Mr. Georges Villeneuve (Roberval):
Mr. Speaker, as the representative of the most agricultural constituency of the Saguenay-Lake St. John district, I think it is appropriate for me to make some remarks on the second reading of Bill No. 237 entitled "An Act to provide for the Stabilization of the Prices of Agricultural Commodities".
First, allow me to point out that I have found in this bill much more phraseology than anything new, and I am convinced that the farmers of my constituency who will read it will use, to qualify it, the same phrase used by an old author: "A deluge of words over a desert of ideas".
The present Conservative government, aware of the unfortunate experience undergone by the United States as a result of their policy with regard to agricultural prices and, furthermore, anxious to save its face, following the carload of fantastic and irresponsible promises made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) in the last electoral campaign preceding the June 10 election, now wishes to give Canadian farmers the impression that it wants to adopt radical steps in their favour. An examination of the bill in the light of the Agricultural Prices Support Act, which it purports to abolish, and of the general agricultural situation in eastern Canada and in the Province of Quebec in particular, is therefore imperative at this stage, and that is what I wish to do, taking also into account the agricultural situation in the constituency of Roberval which I represent.
The preamble of this bill is rather bombastic and is along the lines of the terms of the act, generally. For lack of anything better, our farmers will have to thrive on words.
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization This is really characteristic of what they got in the past from Conservative governments, from the Bennett regime right up to the one who has now been in control of the province of Quebec, under a borrowed name, for fourteen years.
The legislation introduced by the previous Liberal government contained the expression "support prices". The one now offered by the present Conservative government contains the expression "guaranteed prices". Since support prices were the equivalent of guaranteed prices, I do not see much difference from the act which is to be repealed, except that support prices took into account production costs at the producer level, i.e. the cost to the farmer himself, whereas the guaranteed price which the present Conservative government intends to bring in will be based on a formula representing a moving average over a ten-year period. The new board will set the base price for a given agricultural commodity by calculating the average price on representative markets, for example, Montreal and Toronto, for the ten years just preceding that of the fixing of the guaranteed base price. The guaranteed price of any particular commodity for the 12 following months will be a percentage of this base price. Under this legislation, the government does not therefore intend to calculate the guaranteed price by taking into account what the farmer has to pay in 1958 to buy a product on the market, but merely to arrive at an average of the price paid for that particular product on the main markets of this country over the last ten years. In this way, it will be guaranteeing not the average price which, more often than not, hardly allows the farmer to live, but only 80 per cent of that average.
This seems to me an implicit admission on the part of the government of its inability to solve the problems of agriculture, and it is a sure sign that agricultural prices will take a further drop below a level which, in the view of the farmer, is already inadequate. Never has a government announced with such unconcern and resignation the advent of the era of lean-fleshed kine in agriculture.
Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the debate.
On motion of Mr. Villeneuve (Roberval) the debate was adjourned.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.