Mr. Adrien Lambert (Bellechasse):
Mr. Speaker, the bill under study, Bill C-176, supersedes Bill C-197 which having been discussed at length prior to the adjournment of the previous session, comes back to this House under a new form but with the same basic principles. It was then a highly controversial bill and some people were in favour of it while others were dead set against it, but all these points of view were from the producers or farm associations concerned.
During this session this bill has been discussed at some considerable length. The House asked the Committee on Agriculture to travel across the country and consult provincial agriculture ministers and hear the views of the various farm organizations.
I was really amazed at the continuing interest for all our sittings, be it in eastern, central or western Canada. I am convinced that each member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture worked very seriously. We all had the purpose of collecting information so as to be able to provide farmers with a helpful piece of legislation, while preserving the interest of consumers and agencies concerned with the trade of agricultural production.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, at the provincial level, in Nova Scotia, for instance, the Minister of Agriculture expressed the views of his government in a very extensive brief. I could summarize the minister's attitude by
April 28, 1971
quoting the following sentence from Committee Proceedings No. 11, of Thursday, January 21, 1971:
Our chief concern, however, is with the wider implications of the Bill. We recognize that this is enabling legislation and that it must be of a general nature. Yet it seems to us that the Bill is raising almost as many problems as it is attempting to resolve.
Mr. Speaker, that was the opinion of a minister from Eastern Canada. Now coming to central Canada, we have the provincial minister of agriculture who said the following in his brief on January 22, 1971 and I quote:
-and the effects, whether they are favourable or not-
-of the act, following the passing of Bill C-176-
-whether they are favourable or not, according to the point of view of the people affected, or according to what you expect from it, means that in the field of Agriculture, in the province of Quebec and elsewhere it will call for reactions which are as varied as the various vested interests involved and which tend to develop in this very important sector of our economy.
I continue the quotation:
In the face of these various different stands, not only different but often contradictory, the Department of Agriculture of the province of Quebec hesitates to put itself in the position of an arbiter because circumstances do not justify such a role.
Further on, the minister added:
However, Quebec does not feel that this Bill C-176 will ipso facto, just by being put into effect, bring an automatic solution. This solution can only be brought about after frank and open discussions between the provinces directly involved and can only be applied, if the provinces are willing to agree to the sacrifice of certain special interests for the general welfare of Canadian agriculture.
For the past months the situation in Canada has been truly disastrous. For example, we see the Ontario government passing legislation to protect producers in that province while seriously harming those of other provinces.
I am under the impression that the situation, far from improving, will, if I am well informed, be getting worse. In fact, I am apprehensive about the future of Canada should such a situation persist and I doubt that Bill C-176 can really represent a completely adequate solution.
I do not mean that Bill C-176 is not an appropriate tool to start discussions and to correct a situation which should be improved, but we must not forget that, in the end, the farmers' only objective is to put their products on the Canadian market in order to meet the producers' needs and to receive a fair reward for their work.
It does not matter much whether butter produced in Quebec is sold in Vancouver, Edmonton or Regina, as long as the producer receives a retribution for his work. That the pound of beef produced at Edmonton or Regina should be sold in Montreal, Quebec or Toronto matters little as long as the producer is paid for his work.
I think it is necessary first to consider things from both the national and the regional point of view. Unfortunately, as a committee member I could notice during the trip
Farm Products Marketing Agencies Bill
that the tendency was to think on a regional rather than on a national basis.
Marketing councils will be able to establish marketing agencies upon request from the majority of interested producers. These agencies will evidently be able to operate if there are provincial agreements, agreements which could be quickly negotiated if there is good will and if everybody sees the possibility of helping producers all across the country.
If such marketing agencies are contested, discussed and their case brought before courts, who is going to pay for all this which is going from bad to worse? It will still be the producers. Who is going to suffer the consequences? The consumers!
That is why I deplore the fact the the marketing council does not have the required powers to negotiate in an intelligent manner. In the end, however, there must always be some authority having the power to decide, to settle the question.
Having studied all the briefs submitted to them, the members of the committee came back to Ottawa and sat for long hours trying to put down on paper the amendments suggested in order to make this legislation as perfect as possible.
Some amendments were accepted, others were not. Maybe they will again be discussed in the House. One of them deals with the exclusion of certain products: beef and veal for instance.
If Bill C-176 is such as to help egg, poultry, wool, maple syrup or honey producers, I firmly believe that it could also help the other producers provided this is their desire.
I am gratified to see that the bill provides that a marketing agency may be established by the Marketing Council upon the request of a majority of a class of producers.
This is a safety valve. As is the case with other members, I have received representations from beef producers across the country, through their association, asking that this class of products be excluded from the bill as, according to them, they have no need for these provisions at the present time.
I am willing to believe that they are right and that this is not absolutely necessary for the time being, but at the national level we must pass legislation which will be available to all producers.
I entertain no absolute confidence in the effectiveness of this legislation, and I think that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) is able to anticipate that its administration will be extremely difficult. A considerable amount of goodwill will be required to achieve the establishment of marketing boards that may actually operate and provide practical results that will satisfy all producers.
There is a problem, however. I have listened attentively to the minister. If I am wrong, he can correct me. I understood that he had stated that there was no question,
April 28, 1971
Farm Products Marketing Agencies Bill under this bill, of controlling production. If I remember correctly, the provisions of the bill which provide for the establishment of the boards enable these boards to issue production permits and, by the same token, to determine, if required, production quotas. I think that at the same time the bill should include a special provision to guarantee producers the prices that would enable them to get a decent income.
The problem in agriculture is always the same: we constantly struggle to get decent prices without fleecing consumers, in short, prices which will allow producers to make reasonable profits.
The bill also contains provisions to balance production volume and makret possibilities. I do not quite agree on that because market conditions are always determined by consumer purchasing power. And heaven knows it is a problem in too many families.
The real extent of the market is not known, according to surveys made by the Senate Committee on Poverty. The only way the committee may have helped the people was by determining to what extent the economic system may have prevented production from reaching the table of the consumer. In any event, there seems to be disagreement with regard to the report of the committee and rich people were certainly not found in every area of the country. Indeed, there are families that do not have exactly what they need, not only to eat but to dress decently.
That is why I say the bill will not achieve all its aims; but it will help get more agricultural produce into the stores and that will be one step ahead. One organization will enable the producers to prove that they have worked, that they produced something which the consumers can use.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, for all those reasons, I think that we should continue to seriously consider the proposed amendments in order to find out whether there might not be one which could likely improve the bill, so that it could unite Canadians instead of dividing them. For no consideration whatever would I like hon. members to my right, who represent constituencies of other provinces, to think that our positions are those of mean Canadians who consider only their area or their province. But the fact remains that every member is conscientious enough-I am sure-to represent honestly and properly his constituency, his electors and to follow up on the representations made to him.
I would not like it to be said that because the province of Quebec supports the best provisions of this bill, it regards the bill as perfect. That is not what I mean. Even if only 50 per cent of the provisions of the bill were good, we should use them and later on improve the legislation so as to really reach its objective, namely to put all farm products on the national market so as to make them available to the Canadian people.
As I already said, I think it is extremely regrettable that this bill does not include a provision enabling those marketing boards to channel in the same way all the products that will be imported from other countries.
I see that an amendment in this regard has been put on the order paper. A few moments ago, the Minister of Agriculture mentioned it and said that other agencies and departments were sharing this responsibility and that we should not multiply the number of agencies in the same field.
I submit that it does not amount to multiplying the agencies. They could remain under the authority of the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce but with the possibility for the marketing boards to demonstrate that they are acting in a relevant way when they grant import licences for some farm products which are in direct competition with Canadian products.
I am well aware that there is presently such a possibility of control by the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce but God knows how difficult it is to have this legislation applied, these restrictions enforced when it is necessary. We had to make representations to our farm organizations. Federated Co-op had to take action several times to draw the attention of the authorities on a particular field so as to give fair protection to Canadian farmers. For this reason, I hoped the bill would have contained a provision to regulate the activities of people engaged in international trade with a view to profits only and not as a service to the community.
This form of trade must be regulated in an intelligent way so as to allow farmers to fulfill the objectives spelled out in the bill, namely to give farmers the possibility of living decently.
Subtopic: FARM PRODUCTS MARKETING AGENCIES BILL