James William Baskin
You will vote for it though.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.
You will vote for it though.
We have before us a bill introduced by this government that repeals that important section of the act. What does it substitute in its place? It substitutes a bill that provides for the setting of a base price over a period of ten years and under which the price of other commodities besides wheat, oats and barley will be guaranteed at 80 per cent of that price. As a result of this agriculture will not be nearly in as favourable a position as most of the other branches of the economy.
This government proposes in this bill that it will guarantee the farmer 80 per cent of what he has been getting; in other words, even less than before. This bill takes from the government's hands the power to do anything about dealing with wheat, oats and barley which crops are the main source of income of the farmers in western Canada. On the other hand the government does not say what it will do to help the western farmer by way of implementing its election promises. The government has been in office for seven months and has been asked over and over again what it is going to do to assist the western farmer. All the government has seen fit to do is to bring down a bill such as the one before us which repeals the very section of the Agricultural Prices Support Act which did protect the position of the farmers and guarantee, to the extent the law can, a fair deal for the farmers. And then, members of the government turn to us and
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization say, "we have done something in this bill for the farmers of Canada and particularly for western farmers."
We have done more in seven months than you did in 22 years.
What is the reaction of Canadian farmers to this legislation? I say that the government will hear the answer of the farmers whenever it dares to go to the country.
Mr. J. A. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
Mr. Speaker, as has already been pointed out by several hon. members of this group, we are in favour of the amendment to refer the subject matter of the bill now under discussion to the committee on agriculture and colonization. In fact, in speaking at the resolution stage, my colleague the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch) had this to say, as recorded on page 2200 of Hansard of December 11, 1957:
I would therefore urge upon the minister the desirability of sending the bill to the agriculture committee in the form of a draft bill.
We submit that had the minister seen fit to follow this suggestion which was made to him in good faith on December 11 by the hon. member for Acadia this whole question would have been solved long ago. The farm organizations would have readily appeared before that committee together with other organizations throughout Canada and presented their submissions. In those hearings of the committee on agriculture and colonization there could have been drafted a bill which would have been of greater value to the farmers of Canada than the one that is proposed at the present time.
The farm organizations point out that the well-being of the agricultural industry revolves around three main policy areas; namely production, marketing and pricing. I believe it has been well established down through the years that the farmers of Canada can produce not only the foodstuffs required by this nation but can produce them in quantities that permit us to export to other countries in the world. We are fully capable of doing this and so there is no cry or lack in the field of production. The second consideration, marketing, is a matter of government policy. I was happy to observe that a royal commission has been established to study intensively the whole question of marketing to determine whether or not there is any large degree of waste or extravagance in the merchandising and marketing of such agricultural products as meats, bread, eggs, dairy products and so on.
The agricultural producer is often blamed by the consumer for the high prices of these commodities but the opposite is the case
today. At this time the farmer's share of the consumer dollar is less than 43 cents. During the last few weeks much has been said in this house concerning the price of eggs and the established floor price under eggs if such there be.
I have in my hand a sales slip which was issued on October 26, 1957. The farmer in this case took 90 dozen eggs to market. He had over seven dozen grade A large eggs for which he received 38 cents a dozen. However, by December 13 that price had fallen to 29 cents a dozen. Another significant thing revealed by this sales slip is the price spread which existed at that time between eggs of various sizes. Between grade A large eggs and grade A medium eggs there was a spread of 15 cents. Between grade A medium and small eggs there was a further spread of nine cents a dozen.
I have made some inquiries as to how much it actually costs to produce eggs. The department of agriculture of the province of Alberta advises that using the first central test average of 6.25 pounds a dozen eggs the feed cost would be 17.0 cents per dozen. It is generally assumed that feed represents 60 per cent of the production cost and therefore the total cost in this case would be 28.3 cents per dozen. In other words, it actually costs the egg producers of the province of Alberta 28.3 cents a dozen to produce eggs and on October 26 when the farmer in question delivered 90 dozen eggs he received less than 19 cents a dozen for them. I wish to point out that they were not all pullet eggs, either, because 9 dozen of the 90 dozen were grade A large eggs; 52 dozen were grade A medium, and 29 dozen were pullets and one dozen cracked eggs.
As far as this bill is concerned, we have to ask ourselves this question. Is it going to be of any greater value to the farmers of Canada than the present Agricultural Prices Support Act? If it is not going to be of any greater value, why is it being introduced at the present time? We are very doubtful whether this bill contains anything that will ensure the farmers of Canada a better deal than did the present legislation. We take this position. There was actually nothing wrong with the Agricultural Prices Support Act in its setup; but there was certainly something definitely wrong with the administration of that legislation by the former minister of agriculture and his officials. As it stands now, this legislation includes too many "mays" to our liking. The minister may, if he wishes, do this; the minister may do that. Not too often
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
do you see in this bill, "the minister shall''. The old Agricultural Prices Support Act had this clause in it:
The board shall endeavour to ensure adequate and stable returns for agriculture and shall endeavour to secure a fair relationship between the returns from agriculture and those from other occupations.
What did the Agricultural Prices Support Act cost the people of Canada during the 11 years of its administration? The figure $250 million has been bandied around this country in the last few weeks, leaving the impression that if this bill is passed $250 million will be made available tomorrow to those engaged in agriculture. We know that is not true. We know that there is $200 million available in a revolving fund under the present Agricultural Prices Support Act; but how much of that was used? I find that during 11 years from 1946 to 1957, potatoes were supported to the extent of about $2 million. This information may be found in a return made to a question of mine on December 2. Apples were supported by nearly $7 million; beans by $200,000; honey by $177,000; skimmed milk by $677,000; Cheddar cheese by $155,000; creamery butter by $13,189,000; shelled eggs by $728,000. These are round figures.
This return points out that hogs were supported during the years of the hoof-and-mouth disease to the extent of around $36 million; and cattle, during that same period- a disaster period-to the amount of $33 million. We maintain that that disaster payment to reimburse those farmers of Canada who had suffered losses because of the hoof-and-mouth disease should never have been taken from this fund. That being the case, approximately $25 million was used in 11 years to support the prices of agricultural products in Canada. In other words, we can put it this way: It has cost the people of Canada approximately 15 cents per person per year to support the prices of our agricultural products.
The machinery provided by the Agricultural Prices Support Act was never used to any great extent. On numerous occasions we tried to convince the former minister of agriculture, with little or no success, that more use could be made of the act. We ask ourselves this question. Is this legislation going to be used to any greater extent? Is it going to be used so that the farmers of Canada may receive their fair share of the national income? Is it going to guarantee the producer of foodstuffs not only .the cost of production but a reasonable profit?
We did that all the time.
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
That is your opinion.
Your representations are misrepresentations.
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
former minister of agriculture, now the hon. member for Melville, turned over the reins of his government to the new Conservative government at a time when the farmers of Canada, who represent approximately 17 per cent of the population of Canada, were receiving less than 7 per cent of the national income, and he says they were doing it all the time. That is a bunch of bunk.
It is a lot of bunk you are talking. That is not the fact at all.
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
That is the way I interpret it, but certainly the hon. member never interpreted it in that way at all.
That is right, I do not.
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
I have a right to my own opinion, and mine happens to be based on facts.
In introducing this legislation the minister pointed out that provision is made that the guaranteed price may-and I want to emphasize the word "may"-be made effective by the board, which the act provides for, through it purchasing the commodity; by paying deficiency payments and making such other payments as the governor in council may direct-and I want to re-emphasize the word "may".
As I already pointed out, it is this business of "may" which leaves so much discretion to the minister and his staff that bothers this group, and it also bothers the farmers of Canada generally. The United States support plan has been bitterly condemned in this house by government supporters, but when one starts to analyse that program he finds that a very large percentage of the money spent in the United States on the support plan was to support certain commodities which do not come under the scope of this legislation at all, namely such products as wheat, cotton, rice and tobacco, none of which is named in this legislation. I should like to mention that the named products in this legislation which are cattle, hogs, sheep, butter, cheese, and wheat, oats and barley which are not handled through the Canadian wheat board. Other products are known as designated products, such as fruits, vegetables and poultry. In relation to those designated products the legislation provides that the minister may pay such prices which are designated as such percentage of the base price thereof.
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
There is no guarantee in this legislation that those specified, designated products will receive even 80 per cent of the 10-year average. We do realize that this bill recognizes the principle of forward prices but we regret that it does not provide any guide as to the level at which supports should be established either annually on key commodities or on other commodities from time to time.
During the few years I have been in the House of Commons I have listened with great interest to, and taken part in, several debates on the present Agricultural Prices Support Act. I recollected recently listening in 1956 to the now Prime Minister (Mr. Die-fenbaker, who then sat in the opposition. On March 12, 1956, the Prime Minister, then the hon. member for Prince Albert, made a very eloquent plea in the House of Commons for a better deal for the farmers of Canada. I should just like to put a portion of that speech on the record. It is to be found at page 2021 of Hansard of March 12, 1956. The then hon. member for Prince Albert, now the Prime Minister, had this to say:
The squeeze which the farmer suffers results from the disparity in the relationship between the prices of farm products and the prices the farmer has to pay. When they are in proper relationship parity is established
I want to emphasize the word "parity".
-and it is parity-
These are words spoken by the present Prime Minister of Canada.
-that the farm organizations across this country are asking for today. Not charity but parity.
The situation is the same today as it was in 1956. The farmers of Canada are asking for parity, not charity. The Prime Minister went on to say:
When one looks at the general price relationship one begins to realize how far in recent years that desirable end has been departed from. As far as parity is concerned, it must he related to a basic period which is regarded as one in which prices and costs are in approximate equivalence one to the other.
I know of no better definition of parity than that which appeared in yesterday's New York Times. I have made the necessary changes in the definition to meet the situation in this country. It is as follows:
"Parity prices are the dollars and cents prices that give to farm products the same buying or purchasing power they had in a selected base period when prices received by and prices paid by farmers were regarded as in good balance . . . It has been put this way: If you can sell a truck load of barley and buy with the money received so much food, clothing, building materials, fertilizer, farm machinery and other living and production items as you could in a chosen favourable period in the past then your barley is selling at a parity price."
On that same day, March 12, 1956, the present Prime Minister moved an amendment and here are the words of his amendment:
That all the words after "that" be struck out and the following be substituted therefor:
"in the opinion of this house consideration should be given by the government to the advisability of introducing during the present session legislation to create a parity of prices for agricultural products at levels to ensure producers a fair price-cost relationship."
If this bill, Mr. Speaker, only contained provision for a small proportion o;f the requests made by the present Prime Minister when he sat on the opposition benches, we of this group would not be opposing it. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has made an extensive analysis of what the bill, if it is passed, will mean to the farmers of Canada. They compare the prices that will be arrived at with their formula. It is true that the bill proposes to use a ten-year period from 1948 to 1957 and to take 80 per cent of the average price of the agricultural product concerned and use that as the base price provided it is a named product. Using the C.F.A. formula of 70 per cent of parity and comparing it with the 80 per cent of the average price what do we find? Under this legislation B-l hogs on the Toronto market would net farmers $23.27 while under the C.F.A. formula using 70 per cent of parity the result would be $23.50. Butter would be 49.6 cents under this legislation and 50.1 cents under the C.F.A. 70 per cent of parity formula. Under this legislation grade A large eggs on the Montreal market would be 45.4 cents and under the C.F.A. 70 per cent of parity formula 45.9 cents. In other words, the C.F.A. formula of 70 per cent of parity is in all cases higher than the 80 per cent average that will be used under this legislation.
We do know that the years 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951 were good years as far as agriculture was concerned. We also know, however, that the last years have been bad years and that prices have been declining continually. We have no assurance that the decline is not going to continue because certainly this legislation does not offer too much that would cause one to think that there would be an upward rise in prices. As the good years are dropped off 'one by one and the poor years are added, the 80 per cent average price is going to continue to decline.
I listened with interest to the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources (Mr. Hamilton) when he was replying to speeches made from the ranks of the Liberal and the C.C.F. parties. I noticed that he pointed out to the house that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture had said some very nice things about the bill. The federation has pointed out that there are some features of the bill that are reasonably good. On the other hand, the federation pointed out at the same time something that as far as they are concerned is of
prime importance, and the minister tailed to read this. The federation had this to say:
On the other hand the bill provides no guide as to the level at which price supports should be established either annually on key commodities or on other commodities from time to time. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has repeatedly urged that there should be a formula in the bill to be used as such a guide, and that the formula should compare prices received by farmers with the cost of goods and services which the farmer must buy. This is commonly referred to as a parity formula. The absence of such a formula, or even of a statement of objectives which recognizes the fundamental importance of the parity position of the farmer in price support policy, is a serious omission.
That was the view of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture on December 15. We of this group are of the opinion that the legislation fails to recognize the economic position of the farmers of Canada, that it fails to recognize that the farmers of Canada are not receiving nearly their fair share of the national income, that for years now the prices of their commodities have been gradually going down while their operating costs have been continually rising. If this situation is permitted to continue we can look forward to nothing short of a complete collapse in our agricultural industry.
We are given to understand that the farm organizations were not consulted prior to the introduction of the first draft of the bill and therefore the draft bill must be classed as the brain child of the present Minister of Agriculture and the backbenchers of his party. It was their major effort to improve the position of the farmers of Canada from its present low level to something better, and if this is the best the new government can do I think it must stand condemned on this its first major effort to improve the condition of those engaged in agriculture.
We maintain that the government has broken its campaign pledges, pledges which were made to the farmers of Canada from coast to coast. I hold in my hand the famous little blue pamphlet which contains such statements as this, that a Progressive Conservative government will maintain a flexible price support program. It also says that they will include a definite formula under the Agricultural Prices Support Act for arriving at support prices, such formula to allow for variations in production and demand for individual products.
Mr. Speaker, for years there has been a lot said in the newspapers across Canada about price support for agricultural products. Some major newspapers in Canada seem to feel that a price support program for agricultural products would ruin the nation entirely. I hold in my hand a clipping taken from the Wheat Pool Budget of April 13, 1956, which 96698-230
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization deals with this matter. This report points out that if support prices for agricultural products are out of the question, what then about other industries of much less importance to the national economy? For nearly 100 years our infant industries have been sheltered from the chill winds of competition by towering tariff walls. Who has paid for this protection? All the consumers of Canada, but to a greater degree than any other class the farmers of Canada have paid. Agriculture has paid millions, yes, over the years, hundreds of millions, so that these infants could be mollycoddled behind the protective shelter of tariffs and grow into the giants that they have become. Was it or is it today an equitable proposition that farmers should, at uncounted cost, hold a sheltering umbrella over other industries, but sinful to suggest that like aid be extended to agriculture in its time of trouble.
Then, the article goes on and points out that when protection is removed from all sections of the Canadian community, and when acceptable recognition has been given for the huge sums agriculture has already paid in providing for that protection in the past, then those who are opposed to support prices for farm products will be in a better position to talk.
Mr. Speaker, we in this group have studied the proposed bill very closely. We recognize that amendments have already been made to the original draft of this bill. We submit that further amendments are necessary. We would like to see an amendment made to clause 8, subclause 2, so that the section would read:
The base price of an agricultural commodity shall be the average price at representative markets as determined by the board for the ten years 1948 to 1957 inclusive.
The preamble has been mentioned on many occasions by other speakers in this debate, and it could be amended by inserting in the sixth line the following words: "In order that the farmers of Canada receive a fair share of the national income."
Another clause, clause 7-
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Casselman):
Order. On second reading of the bill the hon. member cannot discuss the clauses.
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
I am not
discussing the clauses at all, I am just suggesting changes that might be made. I have not even got them before me.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Casselman):
hon. member is anticipating the committee stage when he suggests amendments that may be made to the sections.
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
Mr. Smith (Battle River-Camrose):
prepared to bow to your ruling. It is true that this bill suggests that the minister shall appoint an advisory committee, but it does not state that the minister shall call the advisory committee together or listen to the representations from this group. Nor does the bill contain a provision to the effect that the advisory committee shall be called together at regular intervals.
Mr. Speaker, in closing I may say that there are three alternatives open to the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Harkness) in so far as this bill is concerned. He could refer the measure to the committee on agriculture and colonization, even at this late date, or he could withdraw this bill and introduce another bill which would contain assurance of parity prices for agricultural products based on a definite period of time, whether it be 1925 to 1929, 1943 to 1945 or even the last ten years. This move, if it is made, will ensure the farmers their rightful share of the national income. Failing the adoption of either of these two courses, the minister could introduce further amendments along the lines I have suggested which would change the whole concept of this bill.
Mr. W. M. Howe (Wellinglon-Huron):
Mr. Speaker, during this debate we have heard many promises being made today and we heard the words "death warrant" used a couple of times. We in this party are very familiar with such statements because I think we remember 'Some very famous ones that were made before June 10, and some that were ready to be published afterwards. Representing, as I do, parts of two of the wealthiest counties of the province of Ontario, and having very many sound and successful farmers in that riding, and realizing that the economies of most of the towns and villages in that riding are dependent for the buoyancy of their incomes upon the farmer, I feel I should say a few words on this bill. It is a measure to provide for the stabilization of the prices of agricultural products.
I feel that this is one of the most forwardlooking, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation with regard to agriculture that has been introduced in this house for many years. I hope it will be passed before too long so that the farmers of this country will profit from it in the very near future. To do as the amendment suggests, that is to send the measure to the committee on agriculture and colonization, would result in a great deal of delay; in fact, this bill might not even be passed during this session of parliament.
For many years hon. members of this house have been asking that some concrete effort be made to bring the farmers' income into balance with that of people in other segments
[The Acting Speaker (Mr. Casselman) .1
of our economy. I might say that today we have heard a lot of discussion from representatives of the western provinces about how poorly the farmers out there have been treated. Representing a riding in central Ontario, I might say that the farmers of Ontario are sometimes very envious of the things that have been done for the farmers of western Canada. I might cite a few of them. There was the Prairie Farm Assistance Act which, according to the 1957-58 estimates, costs the taxpayers of this country approximately $539,479 for administration. Then, there is the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, which costs $4,730,150, and another item for major irrigation and reclamation projects in western Canada, costing $7,340,500, as well as the amount set aside for guaranteed loans and cash advances on farm-stored grain.
According to the dominion bureau of statistics, the net income of farmers in Ontario dropped from $422.1 million in 1955 to $405.6 million in 1956, whereas the net farm income in the three prairie provinces increased in that year. However, in this bill we have an indication that the Conservative government is prepared to do something to help the agricultural economy, not just in the east, not just in the west, but throughout the entire length and breadth of this great country.
Several members of the opposition, including the hon. member for Melville (Mr. Gardiner) the hon. member for Meadow Lake (Mr. Harrison) and the hon. member for Rosthern (Mr. Tucker), have tried to give the impression that this bill does not contain any new legislation but that practically all the items are the same as those to be found in the Agricultural Prices Support Act as passed in 1944. There are, however, many differences in this bill, such as the naming of an advisory committee composed of farmers and representatives of farming organizations. There are certain named commodities that will be brought immediately under the administration of this act. Rather than just one price being named and there are two, there is a definite time period in which these prices will remain in effect. The amount of money allocated to this board to be used in this program has been increased from $200 million to $250 million. So we see, Mr. Speaker, there are many differences in this legislation which will make it more effective.
Also as a consideration in regard to this act we have a new government, a new Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) and in the Department of Agriculture we have a new minister who has indicated by his actions and interest in the affairs of agriculture that he is not only interested in the question of fulfilling election promises-as has been indicated so many times in this house-but
he realizes and appreciates the plight that agriculture is in today and is ready and willing to do something about it.
We have already had an indication of this in many phases of our agricultural economy. We have had the legislation to provide noninterest cash advances to western farmers, and action in the field of poultry and turkeys, an industry which has been operating at a loss for several years due to the tremendous importation of these products from the United States. In fact I still remember that last year when the hon. member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr. Charlton) brought to the attention of the former minister of agriculture the fact that United States turkeys were being brought into Canada and sold as Canadian turkeys in plastic bags, the minister indicated that he had no knowledge that there was any such scheme and nothing was done about it. However, when this situation was brought to the attention of the minister of today it was not long before these products were brought under the import-export act with the result that this year our poultry and turkey producers did not have to operate under such unfair competition. The same action was taken with regard to powdered skim milk, butter, oil and sugar beets.
We now have a royal commission on price spreads, something that has been asked for for many years and the minister has indicated that this government is giving definite consideration to the question of crop insurance, a measure that is definitely needed on a country-wide basis. It is quite apparent that the minister is doing everything in his power to assist agriculture.
Since I came into this house in 1953 hon. members from every part of the house, including the Liberal party, indicated in their speeches that something must be done to assist agriculture. All of our farm organizations presented briefs indicating that although farm prices in 1956 were 6 per cent lower than in 1949 the costs of goods and services the farmer buys had increased by 20 per cent, and that in a period of 10 years the number of those engaged in agriculture had dropped by 24 per cent. Last year when there was an extended debate on this question and a multitude of figures were produced to prove to the government the farmers from coast to coast felt keenly that on the average their returns had become badly out of balance with those of other major groups in the nation, the former minister of agriculture had this to say, and I will quote from page 3346 of Hansard, of April 9, 1957:
The products of people working in industry are sold to farmers. Therefore I am not going to criticize the fact that income from industry is 96698-230i
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization high in this country at the present time. I am going to say only that all of the conditions existing in this country at the present time make it natural that the income from industry should he high. If the farmer does not get back a full share of that income this year that is no reason why he should not get a very considerable part of it over the next 10 years. Everyone who looks into the situation, including the Gordon commission, says we are going to have prosperous conditions ahead; we are going to have more and more development of industry; we are going to have more people going in to the back sections of our country and digging up the mineral wealth of those areas and bringing it into the settled areas to be developed. So long as that continues we shall have continued fairly good conditions among the farmers of this country.
If I remember correctly, he castigated us for making such a bad picture of agriculture that the young men of Canada would not go into farming. Will the farmers of Canada have to wait another ten years in order that they may get a fair share of the national income? No, Mr. Speaker. On June 10 last year they registered a protest against the Liberal government for their indifference to the plight of the farmer. Last spring the farmers of Canada were definitely neglected when the budget came down. In spite of all the briefs presented by farm organizations, and in spite of all the pleas and requests by hon. members on all sides of the house that something should be done, the only reference made to agriculture by Mr. Harris in his budget speech is found on page 2214 of Hansard of March 14, 1957, and which reads as follows:
Farmers also shared In this general Improvement. Better than average grain crops and greater sales and deliveries have increased western cash income. Elsewhere the decline in prices has been halted and there has been some improvement in the prices of a number of farm products. If nature is kind and markets remain as good in 1957, per capita farm incomes could equal, or surpass, the all time record of 1951.
Probably this budget was brought down after that famous report we saw the other day. At any rate, very little was done for the farmers in that budget of 1957. In fact, Hon. Mr. Harris, who is not with us now, in one of the postmortems after the election of June 10 of last year admitted that his defeat, as well as that of many of the other members of the former Liberal government, was due to the fact that they did not have a more realistic program for the farmers of Canada.
People have been educated that they should expect to get cheap food. They do not complain about a rise in the cost of cars, television sets or appliances for homes. But let the price of milk, butter, eggs, poultry or any other agricultural products increase and there is a terrific protest.
No part of our economy can continue to live at a high rate and another live in depressed circumstances. The great wealth of
3638 HOUSE OF
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization our country lies in the top six inches of the soil. If those who make a living from the top six inches do not get a fair return for their labours, then it is not too long before other segments of our economy suffer.
Even though my riding as I have indicated already in my speech, is one of the best agricultural districts in Canada, as I drive up and down the highways and byways what do I find? I find that practically every farmer could spend a great deal of money, not just in buying new machinery, not just in making his home more modern but in ordinary maintenance such as fences, improving and repairing barns and buildings and in repairs to his machinery; but in many cases these have been neglected simply because the farmer in the last few years could not see his way clear to do the necessary repairs.
For years we in the opposition party told the Liberal government that if they did not take more interest in and give more assistance to agriculture the depressed condition of that industry would have a serious effect on the economy of our entire country.
We have heard a great deal in recent weeks about the increase in unemployment brought on mainly because many of our people have not had the funds with which to buy the products of our industry. Had a program such as is indicated in this bill been negotiated several years ago the farmers of our country would today be enjoying the prosperity that had been prevalent in every other section of our economy. There would not have been so many farmers leaving the farms, there would not be so many farms for sale today and there would not be so many farmers displacing other people and taking jobs in industry to get the ready cash to keep up their interest payments and taxes.
As regards the criticism that has been levelled at this legislation by the C.C.F. and the Social Credit parties in this house that this legislation should contain some fixed formula for setting the prices of agricultural commodities, this bill was presented after many months of consideration of all the factors involved by our government which felt that a flexible program was better than a fixed formula. We have had many indications from those who have used these formulae that they are not satisfactory, and I should like to quote from the Searle Grain report of Wednesday, January 8, under the heading: "Rigid Price Support Formulas- What Others have Found" indicating some conclusions reached in the United Kingdom:
In the United Kingdom during 1956, the ministry of agriculture, working closely with the main farm organization in that country, reviewed the whole matter of long-term assurances for the agricultural
industry with a view to seeing where they could be made more effective than those which had been provided for in the agriculture act of 1947. Several of the more important conclusions reached were as follows: namely, that it would be necessary to continue the annual review determinations on broadly the previous lines in order that account be taken of numerous changing factors, many of which varied from year to year as did their relative importance. Particularly interesting was the conclusion that the possibility of adjusting guaranteed prices in accordance with a set formula which provided for these variable factors was not considered feasible. The main difficulty in trying to construct a formula for these purposes was that if it were to take into account the many relevant factors it would become too complex to be readily understood or to be operated satisfactorily. Furthermore, it was stated, some of the factors such as those relating to the market could not be put into figures: and even where figures were available they were not considered to be sufficiently firm to stand up to the strain of use in a formula.
Further on in the same article a reference is made to the United States experience, and I quote:
Closer to home, in the United States, there has been growing uneasiness about the farm program in general and the parity price support system in particular. Here, confirming the oft expressed views of the secretary of agriculture, the largest United States farm organization, the American farm bureau federation, recently left no doubt whatever that, in the opinion of that body, the present system has been found wanting and that a new approach is required. While no detailed plan for setting support levels was adopted, the bureau declared that these levels should not be based on "arbitrary formulas" neither should levels of support be automatically increased when supplies had been reduced. Of particular interest was a proposal, that the support level might be set at 90 per cent of the preceding 3-year average market price of each type of crop, it being assumed that market prices would seek their own level, with government supports geared to stay 10 per cent below the average of the previous three years. This plan, it will be noted, is almost identical with that being introduced by the Canadian government at the present time, although as a result of strong representations, the term used for averaging prices is now likely to be extended from 3 to 10 years. It should also be noted that if this American farm bureau proposal were to be adopted it would automatically eliminate parity as a fair yardstick for pegging the level at which the United States supports farm prices and it would bring to an end the high subsidies that have encouraged over-production. These views, of course, represent a very definite change of thought on the part of a large number of American farmers and they have resulted from a long and disappointing experience with rigid parity support prices.
It might also be interresting to note just what it costs the United States with regard to this type of program. An article entitled "Price Supports and Elder Benson" appeared in the Globe and Mail of January 2, 1958, in which the writer says:
Ezra Taft Benson, a Mormon elder, became United States secretary of agriculture about five
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
years ago, In 1952 the United States department of agriculture had 63,000 full-time employees and an annual budget of $1.1 billion.
The article goes on to say:
In 1957, the USDA had 15,000 more full-time employees than in 1952, besides some 90,000 parttime employees in farm-program committees. The 1957 budget was $5 billion-more than the total expenditures for health, welfare and education. The department has $9 billion tied up in price support loans and inventories. Charges for storage are a cozy item-a little over $11 a second on a 24-hour basis including Sundays and holidays. Among other activities the department has been paying farmers to take land out of production and to plough under crops already growing.
Mr. Speaker, this bill has been amended after considerable discussion, which indicates that the minister is ready and willing to make the measure acceptable to the agricultural industry in Canada. Therefore, I do feel that the legislation which has been introduced is sound, logical and flexible, and that no good purpose will be served by sending it to the committee on agriculture and colonization where only the factors already discussed could be introduced.
I feel also that though this legislation cannot be expected to alleviate conditions which have been allowed to drift to such a low level through the indifference and lack of planning on the part of the Liberal government over the last number of years, it will do more for the farming economy directly, and for the entire economy of our country indirectly, than any other legislation that has been brought before this house for many years.
Mr. J. A. Landry (Dorchester):
Mr. Speaker, I feel I am being consistent when I rise in this house to speak on this bill to establish guaranteed support prices for agricultural products. On October 18 last, when I made my maiden speech, during the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, I offered a few brief remarks on agricultural support prices, especially with regard to maple syrup and hogs. I am convinced that I am expressing in this connection the feelings of the great majority of my constituents, these matters being of vital concern to my constituency which is basically agricultural.
The present bill seems to me to provide a particularly striking example of the techniques which the Conservatives have developed and applied in order to escape the responsibilities with which they are saddled following the loud promises they made during the last campaign and which they have not
even started to implement. Though their words were certainly tempting, they now find themselves quite at a loss to follow them up with deeds.
Canadian farmers heard the Conservatives deliver a scathing denunciation of the terribly depressed state of the agricultural economy of this country. They also heard them undertake to find the solution to their difficulties and to bring about the rehabilitation of the industry. We had every right to expect, Mr. Speaker, that this rehabilitation would be brought about by this particular bill.
Such is far from being the case. Not content with uncalled for delays-we had a right to expect that a bill of such scope, one designed to remedy an extremely urgent situation, would be presented at the very beginning of the session-the minister (Mr. Harkness) comes to us at this late hour with a suggestion which offers nothing new, no remedy to give new strength to the agricultural economy of this country. I find it hard to understand why the minister kept us so long in suspense, until the eve of the Christmas adjournment, to offer us this hardly disguised copy of the Agricultural Prices Support Act introduced by the former minister of agriculture under the previous Liberal administration.
After studying this bill, I wondered for quite a while how it improved the situation so strongly deplored by the Conservatives. Under the former act, the prices support board advised the government after consulting an advisory committee which included members of the Canadian federation of agriculture. The results were good if we consider, for instance, the question of butter, the support price of which was set at 58 cents a pound and caused the deputy minister of agriculture in my province to state that this measure had saved agriculture in Quebec, This, of course was a big disappointment to Union Nationale supporters who firmly believed that the provincial agricultural credit act was the sole mainstay of farmers in the province of Quebec.
My conservative predecessor, who represented the constituency of Dorchester from 1953 to 1957, had even seen fit to speak in favour of this Liberal measure when on January 31, 1955, he urged that it be kept in force.
Now then, Mr. Speaker, if we come back to the example of butter I just mentioned, what extra guarantee does this bill offer to Canadian farmers, especially to those of my
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization constituency? I ask the minister, specially on behalf of my constituents, if he honestly believes that, under this new bill, the support price of butter will be raised. I would be very much surprised because the bill which the government has contrived does not offer any additional protection to the Canadian farmer. To be sure, the party in power has shown some ingenuity in its efforts to devise a formula which has the appearance of being scientific but which in reality is quite superficial.
The machinery for establishing the support price is unnecessarily complicated. It works in two stages: first of all, after various changes and amendments, it establishes a base price representing the average selling price of the product over the last ten years. Then, the percentage of the base price is established at the discretion of the stabilization board. This means, Mr. Speaker, that the board is free to set a higher price on some commodities, and a lower percentage on some others. And lastly, the board will try to set a standard which will determine the final price support. It will seek a common denominator, that is to say a fair and reasonable relation between cost price and the price to the consumer. With regard to the first stage, it is my opinion that we should have gone by the recommendations of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture which proposed that the base price be established in relation with the cost price of the commodities over a given period. Several of the previous speakers mentioned that, during the last few years some agricultural products had been sold at a loss and that the market price is therefore not a true indication of the cost price of these products.
This complex machinery, newly introduced into legislation which had been clear and simple, is meant as window-dressing. It allows our friends opposite to make believe they are improving the existing legislation when actually they are only making it more difficult. So, once again, the Conservatives, attempting to prove they are improving a situation, are borrowing the substance of the Liberal policy.
Without labouring the point, I wish to underline a so-called change in this bill, from the act of 1944. The bill would have the minister appoint an advisory committee whereas, under the 1944 act, the appointment of one or more advisory committees was under the jurisdiction of the board. The change proposed by this bill is ill-advised because, in my humble opinion, it would be better
if the appointment of such a committee was not left to the government but to the board itself, so as to give committee members a free hand and enable them to weigh their own views if not against at least in the light of government policy. As it is, an advisory committee formed at the recommendation or decision of the minister might sometimes feel hampered in its action and somewhat reluctant to act against the wishes of the minister.
This bill seeks to introduce a further change from the existing act. It is a change which, this time, is not only useless but dangerous and bad. In this regard I join with other hon. members in this house who expressed concern about the shortness of the period of twelve months provided for the advance announcement of the price level. Like those hon. members, I believe that, particularly in the case of butter, the producer should be able to rely long in advance, on a definite price because, otherwise, he cannot adequately organize his production on a long term basis.
The increase of $50 million in the revolving fund for the implementation of the system set up by this bill is another amendment, Mr. Speaker, which is worth mentioning. There again, in my humble opinion, is another tactic which ties in with the one I referred to a moment ago and which allows the Conservative party to dodge its promises. This $50 million increase will remain untouched, at least under this hill; we know, in fact, that the remainder of the $200 million in the revolving fund used for the implementation of the act of 1944 was already quite considerable since only about $72 million were used in the last 13 years. We know too that much of this outlay was on account of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Indeed, the system of agricultural prices support is reported to have cost less than 12 per cent of the $200 million revolving fund, in the last 13 years. Now, either this increase of the revolving fund to $250 million is quite useless and superfluous, or the Conservative government is now expecting a depression in the agricultural industry. In either case we are dealing with a government which does not know how to discharge its responsibilities.
Mr. Speaker, having analysed the bill with its useless, ineffective or altogether bad changes from the existing legislation, I am concerned over the bitter disappointment
and deep disillusion which will no doubt be felt by the farmers of my constituency whose ears are still ringing with the loud promises made to them by Conservative party speakers in the last electoral campaign. They had thought that the coming into power of the Conservative government would spell the salvation of our agricultural economy.
Whereas Liberal policy in national defence, foreign affairs, public works, postal services, the secretary of state department, citizenship and immigration etc., remains unchanged and continues to govern the conduct of the temporary incumbents of those various portfolios, we have in this bill incontrovertible proof that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Harkness) has adopted the same attitude as his colleagues in the cabinet by proclaiming the efficiency of Liberal agricultural policy.
I do not know whether by introducing his bill just before Christmas the Minister of Agriculture believed he was making a generous gift to the farmers of Canada, but he did show though, that to be a good Santa Claus you still have to wear a red coat.
Mr. Speaker, in closing I repeat that the Conservatives are trying to perfect a technique whereby they will appear to be keeping the promises they made to the electors of this country. They are making a show of measures which will bring no improvement whatever to the present economic situation and which are a cruel letdown to people who were entertaining high hopes after hearing Conservative campaign speeches.
With all due respect to my hon. friends opposite, I must add that the policy which has been followed so far with regard to agriculture is on a par with that which has been followed in other departments. The people of Canada had expected a substantial reduction in income tax, but we saw how the baby budget betrayed their hopes. Whereas the people had considered as a possibility if not the entire removal at least a 50 per cent reduction in the excise tax on cars, the actual reduction from 10 to 7-| per cent has shattered this legitimate expectation. While the people had counted on the recent federal provincial conference for further progress in fiscal adjustments, the recent meeting of premiers called by the Prime Minister of this country (Mr. Diefenbaker) has replaced these confident expectations with a wave of uncertainty and anxiety. Finally, people had thought that a Conservative government would solve the great problem of agriculture. How disappointed they will be when they find that this bill,
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization a tacit recognition of the beneficence of Liberal policy, is the sole answer to the cries of alarm raised by Conservative speakers throughout the country. What a bitter disappointment to the people in my constituency of Dorchester who had looked for dazzling progress and who will soon revert to the status quo.
This bill could have provided more adequately for the maple syrup industry, a major one in my constituency, by setting a support price of 28 cents a pound, as I advocated in my initial speech in this house. Far from it, no specific mention of maple syrup is made in the bill and maple syrup is not included among the agricultural products which will benefit from the minimum of 80 per cent of the base price. The omission of maple syrup from the preferred treatment accorded the products listed in clause 1 is a great disappointment to the farmers of the constituency of Dorchester and this bill in general is a great disappointment to the farmers of Canada as a whole.
I had hoped that the minister would show much more imagination in the introduction of this bill and would have given consideration to the thousands of farmers of my province who derive their living from the pulpwood cutting industry. In my humble opinion, he should have devised the necessary formula to allow these farmers, whose farm income is not sufficient, to find appropriate markets for their pulpwood, or a remedy for the falling prices which have been plaguing our farmers these last few months.
I did not wish to set myself as an expert in the discussion of this legislation, but this Bill No. 237 has caused every hon. member, I suppose, whatever his party affiliations, to think of that fantastic anomaly which exists in the world at the present time.
I should perhaps call it the gigantic tragedy which is unfolding in the world. While here, in Canada, the uneasiness arises from a glut of agricultural products, so that we do not know where to sell our wheat, and our farmers cannot find markets for their crops, is it not painful to see that, in some other parts of the world, there are millions and millions of human beings like us who suffer from hunger and would be only too glad to pick up the crumbs of our surpluses? Is it not sad to think that two out of three people in the world are going hungry while here at home we are embarrassed with surpluses? Is it not sadder still to think that
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization our greatest enemy, communists, are gradually infiltrating the countries of those hungry people by offering them food while we show little interest or almost indifference before such a spectacle.
Allow me, Mr. Speaker, without putting the blame on anybody, to hope that some day nations as favoured as ours will realize that it would be far better to feed those peoples with our own products than to have to spend millions if not billions, later on, to defend ourselves against them.
I express that wish because I believe that in this way we could kill three birds with one stone. First, we would practise in our Canadian policies the great law of Christian charity; secondly, we would be guaranteed against communism, the foremost enemy of our civilization and, third, we would solve the serious agricultural problem in this country.
Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West):
Mr. Speaker, all the trumpets sounded on this bill but I want to take a few minutes to play my little parliamentary piccolo on behalf of the fruitgrowers of British Columbia and the farmers I have the honour to represent. This is a very important measure, Mr. Speaker. I wish to say I have listened to the speeches in this debate with great care and, in addition to that, I have done some reading and have had several discussions with my colleagues, and that sort of thing, because this is a measure that is of great importance. What is done with respect to this bill will have a very serious effect upon the direction of this type of legislation in the early years ahead.
As I understand it, the minister has done three things. He introduced the first bill in glowing terms as an ideal measure to guarantee prices and to meet the promises of his party and the expectations of the farmers of Canada. Then, secondly, as a result of protests in this house and protests from the farmer organizations, the minister re-introduced an amended bill. Thirdly, he spent a great deal of time giving explanations to the house in an effort to make the implicit explicit.
I say to him, Mr. Speaker, it reminds me of my father who whenever he was going to take action on me would say to me, "Now, Bertie, my boy, this is the time to make the implicit explicit." From that time on I suffered a painful posterior pastime. I trust the analogy will not be true so far as this bill is concerned when the members opposing it have finished expressing their views in full in this house.
However, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion the debate in the house and the continued protests from farmers organizations outside-I understand there is not a single major farm organization which has endorsed this bill in its entirety-indicate there is a continuing deficit between the government's promises and the government's performance so far as this bill is concerned. To some extent I sympathize with the minister. I know he is a most well meaning person, but he is working under very difficult circumstances. First of all, the government lacks an over-all economic policy, which is a very great lack. Regardless of the minister's amendments to the bill, the gap between the Prime Minister's assurances and performance is wide. Therefore it is impossible for the minister to take this piece of policy and fit it into a jigsaw puzzle of an unplanned policy.
The lack of that policy has been evidenced throughout the session by what I would call the tidbit legislation that has been introduced so far without announcing an over-all economic policy. We have given an extra cup of tea at every meal to the old age pensioners and a couple of extra buns at meals to certain veterans, and we have extended seasonal benefits which will benefit some people in Canada during these difficult times. They are all to the good. We supported them. However, this legislation and the other have been introduced in an atmosphere lacking entirely an over-all economic policy, as I mentioned before, unrelated to any plan, and so far as I can see, lacking any continuing definite purpose, or policy.
We in this group, Mr. Speaker, believe that legislation should be related to an overall national plan which provides for continuous co-operation between the federal government and the provinces and between representatives of producers, of labour, of industry and of governments. I have great faith in that approach to the difficult questions that face us at this time and will face us in the future, and I do not for one minute underestimate the complexities of the economic situation in a modern industrial society.
If this government had an over-all economic policy related to a national political policy we would have planned production, planned marketing and planned prices legislation related to that policy.
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that while farmers during the last year or so have suffered from declining prices and returns, the transportation companies, brokers, wholesalers and all those who market the farmer's products are still taking their normal cut out
of the farmer's production. Their percentages are guaranteed by practice, by habit and by the very nature of the system under which we exist. The farmer gets what is left.
Having made these few general remarks, and I must say that the minister looks very bored indeed, I want to say a few words about the position of the fruit growers. I now refer to certain figures that are the result of a survey made of 153 fruit farms in the Okanagan. I know it is very difficult to get accurate figures with respect to agriculture and the returns from agriculture because under present circumstances farms can be very small indeed and still they are taken into the total.
But I think this was a very fair survey. It was made in 1949 during prosperous times and covered 153 fruit farms in the Okanagan. I am doing this to indicate the position of the fruit farmer in the present circumstances. The average acreage of fruit farms in the Okanagan is 24.4 acres. The average investment is $27,000 and average annual receipts are $7,883. This is for 1949, in prosperous times. Average current expenses are $4,843. In that connection I want to quote from a bulletin which I have been reading most carefully, and which was published by the Department of Agriculture in January, 1952. It is entitled, "A Study of Apple Production in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia, 1949", a very prosperous period indeed. On page 12 I find the following under the heading "Financial Summary":
The average difference between total farm receipts and total farm expenses on all farms studied was $2,550. This figure called "farm income" is the amount the operator received for his work on the farm and interest on invested capital. In order to obtain the figure representing return to the operator for his labour, interest at 4 per cent was deducted from the farm income leaving an average "labour income" of $1,448. In addition to labour income, the farmer receives for his labour and management the use of the farm house and products raised and consumed on the farm. These items are called "perquisites" and, when added to labour income, give the measure known as operator's "labour earnings". The operator's labour earnings represent the total returns to the operator for his labour and management after all cash and non-cash expenses are deducted. The average value of perquisites for the 153 farms surveyed was $668, which, added to the labour income, gave labour earnings amounting to $2,116 per farm.
That, Mr. Speaker, was during the peak period when conditions were considered reasonably satisfactory so far as the fruit growing industry of British Columbia is concerned. Since that period there has been an almost constant decline in the net returns to the fruit growing operator in that province and to such an extent that in recent years they have become very interested indeed in the question 96698-231
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization of price supports. I notice in the agenda of the convention of the British Columbia fruit growers association a resolution dealing with price supports. If I remember correctly this is the first time that such a resolution has been placed on the convention agenda of that organization because owing to the nature of the industry and the arrangements for marketing they have been somewhat hesitant with regard to the principle of price support. However, owing to the serious situation with which the growers are faced they are giving consideration to this question. The resolution reads as follows:
Whereas the federal government recognizes the dire necessity of price support for agriculture and is reported to have set up funds for that purpose, and whereas due to the large crop in 1957 growers* returns to date indicate that 1957 prices may drop to the disastrous level of 1955, when the average price per box of apples to the grower was 72 cents, and other fruit prices were down in proportion.
Therefore be it resolved by this 1958 B.C.F.G.A. convention that the government be urged to place a floor price under fruit which will cover the cost of production or establish a scheme similar to that in operation in New Zealand and thus enable the farmer and his family to stay on the land, the packing houses of the valley to be kept busy, prevent workers being drawn into the larger cities to swell the lists of unemployed.
From my experience in the fruit growing industry in British Columbia that is clear evidence to me that they realize they are facing a very difficult situation. In order to know how serious that situation has become I am going to read briefly from an application for support under the Agriculture Prices Support Act made last year by representatives of the British Columbia fruit growers association. This is what they said in part in the application:
Whereas the government, through the Department of Agriculture and after due consideration, approved a request for assistance for the apple growers in British Columbia to supplement returns received for their 1950 apple crop:
And whereas prior to payment of $1,200,000 provided by way of special grant or assistance, the British Columbia apple growers sustained a loss of 39 cents per box, based on packing and cold storage costs as they existed at that time and on orchard production costs as determined by Dean Clement of the University of British Columbia:
And whereas returns for the 1955 crop paid to the packing houses averaged only $2.0165 per box which, after deducting the existing packing storage and growing costs, estimated to be $2.50, represents a loss to growers of .4835 cents per box, or a loss substantially greater than that sustained in 1950;
The British Columbia fruit growers association therefore begs to submit the following statement in support of a request that the federal government consider and approve a minimum payment to the industry of 25 cents per box on the 1955 apple crop, calculated to offset at least partially the substantial losses suffered by the growers.
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That is an indication of their position in 1955 and they are in a very serious position today. I want to make one other brief quotation from this well drafted application for assistance. This will inform hon. members how very litle assistance B.C. growers have received throughout the years. On page 5 of the application I find the following:
Total asistance to the British Columbia fruit industry over the period 1941 to 1954 inclusive has amounted to $3,622,807.17. During the same period a total of 84,359,621 boxes have been produced. The amount of assistance rendered this industry by the government during this period has amounted, therefore, to .0429 cents per bushel.
In effect a bushel is a box of apples. We pack them in boxes but the figures are usually expressed in terms of bushels.
Transportation costs of perishable products continue to rise resulting in higher delivered costs and very often in lower returns to the growers. The industry has made its submission to all sittings of the board of transport commissioners vigorously opposing the continued request for increased freight tariffs.
Cost of production, including packing, storing and orchard costs, continue to soar as both orchard and packing house wages increase and as cost of various materials spirals. While no recent surveys have been made showing actual costs as they existed in 1955, it is submitted that a figure of $2.50 as compared to the 1950 costs of $2.10 is not only reasonable but probably very conservative.
Growers are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain suitable labour, particularly in the light of British Columbia's rapidly expanding industrial economy and in order to compete in the labour field are being forced to meet the current wage rates existing in other types of industry.
Mr. Speaker, that shows the serious position of the fruit growing industry at this time. What about the 1957 crop? I am speaking now of the fruit growing industry of Canada as a whole. According to the latest information I have received Ontario produced 2,400,000 bushels, and about 70 per cent of that production was unsold at the middle of December. The fruit growers of Ontario are complaining about serious competition from low-grade apples from the United States. I have made inquiries and I find that fruit which comes within the terms of the regulations under the present legislation cannot be stopped by the government and it is sold at a lower price to the disadvantage of the fruit growers of Ontario. I trust this government will do something to remedy that situation.
So far as Quebec is concerned, I am informed they produced 2,500,000 bushels, but received a very low price, generally speaking. So far this year there is about 50 per cent of the crop sold. In so far as Nova Scotia is concerned, the production in 1957 amounted to 2,500,000 bushels, and they are suffering severely from United States competition. There is at the present time an anticipated
surplus of about 200,000 boxes for which no foreseeable markets are obtainable.
What about British Columbia? Last year, 1957, British Columbia produced 6,783,000 boxes and there is an anticipated surplus of somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 boxes. When we use this term "anticipated surplus", we mean there is no foreseeable market at the present time, after making arrangements for the normal markets. The growers of British Columbia are very progressive. They have done everything possible to improve the quality of their fruit. I believe I can say without any hesitation that they have one of the finest fruit-marketing organizations in the world. It is an efficient, total marketing operation, so far as the fruit industry is concerned.
What are they doing at the present time? They are exploring to the full the continental market that might be yet available. They have had representatives in Britain quite recently seeking from the British government or the appropriate authority the allocation of dollars for the purchase of more British Columbia apples.
The fruit industry has somewhat different problems, of course, from the other branches of agriculture, owing to the complexities that surround the marketing of fruit products in general. The industry experiences considerable difficulty in that respect in international markets. It has difficulty, too, with currency problems because it is shipping considerable of the surplus to sterling countries. Then, it sometimes meets the opposition of national farm organizations in the various countries to which they are shipping their fruit. The governments of those countries naturally have to respond to the wishes of national farm organizations. Then, there are particular problems with respect to storage, handling, transportation and things of that sort. It is not possible to take apples and store them as you would wheat from year to year or to transport them in the same way under all weather conditions and circumstances. If you do that, it has to be done at uneconomic costs.
These very complex marketing arrangements for fruit in Canada have developed to a great extent over recent years. There is a great deal of co-operation now between the fruit organizations of all the provinces of Canada. They are, generally speaking, coordinating their actions through the Canadian horticultural council. I want to say that organization has done excellent work. If you knew some of the difficulties that arose in past years because each province was operating, both in internal and external markets, somewhat on its own, then you would realize how the fruit growers of this country are now working together and doing all they can
to improve their own circumstances and to market their own products, their efforts based on excellent local marketing organizations.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the amendment to this bill which suggests that the measure be sent to the agriculture committee. To me this is a very important matter. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about it in the country, and X think to some extent in this house. X feel that this is such an important matter that the time it will take to have this bill sent to the agriculture committee would be well spent. The representatives of the various farm organizations would then have an opportunity to appear before the committee and present their views; to give evidence to the committee and to answer questions.
As I said before, in my opinion there is no solution without legislation which makes arrangements for planning for production, planning for markets and planning for the price structure. In this connection, I have heard it mentioned on several occasions today that certain farm organizations are quite favourable to this legislation. I think it is correct to say that some farm organizations have expressed support for certain aspects of this legislation. I think it is correct to say that all of them believe it does not provide for parity prices as promised by the present government previous to the last election. In performance it falls short of what the government promised. We have heard what the national organizations' recommendations on the subject are, but I like to find out what the farmer on the farm thinks about it. Sometimes even national representatives can get somewhat divorced from the rank and file. I like to know what the farmer thinks in meetings of his local organizations. I went to some trouble to find out what was happening amongst the farmers themselves, and I had this information sent to me.
I understand the representatives of the local farmers' union in Northumberland county, Ontario, had a big meeting recently to which they invited the member for the constituency, and questioned him about this legislation. While the member informed the people he thought the legislation was satisfactory, they expressed a different opinion, I am told, and unanimously. I am going to read the resolution that was passed at the conclusion of the meeting, after the address by the Conservative member for Northumberland (Mr. Thompson), and after listening to his contention that the bill was satisfactory. This is a resolution of a group of local farmers in Northumberland county in Ontario, Mr. Speaker, where they are not inclined to move as quickly as we are in the west;
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization where they ponder and are very cautious in their criticism, cautious in their approach to problems. This is what this local organization of farmers had to say when indicating their attitude towards this legislation:
Whereas the Progressive Conservative party, in its election manifesto, promised:
To maintain a flexible price support program to ensure an adequate parity price based on fair cost-price relationship;
To assure a maximum stability of income to Canadian farmers;
A fair share of the national income;
To restore agriculture to its rightful position;
And whereas the Progressive Conservative government has completely repudiated its election campaign to provide farmers with parity prices;
Therefore be it resolved that the Northumberland county farmers' union strongly urge defeat of Bill 237 unless it is revised to create a fair relationship between farm prices and production costs.