Mr. D. J. McCuaig (Maple Creek):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to take part in this debate to discuss wheat, markets, agreements and prices. Farmers have had various experiences over the years in marketing and selling wheat. In 1918 we had the wheat board, which did a very good job. We had the open market grain exchange. We have had the Bennett and the Liberal wheat board from 1935 together with the open market. Now we have our present wheat board. The uppermost thing in the minds of western farmers today is markets for wheat, and prices for wheat. They have not forgotten the 19 cents a bushel for No. 1 northern at country points in 1932. At that time wheat reached the lowest price level in 400 years. They have not forgotten the 600 million bushels of wheat stored in terminal elevators, country elevators, annexes, bins, barns, empty houses, and open bins. That was in 1942. They have not forgotten that they were paid $4 an acre for every acre of land that they took out of wheat production in 1941. In 1942 they were still paid not to grow wheat. They remember the five and six bushel delivery quotas, which were still in effect in 1944, four years
The Address-Mr. McCuaig after the commencement of the war. A continuation of those conditions, Mr. Speaker, would not only have bankrupted the whole agricultural industry of Canada; it would have bankrupted this country itself.
Back in the thirties we had the grain exchange in operation, with no restrictions, with the whole world to which it could sell wheat. But when it came to setting prices the grain exchange was powerless to set a price level that would meet the costs of production. They just were not in the wheat business to do that sort of thing. Mr. Bennett set out to help the grain exchange. He set up a wheat board, and they were both in operation at the same time. Mr. Bennett was going to do the blasting, to make it easier for the grain exchange to get more suckers. As a real grass-roots farmer, I have seen all I want to see of the grain exchange free enterprise system in connection with the marketing of wheat. The day of the gambler in foodstuffs is over. From 1929 to 1943 the marketing of Canada's wheat was the No. 1 national problem. Today it is an international problem.
The idea of a wheat board was not something new to the farmers. We had a wheat board in 1918, thirty-one years ago, which gave the farmers most satisfactory and efficient results in the marketing of their wheat in my memory. But in spite of the persistence and insistence of all farm bodies in their efforts to have that wheat board continue to market Canada's wheat, that just was not done. Twenty-five years later, on September 17, 1943, four years after the start of world war II, the world scarcity increased the demand for wheat and prices were on their way up to the highest levels in seventeen years. Then the government saw fit to set up a wheat board. In principle this was exactly what all farmers and farm bodies had been asking since 1918, so they went along with the government. They remembered the 1918 wheat board. They had faith in the government. They trusted the government to sell their wheat at the best price that could be obtained, as the 1918 wheat board did. But things turned out somewhat differently. I think a full explanation is due this house and the wheat growers of Canada by the responsible officials of this government as to why the government sold 600 million bushels of wheat on such terms. I have here a clipping from the Regina Leader-Post which reads:
London, January 17. Well-informed circles here said Saturday that agreement has been reached on a $2 price for the fourth year of the wheat agreement . . .
One official said he would be prepared to bet that the Canadian farmers would not receive any
The Address-Mr. McCuaig lump sum as compensation for the $300,000,000 lost by them on the agreement to date. Britain has not the money, he said.
Meanwhile, British government sources seem to be preparing the public for further reductions in the volume of purchases of Canadian foodstuffs.
Then in this morning's Ottawa Journal I saw this item:
London. The News-Chronicle says today that if the United States were to declare wheat a surplus commodity we might be compelled to ask for a release of our obligations under the Canadian wheat agreement.
Now that the United States has a surplus, and with no more money available, there may be difficulties in the way of Canada marketing her wheat. The idea is spreading among the growers of western Canada that the way the British wheat agreement was drawn up was a deliberate attempt on the part of the government to put forever out of the minds of the farmers the idea of a wheat board, that this is a subtle way of undermining that ideal. They are really working hand in hand with the Winnipeg grain exchange. Neither of them has any use for a wheat board. We found that out when, in spite of our persistent requests for a wheat board, they would not have it. They are both exploiters of common humanity, and apparently they are going to stick together.
I am not going to enter upon an argument as to whether Britain should or should not have cheap wheat. I do say, however, on behalf of the wheat growers of Canada, that they should not foot the bill. Farmers pay all the taxes other people pay, and then some. They are entitled to every cent the best markets will pay. If Canada wants to make a gift of wheat to other countries, let all Canada do it and let all Canada pay for it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to deal with another agreement, the agreement the Liberal government made with the millers, the feeders and the distillers covering all domestically consumed wheat in Canada, at a price of $1.25 per bushel. This was in force from September 27, 1943, to February 17, 1947, when the price was increased to $1.55. During those four years approximately 350 million bushels of wheat were sold in Canada at a difference of approximately $1.50 per bushel as between the world class II price and the Canadian price of $1.25. Multiply that by $1.50, the difference between the two prices, and you find you have $525 million as the loss to the wheat growers of this country. The government had no power or authority, except by dictatorial methods to cause the farmers' wheat to be sold in Canada below the world market prices. It simply means that the wheat growers of Canada, by government order in council, were compelled to subsidize
the national food supply in Canada to the tune of $525 million. I say this is an imposition, Mr. Speaker. If it were necessary for the government to subsidize wheat for home consumption, that should have been done by the government.
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) and the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) have told this house the farmers are better off than they ever were. In doing this, they are simply making a comparison with the days of the hungry thirties and the low prices the farmers have received for seventeen years. They are simply making a noise and trying to bamboozle the people. I can tell this government that, if it wants to make 50,000 communists in western Canada, the way to do it is to put the wheat producers in an exploited class like the slaves of other colonial lands. If there is any agency or any action that is making communists in Canada today, it is the action of this government.
We must be very sure that this Atlantic pact, about which we have been hearing so much, contains provisions for a full and free exchange of goods and commodities so they can be directed to the places in which they are needed. If the world is going to be divided into two parts and we continue this austerity program, ERP, ECA, the dollar shortage and the high discount rate between nations, we are licked before we start. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, the real war started when the shooting war stopped. The real battle is on now, and it is the battle of food. The victor will be the nation that can answer these questions: Did you feed him when he was hungry? Did you clothe him when he was naked? Did you give him shelter and care when he was sick? If a nation cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, without any ulterior motive, no amount of prayers, ritualistic ceremony or holy water is going to save us. God searches the hearts of men.
This currency exchange and discounts between nations is the world's greatest racket. It is the world's greatest sin to perpetuate a system that will starve humanity in a world of great abundance. If we persist in this sort of thing, Mr. Speaker, our doom is just as certain as that of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. We are fools.
Topic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY