Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure for me, as a new member of parliament for the constituency of Moose Jaw, to speak briefly on the motion before us at this time. I realize, as others in this house, that the popular thing to do is cry out against government spending, no matter what that spending may entail. However, I am certain that every member in this house realizes that although a few savings can be effected in some quarters, the over-all budget must be recognized as having to be adjusted to the needs of the nation.
The questions I raise are whether the needs of every part of the country are being adequately met and whether assistance is being fairly distributed. I believe it is important for members of the house to understand that the constituency of Moose Jaw is made up approximately in the proportion of 50-50 in terms of rural and urban population. It can be suggested, therefore, that I am fully aware of the problems facing the rural and urban populations.
I would not like to see this government cut expenditures in fields that are having, and will have, disastrous effects on the economy of the constituency which I represent. I am sure every member of the house is of the same opinion in so far as his constituency is concerned. I am certain that all members of this house, and in particular all hon. members from the west, are aware of the seriousness of the agricultural situation at this very time. I have just returned from the Moose Jaw, Outlook, Davidson, Dinsmore, Central Butte and other areas of Saskatchewan where I have found the situation to be serious, to say the least.
[DOT] (3:50 p.m.)
I realize that many members of the house, especially those from eastern Canada, do not realize the importance of the agricultural industry as it affects everyone in this country. I would respectfully suggest that if the agricultural industry suffers, then so does the entire economy of Canada. It is not good enough for the Minister of Agriculture to say that the government is keeping a close eye on things. Action is needed now to provide assurance to our western producer that cash will be available to meet his heavy commitments. There must be a guaranteed price for farm commodities, be they from the east or from the west. The cost of production to the farmer must be recognized and a fair return must be realized by the man who is doing the producing.
I say, Mr. Chairman, that there must be a guaranteed minimum price of $2.12 per bushel for wheat and $3.12 a bushel for the first one thousand bushels of wheat delivered from each farm unit to the domestic market. It has been said by some editorial writers and some members of parliament as late as today that the wheat industry needs no subsidy nor do we need a two price system for our grain. I can only say that it escapes me why the prairie farmers should be asked to subsidize some of the very same people who are saying no subsidies are necessary. Every other wheat exporting nation in the world, except Canada, supports its agricultural economy. I say it is high time that we appreciated the fact that we must support this basic industry.
It would appear to me that it is very unfair of this government to expect the Canadian farmer to compete with the treasuries of other countries, and this is what is happening at this particular time. The other countries are supporting their basic commodities, and
September 27, 1968
we in Canada must do the same. It is high time we took a close look at the situation. It may be interesting to note the drastic change which is taking place in our agricultural industry today. In the year 1942-43, 119,127 permit books were issued in Saskatchewan, while in the year 1966-67 some 92,302 were issued. This means that there has been a drop of some 1,118 permit books a year in each of the last 24 years. I ask that this government realize the plight of the agricultural producer and not cut but rather increase budgets in that area.
Another serious and immediate problem facing the city of Moose Jaw is that of the inability of that city to qualify for the area incentive program. As you know, Mr. Chairman, we are located some 42 miles from a rather large centre to the east of us which has the advantage of being the seat of the provincial government-which, by the way, I am given to understand should have been located in Moose Jaw but was stolen away one dark night many years ago.
It may be that the average wage level and the unemployment level make it difficult for Moose Jaw to qualify for the designated area incentive program. The reason for this of course is that thousands of displaced railway workers, Robin Hood flour mills workers, and packing plant workers, are required to travel to outside locations to find employment, leaving the city in a difficult economic position. The Minister of Forestry and Rural Development said that the government plans on checking this program periodically in order to see where exceptional intervention is necessary to improve the employment situation. I would ask this government to give favourable consideration today, not tomorrow, to the designation of Moose Jaw as a designated area under the area incentive program which was mentioned in the house as late as yesterday. I am completely familiar with the situation in Moose Jaw. Having sat on the city council for four years, I know that we have lost at least four industries which were prepared to settle in our city but which located in another area under the incentive program.
I am given to understand that we may obtain an industry soon if Moose Jaw becomes a designated area. I suggest it is easier, and far more reasonable economically, to stop the disaster which will result if centres such as Moose Jaw are not given the same advantage as others. This matter is urgent, and I ask the government to consider the designation of Moose Jaw as an incentive area.
The third point I would like this government to consider is our transportation system. I do not think that I have to tell the members of this house about the difficulty of travelling from one part of the country to the other. I do not think I have to say how congested our airways are becoming in our young nation. I do not think any of us are looking forward to the day when planes will have to circle for many hours before landing. We all realize that an efficient air travel system costs millions of dollars, and it is safe to say that millions of Canadians do not want to fly when other means of transportation are available.
I have here an article from the Winnipeg Free Press of July 29, 1968 in which it is said that the congestion in U.S. airports is costing the government some $50 million a year. I suggest that if this government took the initiative and instituted an efficient transportation program, then possibly we could save a considerable amount of money in the future in so far as airports alone are concerned. We know that the government must give consideration to the establishment of a more efficient transportation system in our nation, and this must include an efficient rail system from coast to coast. We know the C.N.R. has taken the initiative in so far as passenger traffic on rail lines is concerned, and I suggest it is high time the government gave consideration to the establishment of a committee which would look into the over all structure of rail traffic. I have heard very recently that the C.P.R. is considering taking off eight cars from its transcontinental train, the Canadian. I suggest that those who have tried to obtain space on either C.N.R. or C.P.R. passenger trains are aware of the difficulties which are encountered.
I believe it is time an over-all program was instituted which would take these factors into consideration. I will not bring forth all the problems that are besetting our constituency at this time, but I would like to respectfully suggest to this government that there are areas in our economy that need immediate attention. I have mentioned just a few of these, and although I have not referred to the plight of old age pensioners and those on fixed incomes I expect a government which believes in a just society to have legislation in force in the very near future which would bring relief to these citizens. I ask this government to be realistic in its financial policies and not to favour one segment of our society to the detriment of the other. People must be given equal opportunities, otherwise, they
September 27, 1968
will find it difficult to say "I am proud to be a Canadian".
I say that any deficit incurred by the introduction of a national medicare plan is, in my opinion, well justified. It is only through such a plan that all citizens can receive equal treatment. In my opinion, any member of this house who speaks against a shared cost medicare program must be considered "suspect" and acting on behalf of private insurance companies. I, personally, commend the government for holding its position with regard to the national medicare plan. The people of Saskatchewan know what medicare means and they are not prepared to return to the days where the law of the jungle prevailed. Then, those who had money received treatment and those who were in financial difficulties found themselves treated as second class citizens. The previous speaker mentioned the Saskatchewan medicare program when he was condemning the government for over expenditure. I do not take issue with over expenditure but I do take issue with the protest against an increase in cost in relation to the medicare program in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan knew that the cost of medicare would mean an increase of approximately 5 per cent per year. The medicare insurance commission's annual report, which has just come out, shows that this estimate was correct. I can assure this house that the people of Saskatchewan realize that medicare is a program which they want. They showed it by voting in six new members of the New Democratic party.
I could dwell at length on the individual items in this interim supply motion, but nothing would be accomplished. My only purpose in bringing these items to the attention of the house is to indicate a few of the areas which need close attention and which need a greater infusion of government spending if conditions are to be improved in this country of ours.
[DOT] (4.00 p.m.)
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY