March 5, 1937

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Certainly.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OP THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I think the hon. gentleman is quite correct. There are many others who have made tremendous profits. When you consider the price at which the average western farmer was forced to market his wheat and the price at which it sold on the world market, you can realize the tremendous fortunes which have been made.

1538 COMMONS

The Budget-Mr. Johnston (Bow River)

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OP THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Is it not true that the wheat pool handled 47 per cent of the wheat, and that the pool is organized by the farmers?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

What has that to do

with it?

Topic:   THE BUDGET
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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I do not know whether that is true of this year, but I do know that the farmers of the west never made any huge profits out of wheat. As has just been suggested to me, the wheat pool is not operating this year.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OP THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It operates as a line company.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

It is not operating as a wheat pool, but they are buying grain the same as any other grain company. The elevators are owned by the farmers.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They are owned by the pool.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

As I said before, because of financial difficulties caused by the orthodox system under which we work, the farmer is compelled to sell his wheat in the early fall and he does not get the top price. It is the speculator working through the grain exchange who buys at the low figure and sells at $1.30 a bushel. Had these farmers been given participation certificates they could have shared in the profits made. The farmers would have been in a much better position, and such a step would have gone a long way towards solving our unemployment problem. I think the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) pointed out quite clearly that the farmers have not been getting a sufficient share of the profit. At page 1213 of Hansard he is reported as follows:

Since that time, however, prices have greatly improved, particularly in the past year, and by the end of 193C this index had moved up to 32-4 of the 1926 level. While prices of things which the farmer sells have been moving upward, there has been relatively little change in the prices of things which he buys. In fact, taking 1926 prices as equal to 100, we find the retail price index in December, 1936, standing at 81-8, while, as noted above, prices of agricultural products had reached the 82.4 level after a rapid rise in the last few months of the year. At the end of 1936, therefore, the farmer's relative position, as far as prices were concerned, was slightly better than in 1926. Wide disparity between prices of primary and finished products is perhaps the most significant feature of what we call a depression, and it is greatly to be hoped that this approximate parity between agricultural and other prices can be maintained.

It certainly is greatly to be hoped that this approximate parity between agricultural and other prices can be maintained. These figures show that the position of the farmer in 1936 is approximately 20 per cent below what it

was in 1926. How do you expect the farmers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to meet their present obligations when they must produce approximately 20 per cent more to meet those obligations? Had the government been a little more considerate and permitted the farmers to have these participation certificates, the farmers would have been much better off. This is one more instance of how the west has been discriminated against. There certainly has been an increase in business, but I would not say that has benefited the western farmer.

There is one other question I should like to deal with before I sit down. This is something of which we have heard a great deal in this house, but it is always referred to very guardedly. I have in mind the financial position of certain of the western provinces. I do not mean to be sarcastic when I say that this question is treated much too lightly; it is more serious than many of us realize, and the results may be more disastrous than we expect. During the last two or three weeks I have received many letters protesting against what is considered the discriminatory attitude of this government towards the west. I should like to read one letter which I received only to-day, and which is a sample of the many I have received lately. This will give the house some idea of what the people in western Canada are thinking. I might mention that I have received letters from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia as well as from Alberta. The following was received from Alberta:

At a regular meeting held by the above group, the following resolution was made and carried:

"'That this group go on record protesting the obvious discrimination shown by the federal government against Alberta in regards to financial and relief matters."

I do not think there is any doubt, at least in the minds of many people in the western provinces, that there has been discrimination shown by this government.

If this idea prevails widely, it may result in very grave consequences. In regard to this particular question I wish to quote from Hansard, page 1214:

It is unfortunately true, however, that the financial position of several of our provincial governments is such that they are unable to take advantage of prevailing low interest rates in order either to reduce their fixed charges by refunding outstanding debt or to obtain new funds for relief or other expenditures. Despite drastic efforts to reduce expenditures and increase taxes, and despite a long record of honourable dealing

The Budget-Mr. Johnston (Bow River)

I hope that remark was made in all seriousness, and I believe it was.

-with their creditors, they have been unable either to balance their budgets or to have recourse to the investment market for the funds necessary to meet their commitments.

This is- a problem to which the government has given the most serious and unremitting attention since the day it assumed office. I need not recount the efforts which were made last year to find a solution. The plan then evolved which would have made low rates available to the provinces as a result of dominion assistance under appropriate safeguards, proved unacceptable in several quarters. The acute stage which the problem has reached in Manitoba and Saskatchewan during the recent past_ led the government to make the decision which was announced by the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) to the house last week.

The question is being asked, and I think rightly, why is Alberta being discriminated against? Manitoba and Saskatchewan were assisted by this government, but Alberta was not.

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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

The question that arises in the minds-

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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

The hon. member cannot introduce into debate something that has been said in a previous session. That is the reason for my remark.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Alberta was forced

Topic:   THE BUDGET
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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

Was it something he said this year or last year?

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

The fact that the other two provinces were not permitted to default-

Topic:   THE BUDGET
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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. The hon. member must say whether he is quoting from a speech of the Prime Minister last year or this year.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the hon. member be requested to refrain from interrupting.

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I draw the attention of the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Finn) to the fact that when a member is attending a sitting of the house he must not talk loudly and he must not interrupt any member who has the floor by disorderly noises or in any other manner. I do not think there is any point of order.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

The fact that the other two western provinces were assisted would lead people to believe that Alberta was discriminated against. Whether

intentionally or not is not the point at issue. But I think it is quite obvious that that is one of the circumstances which have led the people to believe that there was gross discrimination. A moment ago I read one of the many resolutions in that regard that I have received. Not only are the people as individuals in the three prairie provinces, and1 in British Columbia also, discussing this question, but the press is taking it up. The other day I cut out an article in a western paper, the Calgary Albertan of Saturday, February 20, 1937, entitled, very appropriately, An Ace in the Hole:

The great oil resources of this province have proved to be Alberta's ace in the hole. For the benefit of the uninformed it may be explained that an ace in the hole is an unexpos-ed playing card of that rank which, in a stud poker game, often comes in handy. Recent developments in Turner Valley should convince all people that if there is one part of Canada which has the assets on -which credit may be properly and safely founded that place is Alberta.

Neither the scolding nor the sophistries of the financial spokesmen, journalistic and otherwise, can obscure that fact. There is no doubt that at the time Alberta requested aid from the dominion government for the purpose o' paying interest and avoiding default this province was entitled to assistance both as a matter of business and as a matter of equity.

I should like to emphasize that-"as a matter of business and as a matter of equity."

It could not and cannot be seriously asserted that the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are entitled to better -treatment than Alberta from the standpoint of possession of assets. These are the firmest bases for credit.

But someone is sure to say that Alberta has been discriminated against because of its Social Credit government. That is doubtless stating the true situation. But it only makes the discrimination more shockingly unjust. If a government is to be penalized because it is engaged in an earnest and honest endeavour-

And in -the minister's budget speech he said they had made an honest attempt:

-to restore hope and prosperity to Alberta, then it is none too soon to let all men know it'.

It is refreshing to note that Right Honourable R. B. Bennett has publicly stated that Alberta has been discriminated against. The Albertan may not agree with all or many of Mr. Bennett's ideas, but we hasten to admit that on more than one occasion it has been constrained to admire his trong sense of justice. It cannot be said that Mr. Bennett is a Social Crediter, or at least he has not yet indicated it. But he objects, as many others do, to Alberta receiving unfair treatment because it turned out a government of which it was thoroughly weary and supplanted it overwhelmingly with a new one.

All Albertans believe that Alberta should have fair play.

That is all they ask, Mr. Speaker, that Alberta be fairly treated; and the people are determined that they shall get at least justice.

1540 COMMONS

The Budget-Mr. Johnston (Bow River)

From the point of view of the assets of the province of Alberta there should be no doubt in the mind of anyone that that province should be given greater assistance than any other in the dominion. Alberta is one of the leading wheat producing provinces, one of the leading coal producing provinces, and the dominion's leading oil producing province; I will go further, and say that her actual and potential oil production is the greatest in the British Empire. That asset alone in time of war, as to which we are all so greatly concerned, should make it important to every member of parliament and every Canadian citizen that assistance be given for the development of that industry. I am told by very well informed men that financial institutions in eastern Canada are seriously hindering or endeavouring to hinder its progress.

Some may say that it is because Alberta has a Social Credit government; in fact some hon. members have already said so. I refer hon. members to page 985 of Hansard, to a statement made by the hon. member for North Battleford (Mr. McIntosh). For the sake of continuity I will read the preceding paragraph:

Mr. Bennett: If the hon. gentleman will

permit me, that statement happens to be inaccurate-although I am bound to accept it-Alberta was driven to default, and people holding its bonds have in some cases been practically ruined because of the inability of that province to pay. The Minister of Finance would not help Alberta although it asked for help, and now the other two provinces are to be helped.

Then the hon. member for North Battleford said:

In answer to the statement made by the leader of the opposition I would say that if Alberta is seeing evil days financially and industrially the fault does not lie _ with the dominion government, the finance minister, or the Prime Minister of this country. It lies very largely with Alberta, headed by the government existing in that province at the present time.

That is the impression which is being given. We in Canada take pride in our democracy; our government is elected by the people. I say, therefore, that any dominion government that discriminates against a particular province because of its government, a government elected by the people of that province, takes an altogether wrong attitude, and the people of the west are resenting it most strenuously. Surely the time has come for us to take a broader view of things than the view which this government has taken of the situation in Alberta. When hon. members get up and defend the attitude of the government it is time for us to consider the question seriously. The people of Alberta elected their government by an overwhelming majority, one of the largest

in history. They were not to blame for the debt that was created by other governments. I do not necessarily suggest that the other governments created that debt intentionally; nevertheless that was the condition of the province when they were in power. The present government of Alberta was elected by the people to help them and that is what that government is doing, and the people of that province are more determined than ever, and justly so, to see that they get fair play.

Mr. NORMAN J. M. LOCKHART (Lincoln) : I desire at this time to make a few general observations on the amendment before the house. First may I refer in part to a statement I made last year when I opposed the appointment of the National Employment Commission. I opposed it then and I still oppose it in principle to-day, especially when its accomplishments have been reviewed and the matter has been fully considered. In part I said at that time: We have a bill before us which has for its purpose the setting up of a national employment commission. What purpose can be served when we consider the dire necessity that faces many of our Canadian citizens? What is this commission to do? Is it to review the statistics already compiled by one authority or another, or is it just another way of spending money to no good purpose?

My claim was that the urgent need of the day was to protect the lives and ideals of our Canadian people. That need is even greater to-day than it was at that time. The generation of young voters that has come into being, those who voted in 1935, are still talking about the conspicuous posters that were emblazoned across Canada, and I frequently hear them referring to one in particular. It has often been referred to in this house, the one we were all particularly interested in, which predicted the beneficial effects that would come from voting for the Liberal party-"Vote Liberal and End Unemployment." .

It has often been said here that unemployment is a question of paramount importance; that has been acknowledged by the Prime Minister and every member of the house. Challenges have been made to the leader of the government (Mr. Mackenzie King), and when I pointed out last year what the government had promised, hon. members across the floor said "hear, hear" and declared that the promise that had been made would be carried out. I ask now, to what extent has that promise been fulfilled? Someone may say at once, "Has there not been an increase

The Budget-Mr. Lockhart

in the number of those absorbed into industry?" Very true; I agree that there has been, but it has been only to a very small extent. I am quite sure the statistics will bear out that statement. We find, however, that as a whole throughout Canada unemployment has increased by approximately 100,000.

Let us turn to the increase in trade with Great Britain since 1932. That was a definite accomplishment of the late government, and a statement of this remarkable increase has already been placed on Hansard. Every newspaper in the country has been lauding the efforts and accomplishments of the late government and there is no need to repeat it here. Our home markets were preserved and with slowly improving world conditions-Canada was enjoying her full measure of that prosperity, perhaps even greater than any other nation in proportion to population. To-day, however, young Canadians are asking all the time when they may expect a fuller measure of the benefits from that growth of trade. But, I repeat, unemployment is on the increase. These young Canadians, young voters of whom I have spoken, continue to point to the subsidies that are being given by the government to steamship companies, railways, western farmers, and in many other directions. Many of them are very worthy, but the younger generation can scarcely understand the vast subsidies that are being given, and they ask, and rightly so, "When are the wage earners to be given their just share and to find a greater demand for their labours?" Surely this is a pertinent question to-day when we are spending millions in various ways. There is apparently a tendency to spend money easily and that is something that perplexes the youth of 1937.

It has been pointed out clearly in this house that after the western farmer has been aided in the purchase of fine seed grain, and in many other ways, he has been deprived of his rightful share of the increasing profits from the wheat he has grown. This government has so manipulated the sale of the farmer's wheat that he has never realized on the increased prices paid in foreign markets, these profits having found their way into the pockets of private speculators. That statement also is spread on Hansard in detail, and I do not intend to enlarge upon it. At any rate I do not hear from hon. members any contradiction of the statement that on the whole the struggling farmer was sold out, whereas we do hear a good deal about the private interests. In all the newspapers, both from the west and from the east,

we are told how the farmers' wheat was sold at a sacrifice, the profits going into other private pockets, through what might be called illegitimate channels.

Is that a good way to get the confidence of the Canadian people, and particularly the younger generation, who are perturbed in many ways and wondering what this is all about? Is it not playing into the hands of the disturbing influences that we have heard so much about and the many elements which we are told1 are undermining the very democracy of which we are proud. Is it not undermining the ideals and ambitions of our young Canada? Only this week I received a strong protest from a young Canadian farmer in Saskatchewan who was formerly in my employ. I quote this as an illustration of how this may work out in practice.

He was a keen and ambitious young man; he served overseas for four years and was one of the few who came back unmarked. He decided! to take up a quarter section in Saskatchewan, of land allotted to returned1 soldiers who qualified. He pioneered, as those we have heard so much about in the early days. I have often heard the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) speak of the pioneer days of the west. This young man went through similar experiences. He lived in a shack built by his own hands; for several years he laboured early and late; he saved his money, bought more land, and built himself a small comfortable farmer's home. He married1 and has a small family. Along with thousands more he was obliged to sacrifice his wheat, which went into the hands of private speculators who, assisted by the present government, were in a position to capitalize on the farmer's necessities. He did not realize enough from, his grain to keep solvent, and this week I have received a letter saying that he has given up in despair and intends to move as soon as he can gather his few belongings together, to the United States and start anew. Another good Canadian gone, broken in spirit. Is it any wonder he writes in bitter condemnation of being sold out and his just earnings diverted into private hands? It takes a lot of courage and conviction for a young man to retain his morale after going through such an experience and coming out at the short end.

I think this whole position was very clearly dealt with by the leader of the opposition, and I have not heard anyone contradict the statements he made in moving his amendment. People talk of immigration, when we blot out the lives almost of Canadians who have pioneered and who have a right to a place in Canadian life. I lay such instances at the door of the present government, and I

The Budget-Mr. Lockhart

venture to say that many hon. members could testify to experiences of that kind. There is surely a day of reckoning coming, if we deal with young Canadian life in that manner.

I again remind the government that unemployment is the paramount question of the day. We hear rumours of relief camps being again established1. Surely with improving conditions we are not going back to the distress of those former days! Surely two years of study of unemployment by duplicating statistical departments should have convinced any government by this time that the amount of money already spent by the National Employment Commission is spent to no advantage. It provides merely a duplication of statistical records. Our young Canadian manhood and womanhood are sick and tired of statistics. Their whole cry is that they want work, and more work, pay envelopes and more pay envelopes. No wonder they are cynical when they discuss the present home improvement plan.

I had the privilege recently of being asked to act on the executive in connection with the administration of this plan. It is a worthy piece of legislation; I am quite satisfied it is good legislation, and I heartily endorse this effort of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning). On the other hand, how can a man without a job apply to any lending institution for a loan of a paltry few hundred dollars to repair his home when the first qualification he must have is a job? No wonder he is critical. No wonder at times these young people come to us and scoff.

In the presentation of the Canada-United Kingdom trade agreement I consider that too much stress is laid on foreign trade, and that our home markets are being overlooked. Scores of small towns and urban municipalities are dependent on small industries such as textiles, which produce steady pay-rolls for their people. Surely it is apparent that reduced protection to this industry will have far-reaching effects. Recent inquiries have revealed that many textile mills are even now finding it difficult to carry on. If their home markets are further invaded one of two results is bound to follow; either wages will be reduced and the standard of living be lowered, or many of these mills will go out of business. Canada has seen this happen before.

The fabricated steel industry of this country should also be better protected. I have some knowledge of that industry, although not engaged in it myself. Why can we not help ;his industry to expand in Canada, instead jf passing prohibitory measures which only curtail its operations?

The Minister of Finance is to be commended for his efforts to reestablish the building trades and increase employment in that direction. I think, however, that his estimate of the proportion of labour employed in the building trades and in the manufacture of building material was considerably lower than is actually the case. The production of steel in all its forms should be one of our largest secondary industries. It plays a most important part in the construction of homes and buildings of the larger types. Sheet metal could and should be manufactured in Canada, and no restraint should be placed on production of this kind.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that I am in favour of expansion of our foreign markets providing that is not done at the expense of our home markets and our basic and secondary industries. Nations can change their foreign policies overnight, as we have seen happen so often in the past. We do not want to wake up some morning and find that our home markets have been sacrificed, but I am definitely of the opinion that this is being done by the lower protection that is proposed.

I strongly criticize the apparent neglect by the government of the unemployment situation which exists in Canada, and the apparent decrease in opportunities for employment. I heartily endorse the amendment proposed by the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett), and I think hon. members would be well advised to consider the far reaching effects of the lower protection that is being afforded our basic and secondary industries. I feel that the youth of the country are disappointed because they realize the possibility that our home markets will be invaded and their chances of securing employment thereby be lessened instead of increased. I hope many hon. members on the government side will express themselves on this question, because I know there are those in the house who have had the same experiences I have had, and we all hope that our industries and our citizens will be protected to the fullest possible extent.

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LIB

Walter Adam Tucker

Liberal

Mr. W. A. TUCKER (Rosthern):

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the address of the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) in the course of which he moved an amendment to the motion of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning). When the right hon. gentleman moved that amendment I had the feeling that probably he did not think he was quite doing justice to the government. At that time he knew that the only real policy he attempted to apply in

The Budget-Mr. Tucker

the solution of the problem of unemployment was that of raising tariffs, and he knew that policy had failed. He knew that he had spent five years in endeavouring to cure unemployment in Canada, and he knew that only sixteen months had passed during which this government had an opportunity of applying its policies. He knew very well that it takes time to get policies in operation and more time for them to have the ultimate effect expected. So I have no doubt that when the right hon. gentleman moved his amendment he realized that it was really too early to condemn a government which had been in power only sixteen months, when he had failed after five years.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. friend more or less attempted to justify himself by saying, in effect: "I am moving this amendment because it is the same amendment with which I was met when I was at the head of the government." I submit that moving a motion such as this when the policies which you are condemning are failing is very different from moving a similar motion when apparently those policies are succeeding. So it seemed to me that the right hon. leader of the opposition felt that perhaps he was not doing just the right thing by the present government in moving his amendment.

In that connection, and especially in view of the remarks of the preceding speaker (Mr. Lockhart), I think it is only fair to go back to the figures disclosed by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) in his speech on this amendment. According to the right hon. leader of the opposition the number of unemployed in this country when he assumed office was 117,000. When he left office there were 435,000 unemployed, but in October last that number had been reduced to 392,000. In other words, there has been a reduction since this government has been in office. I was glad that the Minister of Labour did not pretend to be satisfied with what had been accomplished, but merely said that the improvement was such as to give hope and confidence. As far as this country is concerned I think it feels that since coming into office the present government has applied itself unremittingly and faithfully to the solution of the various problems confronting it, and I think the country at large really feels that more has been accomplished by this government in sixteen months than was accomplished in a similar time by any other government that occupied the treasury benches of this country since confederation. When I say that I do not pretend that I agree with all that has been done by this government.

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March 5, 1937