June 2, 1942

LIB

John Knox Blair

Liberal

Mr. BLAIR:

I should like to know something in regard to the evaporating of eggs. Have we any hope of getting an export freight rate for crates going to the evaporating plants? We get an export freight rate from the plant to seaboard, but we pay domestic freight rates from our towns to the evaporating plants. On the American side they have an export freight rate from the towns to the evaporating plants-in some of the states, not all. I thought perhaps we might be able to secure that in Canada. We have our plants a considerable distance from egg centres and it costs 52 cents to ship the crate, 11 cents to return the crate, and a charge of 3 cents for the revamping of the crate. What price is given to the evaporated eggs when they are dried? I should like to know what assistance is given to the evaporating plants, such as Swifts of Toronto.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I have not the agreement with me. It has been finally drafted within the last few days and I am not in a position at the moment to give the details of it.

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LIB
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The only agreement which so far has been finally drawn is the agreement with the plant that is being enlarged at Winnipeg, and that is to be made the basis of other agreements that are entered into with other plants across Canada. I regret however that I have not the details with me. With regard to freight rates, there is quite a difference betvreen freight arrangements in the United States and those in Canada. As every hon. member knows, our rates are pretty much under the control of the transport board and have to be referred to them from time to time as changes are requested. I cannot give any information in that regard.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

I should like to ask the minister a question regarding the freight assistance to the western and eastern provinces. The minister pointed out that he was considering, or some board was, the advisability of continuing that policy. If the freight assistance is discontinued it will greatly affect farmers in the Fraser valley. There is no doubt that the assistance given on mill feeds and

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grains has enabled them to carry on, and I strongly urge upon the minister that he continue that policy.

I am not sure whether the price of butter and cheese comes under the minister's department-perhaps it is under the Minister of Finance; that is one of those confusing things. But the price of thirty-five cents set for butter and fifty cents for cheese has reacted on the price of milk and is driving the farmers of the Fraser valley out of business. I am not going to deal with that now because it will come later-

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

There is no set price of fifty cents on cheese.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

For butter it has been set at thirty-five cents, and fifty cents is the equivalent for cheese. That has brought about a situation in Canada under which, according to the figures I have, this year we are already short something like 5,000,000 pounds of butter. In 1941 the consumption was 369,413,809 pounds. From January to April this year we produced 48,803,071 pounds. At the end of April we are 4,485,990 pounds short as compared with 1941. The minister of agriculture for British Columbia, speaking at a meeting a short time ago, said it was unfair that the dairymen should be required to carry such a load of sacrifice as they were carrying at present under shrinking incomes and rising costs. That I think bears out what I was saying a moment ago, that if freight assistance is not continued and no subsidy is given to the farmers, and the price of butter is kept at thirty-five cents, it will mean that the farmers will very largely go out of business, except those who are fairly well established or have considerable bank accounts.

I want to ask the minister what assistance has been given regarding flax. He mentioned five regional officers. I should like to know if one has been appointed for British Columbia, and what assistance is being given. British Columbia this year has contributed S3,000 to a cooperative organization of farmers who are endeavouring to produce a crop of flax. I am not giving it as my opinion, but it is the opinion of experts that they can grow excellent flax for linen in the Fraser valley.

I noticed the other day that Great Britain is sending one of her outstanding agricultural experts to this country, to be attached to the office of the high commissioner. It was stated that his duties in Canada would be to promote the growing of food crops required by the people of Great Britain. I am not questioning his coming here; that is Great Britain's policy, but I am wondering where he will fit

into the Department of Agriculture if his purpose is to promote among Canadian farmers the growing of crops for feeding Great Britain.

I ask the minister not to drop the freight assistance given the farmers of British Columbia on mill feeds and grain.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I am sorry I have not the names of the inspectors under the flax provisions, nor have I their addresses. I shall have that here when my regular estimates are under consideration, and if the hon. member will be satisfied to ask his question then I shall be glad to give it.

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NAT
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

There is one senior inspector and five regional inspectors. I am not in a position to give the exact regions at the moment. _

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LIB
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I imagine one will be there from time to time.

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NAT
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

It is unlikely that there would be a fibre flax man in the prairie provinces, because we do not grow fibre flax there. I presume they will be chiefly in eastern Canada and British Columbia.

As to the British representative, I may say that Doctor A. Scott Watson-I presume it is he who is referred to-arrived in Halifax from Britain two or three days ago. He did not go first to Washington but came direct to Ottawa and spent part of the day before yesterday and yesterday here. He may be in Ottawa still. When he arrived he naturally came to the Department of Agriculture. I take it his mission in Canada and the United States is to make known in these countries what Britain finds it possible to produce and how much of the different products that she requires during the war period we in Canada and the United States will be able to supply. I do not think there will be any difficulty in coordinating the work of the British representative with the departments of agriculture in Canada and the United States. It is simply a matter of getting first-hand knowledge of British conditions, placing that information before us and finding out what we can do in order to make up the shortage in Britain of those different products. He will of course acquaint his government with the facts, and if the total is not made up they may adjust

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their agriculture in Britain to try to produce more of certain things and less of others in order to fit in with our situation. I think that is the real object of his visit.

With regard to butter I think all who are familiar with dairy production in Canada agree that if we desire to increase production over that of last year the present price will not bring about that increase. There is some doubt in the minds of some whether the present price will produce even the quantity we had last year. The difference of opinion is based on certain facts. We have been in the habit in Canada of thinking that the greater part of the butter we produce, I think about five-sixths, must be produced in the summer months. During all the years we have been producing butter, we have been producing a very considerable part of it in the summer months, and we have had the idea that we can produce butter to good advantage only in the summer months. The result has been that a very considerable storage from the months of May and June is carried over into the winter months in order to keep up our supplies in those winter months.

Last year we had an experience which some people argue disproves our experience of the past. Last summer we had a price for cheese of 16 cents a pound, plus the premium paid by the federal government and subsidies paid by the provincial governments. That brought the price up to between 19 and 20 cents a pound. Under that plan we secured enough cheese to supply the British contract during the summer months, but we had nothing left for the home market. I think members of the committee who are familiar with the facts will agree that it was always thought to be more difficult in the winter months to produce cheese than to produce butter. Last summer cheese was selling on the market at, I believe, about 37 cents a pound. When the wartime prices and trade board established their ceiling prices last fall, that price was not acknowledged as the ceiling price, although cheese sold as high as about 37 c.ents a pound. The reason given for its not being acknowledged was that that was cured cheese, carried over from a preceding year, and sold at a very high price because of the shortage on this market brought about by the taking of all the cheese off the Canadian market last summer.

The point I wish to emphasize is that, with the facts before us last fall, after discussions between the prices board and the Department of Agriculture it was arranged to set a

ceiling price on cheese of 25 cents a pound for the winter months, and our cheese production in Canada increased by leaps and bounds during the winter months. I have not the exact figures before me, but I shall have them later, when we are discussing the . regular estimates. I should have had them this afternoon. However, there has been a remarkable increase in cheese production during the winter months. It goes without saying that the cheese will probably be not quite as good as the cheese produced in the summer months, off the grass. Nevertheless it is a very acceptable food product.

With that experience behind us some people are inclined to argue that we can have a ceiling price on butter of 35 cents during the summer months. I should like to say at this point that that is not a declining price. It is scarcely correct to say that we have had a declining return from farm products, and an increased cost; because, after all, the floor price for butter last year was 29i cents in May, 30 cents in June, and I believe in October it was 32 cents. While the price did not drop down to the floor, it was not quite as high as it has been during the early summer months of this year. The price has been hovering round 34 or 35 cents in May of this year, and I presume it will continue at about that level throughout the month of June. The argument of some is that we should start our increase in prices this year along about the month of September or October, and continuing on through the winter. It is suggested that instead of carrying so much butter in storage from the summer months until the winter, we might go into production of butter during the winter months, which would take care of our needs next winter. There are some agricultural experts who do not agree that we will get that result to the extent we hope to get it. But I am repeating to the committee the strongest argument I have heard from those who take the opposite position. The price as set at the moment is set by the wartime prices and trade board, and the Department of Agriculture is cooperating as far as possible to keep production as high as we can during the summer months. We are hopeful that if no change is made we can go on during the winter months and get greater production in the winter time. That again is an experiment with respect to which no one can exactly foretell the results.

If the argument put forth by the representatives of the prices board does not materialize, then we shall know that we have been wrong in taking that particular position this year in connection with butter, and probably will have to evolve some different plan for a

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succeeding year. We may find as we go along that some other action has to be taken even this year in order to make sure of our supplies -some action which will give further returns. At the moment, however, those who are arguing for the policy being followed take the position that they do not believe that will be necessary, and that we can take care of the situation.

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LIB

Wilbert Franklin (Frank) Rickard

Liberal

Mr. RICKARD:

Before the minister leaves this subject may I say, with respect to the apple industry, that I am sure the growers appreciate what the government has done for them in the past two or three years. I understood the minister to say that there was only one dehydration plant in Canada, and that it was situated in Nova Scotia.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

No, I thought I said we had five; but I believe the only one available to Prince Edward Island is in Nova Scotia.

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LIB

Wilbert Franklin (Frank) Rickard

Liberal

Mr. RICKARD:

In the counties of Northumberland and Durham, I believe there are as many good apples grown as in any other part of Ontario. We are anxious to have a plant established in that district; and if it would be possible for the minister to consider that matter, it would be greatly appreciated. I do not believe there is one within a reasonable distance in that part of the province.

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NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

Mr. Chairman, listening to the minister say that what has been done may be wrong, and that we are more or less trying an experiment, it occurs to me that the agricultural war policy of the government has been pretty much one of experiment, trial and error since the war began. That has been the condition from the time we endeavoured to fix the price on bacon. There have been the fixing of winter prices in summer time, the fixing of summer prices in winter time, and a terrific effort to keep prices down.

I recognize the merit in the general principle the government is endeavouring to follow in connection with the price-ceiling policy, but it appears to me that it is almost impossible to carry it out properly. I believe it will prove to be merely an experiment to fix prices on agricultural products, without fixing farmers' costs. The farmer to-day is paying 50 per cent; yes, in many districts he is paying 100 per cent more wages than he paid prior to the war. I suggest there is within sound of my voice no hon. member representing an agricultural constituency who does not know that that is the condition. There have also been great increases in feed costs.

It is true that the government is experimenting with a price-ceiling policy to avoid

inflation in general industry. But those who are associated with industry know very well that wages were fixed. I say in all fairness to the labouring man that some effort should be made to keep his living costs at as low a point as possible. It will be remembered, however, that there is a cost of living bonus, and that wages were frozen and a cost of living bonus added in proportion to the change in the quarterly index. No such situation prevails with respect to agriculture. No wonder it has been said so often that the farmer is the forgotten man of this country. I do not blame the Minister of Agriculture alone for the somewhat economic tanglefoot in which he finds himself, because no doubt he is simply trying to coordinate his policies and efforts with the government's general policy to which I am taking exception at this point.

If we are going to increase agricultural production all along the line, the production of those products that require the most man hours of toil, such as foodstuffs, animal fats, butter, dairy products, meats and so forth, the products which cannot be handled by mass production methods, with the use of heavy machinery, but products which require constant attention in the winter months as well as in the summer months, we must leave some of the old element of chance for a reasonable period to the farmer. He has been living by chance almost since confederation as far as his prices are concerned. Hon. members know that a farmer must be something of a gambler. He must risk weather conditions, whether it will be too wet as it has been the last few days or whether it will be too dry, whether the prices he receives for the products he hopes to produce will pay for the seed, whether he will get less for the one or two offsprings of an animal than he has paid for the breeding animal. He has been forced to take these chances. For ten years the farmers, especially those who produce mixed farm products, have borne the brunt of our economic depression. In depression they were not protected by a floor, in prosperity they are hindered by a ceiling.

These men have not received much in the way of subsidy. For ten years they received only about fifty per cent of what they received in the more normal past for their products. They found it almost impossible to carry on. When war broke out they were appealed to by all of us to produce more. At one time the Minister of Agriculture told them that we did not need more bacon, that the price would be fixed at S9 per 100 pounds in order to keep the price down. When the war started, wages paid to the labouring men in industry were

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fixed, or frozen if you like, but in addition they are paid a cost of living bonus. One result of these higher wages has been that the boy who was working on the farm went to the factory. To-day the farmer must pay practically double the wages he paid in 1939, and there is no cost of living bonus.

Farmers are finding it almost impossible to get help and equally impossible to hold the help once they get it. There is nothing to hinder a neighbour from climbing the line fence and saying to a farm labourer-I know of instances of this-"You are doing a good job ploughing; how much are you getting?" The man might reply, "$55 and my board." "All right, come down the line and I will give you $60; my credit is a little better; where are you from?" "Saskatchewan." "The last man was from there and I understand he did not get his money." That is what happens. The man goes down to the next place, and the man on the next farm does the same thing.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

They are used to not getting their money in Saskatchewan.

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NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

I do not want to reflect upon Saskatchewan. Many healthy fellows come from there. I have given much thought as has every person who has had anything to do with agriculture, to this matter of farm labour. Whether it be popular or unpopular I want to say that I do not believe in this price freezing of farm products, in setting price ceilings. I do not think it can be applied to agricultural production with success, even as a war time measure.

We are freezing the wages paid to our labouring men and giving them a cost of living bonus as well. Why are we paying a cost of living bonus? We are paying this to protect the labouring men against a rise in the cost of primary products, against rise in the cost of foodstuffs. When the Minister of Agriculture is fixing the price of butter at thirty seven cents a pound he does not know whether I shall have to pay $5 a day for labour, or whether the hon. member for Haldimand (Mr. Senn) will have to pay $6 a day because he happens to be nearer to a factory. When men are able to go home and still work in a factory, the factory offers strong competition for farm labour. The farmer is not only unable to get sufficient help, but must pay a wage rate twice what it was in 1939.

I am not for one moment claiming that these men are getting more than they should. Even now they are not getting as much as the man with similar ability and initiative is being paid in industry. I have always felt that we shall never have a well organized

prosperity in this country until the farm labourer is placed on an equality with the industrial labourer. The farm labourer is entitled to a fair price for his toil. He should not be asked to work longer hours for shorter pay. I hope the day is coming when the farmer will receive the same for eight hours labour on the farm as is paid to the industrial worker for eight hours labour in the factory. The farm labourer has not reached that point even though he may be receiving twice as much as he received before the government tried in the summer time to fix the wintertime prices of the commodities produced by the farmer.

It is all very well to tell the farmer that he is a great fellow, that he is the backbone of the country, that what he does is just as important as what the soldier in the front line is doing. I know however, that the boy on the farm cannot satisfy his own conscience and feel that he is writing as much on the pages of history when he is standing behind a plough as his brother behind a machine gun. I cannot convince myself that the boy on the farm is as proud and as satisfied with the service he is giving, even though he may be keeping a widowed mother. He feels that service overseas, while more dangerous, is more glorious.

If we are to produce to the limit from the great agricultural resources of this dominion, this government must stop, look and listen. It must realize what is happening. Thousands of acres in western Ontario, thousands of acres in Simcoe county, thousands of acres in Duf-ferin county, thousands of acres in the county of the Postmaster General, York county, are idle to-day. They are idle because of the uncertainty as to what is to be paid for the products which can be raised on the farm. Ceilings are being placed upon what the farmer has to sell, and floors are being placed on what he has to buy. That is not sound economy. It will retard the production that we should be developing.

It is all very well to read a bulletin and say that we have produced much more this year than we did last year; it is all very well to say that we are getting higher prices, but I do not hear anyone say that the farmer is forced to pay twice as much in wages. I do not hear the Minister of Labour assuring us that these wages will be fixed for next year and that a cost of living bonus will be provided. I cannot hear anyone assuring me as to what I shall have to pay for harvest labour.

I am doubtful about the whole price-ceiling scheme and its effect upon our economic picture. The old law of supply and demand should

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be given more freedom, and it must be given more freedom if we are to meet the demand by an accelerated supply. The farmer is the forgotten man and has been placed in a most ridiculous position. The government praises him for his loyalty and coaxes him to produce for less; it tells him that his products are as important as bullets, and at the same time it tells him that it is going to put a ceiling on what he has to sell and a floor on what he has to buy. The government will not tell him what he will get next year for his products, but it gives him soya beans to sow and tells him that he will not get more than $1.95 a bushel.

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June 2, 1942