John George Diefenbaker
Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prince Albert):
Mr. Speaker, in commencing my remarks this morning may I join with those who have preceded me in offering a word of congratulation to the mover (Mrs. Shipley) and the seconder (Mr. Laflamme) of the address in reply to His Excellency's speech. In so far as the hon. member for Timiskaming is concerned, may I say that I listened with interest to her references to her recent trip to Paris in connection with the NATO parliamentary association. I should like to say to you that the hon. member for Timiskaming, the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough) and Senator Fergusson, who were the lady members of the group that went from Canada, made a contribution to the deliberations of that conference which was referred to most favourably by all in attendance.
As to the seconder, may I say that the longer one is in the House of Commons the more one looks for that infusion of youth and ability which elections generally bring to the House of Commons. My mind goes back to 1945 when a group of brilliant young members, representative of all parties, entered this house. You, sir, were a member of that group. Two or three other members of that group have become members of the cabinet, while others have made important
contributions. All this strengthens that concept of democracy without which the House of Commons cannot discharge its responsibilities.
I have read the speech from the throne and having read it I must say that one would almost think that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) had placed in the hands of the Governor General a copy of the speeches delivered in 1929 and 1930. There was adulation for the prosperity which exists, along with a complete playing-down of the current agricultural situation in this country. Reading those speeches of 1929 and 1930 one realizes that the government of that day lived in the same dreamland which was apparent in the speech delivered the other day by His Excellency. He spoke of the expanding economy, but he played down the serious situation of agriculture in the country. At that time, however, the situation was different; generally speaking, agriculture was in a precarious position everywhere in the world. Today that is not a fact.
However, before I deal with the question of agriculture, which to one coming from a western constituency, or indeed from any constituency in Canada today, is a matter of paramount importance, there are one or two references I wish to make to matters which for some reason or other have not found their way into the speech from the throne.
One is in connection with the development of T.C.A. The Prime Minister yesterday afternoon mentioned that something must be brought about, or will be brought about in the future, whereby the federal and provincial authorities will join together in a national development policy. One of the first things that has to be considered in that connection is the transportation problem.
Some years ago-I think it was in 1953- the Canadian Pacific Air Lines asked for a permit from the transport board to operate a freight line throughout the northern section of Canada between Montreal, Winnipeg, Prince Albert, Edmonton and Vancouver. At that time the Prime Minister stated that the decision that was then made was not to be taken as the "perpetuation of monopoly conditions". We in the northern part of Saskatchewan-and the same applies generally in all the areas in the western provinces-are today denied air services because of the monopoly in effect that denies any competition to the T.C.A.
I should like to hear from the Prime Minister in that connection. What is going to be done? Is this era of monopoly centralization in the T.C.A. to continue? Has not the T.C.A. held for sufficiently long a position whereby it has been able to prevent competition? Is
it not time that, in so far as freight deliveries are . concerned in particular, competition should be permitted? As far as the passenger situation is concerned, competition could do no harm to the T.C.A.; it could only improve services.
The safety record of T.C.A.-and mention was made by the minister today of the tragic episode at Moose Jaw-has been good. But surely, when national development beyond anything ever before expected is immediately before us, the time has come for a reconsideration of the whole matter and for the Prime Minister to go even further than he went in 1953 when he said that the decision then made was not to be understood as a perpetuation of monopoly conditions.
What I have said in that connection represents my own views on this subject. I believe the problem of air transportation deserves serious consideration at this session of parliament. Certainly those of us who have had the privilege of travelling abroad and have seen something of the value of competition in other countries believe that the time has come for a reconsideration of this matter, so that such arrangements may be made as will permit competition with T.C.A. in this country.
Then there is another matter, which affects particularly those of us who live on interprovincial rivers. On a number of occasions, I have raised in this house the question of the seriousness of pollution and its effects on those who reside in urban centres on interprovincial rivers. The problem is with us again on the North Saskatchewan river, and I am asking the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) to give consideration at this session of parliament to meeting it. This problem cannot be met by provincial co-operation, as we have found in the meetings that have taken place between the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It can only be met as it is met in the United States, by amendments of the criminal law to the end that wilful pollution shall indeed be an offence as against the state.
Those are the two problems I mentioned that particularly affect and are of interest not only to the constituency of Prince Albert but also to other areas in other parts of Canada; first the hampering and throttling effect of lack of competition to the T.C.A. and second to river pollution.
Coming to some of the matters that have already been dealt with, and I do not want to be repetitious, we on this side of the house are not given to panegyrics of our leader or paeans of praise which in some parts of this house apparently are a routine matter.
The Address-Mr. Diejenbaker As I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) yesterday reviewing the situation in this country, I could not but think how right he has been on many matters in the last several years. He has dealt with the wheat situation on several occasions. But to what effect? Well, we are met by those optimistic utterances to which the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) has almost patent rights.
When we pictured the danger of accumulating surpluses, we were met by the argument, all is well. The farmers of this country were assured on more than one occasion by the Minister of Trade and Commerce that there was nothing to fear. "Do not worry about these surpluses", he said in effect. "You will have none of them on your farms at the end of the present crop year". That is what he told the people of Canada, particularly those engaged in agriculture, last year. That is what he told the people of Canada in February, 1955, when this matter of piling up surpluses on the farms of the country was before the house. I think I ought to read what he said on that occasion. On the 18th of February, 1955, after dealing with the question of carryovers, he said this as found on page 1312 of Hansard:
However, as I say our sales are very good. I can assure hon. members, I think with certainty-
There was authority; "with certainty", he said
-that before the crop year ends on July 31 any producer who has grain of any kind that he wishes to market will have had an opportunity of marketing it.
That was his statement in February, 1955. What has happened since to change that opinion? I will refer to the United States policy in a moment, but their policy as between February and July was such that it interfered but very little with wheat marketing anywhere in the world. Then the minister produced this, Mr. Speaker, which for optimism is indeed a howitzer. As found at page 1313 of Hansard he said:
We will have a substantial carryover of wheat, but that wheat will all be in public storage.
Storage on the farm will no longer be a problem to western Canada.
That was in February of 1955. One hundred million answers to that false prophecy are to be found in the granaries of western Canada.
Then to return once more to the Leader of the Opposition, let me point out that he indicated over and over again from 1952 on that we were indeed losing our markets and in particular that we are losing the British market. On two or three occasions in this house motions were made to assure something
The Address-Mr. Diefenbaker in the nature of a commonwealth conference to provide for the building of a spirit of co-operation so that our markets within the commonwealth would not be lost. Again we were faced by the optimism and were told: Do not worry about it; we are in office; all is well with the world. That was the attitude.
Then came the serious situation in the prairie provinces. It could be seen coming all summer long. I refer to the inability of the farmer to market. We asked for cash advances. One of the first to ask for that assistance was the Leader of the Opposition, who so often is painted as being inimical to the west. Was he not right on the question of markets? No one can deny that he was. Was he not right when he demanded advances on farm-stored wheat? I should like to see any of the western members stand up and say that he was wrong. One of them made the statement that you cannot have advances because, if you do, you have the elevator men engaged in the money business. As a matter of fact, under the present system, today it is the elevator men who will have to collect for the banks or assure that the banks receive their payment.
The Prime Minister went west in September on the occasion of our jubilee celebration. When he returned to the east and he said he thought-and now I am generalizing as to his words, although I have the exact phraseology-that very few people in the west needed assistance, that all was well. I say this to the Prime Minister. Has the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) not told you about the meeting he attended in Marquette constituency? If you want an answer, ask him. Let him bring the message to Garcia. Has the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) not told you-I say this, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Prime Minister-or let you in on the secret that the west is aroused and that almost unanimously the people are asking for cash advances? You say that the loan system will fill the bill and you are asking the farmer to pay 5 per cent on his earnings. You are asking the farmer to pay interest on his income. Is it any wonder that feeling is aroused in western Canada today? When action is asked for, energetic evasion of responsibility has become the first care of this government.
Must I prove to the government today what conditions are like? I am not going over the statistics that have already been placed before the house. We are in a serious position in the west and when we are in a serious position, it is only a matter of time until the effect will be felt everywhere in the dominion. Farm implement sales are down. Retail sales in Saskatchewan are lower than they have been for several years. The reason
is simply this. While the farmers have done their job, they relied on the kind of humbug that is to be found in this speech of February 16 to which I have made reference. They relied on the humbug that markets would be found for their wheat, that they did not have to worry about farm storage, and they acted accordingly.
Here are some figures, Mr. Speaker, that indicate the net income of farmers in western Canada for the last three or four years, beginning in 1949. I could go back farther if anybody wanted me to do so.
Farm income on the Prairies
In that period of time, as was mentioned yesterday by the leader of the C.C.F. party, the purchasing power of the dollar has gone down since the war by approximately 50 per cent. If you take that fact into consideration, you begin to realize something of the difficulties in which we find ourselves today in western Canada, in spite of the optimistic statements made by the various ministers of the crown.
I have a suggestion to make to the Prime Minister. If he wants to find out what the people of western Canada think of the cavalier treatment the west has received at the hands of this government in regard to cash advances, let him appoint one of those western members-and there are some ambitious ones-to the Senate and let us have a byelection. Then there will be an answer. If the Minister of Justice was not able to make the Prime Minister realize the situation the Minister of Mines and Technical surveys (Mr. Prudham) should; or if the Minister of Agriculture has not been able to convey it to the Prime Minister, the result of such a by-election would do so.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY