February 25, 1944

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The proper place to discuss it is under "specials," I would say, the rehabilitation vote, if there is any place to discuss it here. The suggestion is that rehabilitation activities should be extended to all parts of Canada, and that kind of discussion of course would come up in connection with "specials," the last items in the estimate.

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LIB
LIB
LIB

Gordon Timlin Purdy

Liberal

Mr. PURDY:

The minister will be able to give us some information on that item concerning this problem, what was done last year and if anything is proposed to be done this year?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I think I could give now all the information under the general discussion, that could be given at any time. It is not really any item in these estimates.

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LIB

Gordon Timlin Purdy

Liberal

Mr. PURDY:

That is what I thought. I thought we could discuss it at the present time.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Does the hon. member desire the information now?

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LIB

Gordon Timlin Purdy

Liberal

Mr. PURDY:

I had a few remarks which I should like to make at some time. There came to my desk this morning, as I think there came to the desk of all hon. members, a pamphlet regarding the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act entitled, "A Record of Achieve-

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ment", and I certainly agree that it is a record

of achievement of which the present government may be proud, in taking these dried-out areas from relief and converting them into productive areas. On page 13 of this pamphlet is a picture of a very extreme case, a group of buildings almost completely covered by sand. I admit that it is a dreary picture, but I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, and to this committee that it is no drearier than to see hundreds, yes, thousands, of acres of land which produced crops for many years now covered twice a day by the tides of the bay of Fundy; and that is exactly what is taking place in the maritime provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

I know this problem has been before the authorities for some time. A small survey was made last year, but no actual work has taken place. I believe the suggestion was made that this was a provincial problem, or a municipal problem, but not a federal problem. On the other hand, if I understand correctly the operations of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, it is carried out entirely by the federal government. As is known to hon. members, the situation with respect to the maritime farm lands was studied by the committee on rehabilitation and reestablishment, and in two of their reports they have referred specifically to the situation. They recommended the extension of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act to cover eastern Canada. That is what we from eastern Canada are looking for, because we feel that our farmers need some assistance along the general lines of this act.

I could refer to other measures which have been passed specifically to assist western agriculturists. As I said before, we have no quarrel with that policy. In addition to the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, there is the Prairie Farm Assistance Act, the Wheat Acreage Reduction Act, and the prairie farm income regulations, all of which seem to have been aimed specifically at the western provinces, while eastern agriculturists have been left pretty much on their own. Now we are hopeful that, with the rehabilitation programme before us, we can see some constructive steps taken for the relief of our marshland problems and other agricultural problems in the maritime provinces.

I happened to be at one of our municipal council meetings this fall before I came to Ottawa. People were appearing before the council asking for reduction of taxes to almost nothing, because their dike lands had gone back to the sea and they were not in a position to build up the dikes again. The problem is now too big for the individual; there must be some other organization behind

us; and it seems to me that in that respect the federal government has an excellent chance of being of some real assistance to our farmers.

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LIB

Roy Theodore Graham

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

Would the hon. member tell us how many acres are affected and why that result has come about? I am much interested.

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LIB

Gordon Timlin Purdy

Liberal

Mr. PURDY:

The acreage, or at least the amount of marshland, is somewhere 'between one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand acres. The condition which we are in now has been brought about very gradually, by the operation of the tides wearing into the dikes, and the waters carrying them out. It has probably come to a head more in the last few years on account of the great shortage of man-power. Men are not available to repair the dikes, and even if they were, I question if at the present rate of wages the farmers could afford to hire them. The marshland has been gradually going back. One piece of dike would1 break out and would flood a hundred or two hundred acres this year, and then more the next.

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LIB
LIB

Gordon Timlin Purdy

Liberal

Mr. PURDY:

The original dikes were built somewhere between 1600 and 1755, the time the Acadians were settling in the country. They were built by the French settlers and kept up by hand by the individual farmers right down through the generations. With the loss of our hay market, the result of losing to a large extent the export market in cattle to the old country, the farmers lost heart in the marshes and did not take the same interest in the work. Then there was the labour situation. The hand labour used to build the dikes fifty or sixty years ago has gone entirely. I was going to suggest in the meantime that prior to some general plan, if some temporary assistance could be given our farmers in repairing their dikes, through the use of machinery at low cost, perhaps in cooperation with the provincial government, perhaps in cooperation with the various defence forces, a large number of suitable machines in the adjoining areas, which for some reason or other cannot be obtained by the farmers, could be utilized to assist them in throwing up temporary dikes. This would save the situation and prevent further inroads by the sea until such time as a general plan could be worked out. I would commend to the minister some temporary arrangement whereby these temporary works could be undertaken to prevent further breaking of the dikes and prevent further land from being flooded. I wmuld strongly urge that a study be made of the

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machinery necessary to make the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act apply to all eastern Canada. I know that the introduction of such a measure would meet with approval from all sides of the house as far as private members are concerned; at least, that is the impression I get. It might meet with opposition from certain sections from the treasury benches, but I am looking to the Minister of Agriculture to overcome that.

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CCF

Joseph William Burton

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

Mr. BURTON:

The problems confronting the farmers are so many and varied that in discussing them a person finds himself apt to get from one department to another. I have no wish to go beyond the Department of Agriculture, because I feel that the minister has enough to answer for without having to bother with the sins of omission and commission of some of the other ministers. When the estimates were last under consideration some hon. members had something to say about the expenses of the Minister of Agriculture and also of his department. The minister seemed ready to go to any length to show that he was not very much concerned about the matter. In fact, he appeared to be rather proud of it. I quote from page 673 of Hansard of February 18, where he is reported to have said:

That is the only explanation I wish to make in connection with the expense accounts, so far as my own expense account is concerned. Incidentally, it has been throughout those whole eight years one of the highest expense accounts among ministers of the government, and I am rather proud of that fact.

To me it seems a good deal like whistling in. the dark. I think the minister was more concerned about it than he tried to let on, and for that reason I intend to make a suggestion to him this evening. I suggest that when the minister finds it necessary on some future occasion to pay a visit to Humboldt constituency he should let me know. If he does I shall be pleased to make all the necessary arrangements for transportation and I shall see that he gets around the constituency. In that way I suggest he will be able to save a good deal on the cost of tires and the use of that famous car which last year carried licence number 20456, about which we heard so much.

What some of us are interested to know is whether the minister also used that car to go to Selkirk to look around in his official capacity.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I did not. I can answer that right away.

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CCF

Joseph William Burton

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

Mr. BURTON:

Or did he have another car at his disposal there?

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An hon. MEMBER:

That is the time he went over the ditch.

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CCF

Joseph William Burton

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

Mr. BURTON:

There are some people in Humboldt who were quite concerned when they heard that a certain car had met with a slight mishap because they were afraid that the country might have to get along for a while without a minister of agriculture. I can assure the minister that if he accepts my invitation I will drive with a great deal more care and see that he does not land in the ditch, because the policies of our Minister of Agriculture have so nearly run so many of us into the ditch that we do not want the hon. gentleman to go into the ditch along with them.

In connection with expense accounts the minister said, as reported on the same page:

Having said that, may I add that there is no inspector in the Department of Agriculture who is inspecting agricultural activities throughout the rural areas who would be worth his salt if he did not have a high expense account.

I have found that in the Department of Agriculture there are some very fine and able men, some men who do their jobs and do them well. There are in the various branches of the department inspectors who are really inspectors and who do get around and attend to their work. But I am very much afraid that too many of the inspectors in some of the departments under the Minister of Agriculture have heard him say, or had some reason to believe, that he was proud of their large expense accounts. I know of different cases that I could relate from now to midnight, but we do not want to sit so late to-night. I could tell of inspectors who seemed deliberately to run up big expense accounts. Let me mention one instance. I know of an inspector under the P.F.R.A. who had six or seven dug-outs to inspect in one locality. He landed there between three and four o'clock in the afternoon and inspected one dug-out. He asked that man where the other five or six were- I forget whether there were six or seven altogether in the neighbourhood-and this man said, "There is one over there, another over there, and I have a couple of hours to spare, so that I can go around with you and we can have them all checked now." Oh, no; he was sorry, but he could not take advantage of that man's kindness. He had to be back in Humboldt at a certain time and somewhere else later on. That inspector made a separate trip into that neighbourhood to inspect every one of those dug-out locations. He was certainly trying to be worth his salt. And there are other inspectors I have known who have carried on in such a way that they accumulated enough salt

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to pickle the whole agriculture business in that part of the country-because out of salt we make brine, and some of them believe in piling up the brine for some future occasion.

I have mentioned the P.F.R.A. I will now give another example under the P.F.A.A. An inspector stopped along the road inspecting for the dried-out bonus. I happened to be broken down with a combine alongside the road and I was trying to repair it in a hurry. This chap came along and started talking, wanting to know about this and that. Finally I looked at him and said: "Are you another one of those inspectors running around here?" He said, "Oh, yes, I am supposed to be inspecting these dried^out areas." I said, "There is the field; look it over." He said, "I am not supposed to go any farther than three hundred feet. Do you think that crop will bring twelve bushels to the acre?" I looked at him and said, "Friend, it will be just too bad for me if it does not bring more." He said, "It won't bring more than twelve bushels to the acre." I said, "I have not time to argue with you. Go out and take a look." He stayed around for half an hour talking. He said, "What do you think it will bring?" I said, "If I could make one round with this combine I would be able to give you a far nearer estimate. At the present time, I do not know." I am telling you, Mr. Chairman, the grain that we were standing in there at that time was very good. If the whole field had been like that it would have brought between thirty-five and forty bushels to the acre, and that chap was asking me if it would bring twelve. I made the first round after he had gone, after I had got the combine fixed. By the time I had the hopper filled and placed in the box I said to the chap with me, "This grain is running somewhere around twenty-four bushels to the acre at the present time." Later on, it thinned out a little bit, but it averaged somewhere around twenty-two bushels to the acre, and this chap was standing there wondering whether it would run twelve bushels to the acre.

That inspector was as useless as the fifth wheel on a wagon. He had no more idea what that crop or anybody else's crop would bring than a child. Furthermore, that year we were required by law or regulation, after our harvesting operations were over, to report to our elevator where we were making our deliveries and to give an affidavit as to the number of bushels that we had threshed. That being the case, what was the need for the inspector and others like him running around the neighborhood?

I come now to the W.A.R. I may say that the first time I had any experience with

the W.A.R. was in the city of Regina when the first wheat acreage reduction bonus was on. I went there to attend a provincial session. I had a whole flock of letters from different people around the country with me, complaints about their wheat acreage reduction bonus. Finally I located the office. It consisted of a whole floor in one building. I said to myself, this is quite a good-sized establishment. They should be able to handle this. A day or two afterwards I found they had another whole floor taken up with offices somewhere else. Was there turmoil in those offices? The reports that were sent in by most of the inspectors were enough to turn anything into a turmoil. I met some of my colleagues at the buildings. They said, "Where were you; you should have been at a caucus this morning?" I said, "I was in a war office." They said, "Where is that?" I said, "Down there on a certain street in the city. It is war." I remarked that the way these fellows are going about their work we shall have a war before we get the bonus, and things straightened out. There were men running through the province drawing salaries and building up these handsome expense accounts who did not do anything else but make a heap of trouble for the people.

I admit there were some who were good and who tried to do their best.

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LIB
CCF

Joseph William Burton

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

Mr. BURTON:

After a whole lot of them were cleaned out, most of them were all right.

I say it was a disgrace, when you think of the men who came out there and the amount of useless time and effort they put in on a lot of that stuff.

There is one more point I should like to ' take up with the minister. I hope he does not take it too seriously because he has been used to it for a long time.

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LIB

February 25, 1944