March 28, 1950

QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO FIVE-DAY WEEK


On the orders of the day:


CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

I should like to direct a question to the Prime Minister, or, if it should be referred to some other minister, perhaps he will indicate to whom my question should be addressed. Would it be possible for a statement to be made at an early day as to government policy in the matter of the five-day week for government employees?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO FIVE-DAY WEEK
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I believe the facts will speak for themselves, Mr. Speaker, as to what is government policy. The public know what are the hours now being put in by members of the civil service, and there is not apt to be any change until there has been a decision by the government to authorize a change. As soon as that is done, the hon. member may be sure the change will be quite apparent.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO FIVE-DAY WEEK
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Is the Prime Minister aware that some employees do get the five-day week, while others do not?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO FIVE-DAY WEEK
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

My understanding is that those who are subject to civil service regulations are not on the five-day week.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO FIVE-DAY WEEK
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AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT

PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950


The house resumed from Monday, March 27, consideration of the motion of Mr. Gardiner for the second reading of Bill No. 17, to amend the Agricultural Prices Support Act, 1944, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Argue.


CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. P. E. Wright (Melfort):

Mr. Speaker, when the house rose at eleven o'clock last evening the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) said that if these bills were not passed by Thursday they would automatically expire. It is not the intention of this group to try to hold up this legislation. We simply wanted certain amendments made which in our opinion would make it more effective; but we have no intention of filibustering so far as these bills are concerned.

Before we adjourned last night I had read a statement by the minister which indicated that though the period from 1943 to 1945 was being used by the government as a base period, this did not necessarily mean that floor prices would be based on that period. On further questioning the minister stated

28, 1950 1183

Agricultural Prices Support Act that the best guarantee the farmers in this country had with respect to floor prices was the fact that the Liberal party was in power, and they would look after this matter. In other words we are to have in Canada, if I correctly interpret the minister's statement, political floor prices. In the Annapolis valley, for instance, where we are to have a byelection in a short time, if the farmers want to feel that their crop will be taken care of next year, according to the minister they had better vote Liberal, or else.

As an industry, agriculture wants something better than that. We do not believe floor prices for agricultural products should be at the whim of the government. We think they should at least put in the legislation some assurance as to what those floor prices will be. In our amendment we do not ask that the floor prices be set at the highest point any agricultural product reached during the past number of years. Our amendment seeks to-

-provide that floor prices should be established at such levels as to guarantee to producers a price-cost relationship not less favourable than that prevailing in the period 1944-48.

In other words all we are asking in this amendment is that the relationship of agricultural products to the wages being paid labour and the returns to manufacturing and other industries in this country, which obtained during the period from 1944 to 1948, be continued. We think that is only fair. We believe there was a reasonably fair relationship in our economy during that period. The trouble is that agriculture has not been in a position to maintain its prices. When the farmers put in their crops they have to sow sufficient to meet the needs of the consuming public, not only when we have bumper crops but during periods when our crops may not be so good. The result is that a larger acreage has to be sown if we are to have that margin of safety which I think is desirable in any economy. Having established that margin of safety, I do not believe the farmers should be penalized when we have bumper crops and, as a result, have some surpluses coming on the market. In those periods the speculative interests who handle our agricultural products from the time they leave the farm until they reach the consumer are able, by reason of these small surpluses that may exist, to depress the prices of all agricultural products, and the farmers take the loss. The result will be that sooner or later the farmers will stop producing to the extent necessary to provide this margin of safety for our economy. When that time comes it will mean that if we should become short of any particular crop we shall have to go into the export market and buy to meet

Agricultural Prices Support Act our own needs, and I do not think that is a good policy.

Under this legislation we should be providing a bridge for agriculture to carry it over difficult periods. Instead of that the government is simply providing a life preserver so that if the farmer should get into difficulty and begin to drown he can be thrown the life preserver and pulled out- maybe. Is that not political strategy? You see, a man is much more thankful to the person who throws him a life preserver, pulls him out and saves his life than he would be to the person who built a bridge which would keep him from falling into the water at all. Human nature being what it is, people often forget who built the bridge, but they seldom forget the man who rescues them when they are drowning. Apparently it is the intention of the government under this legislation to provide a life preserver in case the farmer is drowning. Then they will save him, and of course he will be thankful to the government that saved his life.

I do not think that is enough. That is not what the former prime minister indicated when this legislation was introduced. In a radio broadcast in 1943 Mr. Mackenzie King said:

I wish tonight to thank the farmers of Canada for their magnificent contribution to the battle of production. I wish again to appeal to them to continue to help hold the front line against inflation by continuing to support the price ceiling. If, to help win the war, the farmers are asked to accept a ceiling on prices, we believe they are entitled to a floor under prices to ensure them against an agricultural depression after the war. As an essential part of its post-war policy, the government intends to ask parliament at the next session to place a floor under the prices of main farm commodities.

In fulfilment of that promise, the present floor prices legislation was passed in 1944, just prior to the 1945 election. Under this legislation we have spent some $6 million to $8 million in support of agricultural prices. The method that has been used in support of those prices tends to allow the price to drop to such an extent that the farmers producing a particular product become alarmed, hold protest meetings, and, when they finally get the ear of the government, the government places a floor under the price of that product. In our opinion, that is not sufficient. We have, therefore, moved this amendment. We believe that under this amendment, if it were adopted, there would be a fair relationship maintained in Canada between agriculture, industry, labour, and all the producers of goods and services.

I am sure many of the farmers on the government side of the house realize that this amendment is necessary if this act is to be

effective in doing the job it is intended to do. I would urge upon them that they support the amendment, and see that agriculture is not left in such a position that it is dependent upon the whim of any particular political party. This is the parliament of Canada, and we should be prepared to protect our own economy.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

John James Smith

Liberal

Mr. J. J. Smith (Moose Mountain):

Mr. Speaker, there are a few remarks I should like to make on this Agricultural Prices Support Act. Many speeches have been made in this chamber, some of them good, including the one made by the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue), but his was greatly exaggerated. He said that the farmers in western Canada were disappointed with the treatment received from the Department of Agriculture and this government in the matter of floor prices.

At the outset, when we have floor prices under farm commodities, I believe those floor prices must be related to some contract. I do not see how floor prices can be set unless we have some idea of the contract to which those prices are to be related. There was a wheat board, and I believe it did a good job. There are people who will argue, among them possibly some members of this house, against boards, contracts, and that sort of thing. The administration which I support has taken the middle road. There is one party in this house that wants contracts and boards for everything, and another that would prefer not to have any.

Let us look at our wheat board. I believe a consideration of that subject is relevant to this prices support act. Mention has been made of the loss suffered by the western farmers during the war. I am not in a position to speak for the eastern farmer, but I think I can speak for the western farmer. I have been one, and I am still one. Possibly if I tried I could say what a farmer ought to have for his wheat in order to make his farming pay. I farmed throughout the thirties and paid for a farm during the forties.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. Wrighl:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the wheat board does not come under this legislation at all.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

John James Smith

Liberal

Mr. Smith (Moose Mountain):

It does not? Very well, then; I shall discuss that later. I shall deal now with the amendment which is before the house, if that is in order, sir. It calls upon the Department of Agriculture to put floor prices under farm commodities; the amendment requests a floor price which may be considered somewhat high. Why do I say that? I said before that I thought any attempt to set floor prices for farm products should be related to a contract, or to the price that may be obtainable. If that is not done,

the farmer may have to be subsidized by the rest of Canada. I do not think the western farmer wants to be subsidized by anyone. He has always been able to look after himself, and he is going to continue to do so. I do not want anyone from another part of Canada telling me that eastern Canada is carrying the western farmers. I do not want to have to swallow that.

Now, Mr. Speaker, so far as this amendment is concerned, it looks good on the surface. In my opinion, however, an examination of it will indicate that it endangers our contracts and may prevent further contracts. Let us take beef, for the moment. We have no contract for beef, and at the moment our surplus beef is going to the United States. I presume if this amendment carries it will be necessary for the Department of Agriculture to guarantee the farmer a high price for beef. Suppose the United States decided that our beef could no longer enter the United States. We would have to look for a new market for our beef. Suppose the United Kingdom decided she could use some of our beef. At the moment beef is selling for about twenty-two cents a pound live weight. Do I say it is too high? No. But we would have to look for the new market, and I agree with other hon. members in this house that Great Britain is a good market. Suppose the minister of agriculture for Great Britain invited the Minister of Agriculture for Canada to negotiate a price for that beef. The British minister of agriculture may say that twenty-two cents is too high, but he would be willing to take it at sixteen or eighteen cents. Our Minister of Agriculture would have to say that there had been an amendment to the Agricultural Prices Support Act, and he, therefore, could do nothing but ask for the twenty-two cents. That would be a difficult position.

If the C.C.F. party had been elected, and the member for Assiniboia were the minister of agriculture, I do not think he would enjoy being put in that position. If the Conservatives had been elected-I am not sure I could pick the minister of agriculture, but I think the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) would have that portfolio. He would have to say that the parliament of Canada tied him down by setting a high price. Do not let anyone say I said the price was too high. If the Minister of Agriculture were called upon for such a purpose he could possibly take some advisers with him, but he could not take all the members of parliament to relieve him of the restraint this amendment would impose.

I am here because I talk plain English and I am going to continue to do so. I want to say further that I do not think it would be good politics for me to stand up and say-

28, 1950

Agricultural Prices Support Act and I am not saying it-that the prices of agricultural products are too high, because I represent an agricultural constituency. However, the farmers in western Canada-and I speak for the people in the communities of Saskatchewan who have had crops; there may be farmers who have not had crops, and they may not be in a good position-the western farmers are not suffering and are not complaining about prices and markets today; and I say that to hon. members from eastern Canada.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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?

An hon. Member:

Are you with us or against us?

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

John James Smith

Liberal

Mr. Smith (Moose Mountain):

I shall not have to speak too loudly if you fellows will keep quiet. I do not think I shall say how far back we might go, but we in western Canada a good while ago expected a decline in prices; and there is a good deal of credit coming to someone because we have not had a decline in prices. During the Christmas holidays I was speaking to a friend of mine; as a matter of fact he is a good friend, but he is such a socialist that he told me he would like to vote for me but he could not vote Liberal. Still he is my good friend. As I say, I was speaking to that friend, and I have some good friends in Saskatchewan who are C.C.F.'ers. He was talking about markets. He reads Hansard, and from reading Hansard for the last session of this parliament he gathered that we had no markets left and that prices had gone. He asked me about markets. I think he thought that I would give him a truthful answer. I told him that as far as I could see, we had not lost them yet; prices had not fallen too badly. He went on to indicate the figure that he thought the western farmers should have for wheat, and I may say that I agree with him. He said that any time the western farmer could get a dollar for a bushel of wheat at the elevator and get a fair crop, with other things in line with that price, he was not doing too badly.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. Wright:

What about the other things?

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

John James Smith

Liberal

Mr. Smith (Moose Mountain):

I said that they must go with it. I will go into that right now.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

That is what the amendment says.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

John James Smith

Liberal

Mr. Smith (Moose Mountain):

I know what your amendment says.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

Topic:   AGRICULTURAL PRICES SUPPORT ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR CONTINUATION IN FORCE ON AND AFTER MARCH 31, 1950
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March 28, 1950