or barrel naturally is going to be high. You have to get a high price to make it pay. The only way to get a good price is through the customs tariff which will make the price of competing potatoes artificially higher. If you get away from the small unit, and turn out at the rate of 2,000 barrels, you can make money....
[There followed a discussion on meat prices. The committee passed the report, rose and reported, and 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 11:167. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume 11:179. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume 11:180. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume 11:167. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [3] Volume 11:173. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [4] The land settlement scheme was launched in 1934 by the Commission government with the intention of resettling some of the urban unemployed and destitute fishermen into new agricultural communities.
  • *
    Settlement No. of Holdings Expenditure Total Acreage cleared Date Started
    Markland 73 $644,816.13 385 acs. Apl. 1934
    Haricot 16 114,803.28 91 " Oct. 1935
    Lourdes 27 86,549.05 112 " Apl. l934
    Midland 25 120,735.67 231 " May 1936
    Brown'sArm 24 133,090.78 123 " May 1936
    Winterland l7 83,627.54 143 " Sept. 1939
    Marystown—Creston 8 17,172.62 30 " Sept. 1939
    Sandringham 25 75,748.92 166 " Sept. 1939
    Point au Mal 36 93,866.84 253 " Sept. 1939
    Totals 251 $1,370,410.83 1534 acs.
  • [1] Cormack.
  • Volume II:174. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:174. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:171. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II: 175. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II: 173. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II: 176. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [3] Ibid. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Dr. Harry Paddon physician with the Grenfell Association at North West River.
  • R. A. MacKay (ed.), Newfoundland: Economic, Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (Toronto 1946).
  • [1] Volume II:167. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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