Mr. MacKENZIE (Lambton-Kent):
necessarily a controlled press. If a member wants to send out a message to the people, he can do so. It should not cost very much. If it is important enough to send out, it is important enough to warrant postage being paid on it.
Agriculture presents the greatest economic problem facing us to-day, although our economic problems are at present in a secondary place compared with the great problem of winning the war. The wheat board act has come in for a great deal of discussion. If I recollect correctly, it was passed around July 4, 1935, just prior to a general election. Hon. members can draw their own conclusions as to why that was done. That act provided for an initial price for wheat throughout the three prairie provinces. I ask hon. members to compare prices which prevailed in 1914, the year just prior to the last war, with those which prevailed in 1939, the year just prior to this war. Average commodity prices were higher in 1914 than they were in 1939, but the cost of labour and of manufactured articles which enter into the cost of production has increased by a quarter, a half, and in some instances it has doubled. We have an economic unbalance which must be rectified. Are we going to do that by lowering the standard of living or by attempting to bring commodity prices into line with the increased cost of production? This is something we shall have to work out.
The price of 70 cents a bushel which has been set is not satisfactory. Some hon.
Canadian Wheat Board
members have advocated that it should be SI, or even $1.25, and I am quite in accord with that. I know that wheat cannot be produced profitably at 70 cents a bushel. I know Ontario better than I do the west, and I am quite sure wheat cannot be produced in that province as cheaply as it can be in the west. We have fertilizer costs to consider; our taxes are higher, and our cost of labour is greater. If we are going to achieve an economic balance; if we are going to be sound economically, we must restore the purchasing power of the agriculturists. I think it is realized by most people that the purchasing power of agriculture offers great possibilities, but this purchasing power has been reduced in recent years. Conditions in Ontario do not differ greatly from those in other provinces, and there are many farms that need home conveniences, new machinery, fencing and many other things. If the purchasing power of the farmer can be increased our economic problem will be solved.
If we cannot procure profitable markets for our primary products, then we shall have to work out a planned economy of some kind to take care of our cost of living. Since 1935 hon. members to my extreme left have been clamouring for more and more, particularly in connection with wheat. I think they take themselves too seriously. Farmers all over Canada are having a hard time. I know something about farming conditions in Ontario. I will not say whether I am a farmer or not, but I notice, according to the list of members of this parliament that only thirty-seven are listed as farmers. Some of them are dirt farmers; some may be hobby or gentlemen farmers, but there are only thirty-seven out of the 245.
In Ontario over fifty per cent of the farms are mortgaged for more than fifty per cent of their value. These mortgages total $200,000,000, and their chattel mortgages amount to over $20,000,000. Conditions on the farm are gradually getting worse and our farmers are finding it more difficult to carry on. When a man has taken care of his interest charges and his operating expenses, he finds he can barely get by. It is estimated that in Canada there are approximately 760,000 farmers, and an hon. member has told us that there are 290,000 in the west. That leaves approximately
470.000 in the rest of the country. These
470.000 farmers are living under the same tariff conditions from one end of Canada to the other. I have no brief for the manufacturers. They are well organized and can look after themselves, but when hon. gentlemen
talk about the west paying so much to eastern industrialists, I say that that affects farming conditions very little.
Let us look at this problem from a Canadian point of view if we can, and not simply from a provincial point of view. The world's markets for wheat have been slipping for some years. They were slipping prior to the war. Everybody knows that in 1938 we had great difficulty in selling our wheat because the markets were not there. France used to be a great importer of wheat, but she had come to be an exporter, and Italy's position was the same. One might have thought that these countries would have been buying wheat to store it, but they did not do that. They started out to grow their own foodstuffs, because years ago they could see this great struggle in Europe looming up, and so they tried to put themselves on a self-supporting basis. The result was that our market for wheat had gone before the war came. When the war is over and we get back to normal conditions, on a basis of barter and trade, perhaps we can get our markets back again. I do not know, but I think it is time that we should use every possible means to curtail and control the production of wheat.
In 1938 we produced 336,000,000 bushels of wheat and the price was set at 80 cents, Fort William. The agents of the government endeavoured to sell our wheat to the best advantage and sought markets all over the world. But they could not sell all that wheat. The consequence was that from $50,000,000 to $60,000,000 had to be taken out of the consolidated revenue fund to subsidize that 80 cent wheat, and, by the way, all of that wheat is not sold yet.
Along with that, in 1938 there was paid out to western Canada relief amounting to $22,000,000. Wheat at 70 cents a bushel nets the farmer 50 cents. Ontario grows wheat too, from 20,000,000 to 22,000,000 bushels a year. It is a cash crop. They sold their wheat in 1938 at the market price, and this means that we are taking part of that Ontario wheat sold at the market price to subsidize the sale of western Canada wheat.
As to relief, anybody who needs relief should receive it, I do not care where they are; if they are trying to get along and cannot make a living, they should get relief. I am sorry to have to draw attention to this matter, but the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Johnston) said that the people of the west did not want charity; that they did not want that kind of fish sent out to them. I can remember that back in 1936 I was organizing the countryside to get carloads of vegetables and foodstuffs of all kinds to send to western Canada. I thought they needed it, and I
Canadian Wheat Board
think in many instances they appreciated it, but evidently, to judge from what has been said in the house, they did not.
In 1939 western Canada grew a crop of
465,000,000 bushels of wheat. A price of 70 cents a bushel, Fort William, was set, which nets the farmer 50 cents. We paid out under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act, $10,000,000; for rehabilitation, $3,500,000; and for material aid and assistance, $8,500,000, or a total of $22,000,000.
The hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Nicholson) the other night asked, What are the western members to do; they cannot go home and explain the conditions to their people? But I think, if they went home and told the people of the west what the world situation was in regard to wheat and the problem which Canada has in disposing of this wheat, and if they tried to get a little more unity in Canada, we should be able to make much further progress, with our war effort.
I oppose the removal of the 5,000 bushel limit. I think it should be 2,000 bushels. If there are 290,000 farmers growing wheat in western Canada, and each one grows 2,000 bushels, this will mean a crop of 580,000,000 bushels. Probably some of them are small farmers who are not growing wheat. There will be truck farmers, for instance, around Winnipeg and other cities who are listed as farmers but who will not be growing wheat. Nevertheless the bulk of those 290,000 farmers are growing wheat. Yet in spite of all the wheat we grew last year, and in spite of the present surplus, we have seeded to wheat in Canada this year an extra acreage of approximately 1,500,000 acres.
From my point of view the government of Canada has been very fair, even liberal, to our western friends both in the handling of their wheat and in coming to their assistance, and I cannot for the life of me see how the west has much to complain about. Some of them are asking that we bonus them to grow wheat. The government policy apparently is to bonus them to grow wheat and also bonus them not to grow it. If western Canada can grow 460,000,000 bushels of wheat in a year, surely it can grow something else. Surely it can grow vegetables and raise cattle. Surely it is not necessary for western members to come back here year after year and say: If we cannot get support for our wheat, our people will have to go on relief. It is hard for me to understand how they can so insistently, consistently, and persistently, day after day, ask the government for more and more assistance when they cannot help knowing that farming conditions elsewhere are fully as bad. I know the wheat problem is hard to
[Mr. H. A. MacKenzie.l
handle, but the government cannot be expected to guarantee everything with respect to the growing of wheat. The western farmers want their crops guaranteed against frost, hail, rust and drought. One hon. member wanted all those things guaranteed.
But what is the picture to-day?
On July 17, according to the report of the board, we had a carryover of wheat amounting to around 282,000,000 bushels. We have a crop estimated-I know that estimates may vary-to produce another 400,000,000 bushels. That is, we have a prospective holding of
682,000,000 bushels of wheat. If we subtract from that 100,000,000 bushels for domestic use, we have 582,000,000 bushels for export. Where are we going to market it? Great Britain for all purposes does not import more than about 200,000,000 bushels a year. This is a Canadian problem and we should look at it as Canadians. I say: Grow wheat, yes, but curtail and control the production of wheat until we have more evidence as to prospective markets than we have to-day.
The leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) said that after war there is famine; after famine, pestilence, and after that what? I do not know. But I know that before the war, Europe, with the exception of Great Britain, was almost on a self-supporting basis as far as wheat is concerned. Europe may become self-supporting again after the war, with regard to wheat; I do not know. But I do say that the western farmers cannot go on continuing to pile up surpluses of wheat at the expense of the dominion.
In conclusion, I assure the house that I want to be fair, and I think we should look at this question as Canadians who are concerned with a Canadian problem. I should like some of my hon. friends who consistently ask for more and more because their people are not prosperous, to take a trip to Halifax and see some of our farmers in the maritime provinces. Or I could take them to farmers in Ontario who are eking out a bare existence, but nevertheless are paying their taxes and keeping off relief. Are you going to ask such men as these, who compose many of our eastern farmers, to contribute to a wheat bonusing proposition in the west? I do not think it is fair.
I believe that the western farmer has been treated fairly in respect of the wheat situation I hope he will be able to get more for his product. But I contend that agriculture must be helped as a whole; you cannot isolate one part of the country from another. Our hon.
Canadian Wheat Board
friends to the extreme left are not doing justice to their great province by continually talking about the numbers of their people who are starving on relief.
Topic: CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS ARISING OUT OF LOSS OF OVERSEAS MARKETS, EXISTING STOCKS AND HANDLING OF 1940 CROP-INITIAL PAYMENT OF 70 CENTS