Mr. Lambert (Bellechasse):
He then described our country. When we speak of a united Canada, united culturally and in our common efforts to develop and expand the country, I am entirely in agreement. But the provincial premier said that Canada is divided into two sectors, one rich and the other economically weak.
Mr. Speaker, I belong to the latter. I happen to represent a part of this economically weak sector, and I would like to make my contribution and to co-operate, working hand in hand with my colleagues. By co-operating with the government, we will find effective solutions which will give results. The people will then no longer think that we only come here to pass the time, without any intention of producing results.
Mr. Speaker, there is an exceedingly serious problem in the field of agriculture which is in urgent need of a solution, or else it will play us a nasty trick.
There is now some talk of importing certain products which people need to feed themselves. Unfortunately, in my opinion, if we keep on the course that we already have taken, it will not be long before we shall have to import more of those products.
When a country has to turn to others for its own subsistence, then it loses its freedom.
Farmers in the province of Quebec are said to be inefficient, unable to plan their production, unable to set the course of their business. Those same charges were made from 1930 to 1939, when the prices of farm products were at their lowest. Farmers indeed were being discouraged because they were unable to earn adequate revenues.
Of course, production dwindled, and that was normal. When a businessman, or a manufacturer is not in a position to make some profit, he becomes disheartened and is compelled to give up.
However, Mr. Speaker, this was not the truth. What was true is this: in 1939, when war broke out, we called on our farmers to do their war effort. Intensive production committees were set up in every community. I was the chairman of one of those committees, and I used to hold informal meetings with local farmers to incite them to produce more butter, cheese, eggs and various meats. We succeeded in increasing the production of those goods by offering the farmers higher prices, as well as the possibility, the hope of at least earning their livelihood.
One or two sons were taken away from them, Mr. Speaker, for military training.
September 20, 1968
Eastern Canadian farmers, Quebec farmers, proved their efficiency, since they answered the call of their government, of their country, and generously made their war effort.
Mr. Speaker, this prosperous situation enjoyed by the farmers in the post-war years continued until about the 50's when the marketing of our products was adequate enough. However, since 1951, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, the farming conditions of Quebec farmers have deteriorated from year to year. They did to such an extent that, in 1968, according to some D.B.S. figures published in La Terre de Chez Nous, a weekly publication of the province of Quebec, it is shown that the net income of Quebec farmers, calculated on constant dollars, has decreased since 1951 in spite of a remarkable increase in productivity. In fact it has almost tripled. Therefore, the net farm income per unit which amounted to $1940 in 1951 had decreased in 1967 to $1684 constant dollars.
Note that these figures include the farmer's remuneration for his work, his administration, as well as for his net investment in his farm, that is more than $2,500 in 1967. This net property, capitalized at 5 per cent, would alone absorb more than $1,250 per year, which leaves barely $434 per farm in Quebec as working and management income.
Mr. Speaker, the disastrous situation of the farmer in eastern Quebec, stems from something, and one of the main causes lies in that the products used by farmers have increased, by 60 per cent from 1951 to 1967 while the price of agricultural produce has increased by only 17 per cent.
What is worse is that, in the meantime, the cost of living in eastern Canada kept going up to such an extent that at the end of 1967, it was one third higher than in 1957.
Mr. Speaker, some people complain sometimes because the farmers want more for their products, and when they make representations to get higher prices, some uninformed people might think that they are going too far.
So that producers and consumers can agree once and for all, they should stop accusing each other and quarrelling and try to rectify the situation.
I have here a small half pint container of cream, with 18 per cent fat, which I bought in Ottawa this week. I paid 34 cents for it and the producer-and I am happy to say publicly to that I am one-gets only a small fraction of that amount. On the other hand, 29180-191
The Address-Mr. Adrien Lambert the manufacturer of the container, the printer, and the selling companies get more for the container and its handling than the value of the contents paid to producers, but the consumer is unaware of that. We do not have the support of the consumer when we want to assert, in an honest way, the legitimate rights of the farmer or the producer.
The situation is the same for soft drinks. Mr. Speaker, has it ever occurred to people that 40 ounces sell for 50 cents, if we consider that an 8 ounce bottle costs 10 cents. At the present price of milk, farmers and producers of manufacturing milk, receive approximately $4.80 a hundredweight which represents 12 cents a quart. Imagine; 12 cents for 40 ounces of milk. However, one must pay 50 cents for 40 ounces of soft drinks.
I am interested in the consumer because I have children, I am myself a consumer. I tell you that we must do something for him in a common effort to establish a just society.
[DOT] (3:00 p.m.)
I am referring again to the establishment of a just society, of the just society, just for everyone including the small wage-earner. Mr. Speaker, I live among the poor people, I have always lived among those who have to work, on account of their circumstances. Therefore, I can tell you this: Today, I know all those problems, I am here the spokesman of the poor people, but I do not know what it is to work with you all, so that in the light of the requirements of each and everyone, we could do something.
Mr. Speaker, has the farmer any rights or has he only obligations in Canada? What are the obligations of the farmers, what are the obligations of the agricultural class? They are to cut down the trees in the forest, in an effort to make a farm out of it. This has always been done in Canada: My forefathers and yours did it. Before the building in which we are gathered was erected, there were but trees on this site. They are men like the one who is speaking to you, as many others in Canada, who have worked manually to fell forests and tried to make the Canadian soil fertile in order to feed mankind. Such is the nature of the obligation, such is our duty, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that we have rather creditably discharged it. Even when it is not profitable, cows are milked, crops are reaped and stored in order to keep them and make them available to Canadian citizens.
Mr. Speaker, this is our responsibility. Those are our obligations to the community, but I consider that there is never any obligation and responsibility without corresponding
September 20, 1968
The Address-Mr. Alexander rights. And the right for the farming class is that of a vital minimum; it is the right of a farmer to have an income enabling him to earn honourably his family's living. The farmer has a right to have enough revenue to pay for public services, like everyone else. They ask no special favours. If, two weeks from now, it should cost 6 cents to mail a letter, the farmer will pay 6 cents. If it costs $3 to get a tooth fixed, the farmer will pay $3. We are glad to pay the price, but in order to be able to meet the prices asked left and right, we have to have enough money. The farmer has a right to it, and that is why I am asking today whether something could be done about this. I am expressing myself as best I can, with the vocabulary at my disposal-for society did not give me much, and I do not have much of a university education, but at least I tried to get an understanding of the French language and arithmetic. If something could be done about this problem, it would help my fellow-citizens and perhaps my own family.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for the support of all
parties in this house to try to get some justice, not ten or twenty years from now, but as soon as possible, within a few months, so that the dairy farmers, the producers of manufacturing milk, may get at least a guaranteed price of $5.50 a hundredweight. That is not going to ruin anybody. Mr. Speaker-
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY