Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition) :
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me incredible that the Government should permit this motion to be submitted to the House without any statement whatever of its position with regard thereto. Apparently, however, that was the state
of mental paralysis the Government was in, and the House was about to vote on the resolution without any statement whatever.
The resolution that has just been read by the hon. member apparently constitutes the sole report of the Committee on Agriculture and Colonization on this question. The House will recall that some time ago, in the month of April, shortly after this question was submitted to the committee, on the occasion of an interim report requesting the submission to the Supreme Court of some question that had been raised as to jurisdiction, I took the opportunity of reviewing briefly the history of governmental handling of wheat, and, as regards such interim report, urged that the long delay involved in litigation was perilous-yes, fatal-to all wheat board prospects and was totally unnecessary. The House accepted the view I then presented and the matter of the determination of jurisdiction was left to the ordinary course, that is, reference to the law officers of the Crown. Such having been done, there appears to have been very little difficulty in determining where the line dividing jurisdictions lay. Indeed, there appears to have been on the part of the law officers of the federal government no pretence or claim that there was, under present conditions, the power to re-establish the board with its old compulsory features. Consequently, litigation would have been futile, because, even on the part of those contending for federal powers, there was no belief that those powers could be sustained.
The committee set to work to determine what should be recommended to Parliament, it having been decided that certain of the accompaniments and duties of the old board could not exist in a board constituted purely by this Parliament. They have taken a long while at the task; indeed, they have had something of a chequered career in coming to the point reached to-day. But now we have their recommendations. Why the matter should have been delayed so long it is hard for any one to comprehend who really wants a solution of the question. It is weeks since this decision was arrived at. Between this decision and a previous decision, there were one or two weeks intervening; and all the while time has been speeding, time that was exceedingly precious if there was to be the least prospect of action such as might be taken advantage of for the season of 1922. Hon. members should keep in mind that all that has apparently been under review in this committee is the question of handling of
the crop of this year. That is all that is contemplated by the resolution which now constitutes the report. To take care of that crop, final action must be taken at least during the month of July. The original wheat board was established towards the end of July, 1919. Then we had none of the advantages of previous experience. We had a novel situation from every aspect, and it took us two or three weeks of consideration, such time being devoted to it as we were able to give to the subject, other matters intervening. Even then it was a little later in being established than would have been best, had it been possible to come to a decision earlier. But this year, knowing as we do that federal action alone is incompetent, that provincial action must follow, and that for that purpose, provincial legislatures must be called and must hold special sessions before they can act, as contemplated by the report of the committee, what is the excuse for waiting until the 14th day of June to bring before Parliament the recommendations of the committee, which involve all the subsequent proceedings that are indispensable before final action can be taken?
Even were this report just as it should be, even were we in a position now to decide, I question whether it would be possible for such final action as this report contemplates to be taken in time to be of any value whatever for the crop this year. It really would appear that the whole project of the Wheat Board has been submitted to a long, cruel process of strangulation and that now we are asked to give it the final and fatal turn. Let me read from the report:
1. That it is desirable in the national interests that the Government immediately create a national wheat marketing agency for the marketing of the wheat crop of 1922.
2. That this agency be given all the powers of the Wheat Board of 1919 as are within the jurisdiction of Parliament to grant, except as they include the direct marketing of flour and other mill products.
The agency is to be given all the powers within federal jurisdiction, except that one. I ask hon. members, of the legal profession particularly, to reflect for a moment whether that one is a federal power at all.
3. That an act be passed based on this Resolution, to become effective by Proclamation, as soon as two or more of the provinces have conferred upon this agency such powers possessed by the Wheat Board of i!'19 as come within provincial jurisdiction.
When analyzed, what is that report? A wheat board is to be established, by
legislation yet to be introduced, to take care of the crop of 1922, and that alone. That board is to be given all the powers conferred in 1919 upon the old board, whether by Order in Council or by subsequent statute. It is to have all the powers that are vested in the federal Parliament, save one, which is assumed to be a federal power. But the board, so constituted and empowered, shall sit silent and inactive and never come into real existence at all until at least two provinces meet in special session and do-what? Grant them such further powers as the provinces think wise? No; not at all but
grant them all such powers within the provincial jurisdiction as the old board had. The only option left to the provinces is to confer upon the board all powers of provincial origin possessed by the old wheat board. Two provinces must do that, and after they have done it, it rests with the Government by proclamation to call this act into effect.
Now. was I too strong in my language when I stated that this is merely the last step of the tragedy in the long process of strangulation of the whole prospect of wheat board?
First of all, what is made necessary under this proposal? I do not think anyone suggests that Ontario would act; we must be practical. So far as the resolution goes, Ontario could, of course, so could Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; but everyone knows that we have not those provinces in mind,-there is virtually no possibility of their considering the matter at all. Hardly anyone would suggest that Manitoba could. That province is now in the throes of an election, so how could a special session of the legislature be called now? There remain only two-Saskatchewan and Alberta; they might do so, for their people are doubtless very much interested in this project. Their people and ihe people of Manitoba are, I believe, sincerely desirous that we establish a wheat board as near the old Wheat Board as this Parliament can establish it. I think that is the prevailing opinion; whether we agree with its soundness or not.
Those provinces, then, might possibly induce their legislators to meet and pass this special legislation. But why should we make it a condition that they must not only give the board such powers as they think wise, but they must give it every power the old Wheat Board possessed in so far as those powers are compulsory-
that is, provincial? The placing of that obligation upon them leaves them no discretion whatever, and reduces to a minimum the likehood that they ever would comply with these restrictions. ,
I want to inquire into the question from another angle. The provinces must grant the board, what powers? They must grant the following powers that have been held not to be within federal jurisdiction-I refer to the complusory powers:
To require each applicant for a license to give a bond in such form and in such amount as may be satisfactory to the board;
That is, a license to buy and sell wheat. So that, if Saskatchewan acts, she would impose those restraints and restrictions upon the whole wheat-buying and wheatselling structure of the province at a time when there were no such restraints and restrictions in Manitoba at all, probably none in Alberta, and certainly none in Ontario. Alberta would have to do the same and put the whole of the wheatbuying and wheat-selling instrumentality of that province under all those restraints when competitors in other provinces were not so restricted. It would be putting them in a position where they could not compete, and it would be putting them in a position where the system would be half compulsory and half voluntary and would not work at all.
Let me pass to another power:
To provide that no person, Arm or corporation other than the board, shall buy wheat, operate any elevator or warehouse where wheat is received, or handle wheat on commission or otherwise unless licensed by the board.
My remarks as to the previous power apply here. All those things they must impose upon their wheat-buying and wheat-selling agencies while other provinces have no such restraints, and while, indeed, other provinces will be operating under a different system altogether. But let us go a little further. They will be compelled to give the board this power:
To order any person holding wheat stored in any elevator or warehouse or on railway cars or Canadian boats to sell and dispose of the same to any purchaser named by the board on such terms as the board may direct, and any such order of the board shall pass to the purchaser the title in the wheat mentioned In any such order.
That is to say, there cannot be any buying and selling at all save by such person as the board names in those provinces.. The last power is:
To prohibit the export out of Canada-
Subtopic: REPORT OP COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND COLONIZATION