March 25, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Chairman, it does appear to me that if this government is to give a guarantee we should know under what conditions we are giving that guarantee. The amounts indicated are $1,900,000 in respect of Alberta, and $14,500,000 in respect of Saskatchewan. Since we are providing the credit by which this money is being obtained from the banks, is it not desirable that full information be given? If it were not for the conditions to which the minister has alluded, it would not be necessary for us to pledge our credit. As the minister has properly remarked to the hon. member for Prince (Mr. MacLean) this is a matter between the provincial governments and the people of the provinces. If the credit of the provincial governments were good, we would not come into the picture at all. It is only because we in the west are unable to deal with the situation that we have to rely upon the credit of the federal government.
Has the seed grain already been provided? Was it secured last fall through the operations of the wheat board? Under what authority does the wheat board function? Was it permitted to buy only from producers? How has this wheat been held? At what price was it acquired? All these are relevant questions that should be dealt with. It seems to me that the government when in opposition would never have permitted a measure such as this to pass unless such information was forthcoming. I do not think the request is an unreasonable one. I have inspected the papers downstairs and I know what provision has been made to acquire this seed. I want to know what price has been paid for the seed grain and what price is to be paid by the farmer. There will be no great freight
Seed Grain

charges to pay on this grain, because it has been taken over in the interior elevators, according to the returns made a week or so ago by the auditors of the wheat board. I think all this information should be in our .possession.
Then you come to the far more difficult question, a question that in days gone by used to be dealt with in a very, shall I say, detailed manner. Some of those who have participated in this debate will perhaps recall their anxiety to know, first, how many acres a man was to be permitted to seed; whether he should have a percentage of his available acreage seeded to -wheat, to oats, to rye and barley; or should it be fixed definitely that no man could seed more than a blank number of acres? To act on such a suggestion would be utterly unfair. A man with a thousand acres would be in a position to have cultivated only the same number of acres as the man with only the minimum number. Attention has been directed to this by the hon. member for Weyburn.
Then you come to the next question, the distribution of the seed grain. There you have a question which unfortunately gets into the realm of politics. When the legislation is before us in committee I propose to suggest that there shall be no departure from the regulations, which I would like to see as a schedule to the bill. I know, as other members know, human nature being what it is, to quote the language of the Prime Minister that you have to consider the pressure that will be brought to bear upon those who are responsible for administration. That pressure takes many forms. You have the municipality and you have the provincial government. The regulations are initiated by the provincial government and are supposed to be made effective by the municipality.
Then there are the inspectors. You have one man with 1.200 acres urging that owing to the splendid moisture content of the soil and the apparent certainty of a crop, an exception should be made in his case and a larger quantity of land made available for cropping than in the case of someone who in his opinion is less fortunately situated. Surely we should try to deal with that so as not to make it possible in this democracy that men may think that their ability to secure a crop depends upon their attitude towards public questions-in other words, depends upon their political faith. It seems to me we must do everything in our power to see that that is not the case. I know something of the difficulties. I did not listen to all the criticisms urged in days gone by without

realizing that this is not a condition applicable only to one individual or set of individuals, but is the common attribute of poor, weak humanity, and that if an election is in sight and the pressure is strong the result is fairly certain. We must do something to prevent that condition arising.
These are the questions upon which we should have information. We start with what has been done with respect to seed and what is involved with respect to cost. Then we come down to our acceptance, mark you, Mr. Chairman, of the regulations promulgated by the province; for the minute we give our guarantee we tacitly admit that the conditions are acceptable to us. We have, therefore a responsibility which I hope we shall exercise not in any narrow spirit but with an earnest desire, as the Minister of Finance has said, to make some little contribution to the national welfare by the creation in this year of grace of a substantial quantity of new wealth-for that is what it means. One of the reasons why a wheat crop is regarded as so valuable is that you sow it in the spring and have new wealth in the fall. It is not like cattle, where the new wealth does not become available for years, or like many other enterprises, in the mining field, for example, where the losses are colossal and now and then you have a great success. But with wheat, if we have a crop at all, we know it will result in a very great expansion of new wealth, and that wealth becomes available in the autumn of the very year in which the crop has been sown. That is why I suggest that the minister should place the information on Hansard, in order that the people may realize the magnitude of the efforts that are being made and the reason why the public credit is being pledged, that of the dominion in addition to the provinces; because according to the terms of the resolution the provinces are giving their undertaking and the municipalities are giving theirs, and the banks are protecting their depositors -on a ten to one basis, I take it?-by the guarantee of the federal government.

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