I am not asserting we are.
I am asserting that if we are, then that follows. This committee can determine that after the matter has been referred to it. I can tell the right hon. gentleman that papers which have not been entirely critical of this government have certainly suggested that is one of the outcomes of any relaxation of the imperial preference which follows because of Torquay. But we are not debating what may or may not happen. At the moment we are debating the realities of the situation, and the fact that we in Canada are facing an extremely serious trade situation because of the emphasis upon our United States trade and the diminution of our trade with the United Kingdom, the commonwealth countries and other countries outside of the continent of North America.
This afternoon the leader of the opposition referred to the statement issued: out of Toronto last Saturday by the British-Canadian trade group which has been studying our problems, and which had recommended and urged the establishment or the creation of a conference between the governments of the commonwealth in order to study this problem and to attempt to resolve it. Certainly I suggest that we all should support that proposal. If there ever was a time when such a conference was necessary, it is now. No stone should be left unturned. I realize that there are difficulties in the way. I realize that it is not an easy problem to solve. But the more difficult the problem, the more reason for prompt action and the less reason for delay. Having regard to the seriousness of the situation, and in view of the discussions which have taken place here today, I would hope that this government would take some steps to support the suggestion and to urge and to lead in the establishment of such a study in the immediate future.
Ancillary to that, may I say that I was intrigued to read in a press report the statement by the president, I think it was, of the British federation of agriculture-because agriculture, industry and trade were all represented at Toronto. The head of the British agricultural group suggested that the time had come when there should be, and would be on the part of the British government, greater relaxation of trade restrictions in so far as the importation of Canadian food products are concerned. I know the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) must have studied that statement with some particular interest.
In that statement some reference was made to the fact that the cheese contract showed
a relaxation at least on the part of the British of their fixed determination to engage in bulk purchases. Those of us in the apple industry know that last year Great Britain relaxed the restrictions upon the importation of apples from all the sterling areas. In other words, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia exported their apples to the trade in Great Britain, and the apples were .bought and sold direct without restriction; possibly that was only because they were in the sterling areas. But it has been suggested by more than one competent authority, or at least has been suggested, by one who had information on the matter, on Friday night in Toronto, that this coming year arrangements could be made whereby Great Britain would import apples from Canada, independent of and apart from bulk purchases and for distribution direct to the trade.
The minister will know that last year importations were made and that purchases of apples were made direct from the trade in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, without the intervention of this government; and that was a step in the right direction. I suggest that there is now more than a possibility and that apparently, according to these men who are now here, there is a probability that, if we take the right steps and follow the right course, this year we can arrange for the direct sale of apples from Canada- from British Columbia and from Nova Scotia; those are the two great exporting, production areas-to Great Britain, to the trade there. It has been suggested that a mission ought to be set up there, representative of the two apple exporting areas, to handle our apples and to sell them direct to the trade. If that could be done, it would be of tremendous importance to the apple producers not only of British Columbia, I assume, but certainly of Nova Scotia.
We know that there are governmental committees engaged on various projects. We know that there is always consideration given to the problem of the dollar and sterling areas. We know that each year during the past two years the British-after discussion, after debate, after waiting, after the apples were probably picked, when no one knew whether they were going to be, sold or not-made an agreement whereby they purchased a substantial quantity of our apples. I suggest that this year we take time by the forelock, that we do not wait until the frosts come next fall, that we pursue the matter now and that, if possible, we make arrangements so that the apples may be sold, in order that the producers will know of it well in advance.
Those are some of the minor and perhaps ancillary matters arising out of the discussion this afternoon of the Torquay agreement. By dealing with these matters, and by working at them unitedly and intelligently, we can and must solve the problem of regaining these markets in the sterling area; otherwise the economy of eastern Canada at least will be most seriously impaired in the future.
Subtopic: TORQUAY NEGOTIATIONS