Mr. H. A. Bryson (Humboldl-Melforl):
Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon two hon. members on this side of the house dealt in some detail with the very serious agricultural situation that has developed in Canada. In particular the hon. member for Jasper-Edson (Mr. Yuill) dealt with it at length and placed a great many very interesting figures on Hansard to substantiate the statements he made in that regard. While I am not going to take the time this afternoon to speak about this question in detail, I should like to take some time to deal with the over-all picture as it applies to agriculture and in particular to the condition of the grain farmer in western Canada.
1 am very glad that I was able to visit my constituency during the Easter recess because it gave me an opportunity to speak not only to farmers but also to machine agents, garage men and a great many of the other small business people whom we find in every little town scattered throughout the prairie provinces. I was told in every case that their business had fallen off from 25 to 60 per cent in the last six months, owing of course, to the fact that farmers, because they are not able to market their produce, are not able to buy the things that they need. It only seemed to confirm what I had believed and what a great many more people believe, that a most serious situation has developed in our agricultural industry.
Obviously we are following the very same pattern that was developed prior to 1939 and
The Budget-Mr. Bryson the second world war. At that time we had the same conditions of surpluses, falling prices and lost markets together with an increase in the cost of production. Following the second world war our agricultural economy was cushioned against a very obvious recession in this country by the introduction of the Marshall aid program. Following that the recession was of course cushioned by the Korean conflUct.
As I said a moment ago, we have learned nothing from the events of the last fifteen years and we are right back where we were prior to the outbreak of the second world-war. We have reverted to the status quo>
of the 1930's. Somebody once said that as literal translation of the Latin, "status quo",, is "the mess that we are in". I submit that as far as our agricultural economy is concerned we are back in the same old mess in which we were in the 1930's. I should like to mention briefly the impossible position in which our farmers find themselves in trying to work out plans for their production. I think it is something that is unique and it is something that a great many people do not seem to appreciate. This, we are told, is the age of the specialist. This is the age of the efficiency expert and, while a great many people do not like the sound of the word, this also is the age of planning.
No business can long survive in this country unless it gives a great deal of thought, to planning for the future. The distance that these plans are projected into the future is limited only by the size and the scope of the particular industry coupled with society's need for the product that the industry produces. While that is true of all successful enterprises in this country, both in peacetime and in war, it does not follow that it applies throughout the agricultural industry, because farmers do not plan their production in the light of future prospects or future promises but rather on the basis of past experience. I might add that one of the yardsticks that farmers have come to use in their planning is that whenever the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) suggests a certain approach to a problem, if they do the opposite they find it is a good guide to what they should do in that particular year in which he makes the forecast.
The blame for this state of affairs cannot be placed on the shoulders of our farmers. They have no control over the cost of production, nor have they any control over the prices they will receive either on the domestic market or in the markets of the world. We have a pitifully small population in Canada.
The Budget-Mr. Bryson We can never hope to consume all we produce. Why should we when two-thirds of the world's population is hungry and clamouring for food? Like a great many people, I believe that our whole approach to this problem of distribution is wrong. I believe the government is trying to reconcile its thinking in 1954 with its thinking back in 1934. I do not believe it is possible to do that. It is time we reversed the actions of the proverbial ostrich by pulling our head out of the sand and facing up to reality.
We must revolutionize our thinking concerning this problem of distribution just as drastically as we have revolutionized our production methods in this country. If our agricultural industry is to survive and take its place in our country's economy, we should and must plan for the future. Those plans must be based not only on our domestic needs but upon the needs of mankind everywhere, rather than plan as we now do on hope, mere chance and intuition, with our success dependent in large measure on our happy ability as individual farmers to outguess our neighbour concerning what to produce and in what quantities. The most urgent and important question of the day, so far as agriculture is concerned, would seem to be how long can we, as an agricultural nation, continue, without giving this problem of distribution the serious consideration it deserves.
Throughout the war the farmers were asked to produce in abundance. We did a wonderful job. We were told we had done something that had never been done before. We were told we were the salt of the earth and we had unlimited markets. But now we have an entirely different condition. One of the very significant things, and one that any amateur observer might question, is that in spite of the fact we are still spending in the neighbourhood of $2 billion for defence in the name of peace and world security, we are unable to find markets for the very large food reserves we have in this country. The reason, of course, is that we are spending this tremendous amount of money not for food but upon arms, aeroplanes and guns. We are shipping these things to people who are badly in need of food. In effect, we are saying to these people, accept these things and defend your poverty. When this does not have the desired effect, we throw up our hands in holy horror and in our stupidity say that these people are accepting communism, they are turning to communism.
We should not cut our production. I certainly hope our government will not be influenced by recent press statements attributed to the United States secretary of agriculture, Mr. Ezra Benson, in which he
suggested the United States would like to see Canada cut her agricultural production. I think we can all go along with a statement recently made by our own Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson) when he was speaking at a luncheon held in London, Ontario, on January 27 of this year by the federation of agriculture. He said:
None of us wants to see food production curtailed or surplus food destroyed when there are so many hungry people to be fed. Indeed, as long as these people remain hungry there cannot be such a thing as a surplus, except in the economic sense. All our humanitarian and social instincts rebel at a policy of contrived scarcity and food destruction.
I certainly hope that will continue to be the policy of this government.
I come now to one item about which I am greatly concerned, and one which I investigated thoroughly when I was home over the Easter recess. It is something that we in this party have advocated for a long time. We believe that the government should take ownership of properly stored grain on the farm. We do not ask the government to pay the full initial price for this grain, but they should pay a minimum price for grain properly stored on the farm. We say that because the Canadian people are now being told that the grain that is piled on the farms in western Canada is a wonderful thing. They are told it is just the same as money in the bank. If times get tough or we get into another crisis, we will have this supply to draw upon, and we believe that is true.
However, we do not believe the producer should carry the whole burden of this so-called mountainous prosperity, as someone referred to it. Today the people of Canada are asked to bear the whole burden of defence. We are stockpiling armaments in the name of security and world peace, and the people are quite prepared to pay the shot. We say that food is just as essential to world peace and security as armaments. We believe it is only fair that all the people should help to carry that burden and not leave it to the producer alone.
There is another matter I should like to mention at this time, and I am expressing a personal opinion for what it is worth. From discussions I have had I know that a great many people in western Canada are in favour of the scheme I have outlined, but the farm organizations in western Canada are shying away a little bit from this idea of the government taking ownership of properly stored grain on the farm. I am suspicious of this, that the wheat board is saying to the farm organizations of western Canada, "If you are going to advocate this new idea and if you are going to try to push us into the position of buying this
grain, then we will abandon the wheat board." And that would be a real disaster. But I am suspicious that this is the gun that is being held at the heads of western farm organizations.
I think the government should exercise some control over the cost of production, but I am not going to discuss that matter in detail today. There will be other opportunities for me to do so. However, I shall deal with one item in particular, that of fertilizers. I should like to comment momentarily upon two points discussed in debate on December 2 by the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Byrne) who, I am sorry, is not in his seat.
On that date, replying to a criticism I had made in connection with what I called a monopoly in the sale of fertilizers in this country, the hon, member for Kootenay East said I had left the impression that farmers were being gouged. He intimated he was sorry I had made that statement, because he was afraid it would have an adverse effect on fertilizer sales. I am convinced the hon. member for Kootenay East did not make those statements without giving some thought to them, because I know he is concerned about the situation of the workers in the plant at Kimberley. I know the figures he quoted in the house had been submitted to him by the fertilizer companies concerned-because I have investigated the matter. I do not think the farmers in that part of the country from which I come had to wait until I came to Ottawa for me to tell them that they were being gouged, so far as their purchases of fertilizers were concerned. They knew about that a long time ago.
As a matter of fact, when I was home at Christmastime the farmers in my area were circulating a petition in which they asked their neighbours to pledge that they would not buy any fertilizers this spring. This was done with a view of bringing the high cost of fertilizers to the attention of the proper authorities. Fertilizer distributors in the district of Humboldt-Melfort told me only a day or two ago that they know now that their sales of fertilizer are going to be drastically reduced.
I was not in the house when the hon. member spoke and discussed the fertilizer situation, but I could tell from reading his speech that he has real sympathies for the fertilizer companies, and was not pleased with the nasty things I had said about them. I am not going to deal at length with this subject of fertilizers, but I shall try to correct two statements of the hon. member on that occasion.
First of all he said that in the years 1935 to 1939 it took 90 bushels of wheat to buy
The Budget-Mr. Bryson one ton of fertilizer. He then proceeded to point out that in 1952 it takes only 65 bushels to buy one ton. I would say to him in reply that in the years from 1935 to 1939 we were buying fertilizer for about $60 a ton and wheat was selling at less than a dollar a bushel. To be exact, the price of wheat was -956 cents per bushel.
But what was the picture last year? Farmers who were able to market top grades of wheat found that they had to sell over a hundred bushels to obtain enough money to buy one ton of fertilizer. And, incidentally, these figures are from the dominion bureau of statistics and cannot be denied.
The other point made by the hon. member for Kootenay East was that because the fertilizer industry had sold 100,000 tons of fertilizer in western Canada this had meant an increase of 35 million bushels of wheat. I have made inquiries at the central experimental farm here in Ottawa. They have secured all available information from many experimental stations and from the hundreds of illustration stations scattered across the country, and it is their considered opinion that 15 million bushels would be an outside figure-and not the 35 million mentioned by the hon. member.
This just goes to prove once again that the fertilizer people will go to any length in an effort to becloud or muddle the thinking of people who are buying their product. I do hope that before this session is over this whole industry will be investigated under the authority of the Combines Investigation Act.
I was very happy indeed to hear the hon. member for Brantford (Mr. Brown) make a case for economic aid. I am not going to discuss the subject at length; but it was refreshing to hear the fine address he made this afternoon. In addition to the proposal I have made in connection with outright purchases of grain by the government, I would like to see this country accept sterling. This group has maintained over the months that sterling should be accepted. There are many places throughout the commonwealth where it could be spent; or, as we have suggested over and over again, we could invest it in Great Britain to help them rebuild their industries, so that they might produce more goods to offer in trade for our agricultural products. This would help relieve the great surpluses we find in agriculture today.
I should like to see wholehearted support for a world food bank as outlined by the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations. I believe these two things, coupled with what I have suggested previously, would go a long way toward relieving the stress and help cut down the surpluses we have in our
The Budget-Mr. McLeod agriculture. It would also go a long way toward establishing security and peace throught the would.
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE