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

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. JOHNSTON (Lake Centre):

They have kept faith; they did not increase the prices, they reduced them as the right hon. gentleman said. However, they did not reduce them far enough. It will be noticed that the factory cost of a binder in 1931 was $153.11. In 1935 this had dropped to $123.32, or just a few cents short of $30. In 1931 the cash price of a binder to the farmer at Regina was $278. In 1935 this had dropped to $263, or a decrease of $15. They came only half way in their reduction.
There _ is a matter of greater importance with which I should like to deal if time permits. I refer to the question of freight rates. Numbers 11, 12 and 13 of our recommendations deal with this matter. The people in the west know just how important this is. During the period 1926 to 1935 inclusive the International Harvester Company marketed 77-6 per cent of its total Canadian sales volume in western Canada, while the Massey-Harris Company marketed 66-69 per cent of its production in western Canada. The fathers of confederation realized that the matter of freight rates was of prime importance and they stated that the outlying portions of Canada would have to be given a cheap and efficient system of transportation. It has been stated in this house that the fathers of confederation went even further and said that this should be done even though it meant a tax upon the taxpayers generally.
Back in 1897 the government in office at that time made an agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company known as the Crows-nest Pass agreement. Under that agreement 51952-79
the government paid the Canadian Pacific Railway Company a subsidy for the building of a line from Lethbridge through the Crows-nest pass into British Columbia. I believe this subsidy amounted to $3,400,000. The railway company agreed to maximum rates on certain commodities, such as wheat and wheat products eastbound and farm implements and other commodities westbound. Western Canada enjoyed the benefit of those rates from 1897 until 1919, or, more properly speaking, until 1902. In that year an agreement was entered into between the government of Manitoba and the Mackenzie and Mann interests, under which the rates were to be a little lower than under the Crowsnest Pass agreement. From 1902 until 1919 western producers had the benefit of the rates provided by the Manitoba agreement, but the Crowsnest Pass agreement was still intact.
In 1919 the railway companies made representations to the government of the day to the effect that they were not able to carry on under the existing rates. They said that something would have to be done and, rightly or wrongly, the government agreed to suspend the operation of that agreement for a three-year period. Those three years expired on July 6, 1922, the year in which a new government under the present Prime Minister came into office. If nothing had been done at that session, on July 6 of that year the rates under the old Crowsnest Pass agreement would have automatically come into effect. But again the railway companies made representations to the effect that they would not be able to carry on.
The new government appointed a special committee to inquire into the matter and I was privileged to be a member of that committee. To make a long story short, a resolution was presented to the committee and adopted which recommended to parliament that the rates on wheat and wheat products eastbound should be restored. That resolution was accepted by the house. The reason the rates westbound were not restored was due to the fact that the western members of that committee could not get sufficient support in the committee to get them through. It was not because we did not believe they were necessary, nor was it because we did not believe the western farmers were entitled to them.
The record of the Liberal party in connection with the Crowsnest Pass agreement is good. Following up what had happened and the opinion expressed by the fathers of confederation that the outlying sections of Canada should be given an efficient transportation system, the Liberal party, in its second year in office in 1897, made this agreement guaranteeing to the people who had

1242 COMMONS
Farm Implements Committee Report
settled on the western prairies these maximum rates. The railway companies could take only a certain toll for carrying a bushel of wheat, and that agreement continued, as I -have stated, until 1919.
Again, in 1922, the Liberal party restored those rates, and I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that in 1898 and in 1922 the circumstances of the people living in that western country were not to ibe compared with conditions to-day.
I suggest that the government give very serious consideration to the question of restoring these rates at this time.
I had wanted, sir, to refer to the financial statements of the different implement companies for the present year, which all show a marked improvement in business over the previous year, but time will not permit. I want, however, to read and put on the record an excerpt from a letter that I received from the United Farmers of Manitoba. It comes from outside my own province, from the city of Winnipeg, and is addressed to myself:
During the past year the report of the special committee of the House of Commons dealing with prices of farm implements, of which you were chairman, has been receiving widespread attention in this province and particularly among the leaders of the organized farmers. General satisfaction has been expressed at the outspoken nature of the comment on certain conditions which have prevailed in regard to implement prices and widespread expectation has been stimulated looking toward concrete action in the direction of relieving some of the injustices which have been imposed and which continue to the present time. It is felt that the House of Commons having had its attention so specifically directed to these unfair exactions should not stop with merely recognizing their existence but should further bestir themselves to bring to bear whatever pressure may be necessary to secure readjustment and relief.
Our hope is that it will not be a matter of mere expression of opinion but that some concrete action will be devised by conference with the leaders of the implement manufacturing industry or otherwise to secure the relief which the report so fully recognizes as being overdue.
Signed on behalf of
The United Farmers of Manitoba, William R. Wood,
Secretary.
If Canada is to continue to produce wheat in large quantities, undoubtedly changes will have to be made. In my opinion we shall have to produce wheat at a lower cost; and how are we going to do that? I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that one of the steps which this house should take is to reduce, if possible, the cost of farm implements to the farmer, because, after all, farm implements and the soil are the farmer's raw materials, and he cannot carry on his industry without them.

I have a statement here which I should like to place on Hansard, with the permission of hon. members. It is an extract from a report submitted to the Royal Grain Inquiry Commission by Charles F. Wilson, statistician, agricultural branch, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, December 5, 1936.

Topic:   FARM IMPLEMENTS COMMITTEE
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN SECOND REPORT PRESENTED APRIL 8, 1937
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