May 17, 1955 (22nd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. Nicholson:

This business of deciding that the farmer should have a price less than what would give him a fair share of the national income does not really make any appeal to me. I realize that we cannot fix an arbitrary price and decide that we shall

produce unlimited quantities of cereals at that particular price regardless of our ability to consume them or to sell them. But that again becomes a national problem. The Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris), in appointing his commission to review the problems of the Canadian economy, should include such a person as Professor Baker of the University of Saskatchewan, who has recently completed a study in Saskatchewan dealing with some of our fundamental problems. Certainly, there should be someone on this commission who will approach the problem from the point of view of agriculture.
As I said previously, we have opened up large tracts of country in Canada on the assumption that we would be able to sell food in the world's markets. If, through no fault of ours, we are unable to sell the products there, it becomes a national problem, and it is not unreasonable to ask the federal treasury to use funds to see that, as long as we continue in the business of producing cereals, those who produce them will have a parity price or a fair price for wheat, oats, or barley that can be worked out mathematically as a fair price in comparison with the price of fertilizer, gasoline, or implement repairs.
I might say that as long as I can remember we have had as part of our Canadian policy the maintenance of tariff barriers which protected an important sector of our Canadian economy. The last careful study that was made on the impact of the tariffs was made by the late Norman Rogers some years ago. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) will be familiar with the brief which was presented by the government of Saskatchewan to the Rowell-Sirois commission outlining what the tariff policy has meant in terms of revenue and expenditure in the different provinces. For example, Prince Edward Island benefited to the tune of $5.32, but they paid out $23.20 per person per year because of tariffs, so they have a net loss of $17.88. Nova Scotia had a gain of $18.50, but a cost of $30.78, or a net loss of $12.28; New Brunswick benefited to the extent of $19.91, but the cost was $31.58, or a net loss of $11.67; Quebec had a gain of $46.23, a loss of $35.20, or a net gain of $11.03; Ontario had a gain of $64.32, a cost of $49.17, or a net gain of $15.15; Manitoba had a gain of $28.44, a loss of $41.69, or a net loss of $13.25; Saskatchewan had a gain of $3.55, a loss of $31.71, or a net loss of $28.16; Alberta had a gain of $11.22, a loss of $38.15, or a net loss of $26.93; and British Columbia had a gain of $32.03, a loss of $54.36, or a net loss of $22.33. It is pretty obvious that only two provinces of Canada are in a better net financial position because of tariffs. But the

people of the ten provinces have accepted tariffs as the price they pay for the development of Canadian industry with a view to providing employment for the maximum number of Canadian people.
If during the past 50 years it was decided that all the people of the country should support the manufacturing industry by tariff devices, until we decide that there is no future for grain exports in Canada, public funds should be used to see that those who are engaged in this necessary industry have a fair share of the national income.
I should like to remind the house again of the farm net income report, 1954, published by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), which shows that the net farm income has dropped from $2,154 million in 1951 to $1,125 million in 1954, a drop of $1 billion. This is one major factor that has caused such widespread unemployment in Canada, and when one narrows down the impact of those figures to the province of Saskatchewan, where we had a drop from $566-5 million to $126 million, one finds out what happened before we had the disastrous damage from rust last year. This is the direct result of Canada being unable to sell in the world markets the amount of grain that we would have been selling if the other governments that I have mentioned had not been embarking on policies which paid their wheat producers in some instances two or three times as much as they would have paid for a better sample of wheat shipped from Canada.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, in concluding these remarks I should like to make the following suggestions. First, Canada should embark on a school lunch program with a view to using some of our surplus cereals and milk. I am sure there cannot be any argument about it that a school lunch of bread, butter and milk would result in a few years' time in Canadian children enjoying a good deal better health than they have now. The second proposal is that we must maintain maximum consumption of our foodstuffs in Canada. That is something that the Canadian government can do, apart altogether from the world markets. There is no problem whatsoever in getting into the stomachs of hungry Canadian people the maximum amount of cereals and dairy products that I have mentioned.
We have a very large number of people on old age pensions, on blind pensions, and on mothers' allowances in Canada who cannot possibly, out of the small cheques they receive, buy an ample quantity of many of these foodstuffs. In dealing with the problem

the government must find ways and means of making available maximum quantities of foodstuffs.
My third point is this. We must also participate in feeding hungry people all over the world. We cannot find fault with the United States, which has large surpluses on hand, making available to hungry people food from this source.
In the fourth place, there must be no reduction in production so long as there are hungry people in our own country apd in other countries. The United States should even carry on a greater campaign in helping to feed the hungry people of the world. I might remind the house that during the first war and the second war the United States sat on the sidelines for a long time, while the people of this country, of Great Britain and of other parts of Europe, used up large quantities of their assets. At the end of both wars, the United States finished in a very strong financial position. I remember that during this war I happened to be returning from the north at one time when some 50 Americans were returning from a construction assignment in northern Canada. The lowest paid man in the party had been drawing $400 a month and his board and heavy winter clothing. They all had been working on a construction project which was completed on a cost-plus basis. Since the war, Canada has taken over all these establishments and we paid our United States friends on the basis of what these establishments cost them. When I consider that those who went north during those years spent very large sums of United States funds, which were recently reimbursed, I think there should be no trouble whatever in seeing that those who are engaged in the production of food, which in wartime or in peacetime is a weapon which should have high priority, receive their fair share. But unfortunately in world war I and in world war II the farmers, whether they lived in the maritimes, in central Canada or in the west, received a great deal less than their fair share. In both wars, controls were imposed as soon as there was a possibility of our running short of food and, before the farmers were able to cash in and take advantage of the fact that now they might be able to pay off their debts, we had controls which made it very difficult for farmers to take their fair share of our country's production. So I suggest that the government of this country must keep step with the other countries I have mentioned which are seeing that those who are producing cereals in those countries have a much better break than their Canadian cousins are getting.

Topic:   FINAL PAYMENT, 1953-54
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