John George Diefenbaker
The minister can make his speech later.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
The minister can make his speech later.
Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):
I do not like these phony statements being put on the record.
There is no one in this house who has more often created a surplus of chaff than the minister. The dominion bureau of statistics grain statistics weekly, page 1, indicates that there is in storage in Canada 364 million bushels of wheat. Then there are other grains, oats, barley, rye, flax seed, etc., equal to 157,049,000 bushels. This makes a total of 521,809,000 bushels. Deducting the amount of available storage, that would leave over 100 million bushels still available and unused. How does this happen? It is because of another failure. They set up a transport controller who apparently does everything but control. The figures show that we are short of box cars.
I have available here the January 11 issue of a bureau of statistics bulletin which indicates that during the year 1955 the number of grain cars used decreased by some 31,000; grain products by some 4,900; coal went up; concentrates went up; gasoline and fuel oil; sand, gravel and crushed rock; iron ore some four times; lumber, timber and plywood; newsprint and various other commodities went up materially in their use of freight cars. Why cannot we in western Canada receive a fair and proper allotment? What is the reason? Is it because the hauling of wheat is not profitable? Is that the answer? Is it because some other commodities are more profitable? I pose these questions and I ask, is that not another example of the kind of thing that has caused the
greatest emergency in western Canada's history. There is available space for storage which is unused because of the shortage of freight cars.
The Minister of Trade and Commerce himself, when he spoke in Edmonton to one of the organizations meeting there in the month of November, said we were 10,000 cars short in the western provinces. What is this but another example of what the Leader of the Opposition called yesterday the inertia of a government too long in power, disdainful of the wishes of the people and of the needs of the times?
I have only a few more minutes left, sir. I want to place before the government a number of suggestions that have come to me from farm representatives in western Canada. I do so with diffidence because of the remarks of the Minister of Trade and Commerce in July last when he said in effect that he did not listen to anything the opposition said. I am addressing these remarks to the Prime Minister. I ask him to realize that today the Canadian farmer on the whole is not sharing equitably or fairly in the national income with the other sections of the country. The prairie farmer is the worst off. Today his income has been cut down approximately 50 per cent from the high point of several years ago.
We are not asking for a handout. The western wheat farmer has not received handouts. We are asking for a measure of justice, not the dubious hopes that are to be found in a royal commission set up to determine Canada's economic position 25 years hence. What we want today is action. The fundamentally important thing is immediately to make available cash advances. Second, immediate action to make available the necessary box cars so that the farmers will be able to sell what they have to the extent of the available storage. Why can that not be granted?
These are two things for which we ask. They will not cost anybody anything, because if you get an advance on account of your wheat you cannot fool anybody. You cannot commit a fraud on anybody because you have no quota book, and there is no quota book for thieves.
The Leader of the Opposition yesterday mentioned the disposal of those portions of the surpluses of wheat that are a little better than feed. Is there not some way that that wheat can be removed from the main terminals? Can there not be co-operation brought about between the federal and the provincial authorities so that in the form of government guaranteed bank loans the eastern farmers would be encouraged to purchase
their feed requirements in advance and thereby utilize storage space existing at the present time at the terminals and also on thousands of farms in western Canada? I can see nothing in the way of doing that. Today the farmers are throttled; they cannot sell anywhere except to the wheat board. Surely, the first thing is to do something to remove that surplus of unsaleable wheat; that is, unsaleable for human consumption.
I should now like to refer to the remarks of the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson), which were made when he was in Europe, to the effect that there was a possibility of trade in wheat with Russia. The Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) seemed to admit that something along that line was taking place, but he said he did not want to become involved in a discussion on wheat.
The NATO organization is being challenged today as never before. Is there any possibility of strengthening that organization in the interests of economic unity so that the various NATO countries will, in unity of purpose, set up something in the nature of a food bank, as advocated by the FAO, to the end that strategic quantities of durable farm products will be maintained in a central place? If that were done, the surpluses would be removed from the farms not by the destructive conditions of the 1930's but by the government and placed in a position where in the years ahead they might be utilized for the benefit of mankind.
What consideration has the government given to the United States plan to set up a soil bank program in that country? Today we have something similar under the P.F.R.A. under which submarginal lands are taken out of production. Is there not something inherently good in the United States plan which could be made available to Canada so that we could meet the problem with which we are faced today? We are going to have many surpluses in the future so long as technological skill and reasonable climatic conditions remain.
Is it not also time to give reconsideration to proceeding with the project which has received the continuing support of the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the Saskatchewan dam and irrigation project? The Secretary of State for External Affairs opened the new Canada dam in India, a dam that will irrigate
250.000 acres, with an ultimate objective of
600.000 acres. I believe in the Colombo plan and its extension; but surely, while we are engaged in such a plan in another country, we on the prairies in Canada and in the province of Saskatchewan have the right to ask whether the time has not come to give favourable consideration to the request of the western provinces to proceed with a
The Address-Mr. Legare similar project here. The Minister of Agriculture has often suggested, the building of this project so that when the days of famine come again in western Canada we shall be able, through its instrumentality, to diversify our agriculture and raise our economic level to that of some of the other provinces.
Mr. Gerard Legare (Rimouski):
before I state my reasons for speaking today,
I should like to congratulate the mover (Mrs. Shipley) and the seconder (Mr. Laflamme) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. We had already become familiar with the warm, convincing, voice of the hon. member for Timiskaming and we knew that she would open this debate with wise and judicious remarks. The new member for Belle-chasse has revealed himself as a valuable asset for the right wing of the house and we are grateful to the electors of his constituency for sending to this parliament a young man full of talent, life and spirit.
Now that the house is called upon to study many measures of more or less immediate effects on the economic future of the country,
I should like, at the beginning of this session, to emphasize the dangers which threaten us unless a better balance can be established between progress in industry and that of agriculture.
We have learned in the speech from the throne that parliament will be asked to enact legislation designed to help the farmers of western Canada. We easterners shall gladly do so, knowing that the effects of an economic upset in the prairie provinces would soon be felt out here.
However, if the west has its problems we also have our own, and even though they are not mentioned explicitly in the speech from the throne we expect that this parliament will continue its policy of agricultural price support. If we go back to 1944, the year when that legislation was enacted, we see that the avowed intention of the legislator was then to provide sufficient and steady revenues for the farmers during the period of transition from war to peace and-today this is the most important point-to seek to achieve a fair balance between the revenues of agriculture and those of other fields of endeavour.
This fair balance does not yet exist and all legislatures should try to achieve it. On the other hand, agriculture in Quebec and Ontario would have been depressed long ago if that legislation had not been passed 12 years ago.
A superficial examination of the problem might suggest that it is illogical to maintain
82 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Legare price support in the case of butter for example when there seems to be overproduction. On going deeper into this problem, we find two things: if the support price goes down, production will immediately decrease so that it will no longer be sufficient for domestic consumption. We will then have to import butter. Then, too, the income of farmers will fall and they will quit the farm, which will lead the agricultural economy to bankruptcy.
And here I wish to congratulate the government on having found ways and means to dispose of the butter surpluses of the last two or three years without dislocating the market of allied countries. There has been criticism of our sales of butter to iron curtain countries at prices lower than those prevailing on our domestic market, but those who make this criticism seem to forget that the crux of the problem is to sell our butter without weakening our local marketing position and without affecting the support price.
The government can sell its surpluses to anybody, to Russia or communist China if need be, at any price it can obtain. That is a secondary matter. The point I wish to emphasize is this. The government should ensure the producer a return high enough to cover his costs of production. Our workers understand that the farmer needs money to buy the goods they themselves produce. They know also that, before the implementation of legislation regarding the support price of butter, they paid as much as 80 or 90 cents a pound for this product. I am therefore pleased to congratulate the government on its policy in this field and I urge it to give even closer consideration to the gap between the revenue of the farmer in Quebec and that of other classes of workers.
The dairy industry plays an important part in the economy of my constituency. Besides, the province of Quebec has the largest milk production of the whole country. This production has kept growing since 1950, from 4,830,000,000 to 5,575,000,000 pounds. A third of this production is sold as fluid milk and the rest is used in the manufacture of butter and cheese.
This single industry brings Quebec an annual return of some $170 million. Quebec is also the largest butter producer and last year manufactured close to 120 million pounds. In the production of cheese, it comes second, Ontario being first with 61,827,000 pounds in 1953 as compared with 13,600,000 pounds in Quebec.
If the province of Quebec is the largest milk producer it is also the greatest consumer of this product. Daily consumption represents 1-06 pints per capita, whereas the average for the country is 0-86 pint. These few figures show the importance of that industry in the province of Quebec, and the necessity for the governments to give it their constant attention.
And as the overproduction of wheat in the western provinces will again be discussed at length during this session, I would also like to say, Mr. Speaker, that in part of my constituency, as well as in some of the neighbouring counties, last summer drought almost completely ruined the grain crops. This winter, a great many farmers who were able each year to sell a few hundred bushels of grain will have to buy $500, $1,000 or even $1,500 worth of grain. Such losses are beyond their means, and it is to be hoped that the Catholic farmers' union can get the provincial authorities to solve this problem if necessary with the help of federal authorities.
If the speech from the throne contained nothing of interest for the Leader of the Opposition, I was glad for my part to learn that the National Housing Act will be amended so as to provide for an increase of the amount and number of loans granted; that the bank for industrial development will be authorized to widen its field of action; that the Canadian farm loan board will be able to grant larger loans; and that a group of women workers will receive better pay.
On the other hand, we know that the government is trying to reduce winter unemployment, that it is planning to assist more unemployed and, finally, to improve all its services.
I want to seize this opportunity to congratulate the government for improving the air service to Quebec and in the eastern sector of my province. There has been increased activity at the airports of Mont Joli and Rimouski, in my riding, and this increased traffic should be maintained. Mont Joli has an airport of considerable importance which could be used more freely, and 1 would ask the Department of National Defence to consider the possibility of stationing a squadron there.
The people of Trois Pistoles were glad to hear that their town will get a public building and they hope to obtain the necessary votes this very session.
To conclude those few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I should like to call the attention of
the government, particularly the Department of Transport, to the need for a new icebreaker built to provide winter navigation between both shores of the St. Lawrence, east of Saguenay. No longer can water transportation of food and materials be suspended for three or four months each year. Industry is fast developing in this area of the province and the population there is likely to double within a few years.
Before long, mining operations and the development of new industrial communities, both on the north and on the south shores, will call for more powerful ferry boats designed to operate all the year round. But a fairly regular service can be maintained only if an icebreaker helps them from time to time. I know, for that matter, that recommendations to that effect will be made before the Gordon commission by some industries on the north shore.
In closing I congratulate the newly elected members in this house and I hope they will find in their new responsibilities the satisfaction arising from well-performed duty.
Mr. H. R. Argue (Assiniboia):
Mr. Speaker, it would be easy for hon. members of the house to come to the conclusion that the present agricultural situation in this nation concerns only the farmers of the three prairie provinces, but I am afraid that that conclusion would not be correct. The agricultural crisis that exists in Canada today is one that faces agriculture from one end of the nation to the other. It is true that it may be more aggravated in the prairies, but nevertheless the crisis faces farmers in all provinces.
I hold in my hand the Economic Annalist, an official publication of the dominion bureau of statistics. The Economic Annalist takes the base period 1935-39 and indicates the prices of agricultural products as being equal to 100. Then for the same base period it indicates farmers' costs of production as also being 100. The latest index for prices of farm products is 225. Yet the index for farmers' costs of production has gone up since the late 1930's by an even greater amount. The cost of production index for agriculture today is 241. Thus according to the economists and statisticians of the federal government, as published in the Economic Annalist, this is a more adverse price-cost relationship than even in the late 1930's. In other words, prices for agricultural products across the country today in relation to the farmers' costs of production are even worse than they were in the late 1930's-worse today than when the Minister of Agriculture first took office in 1935.
The Address-Mr. Argue
The crisis in the prairies is not one that faces farmers only. As a matter of fact, it affects almost everyone in those three provinces. Certainly the businessmen who have advanced credit to the farmers have large amounts on their books and are as deeply concerned in solving this problem as are the farmers themselves. So the need to solve the agricultural crisis is important to the whole Canadian nation, to the people in all provinces, and to the businessmen and the farmers on the prairies in particular.
The crisis has not developed overnight. As a matter of fact, the trend has been apparent to a great many of us for a long time. We have seen sales of farm products going dawn. We have seen sales and exports of grain going down. We asked the Minister of Trade and Commerce time and time again, not only what the government was going to do to increase sales, but how he could explain the very serious deterioration in the sales of Canadian wheat. On 15th February, 1955, as shown on page 1157 of Hansard, he replied to a question of mine as follows:
Am I to take it from the minister's statement that he is saying that export clearances of wheat during the present year will be greater than last year?
The Address-Mr. Argue export sales for the balance of the crop year, at this rate we shall export in the present crop year less than 200 million bushels of Canadian wheat. With this huge surplus of wheat on hand even if we did not get a crop for the next three years, at this rate of selling Canadian wheat at the end of a three-year period we would still have a surplus on hand. That is the situation. Is the Minister of Trade and Commerce able to comprehend it? Apparently not. As late as 28th March, 1955, he said:
Our percentage of total sales has been reasonably good.
While the Minister of Trade and Commerce was away in April the Minister of Public Works was Acting Minister of Trade and Commerce. I asked him what was happening to Canada's sales of wheat, and he had this to say, as shown on page 2940 of Hansard:
The situation is that Canadian export sales in the present crop year have been substantially higher than during the last crop year.
He even went one step further. He said:
Canada has been retaining her place in all her established markets and has indeed got an increased share in many of them.
That was what the Acting Minister of Trade and Commerce said. On 13th May, 1955, the hon. member for Humboldt-Melfort (Mr. Bryson) asked the Minister of Trade and Commerce a question along the same lines, and the minister replied:
There is no drop from last year in the sales of Canadian wheat.
How can we have confidence in the policy of the government? How can we have confidence in the statements of the Minister of Trade and Commerce? How can we have confidence in the statement of the Prime Minister yesterday that sales are improving, when every statement as to the sales made last year and since has been proven to be incorrect, since exports of Canadian wheat in the crop year just ended were even lower than the figure for the previous year, and exports in the current crop year are running 23J per cent below last year as of 4th January, 1956?
That is not the only place where the forecasts were lamentably inaccurate. We were interested to know whether the policy the government was following with respect to the wheat board would be such as to get the grain off the farms. As late as 7th July, 1955, the Minister of Trade and Commerce had this to say as to the farmers' likely ability
to deliver their grain before the end of the crop year. As shown on page 5803 of Hansard, he said:
I am still confident that before the next crop starts to move we will have off the farms all the grain that producers now wish to deliver.
He was completely wrong. The Minister of Trade and Commerce, three weeks before the end of the crop year, with the experience he has in the grain business and with the officials he has in his department, surely must have had information that suggested that there would be a very large quantity of grain on the farms and it would be impossible for farmers at that late date to deliver all the grain they wished to sell before the new crop came on the market. As a matter of fact, at the end of the crop year there were approximately 100 million bushels of wheat alone in farmers' bins, and other grains totalled almost 100 million bushels. So the Minister of Trade and Commerce's forecast was rather inaccurate. He was upward of 200 million bushels out, three weeks before the statistics were compiled and produced. I ask him at that time, on the same day, whether the eight-bushel quota would be delivered. He said that there would be lots of box cars by that time, adding, "And then my hon. friend will have nothing to complain about."
Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):
The eight bushel quota was delivered.
Well, I asked if the eight bushel quota would be delivered before the end of the crop year.
Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):
No, it will not.
That is what I asked about and the minister said "Yes". I took it from the minister's answer that he was saying that the farmer would be able to market his eight bushel quota before the end of the crop year.
Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):
They marketed it shortly after the end of the crop year.
As recently as one month ago thousands of farmers in western Canada had yet to deliver their eight bushel quota.
Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):
I deny that. I will give you the figures.
The Star-Phoenix published a report in the first part of August to the effect that in northern Saskatchewan 60 per cent of the farmers had yet to deliver their eight bushel quota.
Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):
It was not true.
And I personally know farmers who a month ago had not yet delivered their eight bushel quota.
Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):
They had a permit to deliver it.