Some Conservative member says "that is right", and I do not doubt it for a moment. I think that is exactly what happened. Now let me remind the committee of the kind of propaganda which was put out during the election campaign. While that campaign was being carried on the Conservatives said; "Vote for a man who will be a member of a major party so he can sit in on the inner councils and help formulate policy". We always charged that private members very rarely saw a bill before it was introduced, and here we have a declaration by a member of the Conservative party that he and his colleagues had not seen this bill before it was presented. So much for this nonsense about private members helping to formulate government policy.
Even so, when members did realize that the legislation was unsatisfactory they did apparently ask the minister to change it. Any Conservative backbenchers who were not familiar with the situation appreciated, I think, what that situation was after they had listened to the criticism which was directed against the resolution by members of the opposition parties. Having heard that bitter criticism and having discussed the resolution with hon. members of the opposition, they then realized that there were some very undesirable features in the proposed legislation and when the bill was given first reading and they had a chance to see it they realized that the charges which we had made were well founded.
What were some of those charges? The minister had stated that the very basis of the bill was a fair cost-price relationship. I pointed out at the resolution stage that in the whole bill the words "cost-price relationship" were not mentioned once. I pointed out that the word "parity" was not mentioned once; I pointed out that the words "cost of production" were not mentioned once; and if there was that principle in the legislation it existed merely in the mind of the minister and was certainly not embodied in the bill.
I hope at the next election the people will remember well the words of a Conservative member that he and his colleagues had never seen this legislation, so we will not have any more nonsense being talked around the
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization country urging people to elect members of a major party so that backbenchers can sit in on the inner councils and help formulate policy. They have no more to do with the formulation of policy than have members of the opposition. Rather, I would say, members of the opposition are in a far better position to change a bill than are members of the Conservative party, because the Conservative members are afraid to take a too critical attitude toward their own government.
On the other hand, members of the opposition parties are free to express their views as they see fit, and if they can express those views strongly enough they are in a position to get action from the government. Could there be a better demonstration of what I am saying than the present bill; the situation where a minister brings a bill into this house and then, a few minutes after introducing it, tells us he intends to make a number of changes in the measure, four amendments in all.
After that we continued to criticize the legislation, pointing out that even with those changes it was not satisfactory. We point out certain additional changes that are necessary. Then the minister tells us that in the committee he will be making some more amendments. No doubt a number of those amendments will be along the lines we have advocated. I am hoping that by the time we reach the last section of this bill he will have made sufficient amendments to it so we in this group will be able to support it. We would like to be able to support it, but we absolutely refuse to support a bill which in our opinion constitutes a breach of faith on the part of the government.
The Minister of Agriculture has criticized us in this group for advocating a rigid formula. Let me draw to the attention of the Minister of Agriculture the fact that no member of this group has ever advocated a rigid formula. What we have advocated is a fixed base period, with a flexible application of the parity percentage to that base period, and there is all the difference in the world between those two. Apparently the Minister of Agriculture cannot differentiate between a fixed formula and a fixed base period to which you may apply a flexible application of a percentage of parity.
I wonder whether the Minister of Agriculture is as critical of the attitude of this leader as he is of the attitude of the opposition. Let me point out to the Minister of Agriculture that on a number of occasions the Prime Minister of this country has made it absolutely clear to the electors of the country that he stands behind a fixed base period and then a flexible parity based upon that
fixed period. I want to pursue this matter in the committee. I think we are entitled to a statement from the Minister of Agriculture as to whether he agrees with his leader or whether it remains for the opposition in this house to support the Prime Minister whilst the Minister of Agriculture and the rest of the Conservatives oppose the attitude of the Prime Minister.
Let me quote what the Prime Minister said on March 12, 1956, as reported at page 2021 of Hansard:
As far as parity is concerned, it must be related to a basic period which is regarded as one in which prices and costs are in approximate equivalence one to the other.
I know of no better definition of parity than that which appeared in yesterday's New York Times. I have made the necessary changes in the definition to meet the situation in this country. It is as follows:
"Parity prices are the dollars and cents prices that give to farm products the same buying or purchasing power they had in a selected base period when prices received by and prices paid by farmers were regarded as in good balance . . .
It has been put this way: If you can sell a truckload of barley and buy with the money received so much food, clothing, building materials, fertilizer, farm machinery and other living and production items as you could in a chosen favourable period in the past then your barley is selling at a parity price."
That was the definition of parity as applied to a fixed base period. He agreed with that himself, and then he moved this motion:
In the opinion of this house consideration should be given by the government to the advisability of introducing during the present session legislation to create a parity of prices for agricultural products at levels to ensure producers a fair price-cost relationship.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.