The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), March 7, 1883

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What The Kingston Delegates Laid Before The Minister of Marine.

We announced a few days ago that a deputation of engineers, consisting of Messrs. J. Gillies and G. Johnson, had visited Ottawa and made representations to the Minister of Marine and Fisheries respecting the injury they must suffer by the enforcement of an Act passed at the last session of the Dominion Parliament. Last evening our reporter met these men and had a talk over matters which interest the public as well as profession. The Kingston gentlemen were chosen delegates because here the agitation for redress began, and because they were qualified to place the case of the engineers clearly clearly and intelligently before the Government and members of Parliament. We asked them:

"How came it that you were so long in acting, that nearly a year elapsed before you protested against the unpopular measure?

"We were not aware of what had been done until recently. We read the papers as much as the average working man but missed seeing the Commons' discussion on the Act, and certainly had no knowledge of its provisions until we came to renew our certificates, when we learned that our fees were increased and that many of us were left absolutely without protection. As soon as the situation became fully apparent we had consultations, and got up the petition which has been largely signed and presented to Parliament through Mr. Gunn.

Statements To Hon. Mr. Pope.

"What did you state to the Hon. Mr. Pope?"

"First we protested against the raising of our fees. It was explained to us why this had occurred. The first class engineers are exempted from further payments and this has been done, it is said, as an inducement to second class men to reach a higher standard. Before one can get a first class certificate, however, he must serve for three years upon a boat of 100 nominal horse power (of which there are only seven or eight plying on the inland waters) or he must find an engagement upon an ocean going steamer. In either case the chances are strongly against the ambitious mechanic. Then, again, three classes have been abolished by the Act - first, second and third class assistants, and the fees from them as well as the first class engineers will be lost. It has not been calculated, however, to lose the revenue, and so the remaining classes are to be taxed to the extent of $5 instead of $1 annually. Against this imposition the delegates protested and they had the support of Dr. Bergen, Mr. Rykert, Mr. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Gunn, and others. The Minister did not feel inclined to make the Act so soon inoperative on this point, but it was warmly contended by us that the amount to the Government was a mere bagatelle, while to the engineers it meant a great deal. The unpopularity of the tax became more manifest when it was stated that the Inspection Board had a surplus of $38,000 (?).

The Greatest Of All Injustice.

"Did you lay any other matter before the Minister of the Crown?"

"Yes, we brought to his notice a subject upon which all persons who understand it feel warmly - that is the change in the Act according to which nearly all tugs will be exempted from carrying qualified engineers. There will, therefore, be from 400 to 500 boats upon which uncertified men may be employed."

"The effect of this will be what?"

"To lower the wages, because incompetent men and men of lower qualifications will work cheaper than the men who are skilled and experienced. The owners of boats are at liberty to hire whom they please, making salary rather than ability the consideration. The boatmen, under these circumstances, can become more independent than they have been and the engineers less so."

"What about the danger point?"

"We drew the attention of the Minister of Marine to the fact that the altered regulations had a tendency to endanger life, and that the welfare of the crews of tugs should not be ignored. The hon. gentleman remarked that the danger was not greater on tugs than in mills and factories, in which hundreds of people were employed, and that in these places uncertified engineers were engaged. The delegates replied that in some of the industries to which reference was made there had been serious and fatal accidents, that the Ontario Government had taken steps to have life protected so far as proper inspection and careful supervision by competent men could do so."

A Change In Classes.

"How many will be affected by the changes in the Act?"

"We don't know precisely in the absence of the books. All first-class assistants become third-class engineers without the payment of a fee and Mr. Risley, Chairman of the Board of Inspectors, has intimated that second class assistants will be given a year or two in which to qualify for third-class engineers. Perhaps there are two hundred young men whose future prospects very much depend upon the action of the Board. This, too, must be remembered - that though many men cannot get positions where their papers will be of much value to them they must keep up their examinations and pay their fees annually, otherwise they will lose their standing."

Action That Is Proposed.

"Well, what do you purpose (sic) doing about the matter?"

"We find the people, irrespective of class, in favor of our movement for a return to the old law upon which the new one is certainly not an improvement. We do not expect the Government to bring in an Act to appeal that passed at the last session, but we look to some member of the House to bring in a measure having for the object the amendment of the law to some extent, and thereby saving the engineers from an irreparable injury. Morally we have the support of every right thinking citizen, and we hope we have that of the press."

New Steam Yacht - Capt. Cuthbert, well known throughout Canada and the States as a yachtsman and yacht builder, was here today. He was here to confer with the foundrymen for the erection of an engine and boiler for a new steam yacht to be built in Belleville for Mr. J.W. Campion.

Not Sold Yet - Capt. Cuthbert has not sold the Atalanta. He will probably take her West this year and sell her to Americans. She would, on Lake Michigan, hold her own with the Viking, Idler and Countess of Dufferin.

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March 7, 1883
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), March 7, 1883