May 5, 1931

LIB

Paul Mercier

Liberal

Mr. PAUL MERCIER (St. Henri) (Translation) :

Mr. Speaker, I had no intention of taking part in the discussion this evening, however, I was so amazed at the hon. member for Compton (Mr. Gobeil) referring to certain statements which he made in his speeches, or that his friends made throughout Canada and which had an important bearing on the results of the last election that I deemed it my duty to take part in the discussion. It is in vain that the hon. member quotes figures, it is useless for him to seek them in our statistics, or in the campaign literature previous to July 28, last, there is one feature which he will be unable to explain away, it is: that in the last election campaign, especially in Quebec, the Conservative candidates insisted that it was the butter imports from New Zealand which ruined the country and that if elected, they r^rnld put an end to it, that they would negotiate a new treaty and that the butter industry would flourish again in the farming counties of Quebec. Owing to these speeches, they were elected. Notwithstanding the figures you may quote regarding trade which readjusted itself in the course of September, October and November, as a result of legislation enacted by the Liberal government, you especially pledged yourself to stop all butter imports either from New Zealand or Australia. You did not carry out this pledge. It behooves you to tell your constituents so and I especially ask the hon. member for Compton what reception *would his constituents give him if he went back to his riding and told them: I have omitted to put into practice what I advocated previous to your electing me, and again I come to tell you, in May, 1931, that the King government is responsible for the unceasing butter imports to Canada.

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CON

Samuel Gobeil

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOBEIL (Translation):

Mr. Speaker,

I rise to a point of order. The hon. member for St. Henri (Mr. Mercier) has just stated that we have imported 6,000,000 lbs of butter. That is not correct.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order, order, order.

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CON

Samuel Gobeil

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOBEIL (Translation):

The Conservative government-

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (Translation):

I welcome

questions. I shall not act as you did a few moments ago when you refused to listen to those who wished to question you as to the accuracy of your figures or statements. You may put any question you wish, I shall courteously answer you. I may tell you that the importations of butter amounted to

6,000.000 lbs.

Agricultural Conditions

An hon. MEMBER (Translation): That is not correct.

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (Translation):

These are

the figures given by the hon. Mr. Stevens and reported in Hansard on April 27, last: Total, 6,375,100 lbs. Why did you allow these

6,000,000 lbs. of butter to enter Canada, when you had promised that not a pound of butter would enter the country? I am glad to hear that my hon. friend from Stanstead (Mr. Hackett) will presently take part in the discussion. He is a distinguished member of the Montreal bar, and an upright citizen as well, he will tell you how the Montreal merchants-

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CON

Samuel Gobeil

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOBEIL (Translation):

Will the hon.

member allow me to ask him a question?

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (Translation ):

With

pleasure.

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CON

Samuel Gobeil

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOBEIL (Translation):

Will he tell

us which were the butter imports from New Zealand between August 1, and October 12, 1930?

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (Translation):

I have not the figures with me here. I ask you this question : why did you permit so "much butter to enter the country when you had given a pledge not to allow one pound to enter? You condemned the late administration. There is no need for me to seek in statistics to prove that 4, 5, 6 million pounds were allowed to enter the country. Why did you permit one single pound to enter?

Now, as the representative of a Montreal riding, I want to point out that our merchants of butter, cheese, eggs and other dairy products-to you *who represent the county of Compton and have stated in this house that the merchants of William Street take advantage of the farmers-our merchants, I say-are honest and do their best to dispose of their butter having in mind the best interest of both the consumer and manufacturer, if they did otherwise they would show very little business acumen, because the proper method is to purchase the butter and sell it at a profit and not to store it, with the perspective that it will have to remain in storage. I wish to state again that in the metropolis of Canada the merchants are honest and work in concert with the consumer and the farmer so as to give the former his money's worth and the latter a fair price for his products, while at the same time making an honest profit. There is, at present, an overproduction in Quebec, and that is what spoils the prices. We do not export more and we still import a little, thus the market is overflooded and the purchasing power is lacking. Unemployment has increased to such an extent that no sales are possible. Last Saturday butter retailed in

Montreal at 22 cents and sold wholesale at 19 cents. What was the price paid to farmers? About 17 or 18 cents, allowing a reasonable profit to the farmers. That is, sir, how the matter stands, that is the bogy that was dragged to and fro in Quebec, especially in the eastern townships where the farmers were told that ruin was staring them in the face because they were unable to sell their butter, because their cattle was being slaughtered, and the compensation was inadequate. Were the butter imports stopped? Was the testing and slaughtering of cattle discontinued since the last elections? I state that the evil is still existing. You promised to apply an unfailing remedy, to deftly put a stop to all the ills from which we suffer, and I find that you did not keep your pledges, that butter still continues to be imported and cattle to be slaughtered in the eastern townships as elsewhere.

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CON

John Thomas Hackett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. T. HACKETT (Stanstead) (Translation) :

Mr. Speaker, I wish in a few words to answer the clear-cut question put by the hon. member for St. Henri (Mr. Mereier). When figures are quoted in such a way as to mislead so charming a gentleman as my hon. friend, I deem it necessary to explain the true meaning of their figures. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that the figures appearing on page 985 of Hansard are such as to convey a false impression to anyone who reads them.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

They are the government's own figures.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Who gave them out?

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LIB

Peter John Veniot

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

The government did.

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CON

John Thomas Hackett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HACKETT:

The figures were given in answer to questions put with a skill to which the hon. gentleman from Gloucester (Mr. Veniot) is assuredly no stranger.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

I did not ask those questions.

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CON

John Thomas Hackett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HACKETT:

At any rate, here are the facts: During the year ending March 31st, 1930, we imported 28,000,000 pounds of butter. During the year following our imports were

6.000. 000 pounds; but there is this further important detail that, out of the total of

6.000. 000 pounds, almost 5,000,000 entered Canada before the legislation passed at the emergency session last September came into force. That is the first point I wanted to clear up, Mr. Speaker.

But the matter does not end there. It must be borne in mind that, although butter is selling at a very low price just now, we ourselves are supplying Canada's requirements; our own Canadian producers are providing the butter needed by the Canadian consumer -something which had not happened, Mr. Speaker, since the notorious Australian treaty was negotiated by our friends to your left.

Agricultural Conditions

Neither should it be forgotten that our prices here are higher than in London, that they are still above the world level, and further that no more butter is entering Canada from New Zealand. This latter source, practically inexhaustible, which caused such havoc in the eastern townships, need worry us no longer. We are receiving only a few pounds of butter from Australia.

The hon. member for St. Henri stated on the floor of the house tbait promises had been made to the effect that no more butter would be imported into Canada from across the sea. I do not know whether he himself heard any such promises made. People are prone to some exaggeration at election time. I may tell him in reply that I made no such promises. I was well aware that a contract existed between Canada and Australia, and that we had to live up to that contract. I understand that next summer representatives of the Australian Commonwealth are coming to Canada and that our ministers will avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded to negotiate a new treaty, a new contract. Meanwhile we are bound by the contract entered into by our friends on the other side of the House.

That is about all I had to say on this much-discussed butter question. I want to emphasize to the house that since the legislation of last September came into force our imports have been limited to some two million pounds of butter, while during the previous year we had received 28 million pounds. It is true some 4 millions came into the country during the three months immediately preceding the enacting of that legislation.

The legislation of the short session helped the farmers in another way. Now the farmers in the neighbourhood of cities can for the first time enjoy the benefits of their own markets and sell their early produce without fear of what almost amounts to unfair foreign competition, either from the United States or from the islands of the Atlantic. They are well pleased with the laws passed last September. I do not believe a single member coming from the neighbourhood of Montreal, and who has truck-gardeners among his constituents, would dare claim that these people who after all, make up a respectable and considerable portion of our farming community, are not delighted with the new laws which have proven so beneficial to them.

Mr. Speaker, I rose to point out the misapprehension which has arisen from the answers appearing on page 985 of Hansard, and which I thought needed a word of explanation, to forestall any interpretation contrary to fact.

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LIB

Charles Benjamin Howard

Liberal

Mr. C. B. HOWARD (Sherbrooke) (Translation) :

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few

words in reply to the two hon. members who preceded me. I want to point out to the hon. member for Compton (Mr. Gobeil), in spite of the insinuations he made against the butter trade and the wholesale houses in the city of Montreal, that when the hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) was looking for enlightenment and advice he did not go to the farmers, but to these very merchants in Montreal.

It is easy to say that not much butter is coming into Canada at the present time, and that a lot came in last year; but after all, whether our imports are large or small, what interests our eastern township farmers is not the quantity of butter entering the country, but the price at which butter is selling here today. It is an absolute fact that last Monday butter was selling on the Montreal market for 22 cents a pound. It is also a fact that a year ago, when we were receiving such large quantities of butter from New Zealand and Australia, butter sold for 35 cents a pound.

For the benefit of my hon. friend from Stanstead (Mr. Hackett) I note that to-day, for the first time in ten years I believe, the price of butter is a little lower in Montreal than in London.

Another conviction of mine is that the farmer is entitled to a steady market, like other producers strive to attain. When we see the Government in power put a duty on potatoes one day and remove that duty two weeks later, it seems to me that the farmers can have no idea where they are going, nor can the merchants, nor the other citizens of Canada.

I shall add one further word in reply to the hon. gentleman from Stanstead concerning this much talked-of page 985 of Hansard. I have every confidence in my esteemed friend, but I do not believe he answered the question, nor did he point out one single falsehood on page 985. I think the figures in question are accurate. I would probably accept them in preference to a good many figures quoted by hon. members on the government side. Let me draw the atteniion of the hon. members for Compton and Stanstead to what I find on page 985-it is there for all to see: from August 1st, 1930 to March 1st, 1931 the present government collected a duty of 1 cent per pound on Australian butter. On 1074 we find that under the King government the tariff on this same butter was 1.70 cents per pound. So the present government is actually putting a lighter duty on Australian butter this year than we did.

Agricultural Conditions

And that, as my hon. friend from St. Henri (Mr. Mercier) noted a while ago, despite Conservative pledges that if returned to power they would put a stop to the imports of butter from New Zealand and Australia.

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CON

John Thomas Hackett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HACKETT:

Will the hon. gentleman (Mr. Howard) tell the house how much butter was imported into Canada from Australia during the time the rate was 1.7?

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LIB

Charles Benjamin Howard

Liberal

Mr. HOWARD:

The answer is that the price of butter was a good deal higher then than it is now.

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May 5, 1931