May 15, 1964

LIB

Hédard-J. Robichaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Robichaud:

Mr. Chairman, a while ago I saw the hon. member for Joliette-L'Assomp-tion-Montcalm (Mr. Pigeon) making signs like this, and I could not help thinking of the Union Nationale.

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LIB

Harry William Hays (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Hays:

In reply to the questions asked by the hon. member for Port Arthur, I may say that the only way in which these things can be answered and proven is through the passage of time. You can only be known by your deeds.

So far as the Pearson cabinet is concerned, I can assure the hon. member I never worked with a group of men so dedicated towards doing a good job for the Canadian people. I can only say that time will probably indicate whether we are doing some of the things that we suggested we would do, and some of those things are now in progress.

The hon. member for St. Hyacinthe-Bagot asked a question as to why we had changed one of the members of the Farm Credit Corporation advisory board. This board has ten members appointed on a rotational basis, some members holding office for one year, some for two and some for three years. The replacement we made was of Mr. Blanchette by Mr. Lamoureux, and we invited farm organizations to list a certain number of

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names of people who could serve on the corporation. This was suggested by the president of the U.C.C., and the appointment was made on that basis. I have not met the gentleman but I understand he is of outstanding ability.

May I point out to hon. members of the committee that this is the eighth day the estimates of the Department of Agriculture have been under discussion this session. This is the third day so far as the main estimates are concerned, and we spent five days dealing with the supplementary estimates. I know hon. members do not have to do this, but since we have so much on the order paper dealing with agriculture I wonder would they be agreeable to moving along so that we can go through the various votes of the department.

There is so much farm legislation on the order paper that there will be ample opportunity again to discuss farm problems. We have the Farm Credit Corporation amendments, the farm improvement loan amendments, crop insurance legislation and, in addition to this, within the next few days we hope to put the new farm machinery bill on the order paper. It seems to me this is the sort of legislation that hon. members will want to deal with fairly soon and with some dispatch, because it is important. It will be good for the farmers, and might I prevail on hon. members to help me get along with my estimates since we have already discussed agricultural estimates for eight days this session.

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PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words on the remarks just made by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Hays). First of all, he should not be allowed to leave the impression that this is the eighth day allocated to consideration of Department of Agriculture estimates since it is only the third day. True, we have examined supplementary estimates, but we had good reasons to do so under the circumstances since, as the Minister of Agriculture knows very well, that brought to light things that we might never have learned otherwise.

Moreover, neither the minister nor I were in the house in 1961. But I have been told that in 1961, item 1 as well as the other items of the Department of Agriculture's estimates were discussed for 12 days. This means that in 1961, the estimates for the Department of Agriculture were studied for 12 days, while we have now only devoted three days to them.

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Before dealing with my subject this afternoon, I would like, first to congratulate the hon. member for Lotbiniere (Mr. Choquette) whose riding is next to mine and who has somewhat established the basis of my remarks this afternoon. However, I would like to answer a few points.

For example, when he stated that during the election campaign last year, the Liberal party promised to the province of Quebec an associate minister of agriculture, this is not what I read in the political platform of his party, it is not what the farmers heard and that is not what was on the order paper of the House of Commons last year when, from May 20 to the adjournment, there appeared a resolution providing for the creation of the office of minister of agriculture for eastern Canada. Some hon. members and ministers even stated that the minister of agriculture for eastern Canada would be on the same footing as the present Minister of Agriculture.

Moreover, I should like to point out to the house, as well as to the hon. member for Lotbiniere, that what we gained with the new Liberal government was simply the loss of a parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Last year or two years ago, we had a full time minister of agriculture, a minister of forestry, a parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture and another parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture.

At the present time, we only have one parliamentary secretary; he may be worth two men, but he represents only one riding in Canada. All we have gained with the new Liberal administration is the loss of a man representing the minister of agriculture and all the members in the House of Commons.

The hon. member for Lotbiniere raised another point. He said that during the years the Conservative government was in power, carelessness, inefficiency and apathy prevailed. I would not like to dwell on that this afternoon, because I would spend 30 minutes and even more relating everything which was done by the Conservative government, from 1957 and 1962. However, I shall ask the hon. member for Lotbiniere to refer to a speech which I made in this house on September 28, 1962, when I had the opportunity to do exactly what he did last year, that is second the address in reply to the speech from the throne.

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LIB

Auguste Choquette

Liberal

Mr. Choquette:

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Chairman. It is not exactly what I said.

On the contrary, here is what I said, and it will please the hon. member for Nicolet-Yamaska (Mr. Vincent). I said that the Liberal members had a tendency of accusing the Conservative government of inertia, inefficiency and negligence, and that the Conservatives, in turn, were accusing the Liberals of doing nothing.

Now, what I wanted to suggest is that we cease to accuse and blame one another; that we go hand in hand in order to establish an agricultural policy in Canada, and particularly in the province of Quebec. I am sure that all the members will agree on that.

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PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

Mr. Chairman, I agree entirely with the remarks made by the hon. member for Lotbiniere at this time, but I am somewhat disappointed to see that when the Conservatives were in office, those remarks could have been applied to the members sitting on this side of the house. I recall, for instance, that during the last election campaign they came and told Quebec farmers: "If you vote for the Conservatives, subsidies on milk and consumer goods will be stopped. All measures passed by the Conservatives themselves will be rescinded." The very opposite happened. The Conservatives are now in the opposition and the Liberals are in office. We see that subsidies on milk, lime and butter are disappearing gradually, and that is not done to help farmers, but to save money for the federal treasury.

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LIB
PC
LIB
LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. member for Nicolet-Yamaska has the floor.

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PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

I should like, at this stage, to make a few comments on the remarks of the hon. member for Roberval. It is not my intention to take the government's defence, but when the hon. member for Roberval speaks about the farm credit corporation, I should not like him to create the impression that there is no farm credit for the farmers in the province of Quebec. He said that 2,500 loans had been granted in Saskatchewan by the farm credit corporation, while only 1,500 had been granted in the province of Quebec.

In the province of Quebec, we benefit from the provincial farm credit board that makes loans, or made loans at least at the time when another party was in power in the province, up to $30 million a year.

Now, I would like to deal, this afternoon, with a very important subject. The hon. member for Lotbiniere admitted himself that the dairy industry is the basis of agriculture in eastern Canada.

On last April 29, the Minister of Agriculture made a statement in the house about a new program concerning the dairy industry and the production year opening on May 1, 1964, that is only a few hours before the institution of this new program.

Some time before, I had asked the Minister of Agriculture to announce this program early enough to give milk producers and dairies the opportunity to make representations if they could not accept it.

We realize that last year the government could not make that announcement before April 29 because, at that time, the Liberal party had only been in power for seven days, but this year the Minister of Agriculture should have made that announcement much earlier.

By referring to previous years I noticed, for instance, that the support price programs were announced for the years 1958 and 1959 on April 7, 1958, three weeks before the beginning of the new year. The program for

1959- 60 was announced on April 23, that is a week before the start of the new year. In

1960- 61, the program was announced on April 13, 1960, 17 days before the start of the dairy year. For the year 1961-62, the program was announced on April 20, again 10 days before the start of the new year. In 1962-63, it was announced on March 22.

Even though the then minister of agriculture was ill at the time, this program was announced in the house on March 22. And may I be allowed to point out that this program provided for a subsidy of 12 cents per pound to the consumer. It was a complete program as regards dairy products. This program was revised on April 9 and April 27, following the representations made by farmers.

This year, the program was announced only a few hours before the beginning of the new dairy production year.

What will be the effects of this new dairy program as regards our producers? It will surely not increase the already very low income of our eastern farmers.

We are already getting complaints and requests and reading in the country's farm newspapers editorials against that new dairy program which, I say it again, was announced at the very last minute to take the dairy producers by surprise and put them in an embarrassing situation.

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In 1964-65, the producer who sends milk to the processing plant for butter will get 13.3 cents per pound of fat instead of getting, through the manufacturer and the federal government, 14.5 cents. That means that the producer will suffer a loss of 4J cents per hundredweight of milk, which will be made up by an increase of 1 cent per pound in the price of butter to the consumer. Therefore, the consumer will have to pay a basic price of 53 cents per pound for butter. That new policy will result in the Canadian consumer paying $3.5 million more, without the dairy producers getting one additional penny.

In the case of cheese, the 30 cent subsidy per cwt. of milk for cheddar cheese has been removed. This loss of several million dollars will be compensated by a payment of 3.6 cents per cwt. of milk for premium quality cheese.

The other day I heard the parliamentary secretary of the Minister of Agriculture tell us for instance, that nine pounds of cheese were being produced with 100 pounds of milk. I agree. Those figures are a bit more accurate than those given to us last year on another matter by the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin).

But in the province of Quebec, only 86.8 per cent of the cheese is rated first grade, while 90.3 per cent in Ontario is first grade. The remainder of the cheese production does not benefit by this premium of 3.6 cents per pound.

Mr. Chairman, I received recently, just like the Minister of Agriculture, a petition signed by cheese producers of the constituencies of Nicolet-Yamaska, Drummond-Arthabaska and of St. Maurice-Lafleche. For the information of the house, I will read a few excerpts thereof:

We have examined the new policy concerning grants for cheese production.

We submit that to comply with the regulations established on May 1, 1964, while providing to the consumer the product which he wants, that is a fresh cheese, the price would necessarily be increased by 4 cents a pound, or the price to the farmer would be reduced by 30 cents per cwt. of milk. In either case, this would obviously be prejudicial and could entail very serious economic consequences.

Mr. Chairman, the federal government promoted the establishment of cheese factories. For instance, the first signature on the petition is that of Mr. Marcel Descoteau, of St. Gregoire. Mr. Descoteau obtained a grant from the federal government to set up his factory, and he retails all his cheese on the local market without having it classified or graded in Montreal. Since this cheese will not be classified, because the consumer insists

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on getting a fresh product, and Mr. Descoteau sells 893,000 pounds of cheese per year, this represents a heavy loss for him.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Descoteau had to boost his retail price by 4 cents a pound this week, in order to pay the farmers the price he received last year. And if you take into account the increase of 4 cents per pound in the retail price of cheese, this can only mean a lower consumption. In fact, we may wonder where we are going, since last year 1963-64, in Canada, the consumption of Cheddar cheese was 99.9 million pounds, as against 102 million pounds in 1962-63. This means that last year, the Canadian consumption of Cheddar cheese went down by 2.1 million pounds-

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LIB

Harry William Hays (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Hays:

Mr. Chairman, may I ask the hon. member where he got these figures from.

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PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

These figures were sent by the Department of Agriculture to La Terre de Chez Nous.

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LIB
PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

I would like to say, Mr. Chairman, that when the d.b.s. figures are better than those of the Department of Agriculture, the government uses them. The government used to give the d.b.s. figures, but when they found that the figures of the Department of Agriculture were better, they gave those figures. This is what happened last year with regard to the price of milk. I got all the figures on the price of milk from the Department of Agriculture, and the figures are not the same as those of the d.b.s. Therefore it is only a way of saying: "Well, these figures are better and we are going to use them". I shall come back to this in a few minutes, Mr. Chairman, with regard to the price of grain in Montreal. I shall speak about that later.

Mr. Chairman, this is a petition signed by cheese producers who sell their production on the local market. Mr. Marcel Descoteau retails 893,000 pounds on the local market; Mr. Paul-Emile Dionne, 68,000 pounds; the Society cooperative agricole of St. Germain de Grantham, in the Drummond-Arthabaska riding, 800,000 pounds; the Lemaire cheese factory, of St. Cyrville, 319,251 pounds. You also find the names of Mr. Frangois Richard, of Kingsey Falls; Mr. Gerard Grenier, of Vic-toriaville; Mr. Henri Provencher, of Prince-ville; Mr. Felicien Lemaire, of my parish.

Their total production adds up to 3,202,884 pounds of cheese retailed on the local market and not classified.

This means that if the price is raised by 4 cents a pound, the consumer will have to pay an extra $128,155.36, because of the new support policy of the federal government.

Mr. Chairman, reactions are being felt everywhere. This morning, I received an issue of the newspaper La Terre de Chez Nous, the official publication of the U.C.C. The editorial was entitled:

The price support program of dairy products. And I also read this:

Would thousands of young cattle on highway 17 be more eloquent than our leaders?

Mr. Chairman, the writer of the article does not keep the exclusivity of this headline. As a matter of fact, he says:

Even if I cannot claim I thought first of the suggestion concerning the walking of young cattle on route 17, I submit it anyway.

In regard to the new price support policy, which should be designed to help farmers, instead-as too often stated by the Minister of Agriculture-of saving money for the federal treasury, here is what the editorial of the newspaper in question says, and I quote:

The firm and optimistic tone of the first sentence of the statement made by the Hon. Harry W. Hays, federal Minister of Agriculture, lead us to expect that dairy producers will be better off during the dairy year just begun.

Mr. Chairman, I thought we were the only ones in the house to realize that the Minister of Agriculture always begins his statements by a bombastic tirade which never leads to anything.

And further-

Even if the compound index for goods and services used by eastern producers in the country moved from 232.3 to 242.5 from January 1963 to January 1964.

Mr. Chairman, the minister never mentioned the fact that the prices paid by producers for goods and services increased by some ten points from January 1963 to January 1964.

As for cheese, a few days ago I asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the organizations concerned had been consulted before the announcement of this new policy. I do not question the words of the minister, but I simply read the editorial article, and I quote: The producers have not been consulted, but their claims are ignored.

And still speaking of cheese, this is what the editorial says:

Here, we do not at all agree with the minister. In order to hand out to its patrons the equivalent of 30 cents for a hundredweight of milk, a factory should have an average production of 85 pounds of cheese for every hundred pounds of milk, which means that the net would have an average fat content of nearly 3.3 per cent and more to be classified 100 per cent, Canada, first grade. If we recall that during the 12 months of 1963, the province of Quebec succeeded in having 86.8 per cent (in Ontario 90.3 per cent) of its cheese classified as first grade, and further that, during the heavy production months, the average fat content of our vats is nearer 3.2 per cent than 3.3 per cent, we have to infer that in case of conditions similar to that of 1963, the producers-sup-pliers of the cheese factories will be forced, on the whole, to accept a cut of 5 cents in their delivery price, in comparison to last year's price.

And the editorial also deals with the bonus for cheese exports to the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, it should be kept in mind that, last year, the farm organizations in Canada asked for the reinstatement of that 4 cent bonus not only for the cheese exported to the United Kingdom, but for all kinds of cheese.

This premium was again cut by another cent, so that the way things are going, two years hence the Liberal party will have taken away completely what the Conservative government had granted during its term in office.

Mr. Chairman, I believe my time is running out, and I wish-

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NDP

Harold Edward Winch

New Democratic Party

Mr. Winch:

May I ask the hon. member a question. In view of the fact that the hon. member is discussing an important phase of agriculture, and in view of the fact that I understand there are 129 elected Liberals in this parliament and only nine of them are here now, would the hon. member consider requesting the Chairman to rise, report progress, and request leave to sit again when there are more government members present?

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L L

William Moore Benidickson (Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys)

Liberal Labour

Mr. Benidickson:

You are pretty thin over there too.

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PC

Clément Vincent

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Vincent:

Mr. Chairman, last year, I had noticed, and was getting used to it, that whenever we were talking about agriculture the minister was not in the house. I have noticed it, at least on one occasion. But on several occasions, I found that in sittings of committees we were 13 or 15 Conservatives as against one or two Liberals. The hon. member for Lotbiniere (Mr. Choquette) even told me that Liberals were not interested in taking part in an attendance contest, but only in discussing agriculture.

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That is why I was not surprised this year to And only a handful of Liberal members, perhaps eight or ten, out of 129 present in the House of Commons.

When I spoke of feed grain last March 30, I stated that the government should introduce legislation enabling eastern farmers to set up a feed grain board. The same evening the Minister of Agriculture replied that price stability was an accomplished fact.

The next day, that is on March 31, I asked a question on the orders of the day. I had to wait, one month, one week and a few days before I got a reply that I already got the day before.

Once again, I do not question the statement made by the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture to the effect that, for instance, barley was selling for $2.30 in September, $2.48 in October, $2.45 in November, $2.42 in December, $2,46 in January, $2.41 in February and $2.43 in March. I do not challenge those figures because they were probably secured from the federal bureau of statistics, as they look better than the figures of the Department of Agriculture. If the latter had been more favourable, they would have been used.

The parliamentary secretary was speaking of the price per hundredweight paid by retailers to wholesalers for barley and oats. I have here a price list which was sent to Mr. Louis Roy, a merchant in St. Perpetue, county of Nicolet, by a Montreal wholesaler whose telephone number is 931-1881, if anyone wants to check. According to that list, on September 7, 1963, barley was selling for $2,234 per hundredweight as compared with $2.27 in October. I myself phoned a wholesaler in Montreal on January 8, 1964, to ask him the price of barley; I was told that it was $2,594, that the price of oats was $2.55 to $2.59J and the price of No. 5 wheat $3,354.

And those are price lists that retailers received from the companies which sell oats or barley and those retailers had to pay those list prices.

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LIB

Herman Maxwell Batten (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

I regret to interrupt the hon. member but I must advise him that the time allocated to him has expired.

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PC

George Robson Muir

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Muir (Lisgar):

Mr. Chairman, in rising to take part in this debate I should first like to express to the minister our great satisfaction that he, with generous assistance from the official opposition, was able to resist the pressures of his cabinet colleagues in what was apparently an attempt to split the Department of Agriculture right down the

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middle and to relegate that department to a minor role in the affairs of the nation. I refer, of course, to the orders in council which were intended to strip the minister of his authority and which would have had the effect, had they not been rescinded, of destroying the effectiveness of one of our great departments of government. There was too much involved in this strange manoeuvre for either the official opposition or, to his credit, the Minister of Agriculture to stand idly by and see this happen. Because the Department of Agriculture has in the past played a very important part in bringing to the farming communities of the nation leadership, a measure of stability and assistance in times of stress, we believe it should continue to do so, provided it is given the opportunity by the government.

Frankly, Mr. Chairman, up to now the government has not shown the vigorous action that the Prime Minister in the election campaign promised if he were elected his government would take on behalf of agriculture. In that regard I should like to read into the record a short paragraph from an article in the April 9 issue of the Family Herald written by their Ottawa correspondent. He says in part:

It is still not clear what Mr. Pearson intends to do with the farm department-

Undoubtedly this delay is partly the cause for the Liberals' faltering record in agriculture. Since they took office, not a single piece of farm legislation has been passed by parliament. The measures that have been taken were by cabinet orders in council and these were few in number.

It may be that there is a glimmer of hope that the government can no longer ignore its responsibilities to agriculture in that we have finally had some farm legislation put on the order paper. I refer to the amendment to the Farm Credit Act.

We were also pleased to note that the minister indicated in a statement to the committee that he hoped to strengthen the liaison between the research organization of his department and the communities in which they are located. Everyone agrees that there is continuing need to stress the importance of good public relations between the scientists responsible for research and the general public. But research, to be most effective, must be made available to those individuals and commercial enterprises which can make practical use of it. Research is no more valuable anywhere than that carried out by our research stations and the experimental farms, where experiments are done under local conditions and where they can be of great benefit to the communities concerned. I think

[Mr. Muir (Lisgar) .1

most of us will agree that our agricultural scientists are the equal of any in this field in the world, and any additional efforts which the department can put forward toward assisting our farmers in the improvement in the quality of their cereal grains, special crops and livestock is a step in the right direction. There is no doubt that this is a specific area where we can improve our competitive position in the markets of the world.

The other day the minister, in answer to a question I posed to him, assured us that the government intended to bring in legislation to reinsure the provinces against losses in their crop insurance programs. We certainly welcome this assurance because until such time as the provinces are reinsured they are hesitant about extending their programs in that regard beyond a regional or experimental stage. I had hoped that this legislation would also be put on the order paper in order to assure the provinces that they would be covered for the current crop year. Perhaps the minister can give us further assurance that this will be done.

Another problem I wish to bring to the attention of the committee is of vital importance to the western economy and of great concern to the farmers of the three prairie provinces. Since it comes under the jurisdiction of the minister and is part of his duties and functions I should like to impress upon him and the committee the prime importance of the matter of railway branch line abandonment in relation to the future well-being of agriculture. I hope that as the minister responsible he insists that a long, hard look be taken at any abandonment and that it is established beyond any shadow of doubt that the public interest is protected before consent to such abandonment is given.

Because of the widespread concern in the province of Manitoba caused by the proposed abandonment by the C.N.R. of practically all their trackage south of their main line between Winnipeg and Brandon, together with additional abandonments contemplated in that area by the C.P.R., a branch line association was set up last fall which has now become province wide and has made this particular problem a part of their concern. In fact, the statement issued by the association at that time reads as follows:

The recent announcement regarding abandonment of railway branch lines is causing concern in may sections of Manitoba and concern on the part of the many interests which will sooner or later be affected by such abandonment. A part of the anxiety is due to the extent of branch line abandonment which has been indicated to date and the importance that is attached to abandonment as a solution to the problems of the

railways, especially in western Canada. It goes without saying that abandonment of branch lines should be subject to a thorough study and investigation from the standpoint of the costs of such abandonment to the individuals, municipalities and communities concerned.

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LIB

Herman Maxwell Batten (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

Order. I apologize for interrupting the hon. member for Lisgar but I am having some difficulty relating what he is saying now to the first item of the agriculture estimates.

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May 15, 1964