Mr. Georges Villeneuve (Roberval):
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to thank the government and more particularly the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris), on behalf of the people of the constituency of Roberval, for the tax reduction announced in the last budget. Such a reduction, coming in a year
in which no election is in prospect, is proof of the sincerity of the Canadian government towards the Canadian taxpayer, as well as of its desire to stimulate the economy of this country.
It can therefore be expected that the load the taxpayer has to bear will grow lighter and lighter and that the government's policy will continue to be progressive.
Still I would like to call the attention of the Minister of Finance to the plight of the dealers in cars and other motor vehicles, who put in large stocks of vehicles to meet the heavy springtime demand and are now incurring heavy losses.
Since dairying is the basic farming industry in my district and constituency, I wish to express to the government, and more particularly to the right hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) my thanks, and those too of my farmer constituents, for heeding our urgent appeals and deciding to extend for a further year the support price of butter at 58 cents a pound. The farming people of my constituency are now going through a period of difficulties and are grateful to the government for maintaining this precious assistance. By looking after the farmers, the government is helping to maintain the economy of our country. The welfare of our farmers greatly affects that of all the other classes of society, because they are its most stable element.
The Catholic farmers' union of the Saguenay region has asked me to thank the government on its behalf for that decision which will be beneficial to them. They are particularly in favour of that price support program. So, as the representative of that county, among the four which constitute our region, where agriculture plays the greatest role, I am glad to convey those thanks to the government, and the right hon. Minister of Agriculture in particular, whose good will towards our farmers is very well known.
As a sequel to the speech I made in this house on March 30, 1954, and in which I urged the government to take the required steps to have Canada join the Pan-American Union, I wish to point out that during the Easter recess, on April 14 to be more exact, all the other countries on the American continent celebrated what has come to be known as the "Day of the Americas".
On that occasion, the parliaments of the 21 nations belonging to that organization take part in those popular festivities and proclaim
The Budget-Mr. Villeneuve their faith in the ideals which have made it possible to strengthen continental solidarity.
Since the far distant time when Simon Bolivar called together the Panama congress, in 1826, our continental neighbours have come a long way. After a number of conferences, they first set up the international bureau of American republics in 1890, then the PanAmerican Union in 1910, and finally the Organization of American States in 1948, at the time of the historical Bogota conference.
It can be said that more than once those continental conferences and the peaceful work of the Pan-American Union have been used as tests and even as an inspiration for research and work to ensure the fellowship of man and peace among the nations of this continent.
Although Canada so far has held aloof officially from that great Pan-American movement, I think I should point out that she has often taken part in the proceedings of specialized agencies from the first medical conference held in Washington in 1893 up to the economic conference held in Rio de Janeiro in November 1954.
Canadian delegates also took part in the work of continental organizations, like the Pan-American health board, the geographical commission of the Pan-American institute for geography and history and the inter-American institute of statistics, which held its convention in our Canadian capital, here in Ottawa, in the fall of 1952.
For all these reasons and in the name of continental solidarity, I think it is fitting that Canadians join, at least in spirit, in this feeling of pacific co-operation, anticipating a closer association in the near future with the sister nations of the three Americas, when Canada will take amongst them the seat set aside for this country since the birth of the Pan-American movement.
Until now, the federal government has given a good example to the country's employers by generally paying its employees well. Yet, I might bring to the government's attention and more particularly to the attention of the post office authorities an anomaly concerning the salary paid to rural mail carriers and more particularly to those of the Roberval district.
At the present time, rural 'mail carriers in my country are paid an average of 20 cents a travelled mile. In view of the difficulties pertaining to that service, especially in winter and during the spring thaw, this rate is proving inadequate. Not enough considera-
3376 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Villeneuve tion is given to the fact that in various districts in the province of Quebec heavy snowfalls block the roads and increase the difficulties of rural mail delivery to the point where rural mail carriers have to put in four or five hours more on the road than during the summer season. As a result, these men are unable to do other work and, moreover, have to spend more on vehicle repairs and maintenance and, at times, have to rent expensive snowmobiles when winter storms make the use of cars impracticable.
As a result of the present system, tenderers bid prices that are too low. This tends to breed carelessness on the part of many contractors and, sometimes, favours the hiring of incompetent people. Serious dutiful contractors become discouraged and give up their routes, with consequent necessary replacements, mistakes and lack of service. Localities in remote areas, the most poorly provided for, are precisely those with the greatest need for rural mail service; they are also those where contractors have the largest deficits and where service is poorest.
Following an investigation carried out in my constituency, where lumbering is of primary importance, may I be allowed to offer a few suggestions with regard to the government's wish to review unemployment insurance legislation.
To my mind the primary object of the act, at this time, should be to extend unemployment insurance benefits to as large a number of people as possible.
As far as workers in the lumber trade are concerned, it would be better if the slack season were considered to extend from May 1 to September 30 instead of April 1 to September 30. There is very little lumbering activity in April, and very little either on the farm. Driving operations are generally carried out between May 15 and July 15. Should 160 days instead of 180 be required, lumbermen could receive benefits during April, when their needs are particularly great and work very hard to find.
As far as farmers are concerned, I believe that the off-season should be extended from October 1 to April 30, rather than March 31, and that an inquiry should be made to ascertain whether they have worked in an insurable employment during the active season, rather than ask them to make the present declaration in order to find out if their annual income has exceeded $2 net
per day, so as to decide if agriculture is their main occupation. The method in use at present makes it too easy to present false claims and calls for penalties of such a nature as to create a great deal of trouble for people from whom a strict and orderly accounting cannot be expected.
These changes would, I am sure, help extend the benefits of unemployment insurance to all classes of citizens, which would be a great boon to farmers and lumbermen in particular over whose welfare I am especially concerned.
Mr. Chairman, as a native of the Lake St. John district, whose inhabitants have been given the nickname "the blueberries"-one that I accept with pride-I deem it appropriate, today, to call the attention of the right hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) to the acute problem raised by the marketing of that wild fruit which, though found elsewhere in the province of Quebec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river, in the Abitibi and the Timis-kaming regions for instance, seems to thrive particularly in my district and especially in my constituency.
Blueberry picking has given such a return in the past that it has been called "the blue manna". And Roberval county is the greatest producer of blueberries in this country, which is why I must pay special attention to that question.
Besides its economic value, blueberry picking has a sentimental aspect, having even inspired musings of the highest poetical level, such as are found in "Maria Chapdelaine" and in "Menaud-Maitre-draveur".
My colleague from Lake St. John (Mr. Gauthier) having put on the order paper of the house a resolution dealing with the marketing of blueberries, I will only touch on that subject today. Besides the aforementioned districts in the province of Quebec, we see that the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland are all interested in blueberry picking, which means that this question is getting more important all the time.
As a rule, blueberries are picked in the woods or on crown lands which are not supposed to be tillable. The people all go out and pick them more or less at random, because blueberry fields vary so much from year to year, and prices fluctuate considerably.
Our farmers' and workers' families, especially the larger ones, derive from blueberry
picking a revenue which often brings them security. In some cases a man will travel a hundred miles with his wife and eight children, to pick blueberries. That is an almost unique industry where a child is able to help increase his parents' revenue.
If I rise tonight, it is to urge upon the government the importance of that matter and attempt to arouse its interest in advance of the next picking season, which is likely to be next August and September.
I know this is mainly the responsibility of the provincial government, but I feel that joint legislation is called for.
As about 80 per cent of our blueberries are exported to the United States, I think the federal government, whose jurisdiction extends to interprovincial and international markets, will no doubt want to do its share.
In order to have an idea of the lack of stability on the blueberry market, I think I might well mention that, with regard to the crops of 1953 and 1954 in my district, each averaging about 10 million pounds, the price paid to the pickers was 20 cents a pound in 1953, and 10 cents in 1954. As to the demand, it remained more or less the same. It was good. This shows the lack of security of the pickers. It is due to several factors, some of which can be attributed to the pickers themselves, and others to the trade which is becoming less competitive from year to year, and lastly to the difficulties of marketing.
At Dolbeau, in my constituency, there is a blueberry freezing plant. That is the best method of packing this fruit for the market.
For the present, I shall ask but one thing from the Department of Agriculture: the
establishment of a blueberry plant, under the supervision of horticulturists, under the jurisdiction of the federal experimental farm at Normandin, in my constituency. Pickers are taking an increasing interest in the growing of blueberries and as this crop is practically in its first phase, it is important that a special investigation be made on the spot. At Normandin, the soil is suitable for such an enterprise. I know that a similar experiment has been made at Tower hill in Charlotte county, New Brunswick, but since soil conditions and the consistency of the fruit are quite different, a similar experiment in the best Quebec blueberry growing district would be greatly beneficial I am sure to the people of the district who derive from blueberry picking between 2 and 2J million dollars per year
The Budget-Mr. Bryson and who are anxious to increase their earnings. I know that such an undertaking would endow our horticulture with a fruit which, until now, has been picked in its wild state. Our people are anxious to see this undertaking carried out as soon as possible.
Topic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic: TABLE 4-CLASSIFICATION OF THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION OF MAPLE SYRUP IN THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC, 1949-1954