April 25, 1955 (22nd Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Marvin Howe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. W. M. Howe (Wellinglon-Huron):

Mr. Speaker, in rising to take part in this debate I do not intend to delve into any particular aspects of the budget. They have been dealt with very ably and efficiently by some of the other members of our party. However, I should like to deal with one or two problems that are particularly applicable to my own riding and constituents and which, if promptly acted upon and dealt with in an effective way, could have a great economic effect on the whole of Canada.
I do not wish to belabour an issue that has been debated from time to time in this house, but I do notice that issues that are continually brought to the attention of the government sometimes do find their way into legislative measures. The question I am going to discuss was mentioned in the latter part of the second great war, and has been mentioned so often since that I cannot understand why some concrete policy has not been advanced by this government to assist in the decentralizing of industry.
A great deal of the buoyancy of our financial position in the world today is due to the fact that foreign capital is being invested either in the development of our natural resources or in the creation of new industrial empires. I feel that consideration should be given and planning should be done 50433-196
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The Budget-Mr. W. M. Howe
to see that those empires will be set up under conditions and in locations that will be in the best interests of Canada as a whole.
I feel that there are three main departments of our government that would be economically affected by planning of this kind. The first department is that of transport. Indications are that our railroad systems have been operating at a tremendous deficit for the last year. In fact we know that in the year 1954 the Canadian National Railways had a deficit of $28,758,098. They find that some of this deficit arises from the fact that quite a number of their branch lines are not paying. I feel that if industry, which is being centralized in our metropolitan areas, could be distributed throughout the entire width and breadth of our country it would naturally give more business and bring more revenue to our transportation systems. I also feel that if many of these branch lines are discontinued the possibility of smaller communities getting any of these industries will become practically nil.
Another department that is involved is the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources which, through co-operation with the provincial departments of planning and development, should take some steps to see that great industrial empires do not encroach on our very valuable agricultural lands. I speak particularly of the lands in southern Ontario, where we have been endowed by old mother nature with fertile soil, a moderate climate and all the natural attributes to make that one of the most productive fruit and vegetable districts in the world. Man can never replace these natural resources which have been given to us, and there are many districts where soil and natural conditions make it impossible to carry on agriculture economically, yet where it would be feasible to build manufacturing plants.
Then we have one other department of the government which is directly involved, namely the Department of National Health and Welfare, which has the task of promoting and developing civil defence. We hope and pray that these tense periods will pass and there will not be another great war, but we know that we must look upon this matter with a sense of reality when all the great nations of the world are doing their utmost to keep ahead in the creation of new weapons of destruction. To this department falls the task of looking after the safety of the citizens of our country in case of attack.
When so many people are gathered together in great metropolitan areas the task of protecting or removing them from these areas becomes well-nigh impossible. We shudder to think what could happen. We have seen

The Budget-Mr. W. M. Howe it happen before when our weapons of destruction were many times less devastating than they are today. Had more thought and planning been given to this situation the expensive projects that we find in our larger centres to relieve traffic congestion, such as subways and through expressways, might not have been necessary. I feel that if more direction were given, many industries could settle in smaller communities to the mutual advantage of both the industries and the communities. Today we find that people living in those smaller communities are demanding and getting all the facilities provided in more thickly populated areas. If they had more supporting taxpayers the burden of municipal taxation on property owners would be less oppressive.
The second matter I wish to speak about is also one that has been given considerable publicity in this house, but it is also one about which I feel not too much has been done. I refer to the condition of the farming industry in our country. When one looks over the budget one finds that as regards the farmers as a whole very little relief has been given to alleviate the trying circumstances in which they find themselves. It is true that the average farmer may pay a few cents less in income tax, though when I spoke to a couple of my constituents during the Easter recess I found that one indicated that his reduction in revenue from the sale of his hogs over the past year was $2,500, while in the case of the other the reduction was $1,500. Therefore I think they will find that their reduction in income tax will be very small this year because a lot of them will not have to pay any tax. The farmer may get his tires a little cheaper. If he has a car to turn in he will likely pay a little less for a new one than he did before.
A survey by Dr. MacFarlane, of the Macdonald agricultural college, indicated that according to the bureau of statistics a year's work by an agricultural worker was worth only $3,600, while a year's work by workers in other occupations was worth almost $5,000. The explanation is that while the prices of farm products have been steadily declining for several years, the prices being charged for other products have been going up. In other words the producers of our agricultural products are not getting an undue share of the national production.
I am sick and tired of the fanfare and headlines that follow declines in agricultural prices. So much has been said about our high-cost economy that when beef prices drop, when hogs, poultry, or any other agricultural products go down in price, headlines proclaim that according to the index of the bureau of
[Mr. Howe (Wellington-Huron) .1

statistics the cost of living has dropped. I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that when it is caused by only one segment of our economy it is too much to shout about, and I feel it is a very selfish way of looking at this question.
No part of our national economy can live unto itself today. If farm prices drop, the things the farmers buys are fewer, and believe me, he is willing to buy when he is making a profit on his operation. He is willing to buy such products as farm implements, clothing, electrical appliances, automobiles and many other ordinary commodities of everyday life. When the farmer stops buying the manufacturers of all those commodities find that production soon catches up with the demand and there are lay-offs that are not all caused by the dumping of commodities by other countries where labour costs are lower. They are caused partly by the falling off in the purchasing power of one of the basic industries of our country.
I say that part of the fluctuation in the farmers' prices and in our agricultural returns results from the fact that today we have no definite, genuine market on which we can depend from year to year. The United States of America has from time to time been a good customer, but under ordinary circumstances and in an average year the United States produces more agricultural products than she herself can use.
The budget gave no indication that there would be any increased promotion of trade in agricultural products with other countries. There was a time when we enjoyed access to and even preference in the British markets where, because of their tremendous population, there are approximately 30 million people to be fed every year, and which is one of the most permanent and stable markets in the world for agricultural products. There was a time when our cheese ranked first in demand by the people of Britain. How do we know that the newer generations who have grown up and who have developed an appetite for this product from other countries will have the same preference as the rank and file of British people?
In those days not only did our cheese go to Britain, but our butter, our pork and our heavy steers went to that market. We do not send any beef today, and in that connection it might be interesting to note that Britain buys 70 per cent of the beef produced in the world. I feel that a great deal of the uncertainty in our agricultural economy is due primarily to the loss of this market.
This great Liberal government tells us that one of the reasons we had to give up the

British market was that Britain did not have the dollars with which to buy the products of our farms. But did this government leave no stone unturned to see that every possible dollar's worth of defence production was spent in Britain? The report of the Department of Defence Production, January 1 to December 31, 1954, indicates that materials purchased in the United States in the period April 1, 1951 to December 31, 1954 totalled $493,731,000, whereas those purchased in Great Britain amounted to only $104,255,000. Had more dollars been spent in Britain she might have had dollars which could have been used to stabilize our agricultural economy.
This government has been telling business, which has been in straitened circumstances for years, that they are faced with another buyer's market. This applies not only to business in Canada but to business in the international field. If the farmers of our country felt that there were adequate markets for their products and that when they were ready for market there would not be a surplus they could produce more than they are producing of cattle, hogs, poultry, butter, cheese, etc., and their cost of production would be reduced while our gross national product would be increased.
In the face of continued drops in agricultural prices there is one other thing I should like to mention, a phase which was applicable not only to my own riding in 1954, but because of excessive rainfall during the harvest season applied equally to many districts, particularly in southern Ontario. It is true that last year the western provinces had an unusually wet crop year, but the farmers there have the facilities of the Prairie Farm Assistance Act to help them when needed. The farmers in southern Ontario depending on late crops such as flax, white beans, soybeans and sugar beets to get extra money to pay taxes and many other yearly debts that accumulate, particularly in these days of high production costs on our farms, found there was no assistance available to them.
I maintain that what is good for one section of this dominion in time of economic strain should be applicable and within the reach of every farmer who needs it. I should like to endorse the suggestion made by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture that we recommend the development of an adequate scheme of crop insurance with costs to be borne jointly by the federal and provincial governments and the producers.
In closing I should like to say a few words about education, a matter which I understand will be brought up before the coming dominion-provincial conference. We have no 50433-196J
The Budget-Mr. Herridge greater asset in our country than our youth, and we should leave no stone unturned to see that everything possible is done to fit them to take their place in the world of today. Most municipalities are trying to do this, but with the limited means of taxation at their disposal they are finding it well-nigh impossible.
I feel that the federal government, which now takes over 75 per cent of the tax dollar, must do more to assist this very important function of government at all levels. This was the conclusion arrived at after a research program carried out by the Canadian school trustees' association under the direction of Dr. M. E. LaZerte, a distinguished Alberta educationalist. This report indicates that to ensure equality of educational opportunity for all Canadian children the dominion government should designate special grants to the provinces for the specific purpose of assisting education.
At six o'clock the house took recess.

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