February 23, 1916

IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr W. F. MACLEAN (South York):

It is my intention to occupy the House only a few minutes, as I understand that a vote is to be taken at six o'clock. Our greatest poet has said that "nice customs curtsey to great kings." Among the nice customs may be included the tariff custom, and the great king to which the tariff custom must curtsy is democracy. The democracy of the Canadian West to-day is demanding free wheat. I have followed the discussion of this subject closely for many years; I have read the papers of the West; I have heard speeches; I have read the proceedings of all the farmers' conventions. The demand in the West now, as I see it, is that the people there shall have a wider market for their wheat. Surely if they have not now a market sufficiently wide this Parliament, representing the Canadian people, should not prevent the accruing of that benefit to the agricultural population of the country, especially the West. They simply ask for an opportunity to sell their surplus wheat in every possible market. Their doing this would not be against the interests of Canada; it would make these people richer and increase their ability to buy Canada's products, because they would sell their wheat at better prices than they get now. I believe in a national policy for Canada; I have in my time made some sacrifices in the matter of national policy. The argument that was made by the Minister of Public Works this afternoon was a first class argument in many respects. The hon. gentleman said tnat he wanted to maintain the National Policy. But do we go to the United States to maintain our National Policy? The United States could

destroy the whole structure of that policy as it was outlined this afternoon if they saw fit to withdraw the duty which they now impose upon our wheat. The probability is that the Democratic party, soon to go to the country in a presidential election, will have in their party platform a proposal to abolish the duty on wheat. If they do this where will our national policy go then? We have got to have a national policy that will preserve traffic for our Canadian railways, if possible; we have got to have a national policy for our millers. But if we are consistent national policy men we ought to work that policy out by depending not upon the temporary or incidental legislation of the United States, but upon our own legislation. The British market, which we now have, is a good market. If we want to help the millers why not adopt the principle of the National Policy in regard to, say, a bounty on production, or, better still, by nationalizing our railways, transportation lines, ocean steamship services? Then we should be able to keep the British market, and hold it against any competition. The United States for the time being has put a tariff on wheat coming from Canada. They may take that duty off, and we can do nothing to keep that market for ourselves. After studying this question as well as I , could, I have come to the conclusion that we should not resist the voice of the people of the West when they ask for the right to sell their wheat in every possible market. We will make them better farmers, and we will make them better consumers of Canadian goods if we keep them in good temper, and give them an opportunity of making more money than they are making to-day The impression that I gained after a comparison of prices was that, on the whole, the price of wheat in the United States has been better than the price in Canada, and that the millers of Canada have at times not given as much as they could have given for Canadian wheat if the Canadian farmers had been able to sell in other markets. I have no prejudices in this matter; I have tried to consider it carefully, and that is the impression that has been made upon me. If we wish to make the West prosperous and contented, we ought to give the farmers of that country the benefit of free wheat. The West must be made to stand on its own feet, and you will never get it to do that if you restrict its freedom in the matter of selling a great product of which it has a large surplus. If there were any national reason why we

should prevent our own people from getting the largest possible returns from the sale of their wheat, I should not be prepared to support the motion. But I can see no national reason why we should restrict the Canadian farmer in the marketing of his great surplus of wheat.

As to the millers, I have this to say-the Minister of Finance is now proposing a tax on the profits of the business community of Canada in order to help pay for this great war, and the millers will have to pay a large share of that tax. The millers have been most successful in their industry. As between the miller and the farmer, it cannot be said that the miller has not had the best of it. As between the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian West, it cannot be said that the farmer has had the best of it. The railways and the millers have had the best of it so far, and the Canadian farmers in the West are seeking some relief, some betterment of their condition. We may not even now be able to give them that relief, because, no matter what we may do, the United States may put up the duty against us. Of a certainty I see no relief in that direction. But' there is an opportunity to improve the conditions by taking advantage of legislation that already exists on the statute book of the United States. Looking at the matter in the calmest possible way, after having studied all the circumstances connected with it, I have reached the conclusion that it is not along the lines of national policy that we should restrict the farmers of our West in their -getting the best possible price for their grain. On the contrary, we ought to help them get the best possible price for their grain, and try to make the West not only a great grain growing country, but a great mixed farming country as well. Give the West an opportunity to work out its own salvation, and do not encourage it in nursing grievances. If we wish to improve the condition of our railways and our millers, we should do as I thought this House intended to do; as I thought the Conservative party intended to do two or three years ago-remove these grievances, the expression of which has been found in the House, in the press, on platforms in every direction. The sooner we get rid of the grievances, and give the farmers of the West what they ask for, the better it will be for the progress and development of the country.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Solicitor General) :

There are only a few minutes

left within which, according to the arrangement made to bring this subject to a vote before six o'clock, to express my view upon the motion. One would indeed be blind who came from the Canadian West and failed to realize the scope of this subject and the place it occupies in the minds of the people of the three Prairie Provinces. The matter arose as a political question some five years ago; I do not think its origin antedates that time. It formed part of the great reciprocity issue of 1911, and as such the people of Canada passed upon it.

Since that time it would be idle to contend that it has been eliminated from the-political horizon. It occupies its place there still and is a subject of political discussion,, and is likely to be for some time. I respect the views of the men who have advocated the affirmative side of the resolution, including the hon. member for York (Mr. W. F. Maclean). I only note with reference to tne speech of that hon. gentleman that while he established quite clearly that there was what might be called a political grievance, and while he, at all events, established his own conviction that the Conservative party as a party would make a stroke of political strategy to its advantage by removing this question out of the way, he said little or nothing that would even indicate that he was himself convinced that there was anything to the subject except what was of a political, and not of an economic character. I have always believed, and never more than now, that at least ninety per cent of this free wheat issue is purely political, while, for the other ten per cent, it is economically unsound. We on this side have been charged in this House, ever since I have been a member of it, and with increasing emphasis since we arrived in power, with being allied with big interests in this country, with being blind to the cause of the farming community and unresponsive to their cries. I must say the repetition with which this subject has been advanced has been so monotonous as to become almost nauseating; and to hear it now propounded with the same earnestness, apparently, as it was in years gone by, after the Budget proposals of this year, is to make one almost justified in charging insincerity against hon. gentlemen opposite. We hear it said by hon. gentlemen opposite in relation to this very subject: You listen to the cry of the manufacturers; you listen to the cry of the railroad; you listen to the cry of the am-

munition maker; but you never hear a word that the farmer utters; you arrange for cheap rates on ocean traffic for the shell manufacturer, but you never bother about the farmers' products in any way whatever. The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff), with just the same assurance and the same positiveness that he displayed in relation to every other phase of the subject, told us we had been instrumental in robbing the western farmer of thirty or forty million dollars because we had not reduced the high ocean freight rates. 1 am free to admit that we are as justly chargeable with taking thirty million dollars from him because of the high freight rates as we are chargeable with taking twelve and a half million from him by virtue of his not having access to this illusory American market. Thirty millions from him because of high freight rates! Have hon. gentlemen seen the freight rates *charged to the exporter of farm products from the United States? I have them before me in the Northwest Miller. I do not know whether hon. gentlemen opposite concede that as an authority or not, but it is published by the millers of Minneapolis, who are persona grata with hon. gentlemen opposite, much more so than aTe the millers of Canada. The figures I have before me indicate that the American rates have averaged higher than the Canadian rates, and that the American farmer has had to pay.at least the rates that we have had to pay. Through the efforts of this Government we were successful in arranging for the transport of supplies purchased by the British Government in vessels requisitioned by the British Government and placed in charge of one named by us. The history of that work and its success has been stated to the House by the Minister of Marine, and I do not know whether it is from his statement or from what, that hon. gentlemen have got the idea that we have been very partial in that regard to the manufacturer of shells. As a matter of well ascertained fact, over seventy-eight per cent of the goods that went on the vessels that were so secured and so requisitioned, were products of the farms of Canada. I have before me a letter from the director of transport, written to the Prime Minister of this country, and written, judging by its introductory words, because he had noted these extraordinary statements made earlier this session by the hon. member for Asisiniboia. The director of transport says:

If, as I understand, Mr. Turriff alleges that the Government in its overseas arrangement has favoured the manufacturer to the disadvantage of the farmer then the answer is simple and may he found in the statement on file in the Naval Department showing weekly requirements of the War Office, (copy enclosed for easy reference) and also on page 2 of the memorandum attached to the recent Order in Council having reference to this department.

War Office requirements call for a movement of 35,900 tons per week, representing 2,282,000 cubic feet ocean space.

Of this total, 1,787,000 cubic feet is represented by the products of the farm (oats, hay and flour). The oats and wheat are grown in the West; and of the hay shipments over twenty thousand tons are now being compressed at Calgary for movement overseas. Of the balance, (495,000 cubic feet) 175,000 cubic feet is absorbed by ammunition, shells, forgings, etc., 40,000 by miscellaneous manufactures, and 280,000 by railway equipment.

In other words the available ocean cubic feet space is subdivided as follows:

Per cent.

Products of the farm 78'31

Railway equipment 12'27

Munitions, shells, forgings, etc. 7'67 Miscellaneous 1"!5

Thus it will be seen that 7-67 per cent is the huge proportion of space secured on these vessels, requisitioned by the British Government at the request of the Government of Canada, for the accommodation of shells, etc.

Coming moTe directly to the free wheat and flour issue, I frankly admit, first of alll, .that -it is a matter that concerns very vitally the farmers of the West. That is to say, they are very directly interested in it. It concerns what forms the major part of the product of their labour, and their investment. But I cannot agree, and I_do not think any mind that is honest with itself can agree, that the question of ' whether or not free wheat and flour are made a fact by legislation of this country is a question that concerns the farmer alone. Although the wheat is the product of the farmer and of the farmer alone, flour Is the product of the farmer and of the miller of this country; and in both products, wheat and flour, all our transportation interests have also a very vital concern. Were I to limit the interest in this question to those directly and indirectly concerned with transportation, with milling, and with farming, I should be too confined in my reference. The whole people of Canada are concerned, and concerned vitally, with the question of whether ox not we place wheat and flour on the free list. Everybody has an interest in it, because it goes to the very Toot of the trend of out legislation; and if we take this step, then there

are other steps with which we must logically follow, and if we take those steps then we turn in the direction we were forbidden to turn by the electorate of this country in 1910. I have seen it argued in print and heard it argued on the platform for years, just in the language repeated in this debate by the hon. members for Assini-boia, and Dauphin, and others, that this is a farmers' question, that the farmers ought to know what they should do and where to market their goods; that their decision should be final, and that no one else has any concern in the question. I do

not believe the farmers themselves take that ground; I think they are broader-minded than their spokesmen, or alleged spokesmen, in this House. They know that others are interested in it as well as they; they know that the whole people of this country are interested in it. Oh, says the ,hon. member for Edmonton (Mr. Oliver), if another class of men who are manufacturing goods come to the Government and say it is necessary for us -we are unanimous upon it-that you should put so and so in the tariff, the Government will do so. Does the hon. gentleman believe such a proposition as that? Why, if we followed the manufacturer of almost any line of goods in this country, I am afraid the tariff in respect to that line of goods would go up, but when any class of manufacturers, or any class of interests of any kind come to the Government and say: we are the makers of certain goods, and we know what is best for us; we say to them: you are the makers of the goods and you have a direct interest, but the people of this country are also interested; and we have to decide out of regard to the public interest, and not out of regard to your interest alone.

That is the answer we give to the demand voiced in this House by the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff). I have not the time to pursue the whole course of prices, or to compare the prices to the north with the prices to the south, as has been done at considerable length during this debate. I have never denied, nor could any one who pretended to give any study to the subject, deny, that at many times there is a higher price, sometimes a materially higher price, for hard wheat in Minneapolis than there is on this side of the line. I do not think it can be successfully denied that the average price across the line maintains higher for hard wheat than it does on this side, but I believe that the average is very much below the figures

given by hon. gentlemen opposite. I do not think that the figures which have been communicated by the officials on both sides of the line will support the figures given by hon. gentlemen opposite. The average may be a few cents higher; it varies from year to year, and according to conditions, and the question for us to inquire into is this: not what the conditions are now, which are fixed in the main by the trade affected by the tariff, but what the conditions would be if we legislated, as we are asked to legislate, and whether or not they would bring a greater return to the producers of this country and a greater benefit to the country as a whole. I want the House to understand this, because it is a fact uncontroverted, and hon. gentlemen know it, that while they quote grade for grade across the line with grade for grade here, they ought to tell the House that the grade quoted at Minneapolis and Duluth is always the highest price paid that day, while the grade quoted at Winnipeg or Fort William runs from the lowest to the- highest. But it is the closing price which they compare with that of Minneapolis; consequently, in many cases the closing price may be lower than the Minneapolis, but the average price for the day may be higher than the Minneapolis price.

Then there is the sample market over there, and that sample market principle invades the grade principle as well. The result is that all their wheat of a certain grade does not sell for the same price; there will be a spread of five cents some day between the same class of No. 1 Northern and another class of No. 1 Northern. Similarly with No. 2 Northern. The higher prices quoted by hon. gentlemen opposite are figures covering many months, and they say that by hot allowing free entry we are standing between the western farmer and the markets to the south. It is true that by reason of conditions which are not difficult to understand, if one sets about to study them, very often, and I-think on the average, there has been a somewhat higher level of prices in Minneapolis than on this side of the line, but the outstanding conditions and facts are so clear that it must be manifest to any one who studies the question that those conditions are essentially local, and are essentially the result of circumstances that would be swept away if the tariff were swept away by legislation. If what the hon. member for Assiniboia says is correct, that affirmation of mine is not true, and if what the hon. member for

Edmonton says in support of the hon. member for Assiniboia is correct, it is not true. They say that the farmer in the West is crucified, because there is a combination of buyers and millers which crucifies him and holds the prices down, whereas the benevolent people to the south leave the prices at export level and pay actually what the wheat is worth. They say that there is a combination of millers and grain buyers united on one point, to grind down the poor farmer. The hon. member for Assiniboia says that our wheat is worth at home 7 or 8 cents less per bushel to the farmer than is the American wheat to the farmer of the. United States in his markets, but that our wheat brings at the Liverpool market 7 or 8 cents more per bushel than does the American wheat on the Liverpool market. If that is the case, my hon. friend has produced a good deal of evidence that there is a combination at the bottom of this trouble. If it is the case that there is a combination of millers and buyers who' pay less than the fair market price to the farmer, hon. gentlemen have produced an argument stronger than any I have ever read, in reams of Hansard. What is the fact? Who are the buyers in the western country? The buyers are the millers of the country, but far more so are they the grain dealers of the country, and the biggest grain dealer in the country is the Grain Growers' Grain Company which is a company formed into a corporate representative of the Grain Growers' Association, and which does their business for them. It is a company formed for commercial purposes, it is true, but the directors of that company would be the first to acknowledge that besides being a commercial organization they hold a trusteeship for their patrons in that country and for the farmers in that country generally. They were organized for the purpose, and they say so, of protecting the farmer against the extortions of the grain buyer. If what the hon. member for Edmonton says is correct, the Grain Growers' Grain Company is paying 7 and 8 cents per bushel less at home and getting 7 and 8 cents more at Liverpool than the farmer across the line. The Grain Growers' Grain Company are buyers and exporters both. The hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) contradicted me the other day on that point, and declared that the Grain Growers' Grain Company were not exporters, and he advised the Minister of Finance not to rely on anything I told him.

Imagine an hon. member coming to this Parliament, and not knowing that the biggest grain buying concern in his country is also perhaps the biggest exporter.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I did not say that; the Minister of Finance asked if it were true that the Grain Growers' Grain Company were exporters, and I said I knew they were not exporters, and I still think so, notwithstanding what the hon. gentleman says. ' .

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I wonder at the hon. gentleman. Does he still think the Grain Growers' Grain Company are not exporters?

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LIB
?

An hon. MEMBER:

What do they do with their wheat?

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I have the annual report of the company here. I am sorry it is getting near to six o'clock, otherwise I would read it in full. The annual report of the company shows that in order to conduct their export business they organized some years ago a company which is officered by themselves and the stock of which is owned by themselves, the Grain Growers' Export Company. It is run by themselves, and is reported in the annual statement of the Grain Growers' Grain Company.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It is a company owned by themselves, rand formed to carry out that branch of their work. They not only export Canadian grain, but American grain. Last year they exported many times more bushels of American grain than of Canadian grain, and their profits on their export business last year were over half a million dollars and they say that they pay for the grade.

Let me impress upon this House that the Grain Growers' Association, through the Grain Growers' Grain Company which they control, a company every dollar of whose stock is owned by farmers, a company I believe, well and ably managed, have the solution of the whole thing in their own hands. All they have to do is to pay the legitimate value of the wheat and if they do that, they will pay the. western farmer not what they are paying to-day, not what the American farmer is getting, but ten cents a bushel more than the American farmer is getting. What about the

Saskatchewan Elevator Company buying last year over 15 per cent of the whole of the grain of Saskatchewan besides what the Grain Growers' Grain Company bought? What about the Alberta commercial organization? All these organizations are buying and are they in league with the millers? Are we asked, as a Parliament, to protect the Grain Growers' Association against themselves? Are they that class of people? I think not. I have not a word to say against the Grain Growers' Grain Company. They are more frank in their statements than are hon. gentlemen opposite. They come out squarely in their annual statement and say: we can scarcely make a dollar buying wheat in this country; we can hardly make anything out of our elevators in Manitoba because the competition of the millers is so keen that we have to pay more than the grain is worth to get it. That is what they say in their own annual statement published last autumn. They say that: the millers, because they can get No. 2 which is almost as good as No. 1 for their purposes, can pay more than we can for No. 2, and they complain that the millers of the West, at points where they compete with the Grain Growers' Grain Company, raise the price of No. 3 and No. 4 Northern up as high as No. 1 Northern and take the business out of their hands. Is that in accord with what we hear in this House? I believe that company is well managed and I do not believe it is mulcting the farmers of the West. If I did believe that I could agree with the allegations of hon. gentlemen opposite, I would say that there would be a case for free wheat or for a remedy that would bring about the same result because this Parliafnent could never do its duty to the people of Canada and allow the western farmer to lose from 5 to 15 cents a bushel on his wheat.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

Would the hon. gentleman. explain how the Grain Growers' Grain Company, which, I understand, has never exported- more than 20,000,000 bushels, could control the price on an export of

200,000,000 bushels?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Not more than 20,000,000? What I have to complain about with regard to hon. gentlemen opposite is that their understanding is not up to date. If the hon. gentleman will get the report-

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Last year they exported

38,000,000 and 39,000,000 bushels of American. wheat alone.

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LIB
CON
LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order, order.

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CON
LIB

February 23, 1916