October 15, 1968

NDP

Barry Mather

New Democratic Party

Mr. Maiher:

The answer is yes, Mr. Speaker. The bill says that information shall be made public except for those parts of public information which are classified under national defence or where the private concern takes precedence over the public concern. In the case of the agencies which the hon. member mentioned I would certainly hope that they would be included in the over-all effect of the bill.

Mr. Yves Fores! (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Privy Council): Mr. Speaker, the object of this bill is certainly worthwhile and I congratulate the hon. member for Surrey (Mr. Mather) for giving us the opportunity of discussing the problem.

The matter is most important at the present time. It has been discussed in the public forum, particularly during the last election. I trust that perhaps in the near future the government can improve the present system; for there certainly is room for improvement in our present system of keeping the public informed on the various operations in the

DEBATES October 15. 1968

departments of the government as well as throughout its corporations and agencies.

Besides, I believe the Glassco commission had pointed out the seriousness of the problem, which was also recognized by both the former and the present governments.

The former prime minister, the right honourable Lester B. Pearson, had ordered that an inquiry be made into the matter. This was started but, unfortunately the person in charge of the committee was the victim of a fatal accident before having had time to present preliminary reports. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), also aware of the importance of improving communications between the governing and governed, appointed, shortly after he was elected, a commission or a task force composed of three competent persons who were joined by others familiar with the matter under study. This group is to report within a few months after having looked into the work and the structure of the government information services, both in Canada and abroad.

In my opinion, our government is aware that the public must be better informed beforehand, at least in general, about the government's programs and policies. The public must be able also to express his ideas, opinions to the right people before the policy is elaborated and put into force.

An active modern democracy certainly requires the best communications possible between the governments and the voters while taking into account, of course, as mentioned by the hon. member, several exceptions, in particular with regard to security, efficiency, etc. because it will always be difficult to draw a clear dividing line between a government's need to hold discussions and deliberations in a confidential manner and, on the other hand, the public's need for information.

This bill entitled: An act to better assure the public's rights to freedom of access to public documents and information about government administration is an effort to clarify, to ask or even to codify, as it were, the conditions regulating the production of documents. In my opinion, however, it is far from being precise or clear enough and it is not precise enough to be applicable.

Indeed, according to section 1 of Bill No. C-6, its scope seems very broad, for it stipulates, and I quote:

1. Every administrative or ministerial commission, power, and authority shall make its records and information concerning its doings available to any person at his request in reasonable manner and time.

October IS, 1968

Government Administration

This is indeed a very broad scope especially when referring to the activity of a commission or some administrative or departmental authority. That would appear to include departments, commissions, agencies or corporations of federal, provincial or even municipal governments. It could also include authorities of professional organizations, trade union or others. For that particular reason, it appears that we would not have constitutional or legislative power to pass such a legislation, at least as soon as this bill would propose.

I refer to the text of the bill:

-records and information concerning its doings-

-and I insist on "doings" of administrative and or ministerial authorities. Such a vocabulary, in my opinion, can have several different interpretations.

Considering that this clause deals with organizations, specific bodies, one may venture to ask if there are activities or documents of the organization itself as opposed to those of the officials or the staff? Or still, a quite broad interpretation can be given and it is possible to conclude that it must include any document available to the organization or to the executive body concerned.

Allow me also to point out, by the way, that this clause provides that the information or the records must be made and I quote:

-available to any person at his request in a reasonable manner and time.

Now, I suppose that the individual would not even show a certain interest in obtaining the information and I suppose that those words were wilfully used by the hon. member, because public right-the public at large I suppose-to obtain publication of the required information is referred to in the bill and the interest in such a case would not be a criteria.

And evidently, all provisions are subject to the reservations mentioned in clause 2 of the bill. I feel that subclauses (a) and (b) of clause 2 are clear enough and do not lend to much discussion.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I must call the parliamentary secretary to order and point out to him that when on the second reading of a bill, it is not usually allowed to refer to specific provisions of the bill.

[DOT] (6:20 p.m.)

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Yves Forest (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Forest:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will keep to more general considerations. I submit that when the bill speaks of:

-trade secrets and commercial or financial matters of a privileged or confidential nature, obtained from private persons-

-it would be rather difficult to determine the extent of the privileged or confidential nature of the secrets or matters concerned. It would not be easy either to determine to what extent the public interest must exceed the private interest of the individuals who could finally be affected in various ways if certain information or actions were made public.

And, as mentioned by the hon. member, it is possible of course to answer that the court-that is the exchequer court in this case-would decide whether the requested information should be published. But one can wonder on what basis and in the light of what information the court could render judgment when it would not have at its disposal all the information needed to render a decision, especially in a private matter.

The present bill does not exclude the production before the court of files or documents affecting national security because it seems that the bill does not provide for any exception. It is easy of course to realize all the danger that such a procedure would entail. It would be a new and rather unusual procedure, Mr. Speaker, when without any special reason or cause one could simply refer, in a way which is not clearly stated, to the exchequer court in this case, any refusal by any commission or authority to hand over documents or divulge information to any person requesting it.

If Bill No. C-6 were passed in its present form, a special administrative court would have to be established, to consider the countless requests submitted and to decide whether or not the documents requested should be made public.

In the context of administrative law, judicial institutions necessarily play an incidental and subordinate role. The administrative system must be more than a compilation of judicial decisions, and evidently, government authorities' role is to rule and administer. If every decision made by the administration has to be reviewed and considered, without

October 15. 1968

Government Administration any limitation, by any court, whatever its importance or competence, it is clear to me that the administrative process could then be crippled.

Finally, this bill does not give enough importance to a generally accepted principle according to which the efficient operation of a public service necessitates complete freedom of expression and also of communication between the members of the administration at the various levels, and particularly from lower to senior officials. In my opinion, the contrary could reduce the efficiency of our whole administrative system as we know it.

It is up to the executive power, which has all the relevant data, to decide if national interest or public safety require that certain documents or acts be not made public.

Moreover, I believe that it would be neither legitimate, practical, nor even rational to transfer this decision, in all cases, to any court whatsoever, in spite of the great respect I feel for our courts of law.

It is only logical to believe that a person, a citizen and a taxpayer, can have the right of freedom of access to documents of particular concern to him, but between that and disclosing without discretion to him some information concerning other people, the disclosure of which could be prejudiciable to the latter, I believe there is a rule of caution that ought to be respected while considering this bill.

This bill would give the public more extensive rights than those exercised by parliament itself, according to a long standing custom and tradition.

Mr. Speaker, for all these various reasons and in spite of the commendable purpose pursued by the hon. member, I believe it would be very dangerous to pass this bill, especially in its present form I hope the hon. member may be able during the next session, to introduce another bill, that will be more appropriate, and also that the commission appointed by the government, by the right non. Prime Minister, will present their report; the hon. members will then be more able to come to a conclusion on that important question of the relations and communications that should exist between the government and the general public.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
NDP

John Gilbert

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Gilbert (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member permit a question? He has indicated agreement in principle with regard to the bill but has criticized the structure and procedure outlined in it. I am wondering whether he would agree to have

the bill referred to the appropriate committee for study concerning the structure and procedure.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Yves Forest (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Forest:

I do not think that it is up to me to decide. Furthermore, I think that we should wait, as I have already mentioned in closing my remarks for the report which should be submitted, as was mentioned by the right hon. Prime Minister, within a few months, by experts in the field, who will be able to make relevant suggestions as to how to improve communications and information which must exist between the government and the public in general.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Robert McCleave (Halifax-East Hants):

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate, even if only briefly, to support the proposal of the hon. member for Surrey (Mr. Mather). Like myself he has a journalistic background. I suspect he has spent many difficult hours beating his head against massive stone walls, erected by establishments in this country, in an effort to ascertain what in fact is going on. It is a very commendable effort on his part to attempt to include the natural journalistic capacity for trying to find out what is going on in a measure such as this. Furthermore, I was intrigued when I saw in my hon. friend's explanatory note that the bill enacts Bentham's basic parliamentary rule that public affairs must be conducted publicly. For the enlightenment of my hon. friends opposite the Bentham referred to is Jeremy Bentham who was one of the great philosophers of liberalism. Upon his death he made the rather curious provision that his body should be preserved, stuffed and put on public display for a good number of years. I much prefer the philosophy of the stuffed Bentham and its relation to liberalism to that of the speech we have just heard in this chamber.

[DOT] (6:30 p.m.)

I think the rule that public affairs must be conducted publicly is a fair and just one, and it should find its adherents in those who support the so-called just society. I noticed that the house leader was in for a while during at least the opening of the debate. During these curious times he does not have to be with us at all times, but at least he was here to listen to the hon. member for Surrey (Mr. Mather) present what I thought was a fair and eloquent plea on behalf of his bill. I would ask the hon. member for Surrey whether the provisions of this bill would apply also to

October 15, 1968

our own House of Commons to provide rules which will make information readily available. I submit that prodding by hon. members, such as the one who proposed this bill, would bring about an improvement in the practice in this house, and that before long we would have rules that are much more in keeping with twentieth century ideals and procedures.

These ideals and practices can be introduced in many different ways; but I submit the one suggested by the hon. member for Surrey is a very cumbersome and expensive way of attempting to solve the problem. It is expensive because it requires more judges in this huge country, stretching 3,000 miles from coast to coast and with 20 million people. Will they write in and make their requests? How will such a program be administered? I do not see anything in the bill which indicates a clear cut system for carrying out the practical suggestions contained in clauses 1, 2 and 3.

We have all had frustrations in attempting to get information at some stage, and I would be less than frank if I said there is no problem in this regard. I recognize the problem; but I believe most sincerely that steps have already been taken toward reaching our goal in this respect. This has been done by sending out the task force which the Prime Minister sent out recently. If that task force can come back with concrete, solid ideas whereby everyone will know whom to contact and in what department, they will make great strides toward reform in this area.

Therefore, sir, I conclude by commending the hon. member for-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Colin David Gibson

Liberal

Mr. Gibson:

I mean that seriously, sir. I conclude by commending the hon. member for a forward looking idea, but I submit that the method proposed is not the best.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
NDP

John Gilbert

New Democratic Party

Mr. Gilbert:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question. In view of the remarks in his maiden speech last week, that private members public bills were ridiculous, a waste of time and should be done away with, I am wondering why he is participating in this debate today-because this is the second time within a week.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Colin David Gibson

Liberal

Mr. Gibson:

Mr. Speaker, this is the only forum I have. As a young member, I hesitate to try to speak on important legislation such as the agrarian acts, the farm acts. I know very little about these subjects, and I do not mind admitting it. I have been advised by

Government Administration

other hon. members, with more experience than I have that the private members hour is the best place to express views, and to attempt to gain experience in thinking out and planning so as to conform with the rules of debate. That is the main reason I have taken part in the debate, although I am extremely interested in this topic.

The suggestion I made last week was not to abolish private members bills, but rather that there be a more effective way of using this hour for the discussion of controversial topics, having six speeches of ten minutes each. I think we would all find it more interesting and exciting; the press would enjoy it, and the public would find it more provocative.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

[DOT] (6:50 p.m.)

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Herb Breau (Gloucester):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate because the bill proposes something new, a new way from the government to approach the public.

First of all, I must say that I do not fully agree with those who believe that the politi-sation of Canadians will improve relations between the government and the public, or encourage the public to approach the government and to take an interest in some department or other.

It goes without saying that people would of course derive some benefit from such an act because, first of all, the information would be free. What I mean is that anyone who wanted information, for the specific purpose of criticizing certain departments or, as I said, of pursuing the politisation of the people would be free to do so, and quite easily at that. For instance, anyone who wanted to tear down certain government programs for personal reasons could obtain information on the topics discussed during their preparation and then use this information to fight against the program, and in some cases, to compete against it.

Now, as I was saying, I do not fully agree that it will necessarily help the people, but I am concerned about the fact that it might give rise to dissension amongst Canadians and give rise to doubts. There are, no doubt, people who would wonder, when a department is in process of studying the pros and cons of some program or policy or other, whether the public should read about it.

October 15, 1968

Government Administration

On the other hand, those who take part in the discussion who merely want to strengthen their arguments in favour of or against a program, or who want to look at both sides of the question, could leave with ideas that have no bearing on the situation.

Furthermore, I do not agree with the principle of the bill. Should the bill be adopted, it would create a lot of administrative problems. First of all, it is true that section 2 of the bill stipulates that the law would not apply to documents on national security, or to documents benefitting from legal exemption, or again to documents of a confidential nature on business companies. It is easy to enumerate the type of documents. There should be someone in the department, some high official, some very important person, who would be in a position to establish what can be disclosed to the public and what cannot.

I think that, from an administrative point of view, it would involve extraordinary intricacies. For example, how can a civil servant in a department decide whether a discussion or a correspondence exchanged between a minister, a deputy minister or a civil servant of another country or province, can be made public or not? Therefore, the officials of a department would simply have to decide whether those matters should be revealed or not. As far as we are concerned, what will come out of it? It will not bring about much result, because certain information is already provided by the government.

Then, I am wondering how the provisions of the bill can be helpful. Obviously, to promote this administrative measure, a new kind of publicity is needed. A new reclassification of all departments would probably be necessary to bring together the factors that affect national security. Also, when we speak of business corporations, one must be very careful. There again a whole set of files would be needed for the various business corporations or various contracts or various communications.

I feel that all this would require tremendous expenditures and there again, I am wondering to what extent these espenditures are warranted. It is well for the government to spend money on worthwhile causes, but, otherwise I do not think it is justifiable.

As I said earlier, this would create confusion in the minds of people. The problem as to morale or frame of mind may exist in a department. For instance, if the Department of Area Development, that is to be established at an early date, was considering a

[Mr. Breau.l

plan concerning my province, New Brunswick, at least certain areas of it, we can be sure such an idea or philosophy as regards area development could be a good one, but there must be also some disadvantages.

Now let us suppose the problem would concern a civil service employee, or a person from outside is given the responsibility of preparing a report. He goes to a certain area and makes a report. He would probably bring arguments that may not be agreeable to everybody but they should nevertheless be taken into account so as to come to something worthwhile.

Mr. Speaker, can we imagine a person bringing arguments against area development, against the development of a given area? Such a person might hang for that, there is no question about it. I repeat once more that the arguments put forward by that person may be good, but advantages or disadvantages must necessarily be considered.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

James Hugh Faulkner (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. It

being seven o'clock, the time allowed for private members hour has expired. If the house agrees we will resume the business interrupted at six o'clock.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR BETTER ACCESS TO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION
Permalink

FARM CREDIT ACT

AMENDMENT RESPECTING ELIGIBLE CLAUSES, AMOUNT OF CAPITAL, INTEREST RATES, ETC.


The house resumed consideration in committee of Bill No. C-110 to amend the Farm Credit Act-Mr. Olson-Mr. Faulkner in the chair.


LIB

James Hugh Faulkner (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

It being seven o'clock, I do now leave the chair, to resume at eight o'clock.

At seven o'clock the committee took recess.

Topic:   FARM CREDIT ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ELIGIBLE CLAUSES, AMOUNT OF CAPITAL, INTEREST RATES, ETC.
Permalink

AFTER RECESS The committee resumed at 8 p.m.


PC

Harold Warren Danforth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Danforih:

Before we pass clause 1, Mr. Chairman, I should like, on behalf of this party, to make a few comments on the basic principles of this bill that were not covered at the resolution stage. One of the facts that is apparent in the bin is that the government has two prime purposes in mind. Number one is to broaden the base and to enlarge that part of the agricultural segment that would be eligible to receive these loans. Number two is an attempt to change the prevailing rate of interest that we have been experiencing as a

October 15, 1968

farm community since the inception of this measure. 1 think very few persons will take objection to the active consideration by the government to enlarging the company of individuals who are eligible for these loans.

I wonder, however, if the government has considered that to the very degree by which they enlarge the scope of this measure they will be subjecting the farm community, in my considered opinion, to a great deal more vertical integration. In listening to the minister and in reading the provisions of the bill, it is quite apparent that the previous definition of farmer, as one who is actively engaged in farming, has been changed to such a degree that almost anyone in the business world today could become eligible to obtain a loan. A person could become eligible by obtaining shares in a co-operative farm. The bill itself refers to a person who either has the intention of farming or the basic ability to farm.

When these pieces of legislation were first introduced the prime purpose was to enable young farmers and established farmers to either enlarge their holdings or to start farming in an economic manner. The fact that these measures were used to such an extent, and such large sums of money were borrowed by those engaged in agriculture, is an indication of the success of this type of legislation. I am wondering, sir, in the light of the economic chaos through which agriculture is struggling today, if such legislation as we have before us will not enable large business interests with large sums of money at their disposal, whether they be from this country or from other countries, to move into the farm industry?

Such business interests could take up large tracts of our land, either through corporate farms or by vertical integration. In this fashion, we would see a good deal of our farm land pass out of the control of the younger farmers of this nation, and instead of having tracts of land in Canada administered by farmers and farm families, I venture to say that in an extreme case we would see large tracts of farm land administered by boards of directors, such as we have in corporations.

Having said this, Mr. Chairman, I want to say that many of us on this side of the house believe that there should not be a change in the method by which interest is determined or charged in respect of those who wish to borrow money under this type of legislation. This is not the same type of legislation as we were dealing with in Bill No. C-lll. This measure relates to long term borrowing, 10 years, 15 years or up to 30 years. In the

Farm Credit Act

course of that time, interest rates are going to vary up and down the scale. It has been our experience during the years this measure has been in force that you see at one time very low interest rates, and at another, extremely high interest rates. With interest rates on the way down, as they are at the moment, we feel that the 5 per cent rate prescribed in the former legislation provides ample recompense for those who wish to lend money in this fashion.

We feel that this money is being provided by the government, and not through a banking institution, so that places this type of legislation in a category by itself. We feel that although the government did have to subsidize the interest rate under which money was obtained to lend to farmers, an examination of interest rates throughout the years would reveal that in a period of 20 to 25 years the cost of these loans to the government would be almost negligible. On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, when those who wish to obtain money through this legislation are able to do so at a prescribed interest rate, one which they feel would enable them to borrow money in the large amounts necessary to work into the farming industry, farmers would be more attracted to it and would borrow enough to obtain economic units. This might not be the case if the interest rate were set too high. As I say, this is the second point in the bill that is causing some concern.

The third point that is causing great concern is the fact that the categories of people who may borrow money are defined and limited. We have the age limit of 21 to 45 prescribed and the different rates at which money may be borrowed either by individual farmers or collectively.

[DOT] (8:10 p.m.)

I have been wondering, Mr. Chairman, whether consideration should be given to allowing individual farmers to borrow up to the gross amount that the bill provides can be borrowed by three farmers collectively. I make this suggestion because a tremendous amount of money is needed today in order to bring what is and has been a viable economic farm unit into the position of remaining such in the future.

I use as an example, Mr. Chairman, a dairy farm that today has about 60 to 100 cows, run by a single farmer who wishes to become more competitive and to change over to automatic feeding, perhaps to silage instead of hay, to using the new type of milking stalls and equipment and installing concrete feed

October 15, 1968

Farm Credit Act

lots, with all that that entails. Such a changeover could very cost $100,000 to $125,000, as it does in some instances.

It would be unfortunate indeed if an endeavour of this size could not qualify under the act. As I read the act, the very most that can be borrowed by an individual farmer under optimum circumstances is $55,000; unless the circumstances are of the very best the maximum is $40,000. It is true that if the farmer has a son over 21 years of age this amount may be doubled. However, there are many farmers whose sons are not 21 years of age, who have no son or son-in-law, or whose sons are engaged upon some other endeavour. Are we to lose this type of farm enterprise that has been so successful over the years, which has been built up over generations, because under this bill they will no longer be eligible for this type of loan, or will some attempt be made to make it possible for these farmers to borrow such sums of money at a reasonable rate of interest?

All of these questions, Mr. Chairman, we should like the minister to deal with. From his knowledge and advice he can give us the very information we are seeking. There is no doubt from the way the clauses have been drafted that this bill has received very serious consideration and has been subjected to very intimate and searching examination. However, we feel that before we can let the bill pass tonight we should be given a lot more information than that provided in the terms of the bill, and in the introductory remarks of the minister. As the debate develops we may offer some amendments for the consideration of the government, or we may find that some clauses, even as amended, are unacceptable to us at this time.

Topic:   FARM CREDIT ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ELIGIBLE CLAUSES, AMOUNT OF CAPITAL, INTEREST RATES, ETC.
Permalink
NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

Mr. Chairman, I have to agree with the hon. member who has just taken his seat, that there are some points of concern in this bill which require further explanation and consideration. Before commencing I might say that I found rather interesting this afternoon the minister's appeal to the house to try to speed this legislation through. It would appear that the time allotted to him by the government has pretty well run out, and at the same time he has not been able to pilot this bill through the house.

There have been some suggestions on his part and on the part of other hon. members that this, Mr. Chairman, is due to the somewhat lengthy debate that has been conducted by members of the opposition who wanted to take up a number of points. This is true; we

have been engaged in fairly lengthy debate on some of the questions involved in the farm credit legislation. I suggest that the implications of the changes in the legislation we are discussing mean millions of dollars for farmers all across Canada, and they are changes of the sort that we cannot let go by lightly.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I suggest to the minister that had he gone along with some of the changes we proposed and been somewhat more responsive to our suggestions, perhaps this legislation could have been put through in a shorter time. I hope that he will be more responsive to some of the changes that we may propose in dealing with the amendments to the Farm Credit Act. I say that because I am sure he will agree that there are some differences in the situation we are considering under this bill, as compared to the bill we completed this afternoon, the amendments to the Farm Improvement Loans Act.

I also have to agree with the speaker who has just taken his seat, that there are some valid concerns about the amount of capital that is required at the present time to carry on an economic farm operation. Capital requirements for farming operations have escalated at a very rapid rate for more than one reason, and I am sure that the minister is aware of this. At the same time I would like to offer a word of caution. It seems to me that the primary concern of the government in terms of public policy is to bring as many agricultural units as possible up to a minimum standard of economic efficiency and satisfactory operation; that this should be the primary objective in allocating capital to farmers.

Mr. Chairman, there is one aspect of clause 1 which bothers me, and this is the change in definition of what is a farmer. The expression "farmer" refers, of course, to those people who are eligible to receive loans from the Farm Credit Corporation. I was particularly concerned with the change in the definition of the term "family farming corporation", which is defined by regulation, to the term "farming corporation". It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that the implications of this change require examination.

I note that in the regulations made pursuant to the Farm Credit Act a family farming corporation is defined as:

-a corporation the principal object of which is the carrying on of an enterprise devoted to the production of agricultural products, and at least 95 per cent of the shares of which are owned by persons that are related to one another either through blood relationship, marriage or adoption, with not less than 51 per cent of the shares owned by the actual operator or operators of the farm.

October 15, 1968

I concede, Mr. Chairman, that there could be some deficiency, in terms of this regulation and its application, in the use of the term "family farming corporation" with emphasis on the word "family". Some people carrying on joint farming operations are not related in the way prescribed in the regulations but certainly should be entitled to as good consideration as those who are related in some way stipulated in the regulations.

However, Mr. Chairman, when the term is contracted simply to "farming corporation", it seems to me that the danger with which we have to be concerned is the possibility of operations under the Farm Credit Act being extended to large industrial ventures. This may not be the objective at the present time, and I see the minister shaking his head in dissent. I am quite prepared to accept his word that this is not what he intends.

[DOT] (8:20 p.m.)

I suggest, however, that this might open the door to large industrial operators who would crowd out a good many of the farm operators, even though they might be carrying on an efficient type of business. One example which occurs to me is that of the National Grain Company which is presently undertaking a large venture in hog raising. I recognize it is not the intention of the Farm Credit Corporation or of the government to allow such an organization to qualify for public assistance at the present time, but it seems to me that as legislators we should be concerned that we do not open the door to such a possibility at some time in the future.

Topic:   FARM CREDIT ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ELIGIBLE CLAUSES, AMOUNT OF CAPITAL, INTEREST RATES, ETC.
Permalink

October 15, 1968