Mr. G. W. Montgomery (Victoria-Carleton):
Mr. Speaker, being a new member it is with hesitation that I venture to take part in this debate. I desire first to join other hon. members in extending my compliments and congratulations to the mover (Mr. Deslieres) and the seconder (Mr. Schneider) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne for the excellent manner in which they acquitted themselves in their first addresses to hon. members of this house. I certainly go along with the hon. member for Waterloo North in extending my compliments to the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi for his fluency in both French and English. It is an attainment which I should like to achieve even if in a much lesser degree. Having entered parliament on the same day as these two hon. members, I feel a friendly and neighbourly kinship toward them even though they appear to have been misled in their early political training. Nevertheless I am very glad to compliment them as I feel they made a good contribution to the debate and performed a service for their constituencies.
Just as the hon. member for Waterloo North spoke with pride of the industry, thrift, integrity and other qualities of the people of his constituency, I can likewise claim those qualities for the people of my constituency. Yes, I can claim them for both French and English. We live and work side by side and enjoy the best of relations. Like people in other parts of the maritimes we respect ourselves, we respect each other and share a common pride in our community life, in the industries and institutions which have been built up in the lands by the sea.
I should like at this time to pay a compliment to my predecessor, a man beloved by the people of my constituency to whom he gave unstinting service until his passing. Although in poor health during the last year he never spared himself and always put the interests of his people first. The loyal friendship of one's associates is an outstanding achievement, and that the late Mr. H. H. Hatfield attained.
I should also like to congratulate at this time the hon. member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair) and the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Campney) on their promotion to the cabinet. The hon. member for Coast-Capilano of course is no stranger to us in New Brunswick. He has been down there before, but now that he has become
Minister of Fisheries I am sure we will welcome him a great deal more because in the maritimes we are very much interested in his department.
Since becoming a member of this house I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches of hon. members. One cannot help but be conscious of the privilege and responsibility of helping to shape and build this vast country of ours which we are so proud to call Canada. The House of Commons is the nerve centre of our nation where east meets west and the central section is the host. The problems, privileges and obligations of the two great races in this vast area are discussed as well as the requirements of different sections of our country, and by a tolerant democratic method we hammer out on the anvil of good will laws that serve to unify this great land.
One cannot help but be inspired by the surroundings of parliament hill. On every hand you see evidence of statesmen who have, each in his own way, contributed to the building of Canada as a great democracy, a country which today in a very troubled world is an outstanding example of unity, tolerance and prosperity of people of different races, languages and habits.
This takes me back to my own constituency, a lovely section of New Brunswick lying in the beautiful Saint John river valley, settled and hewed from the wilderness by French and English speaking people who have continued to live in harmony side by side during the last 125 years. It is a portion of my province which we hope in the near future will become industrialized in large measure as a result of hydro development which at the present time is under study.
When I speak of "capital" you may think of property, stocks and bonds; but to the people of my province, and I think to the people of the maritimes generally, the word has another meaning. It is the capital of the spirit which is not only the basis of our economy but is our very way of life.
The people of my riding depend upon mixed farming, lumber and potatoes. As many hon. members know, potatoes have become a highly specialized crop with a great potential value on the one hand but a tremendous risk on the other. Potato raisers may become wealthy in a few years but just as quickly may face bankruptcy. There is something very fascinating about handling and raising potatoes. Large fields of potatoes in blossom are a beautiful picture, and when I refer to large fields I refer to hundreds of acres in some places.
This year the potato grower is very happy. His "spuds", as we call them, are a reasonably good price and are likely to remain
The Address-Mr. Montgomery so until the crop is cleaned up. However, it is a crop that cannot be carried over. The amount of money a potato farmer ties up annually in seed, fertilizer, spray materials, help and machinery is tremendous, to say nothing of his investment in land and necessary storage facilities. That is why in years of no market or low prices bankruptcy stares these men in the face and, make no mistake about it, the year 1950-51 put a lot of farmers on the rocks. They fell back on grain, hay and stock, but due to the drought this year hundreds of acres of the oat crop were not even harvested. In my constituency a good part of the grain crop that was harvested has not given more than a 50 per cent return. This season has created a difficult situation for the mixed farmer. He has no grain to sell, but still worse he is faced with the prospect of having to buy feed or dispose of his stock. Either of these possibilities would be disastrous and, notwithstanding the hardship of the coming winter, they will face another seeding season empty-handed. A situation such as we are facing this season in my constituency is discouraging, to say the least. Those who were able to finance a potato crop last spring are having a feast, while the mixed farmer is facing a famine.
Our farmers have no market for hay, and no substantial market for beef or pork. However, the farmers are hopeful now that the United States government has announced its intention of lifting the embargo in the near future. This may afford an outlet for our hay, but the farmers have been reducing their hog production.
The farmers inform me that when the English market was lost, there was no other to take its place. It is for this reason that the farmers in my province are hoping something good will come out of the commonwealth prime ministers' conference now being held in London which the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) are attending. The people will follow the proceedings closely, because they want to see the United Kingdom markets reopened to Canadian farm products. The leading daily newspaper in New Brunswick, the Telegraph-Journal, after mentioning in its issue of November 26 that the Prime Minister had left for London, stated:
The meeting he will attend, the commonwealth prime ministers' conference opening in London on Thursday (the 27th), will be the biggest thing of its kind since the Ottawa conference of 1932.
We in the maritimes must have outside markets, markets that can be relied upon year after year. The farmers in my part of the province will tell you-in fact they have told me-that the United States market is not reliable. If the United States is short of
390 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Montgomery a commodity it is easy to enter their market, but ordinarily they are our greatest competitor in world markets for agricultural commodities. While they may be friendly rivals, they are nevertheless ruthless and businesslike in all their dealings. I am informed that the farm lobby in Washington is one of the most potent political forces in United States politics, ever on the alert to. see that Canadian producers get a minimum of access to the United States food market. For these reasons and others, no long-term scheme for absorbing Canadian surplus production can be arranged with the United States.
I should like to remind hon. members of this house that when our farmers are unfortunate enough to lose their grain crops because of drought, as many in my riding lost their grain crop this year, there is no relief such as the western farmer may receive under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act. I understand, of course, that the western farmers make a contribution under that act. It was for this reason, Mr. Speaker, that in my opening remarks I referred to "the capital of the spirit". The farmers of my province have to meet the ups and downs of uncertain markets by ingenuity in finding ways and means of carrying on and providing such prosperity and security as may be obtained through hard work, long hours and strict economy.
It is understandable, therefore, why we in the provinces by the sea are vitally interested in markets for agricultural commodities. We realize that any agricultural policy for Canada must be elastic because of our vast area and the different conditions and requirements of each area. But I must say, Mr. Speaker, and I think I fairly represent the opinion of the farmers of my province, they feel it is the responsibility of the government to do everything possible in finding and developing export markets as well as assisting in the home market.
Agriculture, industry and trade are very much tied together in this world of varying monetary systems and different standards of living. While it is recognized that the hon. members responsible have no easy task, nevertheless, because it is a vital matter to our primary producers, I am sure that all hon. members are fervently hoping for some tangible agreement under which commonwealth trade will start to flow more freely. If such an agreement is made, perhaps some form of permanent trade arrangement may be made that will provide a reliable and profitable outlet for our farmers' products. We are hoping that these results will flow from the conference now taking place in
London, in which our own Prime Minister will no doubt play a prominent role.
Having listened with interest to the speeches thus far, I felt compelled to take part in this debate in order to bring to the hon. members of this house the views of many people in my constituency, and to place their problems and difficulties before you. I feel that the solution of many of the problems of my province lies in an agricultural policy of some permanence, so that our small, mixed farmers may proceed to develop their lands on a planned economy which will give them a feeling of security and contentedness.
In conclusion I should like to say a word or two concerning a national health scheme. There is nothing in the speech from the throne that would grant the ordinary citizen relief from taxation or give him some feeling of comfort and protection in matters of health. As the hon. member for Haldimand (Mr. Catherwood) so well stated, there is nothing in the speech from the throne that would indicate "relief and the end of the sacrifices of the past few years". Since there appears to be no hope that the ordinary fellow who lives around the corner or across the tracks will receive better treatment, I commend my leader for proposing the amendment to the speech from the throne, and I can wholeheartedly support it.
Let me repeat what I said a few minutes ago. We are here as representatives of all parts of Canada to make laws, but according to the tolerant democratic method. This is the highest level of government in our country, and is often referred to as the federal government. How did this federal government become a reality? How did our constitution in Canada come into being? Was it not by consultation and agreement? Did not the representatives of various sections of this country get together and work out an agreement on which the British North America Act was based?
That was over 80 years ago, and many things have changed in 80 years. There have been changes that have created many problems that were never dreamed of then. In the light of such changes, further consultation among the partners in confederation-the provinces and the federal government- should again take place, in an atmosphere of tolerance and give and take, in order to sincerely try to arrive at a solution that will benefit all the people at various levels of government.
I know there have been conferences, but rightly or wrongly the people of my province -and I believe the same is true in many other provinces-feel that the federal government
is not meeting the provinces half-way. They feel that the dominion government is taking the lion's share of the national revenue. I say this, Mr. Speaker, because I believe it expresses the feeling of the people. After all, Ottawa is a long way from the homes of most citizens of Canada but the municipal government is on their doorstep, even closer than the provincial government; it therefore can be more closely supervised and more easily understood.
All governments realize, or should, that there is a limit beyond which taxation should not go unless there is a national emergency. But a proper distribution of such revenues is the problem upon which there has not been agreement. As I see it, that is the reason for my leader's amendment. If it were not so, why would a group representing the mayors of cities in every part of Canada be appearing before this government? While this group represents only the cities, other municipalities have problems which are just as serious. Coming as I do from a small town, and having had considerable interest in rural municipalities, I know that the problems with regard to education, hospital and medical care or health services are tremendous. It is growing beyond the resident taxpayers' ability to provide these services, even with all the assistance that comes from provincial governments, part of which in turn comes from Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going into all the reasons that have helped to create this heavy burden. Suffice it for me to say that it is a live issue. Many people cannot afford to have the necessaries of our standard of living, let alone to be sick. No one is ill by choice. Illness comes like a thief in the night. Sooner or later, on account of illness, anyone may be faced with obligations that he just cannot pay. It is no answer to tell these poor people: "Sorry; the municipality must look after you. It is their problem." As far as the legal responsibility is concerned, they know that they are part of the municipality. They also know that the municipality has not the wherewithal to help them.
I like the expression coined by my colleague the hon. member for Ontario (Mr. Starr) when he said that our democracy should work like a family; that the federal government is considered the senior or daddy of the family, so the lesser lights look to daddy. Is there much wonder that they do so, in view of the tremendous sums of revenue collected by daddy? This is why the mayors of cities are waiting upon this government. Unless some logical rearrangement satisfactory to all governments is worked out, the delegations will not be confined to representatives
The Address-Mr. Studer of the cities. I am no alarmist. In my humble way I am trying to bring to the attention of the government some of the problems of the ordinary people who feel that they have been forgotten.
Before closing I think it fair that I should place myself on record in reference to the amendment to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Cold-well). As I understand the constitutional issue and set-up, it seems to me that the government is being asked to do something which it is not yet in a position to carry out, namely to bring down at this session legislation providing for a national health insurance program. I am not convinced that sufficient groundwork has been done and that a common formula has been worked out with the provinces. Hence I cannot see my way clear to support the amendment to the amendment. But that fact does not in the least indicate that I am opposed to a sound health scheme. On the contrary, I am fully in accord with a scheme worked out jointly between the dominion and the provincial governments as a national health program in order to bring to families in the low and the ordinary income brackets-yes, possibly to all-the assurance that they will receive the necessary medical and hospital care when required, without the worry and hardship entailed in having to pay the bill.
At six o'clock the house took recess.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY