Mr. W. M. MARTIN (Regina).
Mr. Speaker, like other hon. members who have spoken in regard to this subject, I want to state that I thoroughly agree that it is of the utmost importance not only to the farmers of western Canada but also the business men, professional men and inhabitants generally of that western country.
If by any legislation that can be passed in this House changing the present method of handling grain, an additional return is obtainable by the producers of western grain, then the whole Dominion of Canada will be benefited. When we consider that the production of grain in the w>est is only in its infancy and that if is almost impossible to estimate the vast quantity which can be produced in that country, and when we consider that part of that western country is wholly dependent upon the production of wheat and other grain, it must be admitted that this question is of great importance not alone to the people of western Canada but to the people of the east. Now, referring to the question of government ownership which is included * in the motion of my hon. friend (Mr. Schaffner) I have to say that taking government ownership as a general principle I am opposed to it. But, if it can be shown that under the present system of government control there is dishonest weighing at the terminal elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur, and that grades are being manipulated, and if these abuses should continue to exist after the system of government control has been given a fair chance I would most certainly support government ownership in the interests of the grain producing industry of the west.
I congratulate the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Schaffner) on the manner in which he presented his case to the House, but it does seem to me that he offered no conclusive argument in favour of government ownership as compared with government control. I was not able to gather from the remarks of the hon. gentleman that the defects existed at the terminal elevators of Fort William and Port Arthur, because when he began to find fault with the system he went back to the small country elevators and said that the fault lay there. He spoke of the improper grading of the grain, but where is it graded? So far as I know it is graded at Winnipeg, and I do not see how you can get over improper grading at Winnipeg by adopting a policy of government ownership of terminals at Fort William and Port Arthur. The hon. gentleman spoke of dishonest weights, but I take it that this and other evils are provided against in the amendment to the Manitoba
Grain Act and to the Inspection and Sale Act which were passed by parliament last year. I claim that government control if properly carried out should be as efficient as government ownership, if not more so. Under the present system you have two sets of officials, the government officials and the employees of the terminal elevators, who act as a check upon each other. But if the elevators were owned and operated by the government there would be only one set of officials to weigh in the grain and to weigh it out, so that the present system if properly carried out ought to give us more efficient control than the system of government ownership. I had expected that the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Schaffner) and the hon. member for Qu'Ap-pelle (Mr. Lake) would give us some concrete instances of the success of government ownership, but in that I was disappointed. No doubt there are cases in which government ownership has been a success but there are many instances in which it has been a failure, and if we look at the examples of government ownership in this country we all have to admit that there is not much comfort for us in the prospect. One of the main arguments against government ownership is that it interferes more or less with individual enterprise, and the moment a government steps into that field it is going beyond what is the primary function of government. A government, is intended primarily to legislate and to administer; it is not its function to engage in private enterprise. I hold that the system of government control has not yet been given a fair trial because the Act only came into force on the 1st of September, 1908, and only one crop has been handled under it. I would advocate giving that system a fair chance to work out, and if it is not effective no doubt amendments can be made to the legislation which will make it effective. I believe that so far as terminal elevators are concerned, government ownership should only be adopted as a last resort and after it has been demonstrated that government control will not protect the grain producers of the west. The last part of the resolution moved by my hon. friend would seem to be all right if we once admit the principle of government ownership, but, I cannot at all agree with the first part of the resolution which says:
That in the opinon of the House the present system of operating terminal and transfer elevators is detrimental to the interests of western grain producers.
In the year 1906 we had a grain commission consisting of three prominent western men who followed the grain from the time it was harvested and threshed until it reached the Liverpool market, and that Mr. W. M. MARTIN.
commission presented a report to the government. Following the presentation of that report all the grain interests of the west were represented before the Minister of Trade and Commerce, and as a consequence of the conference then held certain amendments were made last session to the Manitoba Grain Act and to the Inspection and Sale Act, all of which amendments were in the interests of the western grain producers. I therefore cannot subscribe to the first part of that resolution which is in reality a criticism of the legislation passed by the government last session, and which legislation, was, I say, in the interest of the western grain producers. I referred a moment ago to the report of the Grain Commission. As I stated that commission followed the course of the grain from the thresher to the Liverpool market. They made certain recommendations to the government, among them the recommendation referred to by the hon. member for Humboldt (Mr. Neely) that they did not believe it would be to the advantage of. the grain trade that the government should take over the terminal elevators at Port Arthur and Fort William. At page 9 of their report they say:
Requests were made of us in the country that the elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur should be taken over and operated by the government in view of the fact that so many of them were operated by private corporations interested in the grain trade. We also had a communication from the department, under date January 23, 1907, inclosing a petition of members of parliament addressed to the right hon. the Prime Minister, requesting that we be instructed specifically to inquire into and report whether it is in the public interest that terminal elevators continue to be operated by common carriers or allowed to pass into the hands of or be operated by persons, firms or corporations engaged in the grain business.
In reply to this communication we addressed to the Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright, Minister of Trade and Commerce, a letter dated February 1, 1907, a copy of which is appended hereto. We can see no reason for changing the conclusions arrived at at that time, and we believe that if our recommendations are carried out they will give to the public the same confidence and protection in the operation of these elevators as if they were owned ,by the government.
The communication addressed to Sir Richard Cartwright was referred to by the hon. member for Humboldt. The commissioners refer to it on page 19 of their report and say that they had no reason at the time they drew up their report to change their opinion with respect to the government ownership of terminal elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur. That is the view of the three men appointed by the government to investigate the conditions of the grain trade; they reported that they were not in favour of government ownership of terminal ele-vatoTs and did not think it would be in the '
interest of the trade to have the elevators taken over and operated by the government.
As I understand, the main objection that can be raised to the present method of handling the terminal elevators at Fort William or Port Arthur is that except the' Canadian Pacific Railway elevator they are either leased or owned by private companies engaged in the grain trade. The element of personal gain, of illegitimate gain in some cases, enters into the operation of these elevators, and if we can get some legislation in addition to what we have, eliminating that element of personal gain, I believe we will go a long way towards securing what is desired as to terminal facilities at Fort William and Port Arthur. The commissioners in their report refer to these elevators being owned in this way and I have some evidence here which goes to show that the grain coming out of the Canadian Pacific Railway elevator and going towards the eastern transfer elevators is in better condition than that from private company-owned elevators. The secretary of the Dominion Millers' Association, under date of January 9, 1909, communicated with the Department of Trade and Commerce as follows:
There is a marked difference in the quality of the grain coming out of privately owned or operated terminal elevators as compared with the Canadian Pacific Railway elevators. Both dealers and millers tell me that the wheat out of the Canadian Pacific Railway elevator is on an average one-half to one cent a bushel, and sometimes the difference is considerably greater, better value than out of elevators owned or operated by companies interested in buying and selling grain. All the terminal elevators except those owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway are operated by men dealing in grain and largely controlled by United States concerns and managed by experts from across the line.
That bears out what I said in regard to private gain entering into the management of the elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur, the evidence going to show that the Canadian Pacific Railway elevator put out their grain in better shape than the el"eva; tors operated and owned by private corporations.
To refer again to the report of the grain commissioners, in their letter to Sir Richard Cartwright in the year 1907 they practically bear out what is stated by the Dominion Millers' Association, because they say the terminal elevators would be operated in a better way and more in the interests of the grain producers of the west if they were handled by the transportation companies. Apart from the question of government ownership altogether, there is a method of getting free from this element of personal gain, which will continue as long as human nature exists as it is, for the grain men are not in the business for nothing, they are in it to make as much money as they can. Why should not legislation be passed providing that no warehouse man at either
point should be engaged in the grain business, simply make him a warehouse man pure and simple, or instead of that provide that the railway companies must not only build elevators but operate and own them. Take away the element of personal private gain from these elevators, take away from the grain men the gain derived from manipulating the grain in the terminals and I think it will go a long way towards eliminating the difficulties now existing in the handling of grain.
I have referred to the legislation passed last year. I claim that if this legislation is properly enforced under the system of government control, it must remove the difficulties of mixing grades which are alleged to exist at these terminal elevators. For instance, we find in the Act to amend the Manitoba Grain Act of last year, chapter 45 of the statutes of 1908, section 10, the following:
2. Every public terminal elevator warehouseman in the Manitoba inspection division shall receive for storage any grain tendered to him in a dry and suitable condition for warehousing, in the usual manner in which terminal elevators are accustomed to receive grain in the ordinary and usual course of business. ,
3. Grain so received shall in all cases be inspected and graded by a duly authorized inspector, and shall be stored with grain of a similar grade.
4. No grain shall leave a public terminal point without being officially weighed, unless the owner or his agent orders otherwise.
The Act then speaks of a record to be kept of this grain, and then refers to the preservation of the identity of the grain, the clause reading:
The identity of each parcel or lot of western grain shipped to an eastern transfer elevator shall be preserved, except that different parcels or lots of the same grades may be binned together when there is not sufficient space in the elevator to keep the parcels or lots separate,
8. In no case, whether in a pub'io terminal elevator in the Manitoba inspection division or in an eastern transfer elevator, shall gr in of different grades be mixed together while in store.
Provision is also made to prevent the mixing of grain. Also in the Inspection and Sale Act, section 9, there is a provision that the inspector is to have control of the storage and shipping of grain, and shall keep proper records of all grain received into store in any terminal elevator, and the Act prevents the transfer of grain from one bin to another. Then it enumerates the powers which the inspector has with respect to the cleaning of grain in these elevators. So that the provisions of the Act passed last year, if enforced by proper and capable government inspectors would ensure just as good preservation of the grain at these terminals and give just
as much satisfaction as any system of government ownership.
Let me point out that every one in western Canada is not in favour of government ownership of terminal elevators. I do not believe that there is any great agitation among the farmers in that respect, although there is for the government ownership of elevators in the interior. I have yet, however, to find that there is any serious agitation for the government ownership of terminal and transfer elevators. I have here two or three opinions from western men on this very point to which I would like to refer. I have, for instance, the opinion of Mr. John Millar, who was chairman of the Grain Commission, and which opinion he expressed at the grain growers' convention at Weyburn on the 20th of February last:
The weights both in and out of the terminal elevators had been found to be satisfactory, but the grain going out seemed to contain rather too much extraneous matter as some of the cleaners were not of the best. It was pointed out that there was a tendency for the elevators to go into the hands of private companies who were themselves handling grain and the report of the commission had recommended that these and the transfer elevators farther east should be .placed under strict government control. This had been done and he believed the producer now had as much protection as government ownership would give him.
I also have here an opinion on the present situation from the Hon. D. W. R. Motherwell, Minister of Agriculture in Saskatchewan :
The government control secured over these elevators by amendment to the Grain Act last session by the federal parliament has given the producer practically every safeguard and security in the way of control which government ownership could possibly give.
There are just one or two points to which I shall refer briefly before taking my seat. There were certain arguments in favour of government ownership advanced at the grain growers' convention at Weyburn, which were practically the same as those put forward to-day by the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Schaffner). The first was that government supervision and control is objectionable because you cannot have proper supervision or effective control. But 1 reply that you would have proper supervision and effective control if the system were properly enforced, as I believe it will be if reasonable time be given the government to work it out.
The next objection is that the warehousemen should have no interest in manipulating the commodity he stores. In that opinion I agree, but I do not agree that to eliminate that interest we require to go the length of government ownership. We can put through legislation which will just as Mr. W. M. MARTIN.
effectively accomplish the same object. Another objection is that manipulation was going on at the terminal elevators before the last change in the Manitoba Act respecting the supervision of binning and is going on still. Well, no evidence has been produced to-night to show that manipulation is going on to-day. I may believe that it is, but before supporting such a radical measure as government ownership, I would require some evidence that these abuses were going on. These are the main objections raised to the present system of government control. At that convention there were many men who were in favour of government ownership of the interior elevators, but no one expressed himself regarding government ownership of terminal elevators to any extent. However the points to which I wish to refer briefly are these. It is said, and I believe truly, that there is a serious shortage in grain shipments going from Fort William and Port Arthur to eastern points, such as Owen Sound and Buffalo and others. It is said that the average shortage during the year 1908, after the grain was weighed by government inspectors, was 44 lbs. per 1,000 bushels from Fort William and Port Arthur as compared with 15 lbs. per 1,000 bushels from Chicago and 10 lbs. per 1,000 bushels from Duluth, and that the total shortage in shipments from these elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur this year amounts to 50,000 bushels. At present the men who ship that grain hold the vessel owners responsible, but the vessel owners claim they should not be responsible, although legally they are, owing to the manner in which the grain is weighed. That surely is a hardship to the vessel owners. I was present at a conference before the Minister of Trade and Commerce, in which the vessel owners, shippers, and grain men from Winnipeg appeared, and all agreed that this grain shortage must be m those elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur. Well, if these elevator companies are getting that 50,000 bushels, they are getting what they are not entitled to. According to the Manitoba Grain Act ^ and its amendments last year, they are entitled to a certain amount for binning and a certain amount for storage, but if they are getting that 50,000 bushels they are getting what does not belong to them. Some amendment should be introduced into the Manitoba Grain Act to provide that the surplus be taken over by the government and thus eliminate the question of personal gain. Another matter is that of screening. Before the inspector in Winnipeg grades a car of grain, he marks it so much dockage, sometimes two per cent, and sometimes more and sometimes less. The grain goes into
the elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur, and is supposed to be cleaned to whatever percentage of dockage was set. The elevator men get the screenings. I have heard the amount estimated last year all the way from 300,000 bushels to 1,400,000 bushels. On these screenings the farmers of the west have to pay freight, and they should not belong to the'elevator men, but should go to the producer or at least, the producer should be re-imbursed for his outlay in freight for what at present he gets no return. It is of course to the advantage of the warehouse men to take every possible bushel of screenings they can get. I am advised that they sold the screenings last year to one firm at $7 per ton and that firm retailed it at $16 per ton. But take the price at $7 a ton, and on 300,000 bushels, that amounted to $63,000. On 1,400,000 bushels, it would be five times that sum. Some legislation should be passed to the effect that the surplus screenings and grain found in the elevators at any time shall be confiscated and taken over by the government and thus you will eliminate the element of illegitimate gain which these elevators are getting at present.
I desire to refer in closing to what the Inspection and Sales Act provides with respect to the surplus of grain in the terminals. Subsection 7 of sec. 9 of chapter 36 of the Inspection and Sales Act of 1908 says that:
In the month of August in each year stock shall he taken of the quantity of each grade grain in the terminal elevators.
Why do not. they go a step further and say that the grain and the screenings found there shall belong to the government? I believe that these difficulties could be removed by these suggestions, and I hope that at some future day legislation of this kind will be introduced into this House. A very simple amendment would effect it, and I think it would cure a great majority of objections raised to the handling of grain in these elevators. I am as much interested as are the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Schaffner) and others from the west in seeing that a proper system is devised for handling the grain of our western provinces.
I am interested in seeing that the producer, no matter how small a producer he may be, gets as much as the market will allow him at the time of sale. I am as much interested as these hon. gentlemen in seeing that no discrimination shall exist between small shippers and large shippers, or, if there is to be an advantage, that it shall be to the small shipper. I believe in the system of government control of these utilities, but I do not believe in the government going aside from its true duty and engaging in mercantile business. I believe that, at least, the government should 127
try in every way to regulate the grain trade of the west before they embark upon the management of terminal elevators and become grain men. As that is my belief, I will move an amendment to that effect, and in doing so I have every confidence that this government-which has been in power since 1896 and under which the Manitoba Grain Act has come into existence and under which the farmers of the west have the right to get cars and ship their own grain-if government control does not prove effective, will be ready to adopt such measures as they deem necessary from time to time to protect the grain interests of .western Canada. The amendment I move is as follows:
That all the words after ' that' be struck cut, and the following be substituted therefor:
The amendments of last session to the Grain Act whereby all transfer and terminal elevators were put under government oontrol have produced good results. Aud if, on further experience, it is found that the present system of supervision is not adequate to prevent the undue mixture of grain in such elevators, this House will be prepared to accept such further legislation as may be needed to that end.
In conclusion, I wish to refer to the fact that since September 1, 1908, only one complaint has been received by the Department of Trade and Commerce from men purchasing grain shipped through these elevators, anl this in contrast with the fact that many such complaints were received in former years. The complaint referred to was from t!ie Dominion Millers' Association, and I have here a short extract from that complaint. It will be observed that they go so far as to admit that there has been an improvement in the handling of the grain in these elevators, although they state it is not yet all it should be.
While there has been a oertain improvement in the grain as it comes from the public elevators at Fort William and Port Arthur since the government took closer control, yet we regret to say that matteis are not yet in a satisfactory condition.
If, under the present system, after it has been in existence but a few months the condition of things is better than before, there is every reason to believe that it will still further improve, especially when the system itself is improved as experience may indicate to be necessary.
Topic: MOTIONS AGREED TO WITHOUT DISCUSSION.