Mr. A. B. Patterson (Fraser Valley):
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I find myself in the position of having to choose a few subjects from a rather lengthy list of what I consider to be very important issues now before us. The fact that I direct attention to these specific problems does not necessarily mean that the others are of a lesser importance, nor does it imply that they will be neglected. It is my hope that we will have the opportunity in other debates to make observations in connection with these problems that are facing various parts of our country and various groups of our Canadian citizens.
Last month I received a very kind invitation to attend the annual Christmas dinner of one of the senior citizens' associations in
The Address-Mr. Patterson my riding. There were possibly 200 people in attendance, representing a considerable part of our population, a group that has given of its strength and abilities in the building of our great nation. As I looked at the audience on that occasion I thought of the sacrifices that had been made as they endeavoured to make their contribution to this country. I thought of the labours performed, the hardships that had been endured, the tears and the sorrows and the joys which had been theirs as they paved the way for succeeding generations. Then I thought of the conditions under which many of those whom they represented are required to live, and I must confess that I felt ashamed.
In the speech from the throne there is a very interesting paragraph which I should like to read. It is in these words:
Indeed our economic expansion has been so rapid that it has put a serious strain upon the supply of various types of labour and materials needed for the many projects which are being put in hand. The corresponding competition to borrow savings to finance all these projects has brought about an increase in interest rates. Increases in the volume of money and credit have had to be carefully limited in order to check inflationary tendencies and the financial policies of my government have also been directed to counteract these same tendencies.
The previous paragraph refers as well to the expansion of our economy and to the prosperity we are enjoying at the present time. But I wonder whether we should not ask the recipients of old age pensions whether they are in agreement with the statement in the speech from the throne which I have just read. When they are required to live as they are on a very meagre pittance, I do not think they would be overly impressed with statements regarding the wonderful expansion of our economy and the high degree of prosperity that the Canadian people are enjoying.
Nor do I think the recipients of the war veterans allowance would be overly impressed with that same statement when they as well, especially those who have not the opportunity of supplementing their income in any other way, are required to live on the present rates that obtain in this particular category.
I would ask the blind citizens of Canada whether' they can appreciate the splendid development that is taking place in our economy and the high degree of prosperity we enjoy. I would ask them if they are sharing in it. I think they would be in a position in which they would be forced to say that they did not know anything about it, that they hardly knew what we were talking about in this particular instance.
We think of the disabled. Yes, we even think of the man who was once considered to be in the middle income brackets. No
matter which of these people we might talk to, I think they would all join in saying they could not appreciate statements such as those, because they themselves were not able to enjoy these good things that should be provided for every citizen of this great country of ours.
In his speech in this debate my leader, the hon. member for Peace River, gave the definition of inflation as too many dollars chasing too few goods. If we asked these people whether they had too many dollars I think they would be constrained to say that, as far as they were concerned, they did not have enough dollars to buy even the necessities of life, let alone those things which possibly would contribute to their welfare and bring a more abundant and easier life for them.
Is $40 per month the best we can do for the senior citizens of Canada? I do not think it is necessary to remind ourselves in this house of the constantly increasing costs of living. That reminder has been given. It should not be necessary to refer to the decreased value of the dollar in terms of purchasing power. That fact as well has been brought to the attention of the house. Yet with the increased national production, the increasing wages and salaries, these people to whom I have referred remain on an extremely low plane as far as living is concerned. They are not privileged to enjoy these things that others are able to secure.
I should like to refer to a resolution that, was passed at the annual British Columbia Social Credit convention in regard to this particular matter, namely the old age pension. The resolution is as follows.
Whereas the national government has implemented an old age pension plan that pays $40 monthly to all Canadians at age seventy years; and
Whereas the present pension payments are inadequate and provincial governments are compelled to augment these payments;
Therefore be it resolved that the national pensions be increased by at least $20 per month.
In advocating the increase in pensions, Mr. Speaker, I understand that the provincial government of British Columbia has also indicated its willingness and readiness to continue with the supplementary payments it has been making to the recipients of old age pension and to others in that category.
When we consider these representations and also the voices that have been raised in this house-not only those of opposition members but of government supporters as well-I think this government should give immediate consideration to increasing the pensions in order to bring them more into line with the present cost of living. As I say, with all the government supporters calling so loudly, and with
the publicity that is being given to their requests, I think possibly the government should be ready to accede to these requests and demands even though it may be that, as some have said, the matter could become one of political expediency because of the forthcoming election.
I wonder whether as many government supporters as have done so would have spoken on this matter and would have made those recommendations if they had not, somehow, had an idea or an inkling that something would be forthcoming before the conclusion of this session. Over the week end the Prime Minister was reported over the radio as saying that the government supporters had not been tipped off at all in connection with anything along this line. Be that as it may, I would suggest that they would hardly all go in opposition to government policy, in view of the fact that the Minister of Trade and Commerce warned them all to toe the party line and said that if they were willing to do so the Liberal party would be in power for a good many years to come. We hope the government will give consideration to these requests that have been made.
The amendment proposed by the hon. member for Red Deer puts before us a motion of censure of this government for its unwillingness to meet the challenge and bring in legislation which would take care of many of these important matters. I should like to speak on other matters in connection with health and welfare and these other problems, but I just mention them now; then later on we shall have the opportunity of referring to them more adequately.
The brief presented to the government by the Canadian Legion again calls attention to some of those problems that are very real to the veterans of Canada. Among the recommendations we find those dealing with war veterans allowance and pensions. Right now I should like to express my wholehearted support of those recommendations, and the support of this group in connection with these matters that are so vital to the veterans of Canada. I think the government should deal with them. I think they should stop this process of procrastination and should take a realistic look at these matters and bring them into line with the demands of the present day.
I am also reminded of requests that have been made on behalf of the blind citizens of Canada for a special allowance, free of means test, to pay for those services which are essential for the blind such as guiding services, etc. These matters have been brought to the attention of the government and the minister in other days. I trust they
The Address-Mr. Patterson will be receiving the sympathetic consideration of the department. What I say for those I could say for the others, such as those who are on superannuation and whose income at the present time is far less than that which is necessary to maintain a respectable standard of living.
I should now like to turn to the matter of agriculture. The problems of the farmers in central and eastern Canada can best be discussed, I believe, by the representatives of those sectors. I have the privilege of representing one of the main agricultural areas in British Columbia. Because of that fact I intend to concern myself in this discussion with problems peculiar to hay own province. I think they are problems to which this government is giving scant attention, if any. However, along with what I say with regard to the agricultural problems of British Columbia, I should also like to emphasize the need for agricultural policies generally applicable to all parts of Canada, wherever the need may arise. I suggest that this government have failed to appreciate the necessity for such a program of agricultural policies. They seem to be content with more or less a piecemeal set-up. I would suggest today that a policy should be drafted which would be applicable right across this nation of ours.
We have made a request for the extension of the P.F.R.A. benefits to the province of British Columbia. I believe it was last year that my colleague the hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke recommended that it be changed from the prairie farm rehabilitation program to the national farm rehabilitation program. I believe if that were to be done it would increase the scope and expand the benefits of this program so it would be of assistance to farmers right across the country.
The government of the province of British Columbia has sought to obtain from the government consideration of these problems on a national scale. Farm organizations have called for such a program. However, the Minister of Agriculture still insists that this cannot be expanded, that it cannot be changed into a national rehabilitation program, but that if we have projects which we believe are worthy of consideration they should be submitted individually and judged on their own merits. Here again I would suggest that rather than have a piecemeal proposition we should have an over-all program which could be applied in any part of the country where such need arose. The extension of the P.F.R.A. to include British Columbia would be of incalculable value to the farmers of that province.
The Address-Mr. Patterson
I would also like to call attention to the matter of river bank erosion. This to me seems to be a very serious problem. It is a problem which is always with us in the Fraser valley because conditions are not improving very much. This is a problem which is continuing to be of very serious concern to those who live in Fraser valley. We think of the great Fraser river and its tremendous importance to the economy of British Columbia. Besides being of special value in connection with the fishing industry, being the greatest salmon river on the continent, it is designed to be a major factor in the development of industry all the way from Hope to the sea. In addition, if ways and means can be found to protect the salmon industry, the Fraser could also be a vast source of power.
This same mighty Fraser is a source of concern as well, for not only has the Fraser valley suffered serious floods but in addition hundreds of acres of the very best agricultural land have been lost through the process of erosion. I have in my hand the interim report of the investigation into measures for flood control in the Fraser river basin. This report makes reference to this particular situation, but I do not think it presents a very full picture. On page 60 of this interim report we find these words:
There are considerable areas of river bank throughout the lower Fraser valley which are subject to erosion. Some of these areas have been protected in part by rock riprap. The channel of the Fraser river from Hope to the sea is unstable and the main thread of the stream changes position from time to time.
In addition bank erosion is aggravated by navigation in certain reaches of the river particularly where small high-powered craft travel close to the banks. Further study of bank erosion is warranted.
I say that does not do justice to the problems, because they are of greater magnitude than would be indicated by a reading of this report. There was, however, one matter in which I was interested; that is the reference to bank erosion being aggravated by navigation. I remember in other days when I was dealing with this matter, and brought it to the attention of the minister, the report of the engineers was to the effect that this did not enter into the picture at all. However, it is being recognized in this interim report.
Until approximately 25 years ago the federal government apparently assumed full responsibility in this particular matter. During that period they diked the slough mouths, did river clearance and rocked the river banks. However, following that period they began to pay one-third of the cost of similar works together with the province of British Columbia, the municipality, or the district in which the work was done. It was
being shared equally. Following the disastrous flood in 1948, due to an agreement between the federal and provincial governments, after completion of work done by the Fraser valley diking board and dissolution of the board in 1950 the federal government would not share any additional cost for any section of the diking and rock work which had been done by the Fraser valley diking board.
Now we are in the position where the federal Department of Public Works have made it clear that they will not be prepared to contribute anything to the maintenance of work which has already been done. They will still give consideration to new work, but I believe this is a shortsighted policy because we have here an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars; I suppose actually it would run into several millions. Now the federal government is not going to contribute anything to the maintenance of that work, thereby jeopardizing the entire investment in river bank protection. Here again I think a national policy is essential.
If the farmers of these areas are to go forward with their work with confidence they are going to have to be assured that some assistance will be given in these circumstances. In order to assist in a plan for this type of work I believe it is essential that the provincial and municipal governments know exactly what the federal government is willing to do in the way of assistance. It might be possible that the P.F.R.A. could be expanded to include this type of operation. Here again all attempts on the part of the provincial authorities to obtain any commitment have failed.
I would suggest, in view of the jurisdiction granted the federal government under the terms of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and Fisheries Act, it seems only reasonable that the responsibility in connection with these problems should be fully recognized and accepted by this government. It has been suggested, and I think this suggestion is fair, that this kind of work should be shared possibly on a 60-30-10 basis, 60 per cent being paid by the federal government, 30 per cent by the provincial authorities and 10 per cent by the district or municipality involved. I think this is a major problem to our farmers, and one of those problems which has been plaguing those who seek to produce the food for the nation.
I realize, Mr. Speaker, that there are many other problems involving the farming communities of our province. Possibly I could mention some of them to indicate that there is still a great deal to be done in the matter
of legislation which will assist our farmers in facing their great problems.
Let us consider the matter of continually rising freight rates. We all know that during the past several months interim increases have been granted to the railways, and these seriously affect those who have to obtain feed grains in my province. We all remember that freight rate assistance was reduced by approximately 50 per cent, bringing it down to about $5.50 per ton. With increasing freight rates the farmers of my area and other districts are being faced with problems and obstacles that appear almost insurmountable.
A resolution was passed by the British Columbia federation of agriculture at their twenty-third annual convention held in November, 1956. This has to do with feed freight assistance, and I would like to direct the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to this resolution just in case he has any idea in mind of further reducing freight assistance. The resolution is as follows:
Whereas the freight assistance policy of the government of Canada amounting to $5.50 per ton basis Vancouver, New Westminster points is of great value to the stock and poultry feeders of British Columbia and eastern Canada; and
Whereas the livestock feeding industry needs to procure its feed requirements at the lowest possible cost, and
Whereas the livestock feeders in the prairie provinces are able to procure their feed grains at a much lower price than the feeders in British Columbia or eastern Canada due to the abundance of grain that moves outside of the Canadian wheat board;
Therefore be it resolved that this 23rd annual convention of the British Columbia federation of agriculture petition the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to request the freight assistance policy of the government of Canada be continued and made permanent.
This was the recommendation of the British Columbia federation of agriculture, and I trust it will be kept in mind by the Minister of Agriculture in the event that he has any thought of further reducing freight assistance. There is also the problem posed by the lopsided tariff structure that we have at the present time. I am not going to deal with this matter at length, except to point out that it is high time the government took a serious look at this particular situation which is most unfair to the producers in my province and other provinces as well. The matter of dressed poultry and the matter of the tariff on potatoes are problems which the government should review thoroughly with a view to bringing in measures that are more in keeping with what is right and fair for Canadian producers.
On a number of occasions requests have been made for parity prices for agricultural products. I would like to refer just briefly to a resolution which was passed at the second annual convention of the farmers'
The Address-Mr. Patterson union of British Columbia. This convention was held in Mission City late last fall. In the preamble the resolution calls attention to the fact that prices for Canadian industry generally have been protected for a great many years, whereas the agricultural industry has never had price protection. The resolution then goes on to state:
. . . the farm unions are taking the stand that as long as industry has price protection, farmers are justified in expecting the same treatment and are asking the government of Canada to implement the following proposals to gain equality for farmers:
(1) To institute a price support program for agricultural products, as has been done in many other countries, and thus establish a fair or parity relationship between farm prices and other prices, and eliminate the existing economic inequality between unprotected agriculture and protected industry;
(2) That such parity price system apply to all farm products sold on the home market, and the portion that has to be exported should be protected by floor prices and sold at world prices;
(3) That such a price support program for agriculture be established by raising the price of farm products to a parity level through federal government deficiency payments, rather than by raising tariffs on imported products;
Those are three of the recommendations contained in this particular resolution. I am not going to take time to read the others, but I would just like to call attention to these and to state that I give my support to them on behalf of the agricultural industry. British Columbia agriculture has been completely neglected as far as this government is concerned, and the amendment to the amendment presented by the hon. member for Red Deer calls attention to this glaring inconsistency. I would say that this amendment should receive the wholehearted support of this house.
I have a very few minutes left at my disposal, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to make a few observations with regard to external affairs. As has been pointed out, this subject received considerable attention in the speech from the throne. There are many aspects of Canada's foreign policy with which I would like to deal, but of course time will not permit my doing so. Although some may agree with the policies followed by the government, there are many who are greatly perturbed at the course of international events over the past several months, especially with regard to the recent crisis in the United Nations and the question as to the adequacy of the United Nations to courageously and impartially deal with the various situations confronting it.
The Suez situation has been rather fully discussed during the course of this debate. The stand taken by the British and French has been criticized by some and supported by other hon members, while others have taken what might be described as a middle of the
The Address-Mr. Patterson road position; but it would seem to me the more light that is shed on this particular matter the greater will be our understanding of the British and French position.
I have in my hand reports of speeches that have been made by different individuals which support the British and French stand, and state that the action taken by the British and French governments in relation to the Suez -canal will be thoroughly vindicated by historians in the future.
I have here the report of a speech by James Cromwell, former United States ambassador to Canada, who referred to the British-French intervention. He said that by so doing they blocked Russia's program for conquest in the Middle East, and also revealed to the world Russia's plans to gain control in the east. Many other statements have been made, but I have not time to place them all on the record.
We now find that even though the United States took the stand it did, at the present time it is stating that it is prepared to take almost the identical position in case of certain eventualities in the future. I know that was denied by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, who said they were prepared to move only when they had been requested by the nations concerned. The January 14 issue of Newsweek, dealing with policy briefing in the United States, stated that Mr. Dulles went on to make certain points, one being:
That if such an outbreak threatened, the administration would go to the United Nations, but that Mr. Eisenhower wants "freedom to act unilaterally if necessary".
That would indicate that the United States is prepared to take the very same action in certain eventualities as the British and French took back in the critical days of last fall. The statement has been made that the Canadian people are much in favour of the stand taken by this federal government and by our own delegation to the United Nations, indicating that public opinion is in opposition to the position taken by the British and French governments. The same issue of Newsweek contains this paragraph:
The American people overwhelmingly support President Eisenhower's request that congress immediately vote him stand-by powers to send U.S. troops into the Middle East. For Americans believe, in the main, that such a big stick policy will help preserve peace by putting Russia on notice that the U.S. will tolerate no red expansion into the Arab states.
So we find that in the United States there is the recognition of a certain situation which may arise, when action comparable to that taken by the British and French would be advisable on the part of their own government.
Much has been said about Canadian action at the United Nations relative to this particular matter, and it has been stated that the position of the Canadian delegation was that they wanted to save the commonwealth. In view of certain statements which were made in this house not too long ago by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for External Affairs, one wonders to what extent they are desirous of saving the commonwealth. It will be noticed that they do not refer very often to the British commonwealth, possibly following the course set by Madam Pandit when she said that they do not refer to the British commonwealth but to the commonwealth. Perhaps that is the concept of this government in regard to this matter at the present time.
The over-all situation has brought me to a position where I must back up, as it were, from the position I took some time ago when I commended the Secretary of State for External Affairs and the Minister of National Health and Welfare for their work at the United Nations. I must register a protest now, which will somehow take the edge off the complimentary remarks I made on a previous occasion.
I do not believe the people of Canada can go along with the position taken by our delegation at the United Nations on some of these very serious matters. Therefore I would suggest that our foreign policy be reviewed in the light of these situations. Underneath our whole foreign policy there must be not only a recognition of exterior influences, there must be a recognition of underlying principles. I would suggest that we must press for the adoption of these basic principles in international affairs, that each nation must be recognized as sovereign within its own territory, and must be ready to respect the sovereignty of all other nations. There must also be organized international co-operation to enforce these obligations. We believe that Canada can make its most effective contribution toward the implementation of that principle while within the British commonwealth of nations. We should resist any and all efforts to weaken or sever those ties.
We believe as well in the concept of foreign trade. Canada should be ready to trade with all nations of the world on the basis of a mutually satisfactory exchange of goods and services, provided each nation will open up its ports to export-import traders and provided that in those countries where all production is under government monopoly the foreign importer shall be allowed to buy any product on the same terms as the government concerned.
In conclusion, we would encourage a worldwide program of tariff reduction, and urge that Canada work with all other nations for the achievement of convertibility of currencies by each nation stabilizing its own currency, so that at all times there may be a balance between effective purchasing power and the aggregate of prices and goods available for sale; and that the volume of money in each country be expanded only at the rate at which production and trade expand. I submit these observations for the consideration of the house. There are other observations I wanted to make, but I shall have to reserve them for another occasion.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY