February 20, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


Hugh Alexander MacKenzie


Mr. MacKenzie:

Mr. Chairman, I had not intended to take part in the discussion today. I thought perhaps the resolution stage would have been completed yesterday; we could then have had the bill before us in order to see exactly what it means and what it contemplates doing. But the debate did not conclude last night, and I want to make just a few remarks in connection with this legislation.
I was in the house myself in 1938 when this bill first became effective. I have always had a great deal of sympathy with farmers and their agricultural problems, and I knew that western farmers were in rather dire straits as a result of poor crops, so I certainly supported the measure wholeheartedly. But it does seem to me that the situation today is entirely changed; western farmers are not in the same circumstances at all as they were at that time. Consequently I think I should be permitted to put a few facts on the record to indicate, at least to the house, that this legislation as it applies to the three prairie provinces is not so vital today as it was then.
Since 1935 when I first came into this house western wheat growers have had a great deal of assistance from the government, or the consolidated revenue fund, or the taxpayers, whatever you wish. The first provision for prairie farm assistance was brought down as a temporary measure by the Bennett administration. It provided for the spending of $4,750,000 over a five-year period. This measure was to provide for the rehabilitation of the drought and soil-drifting areas of the prairie provinces; it was amended in 1937 and further amended in 1939, when the five-year limitation was removed. The act has been in force in Canada ever since.
My figures are not quite up to date and do not cover the crop year 1955-56, but from 1935 to 1955 approximately $100 million has been spent in the three prairie provinces on P.F.R.A. P.F.A.A. was brought in in 1939, and from 1939 to March 31, 1955, the total amount paid under this act was $177,397,625, less some $85 million recovered from grain delivered collections, leaving a balance of $91,629,692 which was paid by the government.
The wheat acreage reduction plan operated from 1942 to 1946, during which time the government paid to the farmers, for summer fallowing and so on, approximately $90 million. In addition, in October, 1941, order

in council P.C. 8126 authorized $20 million to be paid to western farmers to make up for their lack of income.
During the debate last year on Bills 82 and 83, several speakers sponsoring the interests of western Canada claimed that the wheat board had paid its own expenses and cost the government nothing. Well, how does this work out? Let me read an item from the Canadian wheat board report of 1935-46, reprinted from the Canada Year Book and headed "Operations of the board":
Purchases from the producers during the crop year amounted to 292,360,030 bushels and there was an unsold carryover of 86.539,554 bushels shown at July 31, 1939. This wheat was sold during the following crop year, 1939-40, but the account for the 1938 crop was not closed out until April 24, 1942, when the final funds were received from the Department of Finance. The deficit resulting from the board's operations in 1938-39 was then placed at $61,525,691.
We all remember, of course, the $65 million that was granted in 1951. And now we come to the provision which was made last year, $32 million for wheat storage.
Let me summarize all this and calculate the cost to the taxpayers of this country. P.F.R.A. between 1935 and 1955 cost $100 million; P.F.A.A. since 1939, including the crop year 1945-1955, cost $91 million; wheat acreage reduction from 1942 to 1945, $90 million; prairie farm income, 1941-42, $20 million; subsidy to the wheat board, 1938-39, $61 million; subsidy to the wheat board in 1951, $65 million; payment last year for storage, approximately $32 million, and this year another payment of $32 million. This list does not include payments on account of P.F.R.A. and P.F.A.A. for the crop year 1955, and the total will probably amount to well over $500 million in respect of the years between 1935 and 1955, and for the crop year 1956.
Now, that is not bad. I think that is pretty good. This act which we are amending now does not, it should be remembered, affect any of the farm districts outside the three prairie provinces. It is, actually, in the nature of a crop insurance plan. Now, I do not believe there is anyone in this house who knows the problems of agriculture from one end of the country to the other as well as the Minister of Agriculture. The minister said last night, however, that the distribution of subsidies or grants throughout the provinces was approximately even. Well, I hope when the estimates are under discussion he will show me that this is true, because it is hard for me to believe it.
What I want to point out to the committee is that there are other parts of the agricultural economy which are not so prosperous, either.

Take the province of Ontario. Last year the weather was rather wet and cold. The farmers here grow corn in a big way, but with the wet and cold weather last year the crop did not mature very rapidly. Then there was an early frost and much of the corn did not mature. A lot of it was never harvested at all. There were thousands of acres that were of no value at all from a production standpoint.
Then there is the white bean crop that we have in western Ontario. You must have comparatively dry weather to harvest that crop. We lost most of the bean crop in 1955, and we had no recourse of any kind. When I discussed the matter with the officials of the Department of Agriculture-I am not sure whether or not I got a definite statement from the minister-to see if there was any redress at all I was told it was a purely provincial matter and that the province should take care of it. Last year we had a lot of hail and many farmers lost whole crops of tobacco. If they did not have hail insurance they lost everything.
In the light of these facts do you think it is fair to have a crop insurance plan for the prairie provinces only? You can call it a relief measure, if you will, but it is in the nature of a crop insurance plan. Do you think it is fair to have a crop insurance plan, perhaps not adequate but the nucleus of a plan, for the three prairie provinces which have enjoyed a good deal of prosperity in the last few years, and ask farmers engaged in other types of agriculture in other parts of Canada who do not have a very high income to contribute to the plan? I do not think that is quite fair.
I have tried to get figures from the bureau of statistics to show the amount of income tax paid by farmers, because it is said that income tax collections are some indication of their income wherever they may be. In 1952 the income tax paid by farmers across Canada amounted to $27,454,000. The amount paid by Saskatchewan farmers was $13 million and the amount paid by Alberta farmers was something like $8,350,000. This means that Saskatchewan and Alberta farmers paid approximately $21 million out of the $27 million collected in 1952.

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