Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie) moved:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability of protecting the family farm through stable returns to producers and funding for assembly and long-term lease-purchase of farmland.
He said: Mr. Speaker, for a few moments this afternoon I take my privilege and right as a private member to introduce some ideas I hope the government will attend. It seems to me it has been pursuing policies on agriculture and trade that are not serving the best interests of local and rural communities. I was hoping this afternoon to put a few ideas before the government that would make it change its policy so they would be more helpful to rural people.
In all debates on agriculture, trade and economic policies these days from the government benches I will begin by saying that we have to face that we are a global community and we must be competitive in that global community. We must have sustainable production and things will taper off after that.
We should make it quite clear there has never been anything but a recognition by Canadians of all persuasions, whether they are Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats, Liberal or political non-believers, that we are living in a global economy. I am from western Canada. Most of its economy is dominated by people who originated in Europe. They came to that part of the world because they thought there were some opportunities. The products they produced had to go to other parts of the world to find markets. We have always been a global economy in terms of the thinking on the farms of western Canada.
We have contacts in all parts of the globe. We sell to all parts of the globe. There has never been any doubt that we were a global economy. It leaves me somewhat sad and baffled to see the front benches of the Conservative government trying to pretend that they are inventing globalization. They have not.
What they have invented is a different kind of globalization. It is becoming evident in the economic models. When one looks at the practice of the three or four larger trading blocs of the world one sees that there are emerging three global models.
One model is the American-British model, the sort of Reagan-Thatcher view of life, that looks at the world working in an economic system wherein there are very few rules other than the devil take the hindmost and the one with the most bucks wins. This kind of economic model means the lowest price and the cheapest wage will always get the jobs. That is a model that has no great future.
Granted, it is the one the government is attempting to tie itself to, a deregulated kind of economy with no rules and nothing limiting the power of the transnational and international corporations. It has not worried about what happens to the people who have to stay in the country and cannot move as readily and as easily as transnational corporations. We can forget about that model. We have to worry about it now because the government that adopted it as its code of practice is now in power. Hopefully it will not last very much longer.
Another economic model that has been pursued globally with some success is the Japanese model wherein business and government form a very cosy alliance and various corporations do joint ventures. The Japanese for Japanese business take on the world and usually win. That model is beginning to show some signs of having difficulties. Mostly the problem is that we have great difficulty from a societal sense accepting the close regimentation workers have to follow and the loyally to their company for a lifetime.
It goes both ways. The company is also loyal to its workers. That has not been part of our practice in this country and so we probably would find that somewhat difficult to adapt to.
Most futurists see the third model, the European model that has developed, as the kind of model that is most likely to survive because it is a more communal kind of model involving labour, workers, rural people, governments and corporations all working together for a set of combined common goals that are good for all of the participants in the effort to expand their influence in the world community.
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The Europeans have come together economically and to some extent politically. They have taken all of the players in the economy and come up with a fairly workable mix of labour, business and government decision making that most closely copies the kind of thinking that exists in New Democratic philosophy and political policies.
I think that model is the one that we have to look at as the one that is most likely to survive. I believe the reason that it will survive is that unlike the first model that I mentioned, the British-American system in which the objective is to get to the cheapest labour and the cheapest raw resources, the European model looks at ways of improving standards of living, wages and prices in a way that will improve all of the society together. Instead of depressing society it attempts to improve it.
That is the model that we would do well to copy. The proposals I am putting on the table today for agriculture tend to copy some of those ideas but they are essentially Canadian solutions made for Canadians in Canada.
Members will notice that the motion asks the government to do two things. I will deal with the first one first. It says:
The government should consider the advisability of protecting the
family farm through stable returns to producers-
In the past we have not had systems of stable returns that will withstand the onslaught of international trading rules. To be fair neither have the Europeans, Japanese, or Americans. Everybody is searching for this kind of solution. We are saying, after lengthy discussions and consultations with various farm organizations over the last five or six years, that perhaps the place to start is to look at the amount of the domestic market that is supplied by Canadian farmers and divide that among them and provide some price guarantees and assistance through tax dollars so that we are not put at a disadvantage to those countries we compete against. In particular we should not be at a disadvantage to our American cousins and neighbours.
We have said, and I will use the grain sector as an example, that we will take the amount of grain that is utilized within Canada and is fed and consumed here and divide it among all the farmers. That will amount to between 8.000 and 9,000 bushels per existing farm.
Private Members' Business
For a beginning, why does the government not simply offer to meet the price guarantees that the Americans are giving their farmers on that domestically consumed grain so there would be no exportation of subsidies. The way we are proposing to do it would not impact upon secondary users whether hog feeders, beef feeders, or dairymen.
It would simply be a guarantee equivalent to the guarantees that the United States gives to its producers. At the current American target prices and at the current exchange rate between Canadian and American currency that would amount to about $5 per bushel on delivery at the elevator. It would be approximately $2.75 a bushel on delivery for corn, $6.25 a bushel for canola, $2.95 a bushel for barley and $1.80 a bushel for oats.
The farmer would receive the guaranteed price on his initial deliveries at the elevator until he had made approximately $40,000 in sales. The subsidy that would be available on the product that he was presenting for sale would be paid by the taxpayers of Canada.
The cost of this kind of system would be no more and perhaps even less than has been the case with the ad hoc programs that have been proposed and the programs that have been put in place through GRIP, which are paid for by federal and provincial taxpayers as well as by farmers.
Therefore the subsidy levels would not be much different but the effect of the subsidy would be felt very directly in the rural communities. Instead of spreading those taxpayer dollars across all the production we would instead be dividing it among the producers.
The smaller and middle sized producers would reap a proportionately larger benefit from this kind of system than would the very large producers. Very large producers at the moment receive tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars through the various subsidy programs that are available.
I do not think it makes much sense for large growing entities to be receiving taxpayer dollars to continue to grow and prosper when they could do that all very well on their own as good, efficient and effective producers.
June 4, 1993
Private Members' Business
The emphasis has to change. In addition to the changes in the way that government assistance from the over-all community through the country is dispersed to the farming communities there has to be further consideration than has been shown at this point to the future of those rural communities.
In a deregulated market, which the government is hell bent upon moving us toward, there is very little opportunity for young and beginning farmers to become farmers. The young people are virtually elbowed out of the farm community at the moment.
I know this is a problem under deregulation for all young people. It is extremely difficult if not impossible for anyone under 25 to find a position at all. That is a result, to a large extent, of the deregulation and the mean-spirited approach that we have been insisting and persisting in following lately.
It is even more difficult to establish a young family on a farm because of the investment requirements, even though land values have dropped considerably and there is not a lot of hurry to go out there and bid up the price of farmland. It is very difficult for young people to find the kind of credit and raise the kind of funds they need in order to establish their own family on a farm.
There is a lot of farmland sitting available. It is not all sitting idle. A lot of it is being farmed by lease. However institutions like the federal banks, the big five, hold a great deal of farm property. The Farm Credit Corporation, the Crown corporation which was struck to lend money to farmers, holds over a million acres of Canadian farmland right now. More than 85 per cent of that is in my home province of Saskatchewan.
It is loathe to sell those lands because it will not recover the amount of money that is owed against them. The value of the lands has dropped about 50 per cent since those loans were made in the last eight or ten years. As a consequence nobody wants to pay Farm Credit Corporation's debt for it. The only way that FCC will be able to move that land into the private sector is to take a loss on it, something it is of course not anxious to do, although the government does pick up a considerable amount of its losses every year.
The proposal that I think the government should be looking at is to take these lands that the Farm Credit Corporation has available, lands that the banks, some of the credit unions and some of the trust companies might have available, and form a local community trust or a community trust in each of the provinces, because land holding under our Constitution is under the aegis of the provinces.
It should allow them to continue to be shareholders in the land if they insist but should set up an agency whose mandate it is to lease land to beginning or younger farmers, not to the older, established ones but those under 30 or 35. It should make the leases relatively long term, 20 or 30 year leases, once the lessees show that they have the ability to do a competent job of farming the land. It should put local boards and directors in charge of the leasing, the administration and the overview of the lands to make sure that they are well handled so that younger people do have an opportunity to get a land base and to remain in those rural communities.
Without a regeneration of those rural communities there will be no children to go to school for the teaching jobs, there will be no children to be born in the communities so that there are hospitals, nurses and doctors, and there will be nobody to look after the elderly population that is filling up the nursing homes that are there now. The communities will continue to wither and die.
To a degree that has been happening now, but there have been magnificent efforts by those rural communities to sustain themselves and find production facilities they can invest in.
I continue to be amazed at the amount of money and effort that rural communities are willing to put into a new processing plant, regardless of how difficult it might be for that new product to come on to the market. The local communities put up their money, expertise, time and effort to make certain that some of these groups do have a chance to get started.
They do not do it because they think they will make a profit. Most of these people are buying shares in these community processing plants with the view that this is virtually a donation. They are doing it because they think that if they can get this plant going it will employ 15, 20 or 30 people and that will mean 15, 20 or 30 young
June 4, 1993
couples who can stay in that community, fill up the houses and keep the community going.
It is vital to the future of not only rural communities but the viable operation of Canada as we have known it. These modest changes to the way we view globalization and economic development could go a long way toward humanizing the kind of economic development and social structures that we have in our country.
I would hope that the government would begin to see the futility of following the Reagan-Thatcher model of globalization and look a little more closely at some of the things that the Japanese and the Europeans are doing because those countries have accepted a lot of socialist ideas that are good for people, are good for the economy and can even be good for global business.