Make up your minds.
That is just fine. I have heard it said in this house that when you are after big game you do not bother with rabbits. What are we after tonight? The hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch), made an impassioned speech. I feel the same way as he does, because I am a farmer.
A few moments ago I was about to make a comparison between the Wheat Board and the C.B.C. The Wheat Board is presumably a producer owned organization, a producer controlled organization. From some points of
January 22, 1969
view, the C.B.C. is a comparable organization. But it is left free to run its affairs from day to day. We have listened tonight to speeches for hours and hours and we may listen longer still. Because we are farmers, because we are producers, the government says one thing on one side and another thing on the other side.
The Minister of Agriculture, who has really nothing to say about the situation, nevertheless talked a great deal, and members will see his speech in Hansard. I know what he had to say when he was talking to his constituents; he is a neighbour of mine. He said we had to send No. 2 wheat from the inland terminal at Lethbridge. We heard talk from the minister about a three bushel quota. I should like to ask the minister: where are the deliveries?
We are here representing the farmers, and I have to speak for them. I can do so because I am one of them. I know what the quota is; it is three bushels at my delivery point. The Minister of Trade and Commerce has assured me that I have a three bushel quota. Well, I wish he would tell my banker. What will be the answer? Sure, there are a lot of cars going today. The hon. member for Vancouver East told us there were lots of cars moving now. The hon. member says he called Vancouver at 4.30 this afternoon. But according to the Wheat Board even the minister did not have the figures that he gave.
[DOT] (12 midnight)
It was 5.30.
Well, there is one hour's difference between here and Winnipeg, so I concede that. But what happened to all the box cars that were on the way? They were returned because they could not be unloaded in Vancouver.
The Minister of Agriculture and the Minister without Portfolio mentioned No. 2 wheat. I should like to know where this wheat came from and where was it bound for. I am a farmer and I know what the quota is. The minister does not have to tell me that I have a three bushel quota. Hon. members opposite should not laugh. That is why we are here tonight, because they have been laughing about this matter.
We are told the C.P.R. can only handle 30 cars instead of 150 because of the weather conditions. On the main line at Calgary there are 250-car trains, and this at a time when the temperature is 26 degrees below zero. So does this talk about the weather make sense? All we have heard are excuses and apologies
which have nothing to do with the Wheat Board.
I listened to the speeches this evening. They were interesting. Yet I hope when the minister speaks later to wind up his debate he will point to something real that has been done to help our farmers. Of course, when anyone talks about wheat, chickens, eggs or what have you he is talking about agriculture. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce is a very pleasant sort of person, and some of us would not mind if he swapped portfolios with the Minister of Agriculture.
The hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Dumont) talked about co-operation between eastern and western Canada. I know perfectly well that the people of eastern Canada need more grain. In some instances they bring it in from the United States. They should buy a lot more from the west. We are willing to cooperate with them.
Tonight we heard much talk about subsidies and helping our farmers. Actually, the government does not pay subsidies to our western farmers. You might say that the government pays subsidies toward the shipment of grain going east. That is one way of looking at it and I find no fault with that. The people of the east need our grain. Our internal grain trade can only promote co-operation between the people of eastern and western Canada.
I am glad to see the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce back in his seat. When we are not in the house or in our respective constituencies I enjoy his company. I remember full well that before the Christmas recess there were not enough box cars to move wheat, all existing box cars in my constituency being tied up in moving wheat. They were unloading No. 2 wheat from an inland terminal, apparently on orders of the Minister of Agriculture. I ask this question: Who is responsible for the Wheat Board and for our grain commissioners? Is it not the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce? Apparently he is responsible for those bodies, and yet in some ways he is not. I think the minister knows full well what I am talking about. As I said, Canadian Pacific box cars were busy unloading grain from an inland terminal, but they had no cars available to help my constituents fulfil their quotas.
[DOT] (12:10 a.m.)
I am speaking about the three bushel quota we have heard so much about. I do not have It yet. Why? Cars were busy unloading an
January 22, 1969
inland terminal because they could not find No. 2 wheat all down the line. In the midst of my constituency, north, south and west, there was No. 2 wheat-
Order, please. I am sad to have to interrupt the hon. member but his time has expired.
I shall take only one more moment, Mr. Speaker.
The hon. member may continue only if he has the unanimous consent of the house. Is there unanimous consent?
I regret to say that apparently there are some objections.
Mr. Lome Nystrom (Yorklon-Melville):
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I am rising to participate in this debate because I know that in the constituency I come from this is an emergency not only to the farming population of the area but to the entire population of Yorkton-Melville, and indeed to all the people of Saskatchewan. The crisis, as I see it, has been building up for a number of years. It has not happened only because of things that occurred recently. Basically it is an accumulation of many things.
The farmer has been caught in a cost-price squeeze. The costs of farm production have been going up, indeed skyrocketing. The costs of farm machinery, fertilizers, even land, and all the other commodities a farmer has to use to produce a bushel of wheat have increased. Meanwhile the price the farmer is getting for a bushel of wheat and many other commodities has not been increasing substantially and at times has been falling. Because of the crisis we also have in Saskatchewan and in the western part of Canada this year a lack of cash for the farmer. Farmers need cash if they want to continue in the farming industry. In addition, bank interest rates have gone up and the farmer has a much more difficult time borrowing the money he needs to keep his operation going. Not only will this have a drastic effect this year but it will cause disruptions in following years in the agricultural industry in western Canada. Furthermore, it is not only the farm community that is affected but the rest of the economy as well.
For example, when wheat is not moving we know that the farmer is not going to be selling wheat. As a result he will not be buying
commodities, and when commodities are not purchased by the farmer the businesses directly involved in supplying him will be affected as well. In other words, all sectors of the economy are affected. Basically every person in western Canada is a farmer whether he is living on a farm or not, because either directly or indirectly his prosperity is tied to the farming economy.
Just this evening, Mr. Speaker, I was talking to a person who runs a furniture store in the small town of Canora at the northern end of my constituency. He tells me that his sales have gone down drastically this year as a result of the crisis in the farming industry. He also talked about other businessmen in his community. Some of them, particularly in the machinery business, have seen their sales go down by over 80 per cent. This is the kind of thing that is occurring especially in the smaller centres in Saskatchewan.
I was talking to another man from the small village of Jedburgh, and I was told that in that place the elevator will be closed down for a month if grain does not start moving. They have not got the necessary box cars. The grain produced in that area is tough, damp and of inferior quality. What have we got to combat this situation? Increased interest rates! The farmer is having a much more difficult time getting the necessary cash to run his operation.
I would also like to submit, as other hon. members have done, that the crisis in the grain industry today is a national emergency. It has repercussions for the entire Canadian economy. That is why we should be concerned, no matter what part of the country we come from. That is why we should try to clear up the problem confronting us today. It is a problem that is affecting many other industries.
One thing I would like to comment on that has really made me quite sick and mad throughout the debate so far is the statistics that have been quoted by various cabinet ministers, in fact by all three who have spoken in the debate, as well as by the other government members. They tell us how things have improved in western Canada during the last few years, but anybody who has been out west knows that things are not good enough. We know they have not improved.
At any rate, you cannot tell the farmers that they have improved. They know they have not.
January 22, 1969
I should like to invite the Minister of Trade and Commerce to come to Yorkton-Melville or any other western constituency, spend only one day there, and talk to the farming people. Regardless of the statistics he quotes I am sure he will then know that something is badly lacking in the farming industry today. It is no joke. I am very dismayed when I hear people opposite laugh at the situation in which the farmers find themselves today. I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), when speaking in Winnipeg, summed up the attitude of the government toward the farming industry when he suggested it is basically the farmers' responsibility to sell the wheat. This is the kind of attitude we see across the way today. It is essentially the philosophy of Liberalism or limited government. They do not want to become involved; they want to lock up the problem in a closet and throw away the key. It is just like Bia-fra; they lock up the problem there and say that it does not exist.
There is no co-ordination or planning. They speak, for example, about establishing a national grains council. What will this do? It will probably provide another bureaucratic institution with more red tape, protocol and confusion. Then we start asking why people are really becoming fed up with things and why the country is becoming restless. We ask why there are demonstrations and riots in our society. I think the answer is apparent. People want action from governments at all levels. Some day the farmer will become fed up with what is happening to him. He is tired of being continually slapped in the face. Maybe the next time the Prime Minister comes to Saskatchewan he will not only be met by demonstrating students but also by farmers unless something is done immediately in an effort to alleviate the problem of the farmers of Saskatchewan and the west.
I think all of us in this house know that many farmers are sliding into poverty. Things are rough. If they have grain, they cannot sell it or it is tough, damp or of inferior quality. It seems ludicrous that while we talk about wheat sales and lack of markets two-thirds of the world population is living at a level of deprivation. It does not seem right when we have so much grain. I have heard many members of the government insinuate that the farmers are lazy and complacent about drying their own grain. Why do they say this? I think the members of the government should look at themselves. They have shown a lack of leadership. The people on the farms
do not have the cash to dry all the grain they want to dry or if they do some of them do not wish to run the risk because of the poor operations that are going on.
This evening many members have quoted statistics. They have spoken about many things. All I want to say is that we should get down to doing some good, basic planning because the farmers of western Canada and all the people in the smaller communities in the country as well will suffer if we do not. We must do something constructive. It has been suggested that we appoint a controller who would go to Vancouver to help supervise the loading of ships and clear up the bottleneck. This is one thing we could do. There should be more co-ordination between the Wheat Board, the transportation system, the National Harbours Board and the government in trying to alleviate the problem. In the long term we must really support the agricultural industry of this country. We must look for any new alternatives that people can explore.
This crisis is just one of a number we see in the farming industry in Canada today. On behalf of the people of my constituency I plead that the government do something immediately to alleviate the crisis which faces us today in western Canada.
[DOT] (12:20 a.m.)
Mr. Paul Yewchuk (Athabasca):
I am going to try to be as impartial as I can.
I thought you were going to say brief.
I shall be brief in my remarks as well. I should like to begin by stating that the Liberal government, since it has been in power, has been known as a government having no real concern for western agriculture. What is happening here tonight is typical of the way this government deals with problems, particularly agricultural problems. This government waits for a crisis to occur and then scurries around in an attempt to come up with some emergency solution. There does not seem to be any thought of looking ahead or trying to foresee an emergency, and doing something about it.
In spite of repeated warnings in the past two months or so that a crisis situation was developing in respect of wheat sales, the movement and drying of wheat, no effective government action has been taken. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin) gave us repeated assurances that
January 22, 1969
something was being done and that things were not so bad for the farmers. They gave us assurances that everything possible was being done.
The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Lang) said we were panicking. Perhaps we are because we are concerned about this problem. I submit that the minister and his associates have had their heads in the sand hoping that the problem would disappear. Now that they have pulled their heads out of the sand, they have found the problem is still with us.
Perhaps our panic has been a good thing because, as the hon. member for Vegreville (Mr. Mazankowski) has stated, it has stimulated some action. Markets for grain are difficult to find, but this government cannot even meet the few commitments it has made to deliver the grain to whatever markets are available at this time. Ships are anchored at Vancouver but grain is not being loaded. Grain is not moving from the prairies to the coast. There does not appear to be proper co-ordination, and co-ordination is required without question.
Since the onset of this session the government has seen fit to put through several farm bills raising interest rates. I have in mind the farm credit measure and the prairie farm advancements. As a result it feels that the problems have been solved. Government members have sat back in their chairs and patted themselves on the back. I do not think they have any reason to do so. These actions were the result of crises situations and were all short term measures. We must have something better. We should have intermediate and long term plans.
If there have been any intermediate or long term measures, I should like to hear about them from some member of this government. We have given repeated warnings about damp grain but no action has been taken. We have given warnings about the insufficiency in respect of the movement of grain, but no action has been taken. We heard recently the announcement by the Canadian Wheat Board that less than half of the damp and tough grain would be dried and that the other half might be spoiling. Somewhere around 2,500,000 bushels of wheat might possibly spoil. This is a loss our country cannot stand.
The government boasts about having new faces in the cabinet; new men who will present new ideas. These men were supposed to come up with some new answers, but the
farmers are still waiting and the ships are still waiting at Vancouver. We are still waiting to ship our products to our markets.
We are losing our markets and we are being asked to be proud of the way this government is handling the problem. For the benefit of the Minister of Agriculture, who made the request that we should make suggestions rather than just criticisms, let me suggest something which may help to solve this problem. I think the suggestion can be summarized in two key words; communication and co-ordination.
Communication is required between the government, the various agencies associated with the collection of wheat from the producer, those associated with the transport of wheat and those associated with the loading of wheat on ships for markets. Communication is required within this groups, and coordination as a result of that communication. I would like to reiterate, for the benefit of the Minister of Agriculture, those two key words-communication and co-ordination. I hope the minister takes them home and thinks about them.
Mr. John Burton (Regina East):
Mr. Speaker, I have done many things in my life at twelve thirty o'clock at night, but very seldom have I made a speech at this hour. However, I believe this is an important subject to discuss even at this late hour. It is a subject that affects the livelihood of many people in this country, not only those in western Canada but the people in my province and in particular those in the constituency which I represent. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it affects people right across Canada. I think this fact was demonstrated very forcibly this evening when we had a very positive and useful contribution by the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch). He pointed out the situation which exists within his own constituency and noted its impact upon the residents of the heart of the city of Vancouver.
At the outset, I would like to clarify and discuss several points that have come under discussion tonight. First of all, I would like to deal with the point raised by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) in particular, who once again suggested as has been suggested by government members in the past, that whenever any of us on this side of the house dare to ask questions regarding the grain industry of Canada or the activities of the Canadian Wheat Board, we are attacking the Wheat Board and undermining its position.
January 22, 1969
This is absolutely false. That statement is not worthy of the Minister of Agriculture or any other minister.
I suggest that the greatest disservice that can be done to the Canadian Wheat Board is for ministers to continue to hide behind its skirts whenever they are trying to work their way out of a difficult spot. I want to make it quite clear that in our criticisms, as far as I and my colleagues are concerned, we are pointing at the government and nobody else. I think the Wheat Board is doing a good job. We have on that board competent, good men who are trying their best to do a job. They are fallible, of course; they make mistakes on occasion. We shall not fault them when they make an honest mistake, because this happens. Our criticisms are directed at the government because of its failure to take the action which has been recommended to it.
Second, Mr. Speaker, I should like to deal with the statements of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister without Portfolio from Saskatoon-Humboldt (Mr. Lang). They suggested that the points raised by members of the opposition have been doing great damage to the grain industry. So far as I am concerned, the damage to the grain industry has already been done and is being done by the lack of adequate government action to deal with some of the problems facing western Canada. I feel we must keep before us at all times-and this point has been made by members on all sides of the house-that really the immediate crisis we face is only part of a larger problem. I refer to the general income problem, and the general cost price squeeze that faces the farmers of western Canada. I think it is important to keep this in mind.
[DOT] (12:30 a.m.)
I received a very interesting letter this week from one of my constituents. I would like to read it into the record because I think it is very pertinent and refers to something that should be kept in mind. This letter reads as follows:
I am at a loss to know why the Wheat Board opened the quota to three bushels per seeded acre before the unit was delivered, or at least to give a farmer a reasonable time to haul his unit. I am one out of quite a few who haven't been able to haul a bushel. I am a half section man so the 400 bushels mean as much to me as 1,500 does to the man with two or three sections. I harvested less than 900 bushels this last season of very poor grade which I might add is five or six damp or even feed.
I don't think I need remind you of the position most farmers find themselves in. Someone is going to have an awful headache before this time year. Even so we do get a good crop the coming season that won't solve our problems.
Trusting you may be able to give me some sort of a solution to problem.
I suggested a number of things to this gentleman in answer to his letter, and I assured him that for my part I would do everything possible to help. But I must point out that in his letter this gentleman pointed out very forcibly and clearly that we have two items before us: One is the very immediate problem of deliveries, marketing and transportation which we have been discussing, and the other is the far larger one of income, the cost price squeeze and the rehabilitation which is needed in many areas of this country.
I would like to point out that the crisis that is before us is a national problem. It is something that affects many areas of the national economy, and unless we find adequate solutions it will jeopardize the welfare and the well being of many parts of the Canadian economy.
Over the past several months we have witnessed a series of recurring crises. The Minister Without Portfolio, the hon. member for Saskatoon-Humboldt (Mr. Lang), attempted to paint this situation in terms of opposition members panicking as problems arose. I would suggest that members of the opposition pointed out very validly some of the problems that were facing western Canada and, as was their duty, asked the government what they were going to do about them. From time to time we also put forward positive proposals to deal with these problems. For example, the hon. member for Regina Lake Centre (Mr. Benjamin) on December 5 put forward 12 different proposals for the consideration of the government. On one other occasion, on October 15, I put forward 8 different proposals for the consideration of the government. Other members of this house and members of my own party have also put forward proposals.
First of all, we had a difficult harvest. We do blame the government for quite a few things that have happened, but certainly no one would suggest that they were to blame for the difficult harvest situation that existed this fall. Then, we also had a slow marketing situation. I could go into this at some length because I think the government has to bear some responsibility, going back for a period of more than a year, with regard to the small marketings and the low level of exports that
January 22, 1969
we have witnessed over the past year. Certainly, when the Minister Without Portfolio and other members of the government tried to point out that the exports this year are higher than they were at the same point last year, that is really not bragging about very much because last year they descended to the lowest level for quite a number of years. This of course brought on a situation of low and slow deliveries. Following this, as a result of the harvest conditions, we had the problem of tough and damp grain.
Finally, the government acted and brought in the three bushel quota for tough and damp grain. I think it is recognized in all quarters of the grain industry now that this quota has been responsible for some of the problems which are presently facing the industry. I will not deal with this at any length but I think it should be noted in a discussion of this subject, not that there is a three bushel quota now but that the introduction of this quota has worked some inequities and has helped to produce some of the problems that exist in the grain industry at present. As a result, it was quite obvious there would have to be a very extensive drying program. Farmers started to dry grain on their own, but it was not very long until reports were coming back that a number of samples of dried grain were tested by the Board of Grain Commissioners and rejected. This left farmers in a quandary as to what to do. There is still no real direction from the government as to what might be done on a co-ordinated basis in terms of pooling the resources of the federal and provincial governments, of the grain industry, and of farm organizations to deal with this difficult problem.
After that there was a shortage of box cars, which again created a difficult situation. Action was taken and the problem was eventually overcome. Then, there were difficulties about unloading at the terminals, and some of these are still plaguing us. Then a grave situation arose at the Port of Vancouver, causing serious injury to the grain industry.
What is the solution? It seems obvious that we need more adequate co-ordination and direction within the entire scope of the operations in the industry, including farm deliveries, the operations of elevator companies, transportation and terminal companies, shipping companies, the Wheat Board and the Board of Grain Commissioners. There needs to be better direction, and proposals to this end have been put forward on a number of occasions by members of this party.
I, myself, have made proposals to this effect. The minister's reply to a recent suggestion of mine was that we should first do some co-ordination here. I do not mind that but I do submit that co-ordination is first required on the part of the government. Requests have been made for the appointment of a transport controller, or a grain controller to help bring this co-ordination about by dealing with all aspects of this situation. This proposal is not new. In 1955, for instance, a transport controller was appointed and I believe he did an effective job. In the early 'sixties a problem arose in connection with heavy sales to China, and the government of the day to its credit called upon the services of a former commissioner of the Wheat Board, Mr. Riddell, to supervise and co-ordinate activities at Vancouver. From the information I have, I gather that the different authorities concerned felt they were doing all they could to deal with the situation. However, when they got together with the co-ordinator they found they were able to improve their operations and speed up the handling of the grain.
The minister seemed to reject this idea yesterday; he thought it would result in the onus being placed upon one man to take action. I believe it has been shown that this is not the case, provided the individual concerned approaches his duties in a sensitive manner and bearing in mind that there are different authorities involved each with his own sphere of operations. Up to the present we have seen a disjointed approach by the government.
[DOT] (12:40 a.m.)
Finally, we have the comments of the minister in this debate tonight. In the contribution of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin) he reported that there were 31 ships in the port of Vancouver at this moment. The hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch) noted that there were in fact 33 ships either waiting in the harbour or at berth at 5.15 this afternoon, Ottawa time, I believe. So, he must have more up to date information available to him.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce related a number of problems that had been experienced over the past few weeks. He mentioned there had been weather problems, and this is true. He pointed out that the handling of high moisture grain involves certain difficulties, that it was a very slow process to unload and handle such grain. I do not quarrel with that.
January 22, 1969
The minister also noted that there had been a stronger demand for grain than was anticipated earlier this fall, and I do not quarrel with that statement either. I understand new export orders came in early in December which were additional to the orders previously expected. The Wheat Board decided to follow a policy of optimizing its sales and undertook to work out the transportation problems later.
So far as I am concerned, I give the Wheat Board credit for taking that action. I have no doubt that the Wheat Board followed up its decision by taking all the necessary steps, within its area of authority, to see that deliveries were made to the purchasers of grain. But the fact is that these steps were inadequate.
The minister seemed to question what exactly was his function. Is it his function to operate the wheat marketing system and to instruct all the officials involved as to what they are to do? I would say that that is not his function. The minister noted that it is his function to support that organization, and I agree fully with that statement. I urge him to fulfil that function by appointing a grain controller or transport controller to deal with the current problems facing us, and with other problems which I predict will arise over the next few months.
When we look at all the difficulties outlined by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce-
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bechard):
Order. I understand the minister wishes to ask a question.
May I ask the hon. member what the minister is supposed to do with the advice that he gets?
I suggest that he has to sort through the various suggestions made to him and reach a decision. The particular course of action that I recommend at the present time is the appointment of a grain controller to co-ordinate all aspects of grain marketing.
That is one opinion.
That is one opinion and I recommend it to the minister. I think it has received a wide measure of support tonight from all sides of the house. I heard the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Douglas) suggest that it would be very useful to have a transport controller, and I commend him for putting that suggestion before the minister. This
is the course of action that is required. What is needed is co-ordination, direction, and an attempt to achieve a proper working together of all elements and sectors of our grain handling industry. This is the sort of support the minister should give the Wheat Board to help it do the job we all want to see it do, and which it has been doing its level best to do. Lack of government action has resulted in despondency and confusion among western farmers. That has been aggravated by the fact that the government has so often said in this house, "Everything is fine; there is no problem. We have everything in hand and there is nothing to worry about." The farmers of course have seen that is not so. Lack of adequate government direction has resulted in the farmers of western Canada fearing for the long term future of their industry.
Tonight, we must consider what must be done to help our farmers. As I have already said, for heaven sake let us appoint a controller of grain and a controller of transportation to make sure our grain is marketed properly. Second, and this point arises from my first point, let us make sure that enough No. 2 wheat arrives in Vancouver, but not too much. In its panic reaction to existing circumstances the government may dump too much No. 2 wheat from western Canada into Vancouver, attempting to make sure that overseas commitments are met. The result may be that we will have too much No. 2 wheat in Vancouver and not enough of the other grades.
Third, I suggest that compensation through the Canadian Wheat Board should be made for demurrage and other special costs which have arisen this year, in part because of lack of government policy and direction during the past few months. Fourth, we ought to provide some form of direct financial assistance to farmers in drying grain. That has already been discussed in the house. Some of us do not feel that the government's proposal to pay $600 more in cash advances to farmers will help our farmers. Many of them feel that, with conditions as they are, they are unlikely to repay that advance by July 31 next. We must give direct financial assistance to farmers in order to help dry their grain. That will be in the national interest. Fifth, we ought to embark on a long range program to help elevator companies instal drying equipment. Recently members of the Saskatchewan legislature, including the leader of the opposition, Mr. W. S. Lloyd, made a special trip to North Dakota to see how grain was being dried
January 22. 1969
there. They learned that in practically every elevator in North Dakota grain may be dried. It is an accepted practice that grain is dried in or near country elevators in that state. In this country it is much more difficult to harvest wheat and it seems to me Canadian wheat producers would benefit in the long run if we adopted a practice similar to that carried on in North Dakota.