March 25, 1936

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am surprised at the

paucity of information which the minister offers on this resolution. Whether it is the settled policy of the government not to supply information on resolutions I do not know, but judging from what was said yesterday apparently it is. Now the rule is clear, and-I speak only for myself-I propose to see that it is observed. We are entitled to this information. It may take a long time to get it but we are entitled to it. One thing we are not entitled to do is to make long speeches on questions of policy. That is the objection I urged last year and the Prime Minister now admits that it is a sound view. It took five sittings to deal with the relief resolution last year though it might have been passed in a little while if speeches had not been made on everything in the world but the resolution itself. I propose to confine myself to this resolution and its terms, and I must asik that the information requested be put on Hansard in order that the public who are watching this matter may be properly informed.

The first question is: Why was this matter not disposed of long ago? It will be recalled that the legislation of last session provided that the Canadian wheat pool should take over from the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers, Limited, the stocks of grain they had on hand and pay for them. These grains belonged to the Canadian Wheat Producers Limited and not to the government of Canada or to the wheat board. But it was thought desirable, not by the government of the day but by a committee which was composed of members from both sides of the house, that the wheat should actually be placed in the

Wheat Board

possession and under the control of the wheat board. To that end the legislation provided that they would take it over. To take it over meant that they had to assume at the bank the obligation which the Canadian Wheat Producers Limited was carrying under the guarantee of the government. That is the position. That is, Mr. McFarland was not appointed to the position of manager of the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers by the government; he was appointed by that corporation, and I think the hon. minister is right when he says that undoubtedly the appointment met with the approval of the banks.

There was, then, when this wheat act came into force last year, a quantity of wheat in the possession of Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers Limited; they had borrowed the money from the bank to buy the grain and pay for it; and the government had guaranteed the payments to the bank of the money that had been secured for the purpose of making the purchase. Included in that wheat was a quantity of grain that the wheat pools had owned in 1930 and that had been utilized, as the other grains had, in connection with the operations that were carried on. They pointed out that part of that grain had been bought at a price of seventy cents per bushel, part of it at a lesser price, and that initial payments had been made of fifty-five cents and of, I think, some larger sum and lesser sums. They asked as a condition of turning over their grain that they should receive payment on the basis of sixty cents a bushel for the whole of the grain that was to be taken over by the board and not paid for. When the order in council was passed-and reference has been made to it-it provided that they were to be paid that sum of money plus reasonable expenses as certified by auditors. The order in council was passed in September, 1935. The press carried long statements that advances were to be made to the farmers of this country on the eve of an election, to make it appear that some effort was being made to influence them with respect to this matter. That was not the fact at all. The fact is that, not the wheat board but the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers Limited were going to issue cheques to their customers at the rate of sixty cents per bushel, and indeed had taken steps to do so.

That is the position; that is, that the people who were divesting themselves of property and ownership in their wheat asked that, when the obligation that had been incurred in the purchase of it was being taken over by the wheat board, provision should be made for

fMr. Bennett.]

these quantities of grain that had come into their possession at various prices; that it should be averaged at sixty cents per bushel, and that those who had received fifty-five cents should receive the difference between that and sixty cents. That is the question that was asked by the hon. member for Swift Current (Mr. Bothwell).

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Oh, no, not an average.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not an average, a price of sixty cents for the pool wheat. If my hon. friend thinks I was suggesting an average price for the whole, no; I am dealing only with the wheat delivered by the pools, for which wheat an initial payment had been made.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

That was not an average even in that case. .

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

But it brought the average of those who had received less than sixty cents up to sixty cents, and it did not reduce to sixty cents the amount received by those who had been paid more than that sum, for the simple reason that they had not the money to pay. That is the question asked by the hon. member for Swift Current.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I beg to differ with the right hon. gentleman. That was not the question asked by the member for Swift Current. He asked me to make a comparison-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No, no.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

-between these payments and the payments to other persons who did not deliver the wheat to the pool.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No; his question was why payments were made to people within the pools.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

And not made to those outside.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Certainly. I thought it was a highly proper question to ask at this particular moment, because the answer is that these payments were being made in order that the grain which had belonged to the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers Limited could be vested in that new wheat board by reason of the payment of the moneys that they had in it. I will put it that way. They had made the payments on the basis of a higher price, in some instances, as the Minister of Finance has just pointed out, than sixty cents, some payments being as

Wheat Board

high as seventy cents, and eventually in some instances the payments have been reduced as low as fifty-five cents. I do not think any were as low as fifty cents.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Yes.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Yes, forty-nine cents.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I thought the minister would make this explanation himself.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I did make it.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Sixty cents was the price at which the Canadian Wheat Producers Limited were willing to adjust their differences and receive from the wheat board created last session the money necessary to put the payment upon that basis. Coarse grains stood upon an entirely different basis. There was a credit balance with respect to coarse grains, as I understand, and that money amounting to some $350,000 is now to be returned to the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers Limited; is that amount right?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Yes, about that.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is the position with respect to these two matters. With regard to durum wheat, for instance, I remember a delegation coming hefe and discussing that with me. Until such time as the business for the year was wound up the payments could not be made, but the payments now being made are made on a basis of the actual price at which durum wheat was sold, which was from time to time over the ordinary sale price for the days on which it was sold. In other words, what was got for it is now being accounted for. That is the contention they were making from time to time, that the price the pool received for durum wheat which is in excess of the market price for ordinary wheat should be accounted for and paid to them. That is being done by this provision. Last year when the order in council was passed it provided that, subject to the auditor's certificate being obtained, these moneys should be paid over, and the matter was treated as being ended. Now we have a bill, and I assume the reason the bill is here is because it is impossible to deal with the matter by order in council when parliament is in session; under the provisions of the relief act it will require legislation. The money might have been paid by order in council at any time prior to the meeting of parliament.

I want to know, and I think I am entitled to know: When was the auditors' report received? Did the auditors' report certify to the correctness of the position taken by the sellers of the grain? When was that auditors'

report received? What is the amount that is to be paid for expenses, and was the auditors' report given upon that point? I remember that there was a difference of opinion as to the charges under the total expenses, and that necessitated the auditors going into the matter and making a report. I think we are bound to receive an answer to those questions before we proceed with the resolution.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I think the first question asked was as to why there had been delays between late in October, when the present government came into office, and the present time in making payments.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Since the passing of the legislation of June of last year.

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March 25, 1936