Mr. Bona Arsenault (Bonaventure):
Mr. Speaker, agriculture, offshore fishing and lumbering are among the chief means of livelihood of a great many people in the province of Quebec. More particularly in the eastern part, in Gaspe, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, the people are almost entirely dependent upon those three sources
The Budget-Mr. Arsenault
of income to live on or, in some cases, to achieve a modicum of comfort.
Indeed very few farmers of that area earn their living through farming alone, and few fishermen engage exclusively in fishing operations. Therefore, lumbering and the sale of pulpwood constitute a necessary if not indispensable adjunct to the family budget. Those three sources of revenue, sea, land and forest, can be said to constitute the very basis of the economy of the eastern part of the province of Quebec.
Last year, because of bad weather and of the heavy damage done to crops by insects, in various parts of the province, many farmers sustained irretrievable losses. In Gaspe, many of them even lack the necessary seed for this spring. I have received numerous and pathetic appeals for assistance from farm organizations and individual farmers of my constituency. But that problem is not a responsibility of the federal government.
However, due to the urgency of the matter and the pressing needs of the farmers of my county, I feel I must call this situation to the attention of the provincial authorities whose responsibility this is. Let me make clear, though, that these words of mine, and the statements I wish to make in the course of my remarks today, are by no means intended to embarrass the Quebec government.
It is a well known fact that, for several months, the farmers of this country, more particularly those from the province of Quebec, have been expressing alarm over the very important matter of the price of butter. Federal members from that province have received numerous representations in this regard, notably from the officers and members of the Catholic farmers' union. Personally, I have received some 1,400 letters on this subject.
The Quebec members in this house have joined hands in placing those pressing demands before federal authorities. Farmers of that province have thus received renewed proof of the fact that they have good friends here, on whom they can rely in emergencies.
The federal government has attempted to protect the Canadian farmer, and more particularly the farmer from Quebec, from the disastrous effects of a drop in dairy prices.
Price support on butter has once more been fixed at 58 cents a pound.
On behalf of the farmers of my riding, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to the government, in particular to the right hon.
The Budget-Mr. Arsenault
Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and to the right hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) for this wise decision which will be beneficial not only to farmers but also, indirectly, to everyone in Canada. When agriculture is prosperous, the entire country is also prosperous.
I said that a large part of the population of the province of Quebec earns its living from fishing. I must remind the house, however, that the value of the catch in that province for 1954 was 23 per cent lower than in 1953, and 29 per cent less than in 1952.
For instance, in the province of Quebec 35 million pounds of cod were caught in 1954. This catch, as it came out of the net, was worth $773,000.
In comparison with 1953, the amount of cod caught was 28-5 per cent smaller, the value 15-3 per cent less. A comparison between 1954 and 1952 shows that the amount of cod taken was down 39-5 per cent, and the sums paid to the fishermen, 45 [DOT] 6 per cent.
The herring catch, which had been 28,000 tons in 1952 and 24,000 tons in 1953, was down to 18,000 tons in 1954.
The salmon catch has also been seriously reduced in the last few years. The gradual disappearance of salmon from the Atlantic coast is such as to give rise to the most serious misgivings.
On the other hand, in the Magdalen islands, the total value of the lobster catch was up from $485,000 in 1952 to $703,000 in 1953 and $721,000 in 1954. But that is only one happy exception to the rule, and of no advantage to the other eastern districts of the province of Quebec.
Generally speaking, then, it may be said that in 1954 there was a serious reduction in the revenue of fishermen from the counties of Bonaventure, Gaspe South, Gaspe North, Charlevoix and Saguenay, compared to 1953 and especially to 1952.
Consequently, if on one hand some sections of the eastern part of the province of Quebec met with serious difficulties last year on account of excessive rain and of insects, on the other hand the income from our offshore fishing, especially for the past two years, has been sadly inadequate, and is greatly missed by our people.
The catch and the prices paid to fishermen have dropped so much that the total revenue
of our Quebec sea fisheries is but $2,440,473 compared to $2,706,248 in 1953, and $3,088,448 in 1952.
I said just now that in the eastern part of the province, more particularly in Gaspe and on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river, the lumbering industry constitutes a necessary adjunct to the revenue of the people, more especially when farming and fishing fail.
Now, considering the serious conditions in agriculture and offshore fishing, which I just mentioned, farmers and fishermen of the province of Quebec, especially in the eastern district, who own woodlots had reason to expect from the sale of pulpwood a fair return which would have enabled them to support their families. On the contrary, even in that field, they have been shamefully exploited.
Considering the high cost of living, the cost of newsprint both on the national and international market, and the profits revealed in the financial reports of the pulpwood companies which are taking advantage of our natural resources, the ridiculously low prices paid in recent years, and last year in particular for pulpwood in the constituency of Bonaventure in the Gaspe peninsula, and in many other districts in the province of Quebec, are nothing less than an inducement to lawlessness.
I have here the results of investigations conducted during the winter by officers of the Catholic farmers' union in the counties of Bonaventure and Gaspe, on prices paid to pulpwood producers in the Gaspe peninsula.
Those investigations show that, in February and March 1955, prices as low as $10.50, $9.50, $8.50 and even $7.50 were being paid in the Gaspe peninsula for a cord of pulpwood delivered to the truck roads.
Do you know how much it costs to fell, saw or "bucksaw", as the lumberjacks say, and cart to the truck roads, often miles away, a cord of pulpwood cut on the average farmer's or settler's lot in the Gaspe peninsula?
Two good men, a good horse and ten hours of work a day are required to do the job.
It costs $2 a day to feed two men, and this is no exaggeration; and for a horse at least $1. For a good horse, the value of a day's work is $3, which makes a total of $6.
That means that when pulpwood is paid $10 a cord, delivered alongside the truck roads, there is left only $4 in net revenue to
be split between two men. It also means that not only do the pulpwood producers in eastern Quebec have to be content with a measly salary of $2 a day, for ten hours of hard work, but they are practically giving their wood away to the shareholders of pulpwood companies, the majority of whom are quite often foreigners.
And when pulpwood is paid $7.50 a cord, alongside the truck roads, as was the case last winter in certain parts of the Gaspe peninsula-and I have proof of it right here-we find, on the basis of the same figures, that those two men net only 75 cents each a day, which amounts to about 7 A cents an hour, on which to raise a large family.
When I see some printers of the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir, who already get a salary of $4,000, $5,000 and $6,000 a year, go on strike, I really wonder what they would do if their situation was that of the woodcutters and the pulpwood producers in the province of Quebec.
Some will say that, with modern equipment -which our woodcutters are not always able to get-two men can cut more than a cord of wood in a day. Of course they can, if this wood is cut on company limits, right in the middle of a virgin forest and close to the river down which the wood is floated. But not so on the woodlots of the farmers and settlers of the Gaspe peninsula, where the trees are sparse and have to be hauled long distances to the truck road during the winter, or even in the mud during the fall and spring.
From 75 cents to $2 a day for a man who works hard, often from morning till night, to raise a large family and try to make both ends meet! And things have come to such a pass in this twentieth century, in a Christian country which is often held up as an example for other countries of the world, in a democratic country which earmarks billions of dollars for the defence of our way of life, of that way of life, and especially in a province which claims to be in the vanguard of the fight against communism.
I say that our woodcutters and settlers in Quebec are not immunized against the seeds of revolutionary and communistic ideas, and I would add that the wonder drug that would immunize them has not yet been found. Let our industrial leaders take heed and consider seriously their responsibilities before it is too late!
The Budget-Mr. Arsenault
For, by enriching the foreigners who are taking advantage of our natural wealth while making capital out of indigence, the suffering and even the despair of our people, we sow the most fertile seed of revolution and communism to be found in the country.
Thus some capitalists, blinded by greed, avarice, or sheer stupidity, are acting as the best promoters of Moscow in our midst.
Communism! They are the ones who, by their unfair practices, arouse communism in the minds and hearts of our people. And unfortunately, those exploiters are beyond the reach of the padlock law.
Our own Canadian forests, the woods of Quebec, our own province and, in particular, those of the Gaspe peninsula, were not created by the Lord for the sole benefit of Thread-needle street, Wall street, Bay street or St. James street.
The lumber industry is one of the most important in the province of Quebec, if not actually the most important. The pulp industry, in particular, is an essential factor of our economic and social structure. It directly affects the standard of living of a large part of our population.
Lest we take for granted that the province of Quebec has become the colonial empire of a few privileged rich men, the development of our natural resources, of our forests, should first and foremost assure the subsistence and welfare of our population in Quebec.
If there is a field in which Quebec should be autonomous, it is that one, for our provincial government has the sole jurisdiction with regard to our forests, and our lumber industry within the province.
As a matter of fact, lease permits either for settlers' lots or wooded lands are granted or refused by the provincial government.
The only authority entitled to grant timber rights to individuals or companies is the provincial government. It is the provincial government that collects cutting fees. It is also the provincial government that has established the ceiling price to be paid by the owners of provincial newspapers for their newsprint by direct representations to the companies. In view of the uncompromising attitude of some pulp companies in their transactions with the lumber producers, and of the extreme unfairness they show to the farmers and settlers of the province of
3248 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Arsenault Quebec, in spite of the solemn warning that was given to them in this very house, by the hon. member for Gatineau (Mr. Leduc) and in the very words of the premier of Quebec, I believe it to be the duty of the government of that province to intervene with regard to the establishment of the floor price to be paid the farmers and settlers for their pulp-wood.
The provincial government has the power to fix a maximum price for the newsprint sold to the newspaper publishers of the province. By the same token, it should have the right to fix a minimum price to be paid to settlers and farmers.
Because we live in the province of Quebec we should not have to pay more taxes than elsewhere. Because we live in the province of Quebec we should not be paid lower salaries than elsewhere. Because we are from the province of Quebec we should not be forced to sell our products more cheaply than elsewhere, pulpwood in particular.
This situation, Mr. Speaker, has lasted all too long. There is no reason in the world why a cord of pulpwood cut in Gaspe should not fetch as high a price as a cord of pulpwood cut in Ontario or on the Pacific coast.
I might add that a cord of pulpwood, which often costs as much as $25 to $35 delivered at the mill, when it has been cut on company limits and floated or hauled over long distances, should be worth at least $15 when delivered to truck loading points on roads by our farmers or settlers: not $7.50 nor $8, but $15.
Therefore I say that a minimum price of $15 a cord should be set right away throughout the eastern region of the province for pulpwood bought from farmers, settlers or other producers.
I do not mention any figure for the other parts of the province as I am not familiar with conditions there.
But I do know that since 1952, because pulpwood has been paid from $5 to $7 a cord less than should have been paid to our farmers and settlers, at a time when the price of newsprint kept going up and the profits of pulpwood companies kept piling up, the people of the Gaspe peninsula and of eastern Quebec have been cheated out of some $2 million a year. Thus the benefit of family allowances generously distributed to the families in those regions by the federal
government has, to a large extent, been cancelled out.
Such a highly unjust situation must be met with an immediate remedy. Here is what I should like to suggest:
1. I propose that the inquiry which the hon. member for Gatineau (Mr. Leduc) has asked the Department of Justice to undertake with respect to the Gatineau valley under the Combines Investigation Act be extended to every region of the province of Quebec and particularly to the Gaspe peninsula.
2. I respectfully urge the Hon. Maurice Duplessis, premier of the province of Quebec, and the members of his government, to pass an order in council fixing the minimum price to be paid to pulpwood producers in the province of Quebec. Such a minimum price would have to be at least $15 a cord, delivered at a truck loading site, for the eastern part of the province.
3. As a citizen of the province of Quebec, I respectfully urge the Quebec provincial legislature to adopt at its next session a legislative measure which would empower the minister of lands and forests of the province, among other things, to:
(a) investigate prices paid to farmers and settlers for pulpwood cut in the province on wooded lands or licenced lots;
(b) issue regulations governing the establishment of the minimum price to be paid to producers for pulpwood; concerning the measuring of the wood and the quantity of pulpwood to be bought each year from settlers and farmers, taking into account their other sources of supply and their needs;
(c) issue any other regulation to safeguard the interests of wood producers within the province of Quebec.
Before resuming my seat, I repeat that the remarks I have just made must not be interpreted as an attack either against the wood dealers, or the pulp companies or the provincial government.
I attack nobody in particular and I lay no charge whatsoever against anybody.
I am only stating facts that have lasted long enough, conditions I believe it is my duty to reveal and proclaim, and which I shall denounce and proclaim as long as they have not been efficiently remedied.
As a farmer's son, I know from my own experience how strenuously our men must work to support their families.
I also know, from personal experience, that a lumberman, a farmer, a settler or lumber producer, be he from the Gaspe peninsula, from the north shore of the St. Lawrence or the Gatineau, deserves as fair a compensation for a good day's work as any other Canadian, from any other part of our country, in a similar profession.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE