Newfoundland National Convention, 24 March 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


March 24, 1947

[Mr. Job gave notice that he would on tomorrow move that the Report of the Fisheries Committee be presented]
Mr. Job I make that motion, but suggest that, with the consent of the House, we might proceed with the report today. It has been circulated, and it is going to be read in sections, and after that, with the consent of the whole House, I suggest we go on debating it.
[The motion carried]

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

Mr. Chairman I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the object of a committee is not to debate principles, but to discuss and correct details of the bill or report which may be before the House. As there are several of those reports to consider and some are of considerable length, I suggest we confine ourselves so far as, possible to details of the report and not the matter of general principles, upon which perhaps more extensive speeches may be required.
Mr. Job This Fisheries Report consists of some 160 pages, including the appendices; the report itself consists of 68 pages. In introducing it I would like to take into consideration some advice I noticed in this morning's newspaper. It says, "When the reports are introduced it is to be hoped that comment will be brief and pointed, designed to bring out the truth rather than let constituents know that their delegates are doing their job." I think that a good remark and I want to set a good example by being short.
I would like to refer to the serious loss this Committee sustained by the serious illness of Mr. Brown, who was a great strength with his great knowledge of fisheries; it was really a bad blow when he had to discontinue his work. Then again, we were deprived of the services of our present worthy Chairman with his knowledge of the fisheries. I hope when you consider the report you will hear these things in mind and realise we have been handicapped. We have not been having the best of our talent.
The main object of all these reports is to determine by the presentation of facts and figures whether the country is and will continue to be self-supporting. By the term "self-supporting" I mean not only whether it can balance its budget, but also whether the country, if it stands alone, can expect to provide a decent living and social services for its 300,000-odd inhabitants. I would say that perhaps the most important feature of this report is contained on page 38 which sums up the value of fisheries during the year 1946. The figures show the total value of our fisheries during the calendar year 1946 was roughly $34.5 million, which includes an estimated $1 million worth of fish consumed by our own population.
We have received great assistance from the Newfoundland Fisheries Board as well as from the Customs Department in arriving at these figures, and they can be taken as reasonably accurate.
However, it is one thing to arrive at today's valuation, which as we all know is a very much inflated one, but it is quite another matter to arrive at reliable figures for future years. The Committee has (probably very rashly) mentioned a figure of $24 million as a possible average. This is actually a pure guess, and by some people may be considered on the optimistic side. It will be obvious to everyone that there are so many future contingencies over which we have little or no control that no estimate of this sort can really be relied upon.
I would like to point out two features of the report which I think will be specially interesting to members of the Convention, as they may come as a surprise. I refer to the sub-committee report in the appendix on the matter of subsidiary fisheries which shows a value of $2.6 million; and also the report on by-products which shows a value of nearly $1.7 million. These two branches of the industry especially seem to be capable of very material development. Our hope seems to be in the further development of markets for fresh and frozen fish and for canned products, as a relief for the salt codfish industry, and also in the further development of our herring fishery which would seem to have scope for very large development if properly encouraged, and by that I mean research work
We have been fortunate in having the New 372 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 foundland Fisheries Board and its energetic and capable Chairman, Mr. Gushue, at the disposal of the country and I feel sure that if the trade and the people of Newfoundland will continue to place their confidence in Mr. Gushue and his very capable Board, there is every hope for the future of the fishing industry.
As a closing comment, may I say that the Committee has worked hard and has done its best to present an intelligent report. The Committee invites fair criticism; but I ask the delegates to be reasonable and not expect ready answers to questions which even a minister of fisheries might not be able to answer. I am not that minister.
In view of the voluminous nature of this report, I suggest it be divided for reading and debating purposes into 12 sections which I shall define as we proceed. The first section for treatment in this manner is on pages 1-15 of the report which will automatically include Appendix A, the report of the sub-committee on cold storage. These pages comprise also an introduction to the report. I therefore now request, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, that the Secretary read pages 1-15, and Appendix A.
[The Secretary read this section of the report]
Mr. Job Mr. Chairman, I want to make note of one omission I made when introducing this report. I had a note to remind me to inform those who don't know that the Committee was strengthened very much by the inclusion afterwards of Mr. William Keough, because he has kept our records wonderfully, and is actually responsible for the wording of this report.
Mr. Chairman This section is now open for debate. We shall deal with the different sections one by one and pass them seriatim.
Mr. Smallwood On page 6 of the Appendix — does that mean an individual plant?
Mr. Job That is one plant.
Mr. Smallwood You gave the amount paid to fishermen and to labour employed in and around the plant for 1943-1946, and the figures rise every year, so that last year that plant paid $234,000 to the fishermen and to the plant workers $69,000. Can Mr. Job give us any idea of what those corresponding figures might be in 1947, taking that plant as being subject to the same conditions as other plants throughout the country? I am trying to get the position generally for the fresh fish industry in 1947. Could you give us an outline of what it might be?
Mr. Job It is impossible to give any outline; we do not know what the position is going to be. We have not made any contracts. The American market at the present time is in a bad condition. The British market has not purchased any fish. It is utterly impossible to make any commitments. I would not risk stating what I think would happen. We are all hoping that if we get a contract in the United States and if the American market recovers, we will produce on the same scale. It is indefinite.
Mr. Smallwood Where was most of the fresh fish sold in 1946? What I am trying to get at is this — you mention the United States and the United Kingdom — the United Kingdom is still in the picture, is it?
Mr. Keough Page 13 of the report shows the amounts which went to the different markets. I question whether a great deal more went to the States than to England.
Mr. Job Here it shows 7.5 million pounds exported to Canada — some of that was transshipped to the States.
Mr. Smallwood I do not want Mr. Job to say more than he can, but I am trying to get the fresh fish prospects for 1947-48. The position today is you can sell to the United Kingdom and United States and some to Canada; a lot of what went to Canada was re-sold to the United States?
Mr. Job 90% of it.
Mr. Smallwood I know Mr. Job is well-informed on this business — he is actually in it, how much are we likely to sell in 1947 to Great Britain and the United States? You say no contracts are made — is not that really late?
Mr. Job No. This is about the time we make contracts with Great Britain; as a rule there have not been any contracts made ahead with the United States. The position there is very bad. There is a tremendous amount of fillets in cold storage and until that is disposed of, it is impossible to gauge the US market in the future.
Mr. Smallwood How is the price shaping?
Mr. Job Very low, there has been a drop in prices. I do not want to talk about it.
Mr. Smallwood On page 15 of your main report it says:
Notwithstanding all the emphasis that has been put in the foregoing upon the importance of the US market, it should not be March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 373 thought that it is the opinion of the Committee that that is the only market to which we should seek access. Once adequate refrigeration facilities come to be somewhat extensively installed in other countries, then Newfoundland should be ready to penetrate those markets to the maximum extent that may be possible.
Would Mr. Job give us a little on that? Is this the position literally that this country today, with $3-4 million invested in cold storage facilities and cold storage ships, is depending on only two countries, the United States and United Kingdom? Is there anywhere else we can turn during this year or next?
Mr. Job Nothing definite.
Mr. Smallwood What is the trade doing about it?
Mr. Job The trade are on their toes about it; they are working in conjunction with the Fisheries Board.
Mr. Smallwood On page 14 of the main report it says:
Given no further restrictions than now exist it is felt that we can shortly penetrate that market to such an extent as to dispose of a considerable part of the production that must be diverted from the United Kingdom
Would Mr. Job tell us what is meant by "given no further restriction"? We know there is an open quota of 18 million pounds from Newfoundland, Canada, Iceland, etc. at 1 7/8 cents a pound duty; over that 18 million pounds, 2.5 cents duty; "no further restrictions," does that refer to the 1 7/8 cents, the 2.5 cents, or the quota of 18 million pounds?
Mr. Job We refer to all three; and the future, in my opinion and which I have emphasised, depends on some arrangement with the US that will provide for years ahead, because we cannot plan. If we knew there were to be no funher restrictions, we could help production by advertising — there is no other way we can do it, unless we know that at any time the US will not put on a prohibitive duty.
Mr. Smallwood Suppose they said, "Let it stay as it is"?
Mr. Job It is an open question. We have already read the opinions expressed in the Armstrong Report — a report which was gotten at considerable expense to the government — that unless we can make some definite arrangement with the United States for future imports, we will not be in a very good position. I think that is true and therefore I think we are entitled to some arrangement because of the bases to which I referred on so many occasions.
Mr. Hollett I notice that one plant referred to, the company paid an amount of $302,000 for fish and for labour. There were 15 plants, that would mean the total paid out would be $4 million; but I notice on page 13 the total received was $5,515,000. That would probably indicate a profit of $1 million. The point I am getting at is this: the Committee are lamenting, and I think rightly so, that there is likely to be a recession of trade in regard to fish. 1 would like to ask, have the profits in years past been such that they could very well take up some of the slack in a possible falling market, so that they might be able to pay the fishermen somewhere near the prices which were paid last year?
Mr. Job That is a very pertinent question. I think in a case of this sort you have to provide for the writing off of your plant on an extensive scale out of your profits. Suppose we have to scrap that — you cannot tell what your profit is; you have to provide for the wiping off of capital, to provide for contingencies. I do not know what the reply would be; I do not think there is very material margin in it. The shareholders received nothing of any consequence. I tell you who has received a great deal and that is the government.
Mr. Smallwood On page 3 of the Appendix "it would seem that Newfoundland producers are working under a heavy handicap as compared to the Canadians, and to build the Newfoundland production up to a worthwhile figure employing many thousands of people, some of the following things will have to be done." One is quality ofthe fillet; two is another system of producing fish through draggers and trawlers; and three is Newfoundland products in competition with Canadian and American. What is the heavy handicap under which the Newfoundland producers are working compared with Canadians?
Mr. Job That is already pointed out.
Mr. Smallwood The longer haul and freight on page 5? A, B and C?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. Smallwood What are the handicaps under which our producers work compared to the 374 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 Canadians, over and above this A, B and C?
Mr. Job There may not be any other handicap; I do not say there is. I think they have some advantages in the way of better shore fish.
Mr. Smallwood That is quality.
Mr. Job That is an advantage.
Mr. Smallwood I am trying to get at the disadvantages. To what extent is the fresh fish industry and the saltfish industry too, handicapped for Newfoundland as compared with Canada or the United States or Iceland.... To what extent are our producers handicapped by customs duty collected on machinery and plants and shops and packages and equipment used in the industry, and second by the rising costs of the actual producers — the actual fishermen? You go back to page 1 of the Appendix and you will note because of "The frozen blueberry industry was also a very substantial business and of very definite value to the country, owing to the fact that the cost of picking was very little and the number of pickers probably thousands, making for a wide distribution of the cash paid out, which some years amounted to over $500,000." A man or woman goes out and picks one gallon or ten gallons of blueberries. I think the cost of producing that one gallon of berries, to that woman, is her cost of living. Similarly the fishermen in competition with fishermen of Iceland, Norway and Canada, have a higher cost of living which is due to some extent to taxation. Taking the two together — taxation on what he and his family eat and wear and use; taxation on machines, plants, wrapping, canons, paper — all these things that enter into the fish industry. I do not want to anticipate your sealing report, but there you make that very point that taxation on things going into the seal hunt, coaling the ships, equipment and the ship itself, is making the cost of production high. To what extent is it true in the fresh fish industry? How can it be helped by reduction of taxation?
Mr. Job I can answer that to a certain extent. The government has encouraged the cold storage industry very much by free entries. But I know of one case of an engine put into a vessel or steamer; the engine was purchased in Canada, in Vancouver, came over the railway to Halifax; by boat from there to Newfoundland — the engine cost about $30,000. We thought we could get it in free of duty; but it was charged up in the thousands. I think that was unfair because it was directly in the interest of the cold storage industry. On the whole the policy of the government has been to permit everything possible in connection with the cold storage industry to come in free of duty.
Mr. Smallwood That is for fixed capital and capital equipment?
Mr. Job Capital equipment and material. I do not think they paid anything for linings or cartons. You will have to give us notice of these questions.
Mr. Hollett On page 8. "Newfoundland would then be at the advantage of such multilaterial trade arrangements as would materialise — one of which, it is thought, sould be most favoured nation treatment for the entry ofour fish products into the United States." That sounds more like "unilateral" to me.
Mr. Keough I thought any nation that entered this ITO[1] would get preferential treatment all around; they would get most favoured nation treatment.
Mr. Hollett You may be right, but I cannot see it.
Mr. Keough Outsiders would not have the same preferential treatment.
Mr. Smallwood There are 18 nations — 17 invited by the United States to come together and form an international trade organization. The ITO, if it is formed, will be for the purpose of enabling the members to enter into multilateral and bilateral trade agreements between each other. You may have any two or all 18 members coming to bilateral treaties in addition to multilateral. I understand Newfoundland is attempting at this conference, after it opens on April 8, to negotiate a bilateral trade treaty with the United States.... No doubt there will be other bilateral arrangements made as well.
Mr. Hollett I am not any more clear on the matter than I was. However, we will see what we shall find out.
Mr. Smallwood This is a gigantic thing, this fresh fish industry. There are a lot of people in Newfoundland engaged in this industry. Here is a most valuable report that, in my humble opinion, is one of the finest documents ever produced in the history of Newfoundland, if not March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 375 the finest, in connection with the fisheries. It would be a shame if it should not become known to the Newfoundland people, especially the fishermen. It would be a pity to skimp it. We are torn between two desires, to get through our work on the one hand, and to let the people know what is in the report on the other hand. I have not yet got a clear picture of what the prospects are for the fresh fish industry in Newfoundland. For example, we hear in the United States they are going into this fresh fish industry on a gigantic scale, building new plants, building draggers and trawlers in many dozens. In Canada they are doing the same thing; Iceland has already done it and are doing it even more; in England they are starting now on the construction of fresh fish refrigeration plants, and the same in Norway. What I am trying to do is to fit Newfoundland into that picture for the next four or five years. What is to be the outcome of this industry in Newfoundland? We have the best fish in the world, lovely quality. What are the actual chances of marketing? What are the chances in competition with Canada, Iceland, Norway, England and France? France is building in St. Pierre, they tell us, a $4-5 million plant. How are we going to market this 30 million pounds of fresh fish in the next few years if the only markets are the United Kingdom and the United States, and all the countries in the world are trying to get fish into these two countries? Now, Mr. Job, I know if I could make him mad I could make him talk, but what is the picture?
Mr. Hollett Well, make him mad!
Mr. Smallwood I can't make him mad, he is too much of a gentleman. I know the prospects for the next six months are not very bad, but I am asking him to look ahead of 1947, and give us the picture of the next four or five years of this very important fresh fish industry.
Mr. Job I am afraid we can't give you any more than we have already given you in the report. I am not going to go ahead and say what the market will become; he can draw his own conclusions as well as we can. I believe the markets will come back, but when he talks of expansion in the USA, it is fresh fish expansion, not frozen fish expansion; that's one of the things we have to remember as well. At the present time the market is overstocked in the United States. When Mr. Smallwood goes up there and goes around and see things, he will be able to judge better than I can. We have to make a guess.
Mr. Hollett On page 2 of the Appendix: "Another heavy investment is in draggers, say around $350,000." I wonder if the Committee inquired as to the number of small and young fish that were killed and had to be thrown away?
Mr. Job It is so new that really we have not had time. These draggers have been going only about six months. Perhaps Mr. Crosbie could shed some light on that.
Mr. Crosbie My experience with draggers is that very little fish is thrown overboard. There's a good deal of small fish caught, but most of them go down the hold with the other fish. We know what is brought in, but not what is thrown away. With regard to Mr. Smallwood's question, I am not so pessimistic as some people. In this country we only know one fish —- cod. Actually it is only one of the many varieties of fish that are required in the fish business. I think it has a tremendous future in this country over the next four or five years. There are markets that we have not heard about, and have never gone to look for. We don't actually know what conditions are. There is Brazil, these peeple consume a lot of fresh fish. With regard to competition from the United Kingdom, I don't think we are going to have any. Their catch will be all consumed in England and very little exported. Iceland's production is being bought by Russia, and probably will be for the next few years. I don't think we will have much competition there.
Mr. Smallwood They are starting a five year plan there with regard to fish.
Mr. Crosbie I don't care. I think there is a tremendous future in frozen fish and canned fish.
Mr. Smallwood Where?
Mr. Crosbie Brazil and other places. One of the Committee men said to McLean, "You are near the United States market", and he said, "Yes, but we don't look to them, 40% is shipped to Canada and 60% to other countries."
Mr. Smallwood That's canned fish?
Mr. Crosbie Yes, that's what I am talking about, frozen fish and canned. In San Paulo and Rio alone they consume a lot. There are other markets besides the USA that we ought to look to.
Mr. Smallwood But are they doing that? I asked Mr. Job if the trade was doing anything about getting other markets apart from the United 376 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 States, and he said, "Yes, the trade is very much alive to it, and very much on their toes." He mentions Brazil. Is anyone trying to sell fish in Brazil?
Mr. Crosbie Yes, as far as I know.
Mr. Smallwood Well, are they trying to sell it anywhere else?
Mr. Crosbie I don't know, they don't tell me their trade secrets.
Mr. Smallwood Well, the fresh fish people concentrate too much on the United States. Are they paying enough attention to other markets?
Mr. Crosbie You are trying to pin me down to something I am not prepared to be pinned down to, and as far as I am concerned I won't be pinned down. You must remember that going into other markets costs a great deal of money. They have already spent a lot of money on advertising, and these people may not be prepared to go into these other markets and advertise. It may run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am not prepared to criticise them.
Mr. Northcott Getting back to fish again. Is there duty on all fish going into the United States? We have fillets, turbot, smelts, etc., is there duty on all of them?
Mr. Job Yes, but the duty varies on different sorts of fish.
Mr. Hollett I wonder if Mr. Job could tell me the price of fresh cod fillets in St. John's? I can tell you, 28 cents per pound. What do you think of that price?
Mr. Job A very nice price if you can get it.
Mr. Hollett I am looking at the cost of living of the average St. John's man and woman.
Mr. Job I think if we could sell the fillets here at cost they would be very glad to do something.
Mr. Penney As far as I am concerned the section of the report as read is self-explanatory, and I am willing to accept it and move on to other business. I believe we should think over what kind of a delegation we are going to send to the United States to see about our markets for fresh fillets and other fishery products.
[The section passed, and the Secretary read the next section]
Mr. Job I suggest we adjourn until tomorrow to give the members time to master this report on the salt codfishery.
Mr. Chairman We have not been making much progress of late, and I suggest to you that since a great deal of time has been lost as a result of a shortage of paper, and we have a great deal of work to do, it would be advisable to hold night sessions. However, I am entirely in your hands.
Mr. Hillier I think it would be a good idea, if it would not be putting too much on the ladies who are reporting the proceedings.
Mr. Chairman I will look after that. I will see that they are not driven too hard.
Mr. Jones I think we should have one night to go over the report and see what we can make of it.
Mr. Job It is the most important part of the Fisheries Report. There is some justification for the request.
Mr. Hillier In view of the fact that the members received the report only this afternoon, we might dispose of the night session until tomorrow night. I make that as a motion
Mr. Hollett Before the motion, I would like to ask Mr. Job or Mr. Ashbourne, did they make any inquiries whatever into the figures of the fishermen's insurance scheme in connection with this country?
Mr. Job Yes, it is in the report.
[The committee rose and reported progress, 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 II:181. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The International Trade Organisation was a creation of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. It never came into actual existence, and was replaced by the GATT.

Personnes participantes: