September 25, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


Hazen Robert Argue

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. H. R. ARGUE (Wood Mountain):

Mr. Speaker, in rising to take part in the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne I want to say what many hon. members have said, that I too am a new member. As some of the other new members have had difficulty in speaking, I am sure I shall be excused if I have even more difficulty, because I happen to be the youngest member in this house. I hope I shall be able to equal the enviable record set by the other honourable young members. Those young members who have spoken have given the lie to the contention held in many quarters that a man must have graying hair and must limp in here on a cane before he is sufficiently mentally developed to make a real contribution.
A number of hon. members have referred to their constituencies, and I trust I shall be pardoned if I give the house some information about the constituency I represent. I represent the constituency of Wood Mountain which is situated in southwestern Saskatchewan. This constituency is composed of people of many nationalities. I was somewhat taken aback when I heard reference made to the apparent conflict between the different nationalities in Canada. I should like to tell the house that the people of all nationalities living in my constituency have learned to live harmoniously together.
I am afraid I shall not be able to boast of the great grandeur of my constituency or of the metropolises situated therein. It is largely an agricultural constituency, and there are only two towns, Assiniboia and Gravelbourg, which can boast a population of over one

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thousand people. The constituents of Wood Mountain are not wealthy, and I think hon. members will have guessed the reason why. They are largely farmers, and the farmers of Canada have never received their fair share of the national income.
Another reason is that we are situated in what might be called the dry belt of the west. Because of climatic conditions we suffer periodic crop failures. But let us have no illusions; that part of the west is still a great agricultural area. It has contributed in no small measure to the large quantities of meat and butter and grain that have been used to feed our gallant allies. Wood Mountain constituency can boast of one of the largest credit unions in Canada, the Lafleche credit union. Credit unions in Saskatchewan are growing up like mushrooms because the banks have failed to satisfy the needs of the farmer.
I should like to digress for a moment and say something about banks. As most hon. members know, the banks have the privilege, and they follow it in practice, of lending ten times as much in bank credit as they have in actual cash. Chartered banks also have the privilege of discounting so-called gilt-edged securities with the Bank of Canada. By this means they are able to lend many times the amount of bank credit compared to their actual cash. In 1893 bank assets in this country totalled 302 million dollars; bank assets in 1943 totalled 5,150 million dollars. Bank assets for the last fifty years have increased at the rate of 35 per cent per year.
Banks were first organized for the business of making loans. When they were in business in the early years of this country their assets were composed almost entirely of loans, but starting about the year 1930 the structure of bank assets has changed enormously, until to-day, of the over 5,000 million dollars of bank assets, something over 2,700 million dollars are invested in government bonds and industrial stocks. The banks have not been able to survive in what we have been led to believe to be free enterprise. They are to-day a leech on all the people of Canada to the extent that they have that amount of investments in dominion government bonds and industrial stocks. The banks are no longer content to control merely the currency, the lifeblood of the nation; they want to own and control the whole Canadian economy. We of the C.C.F. believe it is time that the people of Canada owned the banks, and not the banks own the people as they do at the present time. For that reason I would suggest to the government that they take into very serious consideration the question of giving to the credit unions the full privileges
and rights of the chartered banks. If that is done the people of Saskatchewan will have their own banks and will no longer have to go hat in hand to the banking institutions of Canada.
I might add that the banks are not to-day satisfying and have not satisfied since 1930 the credit needs of the people of Saskatchewan, and in particular the farmers. In 1926 there were 427 branches of the chartered banks in Saskatchewan. According to the 1943 report in the Canada Year Book, the branches of the chartered banks in Saskatchewan number now 213. That is, over half of the banks in Saskatchewan have closed their doors since 1926. The people of Saskatchewan are not sorry that they have closed their doors, but we do want to have banks of our own, and we can have them if the credit unions are given the full privileges of the chartered banks.
There is one part of government financial policy to which I should like to refer, and that is income tax. First I want to assure this house that we in this group are not opposed to the principles of income taxation. We believe that those best able to pay should pay. But we believe that the burden of the income tax has become too difficult to bear for those in the lower income brackets. Consequently, as the leader of this group suggested in his first speech in this new parliament, we feel that the income tax exemptions should be raised to $1,200 for a single man and to $2,000 for a married man.
A word as to how the income tax affects the farmers. In 1939, when war broke out, the farmers of Saskatchewan and of almost all parts of Canada had just come through a very serious economic depression. Consequently the farmers of Saskatchewan have been labouring under a terrific load of debt. According to the present income tax law, a man cannot count as an exemption from his income the amount he pays off on his mortgage. We believe, Mr. Speaker, that the difficulties and hardships and the economic depression which the farmers suffered in the hungry thirties should be considered in the income tax law, and that the law should be revised so that the amount of principal which the farmer pays off his mortgage shall be exempt from taxation.
There is another aspect. We believe very strongly, particularly those of us who come from areas in which crop yields fluctuate tremendously, that the average farmer's yield for one year or even two years is not good enough as a base for calculating income tax. The farmer's yield should be averaged over a period of at least five years, and on that
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basis the income tax should be calculated. I am sure I speak for all the members of this group when I say that we intend to do everything in our power to see that the inequitable income tax laws are amended so that the common man in this country shall have a chance to make a living and maintain his family in decency.
A word about professional agriculturists. We have from time to time in this debate heard that many of our scientists are underpaid, and that there is great danger that we shall lose them to the United States. I assume that the scientists spoken of were chemists, physicists and engineers. I want to put in a plug for agricultural scientists. I happen to be myself, a graduate of an agricultural university. We in Saskatchewan know in a very real sense the benefits that come from research in agriculture. Professional agriculturists have recently given to us rust-resistant wheats, smooth-awned barleys, and royal flax. We now anticipate that in the -not distant future we shall have a sawfly-resistant wheat. I would suggest to the government that the salaries of agricultural scientists be increased so that we may retain in Canada those now here and give some encouragement to young farmers to follow what I believe to be an essential and noble profession.
I should like at this time to express my pleasure at the unanimity shown by all speakers in the hope that we shall get a real measure of social security. There should be .ncreased benefits in the way of provision for aealth, old age pensions, jobs for the workers and houses for the people. I am sorry to say, however, that the government's method of handing over the house-building programme to private enterprise has already failed. We in the C.C.F. believe the measure of prosperity which Canadians have had during the war, when two millions of our best workers were taken out of the production of consumer goods, gives an insight into the kind of Canada we can have if our economy is organized and planned so that its basis is production for use and not for profit. I would press for a comprehensive house-building programme, and in doing so may I suggest that all the slum conditions are not in our largest cities. I venture to say that every town in Canada has a shortage of houses. I protest against the slum conditions in which many farmers are forced to live. The government should formulate a comprehensive housebuilding programme which will guarantee to every family a decent house compatible with the real wealth which Canada can produce.

I want now to make reference to the newly announced government policy of a floor price on wheat basis No. 1 northern at Fort William. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) assured the house that the SI per bushel for wheat is but the initial price, but the history of floor prices of agricultural products has been that the floor price becomes in effect the price the farmer receives. I am sure the government believes that the price of wheat in the near future will fall to $1 a bushel, or if not, why was the floor set so low?

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