June 14, 1943

LIB

George Henry Ross

Liberal

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ross, Calgary East):

The hon. member commenced his speech at 9.15 p.m., and has spoken for more than forty minutes.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

I point out, Mr. Chairman, that we are in committee and a prolonged interruption is, I take it, a speech.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I think the committee has

pretty well agreed that we would like to hear the rest of the speech.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

George Henry Ross

Liberal

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ross, Calgary East):

Has the hon. member unanimous consent?

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Yes.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

I will not take up further time. I have given a few quotations in support of our contention, and what all members of the house really recognize, namely, that we are dealing with a great international trust which has had forty years in this game and which apparently has been able to pull the wool over the eyes of the government and get them to assist it in carrying on this kind of conspiracy. I object to the government not having exercised the vigilance, in the face of this 40-year story, which even the Winnipeg Free Press would say ought to be exercised.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

Perhaps I might for a moment or two move to an entirely different subject, but one which I think is of great importance, although the minister may not at this particular moment think so. It is the business of the Minister of Munitions and Supply to turn out the necessary war materials. Perhaps he could be described as the czar of Canadian industry or Canadian war-time industry. There was a time when we were urging upon him to speed up production of war materials. We do not hear that so much now, because I imagine that the man-power situation has pretty well reached the peak of its productive capacity. That being the situation, we are living in a state where everyone is employed; in fact, we have a man-power problem.

I wish to put this to the minister and I should like him to say something about it. I do not want it to be regarded as being off the subject, because it is a tremendously important matter. I doubt whether there is anyone in Canada Who knows the industrial set-up of the entire nation better than does the Minister of Munitions and Supply. At any rate, I do not think an}-one should know it any better than he does. He should have his finger on the pulse of the whole industrial set-up of Canada to-day. I wish to know, therefore, whether the minister or his department or the government has made any sort of industrial survey with a view to passing to the peace-time functioning of industry.

The minister may say that that is not his business, that his business is to turn out war materials. I know that, and I am quite conscious of the fact that he is perhaps trying his best to do that. I am not criticizing his department; nevertheless, if, when peace comes, the minister is in the same seat he now occupies, we want to know what will be done then. It might very well be said that it may be a long time before peace is declared, but we do not know. It may be sooner than we expect, and the minister who is now in

charge of the entire productive capacity of Canada-we may as well say that-should have at his finger-tips all that the government is going to do or that he is going to do if he is sitting in his seat at the time peace is declared. There is no use in waiting until the problem is upon us. I am not now talking of post-war reconstruction; I am speaking of that short transitional period when there is a change-over from the industrial set-up of Canada producing munitions of war to some industrial set-up changing over to the production of peace-time goods. There is no use in waiting until the problem is upon us and1 then closing our eyes and trusting to luck. The government has done that too often in the past, as, for example, in the national coal emergency. But this problem will face us, as certainly as we are sitting here to-night, and we must be ready for it. Someone has said that the difference between a politician and a statesman is, that a politician works and looks forward to the next election, while a statesman works and looks forward to the next generation. I should like to know what the government are doing in the way of working and looking forward to that transitional change-over in the industrial set-up of Canada.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

In reply to the question, I may say that a thorough study has been made of each industry to see what can be done. It will depend a good deal on how much warning we get of the end of hostilities. If the war were to collapse to-day, I do not know that we could avoid a certain lag in the change-over of industry; retooling and reorganization take time. But a study has been made; we have expert opinions of the postwar value of every plant the government owns, which is a large part of the industrial capacity of this country; we know the direction that conversion should take, and we only hope we shall have sufficient notice so that it can be done gradually.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

Two matters which were dealt with by the minister on Friday are of the utmost importance to this country, and both materials are in what is called short supply; I refer to petroleum and rubber. The matter of petroleum was dealt with earlier in the evening by the hon. member for Davenport in what I thought was an admirable address. I should like to say a few words now in connection with certain aspects of the rubber problem, and may I remark in the first place that it seems peculiar that that very scarce product, petroleum, is being used and used exclusively in this country for the manufacture of the equally scarce and important product, rubber.

War Appropriation-Supplies

There is a great question mark in the minds of many people with reference to this matter, particularly by reason of the feeling that the refusal to adopt means other than petroleum for the production of synthetic rubber is not motivated entirely by unselfish considerations. I hasten to say that I am not a scientist and I know nothing about the technical side of this matter, but there are a number of questions in my mind and in the minds of the public which, I believe, should be answered by the minister.

It may be that the administration itself does not know as much about the solution of this problem as it might do. It may be, and there is evidence to indicate that this conclusion is justified that it has merely pursued a policy of follow-the-leader and has adopted certain suggestions which were made by those across the line. To me it is significant that the government-owned corporation known as the Polymer corporation, which is going to operate a number of plants at the city of Sarnia, is almost entirely manned by persons who have been borrowed either from the natural rubber companies or from the oil companies of this country.

Petroleum is very scarce. That statement is almost axiomatic. The truth of it is evidenced by the fact that we have to put up a system of rigid rationing. This was also admitted by the minister in the house on Friday when he warned the people that in the near future rationing might have to be even more drastically curtailed. It has been stated on a number of occasions that the oil reserves of this country are by no means unlimited. It is stated, indeed, that at the present rate of depletion, and with no greater oil reserves than at present, within a period of approximately fourteen years no oil will be left on this continent. That is a very serious condition, and) it is another indication to me that those who are in control of the production of synthetic rubber on this continent are not much concerned about establishing an industry which will be maintained more or less in perpetuity; for, if they believed that the production of synthetic rubber was to continue on this continent, they would set themselves to look for a product which is in abundance and cannot possibly be exhausted within the short period of fourteen or fifteen years to which I have referred.

I confess to the feeling that these interests do not want to make the production of synthetic rubber on this continent a permanent affair, and in substantiation of that statement I propose before I conclude my remarks to quote the statements of a number of well-known persons whose opinions are regarded as fairly reliable. However, before referring

to some of these statements may I observe that the attitude of the administration since the beginning of the war, as was pointed out by the speaker who immediately preceded me, has been to regard any question of supply on a day-to-day basis without any regard for the long-term point of view. It seems to me the time is past to guide our policies on the principle of the proverb that we should not cross our bridges before we come to them, because in many instances it is necessary to plan a long time ahead in order to find the most efficient and economical method of producing a product over a period of years. To adopt a rubber production programme which must necessarily be curtailed in a few years seems to me the height of economic folly. My criticism to-day in that respect is the same as I have voiced in this chamber in the past, a criticism which I first placed before the house over two and a half years ago, when I asserted that the administration has entirely missed the boat as far as taking advantage of its opportunities to develop this country economically is concerned, and that it has failed to understand the necessity of adopting processes which not only will produce something to-day, but will go on producing it tomorrow or in the years to come. I suggest that the administration should take us completely into its confidence in connection with this matter of the production of synthetic rubber, and let us know what its plans are, not only for the immediate future but for years to come.

Recently the city council of my own city and the city council of North Battleford passed a resolution, which was sent to the government, urging the establishment of factories in Saskatchewan for the production of alcohol from grain for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. They received a reply from Mr. Bennett, who is executive assistant of the department. I have not had an opportunity to obtain a copy of the letter, but according to a press item he advised the city council of Saskatoon that the production of rubber from petroleum was the most practical process under present conditions. He went on to state that facilities for the production of synthetic rubber had been established at Sarnia, Ontario. So far as I am concerned I am not prepared to accept that statement without question. What I want is a complete explanation as to the manner in which this judgment was arrived at; the evidence that was furnished; the persons who were consulted and their connections, and how conclusive in the minds of the administration that judgment was. I might point out that considerable work has been done in the United States in the production

363S

War Appropriation-Supplies

of synthetic rubber from agricultural products, and I should like to know what investigation was made by the administration with respect to the efficacy of that method rather than the use of petroleum. I would also point out that from what I have been able to glean from various statements and documents in my possession, it would appear that as far as the continent of Europe is concerned, all the available information points to the fact that the great bulk of the synthetic rubber produced there is made, from agricultural products.

Recently', to try and obtain some information in this connection, I asked the administration what was the total stock of natural rubber in Canada. The answer I received was that crude natural rubber is a critical war commodity and that it was not in the public interest to answer this question. I am not entirely sure that this is not in the public interest to answer, but it may be. It does seem to me, however, that more information is given the public of this country than is accorded to members of parliament. I do not know why that should be so; possibly it is because members are in a position to ask follow-up questions which are pertinent to the matters dealt with, whereas the public has pretty well to accept what is given to it. In that respect I would point out that the public of this country have been advised that synthetic rubber factories are being set up in Canada and that the first of these will be capable of producing the needs of the armed forces by September, 1943. Then, according to information given to the public in a little booklet called "The Industrial Front," dated July 1, 1942, it would appear that the rubber in this country at that time was being used to the extent of eighty-five per cent to meet the needs of the armed forces. The disposition of the rubber is shown at page 96 of this booklet, as follows:

Per cent

Tires and tubes of all types for the

army 74.4

Truck and bus tires for essential transportation 3-25

Footwear for armed forces and essential

civilian needs 2-9

Belting and other mechanical goods for

defence and essential industry 2-5

Aeroplane tires and tubes 2-25

Wire and cable 2-0

Motor vehicle parts for army vehicles and to maintain essential transportation 2-0

Tank parts 1-8

Protective clothing, including anti-gas

gloves and respirators 1-8

Retreading and repair of materials for

essential transportation 1-2

Fire hose 0-7

Miscellaneous items, none of which comprise more than 0-5 per cent 5-2

That makes a total of 100 per cent. Apparently the public of this country can be given the information that by September of this year sufficient rubber will be on hand to meet the needs of the armed forces, so that to me, from this information, it would seem that we do not have to worry a great deal about that phase of the matter. But I should like to know the plan of the administration with respect to the production of synthetic rubber for Other purposes, covering the fifteen per cent I have mentioned as being allotted to civilian needs and matters of that kind. If one plant in the city of Sarnia will produce that much rubber, what steps are being taken by the administration with respect to the production of more rubber? What is its plan in connection with an endeavour to obtain rubber from a product which will produce synthetic rubber to-day, tomorrow and perhaps fifty years from now, instead of from a product which may not be in existence at that time? Is it the intention of the government to go on and expand? How many plants does it propose to put up in the, city of Sarnia? Does it propose to do anything in regard to the production of rubber from agricultural supplies?

I might point out that the reason given by some persons for the fact that we have not gone into the production of synthetic rubber from agricultural supplies, and that we have not established plants for this purpose in western Canada, is that the material has not been available for the construction of such plants. It may be that we are short of such material, but I notice that there was sufficient material for an industial alcohol plant at Thorold, Ontario, which is under construction at the present time, though we are producing more than enough alcohol to meet the needs of this country and, according to information given the house a short time ago, are exporting some alcohol to the United States.

In the resolution to which I have referred there is a statement which to me seems very striking, and significant of the interest that appears to be taken in this subject by those who have control of the situation in the United States. This is the statement:

That Wm. J. Hale, research consultant for the Dow Chemical Company, speaking to the annual dinner of the Minnesota bankers' conference in February, 1943, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, stated that there was in existence an unpublieized reciprocal trade treaty with South American countries providing for the destruction of all United States synthetic rubber plants after the conclusion of the war;

Mr. Hale is also authority for the statement that all successful synthetic rubber formulas are based on alcohol (Germany having 38 plants) made from farm products, providing 3-8 pounds of rubber for a gallon of alcohol;

Mr. Hale predicted that the Japanese, when driven out of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies would destroy all the rubber plantations, thus making continuation of the synthetic rubber industry in the United States imperative;

Then I heard some interesting information the other day, given by Mr. D. G. MacKenzie, who is probably known to members of this house. He was formerly minister of agriculture of Manitoba and is at present chief commissioner of the board of grain commissioners and chairman of the agriculture subcommittee of the James advisory committee to the cabinet. He has some significant statements to make in connection with this whole matter. In giving his evidence before the committee on reconstruction and reestablishment, set up by this house, among other things he said:

One of the difficulties that we have in trying to finalize our thinking on this problem arises from the differences of opinion that are emanating from the United States. What I say must be taken only as personal opinion, but there is evidence of a tremendous struggle going on in the United States to-day as between the petroleum interests on the one hand and perhaps the distilleries and farm block on the other hand in the matter of using cereal grains for the production of alcohol. I cannot help but feel behind that dispute or struggle-and it is a very intense one-there is a desire on the part of these respective interests to be in a position to control the market when the war is over.

Then, in answer to the question as to whether he agreed with Dorothy Thompson he said:

I have not seen any statement she has made so I cannot say whether I do or do not but I do feel definitely that there will be a very large synthetic rubber industry established over there that they now say will be competitive with natural rubber. The demands for rubber after the war may be so great as to make it possible that there will be need for both synthetic and natural rubber. These interests are looking forward and are anxious to be in a position to control production and marketing of these products when the war is over. On the other hand, as I stated last night. I was in New York a couple of weeks ago talking to two very eminent citizens there who made this very interesting statement. They said that on the basis of present known resources of petroleum and on the basis of present known consumption of petroleum their resources would not likely last more than fourteen years; so that these same interests are looking forward to that time when stocks of natural petroleum will be exhausted and other sources of supply will have to be developed.

He said, in effect-and I shall give the exact quotation later-that petroleum and oil interests were strongly entrenched and had all necessary technical knowledge to cope with problems immediately any question developed, but that on the other hand, unfortunately, agricultural interests were not as well equipped. 72537-231

War Appropriation-Supplies

He felt that if they were, great assistance could be given to that industry. In that connection he said, as reported at page 428:

The problem we are faced with in trying to work out these problems and in studying them is this: I have discussed this matter with scientists in Canada associated with some of our research foundations and with the National Research Council and so on, and we have not got in Canada anywhere a chemical engineer .associated with agriculture, at least to my knowledge, with any idea of costs. These men whom I speak of, who are associated with research organizations, will tell us that they have the processes. There is no question about that, it can be done; but I have not been able to get any of them who will express an opinion as to costs in terms of commercial production.

He was referring to large-scale production.

Then, I have here what I believe is further substantiation of my assertion that there seems to be a great struggle going on in connection with the production of this very valuable commodity. In this, of course, I am not referring only to Canada. A report dated May 13 in the Western Producer, and headed "Alcohol Rubber is Shelved by Big Interests", is as follows:

The five alcohol synthetic rubber distilleries approved only recently by the United States war production board have been "laid on the shelf." John Carson, Washington representative of the Co-operative League of the United States, summarizes the alcohol synthetic rubber scrap in which two cooperatives were involved as follows:

This story is so incredible, even in these days when the dollar-a-year men direct a goodly part of the WPB machine, that sections of the picture must be revealed again:

1. The rubber story first began to smell when charges were made that great financial interests, particularly the Duteh-British-Ameri-ean interests, which owned the rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies, were determined to prevent the development of synthetic rubber which might cheapen rubber and threaten the money invested in the natural rubber plantations in the postwar period.

2. The Standard Oil I.G. Farben cartel of Germany story added to the smell when the secret agreements within that international trust were exposed.

3. The smell became so threatening President Roosevelt created the Baruch committee to investigate and the committee recommended the development of alcohol synthetic rubber as well as oil synthetic rubber and the establishment of a rubber czar. Jeffers was appointed and given complete authority over rubber production, but not over the alcohol production programme.

4. Independents began to apply for approval of their applications to build alcohol distilleries. The senate committee recommended that a great number of small distilleries be established throughout the grain growing areas. WPB, however, ignored all the recommendations of the sen-ate and approved the construction of three large distilleries. Independent distilleries were ignored, their applications forgotten.

5. Evidence of the determination of some hidden power to prevent the development of an

War Appropriation-Supplies

adequate alcohol programme forced Jeffers to join in raising questions and WPB was compelled to show new interest in alcohol rubber.

6. WPB appropriated $100,000 to survey the applications and projects proposed, largely by independent groups, including^ cooperatives; 116 projects were surveyed by engineers, and finally, only about a month ago, five projects were approved.

7. In one month, the army and navy and WPB developed a "new situation" where these five projects were "not needed."

Then this matter was brought very forcibly to the attention of the public in this country only recently by that well known columnist Dorothy Thompson when she said this in an article contained in the Western Press:

There will be attempts to reduce this struggle to the question: Should we have more or less synthetic rubber. That is not the question. We need vast quantities of synthetic rubber. We also need vast quantities of high octane gas.

Behind this dilemma is just one basic cause: the collusion of the oil interests, through the octupus of pressures which they have organized through government departments, to keep the manufacture of synthetic rubber, the so-called Buna-S in their own hands with the same exclusiveness as the production of aviation gas.

And again:

Prom the day that the war cut us off from natural rubber, there has been a controversy between oil and grain as a basis for synthetic rubber. The oil companies., who had bought the rubber process from the German chemical trust leaped into the game with their formidable pressure power. The chemists who favoured rubber from grain, had nothing but reason on their side.

The Russians, who have been making synthetic rubber for years, used grain and offered us their formula, but it was neglected. There was the so-called Polish process which is also based on grain, so that evidently rubber can be made from grain. Mr. Jeffers knows it. Mr. Nelson knows it. But grain has not had a look-in.

It would appear that Mr. Donald Nelson, himself, who is chairman of war production in Washington believes-or did believe last year, in any event-that the United States had adopted a wrong attitude with respect to the matter of the production of synthetic rubber. He apparently felt that too much emphasis had been placed upon the production of that commodity from petroleum, rather than from alcohol and grain. This is his statement, under date of July 6, 1942:

There is certain evidence which I can introduce to you that immediately we started surveying every one of these propositions to make alcohol out of grain, with Publicker, with Seagrams-we started with Doctor Weizmann, a man in whom I have great confidence-I talked to him last Thursday-I think he could tell you the complete story to-day after a full and complete investigation-he will be here Wednesday, if you would like to see him. To-day, after talking with him, I am convinced that if I were starting that programme over I would start with

60 per cent from alcohol from grain and 40 per cent petroleum. That would be my judgment, viewing it to-day, from what I know of the picture.

I think the attitude, as I understand it, of the administration was pretty well set out in an article appearing in the Western Press under the name of Mr. Craik, and dated May 1, 1943. This is what he says:

But, the way things are at present, there is believed to be little possibility of the construction of further synthetic rubber plants in the west or anywhere else in Canada. The hardheaded men in the Department of Munitions and Supplies admit quite frankly that their main concern is winning the war. They wanted synthetic rubber, quickly, and, with petroleum readily available at Sarnia, and the example of United States in manufacturing rubber from petroleum they decided to go ahead on this basis.

They believe that the Sarnia plant will produce sufficient rubber for essential wartime needs, by which they mean military needs, and that is all they are interested in at present.

I might interject there that in view of the statements which have been given to the public to the effect that sufficient synthetic rubber will be available from the Sarnia plant in September of this year, for the purposes of the armed forces, the administration should be extending its programme so that other essential needs may be met.

Mr. Craik goes on in his article to say:

All this is not to say, of course, that the ease for synthetic rubber plants in western Canada is closed. Men closely connected with investigations into the industrial uses of agricultural products believe that, if the war stretches out over a few more years, it may become necessary to make more synthetic rubber to meet the increasing demands. Then, they say, the logical thing to do would be to build the plants in western Canada. They also point out that, if the war becomes unduly lengthened, petroleum supplies would tend to become shorter than ever, while the probability is there would still be great reserves of wheat.

According to what the minister said the other day, petroleum supplies are getting shorter. Mr. Craik goes on to say:

All this points to wheat as the product from *which rubber will be made, provided greater need arises in the future.

I refer to these statements and make these quotations in order to indicate to the committee and the minister that there is a feeling of great suspicion in the minds of many people in this country in connection with the production of synthetic rubber. It seems to me that in order to clarify the situation the minister should make a complete statement. I urgently suggest to him that he consider this matter, not from the short-time point of view but from the long-time point

War Appropriation-Supplies

of view, as was referred to by the hon. member for Macleod who preceded me and who discussed industrial matters generally.

We are going to have tremendous problems on our hands at the conclusion of the war, and we should take advantage of every opportunity to combine the solution of matters which will arise during the war with the solution of problems which will arise after the war. This feeling which is abroad should not go unanswered. The agricultural interests in western Canada consider that they have not a chance against strongly entrenched industry as represented by the oil and natural rubber concerns unless there is intervention by the government in some way. Here was a case where the government was putting up the money to provide a wholly government-owned corporation; they had complete control of the situation, and I suggest that they should have attempted to take advantage of the situation in a way that would have solved some of these other problems. We have a grave suspicion that the administration has missed the boat in connection with the possible solution of some of our post-war difficulties.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Frederick William Gershaw

Liberal

Mr. GERSHAW:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister of Munitions and Supply and to his staff for the magnificent production record they have. Many men in the department are giving of their experience and abilities freely and are making a great contribution. There are times when materials are required urgently, and to meet these demands requires business experience of the highest order. I feel that if the same energy and thought were put into the solution of our post-war problems as have been put into the solution of these production problems, the people of Canada will need have no fear for the future.

Among the duties carried out by the department, as I understand it, is the locating of air schools, air fields and things of that kind. This is done by the technical officers of the department, and it is often quite difficult to follow their line of reasoning and understand why these airports are located where they are. Unfortunately some of them have been built in locations where there was no water; others have been placed in windy localities where the climate was rigorous, where the snow was deep and where flying hours were limited. Southern Alberta has a wonderful climate, it has clear visibility and mild weather. Places like Bas-sano, Empress and Bow Island have railroad connections, water and all the other conditions favourable for the location of schools and industries of this kind; yet they have been overlooked.

72537-231 i

One service flying training school has been located in the district and it has been. eminently successful. They have been able to put in longer flying hours there than in any other place in the dominion, The climatic conditions have been right; the visibility has been good, and the nature of the terrain is perfect. It is a matter of considerable pride that the school located at Medicine Hat stands out prominently among all the schools of Canada. It has the efficiency flying flag at present, and the officers are the very best.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

I should like to ask the

minister one or two questions under this item. Could he give us a break-down of the item?

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I had the books here before dinner, but I have left them in the office. I can answer that to-morrow. Part of this is a carryover from commitments made in the last fiscal year, and it covers also plants in contemplation as well as facilities that we expect to expand.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

Would that be in connection with chemicals mainly?

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes. The rubber plant at Sarnia represents a $40,000,000 expenditure, and it was not 50 per cent paid for at the close of the fiscal year. Other chemical plants are in process of expansion. As types change, there is a need for retooling. The putting out of a new type gun or a new shell involves expenditures, and these have been estimated by the various departmental heads and are included in the figure.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

Does the minister's department have any responsibility for the building and operation of the pilot plant which is experimenting with the production of synthetic rubber from alcohol, or is that under the national research council.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

The national research council are doing certain work on the manufacture of alcohol from grains, and the department has made an exhaustive study of the relative merits of synthetic rubber based on grain alcohol and synthetic rubber made from a petroleum base. It came to the conclusion that as a long-range situation the part of wisdom was to use petroleum as a base. The use of grain instead of petroleum would involve a very low price for the grain. Wheat is a" food and is entitled to a higher value as a food than it can have industrially. For example, to-day alcohol is being made from wheat, whereas in normal times it would be made from molasses at perhaps one-third the cost. To base a huge enterprise such as the synthetic rubber plant at Sarnia, which will cost in the neighbourhood of

War Appropriation-Supplies

$40,000,000, on cereals-wheat is used in the manufacture of alcohol only on account of transportation difficulties in connection with obtaining cheaper materials-to base such a plant on a temporary situation, on a war situation, did not seem the part of wisdom.

I shall be glad at the next sitting to give the committee a statement on the synthetic rubber situation and the reasons which led the government to base the manufacture of synthetic rubber on petroleum rather than on wheat. I shall give some detail. I was rather interested in the call I had from a committee of the Saskatchewan wheat pool which had visited a number of authorities in the United States and practically all the laboratories there, as well as obtaining such information as they could in Canada. That was an independent investigation made by people who could logically be expected to favour wheat as a basis for rubber rather than petroleum, and in my discussion with them I concluded that they had reached the same decision as had been reached by my officials, that to base the future of wheat on its use in industry would be very unfortunate for wheat. However, I have a statement prepared and I shall be very glad to give it at the next sitting.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink
?

Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

I am pleased to hear the minister say that he will give a complete statement on the subject to-morrow. One of the reasons why those of us from the prairies are so much interested in the production of rubber from grain is the fact that we have such huge surpluses of grain at the present time and we look into the future with something of misgivings. We know perfectly well that Britain has increased her cereal crops to a tremendous degree during the war, and we know that it is the intention of the British government to continue the production of grain on as great a scale as possible after the

war, for obvious reasons, one being that she will no longer be the creditor nation that she was before the war and consequently will have to feed herself to a greater extent than before the war.

I appreciate the point of view that the members of the wheat pool may have. I do not know exactly' what their viewpoint

was, but it was indicated to some extent by the minister when he said that it would1 be unsafe to predicate the future of the wheat grower upon the manufacture of synthetic rubber. But the point we have in mind is these tremendous surpluses that we now have

on the prairies. While there is every prospect of their being reduced to some extent owing to conditions in the United States, nevertheless we are likely to be faced with a considerable amount of wheat in this country at least until the war is over. When I was in Washington the other day the Vice-iPresident told me that if transportation1 could be arranged, even now very much of our western wheat would be used over there, that it was very largely the question of transportation that was bothersome. Consequently, temporarily at least, while we may see some alleviation of the difficulty which we have faced during the past several years, I am rather looking to the future beyond the two years, we will say, after the war. If Britain continues to grow wheat and the Argentine republic has surpluses of wheat; if Australia has surpluses stored up on account of the war -her stock is disappearing to some extent through the United States armed forces in Australia-we want to find uses for our grain that will give some security for the future, some guarantee that the grain will be used.

I do not know whether the minister read an article a short time ago by Miss Dorothy Thompson-I read it but I have not it with me-in which she contended that the making of synthetic rubber from an alcohol base derived from grain was thoroughly feasible, but that it had been blocked by the oil companies who were interested in carrying on experiments and the production of synthetic rubber from petroleum. As was well said by the hon. member for Davenport this afternoon, it is a dangerous position to get into to allow this great new synthetic rubber industry to be controlled by the oil industry, which in turn is very largely a monopoly. We all know the extensive and numerous ramifications of the Standard Oil company, associated with its own company in this country, Imperial Oil, and none of us likes to see this great new industry of synthetic rubber left wholly under the control of the great oil companies. There are only two or three of them-Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell practically divide the world between them. But if we could see synthetic rubber madq from alcohol-we do not have to look to grain exclusively, for there are other sources of alcohol; the minister mentioned the cutting off of the supply of molasses-it would change the whole picture. We can make alcohol from all kinds of other vegetable products. Various trees, for instance, are potential sources of alcohol.

Labour Conditions

I am glad the minister intends to make a statement on the subject to-morrow, because it is a very live one in our part of Canada, the west, and those of us in the house should be fully informed as to the whys and wherefores of making synthetic rubber from petroleum rather than from alcohol. Most of us would prefer to see alcohol used as the base rather than petroleum, which is in the hands of a great petroleum trust.

Progress reported.

Topic:   MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Permalink

At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Tuesday, June 15, 1943


June 14, 1943