September 20, 1949

PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Smith (Calgary West):

The minister does not know which one?

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
Permalink
LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

No. As the hon. member knows they give only the one judgment.

This statement of. the legal position has a bearing upon the political position. We who submit this bill to the consideration of parliament can and do justify the passage of clause 3 upon the grounds that no other solution than that of abolishing these appeals is consonant with the status of Canada as a self-governing nation.

The privy council went on to deal with appeals direct from the provincial courts to His Majesty in council. They pointed out that it was in regard to these appeals that the validity of the bill had been most strenuously challenged. That was indeed the case, because when the Supreme Court of Canada found that the bill in its entirety-with two dissenting judgments, one a complete dissent and the other a partial dissent-was within the power of parliament to enact, an appeal was taken from that judgment by the Attorney General of Ontario and three other provincial attorneys general. The respondent in the case was the Attorney General of Canada, joined by the attorneys general of two provinces, one of whom, I am very happy to say, was the Attorney General of my own province of Manitoba. Therefore in the proceedings before the privy council on this appeal, the Attorney General of the United Kingdom having taken no part at all, the real contest was between the dominion and certain of the provinces on the one hand and others of the provinces on the other. And as their lordships point out in their judgment, it was in regard to this question whether the appeals brought from the provincial courts should be abolished that the validity of the act had been most strenuously challenged. Their lordships came to the conclusion that the dominion was competent to exclude appeals not only in criminal cases, not only in civil cases falling within the subject matter of section 91- which is the section of the British North America Act dealing with these matters coming under federal legislative jurisdiction-but also in every other case which can be brought before any provincial court in Canada. Upon this point their comment is as follows:

Supreme Court Act

In coming to this conclusion, their lordships do not think it useful to embark on a nice discrimination between the legislative powers contained in sections 91-

That is the dominion powers.

-and section 92-

That is the provincial powers.

-respectively of the act. Nor, as it appears to them, is it necessary to determine whether the words of head 14 of section 92, "The Administration of Justice in the Province," would, if they were disembarrassed of any context, be apt to embrace legislation in regard to appeals to His Majesty in council. There appear to be cogent reasons for thinking that they would not. But their lordships do not make this the ground of their decision; for it is elsewhere, it is in section 101 of the act that the solution lies.

Then they go on to quote from the language of the former Chief Justice of Canada, Sir Lyman Duff, in his judgment in the very case which was then under consideration by the privy council, and they quote him in these words:

Assuming even that section 92 gives some authority to the legislatures (of the provinces) in respect to appeals to the privy council-

That is to say that if head 14 of section 92, concerning the administration of justice within the provinces, were considered as giving the provinces some authority with respect to appeals to the privy council, nevertheless says Sir Lyman Duff:

-that cannot detract from the power of parliament under section 101. Whatever is granted by the words of the section, read and applied as prima facie intended to endow parliament with power to effect high political objects concerning the self-government of the dominion (section 3 of the B.N.A. Act) in the matter of judicature, is to be held and exercised as a plenary power in that behalf with all ancillary powers necessary to enable parliament to attain its objects fully and completely. So read it imports authority to establish a court having supreme and final appellate jurisdiction in Canada.

That is the end of the quotation of Sir Lyman Duff. Then I go on with the language of the privy council judgment itself, as follows:

The vital words in the passage cited, with which their lordships are in full agreement, are the words in the last line, "and final,". But in the opinion of their lordships the same considerations lead to the conclusion that the court so established must have not only "final" or "ultimate" but also exclusive appellate jurisdiction. They would emphasize that section 101 confers a legislative power upon the dominion parliament which by its terms overrides any power conferred by section 92 upon the provinces or preserved by section 129.

"Notwithstanding anything in this act" are words in section 101 which cannot be ignored. They vest in the dominion a plenary authority to legislate in regard to appellate jurisdiction, which is qualified only by that which lies outside the act, namely, the sovereign power of the imperial parliament... What then is the power of the dominion parliament since the Statute of Westminster has come into operation? ... To their lordships it appears reasonably plain that, since . . . the subject in conflict belongs primarily to the subject matter committed to the dominion parliament, namely the establishment of the court of appeal for Canada, to

that parliament also must belong the power not only to determine in what cases and under what conditions the appellate jurisdiction of that court may be invoked, but also to deny appellate jurisdiction to any other court.

Then notice the next sentence:

The natural attribute of sovereign power was no doubt qualified by an external constitutional limitation, namely, the existence of imperial statutes, but, given the power-

Which is contained in the Statute of Westminster.

-to abrogate such statutes, the authority conferred by section 101 stands unqualified and absolute.

Then their lordships go on to say this, which has a bearing on the political questions with which we are concerned here today:

Giving full weight to the circumstances of the union and to the determination shown by the provinces as late as the imperial conferences, which led to the Statute of Westminster, that their rights should be unimpaired, nevertheless it appears to their lordships that it is not consistent with the political conception which is embodied in the British commonwealth of nations that one member of that commonwealth should be precluded from setting up. if it so desires, a supreme court of appeal having a jurisdiction both ultimate and exclusive of any other member. The regulation of appeal is, to use the words of Lord Sankey in the British Coal Corporation case, a "prime element in Canadian sovereignty," which would be impaired if at the will of its citizens recourse could be had to a tribunal in the constitution of which it had no voice.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that, based upon the language of the judgment, the question before us today is whether we are to use our undoubted legal powers to regulate the appeals from our own courts to our own supreme court of ultimate appeal. Are we to exercise this prime element in our sovereignty by providing our own courts of ultimate appeal? Later in the judgment their lordships say:

It is, in fact, a prime element in the self-government of the dominion that it should be able to secure through its own courts of justice that the law should be one and the same for all its citizens. This result is attainable only if section 101 now authorizes the establishment of a court with final and exclusive appellate jurisdiction.

Again I say that the question we must decide is: Do we wish to provide our citizens with the prime element in self-government of our dominion, that the law should be one and the same for all its citizens? If so, are we prepared to attain this result in the only way possible by authorizing, as we seek to do in the bill now before us, the establishment of a court with final and exclusive appellate jurisdiction?

Well, sir, I submit that there can be only one answer to these questions, and that an affirmative one.

This is the present condition of the law as interpreted by the privy council in the year 1947, and of course applicable today. I have gone into the text of the judgment at some

length in order to show how the Statute of Westminster has established unqualified and absolute rights in this parliament with the natural attributes of the sovereign power of a nation having complete powers of self-government-or, to be precise, having available to it, for the asking, complete powers of selfgovernment.

From now on the only impediment to our governing ourselves fully and completely is our own inability to agree among ourselves, first, whether we should do so, and, if so, how we should do so. That, I suggest, is an intellectual and moral impediment which exists in the minds and character of our public men and citizens. It is not a legal impediment which needs to continue to exist in our constitution.

Having full powers of self-government available to us, we have to decide whether we shall use them completely to govern ourselves, or whether we shall leave important functions of the government of Canada to be discharged by legislative and judicial bodies of the United Kingdom-by the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster, and by the judicial committee of the United Kingdom privy council. And if we come to the point in the interests of complete self-government in Canada where, for example, we no longer ask the United Kingdom parliament to amend our constitution for us, it is certainly not because the United Kingdom parliament-the mother of parliaments, the outstanding sanctuary of political freedom-is not a most excellent legislative body.

If we no longer wish to have the United Kingdom privy council hear the final appeals of our Canadian lawsuits, and to be the ultimate interpreter of the laws which we make in this chamber, it is not because the privy council is not today perhaps the strongest law court in the world. We shall always be grateful for the massive judicial services which the privy council has performed for this country. We shall still remain conscious of its greatness as a court of exclusive ultimate appellate jurisdiction. Indeed, sir, we desire in our supreme court to emulate that greatness as a court of ultimate exclusive appellate jurisdiction; and we think that the best, if not the only way, in which we can begin to do so, is to make our own supreme court also one of exclusive appellate and ultimate jurisdiction, by passing the bill we now have before us. If, as has been urged upon me by persons opposed to this move, our supreme court lacks experience as a court of last resort, it certainly cannot get that experience until it becomes one; and the first step toward its becoming one is the passage of this bill.

Supreme Court Act

In support of the passage of the bill there are also a number of other arguments of a more practical nature, and, I suggest, of no inconsiderable force. It is said, for example, that the extra appeal to the privy council in respect of the ordinary case tried in a province, appealed to the appellate court of that province, from there to the supreme court and finally to the privy council, gives a great advantage to the more wealthy, reckless litigant, who, having lost his case in our supreme court, can, by the threat of further expensive proceedings, force a less wealthy or more prudent respondent to choose between having his judgment discounted into an unfavourable settlement, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, risking the hazards and the expense of another appeal to a court on another continent.

It is argued that privy council appeals tend to make the Supreme Court of Canada merely one of the appellate tribunals through which the Canadian suitor or lawyer must pass before he reaches that court in the United Kingdom which alone is clothed with power to determine, finally, Canadian litigation in general and his lawsuit in particular.

One of the difficulties of this arrangement has been that of counsel advising his clients as to when, and under what circumstances, and in what class of cases, the litigation in which his client is involved is likely to be ended if taken to the Supreme Court of Canada at Ottawa. He is always confronted with the chance that if it be taken to Ottawa it may, in the long run, have to be fought out all over again in London, in which case there is the added cost and delay of the appeal to London and of the application to the privy council for leave to appeal. Perhaps in some instances he is disposed to conclude, therefore, that it would be better to go direct from the provincial court to the privy council. This, in part, explains why, in spite of the fact that the very considerable expense of going to the privy council is greatly in excess of that involved in going to Ottawa, there are a number of cases in which the parties bypass the supreme court altogether and go to the privy council direct. This condition will continue as long as the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada is not final and conclusive. For until it is made final and conclusive, as we propose to do in this bill, there is no sure and certain ultimate destination for the Canadian litigant, short of the privy council, in any of the large class of actions within privy council jurisdiction.

This situation is further aggravated by the fact that this court, to which Canadian lawsuits must go for final determination, is one in the composition of which Canada virtually has no voice, and upon which it has never had adequate representation. Under the

Supreme Court Act

British North America Act we have power in our provincial legislatures and in this parliament to make our own laws, but heretofore we have had no say with regard to the tribunal which is finally to interpret them.

But, sir, these more practical arguments, it seems to me, are by no means the most important by which the abolition of the appeals to the privy council can be supported.

The real issue in this matter, I submit, is whether, having available to us, for the asking, all the constitutional power which we require to take unto ourselves the complete powers of self-government of a sovereign nation, we as members of parliament can rise above lesser loyalties and lesser considerations to think and act as citizens and legislators of a great country. In many other respects our forefathers and we ourselves have done so. The first pioneers of this land, the hardy pioneers of New France, have been described, by one unsympathetic by temperament and religious views to those of whom he wrote, in language the eloquence of which is unsurpassed in our literature.

"The French dominion," wrote Francis Parkman, "is a memory of the past, and when we evoke its departed shades, they rise upon us from their graves in strange romantic guise ... A boundless vision grows upon us: an untamed continent; vast wastes of forest verdure; mountains silent in primeval sleep; river, lake and glimmering pool; wilderness oceans mingling with the sky. Such was the domain which France conquered for civilization. Plumed helmets gleamed in the shade of its forests, priestly vestments in its dens and fastnesses of ancient barbarism. Men steeped in antique learning, pale with the close breath of the cloister, here spent the noon and evening of their lives, ruled savage hordes with a mild, parental sway, and stood serene before the direst shapes of death. Men of courtly nurture, heirs to the polish of a far-reaching ancestry, here, with their dauntless hardihood, put to shame the boldest sons of- toil."

Even our school children know that enterprisers in the fur trade-this is particularly true of my own western part of Canada- ranging over the continent in the competitive search for new trading fields, conducted, almost as a by-product of their business activities, voyages of exploration and discovery which in conception, competence and achievement would have done justice to professional explorers. It is true that in some cases these men were not Canadians by birth, but Canadian was the environment which evoked their genius and made them great.

The United Empire Loyalists, whose adherence to the political principles in which they believed drove them into the virgin forests of the maritime provinces and of Canada, strove and succeeded in laying there some of the most important foundations of our nation. Canadians and new immigrants to Canada, with almost incredible rapidity, transformed

the wilderness of the prairies and the mountains into fruit lands and huge timber, mining and fishing industries and into a granary, not only for Canada but for the world.

Statesmen, businessmen and workmen of the little Canada of some 4J million souls of the 1870's, with a sublime, almost a ridiculous, confidence in the Canadian future, embarked upon the construction of a transcontinental railway, over 3,500 miles long, no less, the western 2,500 miles of which had to traverse the Pre-Cambrian shield and the prairies and three mountain ranges in order to reach the Pacific coast; and in the beginning had to depend upon less than 200,000 men, women and children dispersed throughout this vast area for its operating revenue. Yet their efforts too were crowned with success.

And in the realm of the spirit, this Canadian nation, thanks to the tolerance of her people and to the fairness and wisdom of her statesmen, I am happy to say of all parties, has contained two main races, two great religious groups, and two languages, with less enmity and more unity than any other country in the world in which these conditions obtain, with the possible exception of Switzerland.

All these Canadian men and women thought and felt and acted as the citizens of a great country. So, too, did those who contributed to the war effort of Canada in two world wars, in which in relation to her manpower and resources Canada has made heroic efforts and sacrifices in defence of freedom and peace.

By far the most powerful argument, therefore, for the passing of this bill as a step towards complete self-government is that Canada in almost every other respect-politically, financially, economically; in the realm of foreign affairs; in both her primary and secondary production; in her trade and commerce; in her assistance to less fortunate nations; in her armed support of freedom and peace-has attained a complete and honourable nationhood. The question is whether it is consistent with that nationhood that we should continue an arrangement with regard to the hearing of our law cases which was begun in colonial times and still preserves its colonial characteristics; and whether we should continue this arrangement in the face of the privy council judgment which in the clearest possible terms declares Canada's sovereign right to pass laws to establish her judicial sovereignty.

Surely, Mr. Speaker, we have here a country which from the beginning has had many qualities of greatness, which is more united, magnanimous and powerful today than it has ever been, and whose resources and possi-

bilities seem to require only that we should ourselves act as the citizens of a great country to make our Canada achieve the destiny of which she is capable.

We, the citizens of such a country, should not ask those of another, even though they be of our own blood, to decide our lawsuits for us, interpret for us the laws which we pass here, and provide amendments for our constitution at our request when we need them. If in smallness of mind and meanness of spirit we needlessly perpetuate such a situation, we are unworthy of the efforts and sacrifices of our fellow-Canadians, and undeserving of the bounty which Providence has bestowed upon our country.

I submit that the passage of this bill will be an historic occasion. It could well have taken place before now. It should not be postponed for an instant longer, and it should be followed by the last essential of our complete autonomy, namely, the taking unto ourselves of the right to amend our own constitution.

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
Permalink
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the printed bill in English was not available until late this morning, and I understand the bill in French has not yet been delivered, I believe the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) is agreeable to the adjournment of the debate, and I so move.

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
Permalink
PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Church:

It is a most unusual proceeding.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

The house in committee of supply, Mr. Dion in the chair.

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
Permalink

DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR


142. Departmental administration, $735,337. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE


121. Departmental administration, $256,281. Item stands. DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE General services- 239. Grants to military associations, institutes and others, as detailed in the estimates, $227,150. Item stands.


DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT


453. Departmental administration, $836,737. Item stands. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Administration service- 1. Departmental administration, $282,160. 45781-6i Sup p ly-A gricu Iture


PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ross (Souris):

Supply-Agriculture

I am sure that is a most interesting contrast between what the agricultural producer in Canada receives for his products and what is received by the agricultural producer in the United States, and, on the other hand, what the farmer's wife and every housewife in Canada has to pay for the articles that I have mentioned. That was the situation on the day that parliament opened.

A recent survey by the Sanford Evans bureau in Winnipeg points out, with respect to wheat, that in the period from 1945 to 1949 the Anglo-Canadian wheat agreement cost Canadian farmers $536,229,978. That is the loss-the difference between what the farmers in the United States received for their product compared with the amount received by our agriculturists. According to this bureau, the average half section in western Canada, had a loss each year of $1,064, or, on a bushel basis, the United States farmer received approximately 50 cents more per bushel for his wheat than his Canadian neighbour did during those four years.

At a given point, North Portal, where the main street divides the village, and the United States farmer delivers his grain to the elevator on one side of the street and the Canadian farmer delivers his grain on the opposite side of the street, there is a very great difference today. The United States farmer is receiving considerably more per bushel for his wheat than the Canadian farmer, for the same grade, just across the street in the same village.

I pointed out in the last session of parliament that since 1942 the policies of the government have cost our agricultural producers over $2,000 million that they might have had if they had been able to market their product on the same basis as the farmers of the United States. I point that out because today we are facing falling markets for our agricultural products. We were assured in this house by the then Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture that such a condition would have to be taken into account in a period of falling prices. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will give us a lead with respect to those statements which he and the former Prime Minister made so often in this house.

I referred to the cost of living. According to the Bank of Canada report for August, the cost of living now stands at 162 -8, an all-time high in the history of this nation. It has risen consistently month by month for some time, and anyone can see that if he refers to the figures. As I stated, while that cost of living has been rising month by month, the prices received by our agricultural producers have been falling month by month.

IMr. Ross (Souris).]

I have here the most recent copy of the Rural Co-operator, an Ontario paper, pointing out that farm produce prices have dropped during the past year. It names many of the articles we do not produce in the prairie provinces, so it is quite apparent that this situation extends from coast to coast. There is mention of a severe drop of 54 per cent for pears and other fruits. There was a drop in potato prices as well as in the prices for Ontario wheat, which is not handled by the Canadian wheat board. The figures for the drop in the prices of oats and barley are given. It is an interesting article published by a farm organization in the province of Ontario.

Last night the Minister of Finance announced a ten per cent devaluation in the Canadian dollar. I do not think there is any doubt that this will again proportionately increase the cost of living to every householder in Canada. I know personally that it will increase the cost of production on every farm in Canada. The cost of new machinery as well as the general cost of production will be increased as a result of that measure.

So much for that point, Mr. Chairman, and the many false accusations that have been made in various parts of this country, blaming the farmer for the increased cost of living. The blame lies somewhere else. A year ago we had a costly and futile investigation into the cost of living. It proved little or nothing and prices continue to increase.

I should like to mention a matter which particularly affects the three prairie provinces. It has to do with the Prairie Farm Assistance Act. This act is supposed to cover the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Every grain farmer who sells a bit of grain has to make a contribution of one per cent to the fund provided for by the act, although this does not take care of the entire insurance scheme.

I have here the last Searle Grain Company report, which says that 70,000 farmers will draw assistance payments under the act. Thirteen million dollars will be paid to 50,000 farmers in 1,700 townships in Saskatchewan. Twenty thousand farmers in Alberta in a thousand townships out of a total of 100,000 Alberta farmers, will receive approximately $4 million. These payments will be made to farmers whose fields yielded eight bushels or less per acre. It will be remembered that all farmers contribute to this limited form of cash insurance by paying each year one per cent of the value of the grain they deliver to country elevators. It will be seen, therefore, that thirty-six per cent of all Saskatchewan

and twenty per cent of all Alberta farmers will be receiving Prairie Farm Assistance Act payments.

No mention has been made of Manitoba. I am not sure whether any township in that province will come under the act this year.

I believe surveys are being made now to determine that. Some mention is made in the speech from the throne of amendments to this act. I want to point out that it has proven very unsatisfactory, because it is applied on a township basis, even though each grain farmer makes his contribution. During this past growing season, in most parts of Manitoba there was a most promising crop. I have never seen a heavier stand in my life. In the midst of that growing season part of Manitoba suffered a severe infestation of aphids. The aphid is a bug which is so small that it is difficult to see.

Here and there throughout southwestern Manitoba there were farmers who did not harvest any cereal crop. The township average, however, might still be high. This infestation was most peculiar. There would be a group of farmers with a splendid crop, and next to them there would be a farmer who had no cereal crop. As I say, the township average would be well over the eight or twelve bushels per acre. Many farmers

I am sorry to say that a large number of them are veterans operating under the Veterans Land Act-have come to me and said that they cannot properly sustain their families for the next twelve months and have seed for next year's operations. I am pointing this out to the minister now because it is possible we might be dealing with the amendments to this act before we come to the proper item in his estimates. I hope his officials will give consideration to this situation, and that amendments will be brought forward whereby the payments will be made on an individual basis. With the payments on a township basis, as they are under the present act, payments cannot be made for individual crop failures.

We in Canada, as has often been said, have a potentially large agricultural production. At times, however, our export problem becomes great. True enough, it is an international problem now. A large percentage of all our agricultural production must be exported if we are to have prosperity in this country. In recent years we have been extremely fortunate because Britain, one of our very best customers, has been able to use ECA funds from the United States for the purchase of our agricultural products. I am sure we were all pleased that our governmental officials were able to succeed at Washington in having United States funds provided to complete the fourth year of contract under the Anglo-Cana-

Supply-Agriculture

dian wheat agreement. I do not believe Britain would have found it possible to complete the fourth year of contract had this fund not been provided.

I believe we all realize, however, that this is a rather temporary state of affairs. We are greatly concerned about future markets. We realize there must be a considerable amount of advance planning for agricultural production in this country, whether it be graingrowing, livestock or dairy production. I know that many people in my neighbourhood have not finished this year's harvesting, but they are keenly concerned about what they should be doing with regard to production in 1950.

It may be that the next session of parliament will not be convened early enough for the people to be told what they should produce. It is not only the people who produce the materials who are interested in that, but those who sell it, those engaged in transport, bankers, and a host of people in all parts of the country. It is a matter of importance to the other branches of agriculture in the various parts of Canada, to the British Columbia fruit producer and the dairy producer in the east. It is important to the potato grower, concerning whom a question was asked today at the opening of the sitting.

I know that as a matter of administration there is a technical division between our agricultural production and our markets. The Department of Agriculture is solely responsible for guidance as to production, while the Department of Trade and Commerce is responsible for markets. I am sure that at this point no one is going to be concerned over the technicalities as between these two departments. But before we pass this item I hope that the minister, for the benefit of Canadian producers, will indicate what he expects in the coming year in the way of markets for many of these agricultural items. You cannot expect people to produce beyond their own requirements if there is no satisfactory market in sight in some of these other countries. I trust the minister will take the first opportunity of making a statement in this regard.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture):

I had intended to make-a short statement but I am pleased that the hon. member for Souris took the opportunity of expressing his point of view before I had the opportunity to do so. I wish to join with him in expressing my own appreciation of the fact that you, Mr. Chairman, have been appointed to the position you now occupy, and I am quite sure that we shall carry on in this committee under your chairmanship much in the traditional manner.

Supply-A griculture

The house itself is composed of members selected from all parts of Canada; and as a sort of mild reply to some of the suggestions which have been made by the hon. member for Souris I should like to point out that by far the greater part of the agricultural sections of this country is now represented in this house by members from rural areas who support the government in such great numbers that many of them are obliged to find seats to the left of Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
PC
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

That fact in itself should be a fair indication that at least the farming population of Canada has been fairly well satisfied with the agricultural policy of the government.

The suggestion which was made a few moments ago to the effect that I should be prepared to give to the committee, at this stage, figures with regard to production, marketing and all that kind of thing, leads me to make some suggestions which probably are not as familiar to those new members who have been elected to the house as they will be to those of us who have been discussing these estimates over a considerable period of time.

This item before us is the item of administration; and in this committee since I have been here, that is, for the last fifteen sessions, and I think for a long time before that, on this item hon. members have been encouraged to discuss agricultural questions in a general way, basing their right to do so on this item on the fact that administration covers all parts of the Department of Agriculture and therefore that on this item a general discussion can take place on almost anything having to do with agriculture. But I can assure you that it never has been the custom to expect the minister on this item to give detailed information with regard to quantity or anything else having to do with the particular items which will be discussed individually as we move along from one item to another. When we are on the item which has to do with production I shall be prepared to give all of the information which is available with regard to the production of agricultural products and the relationship of their consumption in Canada to the necessity of marketing them outside Canada. Hon. members need only look at the estimates in order to find where that item is.

The Department of Agriculture is divided into five divisions: administration service, science service, experimental farms service, production service, marketing service and special. What I am pointing out is that when

we come down to the item which is production service, either I shall have all the information here at my own fingertips or the two gentlemen in front of me will have it at theirs to answer any question that anyone desires to ask or to give the kind of information which the hon. member for Souris has just said that this committee will expect at some stage. He suggested that the committee might expect it at this stage under "administration". I would suggest to hon. members that if we are to proceed on that basis there would be no necessity at all for our considering the other items. We would be considering them all on this item. Therefore I am hoping that the chairman will keep us in order and permit a sort of general discussion on this particular item which will permit of members expressing opinions with regard to certain matters having to do with agriculture, but that we shall all content ourselves until we get down to the individual item about which we are concerned, and not ask for detailed information based upon statistics.

Having said that, I just want to point out that on page 2 of the estimates there is a table which gives a summary of the expenditures for the last year and the proposed expenditures for this year. Agriculture, because of the fact that it begins with the letter "A", is the first department in that summary. At the top of that summary hon. members will find that the amount to be voted for this year-that is for 1949-50, the year we are now in-is $49,396,253 and the amount authorized by statute is $12,000. Therefore the total is $49,408,253. The total for the year previous was $60,044,038. In other words, there is a decrease of $10,635,785. It may be thought by some that that is a decrease in the payment for what is generally known as agricultural services in Canada, but that is not exactly correct.

Just for a moment or two I should like to give a few figures with regard to past expenditures on agriculture, expenditures during the peak years of wartime and the expenditures we are making now, in order to illustrate the reason why the proposed expenditures are lower for the year we are now in than the actual expenditures for the year preceding. In the early 1930's-that is, prior to the war- the expenditure of the Department of Agriculture for all purposes ranged from around $7 million to $8 million a year. By 1938-39 total expenditures had risen to approximately $22 million a year and they remained at that figure until 1940-41 when they were still around $22 million. In other words, there had been a considerable increase in expenditures for general activities in relation to agriculture in the years immediately preceding the war. Then in the following year,

1941-42, expenditures under this department jumped to $83 million. There was no important change in the regular departmental expenditures nor in the general administration costs. The increase was largely accounted for by payments under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act, which was a new act, the wheat acreage reduction plan and the introduction of food production subsidies, in order to encourage the provision of those large supplies of food which were required to supply the British demand in the early years of the war. The peak year of expenditures was 1943-44, when through this department we spent $110 million. In fact, the expenditures of the department during most of the war years ranged from $95 million to $110 million annually. Food production subsidies and freight assistance were major items during those years. Costs of administration moved up moderately owing to increased salaries and rising cost of supplies, but there was no great increase in costs of administration, the item we are now dealing with. During the years when there were these considerable rises and falls in the expenditure of this department the regular departmental services declined in cost from $10 million in 1938-39 to $8,800,000 in 1943-44. That is, from one of the years just prior to the war down to the peak year of the war there had been a decline in expenditures for ordinary activities in the department. The great increases had to do with matters that pertained largely to the prosecution of the war, and the necessity of supplying food in connection with that prosecution.

Coming to the point that I wish to make, following the cessation of hostilities food production subsidies declined in amount and were eliminated one by one, until at the present time the only important remaining items in this category are freight assistance on feed grain moving from the prairies to British Columbia, and from Fort William eastward, and quality premiums on hogs. These two items still remain. I might say that the quality premiums on hogs were in existence back, I think, as early as 1922 and continuously from then on to the present. The only difference in the premiums now, as compared with the period prior to the war, is that they were paid out of the sale price of the hogs in the years preceding the war through an arrangement entered into with the packing houses. Now they are paid out of the treasury of Canada, and have been since early in the war period. Therefore that item appears in our estimates; whereas it did not appear there before.

These items now account for expenditures in the neighbourhood of $20 million annually, depending somewhat on the volume of pro-

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duction in different regions, that is, the volume of production of feed grains in different regions. If the production is low in the east and high in the west, then of course there is much more feed-I speak now of the west as the central prairies, and I include British Columbia along with the east. If the supplies are high in the one area and low in the other, then it affects the amount of grain which has to be moved back and forth in Canada, and affects the amount of assistance which is given on the payment of freight for that movement.

In the main estimates now being considered by the house, provision is made for about $20 million for these purposes. But I call attention again to the fact that that is in comparison with the $22 million which we were expending just prior to the war. The great rise in expenditure from $22 million to $110 million was largely due to very special conditions existing during the war which required large expenditures of money in order to persuade farmers to change from one activity to another and in order to obtain exactly what we required during the war period. As an illustration, in one period we required cereals, and we switched later from cereals to a supply of livestock products. Then we switched back from livestock products to a supply of cereals again, and in the process certain subsidies were paid, or certain encouragements were given to farmers to go from one line of production to another. We are not following that line of policy at the present time, and therefore these expenditures are not made. But we are continuing the very heavy expenditures which have to do with the payment of freight on feed grain from one part of Canada to another, which has something to do with the increase from $22 million up to $50 million. We are also now paying out of the treasury these considerable amounts that constitute the premiums on high-grade hogs which were previously paid in another way. They are being paid perhaps to a little greater amount at the present time than they were before. That makes up largely the new expenditures; but as we go along in dealing with these estimates it will be found that there have been considerable increases in connection with the general expenditures having to do with agriculture.

The other items which are almost entirely new since four or five years before the war are what we call the specials, which are at the end of the table. These specials have to do largely with the work which is being done in different parts of Canada in order to bring about the developments which we think are worth-while in agriculture. In British Columbia we are spending some money to assist in the bringing about of irrigation in some of

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the valleys where it is urgently required. We are doing something to bring about proper drainage in some other valleys, particularly where returned men of one or other of the two wars, or both, have been settled in that province. These expenditures are comparatively new. They started just before the war, were continued during the war, and are still going on. Then on the prairies we have expenditures having to do with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. That is the rehabilitation of an area which most of us, I think, are agreed now had not been properly settled in the years when it was being settled under the administration of policies which originated in Ottawa.

Therefore some years ago the parties generally in this house agreed that some money should be spent in order to rehabilitate those areas. I think a better word to use in connection with it is to resettle some of these areas and get people off submarginal lands in so far as it is possible to do so and to improve the land on which they are going to settle and where others have already settled, under conditions where it will not be necessary, even in the most difficult drought years, to move, provided better use can be made of the water available. Therefore there is an expenditure there which is new in the years beginning in 1935 and extending down to the present, which we did not have before. In addition to that, there is an expenditure upon an item which was mentioned by the hon. member for Souris, namely, prairie farm assistance.

What I should like to emphasize at this time is the fact that prairie farm assistance is an item which was placed in our estimates first in 1939 because of legislation which we placed on the statute books in that year. It is not generally understood that the Prairie Farm Assistance Act is closely associated with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. Under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act it was planned that over some twenty or twenty-five years we might make a very great contribution toward the resettlement of those areas where it had been proven that drought is so persistent that people cannot make a comfortable living on submarginal land, and that these people ought to be removed from these lands as soon as possible, or conditions should be created, through the expenditure of money upon irrigation, which would make it possible for them to live on some of them, which are only submarginal because of low rain fall. Therefore, while we are going on with the development of the plan, it was felt wise to make some provision to enable people to live where they are until such time as we can

either bring about better conditions where they are or make it possible for them to move elsewhere.

So we undertook prairie farm assistance. I am afraid many people still have the idea that that is a form of individual insurance. If it had been, we could never have put it into effect here. That has been tested out on other occasions. It was suggested at one time that we should have hail insurance brought into effect by the federal government. However, it was investigated at that time and the declaration was made that insurance is a matter which falls within the control and responsibility of the provinces. If we began to levy premiums in the manner in which premiums are levied in connection with insurance, we would be running into difficulties both constitutionally and financially.

Other forms of dealing with the situation were considered. In respect of hail, the insurance was brought into being in each of the three western provinces. It has been administered with more or less success in each of those three provinces, although it has been changed from time to time. However, it has always been done by the provincial governments and authorities. There has been no suggestion that we should carry it on from Ottawa.

When we brought down the Prairie Farm Assistance Act we acknowledged that. We said that it was not possible for us to bring it down in the form of insurance legislation. We could not put it on the basis of individual premiums paid by individuals. We recognized also the fact that even if we desired to do so, and had the authority, it could not be made effective for the particular job which had to be done. That job was to make it possible for some people to live where they had been put, or where they had been encouraged to go-and where they never should have been encouraged to go-until such time as we can prepare conditions under which they can live to advantage in those areas, or provide some place to which they can be moved and where they would be better off than they are now.

Therefore we have said we must provide some fund from which payment can be made on a basis which would make it possible for them to continue. But this was not on the basis of an insurance from which they would draw a certain percentage of the value of the crop which in good areas it would be possible for them to grow. That plan could never be financed in Saskatchewan. However, it has been shown, as the hon. member for Souris has said, that it could be financed in Manitoba. It has been just as effectively proven, however, that it could not be financed

in Saskatchewan. The amount of money which would be necessary in any one of the bad-crop years to insure crops in Saskatchewan would be more than could be raised by any system of raising revenues which one might wish to follow in that province. Any fund created for the purpose would disappear in such a short space of time, on occasions, that no one would undertake to build it up again.

We said therefore that, in order to make this effective, about all we could guarantee to the people living there would be that their store bills would be paid. We said that the store bill a farmer might run up during a summer season might run from $150 or $200 up to $400 or $500. We said that it was impossible for a merchant in the village or town to carry farmers through a season, with accounts of that size, knowing that there was a possibility of a complete crop failure at the end of the year, in which event no payment could be made by those people. Not only would the farmers be in difficulty, but every businessman in the community and every wholesaler and manufacturer in eastern Canada who supplies retailers in western Canada would be in a difficult financial position.

We said therefore that what ought to be done would be to tax all the people of Canada for a time, because a government representing all Canada possibly had made some mistakes in the beginning in connection with the settlement of these people, and that therefore we should take over that obligation for a time in order to make it possible to pay the store bills. Therefore we set up what is known as prairie farm assistance.

It was our intention in the beginning to take all the money for this whole program out of the treasury of Canada. Suggestions were made to us, however, by those representing farm organizations and farm groups, that the farmers themselves in different parts of western Canada would be quite willing- indeed they would prefer-to subscribe something toward the fund to be set up. We said therefore that in order to collect something from most of the farmers of western Canada we would collect at the elevators one per cent of the value of all the grain delivered in any particular year, and would put it into this fund. This means there are people living in areas who never expect to collect. I have in mind the greater part of Manitoba. The people living in the area in which I live have never collected, and perhaps never will. That is true of a large part of the northeastern section of Saskatchewan. This year, for instance, the crops are just as good there as those in Manitoba described by the hon.

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member for Souris. But in the southwestern part of Saskatchewan for three years the crops have been just as poor as they were at any time during the worst years of the thirties.

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Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

Has the minister's policy succeeded in moving the people out of that section of Canada for which all the rest of Canada has been paying?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I shall come to that in detail when the item is reached, but I shall answer it briefly in a moment. However, those are the matters with which we dealt, so far as the western provinces are concerned.

My hon. friend from New Brunswick has asked whether these people had been moved. Let me say that before the war began we had taken out of cultivation or possible cultivation 1,500,000 acres of land, and fenced it in for community pastures. We regrassed land which had been broken up and cropped, and which was considered to be submarginal. We had moved 1,400 families off those lands onto other lands. Some of those lands were in Alberta and some in Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan there were 1,300,000 acres in the pasture category. The gfeater part of the remainder was in Manitoba. The only reason we did not convert a very considerable part in Alberta into community pastures was that the government of that province preferred to carry on its own program in that connection, and did not wish that we should carry it on in the same manner we had in Saskatchewan or in Manitoba. At the present moment, in a limited way, we are getting into Alberta with that policy, and we are proposing to proceed with it.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

Partly there, and up along the east side. The hon. member from New Brunswick has asked how much we have done. I am prepared to admit that 1,400 families are not very many; but I remind the hon. member that this was all done before the beginning of the war. When the war began there were many reasons into which I shall not now go, but which the hon. member will understand, why it was neither necessary nor possible to carry the policy further at that time.

However we are now back at it again, and the items in these estimates under the heading of specials will afford an opportunity to discuss all the questions with which we are now confronted in putting in larger irrigation projects to take care of people who are living on lands which are very good and which are submarginal only because of the weather.

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Several projects have been carried on for the purpose of creating more areas to which people can be moved from some of these submarginal lands.

We expect and hope that in the years that are just ahead these people may be moved in thousands whereas they were moved in hundreds before.

That in general is what we have been dealing with in the western part of Canada. In connection with the eastern part of Canada we have had a long standing battle in this house, which hon. members know about and no one better than the hon. member for Cumberland (Mr. Black), to try to have something similar done in connection with the marshlands in the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and in a more limited way in Prince Edward Island. I am not yet familiar enough with Newfoundland, although I hope to go down there and become better acquainted with that province, to know whether the same thing should be done there as is being done in the other maritime provinces.

The fact is that there are lands there which were some of the most productive and most helpful in maintaining farm population. These had been operated for one hundred and fifty years or more as lands protected from the sea by dikes that had been built around areas that were flooded when the tide was high but were not flooded when the tide was low. Because of certain conditions, which I will not refer to now, having to do with the tariff levied against us from time to time by the country to the south, the state of agriculture in that part of the country was somewhat changed. The production of livestock was not considered as important as it had been at one time and some of this area was allowed to go back. The dikes were washed out, the sea came in, and the land was no longer productive.

We have carried on experiments on a piece of that land in association with the experimental farm near Amherst. These have proved to us that three times as much hay can be grown on that land, if it is properly protected and properly taken care of, as can be grown upon it if it is not so treated. The first effort toward that experiment was carried out by my predecessor, who purchased the land. Just about the time he purchased the land there was a change in government.

I went down and looked at it some fourteen years ago and came to the conclusion that he had previously come to, that it was something worth doing. As I say, we have had a long battle, or perhaps "long discussion" would be the better term to use, from that time down to this in an effort to convince members on all sides of the house who have any influence

upon the administration, either provincially or federally, that a problem such as that is somewhat akin to the irrigation problems in the west.

No group of farmers can pay all the capital cost. They did not in the first instance. I understand that France had something to do with some of the first works that were erected during the period that she was operating on this continent. Great Britain had something to do with some of the others. Usually these works were carried out following a war, when there were troops available. The method used was similar to that followed in the construction of other great works such as some of the canals that we have in the central part of Canada. That kind of thing never can be done and charged up against the land that is going to benefit any more successfully than you can charge $50 per acre as an irrigation cost against land in western Canada.

Finally we prevailed upon this house and the government of Canada to permit the spending of money down there for that purpose. Of course, expenditures will go on in other provinces in eastern Canada for similar purposes, but they must be similar before we can justify them on the same basis. These expenditures will go on from time to time in order to make land productive and capable of producing greater quantities of food, not only for the people in this country but for people elsewhere.

In general those are the activities that will be carried on under the last item. This last item, together with the two items I referred to a moment ago, namely, the payment of freight on grain from the prairie provinces to British Columbia and to eastern Canada and the payment of a premium upon hogs, are responsible for the greater part of the increase from $22 million to close to $50 million which is now being expended on matters having to do with agriculture.

That is all I wish to say at the moment. As all hon. members know, this is a time when they are free to get up as often as they please to ask questions, and when I am free to speak as often as I like. I am supposed to be able to answer the questions asked by members but I say to hon. members that if they will wait until the proper time to ask their questions I will guarantee to answer them. If they insist on asking all the questions in the next two or three days, when we are dealing with the general item, I am afraid I shall have to sit here and listen to those questions and try to remember them, and then have them repeated when we get down to the particular item. I hope it will not be necessary for us to do that and that hon. members will not make it necessary for me to tax my memory to that extent.

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Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. Wright:

Mr. Chairman, on this my first opportunity to speak I should like to compliment you upon your new appointment as chairman of the committees of this house. As we have known you during past sessions we are sure you will fill this position with justice and honour.

I should like to say, both personally and on behalf of our group, that we are glad to see the Minister of Agriculture dealing with his estimates with his usual vigour. We understood that his health was poor, but we are glad to see that he has taken over the handling of his estimates in his usual capable manner.

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September 20, 1949