July 2, 1943

CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

With regard to synthetic rubber, did the Polymer corporation, which investigated methods of producing such rubber, before it set up the plant at Sarnia, consult with the Department of Agriculture or with any of the science officials in that department?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I do not think there was any direct consultation, but of course all those who are dealing with matters of this kind have access to this publication, and there are representatives on the committee. Doctor Archibald, who is here with us to-day is a member of that committee and is director of experimental farms in Canada. This document is of course available and I have no doubt that anyone reading it to make a decision of that kind would have had access to all such information.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

That is the 1941 document?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Yes, and 1941 would be about the time this matter was under serious consideration by those who were getting ready to do something about a plant in 1942. It does take considerable time to get into production after you start and to establish a plant of that kind. What the minister said when discussing the matter was that he hoped to get

into production shortly, so that the subject has been under consideration by these people for some considerable time, and I have no doubt they took into account all the facts connected with it.

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NAT

Heber Harold Hatfield

National Government

Mr. HATFIELD:

Is it not a fact that practically all the chemists and engineers at the Sarnia plant come from the Standard Oil or the Imperial Oil company and are not interested in making rubber from agricultural products?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

All I would say in that regard is that at the present time everyone realizes that we have to make rubber no matter what it costs; we are in the midst of a war. Everyone knows that the reason why Germany made synthetic rubber before the war started was that she could not find rubber towards the end of the last war, and it made no difference what the cost might be to her to produce it at home. She did produce it in her own country. We find ourselves in the middle of this war without available supplies of rubber, and we have to produce rubber in Canada and the United States no matter what it costs. I hope that the members of this committee, who when addressing themselves to other questions think largely in terms of the Atlantic charter, are not thinking that when the war is over we shall produce any commodity that we can possibly produce irrespective of the cost. I am not one who advocates that policy. I do not think the government advocates it, and I doubt very much if the members of this house advocate it, that after the war we should produce rubber from wheat just because we can produce it, no matter what it may cost. We might be further ahead to trade wheat for rubber where the latter can be produced at a -much lower cost than it could be produced here. I would not say that with the information before us we would get very far along that line in discussions at the present time, basing our discussions upon what was done in Germany before the war or what is being done -in Canada or the United States since the war started. We must look forward to the time when we shall be at peace and realize that we shall be able to get some of these commodities elsewhere, particularly if we win the war. Under those circumstances we may do things in a way different from the method we are following now. .

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LIB

Arthur Graeme Slaght

Liberal

Mr. SLAGHT:

Apropos of the questions which my hon. friend has asked, and in the absence of the minister of munitions, I may say that before Canada made her decision as to the Sarnia plant, I personally took an

Supply-Agriculture

interest in the matter and had' an interview with him, and I know that he engaged Doctor Speakman, who is head of the provincial national research bureau in Toronto, a very able chemical man-

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

He made this report.

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LIB

Arthur Graeme Slaght

Liberal

Mr. SLAGHT:

-and I had conferences with him before the Sarnia plant was actually set up. He went to Washington and conferred at some length with the authorities there on the subject of alcohol and the use of wheat as against the use of petroleum. There was a considerable difference of opinion among the experts in the United States, a good deal of controversy for some time, but I can assure hon. members that Canada investigated the subject thoroughly before the Sarnia plant was decided upon.

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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. WRIGHT:

I quite agree with the hon. member that the government did make a thorough investigation before establishing the plant, but there have been developments since that time. What most members here desire to see is some further investigation so that progress may be made in the development of alcohol from agricultural products, to show whether more can be done in production from that source than from petroleum. We should like to see the government continue experiments to ascertain whether alcohol cannot be made from agricultural products to better advantage than in 1941. I feel sure it can. All the experiments carried on at the present time tend to show that, and it is the desire of most members to have the government carry on these experiments, even though they have committed themselves to the present programme. They have no alternative to that programme since they committed themselves to it, but that is no reason for dropping present experiments.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

There is no intention of dropping any present experiment.

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LIB

Manley Justin Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

It is with some hesitation that I rise to speak on this matter, because I appreciate that in time of war it is not the popular thing to try to divert public thinking from the immediate necessities of war and the problems which they have created. But, having listened in at some of the conferences of the Empire Parliamentary Association and tried to look into the future, it seems to me that, in view of the adjustments which are being made by other countries, allied and anti-ally, western Canadian agriculture is likely to be faced with a serious problem so far as markets are concerned for what are now the natural products of the prairies.

IMr. Slaght.j

It is not unknown that since the war began the British isles have increased their agricultural production from thirty-five per cent of their national needs to, now, seventy per cent of their national needs. What effect is that going to have on the potential post-war market for the great bulk of, shall we say, western Canada's agricultural production? Is it not a moot question whether Canada can hold the favourable position she now has so far as the British market is concerned? And if peradven-ture the European countries which during the war have increased1 their agricultural production should be inclined to continue to do so, what then? They have done this through force of necessity, taking advantage of scientific research and mass production methods; and I am greatly exercised and concerned as to what we in Canada-I am not selfish in this respect, because what applies to western Canada applies also to eastern Canada-are to do with our surplus agricultural products if we continue to produce wheat and as we have done during the war. It may be that we shall have to change, if not our methods, the products of our farms in the west. The war has taught the people of Alberta, at any rate, how to raise hogs advantageously and satisfactorily, and how to produce milk and cheese and butter in quantities such as were never before contemplated'. If we are to maintain the agricultural population that we now have in western Canada, we must, I believe, do one of two things: either produce a finer quality of what we are now producing, and more economically than it is now produced, or discover other ways and means of using these products, or other products which can be grown on the soil and in the climate of western Canada.

The first words I uttered in this house come back to me. They were said on the minister's estimates. I put it to myself at that time, and I put it to the committee: what would1 a business man do under similar circumstances? If he had a surplus production problem in respect of his plant, he would do one of two things. Either he would call in merchandizing specialists to show him ways and means of creating a consumer demand for what he was producing, and thereby enable him to get rid of his surplus, or he would go out and get the best scientific brains and ability that money could buy in order to show him how he could economically change his factory facilities to the production of some other commodity which he could produce economically and which would find a market. That is the history of every successful industrial institution on the north American continent.

Supply-Agriculture

We have a surplus of wheat. I am not concerned about the possibility that that surplus will last very long. Once the war is over it will melt like the proverbial snowball. But I believe that two, three or four years after this war is over we shall be confronted with a surplus situation; and rather than depend on our ability to get rid of wheat as such, I should like to think that this country is employing the best scientific brains and ability available to find other products which can be economically produced in western Canada, or other means or uses for the products which are now produced in such enormous quantities. I believe that the answer is to be found in the brains and the test tubes of our young scientists. But having made it my business, in common with certain other western members to canvass the situation with the national research council-and these excellent gentlemen are doing a mighty fine work in that institution-I am impressed by this consideration : from the very fact that that

institution is located here in the heart of industrial Canada, it is pressed more with the problems of industrial eastern Canada than with the urgency or the necessity of scientific research to find means of processing and making from our agricultural and other primary resources, new products and discovering or devising new uses for our agricultural and other natural products.

I hope that as a result of what has been said in the last few days under this particular item, the government-I have no doubt as to what the minister feels about it-will accede to the request of the agricultural representatives and see to it that, either under the Minister of Agriculture there are set up across this dominion laboratories manned by scientific men whose primary function shall be to discover new uses for our agricultural products, or else fresh emphasis shall be laid on that field of research with which our national research council is also charged. To my way of thinking the industrialists and manufacturers of eastern Canada, or of Canada as a whole if you will, are getting the benefit of the scientific brains and research work of the research council to a much greater extent than the primary producers. I do not say this has been to the detriment of those producers, but I do say the needs of industry are being over-emphasized as compared to the needs of our producers, who themselves individually are not impressed by the need for scientific research and study in the same way or to the same extent that the big manufacturing institutions of this dominion are.

I for one would be very much disappointed if something did not come out of this discussion which has been deliberately precipitated by thoughtful members of this house on both sides, who have no selfish motives or ideas but are trying to further the welfare of the country as a whole. At least that is my purpose, and I give the same credit to other hon. members who have spoken on this subject. Naturally I think of my own province, which is perhaps the only province in Canada which has a surplus of electrical energy, to say nothing of the coal and oil potentials with which to manufacture and process the natural products of the prairies. I look to the minister, as I am sure all agriculturists of western Canada look to him, as our champion, to find new ways and methods of using our products. I believe this will have to be done, and I think the answer will be found in the test tube and the scientifically trained men. I trust that never again will this item1 be the small, picayune thing it is now, in dollars and cents, having regard to the magnitude of the problem with which we are and shall be confronted in western Canada.

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SC

Norman Jaques

Social Credit

Mr. JAQUES:

This question of surplus foods is no new thing; it is a very old question. Of course as the minister said-and I like to think of the Minister of Agriculture as having one of the hardest heads in Canada -if we look at this question from the point of view of the war, then we may take one attitude towards it; but if we take the long view as to what is to be our policy after the war is over, then that is something entirely different.

Hon. members have said that the great problem is, to set scientists at work to find the most scientific methods of spoiling as much human food as possible-that is what it amounts to-because we have or will have a so-called surplus. In the interval between the two wars there were millions of people all over the world who were underfed and undernourished. I believe it has been stated by the chief government medical health officr in Great Britain that over fifty per cent of the people of that country are underfed and undernourished, and I am- perfectly certain that Britain's record is not worse than that of any other country. I have not the figures; I cannot carry them in my head anyway, but I believe the situation is even worse in the United States. Yet when people were literally starving, farmers actually were being paid not to raise hogs, to plough up their potatoes, and to do all sorts of absurd things. Now we are told that the solution

Supply-Agriculture

is in the test tube. Well, as I have said before in this house, I have had a lifetime of experience in farming. I speak as a farmer, for the farmer, and I do not take a back seat to anyone in this house on that count. I have also had some preliminary training in chemistry, so that I know when people are talking a little science and when they are talking bunk. Most of it to-day is bunk; there is plenty of that.

What have we to do? I am not speaking of the war; for that is a totally different thing. War is hell, and just now we have to endure hell. I am speaking of the long-range programme, after the war is over, when surely we shall have a happier world, which means a better-fed world. Why has it been possible in the past to raise the food but impossible to distribute it? It is not a question of production but one of distribution, and in that connection you have to look not in the test tubes but in the ledgers of the bankers. Personally I have very little faith in so-called scientists; I think we need more hard-headed, common, horse sense. I think first the world has to learn-and people may laugh at it if they wish, but it is the truth and the war proves it-that under orthodox economics or orthodox finance or orthodox business or the orthodox price system it is impossible for the producer to distribute enough money to sell what he produces. That is why the consumer must be financed directly. If that were done the farmer would have no fear of not finding a ready market for everything he could produce. It is not a question of demand; the demand is there. It stands to reason that if people are underfed and undernourished, there is a demand for food; but the fact is that this demand is not effective because there is not enough money distributed to make it effective. So that rather than confess to ourselves that we have been blind in the past; rather than admit any mistakes on our part, the only solution we can see is to put our so-called scientists to work in order to spoil food and render it unfit for human consumption. If I might make a plea on behalf of the farmer-and I speak at present for the farmers as well as the rest of the people of Canada-it would be that we would put some real economists to work on the problem, so that in the end we could make financially possible anything -that is physically possible. We have done that during the war, and the only reason"we have done it is that in war time the canons of sound finance are silenced by the cannons of the enemy.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

May I associate myself with both hon. members who have preceded me? It is true that we ought to have the west industrialized a great deal more than it

is, and in that respect I agree entirely with the hon. member for Calgary West. I believe it is also true that we are going to deal more in the field of plastics and synthetic products than we have in the past.

I was shown through a plant on one occasion, and it was clearly demonstrated to me that first-class houses could be made out of potatoes. That was one example of the extent to which potatoes can be processed. The hon. member for Wetaskiwin would feel that that was a wastage of good food. I will grant that if there is a demand for that food, it should be used as food. But it is conceivable that our productive capacity in relation to potatoes will increase, and potatoes might go bad for lack of buyers. Under such circumstances it would surely be better to process them into something valuable.

I wish to ask the minister one or two questions with respect to the production of alcohol from wheat. What has been the experience in the manufacture of alcohol from durum wheat, or have any experiments been made?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

It would be about the same. There might be a slight difference, but not much.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

What has been the experience in connection with sixth grade wheat?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The closer it gets to 60 cents a bushel, in other words the lower the grade of the wheat used, the greater the possibility of producing alcohol from it. But what I said at the beginning is still true, that western farmers are not anxious to sell even low-grade wheat at less than 60 cents a bushel.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

What has been done with respect to potatoes? Have any experiments been made to discover whether rubber can be made from alcohol extracted from potatoes?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Yes, there have been experiments in that connection. The cost is very much lower with potatoes than it is with wheat.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

In the course of our travels in England in 1941 we visited the university at Cambridge, and I was much impressed by some things I was told there. We were told about certain kinds of potatoes which were very large and misshapen, but it looked as though they might be developed to the point where the yield would be enormous. If we could find a type of potato from which we could extract alcohol under suitable conditions, we might be able to manufacture rubber from potatoes, and do it successfully.

Supply-A griculture

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July 2, 1943