Mr. N. C. Schneider (Waterloo North):
wish to avail myself of this opportunity in the debate on the speech from the throne, Mr. Speaker, to mention a few matters of special concern to my constituents in the riding of Waterloo North. I am here to present their views and opinions, and this I propose to do in as few words as possible.
I am pleased to report general prosperity in Waterloo North. The twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo and the town of Elmira are enjoying a high degree of employment, with figures showing a slight improvement over last year. These cities are highly industrialized, and Kitchener has become the rubber centre of Canada. My first duty in presenting the problems of my people is to report the continued deterioration of the rubber footwear industry.
While it is true that I have reported high employment in my riding, it is also true that a serious loss is being inflicted on Canada's economy by the laying off of hundreds, or I should say thousands, of skilled footwear makers, including workers at the four additional factories in the province of Quebec at Granby, St. Jerome, Lachine and Acton Vale. The three large plants which for many years manufactured rubber footwear in my riding have been reduced to two as a result of the closing of the Goodrich footwear division, which was moved to Quebec and has since closed operations there. The two remaining footwear plants are operating on a reduced basis, and one of these has added a foam rubber plant so the extensive steam plant may be kept in use. The other remaining plant is geared almost entirely to footwear, and the inroads of Asiatic imports is slowly but surely robbing these two remaining plants of their Canadian outlet.
I do not believe in endless repetition of this complaint regarding the unfair competition of Hong Kong and other Asiatic low wage products, but 7 cents to 15 cents per hour as compared to standard wages prevailing in Canada is unfair, and if continued will surely eliminate Canadian production. It would be a sad day indeed for Canadians if, in the event of war, we were forced to depend on an Asiatic or any other country for such highly essential articles as rubber footwear. With a high priority in wartime, rubber footwear is a necessity to farmers, miners, fishermen, lumbermen, the armed forces and every citizen.
In early December the tariff board held a hearing in Ottawa at which seven submissions were presented by manufacturers, labour organizations, a consumers' association, importers and foreign producers. I attended this hearing, and I feel that it accomplished its purpose by bringing out all the facts, and should be a great help in solving this ever-increasing problem.
Another problem presented to my constituents is the continued deterioration of our Canadian button industry. The inroads of Puerto Rican imports have almost eliminated this once important and busy industry in Canada.
Of the three button factories in Kitchener, one has recently declared its bankruptcy and the other two are in difficulties because the large volume lines, the plastics, are being imported from Puerto Rico at prices below Canadian costs. Puerto Rico, as a part of the United States, is classed as a most-favoured nation, but we feel that wage rates in that country gives those producers an unfair advantage. In addition, I understand that the operators in that country pay no income tax. I again appeal to the Department of Finance and the Department of Trade and Commerce to place some much-needed control on these imports, either by a reduced quota or a fair value for duty purposes based on Canadian costs plus a fair profit, so these two Canadian secondary industries will not be entirely eliminated.
To do my full duty in representing my people I must also bring to this house the appeals of many of the old age pensioners. In this debate we have heard no denial by anyone of the fact that the present pension of $40 per month is insufficient to supply the bare necessities of life today. Many suggestions involving the means test are offered regarding this national service to our senior citizens. It is most desirable that the means test be avoided in old age pensions, and the plan should not place any indignity on the deserving applicant. My own people feel that our province of Ontario has failed them in not paying a supplemental allowance. Though the wealthiest province in Canada, Ontario has done very little compared to British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Ontario's assistance involves a voluntary contribution by the municipality, and everyone agrees that municipalities are already overburdened.
I must present also the appeals of our blind citizens, and their requests for the elimination of the means test as applied to payments to our sightless handicapped citizens. It costs money to be blind, and I feel that the means test as presently applied definitely discourages the blind from making greater efforts to support themselves.
Speaking for my agricultural constituents, I wish to remind the Department of Agriculture of the excellent brief submitted last week by the dairy groups of Waterloo county asking for consideration of the continuance of the butter support plan, with the costs of handling and storage added when government stocks of butter are released to the trade. They also requested the development of high standards for grades of butter and other dairy products, a protective device or a floor price under skim milk powder, and the placing of the product under the Export 82715-35}
The Address-Mr. W. M. Hamilton and Import Permits Act. They ask also for legislation that will facilitate producers' organizations in co-operating in the orderly marketing of products on an interprovincial basis, and for assistance to the cheese producers to meet unfavourable trends that may occur in their present markets.
. I see no indication that Canadians have changed their habit of eating three meals each day. Most Canadian families offer a prayer of thanks and gratitude for each meal. Do we think also of the lonely hours spent by the farmer who plowed the land to grow the wheat to produce our daily bread? When we enjoy a glass of refreshing, healthbuilding milk or a serving of cream or cheese do we think of the regularly scheduled hours of milking which face the dairy farmer twice each day, and not five days per week but seven days per week? When we spread a serving of good dairy or creamery butter, do we think of the long hours required in the care of a good herd of dairy cows? I mention these things in the hope that the farmer-producer may receive proper recognition of his important place in our economy, and be given a fair return for his labour,
In conclusion I wish to associate myself with those who have congratulated the mover (Mr. Hanna) and seconder (Mr. Robichaud) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. The hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona and the hon. member for Gloucester well deserved the praise of this house on their sensible and well-considered speeches.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY