Mr. A. P. Gleave (Saskatoon-Biggar):
Mr. Speaker, the minister gave us some advance warning that finally he was going to bring some legislation into this House, for on Friday last he issued a whole clutch of news releases. I did not know which was going to come first in his plans, an election or some legislation. This House has been in session during this 29th parliament for close to two years, during which time the minister has changed the direction of the marketing practices of the Canadian Wheat Board for domestic grain, practically without the benefit of legislation. Now that the government stands on the edge of defeat because of its mismanagement of Canadian affairs, its unwillingness to meet the problems of Canadians resulting from the cost of living, and its high-handed action in regard to grain marketing, the government finally brings in some legislation to double the amount of cash advance to farmers in the event that they cannot sell their grain.
Are we being given a preview of the minister's thinking? Is the minister concerned for our future grain sales to the extent that at this point in time he doubles cash advances? Let us remember that this was a measure introduced by a Conservative government, as the minister himself has mentioned, and introduced at a time when grain sales were at a very low ebb. The measure was designed to give some cash flow relief to farmers who at that time were unable to sell enough grain to keep themselves in business.
I wondered why the minister put emphasis on this measure at this time, so I looked at the report in the "Grain Statistics Weekly" put out by the Canadian Grain Commission. In terms of commercial disappearance of domestic and export grain at this point in time, our wheat sales are something over 117 million bushels less than the same time last year. And this, Mr. Speaker, in a crop year that has seen one of the highest world demands and market opportunities for wheat for many a year. The least the minister could have done when he introduced this bill was to explain why, with market conditions as they are at this point in time and with less than three months to the end of the crop year, we are over 117 million bushels short of the sales performance of the Canadian Wheat Board one year ago. That is the result of the minister monkeying around with what was a perfectly good marketing system. He armed himself with a monkey-wrench, a pair of plyers and a bale of haywire and started to work on the marketing machinery. That is the situation we are dealing with now, and primary marketings from farmers are almost in tune with the drop in export sales.
It was in these circumstances that the minister put out a bunch of press releases on Friday in respect of grain stabilization, a farm income package, cash advances, two-price wheat legislation and methods to bring certainty into the timing of final payments and so on. If he gets that all before the House at least maybe there will be some legislative base to work on.
In dealing with this bill I should like to point out one or two things to the House and perhaps to the minister. The
May 6, 1974
Prairie Grain Payments Act
original bill was put in at a time when there was some difficulty with marketing. This kind of legislation depends on two or three basic assumptions, or two or three basic things being in place in the grain marketing industry, without which it will not work. It depends on a quota system that works, and this is pretty important because it is on the basis of a working quota system that a farmer is able to deliver his grain in an orderly fashion, and that the Canadian Wheat Board is sure that repayments can be made. This depends on a price system that works and one that is predictable so the farmer and the Canadian Wheat Board can have confidence in it.
What is the quota system to be in the coming crop year? We just do not know what it is to be. The other day I asked Mr. Jarvis, a witness who appeared before the committee, this question about pricing and the quota system, and he said we would have to wait for another month or two. He is one of the members of the minister's grains group, and that was his answer. How does the minister expect us to be happy with what he is proposing in terms of cash advances when he does not tell us what other packages of goodies he has in his pockets? We do not know what the pricing system is to be. I think the minister has in reality said that the system of pricing on August 1 is to be the Winnipeg commodity exchange. That is what he has been saying to this House, but he has not been able to come out and tell the farmers exactly what he intends to do. Can he not bear to contemplate the results of his handiwork? Are the results going to be so horrible that he will no t be able to contemplate them? Why does he not say what he is going to do? Does he not have the nerve to do so?
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: PRAIRIE GRAIN ADVANCE PAYMENTS ACT