Mr. Chairman, last evening, as you have just stated, we were discussing clause 2 of the agricultural stabilization bill. I would point out to the committee that this is the operative section of the bill and is therefore quite important.
We were discussing in particular an amendment moved on behalf of the minister to change the words which appear in the bill, "have regard to" to the words "be guided by". These words of course were in clause 2, subclause 2. The minister had stated to the committee that his law officers had advised him that the words "be guided by" are stronger than the words "have regard to".
Of course hon. members who have been in this house for some years will recall, as I do, that we have had some experience with "have regard" clauses in previous agreements. I refer particularly to the British wheat agreement. In that agreement the farmers thought they were going to get some consideration in the final settlement of the four year wheat agreement with Great Britain. However, when that settlement was finally decided upon, the western farmers did not receive what they thought had been decided.
In other words, they understood they would receive compensation because their wheat was selling under that agreement at much less than the world price. Some authorities estimated that the loss to the western farmers due to that agreement and the fact that the "have regard" clause was not adhered to amounted to between $400 million and $500 million.
3806 HOUSE OF
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
However, I want to say that in my opinion neither the words "have regard to" nor "be guided by" are strong enough. I believe if this is to be a bill to give any assurance of a guarantee to farmers we should have something more substantial than a pious direction that regard should be paid to the average cost of production. A little later on I intend to move an amendment, but at this time I am going to ask the minister to make an explanation to the committee. It is proposed in clause 2 of the bill that the governor in council-
. . . shall be guided by the estimated average cost of production of the commodity, and such other factors as the governor in council considers to be relevant.
My question is this. Do I understand that the government is now going to set up the necessary personnel so they may at all times be in possession of the figures showing the average cost of production? If so, can the minister tell the committee that we, as members of parliament, will have in our hands copies of such reports, either from this board or from the committee or from the minister's officials, so we may be able to know the average cost of production prevailing during any period or in any year, on the basis of which we could give consideration to whether or not the governor in council was in fact being guided by the estimated cost of production?
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.