April 7, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Henry Elvins Spencer



A statement made by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) a few minutes ago brought to my mind a subject to which I have given a great deal of thought. He said that in order to make farming pay it was necessary to have a peasant proprietorship. Too many people have been thinking along these lines and making statements of this kind. At present, high as wages are, those paid on the farm do not equal those paid in other industries. That is one of the reasons why it is difficult to get the very best class of labour on the farm-and it is only the very best class of labour that you want on the farm. Just as much skill is required on the farm as is necessary in any other industry; in many respects a great deal more skill is required. This matter of a man working a farm on a family basis, that is, using his family to work that farm without wages, does not tend to the ultimate good of the country. When the people are ignorant you can do that sort of thing and keep the boys at home. But when they begin to know anything at all; when the boys and the girls go to school, they soon learn where the highest wages are paid. Just as soon as they are old enough to
Supply-Experimental Farms
work they will leave the farm for higher wages. You will never have a successful immigration until you put the farming industry on a business footing where it can be made to pay. I saw in the paper the other day that the farmer and labour elements would never agree, because while labour wanted an eight-hour day, the farmer wanted a fifteen-hour day. I want to assure the hon. members of this House that the farmers do not want a fifteen-hour day, and the sooner they get down to an eight or a ten-hour day the better they will be pleased, and the better it will be for the country. You can never build up a country by asking a certain part of it to work for fourteen or sixteen hours a day, while the rest of the country is working a much shorter day. We hear a great deal nowadays of the baek-to-the-land movement, but the people who are advocating that are the ones who do not intend to go back to the land themselves. Just as soon as the Government can demonstrate that farming conducted on rational lines can be made to pay like any other business, even if a few extra hours have to be put in, then you will have immigrants coming to this country and they will stay here. But as long as you are content with saying that farming can only pay when it is conducted on the family basis, where the family work themselves without wages, you will never populate the country.

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