Newfoundland National Convention, 12 April 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


April 12, 1947

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

Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, when we adjourned yesterday afternoon the section on Bell Island had been read and there had been some discussion on it. I don't know if the discussion was completed or not.
Mr. Ashbourne Has the Committee any figures on the 1946 production of ore at Bell Island?
Mr. Higgins The Committee have only the figures in the report. I don't know if Mr. Jackman can give us any further information.
Mr. Jackman The production for this year will be about the same as last year — roughly around 1.5 million tons....
Mr. Ashbourne I mentioned this because yesterday the figure of $4 per ton was mentioned, and I see from the I945 figures that the same value for export was about $2.50 per ton. I was wondering if that $150 increase was brought about by the Canadian market paying a higher price than the English market, and if the English market is prepared to pay a higher price.
Mr. Higgins These are Major Cashin's figures, not mine.
Mr. Ashbourne There is quite a difference between $2.50 and $4, sir.
Mr. Higgins I quite realise that, but they are not the Committee's figures.
Mr. Ashbourne I was wondering if it was a matter of price, or if it is just quantity....
Mr. Higgins Possibly Major Cashin could explain it.
Mr. Cashin Those figures were given over two years. If my memory serves me correctly the amount exported in l945 would be much higher than in 1946 because the miners have since got an increase in pay and that would drive up the cost. The officials on Bell Island told me that the payroll would be approximately $4 million a year.
Mr. Higgins That's when they have full produc April 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 483 tion?
Mr. Cashin Yes.
Mr. Jackman The Sydney market is subsidised by the Dominion government, and only gives us three days a week with two mines operating. The company told us they were losing money on that. We won't dispute that, but what we are looking for is full time operation for everybody — not working two slopes, three days a week, but four slopes. six days a week. The only way we can get it is by having something to absorb our output. We have it today in England. She will take our output if we can keep within the price.... It is a question of keen competition. The Spaniards, Africans and all the rest are competing in the British market, and our management said. "Here is the position: we can break into the English market for 750,000 tons of ore, but to do so everybody must co-operate", and we did decide that we were going to go all out to hold that market.... The point I want to bring out is this: ... I say forget taxation and give all our people work, and let all the ore we can get be exported to England — let it go there, and our payroll will be around $4 million. Our payroll would not be $1 million if we got too tough with the company insofar as government and labour are concerned. I don't care what anyone says in this Convention, my argument is that we are today encouraging capital to work on Bell Island, to maintain employment for all of us, and we are not going to tax them out of it. I do not see how anybody, when they know the full terms of it, could say that the Dominion Coal and Steel Co. are getting away with anything. They are not. We are putting more money into the hands of the people and less money into the hands of the government. As I said yesterday, the less money the government has to spend the better for all of us. Purchasing power is what we want in this country, less government, more work for the people.
Mr. Ashbourne What I am concerned about is the value of this ore that goes out of Newfoundland, and that's what I am trying to find out.
Mr. Hollett In order to spare Mr. Ashbourne further worry on that, I think you will find that the value here is the export value, which I believe had been agreed upon between the Bell Island company and the government. The price of ore apparently fluctuates considerably, and, as I understand it, there was some sort of agreement in order to get a reasonable amount, and the export value was fixed at $2.55 per ton.
Mr. Ashbourne That's the point I was driving at, and I don't see why the government or the Customs or anybody else should put in nominal prices for export. If this ore is worth so much in England or Canada, let the people know what it is worth. I know the export price of fish has gone up, and every exporter has to put down the value, and why should not these companies? Any firm that's sending out exports, why don't they put in the current domestic value, no matter whether it is up or down? In 1939-40, according to the number of tons exported and the value, it is about $2.50 per ton, and that's what I am driving at.... A person trying to assess the assets and resources of Newfoundland will find that these are not correct values, and we, as people wanting to find out the value of Newfoundland, want to get die thing as correct as we can. Therefore we ought to have what this ore is worth in Canada and also in Newfoundland, so that we will know what these companies are getting for it. Until we know what they are getting for their ore, how can we say whether they are paying their proper price or not?
Mr. Jackman We know.
Mr. Ashbourne Well, we as a Convention should know. It was given yesterday as $4, but...
Mr. Jackman That's not right.
Mr. Ashbourne Well, what is it?
Mr. Jackman I am not supposed to divulge it.
Mr. Ashbourne Well, how can we know the value of our export trade?
Mr. Hollett I am in sympathy with Mr. Ashbourne, but I don't see how it would give us any more information than we have. This is a value set by the Customs or the government....
Mr. Smallwood The customs don't buy any ore.
Mr. Hollett ....We can get the value if you are willing to wait until Monday.
Mr. Higgins There is no income tax on it, you know.
Mr. Ashbourne Why should they not pay income tax?
Mr. Higgins The government settled it a few years ago. I don't know ifyou were in the government then or not.
Mr. Ashbourne I was never in the government of that day. I was in opposition.
Mr. Jackman Labour received $4 million a year, Mr. Ashbourne.
Mr. Ashbourne They won't receive too much as far as I am concerned, for mining.
Mr. Jackman I certainly agree with Mr. Ashbourne. I can see his point— whatis the working man getting out of it? That is what we had to consider on Bell Island, ... and here are the facts in regards to our position: we have an output, as far as Sydney is concerned, of 750,000 tons of ore, which gives us about two days work a week. It has been brought out in the board of arbitration and there is no question about it, that the Sydney steel plant is losing money and has been subsidised by the federal government of Canada, and it still is. I notice by today's paper that the government is not subsidising the coal mines any longer, but they are subsidising the steel plant. We recognise that we are up against a hard proposition, but we have an opportunity to get into the British market, and we know just exactly what we are up against.
I am a labour man, but I am standing on my feet to defend capital in Bell Island for doing a darn good job. The taxation may seem easy but we, the workers, get the benefit. The less money they pay the government the more we get.
Mr. Hickman I would like to move that this section do pass as read, but I would like to ask the chairman if he could get the values Mr. Ashbourne asked for. I would like, as Mr. Ashbourne has said, to have the actual fob. values of the ore exported, not the nominal one set by the government. After all, you can hardly arrive at the value of the exports and imports if you have not got the true values.
Mr. Higgins I will try to get it by Monday.
Mr. Smallwood There are one or two points I would like to have cleared up. When you are finding out whether there is some arrangement between the government and the company under which only some nominal value is placed on the exports of the ore, if you find out that that is the case, will you also find out what is the real value? It is unbelievable that the government of the country should connive with a corporation to put a falsified value on the exports of that company.
Mr. Higgins I don't believe that is so.
Mr. Smallwood It is unbelievable, but I would like to know the actual value of the exports from Bell Island. Major Cashin here yesterday told us that the company which owns the Bell Island mines has not been paying dividends for a num ber of years, and that they are in a bad way. I am not in a position to deny that. I am inclined to think it is true. I see by the Financial Post in recent issues that American capital is talking of buying out the company. The point I want to make is this: we must be very much on our guard, in spite of Mr. Jackman's eloquent and sincere defence of the miners and the management, as a country and a Convention, when we are thinking about Bell Island and the company that owns it. The record of the relations between that company, or those companies (they have been from time to time under various names) and the Government of Newfoundland, the history of those relationships is not such as to make us feel any too ready to accept any statement made in the matter. For 30 years now it has been a long drawnout filthy story.
Mr. Jackman I would like Mr. Smallwood to say what he thinks is a filthy story about Bell Island.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Smallwood is in order, Mr. Jackman. Sit down, please.
Mr. Smallwood I don't want Mr. lackman for one moment to suppose that I have in my mind or heart one evil thought about the miners of Bell Island — not one. But the history of the relationships for 20 or 30 years between the Bell Island company or companies and the Government of Newfoundland has been a filthy story that would disgrace any country. Some of it came out in public and we know it. We know of election campaigns financed out of money from these companies. It is a filthy story and I don't want to see it repeated. I think we have a perfect right, as Newfoundlanders, and as a National Convention, to be very suspicious about any fair and plausible story about that company losing money. I am prepared to believe it, but I am also remembering that this is a company with two countries, one being Canada and the other Newfoundland. It has three activities — mining ore, and smelting ore....
Mr. Jackman Are you finished?
Mr. Smallwood I am far from finished. I have heard of this kind of thing happening.... I would like to have an auditor look and explain to me, how far, if at all, one part of a company operation is milked and sucked dry for the benefit of another part of the same company's operation. Let's say that company is losing money. But they may be making money in Bell Island, and sinking April 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 485 it in their steel mills, and milking Bell Island dry. Maybe that company in Cape Breton has kept going for years by the money made in Bell Island, in which case the Government of Newfoundland would be defrauded. I am not saying it is so, but I am suspicious. Maybe Newfoundland is getting the rotten end of it.
There is a new contract coming up in 1949. When the last contract came up, I remember the company approached the Monroe[1] government to pass this new contract. The government did not like it, they were ashamed of it. What did they do? They sent over to the Wabana Mineworkers' Union and asked them to send over a delegation so that the government could explain the proposed contract to them. The delegation came and met the government, and the proposed agreement was read out and there was a dead silence when they finished. The government then said that if the mineworkers of Bell Island were satisfied with the agreement, the government might feel justified in bringing it before the House of Assembly and getting itpassed, but if the workers were not satisfied then they would not bring it before the House. That was in 1927, I think, or 1926. I don't think any agreement was signed, at least it was not passed, and it rode on without any agreement until 1929, when this present agreement was brought in — 10 cents a ton up to a million and 3 cents a ton for the next half million tons, and after that nothing at all. That expires in 1949.
Mr. Jackman I rise to a point of order.
Mr. Chairman There is no point of order. Mr. Smallwood is speaking. You will have an opportunity to rebut Mr. Smallwood later if you wish.
Mr. Smallwood So far the government is getting royalties or an export tax from them, and the most they can get is $115,000 a year. No matter what they export or produce, no matter what profit they make or don't make, the most they can get is $115,000.... Mr. Jackman and the people in Bell Island and his union must remember that they are Newfoundlanders — that Bell Island is not a separate country, but is part of Newfoundland. They don't need me to remind them that when the company falls down on the job, as they have done, it is not the company that has kept them, but the government and that's why the government is interested in the amount of taxes that they get. I hope that this thing will be cleared up, and that this company in cape Breton, which Operates also in Bell Island, will be reorganised. Maybe they are top-heavy, or inefficient, I don't know. Maybe they can't get markets, but whatever is wrong I hope it will be cleaned up. We have resources in Bell Island that God gave us, and it is up to this country and the government to get out of those resources the most that can be got out. It is up to this Convention to figure the possibilities that lie in that direction. I am not satisfied with the taxation we are getting out of Bell Island. I would rather see that corporation pay it — if it can be done without hurting the miners — than the fishermen and the loggers and the labourers. The whole policy of the country and the government is to defend these corporations. We have been down and out so long, that if we get a bit of labour we bless them and let them off from the payment of taxes, but we tax our own people and the fishery, and they are maybe playing us for suckers.
Before I sit down there is one point I want to ask Mr. Higgins. On page 11, the breakdown of employees' earnings for 1946; 1,182 men, mostly casual labour, earned less than $1 ,000, and 509 regular employees earned from $1,000 to $1,500, etc., a total of 2,807 men. Actually there were not that many employed, were there?
Mr. Higgins There were a certain number of floaters, if you can call it that. They come in for a period and then they leave and there are others taken on. In other words, to have something like 800 working men constantly employed you really have to employ about 1,200 during the year.
Mr. Smallwood Is that it? Is it that there is such a turnover of labour? Is it that, or is it because in the peak season they have to take on additional men?
Mr. Jackman Possibly I could explain that, I am sure Mr. Smallwood would like to get the explanation. Here is the position: we mine ore in wintertime and stockpile. That means that we have a certain number of men who service the ships during the shipping season, and that starts around the middle of April, and continues from then till December. While we are taking this ore in stockpiles off the surface, we have around 300 seasonal workers. At the end of the year that's 486 NATIONAL CONVENTION April 1947 finished, but our mining force amounts to 1,400 men. These are permanent, steady workers. That will explain the fluctuation. These are seasonal workers, who only take the ore from the stockpiles and ship it.
Mr. Smallwood Thanks very much. I am not sure that I still understand it. On page 8, staff and mining employees for 1945, total 1,427; and for the years 1934 to 1945 the peak totals for the years were given, which averages 1,575 men. That's peak for the year, but in 1946 it is 2,800 men. You see?
Mr. Higgins Obviously that's the peak permanently employed on page 8. Yes, that's peak permanent.
Mr. Smallwood Was there any hour in 1946 when the company at Bell Island was employing 2,800 men?
Mr. Higgins I don't think so.
Mr. Jackman That's an error.
Mr. Smallwood One final point, and it is this, on page 12: "The Gander area was leased to the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company ... 50 years." Does that mean Crown land on which they were given outright grants for 50 years?
Mr. Higgins Yes.
Mr. Smallwood Do they pay anything for that?
Mr. Higgins They have to pay rental.
Mr. Cashin $2 a year.
Mr. Higgins As you know they are not operating that themselves at all. They are getting their timber entirely apart from these leased areas and we...
Mr. Smallwood Should that be allowed?
Mr. Higgins Why not? It gives more employment.
Mr. Smallwood What about the way in which the country's timber is being denuded?
Mr. Higgins One part is leased, and is not being used by them at all.
Mr. Smallwood The country has reached the point where the timber should be conserved.
Mr. Fogwill In looking over the next section of the report I notice the committee...
Mr. Chairman Mr. Fogwill, will you please let us finish this question?
Mr. Fogwill Well it is relevant to this question. There is a difference of 3.45 cents....
Mr. Cashin I think I might be able to clear that. The Labrador ore is a higher grade, about 60 - 65%, while that of Bell Island is about 50 - 52%.
The price of ore is based on 50% iron, and for any units over 50% iron they get 10 cents a unit. If the ore averages 50% iron for $5 a ton, another 20 units would make it $6.50. I take it that that Labrador ore is based on that. The value of the ore on Labrador would be $6 a ton because it is a higher grade ore. The ore on Bell Island is not more than 52%.
Mr. Higgins The cost of smelting is very much cheaper.
Mr. Fogwill Would that make a difference of $3.50 per ton?
Mr. Higgins The figures may not be accurate, but the reason for the present deal with the government was on that basis.
Mr. Vardy Without holding up the motion at all it has been stated that on the basis of the production of one million tons, which was last year's figure, we could not seem to reconcile the fact that the company would be paying out this year $4 million in wages, when it was stated that the export value of the ore was $2.55. The facts are that they contemplated exporting to Sydney 750,000 tons and to the United Kingdom from 750,000 to 1 million tons. That is anywhere from 1.5 million tons up. If you take it and multiply it by $2.55 you will get $3.8 million, they will be in the position to be able to pay out $4 million to the workers. I would remind the chairman of our last interview with Mr. Anson, there was some mention made of the fact that they would be losing a considerable amount owing to adverse conditions of the exchange on ore going to the United Kingdom. I think Mr. Anson covered that ground in our last interview....
Mr. Hollett I thought that was fairly well cleared up until we get specific information on it. I was on Bell Island for five years. They don't take out the ore and weigh it on scales; they take it out and put it in the ship until she has enough. It is never weighed. When the government got after the company to find out the export value, they agreed on a set export value to be placed on the ore so that they would come pretty near the export value of the ore. That is the explanation I am sure, but we could see if that's right or not for Monday. As to whether we can get the actual money credited to the company for the ore exported, that remains in the hands of the company on Bell Island. We cannot force them to give it to us, but we will try to get it.
I don't think it is proper or right for any man in this Convention, with a microphone six inches away from his nose, to be continually getting up and damning anybody in this country. Whether they have done wrong in the past or not, that's not our job. Our job is to get the facts and present them to the people. The idea of these microphones is not so that a man can get up and display himself as a patriot to the people of the country. I do not agree that any man has a right to commandeer a microphone which is by his nose day after day, and give no other man a chance to speak. I say that with due respect to all the men who have the microphones near them. I do not intend to tolerate this. The thing has to be properly regulated or else the microphones will have to be taken away. No man should be able to get up and monopolise the air for three quarters of the time this Convention is sitting, and set himself up as a champion of the cause of the common man. I do not intend to stand this any longer, Mr. Chairman.
Having said that, we will go on to page 11, the point raised by Mr. Smallwood where he said there were 2,800 men or something. Any man who has any knowledge of mining knows that it is a pretty heavy job, and the men can't stay down in the mines day after day for 363 days in the year, and there is considerable absenteeism. Some of the men do not work more than three quarters of the workable days of the year. That's the explanation. You will find that in every mine in the world.
Mr. Ashbourne About the weighing of the ore, I don't know how the compnay pays their men if it is not weighed. Is it by so much per ton?
Mr. Hollett They pay them so much per day.
Mr. Ashbourne At any rate it's got to be sent out by ships, and I presume it is sent out at a certain freight rate, which is so much per ton. I presume the ships can only carry so much, and they should know approximately the tons. That is one way of checking up on the weight.
Mr. Penney I would like to ask the convenor of the Mining Committee a question. How long do you figure it will take this Convention to reach Labrador if we travel along via St. Lawrence and the Rambler and the intermediate stations? That is if we are as long as we are at Bell Island?
Mr. Higgins We will probably need a diamond drill!
Mr. Smallwood I hope that having got that off his chest Mr. Hollett feels happier, but I want Mr. Hollett to know this — Lhat I am a hard man to scare and a hard man to talk down, and, within the rules of this House and this Convention, I will talk as often as I like, whether he likes it or not, microphones or not.
Mr. Higgins I was going to add a paragraph from the minutes we took at our meeting with Mr. Anson that probably would explain a lot of the talk we have had: "On the ore we sold to the United Kingdom this year we finally came to a price agreement with them in March (1946). That price agreement was negotiated on the basis of what they wanted to buy for, and what we wanted to get. Eventually we got this figure, their last offer. We had to make estimates of what it would cost us to produce on that basis, which meant putting all mines into full operation and making our estimates based on production of prewar days. We thought we could ship for what they offered and make a few cents. Unfortunately it did not turn out this way. On all the ore we are shipping this year to England I expect to show a loss of 30 cents per ton. You cannot run a business that way. Their price is always negotiated in sterling. We have to convert into dollars. If England next year will buy the ore at the same price she paid us this year, due to the drop in sterling, and between that and the loss this year, we have got 60 or 70 tons to make up. We have got to sell the ore and break even. If somebody can tell us the answer to that one I would like to know it."
I give you that to think about when you are speaking of the big profits Wabana is supposed to be making.
Mr. Bailey A short time ago I was reading an article on ore, etc., and the question of Wabana came up, and also the question of steel. It said that because of the low content of the ore from Wabana, the steel works in Sydney were up against it; also that the ore in Labrador was of a higher grade, a superior ore, and it looks like in the next few years when the Labrador mines come into effect that the United States and Canada would make a change, and in that case it would give the low grade ore of Bell Island a chance. I think they have been having it pretty tough as far as I can find out...
Mr. Harrington Before we move on I would like to ask this question. We have touched on the 488 NATIONAL CONVENTION April 1947 matter of living conditions above ground (in the Buchans report they speak of the conditions the men work under), I was just wondering if they had gone into the matter of the underground working conditions. I don't see any reference to that. I don't know if you went down yourselves.
Mr. Higgins The members of the Committee were underground, Mr. Harrington, and, the members of the Committee are not miners, but it did appear to our inexperienced eyes to be all right. We heard no complaints.
Mr. Harrington Did you hear anything about this silicosis that's supposed to affect miners?
Mr. Smallwood Bearing on that, who carries out the Mines Regulations Act now? In the old days we used to get some member of the Opposition wanting to know how many men had been injured or killed in the mines, and who had handled it, and what compensation had been paid. In those days the Government Engineer was the only one to enforce that. What is the position now?
Mr. Higgins I understand there is not a permanent mine inspector, but there is a Newfoundlander who is employed in Canada who comes down each year and inspects the mines. The actual post of Mine Inspector is not filled, but we were informed that it would be filled shortly.
Mr. Vardy In answer to Mr. Harrington's question, the members of the Mining Committee did go in all sections of the mine that they could possibly get into. I did not miss any opportunity to get to the lower depths, and I was pleasantly impressed by the conditions I found in every one of the cuts; and well out under Conception Bay you will find that there is a barn where horses are kept, which is much cleaner and much better than many human beings' houses in the city of St. John's. I have seen some of the places and I found the men quite satisfied. I was particularly interested in that phase of it because I am chairman of the Health and Welfare sub-committee, and I missed no opportunity, as our chairman can testify, and I have yet to hear a single complaint of the working conditions. There were complaints of the high cost of living, but not of the conditions under which they work.
Mr. Chairman Those who are in favour of the section passing as read please say "aye", contrary "nay".
[The motion carried]
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, we have a slight correction in the bottom of the report. Mr. Thomas advises me today by telegram that the area leased from the AND Co. is 30 miles radius from center of shaft: "We pay running rates to AND Co. on 14 mile section of railroad from Millertown Junction to Buchans Junction. We own 22 mile section of railroad Buchans Junction to Millertown Junction." We hope you will remember that and make any necessary corrections yourself. With respect to the question that Mr. Fogwill put concerning the Labrador report, I have since asked the government geologist the position with respect to that $6 figure we quoted in our Labrador report, and we were informed that that figure is that quoted by the Lake Superior Iron Ore Producers Association. That would be the association of all iron ore producers in the Lake Superior district. That is the f.o.b. value of Lake Superior ores of 51% iron, the iron ore being laid down at Lake Superior ports. Mr. Howse informs us that you have to figure into that $6 price the moisture, silica, manganese and phosphoms, there is a deduction made forthese. As you will rememberthe sulphur and phosphorus content of the Bell Island ore is quite high in comparison with the Lake Superior ore, and that would mean that off that $6 you would have to take all those deductions. Mr. Howse did not have the time to give me all that, but his opinion was that $2.55 is a very fair price. That is the figure we submitted in our report. Now Mr. Chairman shall we go on to fluorspar, St. Lawrence?
[The Secretary read the section concerning fluorspar at St. Lawrence]
Mr. Smallwood On the first page, the third paragraph: "The second largest known field of fluorspar is in Newfoundland at St. Lawrence". Does that mean the second largest in the world?
Mr. Burry That's the information we received from Mr. Poynter, that it was the second largest known in the world.
Mr. Higgins By the way the refrigerant mentioned, freon, Mr. Poynter says that practically every man who has a refrigerator in his home has some of the Newfoundland fluorspar in it. This is a point of interest.
Mr. Smallwood Do they pay the same type of taxes as the other companies?
Mr. Higgins No, they come entirely under the 1930 Crown Lands Act. They have no subsidy and no relief from duty in any way.
Mr. Smallwood Even on the original machinery?
Mr. Higgins Only as provided in the Crown Lands Act, 1930.
Mr. Smallwood Are they not allowed to bring in their original machinery duty free?
Mr. Higgins That's in the Crown Lands Act.
Mr. Hickman In that interview quoted from Mr. Poynter, perhaps you can explain it, but it strikes me that with the relatively small production in St. Lawrence of 9,000 tons shipped to the USA in 1945 — of course the total production was 18,000 tons, but they have a 40% additional cost of supplies over and above their American competitors — how can they compete? Do they get any subsidy, or is there quite a profit in the production? They must be operating under such terrific handicaps that it must be quite a paying proposition.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Poynter says that they are operating under a handicap, they have no subsidy of any kind, and their labour prices are the same as the prices of their competitors, and they have that big difference of duty and the 40% increase on the supplies.
Mr. Hickman Well, if they are paying the same labour, etc., how do they compete?
Mr. Higgins They must be making a good thing of it.
Mr. Miller I think that power cost was eliminated. The power company distributed for the mining companies in Newfoundland, whereas in the States and Canada they buy the power and the company distributes....
Mr. MacDonald I notice in other reports it gave the rate of wages paid the workmen. Does the chairman of the Committee have any idea of the wage rates there?
Mr. Burry We intended to put in a section on that, but did not have the facts at that time. We now have some correspondence which gives us some information on it. They pay the regular hourly rates from 52 cents to 80 cents per hour....
Mr. MacDonald Thank you. That would make the basic rate 52 cents I take it, which is below that of Bell Island.
Mr. Hickman Does that include a cost of living bonus which may be taken off as the cost of living goes down, or is it the basic rate?
Mr. Burry There is nothing mentioned as regards a cost of living bonus.
Mr. Higgins St. Lawrence is highly unionised, and I imagine they would have.
Mr. Burry I might say in the report there is a reference to how well they are satisfied with their men....
Mr. Higgins That 52 cents is common labour?
Mr. Burry Yes, that is common labour, and that is basic.
Mr. Vardy In fairness to the company it should be pointed out that they allow the men to come on deck in company time and dry their clothing and have their lunches. The St. Lawrence mines are very wet, and it adds greatly to the cost of production. They are given the hour with pay.
Mr. MacDonald Still, a man working under those conditions should get more than 52 cents an hour.
Mr. Higgins Apparently that's all they can afford to pay up there.
Mr. Fogwill The wages would be about $700 a year.
Mr. Smallwood Is it true that the people up in St. Lawrence just about made that development possible by their own working?
Mr. Higgins Definitely. The picture given us was that in the early part of that operation there was no money, the people running it now got practically no money, and the merchants of the place carried the production for quite a time. It was really co-operation of the very best kind. In fact, going further than that, Mr. Poynter said that he believed that there were a lot of other places in Newfoundland of a similar nature to St. Lawrence — no mineral of a quantity that would be of interest to a big corporation, but which might very well be worked by a corporation such as theirs, people who would be willing to go in and work on a shoe-string, and eventually get up to where they can make it pay.
Mr. MacDonald My reason for raising that point is that the report says that the average wage paid in the mining industry proves it the most highly paid industry in the country. Now I took objection to that. Bell Island again — 58 cents an hour, and even adding on the 7 cents that they get, which gives them 65 cents, and they work 10 hours a day. Now other industries have a basic rate for a nine hour day, with time and a half for 490 NATIONAL CONVENTION April 1947 the tenth hour. I think that's injustice to other industries.
Mr. Higgins That's the information we have and we can only pass along what we get.
Mr. Butt On page 4 you say: "We find that our labour is the equivalent of the mining labour of United States or Canada." Do you mean that they pay the same wages?
Mr. Higgins Did you understand that, Mr. Burry?
Mr. Burry I thought he meant that they were perfectly satisfied with the work done for the money paid. Mr. Poynter gave me to understand that Newfoundlanders were about the best workers in the world. Their production bonus enables them to step up their wages from 33 to 52%, which ought to be considered in their favour.
Mr. Harrington On the first page where you state the uses of fluorspar, as a flux for open- hearth steel, etc., I understood that one of the uses of this fluorspar is for certain war equipment. I was told it was used for goggles. I was wondering if that had anything to do with the increase in production and the drop in production, around 1943 it is only 12,900 tons, and in 1944 it is up to 21,000, and then again when the war was over it dropped to 18,000.
Mr. Higgins You mean not so many goggles were sold?
Mr. Harrington Well, not only goggles; I thought that was only one of the items.
Mr. Higgins No, I think it was because they could not meet competitive prices. They are sending fluorspar in from Mexico much cheaper than we can produce it here. Even with that long haul from Mexico they still seem to be able to sell much cheaper. I presume it is the labour price that makes the difference.
Mr. Burry That's the way I understood it. In 1946 they did not export anything to the United States because they could not meet the price.
Mr. Hickman Have they any association with any large manufacturing company in the USA?
Mr. Higgins No, they are entirely independent. They sell on the open market to the highest bidder.
Mr. Harrington There's one other question, on page 5 it says "Power charges average $65 per hp per year", and further down Mr. Morris says that the charges were $57 per hp per year in 1944, and down to $48 in 1946. How does that jibe?
Mr. Higgins We can't give you any more information. The two men gave us the information and we gave it to you. You can take your choice.
Mr. MacDonald I don't see anything here as to the actual value in dollars and cents of this fluorspar exported from the country.
Mr. Higgins I don't think we have it, Mr. MacDonald. We got whatever information we could, and what information we have is in front of you now. That's all we could get. The Mining Committee did not visit St. Lawrence.
Mr. Hollett I understand the reason for that was that the roads were in such a condition. Incidentally we asked Mr. Poynter about the road condition, and he said it would be a grand thing if they could get to Burin. So far, after all these years, they have no road there. While I am on this subject of the connection of the roads between Burin and St. Lawrence. I have made some inquiries relative to the condition of the roads on the Burin Peninsula, and l have been informed that fish costs about $1 per quintal more because of the condition of the roads.
Mr. Hickman The exports of fluorspar in 1943- 44, there was a total of 66,000 tons, valued at $1,360,000. That works out at about $20 per ton for export value.
Mr. Smallwood If you can believe it.
Mr. Hickman I am only quoting the customs returns.
Mr. Higgins I think it is pretty correct. 1 may say with respect to the figures that we did have the figures of export and the value, but the corporation told us they would much prefer that we show them to the Convention but not make them public. It would be of very great detriment to their future trade. They have competitors outside the country, and if they got those figures it would not do their business any good.
Mr. Reddy I just want to say that there seems to be a little conflict here. When first the mine began the going was very hard, and it was only real co-operation between labour and capital in St. Lawrence that brought those mines to this place in our economic structure today. I certainly believe, Mr. Hollett, that the road between Burin and St. Lawrence should be constructed immediately, as it is very essential to the working of the St. Lawrence mines.
Mr. Chairman Moved and seconded that this April 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 491 section do pass as read.
[The motion carried. The section on coal was read and passed, and the section on copper read. The committee then 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:313. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Hon. W.S. Monroe, Prime Minister, 1924-28.

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