As the hon. member for Bow River just said, while we are doing that we should pay the farmer a fair price for his food and make it available to the nations that need it.
I want to discuss the question of a sound parity formula.
I believe it was in 1943 when farm products were under price ceilings the prime minister of that day promised that if farmers would be satisfied to sell their products under a ceiling the government would guarantee to stabilize the price on farm products at a fair level in the post-war period as compensation and to stabilize the price of all the main farm products. I ask you to remember that word "main".
But for some strange reason, in spite of the government of that day, having said it would stabilize the price of all the main farm products at a level that would give the farmer a fair price relationship, they have never
supported the price of wheat in any shape or form. The farm organizations have continually asked for a support price formula to be inserted in the act. The old Agricultural Prices Support Act was supported by farm organizations as quite a good act but they were continually urging the government to insert into that act a formula that would set the price on farm products at a parity level. The principle of parity was contained in section 9 subsection 2 of the act but unfortunately the former government did not live up to the full implications of that section and so during the past several years we have had many commodities not supported at all and we have had other commodities supported in some cases at 80 per cent of parity and in the case of eggs only about 54 per cent of parity.
The present Prime Minister criticized the former government for not living up to the principle of the Agricultural Prices Support Act and that principle as embodied in section 9 was a fair price relationship. And then, strangely enough, after criticizing the former government for not living up to that principle which was embodied into the act he-I was going to say "he" but I should say the Prime Minister allowed his minister, the Minister of Agriculture-to bring a bill into this house that does not even mention the words "parity" or "fair price relationship" from the beginning to the end of the entire bill.
We now have in our possession certain amendments that are going to be moved. I believe these amendments will improve the bill but they still fall far short of giving the farmer a guarantee of a parity price because there still will be no formula in the act under which support prices will be paid automatically and it will continue to depend on the whims of the Minister of Agriculture as to the level at which these support prices should be set. It is also quite possible that this could become a kind of political football under which there would be a fairly high support price in the year before an election and afterwards it might possibly be lower.
The price provided for in the bill is not a parity price of course and it is merely based on the last three-year average. The last three years happen to have been extremely unsatisfactory years. The farmer is guaranteed only 80 per cent of that. The minister told us at the resolution stage about a number of things that would help to guide the government as to the level at which support prices should be set if it is decided to set them above 80 per cent of the base period and, as I have already mentioned, one of those is the question of supply and demand. Although the amended bill does use the words "relationship
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
to cost of production", it also mentions that these other things will be taken into consideration at the same time. One cannot help wondering, therefore, which will win the battle, the cost of production on the one hand or the law of supply and demand on the other. After listening to the Minister of Agriculture warn of the tremendous danger of having a price that might encourage farmers to raise too much, one cannot help feeling he will pay far more consideration to the law of supply and demand than he will to the cost of production.
The question I have never been able to answer satisfactorily, and I have been asked it many times on the platform, is "Why did the former government not include grains under the Agricultural Prices Support Act?" As I already mentioned, the former prime minister promised that all the main products would be supported and yet wheat, which is one of the main products, has never had support under the act since the end of the war. The price of wheat the farmer receives is the world market price.
It is interesting to note that if wheat had been under the Agricultural Prices Support Act and if the support price under wheat had been governed to the full extent by the formula that the government used,-that is using the years 1943-45 as the base period- then the support price for wheat would have been $2.37 a bushel,-I got these prices this spring from the bureau of statistics-and yet the farmers are getting only around $1.19 a bushel, only about half of a parity price.
The old Agricultural Prices Support Act left wheat out of the act. Today the Minister of Agriculture goes a step farther and also excludes oats and barley. At different times the farm organizations have asked that grain should be placed under the Agricultural Prices Support Act, and at other times they have asked that at least wheat or grain be sold under a two-price system; that is, the price for wheat in the domestic market should be governed by parity and the world price, the best possible. In view of the fact that farmers have had to sell their grains at very low prices in the past, at world market prices, farm organizations are asking today that a deficiency payment should be made on wheat to compensate for those losses, and I think that is a very reasonable demand.
When the hon. member for Moose Mountain (Mr. McCullough) spoke earlier he referred to the brief of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and therefore I am not going to quote in again. However, I do want to refer to certain paragraphs that have been criticized at times in the past. I should like to refer
to section 6 on paragraph 11. This brief, by the way, is dated July 24, 1957. The paragraph reads:
A range of from 70 to 85 per cent of the fair-relationship prices would, for the key commodities mentioned, appear to leave the price support program with the maximum of flexibility consistent with protection of the interests of the farmer.
Personally, I have always been somewhat critical of that for the simple reason that if you selected a base period during which there was a fair cost-price relationship I do not see why the parity price should be at less than 100 per cent. In that case a base period is only giving the farmers a fair cost-price relationship. No one would suggest that in 1943-45 the price of farm products was higher than the price of other commodities because we were still under a price ceiling. Therefore, I have always felt that when we use the base period 1943-45 the farmers are entitled to 100 per cent of that. It gives them only a price that will bear a fair relationship to the price of other commodities. Why should anybody expect the farmers of this country to accept a price which is less than a fair price relationship?
I know that all other forms of society would object very much if they were chosen as the one body in the country that should receive less than their fair share of the national income. I am not critical any more of this declaration of the federation because they have now added something to their program that, in my opinion, fully covers the situation. I say that because section 10 says:
The deficiency payment method of supporting incomes of producers should be applied on individual products to correct income deficiencies:
(a) for perishable products requiring this type of support.
(b) to supplement market price supports.
If you are going to have deficiency payments in addition to your support prices, then it is no longer so important that your support prices should be at 100 per cent of the parity price, that is of the fair cost-price relationship, because at the end of the year, or at the end of two years, when you have assessed the relationship between farm income and total income and you find that the farm income is down, the deficiency payment can be made to compensate for the deficiency in income of the farmer.
When the Minister of Agriculture is so critical of a fixed base period he should keep in mind the recommendations of the federation of agriculture because whilst it is true that they use a fixed period of 1925 to 1929 they also use the last 10 years for the purpose of ensuring that a fair relationship exist as between the product of one industry and the product of another. In other words, their
2884 HOUSE OF
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization formula is a very flexible one; but the minister seems to be so strongly prejudiced against the idea of a base period that he classifies them all as being rigid and ones that would have a disastrous result in spite of the fact that his own Prime Minister has declared that a parity price must have a fixed base period.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would say that the bill as it is brought before the house is, in our opinion, an insidious one. It is all very well for the Minister of Agriculture to try to make us believe that it was meant to embody a parity price principle. The fact of the matter is there is no mention of parity or fair price relationship anywhere in the bill. It may have been in the mind of the minister. I am still convinced, after listening to him for the last few years, that he is one of those great supporters of the so-called law of supply and demand. I think the motion moved by the C.C.F. is a good one. As a matter of fact, I had a similar amendment all ready written out, ready to move if the C.C.F. had not moved it. I think the logical thing to do is to refer the subject matter of this bill to a committee, where a thorough discussion and investigation could be had, so that we could call representatives of the various farm organizations and take the time to draft a satisfactory bill. There is no rush. The Agricultural Prices Support Act is still with us. We can carry on with that until such time as we get a new bill.
If the government wants to increase support prices at the present time there is nothing to prevent them from doing so under the Agricultural Prices Support Act. They did it with sugar beet and they can do it with a lot of other commodities. Therefore, I say they cannot use the argument that we have to rush this thing because we want to give the benefit of it to the farmers. Any benefit that they want to give to the farmers they can give under the present legislation. Let us do a worth-while job on it. Let us send the subject matter of this bill to the agriculture committee and let us make a thorough investigation of the whole act.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.