Mr. A. C. Cadieu (Meadow Lake):
Mr. Speaker, I would feel very remiss if I did not take part in this important debate tonight. I want to congratulate my colleague from the Mackenzie riding for bringing this very important subject before the house. Because our constituencies are adjoining, I am sure we have similar problems.
On September 25 last, as recorded at page 466 of Hansard for that date, I addressed several questions to the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson). The first one reads:
My question arises out of the very serious situation that has been created in western Canada owing to the very wet and impossible harvest conditions. Many farmers are going to be up against a serious feed shortage unless they have especially good weather in the late harvest season. Has the minister and his department asked the P.F.A.A. officials to make a survey of the seriousness of the situation?
The minister replied that this was being done. My supplementary question, which was ruled out of order, was as follows:
-have any plans been made to assist farmers with regard to drying facilities for wet grain? In order to get feed for livestock many farmers will be forced to take tough or damp grain off the land.
At that time the minister said a survey was being conducted. I wish to point out that many people who have had a complete crop failure have not received their P.F.A.A. payments as yet and they do not know when they are going to receive them. Much of the crop in that area was damaged by frost, and when farmers got the rest of it off the land it was tough and damp.
Cabinet ministers talk a lot about the three bushel quota. I would like to tell you, Mr. Speaker, what the three bushel quota means
in my area. When the three bushel quota was established the officials had not made a survey. The local elevator was full of grain from last year, yet in a letter to me the wheat pool chairman said that the largest shipping point in Saskatchewan had not received one single box car in a four-week period. Can you tell me what good the three bushel quota was when the elevator was full and there were no box cars? This demonstrates the seriousness of the situation.
The three bushel quota was really detrimental to many of the farmers in the area because they harvested lots of grain that would have been far better if it had been left in the swathe. Now, they find it impossible to buy the necessary drying equipment, or hire it. It is impossible to dry the grain because of the adverse weather.
The situation is not a laughing matter although I notice that a lot of members on the government side tonight seem to think it is a laughing matter. It would not be a laughing matter to them if they received some of the letters sent to me telling of the seriousness of the situation in which people find themselves. In the past few days I have received letters from people who cannot provide for their families. These people have no grain to ship. They cannot haul it out. The elevators cannot take some of the grain because it is too wet. It is certainly no laughing matter.
I notice that the Minister without Portfolio from Saskatchewan (Mr. Lang) talked about doubling the cash advances on farm store grain. This is not too much help to a farmer who doesn't have any grain, but it brought back to my memory how members on the government side, when in opposition, criticized the cash advances legislation my party introduced. They said the Wheat Board would walk off the job if we did such a thing, but now they double the amount of the cash advances. I think this was a necessary move. I know a great many parts of western Canada will reap benefit from it, but it certainly will not benefit a farmer who has not any grain.
I think this matter is so important that I would remain here even if it meant having my breakfast here in order to represent my constituency. Members of the opposition have continually brought the urgency of the situation to the attention of the government. I notice that the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) did make a statement in Winnipeg that he did not think it was up to the government to sell wheat. That is all right; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce throws his
January 22, 1969
hands up in the air and says, "What do you expect me to do." He should not wonder what he should do. What in the world is he doing there? He might be a very good fellow, but if he is not doing a good job let someone do something about it. I do not think a country such as Canada can afford, in a situation of this kind, to have a member from Montreal trying to represent western Canada. If he does not know what he is supposed to do, then for God's sake let the government put someone in there who does know what to do.
It appears to me that the government is doing everything it can to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. I suggest that we let our mind wander back not too many years. The government in office at that time had western Canada stripped right down. But under a Conservative government the farmer of western Canada was given an opportunity. Look how quickly that government put all the factories to work and everything began to move. The unemployment situation was cured. But look at the predicament in which western Canada is today. Where has the buying power gone? All one need do is look at the record of machinery sales. I believe these are some of the things the government should consider. Not only the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce but also the Minister without Portfolio should realize the seriousness of the situation, as should the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson).
I was home during the holidays and never before have I seen a situation in my constituency as serious as that which exists today. Yet members opposite sit here tonight and laugh. This is not funny; this is a serious situation. We have heard about the seriousness of the situation in Vancouver. We heard from the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch). He certainly knows something about the situation in Vancouver harbour. I had the opportunity to see what a really great institution that is for handling grain. If the grain is not moving and we have to pay demurrage charges, then they will have to come out of the price we receive for the wheat. It only brings $1 a bushel. My father received twice that much 30 years ago for a bushel of wheat. How can a farmer carry on in this day and age when that is all he can get for his wheat, and out of that he has to pay all this demurrage expense.
I was very happy that Mr. Speaker allowed this debate to take place. I feel it is very important that the people whom I represent should have heard from me on this important
subject. The Minister of Agriculture and others have heard the plea from one of the former prime ministers that they should go out there and look into the seriousness of the situation. If they do not think it is serious, let them come to Meadow Lake. I will show them, and I will also show them some letters I have received. Many farmers will be in serious difficulty when they come to put in new crops. This is something that should be considered. I heard a very good suggestion today. The government should encourage elevator companies to instal grain drying equipment.
[DOT] (1:00 a.m.)
During the Christmas recess I discovered that a lot of small dryers are not operating efficiently. I discovered that a great deal of grain has not been dried properly and has been rejected. A great deal of grain in western Canada has been overdried or burnt. Farmers cannot sell this grain. Most of the farmers do not want to spend another 20 cents per bushel on this wheat because they feel they cannot sell it.
If anyone thinks this situation is not serious he should go out and observe it first hand. This government should be worried about the situation. It is not a laughing matter that we are here at this time of the morning. It is very important to the western farmer that the government take some action when the farmer is saddled with tough and damp grain.