Mr. WHITE (Middlesex East):
resent the strikes planned by labour in food processing plants which are timed at the most critical marketing periods, and apparently neither labour nor management care how great a loss these strikes are to the farmer. Labour is entitled to support in obtaining its high levels of employment, for decent hours and fair pay, but the farmers expect fair treatment as well. Information is not available as to the number of cattle sold directly to the packing houses, while hundreds of cattle are left in the stockyards unsold, to be purchased later at a loss to the producer.
A farmer acquaintance of mine, living near the Montana border in Alberta, told me that in the five years of war, the difference in price of cattle between Alberta and Montana has cost him about twenty thousand dollars.
There is a need for all the meat that we can produce, but farmers must not be forced to take a loss of from ten to twelve dollars on every good beast. On the other hand, small butchers and grocers are objecting to the complications and extra work the ration entails. Small operators are being sacrificed to the large packing companies. We hear considerable about the decentralization of industry. The best interests of the country are served when as much as possible of the processing can be done nearest the area of production, and not as the farmers are compelled to do under the present regulations, which send their produce to the plants of the big packers.
The much heralded free enterprise must also include free markets for our cattle and produce. George Bernard Shaw once said that this planet was the insane asylum of the universe. I think this is the only explanation of our meat ration and housing situation as it exists to-day. Some of its more erratic patients are in charge of those plans.
Let us take one look at the soil of Canada. Soil fertility is not an ever-flowing spring that is renewed each year by the snow and the rain. Every farm product that is sold off the farm removes certain essential elements of fertility. A glimpse of things to come along this line may be found in the decreasing yields of farm crops. The numerous deficiency
diseases of plants, animals and humans are but an indication of the lack of these essential elements, as is the enormous increase of weeds which in a way is nature's attempt to repair soil depletion, by the return of humus to the soil. History has shown that man cannot disregard this important matter. Many once fertile areas of the old world are now deserts. Ever westward moved the farmers of America. Let us plan to maintain our soil, the basic wealth of this country. The farmer under present conditions is unable to make provision to maintain soil fertility. The government of Canada must not again permit the farm income to fall to such a low level that the farmer will be unable to buy the needed material for rebuilding his source of income.
A word or two about free enterprise. The farmer, to my mind, knows better than most just what free enterprise means. To him it means freedom to market his crops and sell his live stock where he pleases and at the best possible prices. He does not ask for state controls that hamper all his activities. He does ask for protection from the government in his dealings on the markets so that he may hold his own. We, as the parliament of Canada, must see that he gets that protection. We do not want conditions such as would drive him in defeat to the socialist way of life; conditions where he has to sell to the big packer at a loss on his cost of production when he could sell elsewhere at a profit, for instance, in the United States. Socialism thrives on a defeatist attitude and our farmers must not be allowed to fall into it. They have their hopes pinned on us. We must fulfil their expectations.
Farmers are not looking for social security. All they have ever asked for is an opportunity to sell their products at a parity price with the things they have to buy. Given a parity price, they will be able to equip their farms and homes to modern standards; they will be able to educate their children; they will be able to have leisure time; they will be able to lay something aside to provide for their old age Just as in the case of the worker, where real social security means the right to a good job at good pay, the farmer can provide his own social security if he is given the opportunity.
I wish to say a word or twro about the Veterans' Land Act housing. Veterans' Land Act houses are a menace to rural municipalities. They must be the dream of a bachelor. Municipalities are going to be saddled with these houses. Drainage, roads and many services will be demanded. Fortunate are the municipalities that are without these rural
House oj Commons
slums. There is something the matter when good hundred acre farms with house and barns in Middlesex, Lambton, Huron, Perth and many other counties sell for less money than these veterans' land houses of questionable value. Before the veteran has paid for the house, he will certainly have lost his equity in it.
With the war over, we all want to see a reduction in taxation and in our national debt. With gratuities and the social security measures planned we shall not find this easy. It must be done, however, if we are to go forward in the post-war period. Canada needs selected immigration. If our population were double what it is now, our debt per capita could be cut in half. If prices of farm products and basic industries are allowed to fall to one-half their present level, that would be the equivalent of doubling our national debt.
I wish to say a word about the transatlantic conference lines. Prior to the war I was engaged in exporting honey to the United Kingdom. At that time an agreement existed between the principal steamship lines in regard to rates from Montreal and other seaboard ports. Owing to an oversight Toronto was not included in this agreement, and small Norwegian freighters could come to Toronto, pick up freight and deliver it in the United Kingdom for much less than the conference rates. With the advent of a Canadian merchant navy owing to the war and, at some future date, the deepening of the St. Lawrence river, let us be in a position to market our Canadian produce in Canadian boats, at rates which are not set by any cartel or outside shipping monopoly.
On motion of Mr. Belzile the debate was adjourned.
On motion of Mr. Mackenzie the house adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Wednesday, September 19, 1945.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY