January 22, 1973 (29th Parliament, 1st Session)


Paul Edmund McRae


Mr. McRae:

I was much more impressed with the words of the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway (Mrs. Maclnnis) and her suggestion for the establishment of a prices review board. She is well known in the field of food and consumer prices, and I think there is some merit in this solution. I do not know whether it should be adopted in exactly the way it is suggested, but there are some short-term problems which may be solved by the method she suggested.
There are other matters which I hope the committee will consider, such as the quantity of distribution outlets in this country. These are factors which bear on food prices. I believe the committee will have to give the hon. member's suggestion very serious consideration, and if it agrees with that suggestion, I will certainly support it.
As I mentioned earlier, we are living in a far more complex time than the 1950's to which I referred, and there are no basic and simple answers to this problem. I welcome the establishment of this committee, first, because I think it is time we put before the Canadian public and before members of the House the complexity of the problem of rising food prices in the world. I refer to world food prices because this is the crux of the whole problem. We are no longer dealing with a simple matter of shortages of food in Canada or rising prices in Canada.

January 22, 1973
Food Prices Committee
We are dealing with global price increases. We have been told by such people as Brock Chisholm, by groups from the United Nations, by population experts and by a recent publication called "Limits to Growth" coming from M.I.T, that a growing population will create growing food problems. I contend that we are at a point where we will have to face these particular problems.
I think there are two aspects to world food problems that we must consider. First and foremost is the growing number of human beings on this earth. We are told that the world's population will double in 33 years, that it is growing at the rate of 2.1 per cent per year, and that that exponential growth rate will give us a population of around seven billion around the turn of the century, as opposed to 3.6 billion in 1970. We are told that the growth rate itself is rising. In the middle of the 17th century we had a growth rate of about .3 per cent; today it is 2.1 per cent. So, we have a massive problem. It is not such a great problem in areas of the world like Canada where the growth rate of the population is levelling off somewhat, but it is a great problem in many areas of the world where the population is still growing at an ever-increasing rate.
There is another problem in connection with the so-called affluent countries where the demand for food is growing at an excessive rate. This demand of the affluent nations on the food supply is serious. I hope the committee will take a real look at the food problem as a world problem, will take a look at the growing world population, and take a look at the excessive demands made by affluent nations on the supply of food.
I would make one or two suggestions to the committee as possible solutions. Canada, under the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and government, has developed a very fine reputation in international circles. Mr. Speaker, we are a major producer of food. I think it would be a fine thing if, as a nation, we took it upon ourselves to present this problem in international circles and call for a world conference on food shortages, similar to the conference on the environment held in Sweden last spring, which we supported. Second, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the committee take a good look at food supplies. I am convinced that there has been too much movement from the farms to the cities in Canada. I believe there are areas of the country which could still be farmed, and farmed in the future, thus helping to reverse that trend.
I am convinced also that as an affluent nation we have not done a good job in developing better food supplies in the non-affluent, non-industrialized parts of the world. Production of food in some of those areas has not grown as it should have, partly because the measures taken were too grandiose to suit the social patterns of the peoples living in those countries. More effective methods must be sought. In the non-industrialized nations of the world over the last ten years, per capita production of food has remained just about even. In Latin America and Asia the curve has remained almost unchanged, while I notice that in Africa in the last two years it has actually moved in a downward direction. We are not helping to increase supplies of food in those areas in any substantial way.

The third suggestion I make is that all the countries of the world, and this includes the affluent nations, need a great deal more information about the nutritional value of foods. There is much that can be done to substitute some foods that are cheap for other foods that are expensive. This is another area the committee could examine.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wish to repeat that I welcome the establishment of the proposed committee because I think it is time for us to put away simple answers to highly complex questions. This committee will give us an opportunity to start understanding the complexity of world food shortages. The committee should not recommend just one simple solution. I hope it will make attempts on several fronts to solve the problem.

Subtopic:   FOOD PRICES
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