not put any more on the record. I wish only to show that this sort of thing does exist in western Canada.
A few years ago in Winnipeg I sat in on a debt conference with the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken), when men of this type were referred to as misfits in agriculture. They said these men were misfits-men who were able to pay their taxes, to rear their families and, as in the instance I have described, to pay $1,000 a year to a mortgage company. Men like this are not misfits in agriculture; they are slaves to agriculture; or, should I say, they are slaves to the mortgage companies which finance them.
We have heard hon. members in different parts of the house refer to the good financial standing of farmers in the prairie provinces who have been able to reduce their debts. But do not let us forget the sacrifices the men and women of this country made when their sons went overseas to win the war. During the war we had controlled prices and guaranteed prices. That is the only time since the last war that the farmer ever came near getting his fair share of the national income. It is a disgrace to think we have to have a war to permit men, such as those I have described, to get enough money to clear off the debts they have been struggling for thirty years to liquidate.
I hope the day will come when men and women with ambition and a pioneering spirit who set out to buy their own farms, or couples who want to build their own homes, will be able to borrow money at a service charge, instead of under the present system, as a result of which men and women spend the best part of their lives working for mortgage companies which do not do anything to earn the interest paid to them.
I am sorry the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) is not in his seat tonight. However I would again appeal to him to give some consideration to the establishment of a board of live stock commissioners. I have done this before, as have many other hon. members. It is something that organized farmers across Canada have asked for; but they have been turned down for different reasons. Now that the war is over and we are getting back to more normal conditions I think it would be only right and proper for the government to give this matter some consideration.
I remember some considerable time ago when it was discussed the minister defended it by saying that it was difficult to find money for such a board. When I spoke on this subject in the house on the last occasion I suggested that it would be a board similar to the board of grain commissioners. When the
minister replied he pointed out the question of the constitutional validity of legislation setting up such a board, because there had been doubts cast on the legality of the board of grain commissioners, and it was suggested that a board of live stock commissioners would be more open to criticism. But if that should be so-and I am sure the minister has given it consideration-the British North America Act should be altered, or amendments brought in to make it possible for the government to set up a board of live stock commissioners.
Perhaps the editorial in the Western Producer of November 1, 1945, sums up the situation very well, when it states:
Owing to the complexity of modern society as compared with the society of 1867 it is becoming more and more difficult to adjust with efficiency our economic, social and political relations within the conceptions of 1867, plus decisions of the judicial committee of the privy council. Because of an archaic constitution and these decisions it appears that as the Sirois commission reported, nobody knows how to draft an adequate and valid dominion marketing act. But we have to make up our minds as to what we want. Do we want to retain a constitution and a set of relations which make it increasingly difficult to adapt our social relations to modern ideas and the demands of modern conditions or do we want to keep these relations more or less parochially confined? Are we to expand the circle of social activities or keep it stationary?
It is objected that the suggested changes lead to a greater centralization of political power, which in its turn is a menace to liberty. The changes asked for, however, are required for the purpose of expanding liberty by increasing the power of the individual in improving his economic condition. We must of course realize that there is a risk; but it can be maintained that the gain considerably more than offsets the risk. Care should be taken that organization does not run to arbitrary regimentation, but it can no longer be denied that we must learn to build our civilization or soon there will be no civilization. And this means that we must learn how effectively to organize the marketing of all our farm produce so as to take all the exploitation out of it and make it of benefit to producers and consumers alike, no matter what constitutions may say and obsolescent institutions do. It can be done because there is no real obstacle to it in this democratic country except the will of the people. If we want it strongly enough we can get it.
I do not want to use the board of grain commissioners as an example any longer, but might I just draw hon. members' attention to this, that the demand by the grain producers for a neutral board was met by the establishment of the board of grain commissioners, and although there were objections to the establishment of it, now that it has been in operation for a number of years, I am sure everyone agrees that it serves a good and useful purpose.
In advancing the argument for a board of live stock commissioners, I would say the
The Budget-Mr. Bryce
very same argument applies in connection with live stock to an even greater degree inasmuch as grain is a non-perishable product and samples can be retained to a greater extent than in the case of live stock products.
In the case of grading grain, the grades carry right through to the miller, with the same grades prevailing from producer to manufacturer; but in the case of live stock, the grades the animals are sold on are quite different from the grades the consumer buys. The grade at which the packer buys the hogs from the farmer is entirely different from the grade the packer supplies to the meat board for shipment overseas, and while the meat board controls the quality and grades of the export market, they do not have anything to do with the product going into the domestic market.
Surely the time has come when there should be a neutral board to regulate this business and a board of live stock commissioners would be the right and proper thing for the purpose of regulating, controlling, assembling, transporting, grading, marketing and exporting of live stock and live stock products. As years go on, there are fewer cattle and hogs being delivered to the stockyards across Canada. More live stock is being delivered directly to the packing plants. Perhaps this has been caused by the increase in transportation by truck.
There has been a pronounced trend in Canada toward larger business organizations, and in many cases toward monopolistic enterprise. * The meat packing industry, as well as other distributing organizations, have in general followed this trend, and a large part of the purchasing of western live stock is represented by the purchases of three or four packing concerns. Concentration of buying in the hands of a relatively few firms creates a condition of imperfect competition, because markets may be unduly affected by the operation of one or all of these large buyers.
The concentration in the buying of live stock has been accompanied by a weakening of the position of the producer as a marketer. The protection which the producer had in the public market has now practically disappeared. It is my view that the position with respect to the marketing of live stock is simply that buying is now concentrated in a relatively few hands and selling is largely disorganized and ineffective. Under these conditions we cannot expect adequate protection of the producer's interest, nor do I expect those conditions which will make for a sound live stock industry in this country.
Two complaints are brought against the method of marketing: first, it is claimed that 83166-215^
the packers buy live stock from truckers at less than the stockyards' price. The packer has complete freedom of grading when buying direct. In addition, direct purchases are made on an off-car basis, while in the stockyards animals are fed and watered before being sold. Second, it is argued that the weakening of the stockyards' system by direct sales is detrimental to the producer. This seems a reasonable argument. Elimination of the central competitive market would probably put producers at a considerable disadvantage in selling to the few large buyers. About ten years ago a royal commission was set up to investigate price spreads. The commission went into many phases of the live stock industry and the report makes interesting reading. It investigated the production, collection, processing and rharketing of all live stock products. The findings of the commission were definite and given in detail. I suggest to hon. members that they look up that report. [DOT]
The conditions we had then are now returning and with different boards set up under the War Measures Act, which will no doubt be discontinued in the future, the time is opportune for the government to do something about this matter. To have a healthy live stock industry, it will be necessary to have the confidence of all Canadian live stock producers, and there is no better way of maintaining the fertility of our soil than by a large live stock population. With a gradual return to normal conditions, farmers will again resort to the feeding of more coarse grains and: then market the live stock.
The estimated value of all live stock marketed for slaughter is $346 million for 1946, which is a tremendous volume of business. Hogs, which have helped to swell this amount,, are now entirely sold on grade, which means; that the farmer brings them to the packer and takes what the packer gives him. What I mean by that is that he gets the standard price of that day, but if he is dissatisfied with the grade, he has no appeal. The system of the meat board has encouraged this as far as cattle are concerned, because the meat board does not deal with live stock on the hoof; to get the protection of the meat board, you must have your live stock graded on the rail. I feel quite sure that the grading of live stock on the rail, as advocated by some people, would be more popular today if it were not so definitely in the hands of the packer and the producer could have some neutral body to appeal to in the case of a complaint.
Another point that could be taken care of by a board of live stock commissioners is that
The Budget-Mr. Fontaine