This evening we are being asked to vote ten twelfths of the fiscal requirements for 1962-63. Nevertheless, we have had before this house in committee only one of the estimates for the fiscal year. This is the kind of financial mismanagement which would be intolerable on any farm, in any university or, certainly, in any business concern. Consequently, when the motion is made that the tenth twelfth of the requirement for the present fiscal year be granted, I have serious doubts that I should vote affirmatively.
Having said this, I want to talk this evening about three specific matters that concern eastern agriculture. These are matters which cause doubt to arise in the minds of many people in this country; and I am sure the Minister of Agriculture will want to come into this committee before this motion is voted on and try to still the doubts which persist in my own mind and, I think, in the minds of many others on these points.
First, there is the question of the reduction in the assistance for lime. In the original estimates for the present year, $2,640,000 was provided for this important form of assistance. That sum has now been cut to $1,608,900. As hon. members know, the liming of land makes a very important contribution to its fertility. We have had some difficulty in accustoming some farmers to the use of lime, and anything that interrupts this practice in any degree is to be deplored. The government's decision to reduce assistance in this instance is, I think, to be deplored. This decision is especially surprising when we have on the statute books of this country an act passed in the 1960-61 session, the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act, which in one of its sections provides that the minister may make agreements with the provinces, involving the expenditure of money, for projects for soil improvement and conservation which will improve agricultural efficiency in a province, or in any area thereof specified in the agreement. In other words, in the 1960-61 session there was placed on the statute books of this country an act with a certain aim, and now within the past few months this government proposes to take
action that is directly contrary to the purpose of that recently-made statute. There is a kind of contradiction there, a kind of irresponsibility, which I think ought to be explained to this committee before this present motion passes.
The second matter that raises doubts is the question of the premium subsidy on hogs. We are not talking here about a mere temporary hardship for farmers. This premium was introduced not as an immediate assistance to the agricultural sector of our population, but, as I understand it, as part of a general policy. The policy was that by giving these premiums the quality of hogs would be improved. As you know, sir, this is the kind of policy that has to be pursued consistently if it is going to be effective. Now, suddenly, when we have encouraged our farmers along certain lines of thinking, and have led them to believe that the government of this country approves those lines of thinking, we give them what I think the psychologists would call "negative reinforcement" by reducing this premium. Not only that, sir, but this premium was supposed to permit us to retain, and indeed to develop, markets for our agricultural products in certain parts of the United States and to help us retain our own domestic market for pork products.
It is said that Canadian bacon is among the best in the world. We have been trying to expand our production so that the quality of our bacon will become known to larger and larger numbers of people. Our hope, I believe, was that by selling more bacon abroad and by supplying more of our domestic market, we would improve somewhat our balance of payments position. It would be no vast contribution to this generally difficult problem, but it would be something of a help. But now, sir, without any very great saving in money, this premium subsidy on hogs has been cut back quite sharply, and in a quite unpredictable manner. This has worked great hardship, not only for the farmers, but for the whole agricultural sector of our national economy. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture will want to tell the committee before this motion passes what is the basic, fundamental, and justifying reason for this change, other than the mere notion that every sector of the nation should contribute to balancing the budget.
Mr. Chairman, there is a third reason in this field of agriculture why I am hesitant about supporting the motion now before the committee. I refer to the hardship caused to many maritime farmers by the strange application made by the Minister of Agriculture of the regulations concerning freight assistance on corn. You may recall, sir, that on April 16, 1962, in response to requests made
by various farm organizations during a period of many months, the government, because of the shortage of western feedstuffs, on which freight assistance normally would be paid, made shipments of corn into the maritime provinces eligible for freight assistance on a temporary basis. During September, 1962, it became evident that western feedstuffs from the 1962 crop would not be available in the maritimes until some time about the first or the middle of the month of November. Consequently, the Minister of Agriculture was asked to extend this special and temporary corn subsidy for one month; that is, until the end of October, 1962. This the minister decided not to do, on the ground that sufficient feed grains had been moved into maritime positions to meet the foreseeable needs in those provinces until such time as western feed grains had become available there.
Unfortunately, it appears that the minister did not put himself in possession of certain important facts before making this serious decision.
I am informed that in July, 1962, a shipload of corn was landed at the Halifax elevator, and that this shipment filled much of the space available for domestic storage in that elevator. It was held there until late in September. During this period the owners of this shipment were unwilling to sell any of this corn, evidently because it had been committed to one company, namely Canada Packers. Towards the end of September this corn was moved into Canada Packers storage. The minister alone can tell this committee precisely what the facts of this transaction were.
This very large supply of corn owned by one company evidently entered into the figures the minister used when he decided that there was enough corn available in the maritimes until such time as western feed grains became available. Moreover, it would appear that something like 50,000 or 60,000 bushels of corn owned by a distiller- of course, on this no freight assistance was paid-stored in the same elevator, and 100,000 bushels of export wheat may have entered into the figures used by the minister in deciding that sufficient grain was available.
I understand that the company in question, Canada Packers, would not have been able to take advantage of the special subsidy on corn in this way if the Department of Agriculture had not allowed it a dual status as both wholesaler and retailer. I am informed that at Truro, Nova Scotia, and at Sussex, New Brunswick, this company is classified for the purposes of the Department of Agriculture as a wholesaler, but that at their very much larger plant at Port Williams,
Nova Scotia, they are classified as a retailer. As you may know, sir, under the regulations the freight subsidy can be claimed when feedstuffs are transferred from a wholesaler to a retailer. The fact that this company has a dual standing in the eyes of the Department of Agriculture for these purposes means that it does not forgo freight assistance during any long period in which grain bought by the company is in wholesale storage; nor does the company have to worry about losing the freight subsidy on losses in bulk caused by shrinkage during wholesale storage.
From all the facts that are ascertainable it would appear that this particular manufacturer of feed stock was able to stock up on approximately 200,000 bushels of subsidized corn. Naturally I have nothing whatsoever against this particular company. The important thing is that, by making the acquisition of this subsidized corn attractive to the company, and by terminating the subsidy on the basis of figures which evidently included the holdings of the company, the Department of Agriculture made it necessary for the majority of those farmers who buy feed to pay the higher, unsubsidized transportation costs on the feed corn they had to use during the period between the time when the subsidized corn ceased to be available to them and the time when freight-assisted western feedstuffs became available.
This unfortunate situation was noted in a submission by the eastern agricultural conference to the Minister of Agriculture on November 6, 1962. After recommending that feed freight assistance is a sound national policy which should be embodied in a statute of this parliament, the submission continued as follows:
This does not mean that there are no improvements needed. Some adjustments are outlined in the attached federation statement. Also the conference feels quite strongly that definite improvements can be made in the administration of the policy. Great care should be taken to see that in the administration of freight assistance, all parties receive equitable treatment and that no special advantage is gained by individual commercial interests. Such a special advantage, and we believe a violation of the intent of the policy, has been gained recently in connection with the assisted movement of corn to the maritimes.
Later a resolution was passed by the Maritime Co-operative Services Limited, at its annual meeting at the middle of November, and, the following resolution passed at that time would appear to be substantially correct. It reads in part as follows:
Whereas an unusual interpretation of subsidy regulations, which we believe was not the intent of policy permitted one large feed manufacturer to obtain the advantage of the subsidy on corn stored before September 30 by being classed as a retailer at one point while as a wholesaler at another and other companies, including this co-operative doing
similar business by being classed as wholesalers could not qualify for the subsidy payment on corn put in storage;
Therefore be it resolved that.. . this annual meeting expresses disappointment-
I am leaving out certain words there which do not advance this argument and which are not germane.
-at the cancellation of the subsidy before western feed grains from the new crop were available,-
Then it goes on to resolve further that there has been
-a definite inequity between companies doing the same class of business and that apparently decisions were based on statistical presentations that were not accurate or did not reveal all the facts.
An administrative fumble apparently so disadvantageous as this one to many of the farmers of the maritimes makes one wonder whether this government should be granted the supply for which it now asks. I am quite sure that the Minister of Agriculture will be anxious to come into this committee and deal with the doubts many hundreds of people have because of these three specific matters I have mentioned.
However, before I conclude I wish to return to the point on which I opened. This government is coming to this committee, and it is asking for the tenth and twelfth of the supply for the fiscal year 1962-63. Yet the members of this House of Commons have not had put before them for examination here the estimates which might justify the money that is being voted. It is astonishing to me if the people of this country or the members of this parliament are prepared to tolerate this situation much longer.
No reasonable business man, no university administrator and certainly no farmer could hope to conduct a satisfactory business in this way. I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that the time must very soon come when this committee must refuse supply to this government.
Mr. Chairman, I feel humiliated and embarrassed at being obliged to rise at this hour of the evening under a motion for interim supply in order to use the only opportunity which has arisen in this session since September 27 to discuss what undoubtedly is the most important public question affecting the province from which I come. It is a public question which in its magnitude is, in my opinion, at least as important to this nation as was the St. Lawrence seaway project which was the subject
of some discussion in this House of Commons a number of years ago. I am referring to the matter of the Columbia river draft treaty which has been discussed by two of my colleagues previously during this debate, namely the hon. member for Kootenay West and the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard.
Since this session began a great many indications have been given to the government that many hon. members of this House of Commons were desirous of an opportunity of discussing this question. All that we have been able to do is to attempt to address certain questions to some of the ministers on the orders of the day and in some cases to place some questions on the order paper. Shortly some of us are going to be returning to our home provinces for the Christmas recess. Those of us who come from the province of British Columbia are going to be obliged to return without having the kind of detailed relevant information with respect to this matter which we had anticipated we should be able to secure when we came down here for this session. Those hon. members who, like myself, have not been in this House of Commons for a time had taken at its face value the indication which had been given that this matter would be referred to the external affairs committee for full discussion under appropriate circumstances, where we would have a full opportunity of getting the detailed sort of information which, on a complex matter such as this, can be secured only by having called before it expert witnesses. This opportunity we have not had.
As far as I am concerned, one of the principal reasons why I feel I must rise and take part in this desultory sort of discussion, which is all that we can have on an interim supply motion, is the fact that it has been impossible for us to secure in a responsible manner the sort of information which we had expected the government would make it possible for us to secure. As I speak tonight I note that none of the ministers primarily responsible for this matter are here to take part in such a discussion. A few minutes ago I looked along the treasury benches and realized that the only minister occupying one of those seats was the Postmaster General. While I have a great regard for her-
Mr. Chairman, I am not at all sure that the hon. member had a question of privilege and I think he might have allowed me to finish my sentence before he rose so precipitately. I was about to say that during the last few minutes the Minister of Veterans Affairs and more recently the Minister of Finance had arrived. As far as I am aware, neither of these ministers has been primarily responsible for matters pertaining to the Columbia river treaty. As I say, it is most unfortunate that we have to discuss this kind of subject under these circumstances. That is the only point I had in mind making. I know that all members of the cabinet are busy people and I do not expect that they are going to be here every minute of every day that the house sits. As I was trying to say, in my opinion it is most unfortunate that all we have been able to find out as to what is going on has come from one or two statements made by the Secretary of State for External Affairs that certain informal discussions are taking place. We have been given no real information as to the nature of these discussions. We have been given no information as to the direction in which they are leading.
We have been told that the government of British Columbia is involved in these discussions and that fact gives me real ground for concern in that when we come back to the house on January 21 we may very well once again be faced with one of those faits accom-plis into which the premier of British Columbia seems to be able to manoeuvre this government. We are going to come back here and perhaps be faced at that time with a suggestion that this matter go before the external affairs committee, and when it does we are going to find that yet a new twist has been added to the many twists that have been already given to the development of this project, and the treaty that has been signed. That, Mr. Chairman, is the real cause for concern from my point of view.
While I do not minimize the area of provincial responsibility under the constitution
in respect of development of this kind, nevertheless in my view this is primarily a Canadian matter. This is not something with respect to which parliament can accept dictation from someone who happens to be the premier of a province. This has not always been the case as far as this house is concerned, nor do I think it should be. In my opinion the least the government would have done was to arrange for this matter to go before the external affairs committee so that at least the members of the house who are concerned about the matter could have been fully informed when they went back to meet their constituents during the recess. If the government had done that, while perhaps saying at the same time that certain discussions were going on, I see no reason why we could not have reached an understanding that any final decision by the house in respect of ratification of the treaty in its present form would be deferred until completion of those discussions and until the external affairs committee had had the benefit of the full results of those discussions.
I think all members of the house are aware that there has been growing and increasingly impressive evidence of concern on the part of many well qualified people with regard to the implications of this treaty. When my colleague, the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, was discussing this matter earlier, the Minister of Public Works tried to suggest that perhaps he was not fully qualified to understand the treaty. I am not at all sure that the Minister of Public Works is fully qualified to understand the treaty and I certainly do not make any undue claims with regard to my own ability to understand the treaty in all its complexities. Nevertheless the Minister of Public Works must recognize that a great many well qualified people in addition to General McNaughton have expressed grave concern about the treaty.
I am sure that the Minister of Public Works or any other member of the government would hardly attempt at this stage to brush aside lightly the considered opinions of General McNaughton, even though they may not be prepared to accept them in their entirety. As far as I am concerned, I can think of no other Canadian to whose views greater weight should be given in the consideration of what is involved in this treaty. I do not think the statement can be challenged that General McNaughton has been more intimately associated with matters concerning the development of the Columbia river basin, and for a longer period of time, than any other living Canadian. Nevertheless, as I say, other qualified people have been expressing very grave doubts.
All of us in this house who are laymen recognize, I believe, that when it comes to highly complex engineering matters we have to rely on expert opinion. We also recognize that from time to time there may be a division of views among experts as well. But when we see the sort of analysis that was made in the Engineering and Contract Record, to which reference has already been made, and when we see other references, those of us who are attempting to understand the implications of the treaty really have cause to be concerned. As my colleagues have said, on the basis of the evidence we have at hand so far we in this party are completely convinced that the treaty in its present form should not be ratified by parliament. In my view the question of the ratification of this treaty by the parliament of Canada is something which should have priority over any views that may be advanced by the person who may for the time being happen to be in charge of the government of the province of British Columbia.
Now, among other opinions which have recently been expressed in this connection, Mr. Chairman, I find the opinion of a very well known member of a firm of consulting engineers in Vancouver by the name of Mr. Bartholomew. His name is well known in British Columbia. He is known as the head of a firm which has designed large projects not only in Canada but all over the world. I believe his opinions merit the consideration of hon. members of this house. He had this to say:
(1) It gives United States 25 per cent more downstream firm power than British Columbia receives.
(2) British Columbia's share of downstream power diminishes from year to year at an alarming rate only controlled by the United States.
(3) United States downstream power costs the U.S. one fifth, or less, of what British Columbia's share would cost if British Columbia can use it when available, which is doubtful.
(4) The value to the United States of their downstream power benefits increased greatly and steadily in value.
(5) The control of water flow in the Columbia river in Canada is handed over completely to the United States.
(6) The High Arrow dam robs Canada of 400,000 kilowatts (half of Vancouver's total power consumption) , robs British Columbia of forest and agricultural land and destroys an unequalled tourist area and lakes.
(7) The value of Canadian storage at Mica dam is undervalued in the treaty by over 50 per cent.
(8) The treaty is essentially for United States benefit only.
So, Mr. Chairman, I submit that there is on the face of it a clear case that this treaty is not in the best interests of Canada or of British Columbia. As a matter of fact, I thought that the decision the development envisaged by this treaty was not in the best interest of Canada had been made by this
parliament a number of years ago. Some of the members of this house will recall that in 1955 we had before us what was known as the international rivers bill. The international rivers bill was occasioned by a proposal to build what is now called the High Arrow dam. In those days it was known as the Kaiser dam. I was a member of the external affairs committee which considered that bill. Those of us who were on that committee at that time had the advantage of hearing a very full and thorough review of what was involved in the development of the whole of the Columbia river basin. We heard at that time a very detailed representation presented on behalf of the government of British Columbia by the attorney general, Mr. Bonner and the then minister of lands and forests, Mr. Sommers.
As some hon. members in this house will recall, we had what amounted almost to a filibuster on the subject in the house. The filibuster was conducted by a group of members in the house who were then under the Social Credit label. I will not associate the present Social Credit group with that filibuster because actually only two of the present Social Credit group were involved in the debate at that time. We heard a lot about the High Arrow, the Low Arrow, Waneta No. 1 and Waneta No. 2. It went on for quite a number of days. I think all hon. members will recall that after a full and detailed examination of the whole Columbia river basin the members of this house, with the exception of those in the Social Credit group, gave as their considered opinion that that kind of development of the Columbia river was not to the advantage of Canada. This bill was passed with the full support of the members of the Liberal party, the Conservative party and those of us who were in the house at the time in the C.C.F. party.
I must say, Mr. Chairman, I do find it a little difficult to reconcile the position now being taken by some Conservatives who were then in the house, and who now occupy leading positions on the treasury benches, with the position they took after a detailed examination of this proposition. They seem to be taking this position now, I would say rather reluctantly, at the behest of the premier of British Columbia. They seemed to be prepared to stand up on the earlier occasion and say to the premier of British Columbia that this same type of development was not in the best interests of Canada.
Some reference was made earlier in the discussion of this subject to the fact that the Minister of Public Works is a signatory of the treaty. I should like to point out, in concluding my remarks this evening that there is another signature on that treaty on behalf of
Business of the House Canada. This signature stands above that of the Minister of Public Works, and is the signature of the Prime Minister. I want to make it quite clear that I feel the person who should stand up in this house and answer for what has happened in connection with the Columbia river treaty is the Prime Minister of Canada. I think all of the evidence surrounding the situation is such, especially if one thinks, for example, of the references that were made by the hon. member for Kootenay West to the speech made in Prince George by the Minister of Public Works, that it points to the fact that responsibility for the situation rests on the shoulders of the Prime Minister. He is the one who should stand up in this house and tell us why he has decided to sell half of British Columbia down the river into the United States.
Mr. Speaker, may I make a suggestion to the minister leading the house? For all of this week we have been seeking, without success, to get some statement from the Minister of Justice regarding certain activities of the R.C.M.P. I want to suggest that if there is to be any co-operation in dealing with this interim supply I hope we might have some such statement tomorrow.