June 29, 1959

PC

Douglas Scott Harkness (Minister of Agriculture)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Harkness:

That is your opinion. It is not the opinion of a lot of people.

Topic:   CROP INSURANCE
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR FEDERAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO PROVINCIAL SCHEMES
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Marlin (Essex East):

That may be so, but I am submitting this argument and I hope I will receive the same attention as I have paid to the hon. gentleman when he spoke. This is the contention I am making. All the minister is doing today is precisely what the government of 1925 did in the matter of old age pensions. He has resorted to the same pattern, and 1925 was a long time ago. What was done then was to pass an act in this parliament saying that the government of Canada was prepared to extend certain financial grants to provinces which were prepared to embark upon schemes having to do with the establishment in Canada of old age pensions. But that was not an immediately comprehensive measure and no one ever pretended it was. So the hon. gentleman is, I think, struck at once with one of the real obstacles in this matter, an obstacle which suggests that 66968-9-333

Crop Insurance

whatever advantage might lie in this particular resolution it is not, as was indicated we would have, a comprehensive crop insurance scheme. I suggest to the minister that it is not too late for him or for the government to take the kind of step which would present to the farmers of Canada a comprehensive national scheme of crop insurance.

If this is not done, may I point out that we have had from the minister no assurances whatsoever as to what the attitude of the provinces is going to be. We know that in 1958 there was a conference with the provinces. I think the minister mentioned that this afternoon, and the minister referred to this conference when he spoke in this house in 1958. But he intimated then that the discussions were of a general character and that no final conclusion was taken. The minister said, I find, on June 4, 1958 as reported in Hansard at page 829:

As a result of the recent conference with the provincial ministers of agriculture, Mr. Speaker, no particular consideration has been given to this matter. The whole matter, however, has been under very active consideration for many months past, and a considerable number of members of the Department of Agriculture have put a good deal of study and a good deal of work into the whole question of crop insurance and have prepared certain recommendations, which I am considering at the moment.

What provinces are going to enter this scheme? Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta? These provinces have, of course, studied this question. But what is the position of Ontario? I know what was said in the election of 1957 all over southwestern Ontario by those who now sit on the treasury benches. At that time, as very hon. member from western Ontario now sitting in this house knows, the farmers in that area had suffered very great economic losses as a result of crop damage by storm and we were told by the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe, among others, that if this government came into power, in co-operation with the province of Ontario under Mr. Frost, we would be presented with a plan for the compensation of our farmers either directly out of federal and provincial treasuries or by virtue of some legislation which would be passed. In fairness to the Minister of Agriculture I must say that I wired him after the election of June 1957 and reminded him of the promise made, particularly by the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe. I also spoke to the Minister of Agriculture on the telephone and he said: I am not commenting on that. I am simply saying that what you are now submitting is not the policy of the government of Canada at the present time. I do not know if the Minister of Agriculture remembers this. He pointed out what the constitutional position was; that it was up to the provinces, and

Crop Insurance

if they found it could not be done out of their own financial resources, if they found these resources did not enable them to take care of the situation, they had the right in that event to turn to the federal government. But there had been no such request made by any provincial government and consequently the Minister of Agriculture took the frank position that notwithstanding these promises I could expect, certainly for the farmers of Essex county, no such assistance as had been promised by hon. gentlemen opposite.

The minister has gone into some detail today. He has indicated that the federal government intends to pay 20 per cent of the cost of the premiums. The federal government has indicated-and I want to get this right-that where the revenue from the premiums is in excess of $200,000 the federal government will loan 75 per cent, make a loan to the province of 75 per cent of the excess.

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L L

William Moore Benidickson

Liberal Labour

Mr. Benidickson:

No, the excess.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Martin (Essex East):

I thought I had said that. And the federal government is going to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the administration. That leaves 80 per cent of the premiums to be paid. An analogy has been suggested between this matter and unemployment insurance, but surely the fact that the federal government is going to pay 20 per cent of the premiums leaving 80 per cent still to be paid requires further explanation from the government before the analogy can be regarded as complete. Does the minister now know whether any particular province has determined (a) to come in and, (b) if it has, what percentage of the premium it is prepared to undertake. Is it going to accept 40 per cent to provide for an analogy as in the case of unemployment insurance where that percentage is borne by the employer and 40 per cent borne by the worker, or is it expected that the whole of the balance of the premium will be imposed on the farmer? If that is the case I am sure that we cannot expect that there will be many farmers who will come in under the scheme.

I know that the federal government has no legal authority-and if it had I know that certainly no government would want to take responsibility-for whatever policy a province arrives at as to the share to which it would commit itself with regard to a scheme of this sort but surely in the light of the statements made by the Prime Minister in 1958 and in the light of his own assurances about the studies that had been undertaken the minister is not in a position where he cannot tell this committee what provinces are going

to come in and, if they do come in, what will be the percentage of financial responsibility they will bear.

All hon. members of this committee no matter where we come from recognize that the farmers of Canada have very special problems and if this particular scheme or a scheme like it will assist them in the great losses which have occurred from time to time we will all be very pleased indeed. But I think it should be borne in mind that all the farmers in Canada do not live in western Canada and that the farmers in eastern Canada, as was mentioned by several hon. members who spoke previously, have problems and losses from time to time. Sometimes those losses are comparable to those suffered by any other group in our country. Take the loss which threatened right in my own county to which reference was made the other day by the hon. member for Kent, Ontario, in the matter of tomato contracts. Take the great loss that occurred in 1957 all throughout southwestern Ontario. These were very serious losses to the farmers of that area. I suggest that a crop insurance scheme can apply not only to wheat but to corn, soybeans, sugar beets and all of those things.

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PC

Douglas Scott Harkness (Minister of Agriculture)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Harkness:

That is the purpose of this scheme; it will cover any crop.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Marlin (Essex East):

In fairness to the minister I should state that he said that if a province decides to bring in any number of crops the federal government is prepared to the extent of its commitment in this legislation to be committed likewise. I suggest to the minister that if he wants to have a comprehensive scheme he has the opportunity of doing what the Liberal government did in 1940 and in 1951 with regard to unemployment insurance and old age security.

There is no question concerning where we in this group stand with regard to this subject. At the national Liberal convention which chose the present Leader of the Opposition as leader of the Liberal party it was affirmed that we support the extension of the principle of P.F.A.A. to all parts of Canada where it is desirable to provide emergency assistance and to provide adequate financial assistance to provinces which establish crop insurance plans. That resolution is an indication of our willingness to support a practical measure, one that will not prove too burdensome on the farming community and one which comes within the possibility of their acceptance having in mind what I think is the very desirable standard of measurement laid down by the minister, that the scheme ought to have sound actuarial principles.

It is significant that in the resolution before us we have nothing to indicate that this is a

comprehensive crop insurance scheme. On the contrary the resolution as presently drawn and the minister's observations in connection with it suggest not only that no proper system of crop insurance has yet been set up but also that no plan has yet been worked out in so far as co-operation with the provinces in the inauguration of a joint plan is concerned.

I suggest to the minister that he ought to give us an opportunity of giving this measure the most careful attention in the dying days of this session. This measure ought to be sent to a committee so that we can ascertain what are the wishes of the provinces, what are the possibilities of their acceptance and what are the attitudes of the farm organizations. If that is not done I can foresee what will happen. I do not say that the Minister of Agriculture will do this, but I am sure my genial, vigorous and highly imaginative hon. friend the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources will go from one end of the country to the other telling the people of Canada that this government has an agricultural policy second to no other government in the world; not only has it got a vision for the north but it has a vision for the farmers of Canada, and he will call as his witness the crop insurance plan introduced by that distinguished hon. gentleman, the present Minister of Agriculture, which plan no province will have supported. Nevertheless he will have given the farmers of Qu'Appelle, the farmers of Essex East, and the farmers of Kent, New Brunswick, the impression that this, the most vigorous government we have had in Canada, has at long last brought forward a crop insurance plan. These men, the farmers of Canada, will not examine the bill in the way that we now have the opportunity of doing. Therefore, they will say, "At long last we have something that is going to provide for us when we have crop failures as a result of acts of God, and the like; at long last we have something that is going to give us the kind of security we require. We have been maintaining the urban workers through unemployment insurance and now we have something for ourselves." The real fact will be that all they will have is a bill passed by this parliament in the dying days of the session without consultation with the provinces or with farm organizations, a bill that has only some value in that it adopts a principle which if accepted by all the provinces might give it some substance.

I appeal to the Minister of Agriculture using in paraphrased language the kind of appeal he used to make when he sat in the third row back here on this side of the chamber when he in his insistent manner used to prod the minister of agriculture of the day 66968-9-333 J

Crop Insurance

and sometimes even the poor, helpless minister of national health and welfare of the day to take a particular course. I ask him now to consider this. This is an important bill. This is the kind of bill that could do a great deal for the farmers of our country. But let us make sure it is the kind of bill that will do that. Let us not bring forward a measure merely for the sake of gaining temporary political advantage, for the sake of being able to indicate, in form at any rate, that a promise has been kept. The real way to keep a promise or to gain political advantage, I suggest to the Minister of Agriculture-

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?

An hon. Member:

You should know.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Martin (Essex East):

Yes, I should know. To return to my thought, the real way to keep a promise or to gain political advantage is by bringing forward substantial measures that really have something in them and not measures that merely give the impression of something being done. Someone said that I should know. Yes, I should know because I was a member of a government which brought down very substantial measures. P.F.A.A. was one of them. When I think of the criticisms against that legislation that were voiced in this house by so many members and when I hear the kind of tributes that are now paid to the former hon. member for Melville, the former minister of agriculture, who was the initiator of that measure, as the Prime Minister said, I realize that we did bring down useful measures and, as the hon. gentleman said, I should know about these things.

This is an important measure. This could be a most useful measure. Let us see what are the weaknesses in this bill. The way to do that is not by the kind of speech we have just had from the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources telling us that this is another spoke in the wheel of achievement in the field of agriculture. Let us put this government policy to the test by confronting the members of an agricultural committee with this measure and by asking the president of the federation of agriculture, by asking the interprovincial farm union and the corn and sugar beet growers of Essex county and similar organizations to express their views on it. Let them be given the opportunity in this session of parliament of indicating whether or not they look upon this as a substantial measure or whether they look upon it simply as mere window dressing, as the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River said. I am not saying it is window dressing, I do not know. I want an opportunity to examine this bill. It is because I have confidence in my persuasive

Crop Insurance

powers on the Minister of Agriculture that I ask him to accede to this very reasonable request.

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CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

Mr. Chairman, if the resolution before us is, as the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources pointed out, a resolution that is going to complete the plan for agriculture that was pointed out by the Prime Minister in August, 1958, then I think a great deal more information should be available in the remarks made by the Minister of Agriculture than accompanied this particular resolution.

I should like to endorse the comment and support the argument made by the hon. member for Assiniboia and also the hon. member for Essex East that this legislation be referred to a committee so that some consultation could be had with those people who are qualified to give us the information. I am surprised, Mr. Chairman, that there has not been more consultation on a formal basis with the provinces before this particular resolution was brought before us. It is quite true that the people in my area could have received great advantages on a number of occasions in the past if this type of legislation had been in effect. But I think that much more consultation must take place before any indication can be given of what good this particular legislation is going to accomplish.

Crop insurance could cover a wide variety of natural phenomena. It could cover hail, flood, drought and many of the other natural phenomena, and each one of those could have disastrous effects in a particular area. In my particular area I can remember only one occasion in my lifetime when there was so much flooding that no crop was harvested. It was back in 1928. Since that time, although there have been partial crop failures in areas in particular grains, it has never reached the magnitude that it did in that particular year. It is quite true also that there are other small segments of the area which are affected by frost or by drought or by some other condition. I think this type of insurance could be very economical. It is the type of insurance which could cost the farmer very little.

I remember some of the arguments I heard when I was in western Canada on several occasions in the last few years. On each occasion when crop insurance was discussed during the provincial elections in Manitoba not long ago the farmer was more concerned with whether this was going to cost him more money than he could afford to put out for this type of insurance. I think it must be borne in mind by the Minister of Agriculture-and he may continue to forget this fact-that many of the farmers that I met that are receiving the benefits of the prairie

farm assistance had not the amount of money available, and they have not had it for some time, that would be required to cover the premiums under a provincial scheme. Many more considerations must be taken into account before this plan is implemented.

If the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources was correct-and I assume he was-that the Prime Minister is implementing an agricultural scheme to solve the problems of rural agriculture in all parts of Canada, then this must be part of that scheme and it must fit into the scheme on a national basis. If this is true, then why not refer this to a committee which will have the opportunity of calling before it witnesses from all parts of Canada who have the information. I think it is quite easily understood that there is a great deal of difference between covering, for instance, grain and potatoes in my part of the country and covering cherries, apples or other small fruits in the Niagara peninsula. There is no connection between these products. The amount of insurance that would be necessary to cover these two fields would vary greatly and in most cases they would not be suffering from the same problem. In one instance frost would affect the crop and in the other instance it would probably be a wet condition or not enough rain or some other condition.

I think the Minister of Agriculture must be aware of the fact that the great problem in agriculture today is not crop failure or overproduction but lack of markets and lack of returns for the produce the farmer is producing. If the farmer were given a fair and reasonable price for his product, if he were guaranteed this on a forward carrying basis, then I am quite sure we would have no reservation in accepting the fact that the farmer ought to be able to carry this type of crop insurance himself. But in the circumstances there are many farmers in my part of the country who are not going to be able to participate in any type of crop insurance unless it is paid for 100 per cent by people other than themselves because their income has been such in the last two years that they are not capable of carrying crop insurance at all. They will not be able to pay the premiums, or if they do their families will probably go hungry.

If the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources is interested, as he appears to be, in this legislation for agriculture, then the major problem he is faced with today is not this piecemeal program of putting into effect all the Prime Minister wants to accomplish on a national basis for agriculture but it is the real problem of prices. If he is going to get himself involved in the

Department of Agriculture, then I think he cannot neglect also to use his influence to see that prices are maintained and established on a parity basis so that we shall know exactly what we are going to insure and how we are going to insure it.

There are many people who, if they want this type of scheme, will be paying on a crop that they have not the faintest notion what it will be worth by the time it reaches the market. I am quite sure that all hon. members have received letters from the fruit producers and the vegetable producers in the Niagara peninsula in particular where this problem is much more prevalent than it is in any other form of agriculture, where they are producing a high price commodity for a market which may not pay the cost of production when it is finally put on the market.

I would suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that it is going to be very difficult to insure this type of crop against crop failure if they are not even sure it is worth saving. In fact, it might be quite a saving to the producers if it disappeared before it reaches the market stage because the small amount that they will save will probably not be worth enough to make it worth while insuring the amount that they have lost.

It seems to me that if we are to consider this crop insurance program in terms of the much bigger scheme that the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources implied had been envisioned by the Prime Minister and partly implemented by this particular legislation, then I think much more consideration will have to be given to it. My information arising from a superficial examination in Manitoba of part of this problem would indicate that in the main the farmers of that province are not going to give up prairie farm assistance for crop insurance. On the other hand, I know of no group in Ontario that has developed plans so far to implement crop insurance if it is brought into being under any scheme. I have talked to a large number of farmers and representatives of farm organizations and, having regard to the scheme now before us, I think they are going to be less interested in developing plans to put crop insurance into effect.

Therefore I think there is a great deal to be said for the request of the hon. member for Assiniboia and the hon. member for Essex East that this matter be placed before the standing committee where we would have an opportunity to hear presentations by the various organizations concerned with the subject. If this does not come to pass, then I suggest that the government is not prepared to support this measure by argument before the various organizations and that members of the government, just as the hon. member for

Crop Insurance

Essex East has said, are going to travel throughout the country and say to the people that they have given them all they promised to give and that if they do not get any benefit from the scheme it is the fault of the province.

This argument can only be met if the Minister of Agriculture is willing to call a conference of the provincial ministers of agriculture in order to discuss this and other matters in a concrete way so that he and certainly the various oragnizations will have a much better idea of what is available so far as crop insurance is concerned. I think in Ontario we need crop insurance and have needed it for some time. It should be established on an actuarial basis having regard to the record over a number of years. It should also be based on the ability to pay of the farmers, the municipality or whatever unit is used because I think it has been generally accepted that those who are least able to pay are the ones who need help the most. I am quite sure that this will apply to crop insurance if and when it comes into effect in the province of Ontario. Those who need it are going to be least able to take advantage of it.

The problem of how to finance the scheme, how far it should be extended and the advantages that can be provided can only be solved by hearing representatives of the organizations and if the measure is passed in its present form it will probably not be satisfactory to the majority of organizations who would like assurance with regard to one thing or another. It will not solve their problems.

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L L

William Moore Benidickson

Liberal Labour

Mr. Benidickson:

Does the hon. gentleman as a resident of Ontario think that the terms outlined by the Minister of Agriculture would likely be accepted by the province of Ontario as the basis for a partnership deal?

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CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

I am only guessing but I am quite sure they will not be. As far as Ontario is concerned, I am quite sure that the legislation will not be used at all.

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L L

William Moore Benidickson

Liberal Labour

Mr. Benidickson:

That is my view.

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CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

From the superficial experience I have had in talking to a number of farmers in Manitoba I also suggest that the farmers of that province are not going to trade what they have for a crop insurance scheme. Many of them have said that to them crop insurance appeared to be too expensive for them to take advantage of it. In my own area in Ontario, for instance, there is a lot of dairy farming and I cannot see that the farmers would be willing to have hay and grain covered unless the premium were very small. Unless everybody engaged in farming in the province

Crop Insurance

is going to be covered, unless the scheme is on a very comprehensive scale, then the premiums will be so high that nobody will be able to take advantage of the plan.

Tha Acting Chairman (Mr. McCleave):

Order. The Chair is aware that the clocks have been stopped for some 15 minutes. We are proceeding on the basis of the time provided by the watch of the Clerk of the house.

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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Did the C.C.F. stop the clocks?

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. McCleave):

The

time is 12 minutes to six, table time.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

Mr. Chairman, I have been interested in the remarks made by the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources. When I spoke initially I said that I had hoped and had reason to expect, having in mind the importance of this legislation, that there had been some prior consultation with the provinces on the kind of proposal that has been presented. In reply I believe the Minister of Agriculture said that this matter had been discussed at four conferences.

I should like to know from the Minister of Agriculture whether the main proposals contained in the bill have been discussed with the provinces. I am not interested in knowing whether the question of crop insurance came up generally at one of these conferences. What I am interested in finding out is whether or not the Minister of Agriculture discussed the main proposals in the bill, the proposal that the federal government would pay a 20 per cent premium, the proposal applying to the prairie provinces that if a farmer there wishes to take out insurance under this legislation he forfeits the right to be covered by prairie farm assistance. I should like to know specifically with respect to that question whether the minister of agriculture of Saskatchewan has agreed to this very far-reaching proposal contained in the legislation. I have grave doubts whether the provincial ministers of agriculture are aware of what is in the bill. As a matter of fact, I think that if the bill had been discussed with the provinces the minister would not have received general support for the type of legislation that is being introduced, certainly not from the prairie provinces.

I think this adds substance to the request already made by myself and the hon. member for Essex East that this very important legislation should be referred to the standing committee on agriculture. I think the provinces should be prepared, as I am certain they would be, to give their views on this legislation in public. I think we should have the benefit of the views of the various ministers

of agriculture from the different provinces in order to see whether their views concerning this proposal, which in the words of the Minister of Agriculture concerns something that is not a federal but a provincial responsibility, were taken into account before the measure was presented.

The Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources has made a great to-do about the report of the Saskatchewan royal commission on agriculture and rural life. He seems to take the view that if one differs in any degree with anything contained in the report one is immediately condemning all the commissioners and everything they stand for. Is this not a strange attitude on the part of the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources? Would he apply the same logic to the stand taken by one of the commissioners Charlie Gibbings on deficiency payments? Does he mean that the proposals respecting the deficiency payments presented by the Saskatchewan wheat pool and other farm organizations must be accepted and are accepted by the minister because Mr. Gibbings is in part the author of a report on deficency? If there is any logic to the minister's argument, then he stands for deficiency payments as proposed by the farm delegation, which we all know, of course, is far from the fact. They all know that the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources is very actively and very strongly opposed to deficiency payments as they have been presented. But what the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources is attempting to do-

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PC

Francis Alvin George Hamilton (Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Qu'Appelle):

The hon. member is putting words into my mouth.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

The minister can reply. He is an authority on putting words into peoples' mouths. We saw him doing it in this very house not so very long ago.

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PC

Francis Alvin George Hamilton (Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Qu'Appelle):

Pretty weak.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

Mr. Chairman, no matter what government appoints a royal commission- whether it be a Conservative government, a Liberal government or a C.C.F. government -I reserve the right to look over the recommendations of the royal commission and on my own judgment to say whether or not I believe they are fully in the interests of the people covered by the report. I do not take the view which the minister of northern affairs would have us believe he takes-and which he does not take at all-namely that this is his bible, that he has taken it to his bosom and that he accepts everything that is in it. If he does so, there will be some rather strange things that he has accepted.

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June 29, 1959