I usually find, even though I do not agree with all his premises, that I do agree with the logic of the Minister of Finance, but I am compelled to say that I could not quite follow the logic of his position when he replied to the hon. member for Macleod that any discussion of the monetary policies of this and other countries in their relation to farm prices had not a very close relation to the bill now under discussion.
After all, what was the suggestion of the hon. member for Macleod? The suggestion was that the government of the day might well insert a provision in this act that the administrative costs of the farm loan board and of the Farm Loan Act should be borne from public funds. In pointing out that this was a responsibility which the government might well assume, . the hon. member for
Macleod also pointed out that to a degree at least other policies of the government were responsible for the necessity of the provisions of this bill. He pointed out, as I understood him, that one of those policies which had made this bill essential, which had decreased the value of farm credit and had made it difficult for the farmer to borrow money through the ordinary channels, and made it difficult for the farmer to pay anything but the lowest interest rate, was the policy of deflation which had been followed by this country, followed in the opinion of the government in the direct interests of the nation itself. Certainly with my limited powers of logic, Mr. Chairman, I thought the argument was one which had an absolute relation to the matter in hand and one which might well have been answered, although I will admit at once that I would not expect the minister to go into any detailed discussion at this time of the policies of inflation or deflation.
But there is another point which has to be considered, and after all it is the foundation fact. What is the purpose of the legislation? As I see it, it is twofold: First, to provide for farmers a credit which they otherwise might not receive, to make available to them a source of credit which is made necessary by reason of the fact that private commercial credit is no longer available to them. Secondly, to establish some form of interest control, indirectly, by loaning that money at as low a rate as possible. Now the question arises at once, what is a reasonable rate? That, as has been stated again and again, and as I think the minister will accept, must depend on two factors; one is the cost of the money, and the other is the ability to pay. Many arguments have been advanced to show that the farmer's ability to pay has been greatly reduced. As a matter of fact I can go a little further. The reduction in price levels and farm values is accompanied by much more than a corresponding reduction in ability to meet interest charges, because after all while interest charges are paid out of prices they are paid only out of that proportion of the price received for production which is over and above the cost of operation and of living. The lower the price the less the proportion of production which is left available for meeting the payment of debts or taxation, and the greater the proportion of that production that must be absorbed in ordinary operation and living cost, so that the proportion available for debt is smaller, and the value of each item of that proportion is smaller. The debt paying ability of the farmer is therefore reduced
Farm Loan Act
by far more than the percentage of price reduction. I believe I am following closely logical reasoning in this.
Now we come to the point of the government's responsibility in the matter. I will not say, because I think it is unfair to say, that the government has a definite responsibility to perform any service for any part of the community at the cost of the state itself. But the government has set in many instances the precedent of having accepted that responsibility, and the precedent which has been cited again and again, the precedent most recently discussed in this house, that of unemployment insurance, is very much in point. That is a policy which in the national interest must be put into effect, but it is a policy which will directly benefit only a limited percentage of the population of the country. And yet it is a policy towards the support of which every part of the country must contribute, so far as state expenditure is concerned. I have no quarrel with that, because I believe that in a large way if anything is really good for any part of the community it must be good for the community as a whole.
Topic: CANADIAN FARM LOAN ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO FACILITATE AND INCREASE THE EXTENSION OF CREDIT TO FARMERS