Mr. O. L. Jones (Okanagan Boundary):
Mr. Speaker, the last two speakers have used their time in this debate to cover practically any subject they wished. Under those conditions I am going to deal with a subject that I am very interested in, since my constituents are worried about it at the present time. I refer to the fruit industry. I feel the federal government has a direct responsibility to the industry because in the 1930's, when the industry started to build up in Canada, the fruit-growers received government protection and encouragement. I would draw to the attention of the government the fact that this was included in the horticultural council's presentation made to the government within the last month or so. I would like to quote it:
The protection extended to the fruit and vegetable producers in the early thirties provided the incentive for expansion of production in Canada; an abundance of supply resulted in very reasonable price levels for Canadian consumers. The extent to which that protection against "dumping" has been whittled away, and the Canadian producer left exposed is the cause of the alarm today among Canadian producers, and prompts this "request for action".
It is this question of unfair competition, or so-called dumping, that still plays havoc with our industry that I should like to deal with, particularly in connection with soft fruits and vegetables. The government's present policy, and its definition of dumping, have proved useless in stopping the practice. Actually, it continues to increase, much to the detriment of our producers each year. Early this year the British Columbia fruit growers association passed the following resolution covering the same point, and with your permission, sir, I should like to quote from it:
Whereas heavy crop years in soft fruits occur simultaneously in the western United States and British Columbia, and
Whereas experience has shown that in such years American soft fruit surpluses are dumped indiscriminately on the Canadian market, thus completely disrupting and demoralizing the orderly marketing of the British Columbia crop, and
Whereas provision to prevent such dumping is made in the general agreement on tariffs and trade yet, because of the inadequately defined antidumping clause, enforcement is practically impossible :
The Budget-Mr. Jones
Therefore be it resolved by this 1957 B.C.F.G.A. convention that the executive be requested to petition immediately the federal government to have the anti-dumping clause of the general agreement on trade and tariffs rewritten and clarified so that the "prevailing price" in the country of origin may not be the price prevailing in any isolated local market but must be the average price prevailing in at least six principal markets in the country of origin.
Last year I suggested that dumping could be defined by accepting the Canadian cost of production as a yardstick and any importation at a price below that should be regarded as dumping.
In view of the unanimity shown by the whole organized fruit industry as displayed through their briefs and resolutions which have already been presented to the federal government, I trust the minister will take steps immediately to carry out their very reasonable requests.
I would like now to quote from the brief of the horticultural council. They say:
The nature or form of the competition to which our producers object most strenuously is imports at "distress" prices at the peak or clean-up of American harvesting which frequently collides with the commencement of Canadian harvesting. Under these conditions the American producer may have received a premium price, or at least a good average price on a large proportion of his crop, but his "clean-up" sales can set the market price for a very large proportion of the Canada crop of the same commodity, and prevent any possibility of the Canadian producer selling any portion of his crop at premium prices, or even benefiting to a normal extent from a short-crop condition that might exist in Canada.
No one can convince the farmer of the fairness or equity of a trade agreement which makes no realistic provision to protect a primary producer against this type of imports.
I am not going to take a great deal of time in dealing with this problem because I have already mentioned it and I think the minister is aware of the serious plight of farmers not only in British Columbia but in other parts of Canada through this unfair and unjust competition which is growing by leaps and bounds.
I would ask the minister to remember that at one time this industry flourished under the protection of the government and if they have the same interest now as they did then they should grant the industry the same protection which they accorded it in the past.
In line with my personal thoughts I would also suggest to the minister that a great deal could be done to protect the industry by setting up a board to provide for the orderly importing of fruit and vegetables, for instance through export-import boards, and the setting of appropriate quotas which will first enable the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry to plan for the future which they cannot do today; second, guarantee Canadian
The Budget-Mr. Jones consumers an economical supply of good quality fruit and vegetables at fair prices; and third, provide security for the fruit and vegetable farmers and workers in the industry. This will also ensure fair trades practices and prohibit the unfair dumping of fruit and vegetables into Canada at distressed prices.
I will conclude my remarks concerning dumping by asking the minister to read again the briefs presented by the two main bodies representing fruit farmers in Canada so that he can appreciate the extent of the damage that is being done to that industry.
The convention recently held in Penticton to which I referred earlier also asked for a price support for the fruit industry such as is already given to some sections of our agricultural industry including meat and poultry. I also mentioned their request for minimum support for the current year of at least 25 cents a box on fruit. I trust the government will give consideration to this request for immediate assistance. This industry is ailing but is not beyond recovery if the federal government will apply the necessary remedies. A floor price would be one valuable remedy which the government could apply to give a measure of stability and security to the growers.
Another resolution passed at the convention called for the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to farm workers and particularly orchard workers. I understand that this matter has been given consideration by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg) during the last year or two. Surely the department has found some solution to what appears to be a minor problem of administration. The benefits of this act at the present time are being denied to approximately 100,000 of our primary producers in Canada. I would ask the Minister of Labour to hasten the bringing in of necessary changes in the act in order to extend unemployment insurance benefits to a very essential group in our economy.
I would like now to request the Minister of Agriculture to extend the research work that is presently being carried out in our industry. I appreciate the splendid work that is being done at the present time but I feel that a great deal more could be done with by-products if adequate funds and suitable buildings and equipment were provided. In addition to research into byproducts research could be conducted in relation to marketing, packing and shipping.
I am pleased that at the present time there is a team composed of officers of the Department of Agriculture and members of
our industry who are carrying out research into packing, marketing and shipping in New Zealand and Australia. I hope that when they return with useful recommendations the government will adopt them.
Agriculture in general and those I represent seek just one thing, economic equality with labour and industry or, in other words, a fair share of our national wealth. While Canada as a whole is enjoying general prosperity I would point out that the benefits of this prosperity have not descended equally on all sections of Canada and especially those areas depending entirely on agriculture with the result that many of our smaller communities find it difficult to carry on with the necessary improvements.
I have in mind one such community that is faced with the urgent need to replace its entire irrigation system. For that purpose it has to borrow approximately $270,000 and must find this money on the open market probably at a very high rate of interest because it is a depressed area owing to loss through frost and other conditions that brought depression into the immediate neighbourhood. Failing this the community will have to abandon the whole plan which in this case would mean the ruination of the entire fruit industry in that particular area.
I contend that the Municipal Improvements Assistance Act should be reopened to take care of such areas as the one to which I have just referred. It is true, we might be told, that this act which made money available at 2 per cent for self-liquidating projects was designed to assist municipalities by making capital available at cheap interest during a period of crisis, but may I point out to the minister that a crisis exists today in some of our agricultural communities such as the one I mentioned.
I feel this act was a good one and if it was ever needed in Canada it is needed today to assist municipalities to cope with the increasing need for the building of necessary self-liquidating projects to take care of the natural growth of population and the influx of immigrants.
If the government is willing to reactivate this act to cover the whole of Canada much good could result. Failing that would it not be possible to reopen it as far as the distressed areas are concerned or, if it is the wish of the government, on a regional basis?
I know that after it was generally closed some years ago it was reopened in favour of Quebec when it had ceased to operate in other parts of Canada, and if an exception could be made in favour of Quebec at that time the same principle could apply to these distressed areas now.
I feel that the tight money policy which is now in effect has placed many municipalities in an impossible situation. The growing need for public works and the current cost of borrowing money has caused them to abandon many urgently necessary projects and this situation obtains right across Canada. The reopening of this act would be their salvation and would allow them to play their full role in supplying utilities in the fast growing urban areas.
I would now like to say a word or two on behalf of three groups who I am satisfied did not receive fair treatment in the budget. I refer to blind pensioners, widows of veterans and single veterans in receipt of war veterans allowance. I urge the minister to reconsider these three groups to see if something cannot be done to raise their standards of living to compare with those standards that have been raised slightly. I know from experience that it is almost impossible for a single veteran to maintain decent surroundings or a decent home and provide the necessary food, clothing and shelter on $60 a month. I urge the minister to reconsider the decision he came to with regard to these three groups because what I say about the veterans applies also to the blind pensioners and the widows of war veterans.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE