Five hundred thousand men are walking the streets to-day, out of work and unable to buy many of those things we are anxious to produce and sell to them, such as fine vegetables, better beef and more of it, clothing and all those other things that go to make life happy. Thousands, nay tens of thousands, cannot pay interest or the principal of mortgages as they accrue.
Taxes on lands are steadily climbing in this splendid young agricultural nation. Why do poverty and bankruptcy exist in agriculture to-day; why is agriculture in Canada virtually bankrupt at this moment? Is it bankrupt? I will just give one illustration. The municipal district of Blackfoot, No. 218, advertised in the Alberta Gazette, of Edmonton, of January 30, 1932, a list of lands amounting to a total of 162 quarter sections, that were to be sold for taxes. That is in one municipality, and if that is not an indication of bankruptcy, I do not know what would be. Most of us are holding on to our farms only because the mortgage companies cannot collect and do not want the land.
I will give the committee some of the reasons why, in my opinion, agriculture is in its present condition-just some of the reasons, not all of them: world conditions, certainly; lack of purchasing power; general financial breakdown; complete collapse of the monetary systems throughout the world. Undoubtedly all these are great factors. But another factor is high protection. Here is agriculture selling everything in an open market, in the lowest price market on earth.
In the first place, free trade England is not primarily an agricultural country, nor does free trade England export agricultural products; she consumes at home almost everything she produces in that direction. So that the hon. gentleman's point is not clear. I say, we are selling in a free, open, low-price market, but everything we buy, every blessed thing we buy, we buy in a protected market, in which, so far as possible, a monopoly is given home producers and from which competition is eliminated so far as it possibly can be. The inevitable result is that we are paying prices that are far too high for what we need in order to produce agricultural commodities; we are paying far more than we should pay otherwise. [DOT]
I would rather not; I have only forty minutes. The hon. member is very eloquent himself. Another point is high taxation. This may be inevitable under the existing system, but we believe that we have put forward from this corner suggestions that would lead to a steady contraction of debt and tax obligations. Another reason is the enormous interest rates
that agriculture has to pay in Canada. Why should agriculture, the basic industry, the great producer of our wealth, a contributor of one-fourth of the national income, be paying eight per cent or more? Surely this is an utterly and hopelessly illegal rate under the Bank Act itself. Under normal conditions industry gets its money at five and a half or six per cent. It is an unfortunate and quite an unfair handicap. Not only that, but if you compare conditions in Canada with the conditions in other countries in that regard you find that the farmers in the United States, Germany, England and France all have credit systems which secure for them money, both long and short terms, at rates very much below ours. We are handicapped, and very seriously handicapped in this country, in the matter of money rates. Another point is this, that we pay such extortionate prices for farm implements. In that regard, if hon. members wish to be convinced of the truth of what I am saying, I will quote a Mr. Asher Howard- I believe that is his name-who is an authority on agriculture. I presume, at any rate, that he is, because he left Winnipeg last year to visit Houston, Texas, to address the thirty-fifth annual convention of the grain and feed dealers' national association, and in his address he said:
We are told the farmers of the United States, according to the 1930 census, have $3,300,000,000 invested in farm machinery.
He is speaking of United States farmers.
The machinery on these farms cost $1,300,000,000 more in 1930 than it would have cost at 1914 prices. The farmer has to pay $165 for the same farm machinery which cost him $100 in 1914.
If that be true of the United States, it certainly is equally true of Canada. As a matter of fact, we probably pay a good deal more. Another reason why agriculture is in this condition is that our geographical situation is what it is. We, of all the chief exporting agricultural countries, are farthest removed from the seaboard, and this is a terrific handicap. Take Russia: the Black sea penetrates almost to the very fringe of her wealth-exporting districts. Take Australia: again, her agricultural lands are all on the seaboard; and the same with the Argentine. The only other country which is in a situation similar to ours is the United States. We are handicapped also in the matter of freight rates. We have a comparatively reasonable rate on grain and grain products. But that is not all. You see, everything we buy, because of the centralization of finance and industry in the east, flowing from east over long tracts of
lands, we have to buy at high prices, and we pay high freight rates on everything entering into our production. We are, therefore, at a serious handicap in that regard.
At this stage I have no hesitation in saying that, under the tariff system which was introduced more for the purpose of building up infant industries, we have allowed the infants to grow up to giants, at whose door can be justly placed the pauperization of the farms to-day. It is utterly unfair that one class of the community or one industry should have to carry the major part of the load of the privileged industries of the country; yet that is inevitable so long as the class which is taxed cannot pass the tax back to somebody else. We farmers have no power to fix prices; you, as industrialists, do fix prices. You can fix them by gentleman's agreements and by combines, by adjustments-oh, well, you know how it is done without my telling you, and we know how we pay. We pay a part of the taxation of others in every package of groceries, every suit of clothing, every box of household goods and every implement we purchase for the farm. We pay a part of the taxes of others in that way, and yet we have no equity in the great industrial plants of Canada. These are facts which lion, gentlemen might well be apprised of in a consideration of the dire condition in which we find ourselves to-day.
The general policy of this government, wise as it may be in its own conception, inevitably hampers the Minister of Agriculture. What can he do? Why should I berate him? Why should hon. members criticize him? He cannot find wider markets for our products, which is the essential thing, so long as we are surplus producers and so long as the government's fiscal policy is to contract those markets and make them narrower and narrower. I have personally the deepest sympathy with him, because I am convinced that after he has been some time here he will realize, as he must realize to some extent already, from his previous studies, that undoubtedly the thing that agriculture needs at this moment is some outlet for its products at prices that will at least pay the cost of production. These are the two major necessities.
One suggestion occurs to me at this stage. If the Imperial conference, or if any governmental policy separate therefrom, is to be a factor in the future prosperity of agriculture, it will and must entail a definite organization and planning of agricultural production. It cannot be left any longer to the haphazard fortune of individual initiative alone. There
must be organization and direction. A fantastic thought? Maybe; and hon. gentlemen smile. Well, I say to them that, possibly in their lifetime, but at any rate sooner or later, they will find that all industry will have to be rationalized. The planning of national production is essential to the restoration of prosperity and to the continuance of it, certainly to the stabilization of prosperity in the future. And there is no field in which this necessity is more apparent than it is in the field of agriculture.
I should like to ask the hon. gentleman a question, and I ask it for information because I am interested in his remarks. Will he tell me how the government could go to work to regulate the production of any single agricultural commodity in this country?
I am not suggesting for a moment that the government should go to work and organize it. I am suggesting that organization is essential and that we should have national direction and cooperation of the government. I am not asking the government to take control of agriculture-although some day we may have to. It has already been proposed in the west. It may be necessary that we have national control-I would not be a bit surprised. But that is in the future. But I do say that intelligent direction is a necessity. Indeed I go further-it is the duty of this or any government that may succeed it. National planning of agricultural production of wheat, live stock and all the others, especially those in the export field, is necessary. What is the result if you do not have such national planning? The result is the chaotic condition you have at the present time, a condition almost approaching anarchy, in industry generally as well as in agriculture.
If, Mr. Chairman, this government will centralize upon the advance of agriculture rather than upon the advance of industry alone, prosperity may be dug out of its corner. But may I revert for a moment to the question of control. Control of marketing processes is one of the developments that agriculture must undertake-has already commenced to undertake. But to establish that control requires finances, it requires organization. Individual farmers, or groups of farmers, are unable to advance the initial stages of it due to lack of funds. This government can very greatly assist any schemes of that kind. If they do not-well, I do not know that the individualist farmer can help himself. It is regrettable, but so long as most of our farmers have that strange
philosophy of isolation, it just means a continuation of subjection, and, through an impoverished agriculture, a lack of prosperity for the whole country.
Hon. gentlemen sometimes burst into paeans of optimism over the rise of a cent or two in the price of wheat. I should like to see it advance substantially in price. But let us look at the export conditions in regard to wheat and then we may get some conception of the utter need of planning. I will take an extract from the reports of the Imperial economic committee on the wheat situation for 1931, showing the approximate wheat stocks in important areas on August 1, 1921, up to August 1, 1931. I will not weary the committee nor burden the record with all these figures but merely give the totals. The grand totals of wheat stocks in important areas on the first of August were as follows:
Well, what are we to do, keep on producing? Mr. E. W. Beatty the other day forecast that the coming crop as a result of moisture conditions in the west may run as high as
400,000,000 bushels. What will happen? Is the government making any preparation in regard thereto? The British quota system as proposed at this time may increase slightly the wheat acreage in England, but it can be of no permanent or definite advantage to the Canadian farmer who raises more grain for export than the entire British market can absorb, and in addition the only result may be the antagonizing of other markets.
May I quote the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who in a speech just prior to July 30, 1930, confirmed earlier announcements that the government's agricultural policy, which was then taking final shape, would contain important provisions concerned with better marketing through cooperative organizations. That is, the government of Great Britain was making it part of its business. He said:
There is no suggestion that this constitutes a complete remedy for the farmer's troubles. On the contrary, the need for a variety of measures is fully realized, and this will be seen when the government's proposals are made known. The view is taken, however, that whatever else may be done to improve the conditions in agriculture there can be no lasting
prosperity until farmers in combination, with the aid of capable officials of cooperative organizations, control the marketing process in a manner which is now impossible.
They are entitled to, and must have, a reasonable share of the wide margin which now exists between the prices they receive and the prices consumers pay, for their products. Moreover, cooperation opens the way to more fruitful labour and to important economies in various directions, apart from prices.
If one needed any further indication of the necessity for something of this kind, it is found in the present cattle situation. Up to a few months ago the live stock surplus in Canada was passing to Great Britain through the Canadian Live Stock Pool, whose contract with the Cooperative Wholesale Society made this possible. The pool planned to handle throughout the year the surplus in this way. It would mean losses during bad months and just about the cost of production or a little better in good months. It was proposed out of good months' sales to lay by a reserve to take care of the losses, in order to ensure the possibility of disposing of the surplus. Unfortunately so far as the Canadian Cooperative Live Stock Pool was concerned this plan commenced in the middle of a good season, and shortly afterw'ards Great Britain went off the gold standard. The result was that on all our shipments we were losing about ten dollars a head. This loss rapidly swallowed up all cash reserves. The Canadian Live Stock Pool could not carry on any longer, and so shipments to the markets at once fell off. Now, Mr. Chairman, I know the Minister of Agriculture has been approached before in this matter. I simply wish at this stage to urge upon him not consideration alone, but immediate action if possible. The cooperative after all is the only body sufficiently widely organized at the present moment to be capable of handling this plan, unless the government itself steps in, and that apparently is not acceptable at this stage. Moreover, until there is some form of control over the entire surplus there will be danger, and so legislation will be necessary to empower the Live Stock Cooperative to secure on the sales of all export cattle during good years-or preferably on all cattle so that the home as well as the export will pay a share of the cost-a certain percentage, to be devoted to the expense of carrying the surplus live stock constantly and steadily to the market. I am convinced that if we can move that surplus the price of cattle will at once begin to move up.
agreement as to that. In this we ask the government's initial help. Personally I am not asking any more than that at present and legislation in order that we may be able to assess all producers to move the surplus off the market. This would react not only to the benefit of our live stock producers but of the whole of Canada. Many men who have studied this subject during the last six or eight months have expressed themselves as favourable to the proposal. The signifi-cence of this suggestion lies in the fact that the removal from the home market of five to six hundred cattle and two or three thousand hogs a week by placing them on the export market would at once stabilize prices in Canada and cause an inclination upwards.
Now, Mr. Chairman, if that is not done the inevitable result will be that the portion of the country producing the greatest live stock surplus per capita-and that means western Canada-will continue to do all it can to move its stock on to the available markets, principally in Ontario, and so inevitably and continually smash the market of the Ontario farmer.
member for Peace River suggests that it is smashed now. Of course it is smashed, because that surplus backed up; we were not able to get rid of it and prices sagged. But as long as western Canada is producing, as she is doing to-day, more eggs, butter, sheep, live stock of all kinds, wheat, and all other grains per capita than any other portion of Canada, so long will you find the surplus produced that cannot be sent abroad, flowing into the other markets in Canada and destroying the possibility of prosperity of agriculture therein. I dislike taking so long on the subject, but it is one of vast importance to me. At this stage, just on this very question of cattle, let me read a statement from the publication What's What in Western Canada, an excellent series of pamphlets being issued by the Country Guide:
During the first part of the season-
That is last season:
-it was profitable business-
That is the shipment of cattle.
*-but with the abandonment of the gold standard by Britain a new and entirely unforeseeable situation arose. The paying power of the pound was reduced 20 per cent in terms of Canadian currency.
I wonder if hon. members now realize why we who are exporters are anxious to have our dollar on a parity at least with the pound. I continue to read:
This had the same effect as doubling the ocean freight rate. Heavy losses were sustained by exporters on cattle in hand. This spring the export business has been resumed on a modest scale with cattle going forward from western feed lots. The exchange situation has improved somewhat but the greatest necessity at the moment is the restoration of parity of exchange between the Canadian dollar and the pound sterling.
If the dollar had declined in ratio with the pound the export of cattle could have continued unchecked. My forty minutes are exhausted.
honour to inform the house that the Speaker has received the following letter:
Ottawa, May 13, 1932.
I have the honour to inform you that Right Hon. F. A. Anglin, Chief Justice of Canada, acting as deputy of His Excellency the Governor General, will proceed to the Senate chamber to-day at 5.30 p.m., for the purpose of giving the royal assent to certain bills.
Mr. MARTIAL RHEAUME (St. Johns-Iberville) (Translation):
Mr. Chairman, I deem it my duty, as representative of one of the finest farming counties of this country, to strongly protest against the reduction in the agricultural estimates for the fiscal year, 193233. If these appropriations are compared with those of 1931-32, we find that there is a cut of 33 per cent. The time is ill chosen to effect such an economy because agriculture suffers the most in the present crisis. I note
Tories tell them: "it is true that you are aot earning much, but, on the other hand, living is cheap." The working classes of my county, as those of other parts of Canada, are not in the habit of begging. The workman likes to work and earn his bread. During the war potatoes sold at $7 per bag, and meat retailed at 55 and even 60 cents per pound. Our workmen never refused to pay those prices, because they earned good wages.
To-day the situation is different, prices have come down considerably, and I agree that they can, with some truth be told "You are not earning much but it costs very little to live." However, I repeat it, the woikman dislikes to depend on charity, he prefers to work and pay for his food. It is work he claims. When Conservative candidates visited my constituency, they proclaimed, as they did everywhere "Canada First" and added, if we are elected, there will be work for all those who wish to work.
There is much discussion taking place about the price of butter, cheese and eggs, and a short while ago a member opposite interjected: "tell us about the prices in the United States." I think, sir, that we are no! concerned with the prices in the United States, but we should be looking after the interests of the Canadian farmer. I would suggest that the government give greater relief to the farming class than what they are now doing; I contend that the government have no right to reduce the agricultural appropriation by 33 per cent when they are given a blank signature under pretence of assisting agriculture and maintaining order.
The farmer dislikes to depend on charity; what he seeks are markets to sell his products, so as to enable him to meet his personal liabilities. He wants the government to fulfil its 1930 pledges. I trust that the suggestions made by the hon. member for North Huron will be fully considered. As he stated a short while ago, it is urgent that the government should get down to business. Various and numerous commissions were promised except for agriculture. I note that the budget of agriculture is the most neglected; it is the department where the smallest outlays are made when the largest disbursements should be made. If we need markets to sell young steers from Toronto, we also require them to dispose of butter, cheese and other Quebec farm products, in order that our farmers may earn a livelihood. We are reduced to sell calf hides at two cents per pound. Just two weeks ago, to-morrow, I sold seven skins for $1.22. I have been in the business for thirty-five
years, and never before, have I ever sold them 15 or 16 cents each. Steer hides are selling to-day 1 to li cent per pound. I consider that, under such circumstances the government should hold an inquiry in order to remedy sueh conditions. A saddler informed me recently that harness leather sold at 42 cents per pound. If one must pay 42 cents per pound for leather while steer hides are sold 1 to li cent per pound, I state that there is something absolutely wrong and that it is urgent for the government to espouse the cause of the farming class.
I want to take a very few minutes of the time of this committee to speak on the subject before us of agriculture in general. It has been pointed out by different members who have addressed the committee that the farmers at the present time find themselves in a very bad situation.
May I say at the outset that I do not want to be in the least critical of the Minister of Agriculture. I do not want to blame him in any way whatsoever for the present situation. It has reached the stage where it is no use blaming each other for what is happening at the present time. Something must be done to relieve the situation of the farmers of this country at this time. It does not matter if the situation in the west is better or worse than the situation in the east or in the central provinces. The one thing sure is that if things keep on the way they are going the farmer will not be able to stay on the land. In the eastern part of Ontario we have farmers leaving their farm's week after week, and the number is constantly growing. If this keeps up we do not know what will happen to this class of our citizens. I happen to represent an agricultural county and 1 know that our people are really in a very distressful situation. They cannot meet, their obligations; they cannot even pay their taxes. Although there has been a moratorium declared in the province of Ontario the farmers cannot even meet their interest charges or, I repeat, their taxes. On the other hand, as the hon. member for North Huron (Mr. Spotton) has so very well said, there are many octopuses which are squeezing the farmers throughout Canada. My hon. friend mentioned one to which I shall probably refer a little later on. But there are others. I refer to the dairy industry. In this part of eastern Ontario our farmers are supplying lots of milk to be consumed in the cities of Ottawa and Montreal. The dairies are paying to the farmers Si .10 for 100 pounds of milk, or 11 cents per gallon. They claim that each and every week there is a certain surplus sent in to the dairies, and for this
surplus milk the farmer is paid 55 cents for 100 pounds. On the other hand, when the milk is sold by the dairies the consumer pays 9 cents a quart if he buys it from a grocery store, 10 cents a quart if sold in certain districts, and in other places the consumer pays 11 cents a quart. But take the average price as 9 cents a quart, the price at which it is sold through the groceries without delivery charges. That means that the consumer pays 36 cents a gallon or $3.60 for 100 pounds. So the spread between the price which the consumer pays and the price received by the producer is ver3' high, for $1.10 is received by the producer and $3.60 is paid by the consumer, or a difference of $2.50 per 100 pounds goes to the middleman. When our farmers meet their friends and relatives living in the neighbouring cities and learn that they are paying S3.60 per 100 pounds for milk for which the farmer receives $1.10 per 100 pounds, they feel most dissatisfied and they blame the government for that situation whether the government is to blame or not. That is one matter which I think should be taken into very serious consideration by the Minister of Agriculture.
I would also mention leather, which the hon. member for St. Johns-Iberville has just mentioned. Raw hides are selling for two cents a pound and calf skins are selling in our district at fifteen cents a skin, which is not quite two cents a pound. After the farmer has sold his hides for two cents apound he turns around and finds that hehas to pay 42 cents a pound for the leather he buys. The spread there again is too wdde. Surely there is something there that isabsolutely unfair. The farmer cannot understand why there should be such a wide
spread, and he feels very dissatisfied. He feels that he has not only to bear the stress of the depression through which we are passing, but that there are other interests and other industries in this country which are too heavily protected. I bring this matter to the attention of the minister, and I would urge upon him that this is surely a case where something should be done very soon. I claim, Mr. Chairman, that in the two cases I have mentioned the farmers are up against real octopuses whose long-stretching arms are squeezing the life out of the farmer. If the meat-packing industry is doing the very same thing, as the hon. member for North Huron has pointed out, the farmers are truly in a deplorable position, and something should be done to protect them. When the farmer reads in his paper that the mining industry, for example, is helped by bounties and subsidies on transportation costs at so much per mile, and that manufacturing industries are kept 41761-183J
functioning by means of government assistance through the tariff, dumping duties and the like, he really feels that the farmer not only in his own district but throughout Canada is not receiving the attention at the hands of the government which he deserves. Hon. gentlemen of all parties represented in this house have expressed themselves as absolutely in sympathy with the farmer, and I know that the Minister of Agriculture is willing to help them all he possibly can. On the one hand we hear the suggestion that the stabilization of currency would be beneficial. Other hon. members suggest that the establishment of a marketing board would be a great help. To my mind however various studies should be made so that one, and not all, of these suggestions might be adopted, and something accomplished to promote agricultural prosperity. The minister has in his department men upon whom he can rely, men of experience who are familiar with the situation in Canada. I think he should ask them, or at least some of them, to make a thorough investigation of the agricultural situation in Canada, and devote their attention particularly to financial organizations, capitalization directorships, and the profits the octopuses are taking from farm revenues.
Mr. F. E. M. Robinson, president of the National Dairy Council, has declared that the excessive profits of city milk distributors are chiefly responsible for producers not getting a fair share of consumers' dollars. As Mr. Robinson is one of the directors of a leading dairy farm in the dominion he ought to know what he is speaking about. I ask the Minister of Agriculture to establish some kind of committee so that a fair investigation may be made to ascertain why there is such a spread between the prices paid by the consumers and those received by the producers.
I have many articles before me which I should like to read, all indicating the spread I have mentioned, but I shall be content to close my remarks by urging upon the minister that he authorize a thorough inquiry so that the farmers may receive more protection from the government. Such action ought to be taken immediately because Canadian farmers are in a most unfortunate situation, and if they are to be kept operating they must be given immediate attention.