March 4, 1968

LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

Mr. Chairman, I was most

pleased to see the Leader of the Opposition enter this debate on farm policy. I must

March 4, 1968

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apologize to other members who have spoken, because I certainly intend to the best of my knowledge, to attempt to answer the queries they have raised, but in light of the position held by the hon. gentleman who has just spoken as leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition I think I owe him the courtesy of speaking immediately. I trust other hon. members will bear with me in this regard.

First of all, the hon. gentleman began in a tone of humility by indicating to the house that he would not have all the answers or solutions to agricultural problems in half an hour. Whatever else may be said of the speech he has just made, I think we can all agree that his humility was well justified. What we have heard is a series of platitudes in respect of the problems facing agriculture, most of which have been voiced over the years by other speakers when discussing agricultural problems.

The hon. gentleman has not taken care to check the facts he has presented to us in respect of the well-being of the agricultural industry today as compared to its well-being at the time when the country was beset by the government of the party opposite. I think possibly it might be well, as we all wish the hon. gentleman good fortune during his years in opposition, if we set the facts straight, so that in the future he may base his agricultural criticism on the facts as they exist.

First of all, the hon. gentleman indicated that this government had been remiss in some ways in respect of its export policies, and indicated that if there had been vigorous export policies larger markets could have been found. He suggested this was one of the inherent problems. Let me help the hon. gentleman by citing the record in this regard, particularly in respect of the comparison he attempted to make between this government and the Conservative party when it was in office, as to the respective measures taken to achieve export sales. These are the facts for the perusal and consideration of the hon. gentleman.

Wheat is probably the major item of our agricultural exports, which has contributed greatly to our balance of payments, and represents the considerable and worthy contribution made by the farmers of Canada. In 1960-61 some 353.5 million bushels of wheat were sold at a value of $602 million. In 196162 some 358 million bushels of wheat were sold at a value of $686 million while in 196263 some 331.4 million bushels of wheat were sold at a value of $668 million.

[DOT] (8:50 p.m.)

Then, strangely, things began to improve. In 1963-64, there were 594.5 million bushels which brought to the farmers of Canada a total of $1,185,000,000. In 1964-65, the figure is

399.6 million bushels, bringing to the farmers of Canada a total of $880 million. In 1965-66 the figure was 584.9 million bushels, for a total return of $1,126,000,000 to the farmers of Canada. In 1966-67, the estimated figure is

516.6 million bushels for a total of $1,072,000,000 return to the farmers of Canada.

An. hon. Member: Finish the story.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

I know that hon. gentlemen opposite do not like to discuss facts, but whether they like it or no, I propose to tell something of the factual story of what has happened in agriculture.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

The record in this regard speaks for itself.

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PC

Francis Alvin George Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton:

Mr. Chairman, would the minister permit a question?

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

Mr. Chairman, I think-

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?

An hon. Member:

He is afraid.

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LIB

John Maxwell Roxburgh

Liberal

Mr. Roxburgh:

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it is all right for the hon. member, the farmer from Oshawa, to laugh, but we listened in quietness to the remarks of hon. members opposite and I would ask them to do the same for us, please.

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?

@Deputy Chair(man)? of Committees of the Whole

Order, please. The minister has the floor, and I think it makes his task more difficult if hon. members make gratuitous remarks from their seats.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

Mr. Chairman, I hope to be able to answer the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition and to set the record straight as to the facts, upon which he can in future base his agricultural endeavours, thinking and suggestions. We need suggestions badly in the area of agriculture. We know there are very difficult problems to be solved. We do not minimize them and we cannot gloss them over. Neither do we base our decisions upon imperfect conclusions of facts; it is in this regard that I hope to straighten out the record.

The Leader of the Opposition, as well as saying that we have not been vigorous in our exports, was also concerned about the real

March 4. 1968

net income received by farmers for the great contribution they make to the total economy of this country. I share the concern of the hon. gentleman in regard to the position of farmers and agree that there is still a long way to go if, incomewise, we are to bring farmers to the standard of the rest of the Canadian economy. But the hon. gentleman indicated that in some measure, if I understood his words, the farmer had suffered, incomewise, since we had been in office from the standpoint of real net income.

While I agree that the farmer is not as well off today as many sectors of the economic community in real, net income, I will cite statistics to indicate that since we have been in office the real net income position of the farmer has progressed at the same pace as has the rest of the incomes in the Canadian economy. If the farmer is still behind, it is because he was too far behind when we took office, and we have not yet been able to catch up.

Here are the facts in this regard, Mr. Chairman. If hon. gentlemen opposite are interested-and they have not shown a propensity to be interested in anything but the political facts of the situation to date-I would point out that based on the 1945 index at 100, in the year 1962 the Dominion Bureau of Statistics represented the total productivity then as being 148. By 1966 this figure had risen to 183. Cash receipts from the sale of farm products totalled $3.1 billion in 1962. In other words, for 1962, the last year hon. gentlemen opposite, or at least some of them, were in office, the total income of farmers in Canada was $3.1 billion. This rose to $4.2 billion in 1966. In other words this was an increase of over $1 billion during the four years we were in office. Hon. gentlemen opposite may well say: "Yes, but that is gross income. Sure, they got an extra $1 billion; but their costs went up."

The Leader of the Opposition made what I think was a valid point as to the increase in costs of the farmer and the cost-price squeeze with which he is faced. But what has happened to his real income during this period? During this same period the farmers' net income rose by 33J per cent from $1,492,000,000 in 1962 to $1,978,000,000 in 1966, an increase of 33 J per cent in the four years we have been in office.

I say it is singular that this increase of 33J per cent compares with the rate increase enjoyed by wage earners of the rest

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of the Canadian economic community. In other words, during our term of office we have been able to increase the farmer's real income, not only through his own productivity but through our aggressive sales in world markets, which has meant that his income has increased by 33J per cent which is about the same rate as the rest of the Canadian community.

Surely, Mr. Chairman, if he is still behind it is as simple as two plus two, because this situation prevailed before we took office. Hon. members opposite tell us about the great accomplishments when they were in office. It is very strange that in spite of the situation which prevailed when hon. members opposite were in office, the farmer has gone ahead 33J per cent since we assumed office but is still behind the rest of the Canadian community.

The hon. member for Kent (Ont.), who I think speaks at times for the party opposite in regard to agricultural matters, indicated a concern about the number of farms that were no longer in operation. He was concerned about the rate of disappearance of farms during our tenure of office, and the fact that a smaller percentage of people in this country were producing the food for the rest of the Canadian community.

[DOT] (9:00 p.m.)

First of all I would point out that, generally speaking, it is apparently an axiom in the world of economics that as the total well-being of a nation progresses, as a nation progresses in industrial development and technology, it is inevitable that a smaller percentage of the people produce the food for the rest of the community. I think we can look at examples of the underdeveloped countries where almost 100 per cent of the population is on the land, but who do not produce a sufficient amount of food to feed these unfortunate people. In lands, such as for instance in Poland, if I recall rightly-and I had occasion to study the statistics last summer when the Polish delegation was here-they have reduced the agricultural population from something like 40 per cent at the end of world war II to some 32 per cent of the total population today. We in Canada, at the beginning of world war II, had some 30 per cent of our people on the land. Today, 8 per cent of the people produce the food, very efficiently, and probably according to the most productive techniques in the world. 1 think this is inevitable with industrial progress which gives new opportunities and new technology.

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Experts, be they right or wrong, tell us that with a completely advanced economic community in today's terms it is likely that within the next decade or so some 4 to 5 per cent of Canadians will produce the food for the rest of us. This appears to be an immutable law of economics that, with technology and industrial progress, a smaller percentage of the people produce the food. So I do not quarrel with the basic premise of the hon. member for Kent (Ont.), to which I believe the Leader of the Opposition subscribed. However, I would point out that because of new efficiencies, a smaller percentage of people can produce the food for the rest of us, and if the hon. gentleman opposite has a complaint in this regard, I would say that in the period from 1956 to 1961, when hon. gentlemen opposite were in office, some 94,000 farms went out of production in this country, while from 1961 to 1966, when for a large part of the time we were in office, only 50,000 farms went out of economic production. So again, if there is complaint I think it should be on the basis of facts as they exist.

I should like to point out further that during the period from 1961 to 1966, while 50,000 farms did go out of production, most of them were rated, under the Dominion Bureau of Statistics method of assessing farm income, as non-commercial farms, and during the same period the so-called commercial farms increased by 15,000. In other words, during our term of office many farms have moved from uneconomic farming to economic farming.

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PC

Donald MacInnis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Maclnnis (Cape Breton South):

You are

stealing some three years there, but don't let it bother you.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

The Leader of the Opposition also complained of the lack of confidence of the agricultural community in the government, and of the fact that this lack of confidence has impeded progress, restrained growth, and persuaded the farmer not to expand his holdings and not to create bigger economic units, because with this government in office, in which they had no confidence, they would not be going ahead in a progressive way, expanding their holdings, and moving ahead with confidence in the future. Let me say this, that the farmer of this country is a pretty hard-headed, tough-fisted, capable, and sound businessman. He certainly would not mortgage his future, borrow now and pay later, in order to create a more prosperous

[Mr. Greened

and bigger farm unit. He would not be borrowing if he did not have confidence in the future, and if he did not feel that the government in office was going to build a bigger and better Canada in which he could thrive and wherein he could pay back the debts that he has accrued.

Let us see what the Canadian farmer has done since we have been in office, and how much confidence he has displayed in the future. In 1961 the Canadian farmer borrowed $69 million from the Farm Credit Corporation. That was the extent of his confidence in the future when the Tories were in office.

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?

An hon. Member:

He did not need to borrow.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

In 1962 he borrowed $78 million; in 1963 he borrowed $96 million; in 1964 he borrowed $140 million; in 1965, $202 million; and in 1966, $234 million.

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PC

J.-H.-Théogène Ricard (Progressive Conservative Party Caucus Vice-Chair)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ricard:

He had to borrow money then.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

That is how little confidence the Canadian farmer had in the future of this country.

I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that the Leader of the Opposition cannot have it both ways. In 1966, because of his faith in the future, the Canadian farmer borrowed over twice as much as he did when hon. gentlemen opposite were in office.

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?

An hon. Member:

He had to, to survive.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

I think the Leader of the Opposition must decide: Either the Canadian farmer borrowed this large amount in the year 1966 because he had confidence in the future of this country and in this government, or the Canadian farmer borrowed this kind of money without knowing what he was doing; and he was a very stupid fellow to borrow the money if this country did not have a future. I do not know which way the Leader of the Opposition wants to have it, but either he is saying that the judgment of the Canadian farmer must have been very poor indeed, if he borrowed the largest amount in history to expand his holding when this government was in office, and when he should have had no confidence in the future of this country with this government in office, or that he did in fact have confidence in the future of this country and in this government.

March 4, 1968

1 know the Leader of the Opposition will be taking part in future debates on agriculture because I am sure he learned something about agriculture in his native province, which he left only too recently. I do not wish to delve into this area because it is not our immediate concern-although it is indirectly, because of course there are federal and provincial departments of agriculture. Certainly I think there is great co-operation between provincial departments and the federal department in attempting to reach new levels of well-being for the Canadian farmers. I know the Leader of the Opposition has some concern in agriculture, because if there is one area in Canada that is in trouble in agriculture, it is the province of Nova Scotia. So I think he knows whereof he speaks when it comes to problems of agriculture. I think he knows that the solutions there are not easy. The rationalization of farm units and the creation of bigger and more productive farms in the province of Nova Scotia has gone at a pace slower than it has in other parts of this country. I would throw no rocks at anyone for this, because I am very certain the government of that province is doing everything possible. Certainly we are prepared to cooperate with the province in every way possible in order to help them move ahead in creating more viable and more productive economic units which will provide better income for those who choose to remain in agriculture.

[DOT] (9:10 p.m.)

I certainly appreciate the fact that the Leader of the Opposition must have grave concern for agriculture by reason of the very difficult situation in his province because despite his many years in office there, they were not able to solve completely their agricultural problems, and what they have solved has been achieved at a slower pace than in other parts of Canada.

I was somewhat lost by the argument the hon. gentleman advanced when he stated that most of these fine policies to which he referred had been the creations, the brainchildren of the party opposite when they were in office. This is what he said at one point; and shortly thereafter he said the policies were ineffective, inadequate and virtually useless. I am not quite sure whether these policies have become tired and jaded since we came to office. If they were their policies in the first place and they were good then, evidently they have become no good now. I

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hope the hon. gentleman will enlighten us in this regard.

The Leader of the Opposition referred specifically to ARDA. I believe I have always tried to give credit where it was due. ARDA was originally conceived by hon. gentlemen opposite when they were in office. I have never been quite sure in my own mind as to whether it was the offspring of the hon. member for Calgary North when he was minister of agriculture or that of the hon. member for Qu'Appelle. Certainly one of the two of them deserve credit for the original ARDA concept, and I would not deny this for a moment. I do suggest that the scope of ARDA has been broadened considerably since we have been in office. Originally ARDA was purely an agricultural scheme whereby the small farm might be made more productive, and so that larger units such as those to which we have referred might be created. This program is now used in conjunction with the FRED program. With this as the foundation stone, if you like, we may, if we move ahead with courage, with imagination and with vision, take great steps toward the abolition of rural poverty from the Canadian scene. I do give full marks to hon. gentlemen opposite for the original concept, but I should like to say to the Leader of the Opposition that the original concept has been broadened very widely, has been enhanced, has been used far more in the past few years than it has been since its original conception.

The hon. gentleman alleges it has not been used sufficiently. I would remind him although I think he is familiar with the fact, that the initiative under ARDA lies with the provinces. If the program has not been used sufficiently, and I know of no important ARDA project that has been turned down at the federal level, then I can only say it is certainly only because the provinces in their wisdom have not seen fit to bring as many ARDA suggestions or programs to us as the hon. gentleman would like. However it is surely most inconsistent to say there have not been sufficient ARDA projects when, to the best of my knowledge, we at the federal level have turned down few, if any. If the hon. gentleman has any quarrel in this regard, I trust he will take it up with the provinces where the initiation of ARDA projects emanates.

Again, Mr. Chairman, the hon. gentleman complains that the Canadian farmer is unable to obtain sufficient credit. We have established the fact that the Canadian farmer is

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able to obtain more credit and does obtain more credit through the Farm Credit Corporation today than ever before. The hon. gentleman complains that the Canadian farmer is having a difficult time, and I agree, in connection with farm improvement loans. He complains that farm improvement loans are inadequate because the interest is set at 5 per cent per annum. It is stated that the banks will not lend money at 5 per cent per annum and therefore the farmers are- not getting as much money as the hon. gentleman deems they require. I respectfully ask him this: Do I take it from his remarks that he advocates raising the ceiling on interest on farm improvement loans? The hon. gentleman shakes his head negatively. If that is the case, then I do not quite understand his complaints that farmers cannot get money because the interest rate is too low, but he does not want to raise the interest rate. I hope that at some future time he will tell us how he would solve the dilemma. Apparently he wants to have it both ways.

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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Stanfield:

I would be very pleased to do this.

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LIB

John James Greene (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Greene:

Mr. Chairman, the hon. gentleman opposite complains also about the possibility of future strikes.

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March 4, 1968