FERGUSON, The Hon. Ralph, P.C.

Personal Data

Lambton--Middlesex (Ontario)
Birth Date
September 13, 1929

Parliamentary Career

February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
  Lambton--Middlesex (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Small Businesses and Tourism) (March 4, 1980 - February 28, 1982)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (March 1, 1984 - June 29, 1984)
  • Minister of Agriculture (June 30, 1984 - September 16, 1984)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Lambton--Middlesex (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 111 of 112)

May 16, 1980

Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Small Businesses)):

In so far as Canadian Patents and Development Limited is concerned:

Revenue Profit/Loss

(a) 1977 $1,049,963 $ 1,945(b) 1978 $ 898,278 $ (129,463)1977 1978(a) $ 250,000 $ 250,000(b) Nil Nil(c) $ 296,199 $ 296,199CANARCH LIMITED

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May 16, 1980

Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State, Small Businesses):

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on this motion because I think it is imperative that we take a very positive position on metrication. Reference has been made to the fact that other nations are not going ahead as fast as Canada. I think it would be only fitting if I read a statement from President Carter, contained in the U.S. Metric Board 1979 Annual Report. He said:

With all the other industrialized nations of the world already using the metric system-or soon to complete their conversion to metrics-we will find ourselves at a serious disadvantage in selling products to other countries if we do not make progress in our own conversion.

At the movies in the United States or Canada, Mr. Speaker, the films are 35 millimetre. Major United States tire manufacturers back in the 1960s started labelling tires for United States made cars in metric. New United States steel companies on the south shore of Lake Michigan are controlled by metric instrument. Since 1975 some of the United States oil companies have been installing instruments which provide metric readings. Service station outlets are converting as fast as pumps are available to them. Metrication has been taught in the United States school system for more than a decade. So the United States is proceeding, Mr. Speaker, and 1 think it is wrong if we Canadians stand still.

At the present time the European Economic Community requires that metric conversion information be included on all non-metric products imported into member countries. Some United States tractor companies have already started making machinery to metric specification. The St. Lawrence Seaway, which was completed in 1959, prefers the metric measure. Channel markers are metric, cargo is in metric tons, and tolls are assessed in metric weights. Even the length of ships is calculated in meters. The U.S. conversion to metric is further along than many members realize.

I realize that some people who did not take metric in school will have difficulty in converting and I sympathize with them, but the metric system has been taught in our schools for several years. Even our highways are marked in metric.

As a farmer, perhaps I must make more conversions than the average citizen. At a recent commodity board meeting of producers in Ontario the vote was three to one to proceed with implementation of the metric system. We have a new generation of farmers, Mr. Speaker, in my operation, and 1 am very pleased that my son who graduated from university was schooled in the metric system. Like the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Towers), when 1 go to the fields 1 must admit that I still have to make conversions. For example, if l need to plant 120 pounds of seed per acre, I now plant 135 kilograms per hectare. It is very simple. If we use 400 pounds of fertilizer per acre we now use 444 kilograms per hectare.

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May 8, 1980

Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State, Small Businesses):

Mr. Speaker, the present government shares the concern of the hon. member in respect of the future of the Sydney Steel Corporation in Cape Breton and the possibility of additional manufacturing and related activity in Nova Scotia by Michelin Tires (Canada) Limited.

The hon. member is well aware that this government wrote the first significant subsidiary agreement for assistance to the Sydney Steel Corporation in December of 1977, with total commitments close to $20 million. Further significant federal commitment to the Sydney Steel Corporation was made in April, 1979, but was not acted upon by either the province of Nova Scotia or the Government of Canada which assumed power after May 22, 1979. Since that time the circumstances which led to the federal commitment to Sysco have changed considerably. The company and the province decided not to enter into a long-term billets contract with Tree Island Steel Company of British Columbia, and the government of Nova Scotia primarily withdrew from further consideration of comprehensive joint studies which had been made to examine viable future options for the company. 1 am, however, optimistic that Canada and Nova Scotia will resume serious examination of viable future long-term solutions for Sysco.

I have to remind the hon. member, of course, that the Sydney Steel Corporation is a provincial Crown corporation and that decisions as to the future of the corporation are in large part dictated by the objectives of the government of Nova Scotia. 1 can say, however, that I do not believe that short-term remedies for Sysco which have been proposed from time to time constitute the right way to go about solving the problems of the company.

I understand that the province of Nova Scotia presented a proposal to the previous administration in January of this year. No action was taken at that time. As the Minister of Finance (Mr. MacEachen) has indicated to the House, he has discussed the Sysco situation with Premier Buchanan at a meeting on April 11 in Halifax and in other telephone conversations. He has also indicated to the House today that the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. De Bane) and other members of the government are prepared to sit down with the government of Nova Scotia at any time to consider

concrete plans which will have some prospect of ensuring a viable future for the provincially-owned steel plant at Sydney. He emphasized that any federal contribution will need to be placed in the context of a plan that is based on a viable production, sales and marketing program which can also provide an assurance of the longer term future of Sysco.

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May 6, 1980

Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State, Small Businesses):

Mr. Speaker, I think perhaps I

Adjournment Debate

should quote the president of the nation to the south, Mr. Carter, who, in January 1980, said this:

1 personally support and encourage the use of the international metric system of measurement in the United States. Conversion to the metric system will help us to expand America's export market.

Mr. Carter concluded with these words:

Because I believe metric conversion holds important long-term benefits for our country, I am taking steps to encourage the use of this system in the private sector as well as in government.

With regard to the comment on working in concert with the United States, it is interesting to note that plans for the automobile industry in north America are for it to be completely metric by 1982.

Legislation on the subject of metric conversion has had considerable debate in this House. The use of the metric system was made legal by Parliament with the passage of the metric Weights and Measures Act many years ago. The Weights and Measures Act of 1971 included an amendment which made the international system of units the legal embodiment of the metric system in Canada. The policy that metric conversion was inevitable and in the national interest was established with the House leaders of all parties on January 15, 1970, speaking in the House in support of the white paper on metric conversion in Canada.

The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act of 1971 made it mandatory for all pre-packaged goods to carry a metric contents declaration.

The Statute Law Amendment Act of 1976, which was debated in this House over a period of nine months, gave the governor in council the power to set dates in any sector of the economy after which the use of the customary or imperial system would be illegal.

A program of guideline dates for metric conversion recommended by Metric Commission Canada after consulting with industry, labour and consumer groups, was approved by the government and debated in the House of Commons on March 17, 1975. The Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs studied this matter at length and voted unanimously in favour of it. It reported it back to the House of Commons on December 17, 1976, with a recommendation that the House consider the advisability of adopting this program and also introduce additional legislation to metric conversion. Subsequently the Statute Law Amendment Act of 1976, was passed by the House of Commons on July 25, 1977, and received royal assent on August 5, 1977.

In view of the fact that metric conversion currently is proceeding or has been completed in 88 of the 100 odd sectors of the economy which have published conversion plans, with the phasing and co-ordination of Metric Commission Canada, there is a proven continuing need for the commission staff and the commissioners to ensure that orderly conversion is made to the best advantage to consumers and to Canada.

It is interesting to note that an industry in my constituency has expanded its production threefold since going metric because it can now export to Europe.

May 6, 1980

Adjournment Debate

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April 28, 1980

Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State, Small Businesses):

Mr. Speaker, the government has not yet decided on a date to proceed with the implementation of the retail scales metric conversion program.

The previous government imposed a postponement of a minimum of one year on the continuation of scales conversion across the country. The weights and measures regulations setting conversion dates for the different areas covering the country were rescinded on February 19, 1980, but the provision for weighing and selling in metric still remains. In the three pilot areas almost all the food stores in Sherbrooke still retail in metric; in Kamloops about half of the stores switched

Adjournment Debate

back to pounds; and in Peterborough almost all stores are back to pounds.

The national co-ordinating body which planned this conversion is the working group on scales in the retail food industry. This body met on March 24 of this year and indicated the majority of the retail representation in the working group are prepared to recommend a start of scale conversion on January 1, 1981, provided that this receives the support of government regulation over the entire industry, and with a positive public attitude toward conversion created by that time.

The working group further gave its chairman a mandate to make the government aware of its concerns and, if its recommendations receive the approval and support of government, to recall the working group to implement a program of scale conversion covering the two-year period starting January 1, 1981.

The working group on scales is composed of representatives from the retail food and scales industries, and from consumers' groups. Associations represented include the Canadian Federation of Retail Grocers, the Retail Council of Canada, the Retail Merchants Association of Canada, and the Consumers' Association of Canada.

Note that weights and measures in Canada have been regulated under the Weights and Measures Act, through the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. The working group on scales responded to the view of food retailers and consumers that retail food scale conversion be supported by legislation in order to ensure an orderly conversion and fair and uniform advertising practices. The working group now recommends that the proposed new schedules should also be supported by regulations and by a reinforced promotional campaign.

Our review will consider the views of all the interested parties involved in the conversion of scales in the retail food industry.

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