Errick French WILLIS

WILLIS, The Hon. Errick French, Q.C., B.A., M.A., LL.D.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Souris (Manitoba)
Birth Date
March 21, 1896
Deceased Date
January 9, 1967
barrister, farmer

Parliamentary Career

July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Souris (Manitoba)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 19 of 20)

June 18, 1931


Mr. Cairns' seventh reason

is that Russian estimates of increased acreage have in the past not been lived up to. Mr. Cairns sums up by saying:

The inability to date_ to replace the lost animal power by machinery, the failure to provide suitable management, the very grave shortage of skilled workers, mechanics and agriculturists, and the general disorganization, all indicate that the possible results of collectivization are still very far from having been accomplished.

According to the International Institute of Agriculture, Russia's exports for 1928 were only 122,000 bushels, and practically none for 1929. Broomhall states they were 89,000,000 for 1930-31 but this is far above official statistics; many figures are stated for the purpose of gaining political advantage by way of international agreements, even as the exaggerations of the past were used for advertising purposes.

One cannot attempt to gauge the possible effect of the Russian crop, but it must be remembered that they seed about 100,000,000 acres of land on which the yield per acre has in the past varied as much as five bushels per acre, and this variation is almost equal to the world's visible supply.

Experience is now teaching us that by the proper application of trade treaties we can enlarge our markets, with t'he result that, for instance, we have this year, been able to ship to France during the past five months 7,350,000 bushels as compared with 1,821,000 bushels for the same five months of 1930. The milling companies of this country have also their part to play in the creation of new uses for wheat by way of new foods, and by advertising of such new wheat foods in the different countries of the world. And, even though the price of those foods is too high for consumption by most of the people in foreign lands, whose incomes are not great, there is, also, a restricted market for high quality products, and, in each country there are always people who are willing to pay good prices for the food they eat.

I am not of the opinion that there is any patent scheme by which the present difficulty may be overcome, but rather am I of the opinion that salesmanship will always sell a good product, and that the problem being an economic one, and production depending to a degree upon price, it will by that very fact solve itself, but we should, at the same time, hasten the solution.

In my opinion the home market is not a solution, inasmuch as it has not solved the problem for the United States, although I think we would be in a much happier position if we could sell 75 per cent of our crop

within this country and need only worry about the remaining 25 per cent, as is the case in the United States, whereas our local market only absorbs 25 per cent of what we produce.

It is stated by many that reduced production will, on the old economic law, solve the problem, but the production of a farmer cannot be controlled like the production of a factory. If you go to an individual farmer and ask him to cut his wheat acreage 25 per cent, he will at once ask you how you know that the price of wheat next fall is not going to be one dollar per bushel, and he will also ask you as to whether you may not be doing him out of 50 per cent of his profits by such a reduction. You can, however, make out a good case by stating to a farmer that if he will summer-fallow more land he will ultimately produce more bushels at a lesser cost. You may by such an argument, which is really well founded, be able to reduce the acreage.

The world is not suffering from a long period of over-production, but it is suffering from the fact that since life began man has been attempting to supply enough food for the world by growing wheat only to find that by reason of increased rainfall during the last four years as compared with the previous four years the average yield per acre was increased by two bushels per acre on a world acreage of 300,000,000 acres, and produced our present surplus of about 600,000,000 bushels. Without that increased yield per acre we would to-day be facing a shortage of wheat, and it would take very little to place us in that position again. A few inches of rain may nullify the effect of any attempt at decreased production and the lack of it may leave the world's supply of wheat exhausted.

I think the survey as given will indicate that we have a surplus of wheat on hand due to increased production in 1928, brought about by increased rainfall on 300.000,000 acres. It will also show that that surplus in Canada is rapidly being decreased and that in spite of tariffs and other barriers, our wheat is being sold in Europe as never before on a quality basis through the efforts of trade commissioners.

The situation in Russia may change at any time through the fact that their production per acre varies to an extreme degree due to the fact that they are now cultivating poor lands by way of increased acreage. The lessening of production per acre in Russia alone might decrease their crop by an amount greater than the world surplus, and a change in rainfall of one or two inches on the wheat-lands of the world would leave us with underproduction rather than over-production. In the struggle of the survival of the fittest, the

The Budget-Mr. Willis

Canadian grower is the most efficient, has the highest quality product, and can feed himself by mixed farming, and in the end will succeed.

The situation may change from a surplus to a condition of under-production at any time by variation in the amount of sunshine or rainfall which may come from the heavens during this year. Bread even at prices which have prevailed in the last few years is still the world's most. economical food and the chief commodity upon which the commerce of the world depends for life. Finally, it is well to remember that although man cannot live by bread alone, yet millions of the people of this earth are going to continue to eat bread and other products made from Canadian wheat.

I think I should be recreant to my duty if, before I sat down, I did not pay tribute to the most courteous and, in my opinion, most efficient department of the government, namely, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. May I pay tribute particularly at this time, because I got most of my figures from him, to Doctor Grindley who is in charge of the agricultural branch? May I thank at the same time the government of the day inasmuch as in regard to the wheat situation we now have a subvention of five cents a bushel? In Canada we export normally around 200,000,000 bushels annually and if one multiplies that by five cents, one finds it amounts to a gift to the Canadian wheat growers of around $10,000,000. May I also thank the present administration for the duty of twenty-five cents a bushel on corn? I have had occasion previously to discuss in the house the question of corn and barley. May I call attention to the fact that last year we imported 8,000,000 bushels of corn for purposes of feed and that we paid for that corn to Argentina and also to the United States in the neighbourhood of $6,000,000. Now we shall be able to keep their corn out and we have increased to a tremendous extent the market for Canadian barley which needs that market so badly.

May I finally pay my respects to the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Beaubien) whom I regret, is not in his seat? I do this because on two occasions the hon. member did me the honour of giving me some advice in this house. I do not belong to the Scotch nationality and I am not one of those who believe things should not be returned, so I am going, just for a moment, to give some advice to the hon. member for Provencher. I trust I shall not harm him, because he is not. in his seat and it wtould not be right if I

were to do so. But may I explain to the house the great ignorance under which I laboured when I came here? I looked up in the Parliamentary Guide the name of the hon. member for Provencher, and I found there that his party is the "National Progressive Party." When I entered the chamber first,

I looked for the hon. member for Provencher because he comes from my province. I had this idea, rightly or wrongly, on account of his being a National Progressive: I thought first, he being a nationalist, will probably sit close to the hon. member for Labelle (Mr, Bourassa) who, as I understand the matter, leads all the members of the Nationalist party in the house. Then, rightly or wrongly,

I had the further idea that as the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Gardiner) leads the Progressive group in the house, this will place the hon. member for Provencher in a dilemma, but perhaps he will sit between those two hon. members. So I looked for the hon. member for Provencher when I came to the house, and by way of explaining my great ignorance, I was not able to find him in the seat which I expected he would occupy. I expected he would be in the seat now occupied by the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Spencer), which is the only seat between the two hon. members whom I have mentioned.

I looked around for some time to find the hon. member for Provencher as a National Progressive.. Imagine my surprise when I found him sitting in the second row, right in the centre of the Liberal party! Imagine my surprise when I saw ham sitting in a seat in which normally a cabinet minister*would sit, right iii the heart of the Liberal party! Therefore it seems to me that having been disillusioned in this very abrupt manner, I should give some advice to my hon. friend. May I suggest to him that he approach the hon. member for Battle River and ask him whether he will not vacate his seat in his favour, lest in the house he be done the great injustice of being accused of being a Liberal.

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June 10, 1931


I was paired with the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown). Had I voted I would have voted against the motion.

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May 22, 1931


As sponsor of the bill I might say a word with reference to the objection of the city of Montreal. Mr. Flintoft, the solicitor for the Canadian Pacific Railway, has already written the city of Montreal, agreeing to furnish them with plans, maps and all other material necessary to enable them to be heard before the board. The city of Montreal is therefore safeguarded. As has been said, this bill was before the railway committee. There were two hearings and the city of Montreal was represented by its solicitor and, as well, by the mayor. I might read the section of the Railway Act which is of importance in connection with this discussion:

Provided that any complaint made to them-

That is, the Board of Railway Commissioners.

[DOT]-shall, on the application of any party to the complaint, be heard and determined in open court.

Objection has been made that in some Canadian National case this was not done; but, as I have stated, the Canadian Pacific Railway, in this instance, has agreed in advance that this course will be followed. I am not personally concerned with the bill; I am merely sponsoring it. As a matter of fact, I live thousands of miles away from Montreal. I do think, however, that the bill ought to go to the proper tribunal, the Board of Railway Commissioners, for consideration.

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May 21, 1931


An hon. member has interrupted me by saying that the hens will not eat barley. The answer to that statement is that the agricultural experts of Canada are either experts or they are not. Through these experts experiments have been made in the provincial agricultural colleges of Canada, and through the Department of Agriculture for the Dominion which show that the two grains are practically inter-

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changeable. That is to say, for poultry purposes barley may be fed as well as corn. I say these men either are experts or they are not. Their judgment,should be accepted or they should no longer be classed as experts of the Department of Agriculture. The argument may be used that the barley which is available in British Columbia is the product of that province. Such is not the case. In the year 1930 the province of British Columbia produced only 295,000 bushels of barley. In the province there are 22,800 farms whereon among other things, 64,700 swine are being fed. Hon. members will readily see that the supply of barley would last for only a few days. I am informed by the agent of the Dominion seed branch at Vancouver that the barley available in British Columbia is practically all western barley. Again, the seed branch of the Department of Agriculture is right or it is wrong. I say that the correct reason as to why the British Columbia poultrymen are not feeding western barley has not been given. If hon. members wished to go further in the matter of poultry feeding they might turn to pamphlet No. 128, new series, Department of Agriculture, which gives the general conclusion that barley is interchangeable with com. The statement has been made also that eastern Canada cannot feed barley because it is too dirty. May I bring to the attention of hon. members the fact that in Toronto the spread in price between barley and corn is 25 cents, and there are at the lake head at the present time 8,000,000 bushels of barley. If barley is dirty it can be cleaned for about 2 cents a bushel. It is available in Toronto for the use of poultrymen, swine feeders and live stock feeders at a saving of 23 cents a bushel as against corn. That is the saving which could be made by feeding barley instead of corn. During the last year there were brought into British Columbia 520,000 bushels of corn, the large part of which was fed to poultry. In my opinion, by a tariff that com should be made less available, and then they would have to feed western barley. The real reason behind the fact that the poultrymen of British Columbia do not feed barley is not a question of freight rates; the tree reason is that these men who feed corn will not change the diet of their pet hens. If we are going to work together in this country they must feed barley. The reason they are not doing so at this time is that they do not agree with conclusions arrived at by the Department of Agriculture. They do not believe the experts in that department, those experts who in the past have done so much to help them. That is the real reason, and I

Grain Rales-Mr. Campbell

say the time has arrived when the poultry-men of this country must come to the point of view of considering those Canadians in the middle west wljo are trying to make a livelihood by raising barley, rather than considering the dietetic eccentricities of any hen that ever laid eggs.

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March 23, 1931


I shall be very glad to read what I wish to appear in Hansard. This table is as follows:

Canada's Imports of Butter

(By months-March 1, 1930, to February 28, 1931)

1930 March


May Quantity Lb

8,029,435 .. .. 2,698,270 .. .. 2,952,367 Value $ 2,733,265 893,182 904,749J une .. .. 2,855,415 771,859July .. .. 438,559 121,074August . . .. 1,806,472 497,222September .... 878.298 246,181October . . .. 2.243.196 593,655November.. . . , .. . . 124,943 41,820December . . .. . . .. 404,902 120,7811931 J anil ary . . .. 448,447 134,172February . . . . 468,851 130,864

Those are the imports of butter into this country. In that regard I was very much surprised this afternoon to hear the New Zealand treaty still being discussed. As a matter of fact, I have only three things to say with reference to the New Zealand treaty: First, I believe I am here as a result of the New Zealand treaty; secondly, if the New Zealand treaty was a good thing why was it abrogated? And thirdly, if it was a bad thing, why was it defended for four years? That is all I have to say with reference to the New Zealand treaty.

The Address-Mr. Willis

I come now to the importation of eggs, because that comes in also for discussion. Under the Speaker's ruling I shall not be able to quote you full details on this subject owing to the forty minute limitation. However, I have the figures for the last year and I find that in March, 1930, we imported, in dozens, 1,177,513 valued at $325,238, and in February, 1931, 3,972, valued at $1,361. That in effect, is the result of that treaty.

I wish for a few moments to speak in regard to that famous speech made in Regina. Mark you, I am referring now to the speech made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) and not the past prime minister. In a Canadian press despatch which appeared in the Manitoba Free Press under the heading Salient Features, giving a summary of the Prime Minister's speech, I find the following:

Regina, Sask., Dec. 30-Premier Bennett to-night announced the federal government's policy on the wheat situation.

Salient features of his speech were:

1. Creation of a private corporation to lend money to assist farmers in getting into mixed farming.

2. Promise of grain rates on Hudson Bay railway, when placed in operation, fixed on basis of Crow's Nest Pass rates.

3. Assistance for the provincial governments in providing free food, clothing and seed grain for needy farmers.

4. Credit arrangements to prevent forced selling of the 1930 crop.

5. Guarantee of French government to purchase 7,000,000 to 9,500,000 bushels of 1930 crop.

G. Opening of negotiations with Chinese government for sale of Canadian wheat in China.

Strangely enough I find directly under this despatch an item with the following heading:

Bracken says Bennett speech encouraging.

That in itself ought to be good testimony. But in regard to the credit corporation, I know that when I am home I receive at least one letter a day with reference to the matter, inquiring when the corporation is going to open up, because the people in my constituency feel that it will be of great benefit to them and they are looking forward to the time when it will be started.

I have heard here a discussion concerning a gentleman named Mussolini. I have in this house heard the Prime Minister referred to as Benito Mussolini. But after all, was it not Mussolini who was the saviour of his country? In the press, however, I find that Mussolini is not compared to the right hon. the Prime Minister; rather is he compared to the leader of the opposition, as to which of these gentlemen holds the world's record for the longest speech.


We are thankful in our constituency for the things which came from the special session, and it might very well be remarked that, whatever else you are getting from this government, you are getting action. And at a time like this that is what the people want- action. I remember a story which I could repeat in regard to the Mussolini incident. I was at one time a student in the province o1' Alberta. It will be recalled that in 1920 the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) was there, and in the language of Amos 'n' Andy he was then the "head man"; and I remember that one evening he came to speak to a group of students. I recall one resounding phrase he used on that occasion. He said, "The more I see of democracy the more I believe in a good autocracy". There you have it from the hon. member for West Edmonton himself. I have heard much criticism is regard to the Prime Minister and I would ask hon. members to check me on the facts as I shall state them. It seems to me that the Prime Minister of this country was elected at the largest convention ever held in Canada. I think that is true. It is true also that the Prime Minister has been perhaps the biggest business success of any man who sits in this house. It is true too that he has been the biggest professional success of any man in this house, and also the biggest political success of any man in the house. I say that, because the greatest journal in the empire has said so; it said he was the most cutstanding statesman at the last Imperial conference. But the greatest thing the Prime Minister has done has been to break those blocs which formerly we had in the province of Saskatchewan and in the province of Quebec. We have therefore in the government now in power the greatest guarantee that all the interests of this country will be properly looked after. We have adequate representation in this government from every province in the Dominion. When I give the figures I think hon. members will agree with me in the statement I have just made. We have on this side from the province of British Columbia, seven out of fourteen; we have in Alberta four Conservatives, three Liberals and nine United Farmers. And may I say in passing that for my part I am happy at the way the United Farmers of Alberta have taken part in the iebate. We have from Saskatchewan seven Conservatives and from Manitoba eleven out of seventeen. From Ontario we have fifty-aine, which is a majority, and from Quebec twenty-four Conservatives. Perhaps I might repeat something a press man said to me just recently. He said, "You have on the


The Address-Mr. Willis

right of Mr. Speaker the most brilliant group of Canadians speaking French who have ever sat behind any prime minister in this country". From New Brunswick we have ten Conservatives and one volcanic Liberal, from Nova Scotia ten Conservatives and four Liberals, and from Prince Edward Island three Conservatives; while from the Yukon we have one Conservative. So that on this side of the house we have agriculture represented as never before, and when hon. members on the other side rise and say, in a loud voice, like a radio, that they speak on behalf of agriculture, let them remember that there are as good agriculturists on this side of the house as anywhere in this chamber.

With regard to western conditions, I do not altogether like the way the banks are acting in western Canada; nor do I think that the mortgage companies are taking advantage of the great opportunities which are theirs. In addition to that I am assured that the machine companies in the west will not sell their products until they reduce prices 25 to 50 per cent. We can do without a good many things that are given us. We can do without alemite and springs under the seat, without ball bearings and other things. The machinery we used to get served us for fifteen years and that was long enough. Only in this way will the machine companies be able to sell what they produce.

In the west conditions are not good; there is no use saying they are. This is no time for passive optimism. This is no time for taking the attitude that it is just a matter of psychology. It is useless to say that prosperity is just around the comer. Bather is it a time

for clearer thinking and harder working, a

time for making greater sacrifices on behalf of one another. If we could but get the spirit of those pioneers who came to the west about the year 1880, many of our problems would be solved, for they made sacrifices then which we shall never have to make in this country again. Prosperity is not just around the comer, but rather does it remain on the hilltop. We in western Canada grow the finest wheat in the world, and we grow it more economically than any living people. We are served in this country by two of the finest railways that ever served ten million people. The world must eat and we must feed it, and by these means we shall succeed. By these means we shall march out of this valley of depression up on to the hilltop and into the sunshine.

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