March 11, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


John Frederick Johnston (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)


Mr. J. FRED JOHNSTON (Lake Centre) moved:

That the second report of the special committee of the house appointed on the first of February, 1937, to continue and complete an inquiry begun by the standing committee on agriculture and colonization, pursuant to a resolution of the house on March second, 1936, into the causes underlying the high prices of

farm implements, with particular reference to the advance in prices in the year 1936, presented to this house on April 8, 1937, be concurred in.
He said: In rising to speak to the motion which is now before the house I think it might be well for me to review briefly the steps leading up to the presentation of this report on the eighth day of April last. Bearing in mind the contents of the resolution, the house will recall that in January, 1936, farm implement companies did increase their prices. The matter was brought to my attention shortly before I left home to come here to attend ' the first session of this parliament. One of the local agents representing one of these machine companies showed me a letter he had received from his firm instructing him to advance his price list, giving as their reason that material and labour costs had advanced to such a point that they were forced to increase their prices.
After coming to Ottawa I discussed the matter with some other hon. members who are directly concerned with agriculture. I gave it further consideration, because I was not unaware of the fact that inquiries such as this cost money, and I wanted to be sure that I would be justified in bringing the subject to the attention of parliament before going into it any further. I finally decided to bring it to the attention of the house, and I did this on the second day of March, 1936. The resolution which I submitted at that time was on the motion of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) amended, by referring the matter to the standing committee on agriculture and colonization rather than the body mentioned in the original motion. The committee on agriculture and colonization undertook the task, and during the session of 1936 did considerable spade work in connection with the inquiry. They heard evidence covering 476 pages, a number of witnesses, and received and filed thirty-nine exhibits. These, by order of the house of February 1 last were made part of the record of the committee now reporting.
Toward the end of the session of 1936 it was felt by the members of the committee on agriculture and colonization that a smaller committee could better deal with the matter. As hon. members know, the committee on agriculture and colonization consists of sixty members. Consequently, on February 1 last, again on the motion of the Minister of Agriculture, a special committee was set up consisting of twenty-five members. This committee did me the honour of making me chairman. The special committee last year held , forty sittings, examining twenty-nine witnesses, heard 1,209 pages of evidence, and received and filed one hundred exhibits.

Farm Implements Committee Report
When the Minister of Agriculture made his motion the house will recall that the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) expressed doubt whether a committee of this house was the right body to handle this matter. The right hon. gentleman expressed the opinion that acrimonious discussions would arise in that committee. I am sure the right hon. gentleman will be glad to know that nothing of the kind occurred. The work of the committee was harmonious throughout, and thanks are due to the members of the committee for their cooperation. In that connection may I say that on the last day of our sittings the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens), who is a member of long standing in this house, stated to the committee that in all his experience he had not served upon a more efficient committee. I took that as a tribute to the members of the committee and particularly to the counsel and the auditor whom we were fortunate in procuring, Mr. Graham, solicitor, of Swift Current, and Mr. Macdonald, chartered accountant from Winnipeg. I think anyone who has studied the evidence and gone through the report will agree with me that these two men did a tremendous amount of work in the short time at their disposal.
Coming to the report itself, there are thirty-six conclusions and recommendations. I have time only to touch very briefly upon a few of them.
The first conclusion points out that the prosperity of the farm implement industry depends on the prosperity of agriculture. As we study the evidence that is made very plain, that when agriculture is depressed the farm implement manufacturers of this country are not prosperous. The committee had the benefit of evidence tendered to it by Doctor Booth. Doctor Booth is an agricultural economist connected with the dominion Department of Agriculture. He told the committee that the annual requirements of farm implements in this country amounted to $51,700,000, and that during the period 1926-35, on account of the depression and farmers not being able to purchase their annual requirements, there had grown up in this country a backlog of requirements amounting to some $200,000,000. If this estimate is anything like correct and I think it well within the mark, and if this backlog is to be taken up in the next few years, it will be understood that farm implement manufacturers have in prospect a period of large sales, probably equal to the days when western Canada was being settled. When we consider the financial statements of the implement companies during that period we find that they experienced very prosperous times. With the annual requirement of $51,-
700,000 plus the backlog of $200,000,000, hon. members will understand how vital this matter of price is to the farmers of this country.
As I stated at the outset, in January, 1936 farm implement companies increased their prices. They stated before the committee that this increase amounted to three per cent over their line of production. The auditor of the committee claims that the increase was 4-4 per cent. If we take the implement company's own figure what do we find? That on that annual need of $51,700,000 you have to add another $1,550,000 and on the $200,000,000 back log that has to be taken up if the agriculturists of this country are to put themselves in a position to produce cheaply, there is another $6,000,000 added to the cost of farm implements by this increase.
We thought that was bad enough, but on November 1 last, despite the conclusion of the committee that this increase of 1936 was not justified and that any further increases would not be justified, the implement companies put into effect further material increases in the prices of these implements. I have here a list of twelve of the more important implements. I have not time to give all the details-

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