April 20, 1931 (17th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta


May I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to express my pleasure at seeing the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) again in his seat. During the progress of the session members of the house have missed the hon. minister very much indeed. I am sure that we all trust that he has fully recovered and that he will continue in good health. It is a pleasure indeed to see him again in his seat.
Before I commence what I have to say on the subject matter before the house, may I also take advantage of this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Regina (Mr. Turnbull) for his very kind remarks with reference to myself when he was addressing the house. May I assure him that they were very much appreciated, and I trust that he will accept my sincere thanks.
The House of Commons, Mr. Speaker, meets at the present time under very adverse circumstances. Not only every hon. member, but I think almost everybody in Canada will admit that we have never within the memory of any person now living had such grave conditions confronting this country as we are faced with to-day. It is quite true that we had a very serious time during the war; it is quite true that we also had a hard time during the deflation period following the year 1920; it is true also that we had certain conditions because of the war which made the deflation period following 1920 almost certain; but after a period of so-called prosperity lasting three or four years we are now suddenly met with conditions such as neither this country nor I believe any other country on the face of the globe ever had the misfortune to meet with before. Because of those circumstances we are not meeting under very happy conditions. Therefore in my judgment it is necessary for every member of the house to give his best attention to the great problems which lie before us. So far as I personally am concerned it is pretty well known in this house that I represent a purely agricultural constituency. With the exception of a small amount of coal mining there are no industries other than that of agriculture in the constituency of Acadia. Because of the nature of my constituency I am here primarily to represent agricultural interests.
During the Easter recess I had the opportunity to return to the west. I went chiefly to learn the conditions there. I must say that I did not expect any improvement because at that particular time no improvement was possible. I was very much surprised however to find that the western farmer had lost his usual optimism. I know of no class of people who during the last few months have lost their morale to such an extent as have the western farmers. The people who went out to develop our great western country were optimists and through all the hard years they have had to meet they have continued to be optimists. At the present time however I must confess they are far from being optimists; they see no lining to the cloud, no ray of hope, nothing to encourage them to expect better times. Western Canada is credited with being that part of our country which always hopes for better things next year. I must confess however that in the west to-day that spirit has gone and unless something turns up in a very short time instead of the optimistic spirit of the people in the west with which we are so familiar we will find that their morale has absolutely vanished.
The chief trouble of the farmer is the price level at which he has to sell his products. If there were a price level in agricultural products higher or equal to the price level of other commodities probably conditions in agricultural circles to-day would not be so bad. However, when we compare the tremendous disparity in price levels between agricultural and other products brought about by an unequal falling off in prices we may understand why agriculture is in such a bad condition. I am not one of those who believe that if price levels of other goods were to come down to equal the price levels of agricultural products as they are to-day a solution would be provided for the problems of the farmers. However, with that subject I shall deal later on.
I have before me a graph taken from the U. F. A., a paper publisher by our organization, showing very clearly the real reason why agriculture is in such a bad condition to-day. The graph describes the price trend and deals with price levels in the month of November in the years 1929 and 1930. In the case of this particular graph the figure of one hundred is taken as a basis of calculation. We find that from the year 1929 to 1930 the drop in the price of iron and steel products was only 4.3 per cent. In the case of certain classes of hardware it was 1.6 per cent. There was no change in the price of wire. The drop in the price of manufactured products was 11.1 per cent. In the case of flour and mill feed products the drop was 34.7 per cent. I would ask hon. members to notice that the greatest drop in commodity prices occurred where the raw material had been supplied by the farmers. Then we come to textiles and fibres. In the

The Address-Mr. Gardiner
case of those commodities the drop has been 13.7 per cent. However, the price of raw cotton has dropped about 37.5 per cent. May I at this time interject a question? Why is it that the price of cotton goods has not dropped to a greater extent? Is it because of the emergency legislation of last session that the price of the raw material has dropped 37.5 per cent but that of the finished product has dropped only 13.7 per cent? We go down the list until we come to farm products. Farm products generally have dropped 34 per cent; field grain show a figure of 47.7 per cent. Then we come to the real problem facing the
western farmer to-day. I refer to the fact that according to this graph the price of western grain has dropped 59.1 per cent.
On the other side of the graph I find a table referring to western grain. It shows the price level of western grains on December 15, 1929 and on the same date in the year 1930. In the year 1929 wheat was selling at $1.32 per bushel whereas on December of last year it sold for only 54 cents per bushel. With the consent of the house, Mr. Speaker, may I be permitted to put this graph on Hansard because. it illustrates exactly the condition of agriculture at the present time.

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