504.--(1) We heard evidence from the Associated Newfoundland Industries and others, urging the imposition of still higher duties on imported manufactured articles, with a view to the encouragement of locally-made goods. It was urged on their behalf that, with the duties at their present level, it was impossible for local manufacturers to compete against imported goods manufactured under a system of mass production. There are at present time, as we have already related, about 1,000 workpeople employed in local factories. In 1921 there were about 2,000. The present scale of duties is high, and this leads in turn to high retail prices. As most of the articles that enter into the cost of living are imported, the cost of living in the Island is dear and out of all proportion to what the people can reasonably be expected to bear. Moreover, as we have explained elsewhere, the effect is doubly serious in that Newfoundland is primarily an exporting country; and there is no doubt that, in these circumstances, a general scaling down of the duties in force would be in the best interests of the Dominion. In the course of the revision now contemplated, the claims of the Associated Newfoundland Industries in relation to individual articles will doubtless be taken into consideration in conjunction with the effect which a continuance of, and any further increase in, the existing scale of duties would be likely to exercise on the cost of living generally in the Island.


  (2) We heard complaints from traders and others regarding the delay in loading and discharging vessels in the port of St. John's which, together with the unnecessarily high charges incurred, were greatly hampering the trade and commerce of the Island. It was stated that, in consequence of these conditions, it is now the practice for vessels to avoid calling at St. John's if it is possible for them to do so, and that much trade is lost to the port from this and other causes; there was also said to be a growing tendency for mercantile firms to leave the port for other ports in the Island where loading is more expeditious and charges more reasonable. We also heard in evidence the representatives of the trade unions whose members are employed at the port. As a result of these hearings, we formed the opinion that some of the regulations in force at the port of St. John's are such as to hamper trade unnecessarily and to require reconsideration; we hope that the parties concerned will confer on this subject with a view to freeing the port from hampering restrictions and that, should no satisfactory agreement be reached, the matter may be referred to some independent tribunal for settlement.


  (3) A scheme for the development of Mortier Bay as a free port has been under consideration for some time. Mortier Bay is an inlet of Placentia Bay on the south coast of the Island and is an open port all the year round. Under the scheme, the port will constitute a transfer point or ocean clearing-house for goods in transport between the markets of the world, the industrial regions of the Great Lakes and the Canadian and United States Middle-West and West. The scheme is based on the geographical situation of Newfoundland and on the advantage of water over rail transport. It is intended to eliminate the present costly rail haul by providing all-water transportation. What this might mean in economy may be gathered from an estimate by the International Joint Commission that one ton a railway mile costs as much as six tons a water mile. It is claimed that the advantage is intensified by the rapid growth of the Great Lakes industries and, in normal times, by the increasing traffic congestion of the United States railway lines and terminal ports. It is explained that the Great Lakes and the river St. Lawrence are closed by ice for five months in the year; during these months exports from and to the Great Lakes are transported by rail at great expense to and from points on the eastern seaboard of the United States. It is contemplated that, when the transfer point at Mortier Bay has been established, a considerable proportion of exports and imports will be stored there; outbound goods during the summer, to be shipped out to customers during the winter, and inbound goods during the winter, for immediate delivery to Great Lakes ports in the spring; thus providing a continuous system of all-water transportation, with all the saving which such a system would involve.

Lake Lake between Burin Harbour and Mortier Bay, looking Southwest, n.d.
Photographer unknown. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
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Mortier Bay is landlocked and ships of any size can lie there in perfect security, either at anchor or at wharves, at all seasons and in all weathers. It is said to provide the shortest and most direct route between the Great Lakes ports, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe and South America. It is proposed under the scheme that, as the port will be a free port, goods will be discharged, stored and transhipped without any duty being paid; that goods will be exempt from examination by Customs authorities; and that the vessels using the port will be subject only to a nominal pierage due, and will thus be entirely free from the usual dues and fees which weigh so heavily on shipping elsewhere.

Image description updated May, 2004.

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