Mr. NORMAN LANG (Humboldt):
Mr. Speaker, before discussing any of the more important matters, 1 should like to refer briefly to the amendment that is now before the House. I can well remember that on many oocasions when legislation has been brought down in the House, the people of Canada have disapproved. For instance, at the time the Drug Act was being amended, I recall, although it seemed a minor matter compared with a general election, how the telegraph boys were going about here with armfuls of telegrams. The same thing has happened on many occasions, both when the House was in session and during the recess. When the price of sugar was liable to be affected, I believe the Government was bombarded with telegrams from every nook and corner of Canada, although I would think a few cents a pound on sugar a minor affair compared with a general election in this country.
We know that the people of this country express their views in this way, but although we have been discussing this amendment for nearly two weeks, I have failed to see any evidence that the supporters of this amendment have received' much encouragement from outside the House of Commons. As a matter of fact,
I think the desire for a general election at this time is pretty well confined to one side of the House. I believe the people of this country are not very much concerned about it, or they would have availed themselves of the opportunity to advise us as to their views. I would like to assure the right hon. Prime Minister, the Chief Whip, and all the other whips, that so far as I am concerned they need not worry about me for I shall try and be in my seat when the bell rings, ready to vote against the amendment that is now before the House.
I want to mention briefly a few things that, very properly, I think, interest the people of the West particularly. I think the members from the eastern part of Canada are quite capable of looking after the interests of the East, so I shall try and confine my remarks to matters that affect our western country, and affect it very, very seriously. In the first place, I want to endorse most strongly the remarks of my hon. friend from Macdonald (Mr. Henders) in regard to the necessity of the Government's appointing a commission to thoroughly investigate the wheat trade.
I think that it is the most important question that has been discussed in this House this session. It has been a subject of complaint in the West to my knowledge for over thirty years. I think the investigation has been delayed too long now and that the Government should take means at once to enquire thoroughly into the entire grain trade, from the time the grain leaves the farmers' wagon until it arrives on the markets of Europe or elsewhere.
I do not wish to convey the idea that I am a pessimist. I have great faith in the West, and I do not think that there is a place in the world where development has been so rapid as it has been in the province of Saskatchewan during the last fifteen years. In the summer of 1903 you could travel from Saskatoon to Yorkton and see nothing but foxes and antelopes, but now the country is entirely settled and the virgin prairie has been converted into productive farms. Thousands upon thousands of farmers have done well out there. They arrived in this country with
very little capital and now have comfortable homes, very good buildings, farms well cultivated and fenced; but they would have been much better off if the conditions for the marketing of their grain had been such as to give them a fair return for their product.
As in every other country in the world, it is not all sunshine on the prairies. Some districts have wonderful luck for several years, and then comes a series of bad years. In a great many districts in Saskatchewan we have bad luck now for five years. I can briefly describe what actually occurred. In 1915 we had a bumper crop in all the three provinces. In 1916, however, we had a tremendous amount of hail. Indeed, the hail storms were so severe that the Municipal Hail Insurance Company were only able to pay 40 cents on the dollar; the balance has never been paid and never will be. The following year was somewhat better but there wras not a heavy crop. In 1918 we had an unusually severe frost on the morning of July 24th, and it destroyed the grain in patches which meant that the whole field had to be cut, stooked and threshed at a very great expense and many farmers operated at a loss that year. In 1919 the season was very dry, with the result that there was crop failure in a great many places. Last year there was a similar condition in a number of districts. Therefore, I think it is very necessary that the Government should do everything they possibly can to improve marketing conditions.
Possibly some hon. gentlemen will think that a great deal of this trouble has been due to poor farming. I will admit that there is still room for improvement, and there always will be; but I must say that there has been a wonderful advance in the last few years. The land has been much better cultivated; in fact, some of the farmers have over-cultivated, with the result that the soil has drifted badly. However, considering the shortage of suitable help and all the adverse conditions, the people have struggled manfully to meet their obligations and to develop the country.
But the prospects are not good at present. Spring is rapidly approaching, and what is the outlook? We are told by the implement dealers that prices are going to be higher. We do not know what wages are going to be, and with the exchange situation as it is, we do not feel that there
is very much prospect of a market for our 1921 crop in Europe. With the German mark at about one cent and a half, only the millionaire classes can possibly buy grain from us. The United States farmers complain that their markets are flooded. Now, I always try to look on the bright side of things, and while I do not desire to be charged with being pessimistic, really at present conditions are not very good, and I think that \the Government should get busy at once and try to improve the situation.
There is no room for gamblers between [DOT]the producer and the consumer. We have far too many middlemen in all lines of trade as well as the gamblers on the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. We all know that the Wheat Board was not appreciated at the start. However, every one realizes now that it was the best method of disposing of our surplus wheat, and I was very glad to hear the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Gould) corroborate my statement that the Wheat Board is very much appreciated at the present time. Indeed, it has been appreciated ever since it became known that it was going to he a success. I feel that the best solution of the difficulty is to re-appoint the Wheat Board on a slightly different basis. The organized farmers are trying to decide on a wheat pool. I do not want to discourage them in any way, but I doubt if any scheme could be a succes that was not endorsed by the Federal Government and the banks. If a wheat pool is the best scheme, let us all get behind it; but if it is not workable, then I should like the Canadian Council of Agriculture and the organized farmers to announce that they are not able to go ahead with it, so that we might have time to formulate some other plan to take care of the 1921 crop. I have had very little news recently regarding what has been done by the organized farmers and the Canadian Council of Agriculture, but I noticed a paragraph touching this matter in the press this morning which is of some interest, and I would like to read it to the House:
Delay Obtaining Wheat Pool Charter.
Winnipeg, Man., Feb. 24.-No application will be made this session to the Manitoba legislature for a charter in connection with the formation of the Wheat Pool Association, according to George Langley, minister of municipal affairs for Saskatchewan, who is in the city to-day.
In explaining the delay, Mr. Langley said the formation of such an association, to which thousands of farmers belong, constituted an undertaking of gigantic magnitude meriting
mature consideration. Another matter which would have to be dealt with at some length was the question of determining the status of farmers in the association, who, though possessing no financial interest in the organization were entitled to consideration in its direction.
I must say that this does not look very promising. For my part I would like to see the Government appoint what I would call an "Improved Wheat Board" on a voluntary basis. We all object to compulsory legislation but I think if the Wheat Board were re-appointed and authorized to handle not only wheat but oats, barley and flax as well, and if it were optional whether a man shipped his wheat through the, Board, got his advance and waited for the balance, or sold it to the elevators, it would be to the advantage of the farmer. It is not easy at the present time for the Government to do anything until the organized farmers agree on what they are going to do. As I have already said I do not want to do anything myself to discourage them. If their plan appears to be the best, let us all get behind them. If it is not, then we want the Government to take immediate action, in order to see what can be done in regard to the 1921 crop.
Mr. Speaker, I have great confidence in the West. The West is all right. The people of the West are all right. What is needed is a better understanding between the East and the West. You in the East need us as much as we need you. I blame the newspapers a great deal for the mistaken impressions existing, caused by the misleading reports published every day. A great many eastern people have an idea that western people spend the summer riding about in automobiles and spend the winter in California, and many western people imagine that the Federal Government and eastern people are not at all concerned as to whether they sink or swim. If anything can be done to improve conditions for any class of people in Canada it is our duty to do it. If nothing can be done, the facts should be made known. Most of our people are reasonable and will be perfectly satisfied if this course is adopted.
Now, Mr. Speaker, while I have the floor I should like to mention, briefly, one or two other matters which affect my constituency as well as other parts of the prairie. We realize more and more, as the years go by, the necessity of raising more stock and the importance of good stock, but at present a large proportion of the cattle thrown on the market are in poor condition. This is partly due to the fact that the farmers have not had suffifMr. Lang.]
cient experience in stall feeding steers before the stock is marketed. Very often they are sold for a trifle simply because it is imperative that the owner should get a few dollars and the manager of the local bank'refuses to lend him any money. I do not know if removing the embargo in England would help matters or not. I would certainly like to see the embargo removed, but I have more faith in refrigerator cars and ships than I have in shipping live cattle. If the steers are properly finished on grain and roots before they are slaughtered in Canada the beef will be in first class condition when it arrives on the market in London or Paris. Prices are low at present, but raising good beef and pork is going to be profitable in the future.
I would also like to mention the fact that we will need extra help in harvest, and I think we should encourage people to put in their winter supply of coal in summer. In that way we might get a great many of the miners to help with the harvest. This would also increase the number of cars available for wheat. We have the same experience each year; there is a great rush to haul coal, lumber and everything else just when the cars are needed for wheat, with the result that many of the farmers are forced to be on the road hauling wheat when it is not fit for a dog to be out.
Just while I am on this subject I wish to address a word to my friend the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. J. D. Reid). I do not want to say anything unkind, because I realize that both he and the contractors have had difficulty in getting any construction work done during the last few years. Nevertheless, I want to remind him that we have some short pieces of line the construction of which has been dragging for the last fifteen years, and which must be completed this year. I think it would do a lot of good if the Minister would come out to Saskatchewan with me and make one trip in winter on a load of wheat, from Kelving-ton to Wadena. He would then realize that such a trip is not only hard on the men but hard on the horses as well. I certainly hope the Minister will make a desperate effort this year to complete some of these branch lines. If we cannot secure men in Canada to do this work, we will have to import a few ship loads of labourers from China, or some other country.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I must again point out to the Government the absolute necessity of doing everything possible to improve marketing conditions in both grain and stock. What we want is some action. With us actions speak louder than words, and if the Government get busy and prove that they are anxious and willing to help us, they will find that thev have more friends out on the piai-ries than they think, especially if they carry on and maintain a stable Government until after the census has been taken and the redistribution Bill, which will entitle the West to about twenty more members, has been passed,
Topic: THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY