February 15, 1935

LIB

Edward James Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG:

Mr. Chairman, I have on

my desk a publication outlining the poultry marketing scheme which is to be voted on next week in Saskatchewan and other western provinces. I should like to draw to the attention of the minister the answers to questions which he laid upon the table yesterday. Question 4 was as follows:

What sum of money was advanced by the dominion marketing board for the purpose of promoting the marketing scheme for eggs and poultry in Saskatchewan, and to whom it was advanced?

The answer was "No sum." I objected to that answer because I had in my possession a telegram stating that the pool officials in that province had publicly admitted that they had received $20,000 which they were using to pay some ninety-five speakers who were getting $4 a day and their expenses to go out through the province promoting the scheme. The minister said he would give a better answer to-day, and to-day he told us that some sums of money had been advanced, but not for promotion purposes. When I asked him if the money could be used for promoting this scheme he replied, if I heard him correctly, that it depended on what meaning one would take from the word "promotion". I think he is not treating the house fairly. We have a right to a definite and clear answer to the question, and I trust the minister will give us a full explanation now.

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

I hope the hon. member does not wish to be unfair but I think he will agree with me when I finish my statement that he has been unfair. I did not state yesterday that I would give a better answer. The difficulty was that due to a disturbance in the house I could not hear the telegram or the information he read from it, and it was because of that I asked that his question stand as a notice. It was the way the question was worded by the hon. member for Weybum, asking what sum was voted for promoting the scheme that made it impossible to give a direct answer because of the use of the word "promoting." There is no desire on the part of myself or any of my officials to avoid giving information. That would be useless even if we

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desired to do so because all information must be produced and submitted to the house. But the hon. member will appreciate the difficulty in giving a direct answer to a question that has in it a word like the word "promoting."

Money has been advanced by the dominion marketing board to the proponents of this scheme on the basis recommended last year when the bill was before the house, not for the purpose of promoting the scheme in the sense that the word "promoting" is usually used, but rather for the purpose of presenting the scheme to the people. Part of it is being used for that purpose and part of it for organization incidental to the scheme. The reason that made this peculiarly a problem for the dominion marketing board was the amount of misrepresentation that had taken place in the west, particularly by one section of the press. I would have preferred not to make this statement, but rather than give the impression that we were attempting to evade making a statement I have no choice but to say that the amount of misrepresentation in western Canada, particularly by one section of the press, made it impossible for the people in the west to understand the scheme. I happen to, have before me to-night one example of this misrepresentation, and there are many. It is a special dispatch to the Winnipeg Free Press from its staff correspondent, Grant Dexter. The heading is, Announce Changes in Methods of Taking Marketing Plan Vote. It goes on to say:

This plan is radically different from the one agreed to by the dominion marketing board when the sponsors of the scheme were at Ottawa early in January.

Now that is not merely a misrepresentation but an absolute misstatement of the facts. There was only one plan that was approved by the board, but the heading implies that different plans had been approved by the board and that changes had taken place in what some of the western press announced were plans approved by the board.

The problem of the dominion marketing board was this: When I, as minister having charge of the administration of this act, decided that a vote should be taken, the problem was to get a true statement before the people who were to vote upon the scheme. For that purpose copies of the scheme were sent out, and in this case in the same mail with the ballots. The board I believe considered for some time the engaging of a large staff to present the scheme to the people, because it would have taken a large staff to put this scheme before the

people. I may say that I was consulted in that connection, and it was felt that if the board undertook to engage people to do this work there might be those who would try to give the impression that the government, with an election coming on, was selecting political speakers to go round the country and put this scheme before the people. Those who have been in contact with the board know that it is an absolutely non-political body, and it was therefore decided that the best way to put this matter before the people was to advance money to those who were the proponents of the scheme that was approved by the board, with conditions attached that the hire of halls and other out of pocket expenses were to be paid for. It was also set out that any person who wished to oppose the scheme was to be given exactly the same opportunity at meetings as those who were speaking in favour of the scheme. Certainly no criticism can be made that there was anything political about it with reference to the people who have been presenting this scheme, because I understand that those presenting the scheme have included Liberal organizers of quite large districts in the western provinces, the secretaries and high-up officials in the United Farmer organizations, as well as representatives of Conservative, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, and in fact all political bodies. We have watched the situation as closely as we can, and any criticism that the board has received of statements being made that were not correct has at once been followed by telegrams to those responsible to check up to see if they had been correctly reported where the statements made in one or two instances were not in accordance with the facts, and the answer that we have received from each of these inquiries has been that the statements were not made as reported but that they had been misreported. An accounting is being asked for from the people who have received assistance.

I do not wish to review what I have said except to say that this is one of the problems that has given the board much concern because of misrepresentation. It was not simply a matter of difference of opinion, because no one has any quarrel with people just because of a difference of opinion. It was rather a misstatement of fact which could easily have been found out by those who made the statement to have been a misstatement.

I do wish to impress upon the hon. member for Weyburn that in view of the way his question was worded, had I stated to him

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the amount that had been advanced, my statement would have meant that that amount was advanced solely for the purpose of "promoting" the scheme, and that was not the purpose for which it was advanced. As a matter of fact the hon. member for Weyburn was a bit vexed that he did not receive the answer sooner, and the reason was the difficulty in answering the question as it was put. I shall be glad to send to the hon. member the conditions that were mailed to the people who did receive the money. I had not thought of this matter being brought up to-day although I had some of the information with me this afternoon.

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LIB
LIB

Edward James Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG:

Nobody has suggested that any political speakers were being hired with this money to go out through the country. It was the minister who mentioned that Liberals and Conservatives were presenting this scheme, and we do not accuse the government of attempting to build up a political machine by this means. The question out there is this. A poultry scheme is put up and some of the poultry raisers of the west are in favour of it and some opposed Nobody knows which party is in the majority. A vote is to be taken next week to find out. The proponents of the scheme, as the minister says, have been advanced moneys out of the public treasury to hire halls and speakers who are going throughout the country laying the scheme before the people and presenting its advantages. But those who are opposing it have no such opportunities. The minister says that they are free to go to the meetings. Yes, at their own expense, and to take whatever time the chairman might allow them, but they are not being advanced money as are the proponents of the scheme. I submit that when that is done by the government you cannot say anything else than that they are advancing money to promote the scheme.

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LIB

John Vallance

Liberal

Mr. VALLANOE:

Was it the board that suggested that certain sums be given to this organization, or did the organization appeal to the board through the government asking for certain money?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

The organization appealed to the board asking for money because authority had been provided in the act; and, as hon. members will recall, some discussion had taken place when the act was before the house as to the advisability of including in it provisions to advance money to assist any organization in putting forward schemes submitted by the producers.

[Mr. R. Weir.)

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LIB

John Vallance

Liberal

Mr. VALLANCE:

Now that we have that admission, would the minister be betraying any confidence or would he be telling us something that we are not entitled to know, if he informed us exactly how much money was advanced to this organization?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

A sum of money was advanced to each of the three provinces: to Manitoba, $10,000; to Saskatchewan, $20,030 and to Alberta, $20,000.

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LIB
CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

The cooperative

organizations that sponsored the scheme. The local boards, not yet being corporate bodies, could not receive the money.

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LIB

John Vallance

Liberal

Mr. VALLANOE:

The organizations in these three provinces are responsible for holding these meetings and choosing those who are to put the propaganda across?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WBIR (Melfort):

The sponsors of the scheme are to present it to the people.

Mr. VALLAiNCE: And they are responsible for the salaries?

Mr% WEIR (Melfort): If there is any salary for local speakers they pay it.

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LIB
CON
LIB

Edward James Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG:

I understand that those who are opposing the scheme in Saskatchewan have formed a voluntary association to fight it, and I understand also that they requested that they be given a similar grant to present their side of the case to t'he public. Is that so, and if it is, what answer did they receive?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

That is so. at least as regards one organization, the poultry protective association. One difficulty in which the board found themselves in this connection was that unless there was, so to speak, an official body that could state that that was the only money that would be required, it was felt that if they made the advance to this body a thousand requests might be received from other bodies who might indicate that they were in opposition, so that the board would be placed in an impossible position. They felt that the only way they could do what they wished to do-that is to say, to put the matter fairly before the people-was to advance money to those w'ho had undertaken the work, as I have stated before, to place the case before the people. The money is taken out of this advance to

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pay for the charges of these halls, and every person is given an opportunity to make a statement.

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LIB

Edward James Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG:

I understand that the

Saskatchewan poultry producers' protective association is the only organization in the province that is opposing the scheme. Has that been submitted to the minister?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

It is a very recent organization, and that I think is the only one from which the board has received an application. But there are other bodies opposing it; for example, the retail merchants association and the larger trade interests as well.

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LIB

Edward James Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG:

So that the position is this. The minister has refused a grant to the poultry protective association because it is feared that if they were granted a sum the retail merchants association might ask for a grant and the commercial interests might also make a request. Did this association make any other request besides the request for financial assistance?

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CON

Robert Weir (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WEIR (Melfort):

Not as far as I am aware-not this particular association.

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February 15, 1935