May 18, 1972

PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 40 deemed to have been moved.


PUBLIC WORKS-RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED NORTHUMBERLAND CAUSEWAY

PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Heath Macquarrie (Hillsborough):

Mr. Speaker, on May 1 I asked the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Dube) if, in the new era of prime ministerial largesse, reconsideration was being given to the construction of the Northumberland causeway. This, of course, is a project on which the government repudiated its commitments. But it was in light of great promises of billion dollar corridors to the north that I asked if the much less costly Northumberland causeway, so long promised, would now be built, or completed since $20 million has already been spent on it.

May 18, 1972

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion

I was interested in the minister's reply. He almost let the cat out of the bag when he said:

-the people of that island province are appreciating and enjoying what has replaced that project, namely, considerable federal assistance under the department of my colleague the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion.

He was referring, of course, to the development plan which many islanders regard as the alternative to the promised causeway. The minister skilfully avoided confirming this view embodied in my supplementary question. Apart from the fact that under the development plan, Prince Edward Island has reached new highs both in unemployment and cost of living, the bartering of one for the other was not a good trade even in the beginning. The development plan requires that the province, the weaker, smaller, poorer partner, shall provide over two-thirds of the cost. That was not, in my view, particularly shrewd bargaining on the part of the province.

But it is not just because the Dominion government is obligated to provide 100 per cent of the cost of a causeway that I recall the potential value which it possesses. Along with many colleagues from Prince Edward Island and elsewhere, I have down through the years set out the advantages in economics and transportation which would flow from the construction of a permanent land link between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. With the rapidly increasing number of tourists to Prince Edward Island there can be little doubt that existing ferry facilities at Borden and Tormentine are destined to become inadequate.

One of the ships on the run, the sturdy icebreaker Abequest, is at the quarter century mark. I was surprised to learn that no definite plans are under way for the addition of new ships to the service. I do not wish to see us fall behind in meeting transportation needs on this route. The only adequate answer, of course, is the provision of a permanent link. Modern technology can construct it, the needs of the day require it, and if the government has the requisite foresight it will repudiate its own repudiation and begin to get on with the job of providing it.

Topic:   PUBLIC WORKS-RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED NORTHUMBERLAND CAUSEWAY
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LIB

Allen B. Sulatycky (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Liberal

Mr. Allen B. Sulatycky (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development):

Mr. Speaker, I have a short answer for the hon. member for Hillsborough (Mr. Macquarrie). A meeting was held in the first week of May at which a Prince Edward Island-New Brunswick delegation made representations concerning the Northumberland Strait crossing. Senior federal government officials met with the provincial delegates to listen to a proposal which was presented at that time. However, due to a number of points in the proposal which were not clear the delegation was asked to review its position with a view to having a further meeting in the near future.

Topic:   PUBLIC WORKS-RECONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED NORTHUMBERLAND CAUSEWAY
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SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION

NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Burton (Regina East):

Mr. Speaker, on May 10 I

asked the Minister of Supply and Services (Mr. Richardson) the following question:

In view of the minister's expressed interest in the dispersal of government facilities geographically, would he undertake to review the decision of his department to close the audit services bureau in Regina and transfer it to Winnipeg?

Unfortunately, the minister did not have the opportunity to reply to my question because Mr. Speaker ruled it could not be considered at that time. I am glad to see the minister in his seat and look forward to hearing welcome news affecting Regina when he speaks. As I understand the situation, Mr. Speaker, on June 4 the audit services Bureau of the Department of Supply and Services in Regina is to be closed and the employees are to be transferred to Winnipeg. From then on the services provided through that office are to be provided from the Winnipeg office.

Actually, many of the services now provided by the Regina office will be provided by the employees concerned who will travel from Winnipeg to Regina. They will incur expenses and there will be much dislocation. They will conduct their audit work and then proceed back to Winnipeg. I fail to see how the government can save money from such a move. In addition it is possible, I understand, for some employees now connected with that office who are not in professional categories to encounter certain problems as a result of the dislocation which will take place.

I want to take note of the minister's expressed interest in the dispersal of government facilities throughout Canada. I commend him for his interest and know he has taken a particular interest in seeing that some facilities are moved to Winnipeg.

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Hear, hear!

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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?

An hon. Member:

Shame!

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

Since the minister comes from Winnipeg, I cannot blame him for his action. I can even understand that the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) and the hon. member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Orlikow), both of whom are present, also take an interest in this matter.

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Hear, hear!

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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?

An hon. Member:

Shame!

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

I know the minister has succeeded in making sure that the expansion of the Canadian Mint will take place in Winnipeg. I commend him for his interest on behalf of his home community in that regard. Yet I ask the minister, is there any need to pick on Regina? Regina is a little smaller than Winnipeg. It is a better city than Winnipeg, although a little smaller. A small number of federal employees are to be found in the city. I think the minister might have some consideration for the needs of Regina and also consider the economics of the situation.

May 18, 1972

I hope that when the minister rises to speak we shall hear welcome news from him, that his department has reconsidered its decision in this regard and has decided, wisely, to leave the audit services bureau, as well as other facilities, in Regina.

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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LIB

James Armstrong Richardson (Minister of Supply and Services)

Liberal

Hon. lames Richardson (Minister of Supply and Services):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to assure the hon. member for Regina East (Mr. Burton) that one thing I am certainly not doing is picking on Regina in any decision that is being made in the reorganization of our audit services. I can say to him that following the question he raised in the House a few days ago during the question period, I undertook a review of the changes in the structure of our audit services. As a result, I am now able to respond in some detail concerning the matter in which he is interested.

First of all, I can say there has been no decision taken to close our audit services bureau in Regina as was, I believe, indicated in the hon. member's question. It is the policy of the department to maintain professional audit representation in every provincial capital and that, of course, includes Regina. It is true that more than a year ago we made a decision to strengthen the audit services bureau in the regional offices, that is, in Edmonton and in Winnipeg. Regina has been an area office, not a regional one. This decision was taken on the recommendation of the director-general of the audit services bureau. The main purpose was, and is, to increase the professional quality and efficiency of our audit operations.

My review of this matter indicates that these changes have been undertaken with a minimum of disruption to the personnel involved. I am advised that one employee from Regina has moved to Edmonton, that two employees who wished to remain in Regina have been assisted in making suitable transfers to other federal government departments in Regina, and that one employee has been transferred to Winnipeg.

I can say, further, that this policy of strengthening the audit services bureau in the regional offices in the west is consistent with the policy we have followed in the Mari-times where our audit services bureau is now centred in Halifax. I think the hon. member will realize from the review which I have described that the personnel involved in this reorganization have been very few in number. I hope he will also recognize that these changes have been made in order to strengthen and improve our audit services in western Canada.

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
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AGRICULTURE-DECREASE IN NUMBER OF FARMS BETWEEN 1966 AND 1971-PROGRAMS TO STOP OR REVERSE TREND

NDP

Lorne Edmund Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lome Nystrom (Yorkton-Melville):

Mr. Speaker, my question in many ways is similar to that of the hon. member for Regina East (Mr. Burton). The hon. member claimed that the government was picking on Regina and I claim that the government is picking on the small farmer. On May 2 I put a question to the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) as follows:

In view of the startling revelation in the census that the number of farms in Canada dropped by 15 per cent between 1966 and 1971-a

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion

very serious situation-can the minister say whether he is now contemplating any new programs that will stop that trend or hopefully reverse it in certain areas?

The minister replied:

Mr. Speaker, the very significant upturn in incomes of farmers between 1970 and 1971 will, I think, have a profound effect on this.

I felt that that was an inadequate answer and this is why I want to pursue the matter for a few moments tonight. First of all, the real net increase of farmers in Canada has not gone up very much in the last year, contrary to what the minister claims. I believe the increase has been about 10 per cent in terms of real net income, still lower than it was five to six years ago, despite the fact that costs of production have gone up drastically.

I also point out that over the last ten years farmers have gone into debt. The year 1970 was one of the worst years on record, almost as bad as some of the years in the thirties, when it comes to the question of farm income. In the province of Saskatchewan, for example, the average net realized income of a grain farmer was about $1,000 a year, way below the poverty line. The Minister of Agriculture's statement that there has been an increase over 1970 is really not worth a crop of beans.

To prove my point, all we need do is look at farm debt. The Farm Credit Corporation bill was debated in this House a few days ago. We find that a very high percentage of loans made by the FCC are now in arrears. Farmers in my constituency have taken out cash advances and are experiencing difficulty paying them back. Many farmers in my riding are at the point of bankruptcy or in financial difficulty, and they see no way out.

The second thing I am concerned about is that while we watch this trend continuing so rapidly we are seeing a whole segment of Canadian society being destroyed before our eyes. Each and every year small farmers are being forced off the land and this in turn causes the population of villages, towns and small cities to dwindle. In the last five years in Saskatchewan only one town out of dozens had an increase in population, the town of Moosomin, but this is located along the Trans-Canada highway and benefits from the tourist trade. Other towns suffered a decline in population-indeed, some of the small cities as well-and this solely because of the severe recession in the agricultural industry.

Let me refer to a few statistics which I think illustrate the serious problem that is confronting rural Canada. Between 1966 and 1971 the number of farms in Canada declined by 15 per cent, from roughly 430,500 to 366,000. These are the census figures as at May 1 of this year. In the province of Saskatchewan the number of farms decreased from 85,686 to 76,970, a drop of 10.2 per cent. In Manitoba the number went down by 12 per cent, in Alberta by 9.7 per cent, in the province of Quebec by 23.7 per cent, in Nova Scotia by 37.6 per cent, in New Brunswick by 37 per cent.

I suggest the number of farmers being forced off the land gives cause for serious concern and is something to which we shall have to turn our attention if we are to save, preserve and stimulate the rural areas of Canada which I suggest are a very important and vital part of our way of life, socially, economically and culturally. Many things

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May 18, 1972

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion

can be done to bring this about. First of all, we could put much more federal money into agriculture and support the prices of farm commodities. We could take a similar step to the measures taken by the Saskatchewan government and establish a land bank whereby the government would purchase land from older farmers who wished to sell, in turn leasing or selling the land to younger people who want to start farming or to small farmers who need another half section or quarter section in order to have a viable farm unit. This is something one province is trying to do by itself, and with co-operation from Ottawa it could go much further.

All farm organizations were very disappointed at the budget brought down in this House a few days ago, because it handed out concessions to the manufacturing companies but had nothing for the farmers. In my view the farmers are the prime producers in this country and are among the best consumers we have. If we put more money into agriculture it would stimulate the entire economy. This matter concerns me because in my constituency I have hundreds and hundreds of small farmers, many with their backs up against the wall, totally disillusioned with this government and its policies. It is these people who are demanding explanations, and it is the children of these people about whom I am concerned because they are being forced off the land and into circumstances of poverty.

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
Subtopic:   AGRICULTURE-DECREASE IN NUMBER OF FARMS BETWEEN 1966 AND 1971-PROGRAMS TO STOP OR REVERSE TREND
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LIB

Allen B. Sulatycky (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Liberal

Mr. Allen B. Sulatycky (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development):

Mr. Speaker, .the hon. member has quite correctly stated that according to the census the number of farmers has declined by 15 per cent. However, he neglected to mention that the land area devoted to agriculture has remained essentially constant. It should also be noted that the annual decline in the number of farms has been about the same for the past 30 years, so this is something that has not just developed.

I am not sure that this general trend can be stopped, although as the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) previously mentioned the significant increase in farm income will no doubt have some effect in this regard. The government anticipated this trend some time ago and recognized that as this adjustment and change was occurring there were some hardships being placed upon the people involved, the hard working rural people who have been the backbone of this country since its beginning.

To help overcome some of these problems, this government introduced its small farm development policy and has placed a great deal of emphasis on it. This is the policy which does some of the things the hon. member suggests we should be doing. It is a program designed to make it easier for these individuals who want to stay in agriculture and expand or adjust their operations by providing special credit facilities, and make it easier for those who decide to retire from agriculture or try their hand at another occupation by providing, among other things, grants in addition to the resale value of their property. Officials of the Department of Agriculture are working diligently with their provincial colleagues to arrive at the necessary federal-provincial agreement which will make it possible to put this program into effect.

As the hon. member may be aware, more emphasis is now being placed on the marketing aspect of agriculture which, it is anticipated, will improve the income position of farmers and thus encourage those contemplating leaving agriculture solely on the basis of income, to stay. The age of our farmers has a lot to do with the number of farms disposed of each year and the government is meeting this problem head-on by changes in the Farm Credit Act currently being considered in committee which would, among other things, make it possible for 18-year olds to obtain loans. Time does not permit me to go into the many other programs designed by the government to assist the family farm.

Motion agreed to and the House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.

Friday, May 19, 1972

Topic:   SUPPLY AND SERVICES-TRANSFER FROM REGINA TO WINNIPEG OF AUDIT SERVICES BUREAU-REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
Subtopic:   AGRICULTURE-DECREASE IN NUMBER OF FARMS BETWEEN 1966 AND 1971-PROGRAMS TO STOP OR REVERSE TREND
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May 18, 1972