Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister came into the house for just a short while today. That is quite a concession on his part because he hates the place, as he demonstrated last night. I am glad he came into the chamber for just a short time today. I hope he will accept the very sound, practical suggestions I have made regarding what the government must do in order to solve the problem of pollution.
[DOT] (2:30 p.m.)
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Mackasey), who is the self-styled Babe Ruth of the bargaining table, appears on television every once in a while, takes a bow and announces proudly that he has engineered a wage settlement for a strong, powerful union, giving that union about a 10 per cent increase each year. He takes a bow and says that he is very pleased and proud to do so.
But the people on minimum wages for whom this government is responsible, the people in federally controlled industries who work on minimum wages, and of whom there are many thousands, are receiving a wage of $1.25 an hour which was set more than four years ago. Since that time the cost of living has increased by no less than 17 per cent. What does the government expect these people to do, tighten their belts by 17 per cent? That is exactly what it expects them to do. Their idea of the just society is to give fat and well justified raises each year to strong industries because these industries can make trouble for them by going on strike. But they sit back and do nothing for the people who are weak and not organized, who live on minimum wages and who suffer poverty which the Prime Minister agrees is a national disgrace.
All they do is watch the cost of living go up by no less than 17 per cent in four years, and do absolutely nothing about it. That proves what a bunch of phonies they are. So much for their just society. I want to know what the government are going to do about that. I say they should immediately raise the minimum wage so that it would more than compensate for the increase in the cost of living that has taken place in the last four years, and show they mean what they said during the election, namely, that they would bring in a just society.
Prior to recognizing the hon. member for Saskatoon-Biggar (Mr. Gleave) I might perhaps express the misgiving I have. It seems to me that we are getting more and more into what amounts to a budget debate or an address debate, and I think all hon. members appreciate the difficulty in maintaining relevance to an adjournment motion. I appeal however to hon. members to try to relate their remarks to the motion before the house.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your admonition that our comments should be relevant to the motion. That is not very difficult. There are all kinds of arguments and reasons why we should assemble again here on September 22 instead of in October. First there is the business of this nation which is crying for attention, and there are economic circumstances that exist in both western and eastern Canada and which can only be described as unfinished business so far as this house is concerned.
We have spent the better part of a month discussing a procedural question, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) himself charged the opposition with being stupid even to discuss it. So if we were stupid to discuss it, I wonder what one can say about the government which brought it in. As a result this month, which could have usefully been used to deal with some of the real problems that exist, has been lost. What should have been done has been left undone.
Surely the Prime Minister cannot be unaware of the circumstances existing in western Canada. He went out to have a look, and the people there made him very welcome. If he is out there again on September 22 I am sure they will make him welcome again, because I suspect that the government will have done no more in regard to the conditions that face the western farmer by September 22 than they have done up to this day in July. We
Motion to Adjourn House have had no report from the Prime Minister since we came back. He has not chosen to rise in his place in the house and say, "This is what I saw when I went to visit the people in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta." He did rise today and in the course of his address told the leaders of two opposition parties what he thinks of the kind of shop that they ran when they were in their provinces. I have some sympathy for him and I am sorry that he came to Saskatchewan at the particular time and under the particular circumstances which he did. We have suffered a Liberal government for some five years in that province and what the Prime Minister was seeing were the results of that administration.
All we see is the ineptitude of the federal Liberal government in its marketing policy, as is evidenced in the present situation of western grain farmers. I can understand why his impressions were as they were.
The reason for the real urgency in meeting again a month ahead of the date suggested by the government is that we may have some report on what has been accomplished in regard to the very serious difficulties that face Saskatchewan and western Canada.
Let me point out that as of October 22 we will be about ten days short of a quarter of the new crop year in marketing western grain. We start on that crop year on August 1, and there is no indication from the government, either through the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson), the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin) or the Prime Minister that they are aware of the depth of the problem in the marketing of western grain. I am speaking not only of wheat. I am speaking also of barley, flax, and rapeseed. There is no indication as yet that the government are aware of the magnitude of the problem they face or that they have put in motion the machinery to deal with that problem. If they have done so, they have not told this house.
The Prime Minister expressed his contempt for the opposition, and for individual members of the opposition. Perhaps this is why he has not felt it necessary to inform people such as myself, who were elected by the voters in Saskatchewan, and who are backbenchers, how the government intends to deal with the problem. He referred to us as nobodies. Fortunately I do not mind it because I know the traditions of this house, and the parliamentary traditions that went before it.
July 25, 1969
Motion to Adjourn House
I know to whom I am responsible. I am not responsible to the Prime Minister. Perhaps some of the unfortunate individuals sitting on the other side of the house are, but I am not. I am responsible to the people of Saskatoon-Biggar, and as long as they return me to this house I shall stand in my place and speak on their behalf. I want to tell the government that I have not that much confidence in them that I am willing to wait until October 22 to see what they have done for and to the people of Saskatoon-Biggar.
[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)
I have here two reports, one from the meeting between the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, and one from his meeting with the National Farmers Union. These reports represent what these two organizations have chosen to send out following the meetings. One would look in vain in either of them for any reference to an in-depth discussion or study of the problems of marketing grain on the world markets of today. This is a time at which the International Grains Arrangement is in danger of collapse. Indeed, it has collapsed as far as minimum prices are concerned. The nations which have signed it, responsible nations which have been content to seize the benefits which they have received under the GATT negotiations, have disowned it. They now say to the Canadian grain growers: It is too bad; yet we are putting up with it and the government is putting up with it.
Why do we not have the courage to stand as a nation and say: A bargain is a bargain? Does the government not have the courage, using the Wheat Board and the other instruments at hand to go into the markets of the world and get our share of those markets? Hon. gentlemen opposite do not have that kind of courage or that kind of initiative. They are willing to let the thing go down the drain. If this is not the situation, this house has been told nothing to the contrary.
Other nations sell wheat and barley. What prices should we sell at? We have asked the minister these questions but have been given no firm answer except that present policy will continue. If we have failed by doing what we are doing at the present time, why do we not set about doing things differently? These are the questions: what prices, what volume, how fast will our stocks move? I do not want to wait until October 22 to learn the answers. When they appeared before the standing committee, the officials of the Canadian Wheat Board were asked about promotion programs,
the adequacy of their staff and the countries they intended to approach with a view to sales. The answers were not encouraging, When asked about price differentials between ourselves and our competitors, they had to say we were at a disadvantage. Is this disadvantage being corrected?
I do not mind diversification being discussed with western farmers. Some of us will diversify. A great deal is being done in this direction now. But diversification alone is not the answer. The problem facing western Canada is, first of all, a marketing problem, and it is not being met. At the beginning of the new crop year there is no sign that it will be met, any more than the transportation problem is being met. The transportation of western grain during the past year has been a disgrace to the efficiency of the Canadian nation. We are reaching the end of the crop year when a five-bushel quota will be set up at most of these stations. They are running box cars up and down the country as fast as they can these days, but the situation is still confused. Some farmers will get their quota in, and others will not. Confusion is all we are offered, yet communications are the very lifeline of this nation.
The Prime Minister sneers at Saskatchewan. In 1964 when the Liberal government was elected in Saskatchewan, they took office in a province which had been well governed for 20 years and which understood what communications were about. We had a grid road system through the municipalities and on to the highways. It was modern and up to date. We had placed power in most of the farms. We had provided assistance for the modernization of farms so that living conditions might be comparable to those in the cities.
Well, I have changed my mind. It is my time, and I intend to use it. I notice that members on the other side have repeatedly refused the normal courtesy of allowing some of our members to continue their speeches, so I shall not permit a question.
It is this forward look in terms of communication and transportation which the present administration needs.
Last fall, immediately after the election, there was a grain handlers' strike in western
July 25. 1969
Canada. It was settled on the eve of the date on which this house met. Why? Because if it had not been settled the government would have been obliged to answer questions about a situation which was totally unsatisfactory. One right which still remains in this house despite 75c is the right of the people back home to have somebody representing them here who will speak on their behalf and demand that the government shall answer. This is what parliament is all about.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture made certain recommendations in its report. It might as well have stayed at home. The Minister of Agriculture says we have met these recommendations-that the introduction of cash advances will mean the injection of many millions of dollars into the western economy. Do the Minister of Agriculture and the members of the house not know that not one extra dollar will be available to the individual as a result of these cash advance payments? I could have taken exactly the same amount of money by way of cash advance on August 1, 1968, as I can take on August 1 of this year.
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but may I again express some misgivings about the range of this debate. I have been very patient and have listened to him with great interest, but may I remind him that we are discussing an adjournment motion. I would ask him to relate his remarks about agriculture as much as possible to the need for deciding whether the house should reconvene on September 22 or October 22. I appreciate his difficulty but I invite his co-operation.
I would have to admit that I am straying a little from the motion, but these matters are urgent. That is what concerns me about setting back the time for returning. Matters that could have been dealt with before now will not be dealt with until October 22 if this amendment is defeated. Thus there will be this much more delay and time for dallying on the part of the government. This much more time will be lost for taking effective decisions, and time is of the essence under these circumstances.
I have said what I want to say on this adjournment debate. My point is that the needs of the people of this nation, and particularly of those in the area I represent, are not being met. The standing committee on agriculture toured eastern Canada; I am sure 29180-736J
Motion to Adjourn House the farmers there are only a little better off than western farmers, though some might not even be as well off. Perhaps I should make a plea for them too. My direct concern, of course, is with the area I represent.
I will stop at this point, Mr. Speaker, since I know from the tone of the Prime Minister's address this morning that it is very unlikely that anything I say might cause him to change his mind.
It is not a very important question, but when the hon. member was discussing the role of the ex-premier of Saskatchewan, whose government may or may not have been an excellent one, I was not clear whether the hon. member was relating the length of those legislative sessions to the excellence of the government. That seems to me the point that had been discussed earlier. Did the ex-premier acquire excellence only because his legislature had long sessions, or did he acquire excellence as a result of his skill and ability, which have nothing to do with the length of sessions?
I am very pleased that the hon. member opposite concedes that the former premier of Saskatchewan achieved excellence. He achieved that excellence not because of time but because of ability and imagination.
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to be provocative today; nor is it my intention to be long. I do not want to prolong this debate, but some statements have been made that should be answered by those of us who occupy the government back benches.
I am sorry the hon. member for Prince Edward-Hastings (Mr. Hees) is not in the house, because he certainly propounded a new theorem this afternoon in that the profundity of his remarks varied indirectly in ratio to the decibel volume of his voice. We thought this afternoon that we were to be treated to a description of what the policies of the Official Opposition would be were they to be entrusted with the responsibility of government. We were told that the government should cut expenditures and fight inflation, but time did not permit the hon. member to delineate those areas where certain programs
Motion to Adjourn House should be curtailed and money saved. Then a few minutes later we were told that more money must be spent on pollution, that we should have a national pollution policy. The burden of the hon. member's remarks rested on those two concepts-first of all, that we have to cut budgetary expenditure, and secondly that we have to spend more money fighting pollution.
I do not think the hon. member made a constructive contribution to the debate, especially in view of the fact that the debate relates to whether or not the proposed recess should extend until October 22. It is unfortunate that when he was a member of a previous government the hon. member for Prince Edward-Hastings was unable to produce the kind of action that he is advocating today. It is unfortunate that the party whose leader is an exponent of retroactive justice is not as skilful in developing retroactive policies. It is likewise unfortunate that many of the events that occurred between 1957 and 1962 cannot be undone.
I do not want to continue in this vein. Rather, I want to read to the house some quotations from the debates of the Nova Scotia house of assembly when the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (Mr. Stanfield) was premier. I should like to put on record what he said when answering opposition criticisms that he had failed to develop constructive policies, that he had failed to take sufficient, effective action in time. As reported at page 107 of the 1967 debates he said:
I am sure that any member oi the house can present a list of projects which are desirable and important. Any member can stand in his place and say that this should be done and that should be done, but our resources are limited in comparison to the needs to be met, yes, inadequate in comparison to the needs to be met.
Then when he was accused of failing to provide sufficient programs at the session in 1967, he said:
Time will tell... I suggest that we are certainly not meeting all the needs, but we have tried to allocate the resources that are available toward the most pressing needs in an effort to produce the most beneficial results that we can offer our province and its people.
The hon. gentleman went on to point out that not everything can be accomplished in one short session. Then he continued-and this is a truism of anyone who occupies a position of government:
-even this government cannot please anybody.
DEBATES July 25, 1969
It is clear, I suggest, that when he had the responsibility for government he recognized the need for time for long-range planning. This is what he was asking the opposition to understand in the Nova Scotia house, and he should surely be just as understanding now when he occupies such an important position in the House of Commons.
In the one breath we heard the opposition complain about too short a recess. They alleged we should have recessed a month ago. In the next breath they complain the recess will be too long, that we are obsessed with plans for taking holidays. These are the arguments we have been hearing in recent days. What they do not tell the Canadian people is that almost all of them have had extensive vacations during the rules debate. Their system of triple platooning for vacation purposes would make the Green Bay Packers look like a Little League squad. This talk about selfless dedication to parliament, while many of them have sampled vacation delights around the country, is really quite laughable as far as government members are concerned, and I think the people of Canada will understand.
Speaking about the recess, legions of opposition members rise in their places to remind us that this has been the most productive parliament in the history of Canada. Member after member of the New Democratic and Conservative parties has made orations in this house to this effect. They ask why we need rule 75c since this is the most productive parliament in history. But somewhere down the line their ideological mores have become short circuited. The leader of the New Democratic party (Mr. Douglas) today accused the government of being a "do-nothing" government, one devoid of ideas. He suggested we were cowering in fear that our legislative nakedness would be exposed if the house were to meet earlier than October 22. These two concepts, of course, are not mutually compatible. You cannot be the most productive government in the history of Canada, with more legislation going through in a given number of days than in the past, and be a "do-nothing" government.