Hon. J. G. GARDINER (Minister of Agriculture) :
Mr. Speaker, the position respecting the shipping space for cattle which are now being fed in the province of Ontario is pretty much this. The demand for ocean space for cattle exports to the United Kingdom markets is developing beyond the capacity of the boats now plying between Canadian and British ports, with all boats fitted for the trade and in service now preparing to carry capacity loads. In view of this situation, which has developed during recent weeks, the possibilities of securing additional space for the cattle industry have been thoroughly explored by the dominion government, and it is fully expected that further accommodation for export cattle will be made available.
The chief difficulty is a shortage of hold and package freights, without which boats with accommodation suitable for cattle transportation would incur heavy financial losses on every eastbound crossing. That is to say, there is very little wheat for shipment this year due to the small crop of last year, and for that reason there is very little freight to go into
Feeding oj Western Cattle
the holds of boats, which would make possible a carriage of cattle at the usual rates. Under these circumstances, even guarantees given steamship companies for capacity cattle loads are not in themselves sufficient inducement to bring additional boats into the service. It is quite clear that additional space for cattle is contingent upon the securing of a minimum volume of hold and package freights. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Commerce have this matter clearly in mind and are actively engaged in attempting to find a solution.
The steamship companies are anxious to cooperate and have indicated their desire to assist in every way possible. In other words, the steamship companies are quite willing to carry additional cattle, but realize that the carrying of cattle is directly dependent upon securing other cargoes. The opening of navigation on the St. Lawrence will improve all freight movements. An indication of the steamship companies' desire to cooperate is shown in the fact that they have already effected changes whereby additional space has been made available in the boats now in the service.
At present no cattle boats are unloading at the port of London and the possibilities of the receiving of cattle at that port are being thoroughly canvassed. The position is somewhat complicated by the fact that boats unloading at that port are carrying for the most part bacon that is being shipped from Canada to Great Britain, and the placing of cattle upon those boats would necessitate holding the boats over for from twelve to twenty-four hours in the port of London before unloading. It is not considered advisable, therefore, to put cattle on these boats, and thus hold up the unloading of the bacon.
During 1937 exports of cattle to the United Kingdom totalled 9,610 head. The capacity of the boats now in service to United Kingdom ports will accommodate 46,000 head during 1938. That space has all been booked up for the year. Only 46,000 head can be shipped with the space now available.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that members of the house will realize something of the difficulties when I say that in the previous year, that is two years ago, there were some 6,000 head shipped; in the following year somewhere between 36,000 and 40,000 head, and last year 9,610 head were shipped. This year there is a demand immediately for the shipment of probably some 20,000 head of cattle in addition to what there is space for. The fact that there are such variations in the demands made on shipping space between Canada and Great Britain has considerable to do with the present situation.
As to the figures quoted with regard to the number of cattle brought down from the west, I think it will be found on close examination that only about 20,000 head of these being fed in the section of the country immediately concerned were actually shipped under the assisted passage scheme. Others were brought down partly because of encouragement given to shippers to go west. I am told, and we have had investigation made in the countries concerned, that the great majority of the cattle that are creating difficulties because of the prices paid are not cattle that came out of the immediate drought area but are cattle that came off the large ranges, and for which farmers paid a considerable price. Their agents who went west purchased the cattle and brought them down. Most of the cattle that passed through the Carberry pasturage were purchased at prices that make it still possible for the farmer probably to break even, even if he cannot do any better at the moment, and of course any future advance in prices would be to his advantage.
Subtopic: COMPLAINT OF ONTARIO FARMERS AS TO MARKETING OF STOCK OBTAINED FROM WESTERN DROUGHT AREA AND LARGE RANGES