I will give the minister an example pretty soon. What we were advocating was that Canada should do it. We were not suggesting that the United States should do it. They are already doing it to a certain extent, but maybe in a slightly different way from the way we are advocating. We advocate that Canada should be willing to take sterling. The minister suggested some time ago that Britain might be hesitant to pay us sterling for our produce and keep that as blocked sterling. The only reason Britain might hesitate would be if we were to insist that that sterling be made convertible. Of course if you are going to advocate a policy whereby you accept the foreign currency of another nation you certainly would not advocate convertibility of currency because you
cannot have convertibility of currency until such time as you introduce a policy under which trade can be balanced. Until such time as we have a policy under which trade between the sterling area and the dollar area can reach a fairly high degree of balance, it is just useless to talk about convertibility of currency. It would break down just as it did in 1947.
We have heard a lot of talk about convertibility being just around the corner, but we are always finding there is another corner when we get to that corner, and I think we will continue to find there are more and more corners until such time as the creditor nations are willing to accept goods in return by way of payment. Just as long as a nation like the United States insists upon maintaining a heavy favourable balance of trade they make it impossible for other nations to make their currency convertible into American dollars because the only way those nations can get American dollars is by selling goods, and just as long as the United States makes it impossible for them to sell their goods or services to America, just so long does the United States make it impossible for there to be convertibility of currency.
As I say, the minister seemed to belittle the effect that acceptance of foreign currency would have upon the Canadian economy, and yet I noticed that in his speech yesterday he blamed the United States policy of trading their goods for foreign currency' or giving their goods away as being the reason why our sales are down. He will not admit it had any effect upon price but he admitted it had had some effect upon our sales. He mentioned that the United States had sold somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200 million of wheat. Of course there were many other commodities they sold as well.
Perhaps I should give a few examples of deals the United States has made, and I just pick these at random. In the most recent issue of Foreign Trade there is a very interesting article, which I shall be using on another occasion, dealing with United States policy. I think it would be better to deal with that question when we are on the estimates of the minister. But I will take the Wall Street Journal of April 21, 1954, which contains an article dealing with certain operations under the mutual security act. It reads:
The foreign operations administration allotted $10 million to Yugoslavia and $235,000 to Norway to buy surplus United States agricultural products under section 550 of the mutual security act. The countries will pay in their own currency, which the United States will use for foreign aid purposes. The United States in turn will supply dollars to exporters.
Then in the Montreal Gazette of May 11, 1955, I find the following in an editorial:
On May 5 an announcement was made in Washington of a "package agreement". Under this agreement $73-9 million worth of United States surplus agricultural commodities will be sold to the United Kingdom, with payment in sterling being accepted by the United States government agency, the foreign operations administration.
They are accepting that sterling and with the sterling they will probably be able to buy goods in other countries. The minister shakes his head, but even so there is a very large variety of goods we could buy from Britain which we are at the present time buying from the United States. We could just as well buy them from Britain. I agree with the minister that there may be some difficulty in educating the Canadian people with respect to the desirability of buying less from the United States and more from Britain, but I believe that with an educational campaign that could be taken care of if the people realized the effect upon the Canadian economy when we have an unfavourable balance of trade with the United States and a favourable balance of trade with Great Britain.
As I say, last year the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) brushed aside the importance of the acceptance of foreign currency, and I was somewhat surprised that the minister of finance also brushed it aside. I quoted to him from the U.S. News and World Report the forecast of the legislation the United States was going to introduce and the minister of finance said that they were wrong, that the United States was not going to do that. But they have done it. It is being done now, and we are faced with a situation which the Minister of Trade and Commerce himself admits is affecting our sales of wheat.
It seems to me that the great problem we face today is that of getting surpluses to the people who need them. I think the United States has given a great deal of leadership on that question. First of all, they gave it under the Marshall plan. We did not criticize the United States when they brought down the Marshall plan. Why did we not criticize them then? Because at that time the United States was making dollars available and Canada was getting some of those dollars. But today the United States is not making dollars available but goods. In other words, the United States is going to make sure that the program they now have to dispose of surpluses does not enable Canada to make use of it to dispose of its surpluses as the Marshall plan did. The United States has now instituted a plan making it possible for that country to dispose of its surpluses, and
the United States is saying to Canada: You look after your own job; we are not going to do it for you this time.
It is about time we woke up to that fact. If the United States can do it there is absolutely no reason why Canada could not also dispose of a large percentage of her surplus agricultural products in return for sterling. It is time for the government to quit sitting on the surpluses waiting for a policy to hatch. It is interesting to remember that when we were discussing the international commodity clearing house, a subject in which the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) is much interested, a subject in which the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the international federation of agricultural producers are very much interested, it was turned down. I am going to be very careful in what I say this time. I am not going to blame anybody. In any event, it was turned down.
But the policy of Canada then was that Canada would look after her own surpluses, that we could create a reserve of certain foods which would take care of crop failures. If it is the policy to maintain a reserve of agricultural produce in order to take care of a short crop year and in order that we may play our part in helping to feed the hungry people of the world, undoubtedly that policy is in the interests not only of the people of Canada but also of the people of the world. If that program is being maintained in the interests of the Canadian people and in the interests of the people of the world why should the farmers be the ones to have to pay all the storage charges? Surely the cost of storing these reserves should be borne by the people of Canada as a whole and not by the farmers alone.
The minister pointed out that we had excess storage charges over 1952-53 of 8i cents per bushel of wheat. I say that 8J cents should be paid by the government. If that amount were added to the $1.56 it would mean that the farmers would at least be receiving $1,641 which, while not good, is certainly better than $1.56. I think there is every justification for insisting that the 8i cents for storage charges should be paid from the federal treasury instead of by the farmers.
Last year we moved a motion urging advances against grain on the farms. I realize fully there are certain difficulties involved in that .proposal, but on the other hand it would have been a tremendous blessing to the farmers last fall if they had been able to get advances against grain in the bin in exactly the same way as is done in the United States. Again I say if the United States can do it there is no reason why we cannot do it. Certainly there is a problem
and it is not an easy problem, but surely we are not always going to pick the easy thing to do. Is it not time, in order to solve some of these problems, that we do it even if it has to be done the hard way? We are not trying to solve them in Canada today.
Last week I spoke on support prices. I pointed out that the farmers had paid for every bit of support they are getting today. They paid for it during the latter part of the war when they accepted a ceiling on the prices of their farm products, and when they accepted less than the world market price for wheat at that time. You might say they paid a premium on the insurance that they hoped to get in the future.
Now, it is true that grains are not under the Agricultural Prices Support Act. If grains were included under the Agricultural Prices Support Act, the support price would be in the neighbourhood of $2.27 per bushel if the base year 1943-45 were used. The interprovincial farm union asked that grain be placed under the Agricultural Prices Support Act. The interprovincial farm union council asks for the adoption of the two-price system. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also asked that the sales of wheat be placed under the two-price system, that is the domestic price should be the maximum price under the international wheat agreement and the export price should be the contract price or whatever price may be reached. We feel that the two-price system would give the farmers a good deal of security. We have supported that idea.
As a matter of fact we were supporting the two-price system for a number of years before the interprovincial farm union ever mentioned it in their brief. Every time representatives of that organization came to Ottawa we asked what they thought of the two-price system. Now, they have it in their program. I believe the idea is absolutely sound. The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) does not like the idea. He says that his group insists upon 100 per cent parity. If the hon. member for Assiniboia is so insistent that you have to have 100 per cent parity, I cannot understand why he called the brief of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture an excellent brief because the Canadian Federation of Agriculture insisted that parity prices should not be above 85 per cent of parity. They condemned the idea of 100 per cent parity, yet the hon. member says that is an excellent brief. In one breath, therefore, he says we must not have 100 per cent parity, it is a wrong idea, and then in the next breath he says we stand for 100 per cent parity. I should like to know how he reconciles the two statements.