Earlier this afternoon, the minister put on the record certain figures indicating the number of farmers who were taking cash advances in western Canada. I will be one of the first to say that the cash advance legislation introduced by the Conservative government in the late fiftiesi was a very worth-while piece of legislation. I think hon. members of the Conservative party will acknowledge that the C.C.F. had also been trying to impress on a former Liberal government of the late fifties that such legislation should be implemented. It was incredible that the minister would cite the figures showing how much had been taken up in cash advances as something of which to be proud. To me, that is one of the best means of showing there is a serious cash position on the prairies. The more that is taken by way of cash advances, the more we should be worrying and shuddering about the prospects for repayment.
The number of farmers in Manitoba who took advantage of the cash advance legislation last year was very small. This year, I am informed the number of farmers who have taken out cash advances has increased by a factor of 10, ten times as many as was the case in preceding years. To me, that is a sign
of danger. The minister should not point to that as a defence.
I realize part of the problem facing agriculture in the west has to do with declining international sales, plugged markets and declining prices. I suggest to the minister there are some specific steps that should be taken. The government must try to help the Canadian Wheat Board in its task of promoting the sale of Canadian wheat. I suggest the sales staff of this organization should be supplemented. How many men are actually engaged as salesmen exclusively of the Canadian Wheat Board? It is a very small number. The number should be increased, either directly under the aegis of the Wheat Board or indirectly by using Canadian trade personnel at Canadian trade bureaus overseas as supplementary agents of the Wheat Board.
[DOT] (5:50 p.m.)
At a time of crisis, that is the least that should be done. For how long are we going to continue with a state of affairs in which the actual transactions for our entire export sales of wheat are dependent upon five or six international concerns? The minister knows to which ones I am referring-the Dreyfus Corporation, the Bungy Corporation, the Carghill Corporation of Minneapolis, and one or two others. To them, it is of little concern whether they are handling Canadian wheat or some other country's. The government has not taken the initiative to see that a Canadian corporation is established that would become engaged in precisely this kind of work. I suggest this should be done.
There is nothing to stop the minister from impressing upon his cabinet colleagues the seriousness of the situation, and the amount of money required to tide the prairie economy over this most difficult of times. There is nothing to stop him from getting the agreement of his colleagues to assist whatever entrepreneurship exists in Canada to set up an international trading agency.
I am sure the minister has enough facts and figures to back up his case. Why isn't he doing it? He is not in a weak position. He is one of the few Liberal cabinet ministers from the prairies. He is one of the few Liberal members of parliament from the prairies, and his colleagues must surely know that unless he is given some co-operation and authority there will be even fewer after the next election.
There is one other matter which I must refer to at this time. It is the way in which
May 1, 1969
the minister, inadvertently or otherwise, distorted what was said by my colleague relative to the matter of dairy quotas. To my knowledge, no one in this party or in the party to my right suggested that we were in favour of regionalization of dairy production or wanted to see any barriers against the interprovincial movement of dairy products No one said that.
But the minister must admit that since the establishment of the National Dairy Commission something serious has come to light. I refer to the fact that over the past two years the prairies' share of the national dairy quota pool has declined by 11 per cent to 12 per cent. The minister may say that, relatively speaking, dairying is not all that important to the prairies.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY