February 11, 1937

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

In one period it ran up around SI.50 to $1.75, and in the other it was down around eighty cents.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM REHABILITATION ACT
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The bureau of statistics

does show an average, I believe, and I thought the minister might have the information. However, I do not wish to interrupt him.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I have not the information set out in that way, but I can give it in another way. Taking all farm products in the first three year period, namely 1926, 1927 and 1928, we find that returns amounted to $1,180,000,000, which was derived from a combination of good crops and good prices. Then, in the later three year period the returns amounted to only $354,000,000, or showed a decrease of $800,000,000. These figures indicate that from one period to another the sum derived was cut to about one-third. Putting it in another way, in the second three year period, as compared with the first, the difference in receipts by farmers in the southwestern part of the province throughout the whole of what is called the drought area, would be even greater. Farmers in the drought area were without any crop to sell at any price, but people in the other sections of the province had some crops to sell, even at the low prices which prevailed.

When I say that about $800,000,000 indicates the difference in the returns to the farmers between one three year period and another, I am stating something which is important from another point of view. We have heard many

Farm Rehabilitation-Mr. Gardiner

estimates of the indebtedness of the farmers of western Canada. More particularly have we had estimates of the indebtedness of the farmers of this section of western Canada. The government of the province of Saskatchewan have made a survey of this area and they know very well the indebtedness of the individual farmers. They know exactly the indebtedness of the school districts, the municipalities and all the other organizations that are related to the carrying on of government in the province, including the telephone companies. When we estimate the indebtedness of the province, of the municipalities, of the school districts and of individuals, we find the total to be $600,000,000 in round figures.

I should like to say to those who are concerned about the future of the province of Saskatchewan that we are going to have good crops again in western Canada and some day we will have a combination of good crops and fairly good prices. When we do get a combination of good crops and fairly good prices our position will not be an impossible one. This is why I think governments should give some attention to the maintaining of the people upon this area.

May I put the matter in another way? We sometimes wonder how people who could produce in the last few years all the wealth of which I have been speaking in the last few minutes could be in the position in which they find themselves to-day, without money and without credit. These people came into this country between the years 1908 and 1914. The war came on and they were induced to spend money in order that they could produce more wheat. They did produce more wheat, partly for that reason and partly because they could get a good price for it and hope to make some money. Producing wheat in the volume in which they did at the prices which they were able to obtain, like most human beings under similar circumstances they carried on developments which probably would not have been carried on otherwise. It is true that to-day you can go into that section and find shacks similar to those described yesterday by the hon. member who introduced a motion stressing the necessity for some kind of action in connection with youth-in some of the new areas you will find quite a number of them-but in that portion of Saskatchewan of which I am speaking I think you will find that the homes compare favourably with the homes on farms throughout most of the Dominion of Canada.

I think you will find the condition of the roads to be better than the roads were in other parts of Canada during the first twentyfive years of settlement. I think you will find accommodation by way of telephone service which was not enjoyed in other parts of Canada or probably anywhere else in the world during the settlement of the first generation upon farming lands. It is true that they have all these things, a considerable part of the cost of which was paid during the years of good crops. In spite of their optimism, in spite of their enthusiasm for their jobs, in spite of the suitability of these people to the area in which they are to be found, they could not pay for these developments in the six or seven years in which they had good crops at good prices. I do not think any population anywhere could have done it. They find themselves in debt to-day, and I believe any other population in similar circumstances would find themselves in exactly the same position.

They came into this period of difficulty with this debt hanging over their heads. I think that ninety-nine per cent of them expected to pay every dollar of that debt and every dollar of the interest that they had signed to pay. They ran on for three years, and the interest was being added at the rate of eight per cent year by year. They ran on for five years and they began to think more about it. They got into the sixth year and found that their debt had increased by fifty per cent or more without their having obtained anything other than the use of the property which they had created by partly paying for it with previously borrowed money. They then began to ask themselves whether they would ever be able to pay the full amount of their indebtedness. I think it is better in this house to give encouragement to men of that kind, to let them know the possibilities of the future by quoting figures, such as I have quoted, which indicate that this debt can be paid within the lifetime of the present generation without imposing any great hardship upon the people who live in this area. With this picture before them they will go on with greater hope than they would if we tried to convince them that the debt could never be paid.

I asked a question a moment ago as to whether the government of the day and the governments of the past had been grappling with this problem as governments should. I want to take you back just for a moment to the difficult year of 1914-15, the first year of the war. The government of that day was of the Conservative party. They went into this area and organized the whole area for relief purposes. They put an administrative organization into the area and paid every

Farm Rehabilitation-Mr. Gardiner

dollar that was paid out in direct relief, that is outside of what was put up by voluntary organizations. At that time there were less than half as many people in the area, and yet the government spent S8,715,000 in Saskatchewan.

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SC

René-Antoine Pelletier

Social Credit

Mr. PELLETIER:

Has the minister the figures for the three western provinces?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I do not have the records of the other provincial governments. I have the figures for Saskatchewan because I brought them down with me.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Does that figure include payments for seed grain?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I have some doubt about that, but it probably did. In 1914 the dominion government of that day assumed what the leader of the opposition referred to as a national problem. They set up an organization to take care of this and they spent 88,715,000 in doing so. Since then we have had two periods of difficulty. During the period of the war higher prices prevailed, but the yields were somewhat low. We had other troubles, but they did not require the setting up of an organization, either by the federal government or by the provincial government, to handle the situation. However, there was a cooperative effort on the part of the two governments, or I should say on the part of the four governments, because Manitoba and Alberta were also interested. In Saskatchewan-I think this is also true of the other provinces-it was necessary to provide seed wheat. The federal and provincial governments each undertook to pay fifty per cent of any loss which might be incurred by the municipalities as a result of seed being advanced to the farmers. During that period

84,385,000 was advanced for seed purposes.

I want to emphasize the fact that I examined the records in 1928, after there had ceased to be any need for the giving of seed or the providing of relief of any kind, and I found that only $180,000 of that money had not been paid. There was advanced $4,385,000 and at that time only $180,000 had not been paid, and much of that has been paid since. Of the amount paid, the government of Canada was called upon to pay only $334,000, and the government of Saskatchewan paid $334,000. Ini other words, when these farmers got good crops from 1922 to 1928 they paid off that indebtedness almost in its entirety. It was only in respect to farms which had gone under foreclosure or had been taken for -taxes that the government were called upon to pay.

The farmers of that area paid amounts which, with interest, aggregated $4,000,000 during those years. So that there is nothing or very little standing on the books to-day charged against the farmers of western Canada as a result of the difficulties of that period.

This brings me down to the period from 1931 to 1936. During the first year, 1931, the government, in its best judgment, and I -think the government had the support of all sides of the house in so doing, paid a bonus of five cents a bushel on the wheat grown in the northern part of the three western provinces. That bonus amounted ultimately to somewhere between $12,000,000 and $13,000,000. But it so happened that in the southern part of Saskatchewan, the area we are dealing with to-day, there was very little if any wheat, and the government again in its judgment, with that condition existing, agreed for that year to shoulder the entire cost of taking care of the people of that southern area, although perhaps it was not put in exactly those words. At all events they advanced or agreed to advance $10,000,000 to the government of the province of Saskatchewan to take care of the people in the southern and western part of the province, and they did a similar thing with respect to areas outside the province of Saskatchewan. That bill in the first instance was charged back to the farmers because of the method of administration that was set up by the provincial government and. agreed to, I think, at the time by the federal government. But eventually the notes taken from the farmers were cancelled and the Dominion of Canada to-day is carrying the entire cost of the $10,000,000 that was spent in the southwestern part of Saskatchewan and amounts spent in other provinces, which was put up in the year 1931.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

1930-31.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There were 330,000 people on relief-men, women and children.

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LIB
CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

In reading from that article did the minister refer to flood control?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

No, not flood control; I think it was rodent control. This is in the dry area just to the south. Some slight amount might be spent to control the water in certain areas in order to make use of that water elsewhere, but this article has to do with water control and similar things such as are being done on our side of the line, in a smaller way.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

I thought the reference was made in regard to submarginal lands.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I do not see any reference to flood control. There is mention of the construction of reservoirs but not to flood control.

The reason I mention that, Mr. Speaker, is that it calls attention to the very situation that is before the house at this moment. During the last six years we have spent something over $50,000,000 in doing what to all intents and purposes leaves those people at the end of each season just where they were in the beginning. That is, we have been doing a necessary work; we have been maintaining them there throughout the winter. But we have been doing very little through the expenditure of that money to direct the people or to assist them towards a condition where it will not be necessary in the future to do the same thing over again. We believe that we should do something constructive in that area during the coming year rather than leave ourselves in the position where the whole expenditure a year from now, if there is another crop failure, will have to be made to maintain people in that area during another winter. To that end we have changed slightly the existing organization in order to take care of this problem.

One of the members from Toronto, speaking the other night, misunderstood me when he came to the conclusion that we were going to set up another organization in the form of other committees to deal with the problem confronting the people in that area. That is not in the mind of either myself or the government. There have been set up under the present organization-there were set up in 1935 and again in 1936-local organizations in the form of agricultural associations who simply organized themselves. They did not necessarily get our consent to do this,

but they themselves have organized and gone to work. We were trying to persuade the people in that area to dig dugouts in order to have water, and when I went there last summer I found that very few of these dug-outs were being made. When I went on some of the farms and saw the conditions I could understand why the dugouts were not being constructed. The leader of the opposition said that when he went and viewed that country about a year ago he had to admit that it created in his mind a depressed feeling. The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Cold well) has made a similar statement. I must say that when I went and looked at it in the first week of July last year, having gone over the area during the previous five or six years at about the same time of year, it created even more than a depressed feeling in my own mind, and I began to wonder just why those people would stay there year after year and face those conditions continuously; and the only answer I could get was the answer that occurred to myself, that it was the experience between the nineties and the present time that induced them to believe that they were doing a real service to themselves and to the country by remaining there. When one went to an individual farmer and suggested that a solution for his problem was to dig a dugout to catch the spring runoff of water so that he could have a water supply for his cattle, he said, "You show me a spot sixty feet long and forty feet wide, and tell me to take a team of horses, which I have no oats to feed, and one scraper and dig a hole twelve feet deep, and say you will give me three cents a yard for every yard of earth I dig." When farmers made that statement to me I realized exactly the thought that would occur to my own mind as a farmer if the proposal had been put up to me. If I worked every day of the year, from beginning to end, it would be difficult for me to dig that hole, and if I worked only at such times as I could spare from farming, I should probably not be able to dig it at all.

At a meeting that was held I called attention to the experience that I had when I was in Ontario-and every farmer from Ontario knows this-when the farmers want to thresh their crops they get in about a dozen of the neighbours and spend a day threshing that crop; then they go to another farmer's place and do the same thing. I said, "Why don't you do the same thing down here?" The chairman replied, "I will tell you what we will do. You make that four and a half cents a yard and that will

778 COMMONS

Farm Rehabilitation-Mr. Gardiner

pay approximately half the cost of digging the holes. We will dig the top half; you do not need to pay us at all. Then you bring in a drag line and take out the bottom half and the four and a half cents will pay for it, and we will dig these dugouts." Well, they started the next week to organize a committee and in that area they made dug-out after dugout, with the result that next spring, when the water run-off comes along, the farmers will have a store of water for their stock. It is committees of that sort that we need in that area, committees that organize themselves voluntarily or under the direction of the department; and we want some legal authority to deal with these organizations as committees organized under the act. We are going ahead if this bill passes the second reading and goes on to final signature by the governor general. The other existing committee will probably remain.

There is one thing more I think I should explain in connection with the present intentions of the government in carrying out the activities proposed under the rehabilitation act. I will not go over what has already been done under the act as it stands. Everyone is familiar with the digging of dugouts, the building of dams, the reseeding of grass in certain areas, and everything of that kind that is being done.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

To what percentage of the whole territory involved does this work apply? How much does it cover?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

It applies to approximately all the area I spoke of at the beginning, that is, the area contained in the lines from south of Morden to Lloydminster and towards the southwest.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Up to the present time to what extent have dams and dugouts covered that area?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

When I was there last summer I had some discussions with our own organizations as to the rate at which this work was proceeding, and in order to convince them that they did not have a proper picture of it I took two of them in an aeroplane and we flew over the district. The picture one gets flying over the district is this. One looking down on a certain area sees that half the farmers have dugouts which they probably made when they first went there; no doubt they dug them in some better period. These men have no water problem to worry about because they have their water supply. But one will find in every one of these communities half a dozen other

farmers who for some reason or other did not provide themselves with these dugouts and now in these difficult times they are without the means of doing the work. I shall be able to give the exact figures when the estimate comes down, and perhaps it would be better not to attempt to speak accurately until then; but I can say that a considerable number of these dugouts and dams have been completed over the whole area.

We have deemed it advisable to set up a central office in Regina and there we are compiling all the information that is available from the municipal authorities and the provincial and dominion governments with regard to moisture condition, soil condition and so forth in these areas; and in addition to that we are completing a survey made in the province down to the first of January, 1935, showing ownership of lands in the area. We hope to have that survey completed early this spring, and, when it is, we intend to call into conference representatives of all the organizations mentioned in the original act and there determine upon some line of policy to deal with the situation. To indicate what I have in mind, I may say this. There is an area where a complete survey has been made in the northwestern part of Saskatchewan. There is another in Alberta. The area in Saskatchewan shows that in a considerable extent of country there are only fourteen farmers still left on the land, because these lands are marginal lands. In all probability the fourteen who are there are among the best of the farmers who were in the district to begin with, and they are still there partly because they have a run for their cattle near where they are living. What we hope to do is to get the cooperation of the railway companies, which still have an interest in some of these lands; the cooperation of mortgage companies, who may have some interest; the cooperation of municipalities who may have taken over lands for unpaid taxes, and the cooperation of the provincial and federal governments, in getting the people moved off, say from a piece of mortgage company land in the centre of the area to a piece of land owned by the mortgage company outside the area, transferring the obligation along with the farmer. Then we hope to be able to have the whole marginal area fenced and turned into what may be called a community pasture. We hope to have the government take some responsibility for providing a water supply and directing the breeding of live stock in those areas. In other words, instead of trying to convince the people of that section that the land should

Farm Rehabilitation-Mr. Gardiner

all be turned back to range country, comparatively small areas, which are surrounded by better land, should be selected and turned into community pastures, which should be placed at the disposal of the people in the neighbourhood without cost to the individual other than the fees he pays to put his stock there. In brief, the land would be converted into what are for all intents and purposes public ranches.

Last year some of our friends from eastern Canada went west to purchase cattle under a scheme which the government evolved of paying half the freight on cattle brought from the drought area to eastern Canada. I think they will all agree that in buying cattle they got the best satisfaction when they could go to a ranch where the cattle were all bred in one way so that when they looked at one animal it could be taken as fairly representative of most of the stock to be found in the herd. They purchased these cattle, brought them to eastern Canada, and are feeding them on their farms here. We believe that the setting up of a number of these community pastures will result in their becoming breeding areas for the stock of that district, to which people can go and obtain stock from time to time. Experience shows that 600,000 head of cattle in the southern part of Saskatchewan, and a much greater number in southern Alberta, is too large a number to be fed there from year to year under the weather conditions that exist.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is true.

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February 11, 1937