March 19, 1948

CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. CLARENCE GILLIS (Cape Breton South):

I should like to direct a question to the Minister of Transport. I did not send him notice of it because the answer would not require much research. Has the minister received an invitation to visit Cape Breton Island during the Easter recess for the purpose of discussing the Canso project? If so, is it his intention to accept that invitation?

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   STRAIT OF CANSO
Sub-subtopic:   INVITATION TO MINISTER TO VISIT CAPE BRETON ISLAND TO DISCUSS PROJECT
Permalink
LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. LIONEL CHEVRIER (Minister of Transport):

I have received no such invitation, Mr. Speaker, although I saw something about it in the press. When I receive the invitation I shall be glad to give it consideration.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   STRAIT OF CANSO
Sub-subtopic:   INVITATION TO MINISTER TO VISIT CAPE BRETON ISLAND TO DISCUSS PROJECT
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. GILLIS:

I am giving the minister one now, and I should be glad to go with him.

Inquiries of the Ministry

3ALARY INCREASES TO EMPLOYEES-QUESTION AS TO RETROACTIVITY

On the orders of the day:

rMr. STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg North Centre): I wish to direct a question to the Minister of Finance. Will there be an announcement soon regarding pay increases retroactive to last October for employees of the House of Commons?

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   STRAIT OF CANSO
Sub-subtopic:   INVITATION TO MINISTER TO VISIT CAPE BRETON ISLAND TO DISCUSS PROJECT
Permalink
LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. DOUGLAS ABBOTT (Minister of Finance):

I think there will be an announcement fairly soon with respect to the position of salaries of employees of the House of Commons. I am not prepared to say to what, if any, date it will be retroactive. But there is nothing in the regulations which prevents it from being made retroactive to any date that may be appropriate.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   STRAIT OF CANSO
Sub-subtopic:   INVITATION TO MINISTER TO VISIT CAPE BRETON ISLAND TO DISCUSS PROJECT
Permalink

CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR


On the orders of the day: Mr. W. CHESTER S. McLURE (Queens): In view of the press information that dominion engineers, borings branch, Department of Transport, have been in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, determining a suitable location for the construction of a marine slip-


?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order paper.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLURE:

My question is this.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I would ask the hon. member to put his question, and not to give information to the house.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLURE:

My question is this. When will the Minister of Transport be able to give the house a definite decision regarding the type of slip to be constructed and when will construction of it begin?

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Hon. LIONEL CHEVRIER (Minister of Transport):

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I could not hear the hon. member's question. I will read it in Hansard and give him an answer later.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLURE:

I will read my question again. I desire to ask the minister-

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink
LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I suggest to the hon. member that he has asked his question, which will appear in Hansard, and the minister has said he will take note of it and answ'er on a later occasion.

Topic:   EASTER RECESS-MEMBERS TRAVELLING EXPENSES -INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic:   CHARLOTTETOWN HARBOUR
Sub-subtopic:   MARINE SLIP-INQUIRY AS TO LOCATION AND TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Permalink

CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT

PROVISION FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSIONS, MINIMUM PRICE OF WHEAT DELIVERIES, ETC.


The house resumed from Thursday, March 18, consideration of the motion of Mr. Howe for the second reading of Bill No. 135, to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act, 1935.


PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. JOHN BRACKEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, when the house rose at six o'clock yesterday it was not expected that this matter would be further dealt with that day. After we left the chamber-and I wish to compliment the government and the house on the plans that were made-provision was made to permit the hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. Bryce) to make his remarks. I believe the leader of the house at that time is to be commended for making it possible for the hon. member, who could not be here today, to make his speech. I understand further that some provision was made to permit me to continue today the remarks I had commenced before six o'clock yesterday, and I want to thank the hon. members responsible for the provision they then made. I do not expect that my remarks today will take more than fifteen minutes, and as far as I am aware this will be the last contribution from this side of the house at this stage of this measure.

When we rose at six o'clock yesterday I was in the midst of discussing the four main features of this bill: first, the pension plan; second, a further payment to the farmers of their own money; third, the proposed power for the board to handle wheat products as well as wheat; and fourth, the compulsory requirement that farmers must sell their oats and barley to the wheat board and no one else.

I had pointed out that we supported the principle of pensions for the employees, but that we were opposed to making the farmers pay half the cost. I had stated that we favoured the government paying the farmers a large part of the farmers' money, which has been withheld from them. I suggest now that when added to the initial payment of $1.35 the total, if possible, should be equal to the present parity price of wheat, which today is about $1.80. Even though the amount on hand is large there may not be enough to bring the payments up to that amount, but if there is not enough the payment should be as large as possible, approaching as nearly as possible the figure I have mentioned.

Canadian Wheat Board Act

I had indicated that the expansion of the measure to provide that the board shall handle wheat products as well as wheat was not a very great expansion, and that it had some measure of merit but also that there was some opposition. I suggest that when we get into committee the minister elaborate that point further.

I had indicated also that we are opposed to compelling the owners of oats and barley to sell those products only to the wheat board, thus denying them the right to sell anywhere else if they wish to do so.

In expanding upon these points separately I stated with respect to the pensions proposal that we favoured it in principle; that we saw no reason to object to the employees paying half the cost of their pensions, but that as long as the board is being used for the purposes of the government we were opposed to the farmers being forced to pay half the cost of those pensions. I stated that the imposition upon the farmers of the burden of half the cost of this pension scheme raised a basic question, namely whether this was a farmers' board or a government board. If it is a farmers' board the farmers might reasonably be expected' to bear half the cost of the pensions. If on the other hand it is a government board the government itself should bear that expense, and' it should not be a charge upon the farmers.

The important question before us, therefore, is: whose servant is the wheat board? Is it the servant of the farmers who are compelled to use it, or is it the servant of the government which appoints it and on occasion dictates to it? When the original act was passed in 1935 it was very clear that the wheat board was to sell the farmers' wheat to the best advantage to the farmer in the way of the total price received, the stability of the prices paid the farmer, and the orderly marketing of the product. It was then clearly a board not only designed to function but allowed to function primarily in the interests of the farmers; but it is very clear now that under the present policies of this government the wheat board1 is a government board. It was not only appointed by the government; it is dictated to by the government and is being used by the government for its purposes, not primarily in the interests of the farmers but primarily for the purposes of the government. In carrying out these purposes the government has not hesi.tated- to sell the farmers' product on occasion at less than it might have been sold for. As far as oats and barley are concerned, I predict that the board will be selling them at less than they could be sold for if

the board is given a monopoly in the handling of these products. Under these conditions we say the government, not the farmers, should pay that portion of the cost of the pension scheme which is not paid by the employees themselves.

The second feature of this bill gives the board power to pay back to the farmers at least a part of their own money. It carries out in part, after much delay, what we have urged from the beginning in this matter. From the beginning we favoured a larger initial payment than $1.35 per bushel. But that was not done. From the beginning we favoured paying participation certificates at the end of each year. That was not done. We are opposed to the government holding back large sums of the farmers' money. But the government has held them back. The government is now said to have in its possession some S230 million of the farmers' money.

The government, after long delay, now plans to give back part of this money that it is holding back. It does not tell us exactly how much. It says it will be an increase in the initial payment. The name does not matter much; the payment is what counts. We are in agreement with the proposed increased payment, whatever its amount. I suggest that with the proposed international wheat agreement in prospect, the figure commonly reported of twenty cents a bushel is not enough. It is not nearly a parity price. We favour the payment of as large an amount as is possible at this time.

As I said a minute ago, the farmers should have an amount that approximates the present parity of $1.80. I am aware that because of our British contract-because of having sold two-thirds of the crop at low prices, probably there is not enough money there to reach that figure at this time. In those circumstances I suggest that a payment out large enough to reach as nearly as possible that figure should be made.

The third feature of the measure is that which proposes to give the board power to handle wheat products as well as wheat. Since the act as it now stands gives the board complete power over wheat, it is no great departure to give it the same powers over wheat products. However there have been some protests against this feature. We see both advantages and disadvantages in it. The board got along without it up until now. As I said a minute ago, we ask the government when in committee to give us more information to justify its position with respect to this aspect of the bill.

Canadian Wheat Board Act

The fourth feature of the bill-and this is the one which has provided the most contention in the house-is that which would force farmers who grow oats and1 barley for sale to sell their products only to the wheat board, and to accept for it prices fixed by that board on the dictation of the government. We favour the wheat board being given power to handle oats and barley to the extent that farmers wish them to do so. But we are opposed to forcing farmers to sell to what has now become a government monopoly, if the farmers do not wish to sell to that institution.

We are opposed to this section of the bill because it compels farmers to sell to the wheat board, and denies them the right .to sell anywhere else. We are opposed to this feature of the bill because we feel it means lower prices to farmers who produce oats and barley for sale.

As I have said, the purpose of the original act in 1935 was to market the farmers' wheat to the best advantage as regards total price stability of payments and orderly marketing. But the government is now using it as a national agency to serve another purpose. It is using it as a price control mechanism more than as an agricultural marketing board. And for that purpose it has sold in the past, and no doubt will sell in the future farmers' products at less than those farmers could get for their products if sold by themselves.

Instead of a price supporting agency, as it was originally intended to be, the government is using the wheat board as a price depressing agency in its plans to regulate price controls or price levels in this country. This is a complete perversion of the original conception of the wheat board act, and on that ground we are therefore opposed to this feature of the measure.

A second and related objection to this compulsory aspect of marketing oats and barley is that farmers are forced to sell to a government board at government fixed prices; they are forced to sell to a board administered by government appointees for the purposes of the government, a board which may not sell the farmers' products for the best prices obtainable. This means a substitution-and I shall use a word which I do not use in any offensive sense at all-this means a substitution of political prices in the place of market prices. And when I refer to political prices I mean prices fixed by a board appointed by the government.

If that practice is carried to its logical conclusion it means the suppression by the government of the normal economic laws of buying and selling. In my judgment, such a policy if continued long enough can have only one end, namely disaster to the wheat board

and damage to the prestige of the co-operatives of this country. The policy of political prices for oats and barley will be just another nail in the coffin of the wheat board. It is this kind of policy that leads to the beginning of the end of that board as a marketing organization for farmers.

It has been suggested in this house that the government does not intend or expect to place oats and barley under the sole jurisdiction of the wheat board. It has been suggested that this is but a political move to influence the Saskatchewan provincial election, a political lifeline to the hon. member for Rosthern (Mr. Tucker) in his fight against the Premier of Saskatchewan. It has been suggested that this measure is a bit of political strategy brought forward to serve the purposes of a provincial election, rather than to serve the needs of agriculture.

I am not making that charge, Mr. Speaker, but I do wish to say that to the extent that such a suggestion is true this bill is a crude and cruel hoax on an important producing group in this country, those who produce oats and barley for sale. If the government is serious in pressing forward this feature of the bill, then I wish to say that we are against it because we are convinced that it will not serve the best interests of those it affects. If the government is not serious in this matter, then there is all the more reason to vote against it, because farmers should not be deceived by the government's pretending that it may do something, and then not doing it.

To summarize briefly what I have tried to say in these few minutes: We strongly favour the payment out to the farmers of their own money. We see some merit in other features of the bill, but we are opposed to that section of it which forces farmers to sell their oats and barley to a board which may, on the government's dictation, sell their products at less than they can be sold for elsewhere.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSIONS, MINIMUM PRICE OF WHEAT DELIVERIES, ETC.
Permalink
LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

When the minister speaks he will close the debate.

Right- Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Trade and Commerce): Mr. Speaker, this is the first occasion since I entered the House of Commons in 1935 that I have ever spoken on the subject of wheat. Perhaps I should follow the example of the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Smith) and give my credentials for doing so.

It seems to be accepted in the. house that any member representing a seat between Whitemouth, Manitoba, and the Rocky mountains, is automatically an expert on wheat marketing. I come from Port Arthur, so perhaps I have to justify my position.

Canadian Wheat Board Act

May I say that I came to western Canada in 1913 as engineer in charge of construction of terminal elevators for the board of grain commissioners. From 1913 to 1935 I spent my time in the company of wheat men. During the intervening years I discussed very little except the marketing of wheat and grain. I have been retained by every farm organization in western Canada that has an investment in terminal elevators, including the early co-operatives and the western wheat pools. I have been retained by considerably more than fifty p.er cent of the private terminal elevator interests of Canada. I have had clients who traded on every major wheat market in the world. Therefore I suggest that if I am not qualified to speak about wheat, I have been collecting fees from clients for a great many years under false pretenses.

I should like for a moment to touch on the subject of pensions for the employees of the wheat board. I cannot believe that there is serious opposition to this measure, or any substance to the suggestion that the salaries of the employees should be paid by the board, and pensions out of the consolidated funds of Canada. We all know that pensions are equivalent to salaries. The proposed pension plan will be about equivalent to a seven per cent increase in the salaries of the employees of the wheat board. The number of employees to be covered by the pension plan is 457. The total number of employees is 686. but of those 229 cannot be included in the scheme because some are under age, some have been employed for periods of less than one year, and some have reached the retirement age. The cost to the board, based on paying one-half of the 14 per cent required for the plan, will amount to 878.400 per year.

It has been suggested that the farmers of Canada will object to having this money paid from the funds of the wheat board. May I say that every farmers' co-operative has a pension plan and the pensions are paid for, as are the salaries of the employees, from the funds of the farmers who own the co-operatives. Practically every grain firm on the Winnipeg grain exchange has a pension plan for its employees. I presume that the revenue of those firms is derived from the wheat farmers just as the revenues of the wheat board are derived from handling the wheat of the farmers.

It was suggested during the debate that the wheat board is overstaffed and overpaid. I find no evidence of that in examining the position of the wheat board. I believe it is a compact organization with a hard-working staff. I know that the salaries, at least of the senior employees, are less than many of

those employees received from the private firms that employed them previously. I suggest that the viewpoint of the farmer is being misrepresented by statements that he would object to the payment of these pensions. I have found that the farmer is as fair an employer as is any other employer in this country, and I speak with some experience. The farmer expects to pay a fair price for efficient service, and in this case I believe he will be glad to see the employees of the wheat board protected by a pension plan.

Then we come to the matter of the increase in the initial payment. There has been a good deal of criticism about the method of marketing wheat and the price received by the farmer. Various controversial statements about marketing have been made. It seems to me that this criticism overlooks entirely the situation of trading in wheat in the world today. Practically all wheat, in fact I think I can say all wheat, is sold from government to government. In other words, state marketing is practically universal at the present time.

Several speakers have mentioned a world price for wheat. I suggest that there is no such thing. There are no international exchanges doing business today as there were in pre-war days. In pre-war days there was a definite world price for wheat. If one market was out of line, another market would sell wheat into it until prices were equalized. Where are the markets today? The Winnipeg grain exchange, one of the great pre-war markets, is closed to wheat trading. The Bolsa in Buenos Aires is closed to wheat trading. The Baltic in London is closed to wheat trading. The Liverpool corn exchange is closed. The markets of Europe are all closed, as are the markets of Australia. Where in the world can a world price for wheat be found when there is no world trading in wheat?

I was interested in looking up the prices being charged in state marketing on a given date. Argentina was selling wheat to various countries at prices ranging up to $5 per bushel. Australia was selling wheat under a one year contract to the United Kingdom at $2.72 per bushel and to India at $2.98 per bushel. Chicago May futures closed on that date at $2.45|. Canada's class 2 price on that day stood at $2.75. Those prices represent the major world trading today, and where in that collection can you find a world price?

It will be said that the United States markets are still open. They are the only markets in the world that I know of that are trading in wheat today. But I would point

Canadian Wheat Board Act

out that there is a difference between trading in international wheat and trading in domestic wheat. Canadian wheat cannot be shipped into United States markets because present customs tariffs provide for an entry of only 800,000 bushels of wheat per annum from Canada into the United States. Sales abroad are not made from United States markets. The only wheat that the United States is shipping is wheat bought by a government agency and shipped by that government agency. The Chicago price is a domestic price. We all know that speculation on that market grew to such an extent that it became a national scandal. The President of the United States denounced it, and the Secretary of Agriculture denounced it. The names of traders on the exchange were published. They numbered more than 3,000 large and small traders who were buying and selling wheat that they never had owned and never expected to own.

However, the Chicago market price is arrived at freely by buyer and seller and Canada has used it as a guide for its No. 2 wheat price. The No. 2 price is the United States price corrected for the higher protein value of Canadian wheat. The price arrived at in that way can hardly be called a world price, and I hope hon. members will not continue to refer to it as a world price. It is nothing more than the Chicago price corrected for protein content.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSIONS, MINIMUM PRICE OF WHEAT DELIVERIES, ETC.
Permalink
CCF

Thomas John Bentley

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

Mr. BENTLEY:

Those who listen to Major Strange still call it the world price.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSIONS, MINIMUM PRICE OF WHEAT DELIVERIES, ETC.
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Some of your colleagues have done the same thing. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken) used the expression "political prices" in place of market prices, and he also mentioned sales in the interests of the farmer. What are the interests of the farmer? The interests of the farmer are to have a sure market, a stable market and a price that is fair. It is easy to find spot markets that will offer higher prices. Starving people, if they have money at all, are not in position to question the price that may be charged for the food they must have. That is why Argentina is able to sell its wheat up to $5 per bushel.

However, Canada has a special responsibility in a time like this. We are far and away the largest wheat exporting country in the world. We have a particular responsibility to our largest customer, the United Kingdom. Over the years the United Kingdom has been the country upon which Canada has depended to buy a large part of our exportable surplus of wheat. When war broke out Canada assumed the responsibility of seeing that the United Kingdom was supplied with wheat

from this country. For a time it was sent as a gift, and later it was sent as mutual aid. The government felt that it was the continuing responsibility of Canada to see that Britain was supplied with wheat during the reconstruction period and at a price which Britain could consider reasonable. Therefore a four-year contract was made. That contract was submitted to the House of Commons, and I would remind hon. gentlemen that every member of the House of Commons voted in favour of ratifying that contract. It is well to keep that in mind when that contract is being discussed in this house. It is every hon. member's contract as well as the government's contract.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSIONS, MINIMUM PRICE OF WHEAT DELIVERIES, ETC.
Permalink

March 19, 1948