Mr. W. H. Jorgenson (Provencher):
Mr. Speaker, on this occasion I am indeed indebted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) for the honour he has given my native province of Manitoba and the recognition he has shown to the constituency of Provencher in allowing me to move the address in reply to the speech from the throne that His Excellency the Governor General so graciously read to us yesterday.
In selecting Provencher for this singular honour the Prime Minister has chosen a constituency that is truly representative of a cross-section of our Canadian population, from the Anglo-Saxon and French pioneers who first settled the district along the banks of the Red river; the Mennonites who began settlement in the Steinbach and Altona districts in 1873; and the Ukrainians who established their first rural area in the Stuartburn district in 1896. The story of their gradual assimilation into the Canadian way of life was embodied in the words of Lord Tweedsmuir to the Ukrainian community of Fraserwood in 1936, when he said:
I do not believe that any people can be strong unless they remember and keep in touch with all their past . . . You will all be better Canadians for being good Ukrainians.
Theirs is a story of incredible hardship and disappointment. The difficulties they encountered in adjusting to machinery, to business life, to democratic processes, even to new clothing, different food and a new language, provide us with our most interesting chapters of history in the development of this part of Manitoba. The Prime Minister has had occasion to visit the thriving district of Steinbach and to see at first hand the results of private initiative and industry. Here is one of the finest examples of what Canadians have done to build their own communities into progressive towns without the aid of government or the benefit of large industries moving in.
Over in Altona the same progressive spirit prevails but the same results have been achieved through co-operation rather than individual enterprise. Following the construction of the co-operative vegetable oil plant in 1946 and investment of $160,000 has grown into an investment of over $1 million. Although only about 50 people are employed here, this industry has had a tremendous effect upon the development of the town and the local agricultural economy. Annual payments to farmers for sunflower seed, soya beans, rapeseed and flax, exceed $1.3 million and half a million dollars annually is funnelled into the town's business enterprises through its operations.
I might add that approximately 70 per cent of Manitoba's sugar beet crop is grown in this area, a fact which is further evidence
of the diversity of production and certainly a reminder to me that the problems of the farmer are not all concentrated among one group of producers.
In greeting you, Mr. Speaker, let me say how pleased we all are to see you again in the chair ready to resume your duties. We know that you will preside over this house with the same tact, courtesy and patience that you have shown in the past.
Mr. Speaker, I would certainly be remiss in my duty at this time if I did not try to say- however haltingly-a few words to this house in our other official language, especially as Provencher has been to a very large extent enriched by French contributions in the cultural, social or economic fields.
I sincerely hope that soon I will no longer have to resort to the system of interpretation newly set up in the house.
May I be permitted to add my voice to that of those who have spoken of the passing of two of our colleagues in this house, Mr. Yacula and Mr. Lockyer. Although I have been a member of this house but a short time, I have experienced the comradeship and good fellowship that is as much a part of our parliamentary tradition as are the debates that take place in this chamber and it was with profound regret that I learned of their passing.
In the short time that I had to become acquainted with Mr. Lockyer, I was impressed with his warm friendliness, and his ability to make anyone feel at ease. Mr. Yacula represented a constituency that adjoins mine and I knew him somewhat more intimately. This quiet person caught the imagination of the people of Springfield with his capacity for work and his ability to shrug oft adversity. My sincerest sympathy goes out to the members of their families, their relatives and friends.
I would be remiss if I did not at this time comment on our Prime Minister's most successful around-the-world trip. In this atomic age our world becomes ever smaller and nations which were once thought of as far-off foreign lands are today our close neighbours. Journalists throughout the world tour heralded our Prime Minister's visit to their lands as outstanding good neighbour policy. We can only express our heartfelt thanks for a job well done, for from the mother of parliaments even to the gates of India the Prime Minister made the maple leaf shine ever brighter among the nations of the world.
No one can view with passive interest the efforts of the government to increase total
The Address-Mr. Jorgenson trade. Those of us from the west, and particularly those members representing agricultural constituencies, have a vital interest in the expansion of our trading frontiers, not only to dispose of existing productive capacity but to develop markets for the increase in production that will follow as a result of improved technology and science.
It was with great pleasure, therefore, that we watched the significant developments that took place during the commonwealth conference held last fall in Montreal. Surely there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that if trade is to be limited to nations which have comparable standards of living there can be no hope for those countries which have been deprived of the bounties of providence. In the interest of world peace, to say nothing of social justice, we have a responsibility to the underdeveloped areas of the world to give aid, both economic and technical, to narrow the gulf that exists between their living standards and ours. To achieve this goal the Prime Minister has taken a leading role, not only through his efforts in convening the conference itself, but by increasing aid to those countries through the Colombo plan, and now by extending the purpose and facilities of the Exports Credit Insurance Corporation.
Fundamental to the problem of the western farmer has been the wheat surplus. We are indeed gratified by the 15 per cent increase in wheat sales abroad during the past crop year and are encouraged by the prospect that these levels can be maintained during the present crop year. I am sure hon. members will agree that hard work and determination on the part of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Churchill) are in no small measure responsible for the success of our sales abroad.
Since the house last met the grain growers of western Canada have harvested a relatively good crop. In July it was anticipated that feed supplies for livestock might be in extremely short supply and persons who should have been in a good position to judge went so far as to suggest that the west was likely to harvest only half a crop. The fact that the crop came through is, of course, vitally important because of the income that will flow to our farmers and the provision of essential feed. Scarcely less important, however, is the light it throws on the trends in agriculture. It seems to me that we can expect less variability of yield in western grain production because the crop can now withstand drought to a degree that was not considered possible in the pre-war period.
I do recall the many statements that were made at that time with respect to the expected
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The Address-Mr. Jorgenson crop failure. As a matter of fact this government, on the basis of those reports and requests from the provinces, undertook to bear half the costs of the provincial governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan which were attempting to meet the situation. The fact that does emerge as a result of this experience is that the western crop showed an unexpected ability to withstand drought. Many crops thought to be dead did, in fact, recover.
Hon. members may perhaps wonder what has changed. It is, in fact, a mark of credit to science and to the farmer himself. Our plant breeders have provided us with better crop varieties; farms are better equipped, and the timeliness of operation is improved. Selective weed killers have provided control of certain varieties of weeds and so reduced weed competition for moisture in the growing crop. Crop experience in 1958 does imply that we are not likely to go back to the yield experience of past years. I do not suggest that we shall maintain the phenomenal production of the early 1950's, but given the same conditions we can now raise more grain on a given number of acres than we could even a decade ago.
Our ability to raise more grain on the same number of acres spreads the production costs over more bushels and reduces the variability of yield. It does not, however, justify the contention by many that it compensates for the rise in costs. I am sure most hon. members will agree that running faster just to stay in the same place can be pretty frustrating. What it does mean, in effect, is this: reducing the variability of yield gives rise to the belief that a national crop insurance program, long thought to be out of reach of the farmer financially, is now well within the realm of possibility.
But let me be clear on this point: the belief that we should offset rising costs by increased productivity alone will result in far greater surpluses than we have at present. The hard fact is that in western Canada we depend largely on export markets for the sale of our grain. In those markets we must be competitive. If we are priced out of them by rising costs, the western economy, and, as a result, the Canadian economy will suffer. Experience has shown that Canada still depends in a large measure on western agriculture for her economic well-being. Up until now, farmers have borne the brunt of increased wages and higher profits of labour and industry. This situation can no longer be tolerated. My appeal to the Canadian people as a whole is not to place the farmers in this country in an impossible position.
This does not mean, however, that all farmers are operating on a sound economic basis. The economic division of the Department of Agriculture separated out the commercial farms in Canada on the basis of the 1956 census, dividing the commercial farms from the others on the basis of the ability of a farm to produce $1,200 for its operator in the course of a typical year. Few of us would feel $1,200 to be a large annual income, and I would point out that this figure represents total production-the cost of production must be found within the $1,200. But the department found that only 21.6 per cent of the farms in Newfoundland qualified as commercial farms in 1956 under this definition; 38.5 per cent in Nova Scotia; 40.8 per cent in New Brunswick; 53.4 per cent in British Columbia; 72 per cent in Quebec; and up to 95.6 per cent in Saskatchewan.
I would be very interested in knowing the ranges of gross income of the farmers in my riding. I do know that many of them require the further consideration of this government to become classed as commercial farms. Certainly these figures reveal very clearly that Canada has many farmers who gravely require credit which will enable them to convert their present operations to a really economic basis. In all parts of Canada this is the real and pressing need. I am satisfied that it will be a source of great gratification to all farmers and farm organizations that this government has moved promptly and adequately in this direction through the provision of a comprehensive farm credit policy.
The same must be said of crop insurance. This is a technique for permitting a farmer to spread his risks over a long period of years so that he should not be prostrated by one bad crop but can replace periodic grave losses by regular premiums. It will allow farm income to be more predictable and will make possible the elimination of the periodic production crises that, particularly in the west, have plagued our farming industry.
These are policies, furthermore, which have the great merit of bearing some relationship to the trends in Canadian farm production and food consumption. We cannot worsen the position of the livestock producer in the west relative to that of the grain producer, and it is unrealistic to fly in the face of the food preferences of Canada and of our customers. The per capita consumption of cereal grains in Canada in 1957 was only three quarters- 75.6 per cent-of the 1935-39 average consumption. The comparable figure for fruit was 159.4 per cent; for vegetables, 122.8
per cent; for eggs, 124.1 per cent; meats, 120.7 per cent; poultry 145.5 per cent; and of milk and cheese, 123.1 per cent.
There is often a tendency within urban and industrial communities to regard the farmers' position within our economy as similar to that of industry or labour in that prices and wages can be adjusted in relation to costs of production and costs of living. We often hear that if the farmer cannot adjust prices in relation to costs, he can adjust costs in relation to prices by adopting more efficient methods of production. This, in effect, can only be done over a long period of time and to do so requires capital, credit and managerial assistance. These requirements seem to be lacking when they are most needed. In effect he adjusts to low prices through reduced income and lower standards of living. Many people seem to think that this state of affairs will force farmers to reduce production or leave agriculture but here again this does not work out in practice for two reasons. The character of the family farm unit is one, but the main reason lies in the nature of the farmer's costs.
In industry operating costs form a large part of total costs but in agriculture a very large proportion of costs are overhead and these costs must be borne whether or not a crop is produced. Industry reduces production but maintains prices. This gives rise to unused capacity and unemployment which becomes a social responsibility. Farmers, however, cannot vary production in step with market conditions. Indeed they maintain production when market demand falls off and receive lower incomes. This gives rise to excess capacity and low incomes on the farm but unlike industry the farmer bears the full responsibility of under-employment.
To further illustrate this point permit me to quote from an article that appeared in Time magazine, issue of June 2, 1958, entitled "Death of Two Maxims" which says in part that prices do not rise and fall in strict relation to the demand for goods and services and that wages do not drop or climb according to the supply of labour or the amount of unemployment. Further along in the article this statement appears:
Prices are not related significantly to demand, but to costs. The price setting process has been shifted from the competitive market place to the conference table.
In the same way, wages are growing more and more rigid. They are on a ratchet, clicking steadily higher, but locked against any slippage downward.
It can be seen, therefore, that the bargaining position of the farmer is weak. Wage earners, manufacturers and professional
The Address-Mr. Jorgenson people can demand their share of the national product. The farmer has to take what is left. I am sure that once aware of this basic difference every reasonable person would agree that the farmer's problem requires, not only sympathy but effective aid.
This government recognizes the imbalance that exists in the farmer's bargaining position and has taken steps to remove it. Under the western grain producers' acreage payment act, $40 million has been pumped into the western economy. Assistance on grain storage charges during the past year has amounted to $38,800,000. Twenty-five million dollars is the estimated amount of money that will be paid under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act this year, while assistance under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act wiil amount to $17,285,000. Hog premiums have amounted to $6,630,000 and the amount of freight assistance on western grains to eastern feeders has been approximately $21 million this year. In addition to these amounts, and perhaps even more significant, are the amounts that were spent under the stabilization act and the cash advance act.
I do not want to leave the impression, however, that the amount of money spent is the yardstick in measuring the success of a farm policy. There must be a purpose and if the amount spent can achieve that purpose then the expenditure can be justified. Our purpose, as I have stated previously, is to correct the imbalance that exists today by the implementation of policies designed to place the farmer in a bargaining position comparable with other groups in our society and not to make him a ward of the government.
There is one further trend in agriculture that is receiving a great deal of attention these days and I could not allow this opportunity to pass without offering some comment on its impact on the Canadian economy. I refer, of course, to the trend toward vertical integration. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with this term I should perhaps take a moment to explain its meaning. The process involves the letting of contracts to farmers by meat packing firms and feed companies for the production of certain types of livestock. In most cases capital is extended to the farmer for the construction of buildings and the purchase of equipment. The farmer in effect becomes the employee of the company. The products that have come under this type of farming today have been hogs, turkeys and chicken broilers. Farmers are concerned over this move toward integration. The dangers of a food monopoly are readily apparent and I need not enlarge upon them here. In addition, and perhaps equally as important, would be the loss of independence
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The Address-Mr. Jorgenson that is characteristic of farming today. It would, as one veteran Canadian farm writer has written, set agriculture back a thousand years.
The proponents of this move toward integration say that its advantages are a continuous supply to the packing companies and greater security for the farmer. In point of fact, however, farmers themselves are assuring us of a continuous supply of food throughout the year through a greater knowledge of production methods and greater security for the farmer has been provided under the terms of the agricultural prices stabilization act. As I have stated previously, the real need that exists today is in the field of capital for expansion, diversification and consolidation of the farming community. There is a danger at present that under the terms of the agricultural prices stabilization act the trend toward vertical integration could be encouraged. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Harkness), to examine the situation very carefully with a view to removing this possibility.
We are hearing a great deal of talk in western Canada at this time with respect to a march on Ottawa for the purpose of pressing this government to give deficiency payments on the last three western crops, the assistance for the 1955-56 and 1956-57 sales to total some $228 million. Perhaps I should comment briefly on this proposed march.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I was a director of the Manitoba farmers' union for four years. I have travelled throughout the greater part of that province to make speeches on farm policy questions during that time. I have talked to hundreds of farmers on their farms with respect to the problems they face. And finally I decided it was my clear duty on behalf of these farmers for whom I was working to contest the Conservative nomination in Provencher. I did so because of my concern for the farmers of Manitoba, and indeed of Canada, and because of my conviction that we would not get a realistic and helpful farm policy in Canada without a change in government.
When I take my place in this house I am representing those farmers as surely as I was when I took my place at a table for a meeting of the officers of a farm organization or travelled with a delegation to Ottawa, or addressed a farm meeting in a one room country school house. And I have no hesitation in saying that if consideration had been given to the proposals of the farm organizations for an adequate national farm policy years ago, and indeed if the Saskatchewan pool, the sponsors of this march, had joined with them in pressing the government of that day, there would have been no talk of a march today. The stage was set and the course
was charted as early as 1946. If we are going to continue to deal with the problems of western agriculture on a crisis to crisis basis, there will be no end to them. Furthermore, future generations of farmers will roundly condemn us for failing to provide them with policies that remove the inherent weaknesses within the price system.
The contention on the part of the Saskatchewan pool is that farmers cannot wait for the results of a long-term policy. That statement has been made on numerous occasions in the past, and perhaps explains why a national policy has never been implemented.
The stated policies of this government are known and generally have the support of the farm organizations. They are intended to remove the root causes of instability in agriculture. True, some of these difficulties will yield only to long term measures. But any effort to jeopardize or prolong the early implementation of a truly national farm policy will be performing a disservice to the farmer.
In agriculture, as in other lines of endeavour, it is essential that we live and operate and plan policies in the real world of today. We would all be delighted to see millions of dollars ploughed into the general improvement of our farming industry. But we must all be very conscious of the grave responsibility of seeing that the industry is not hurt by the policies we implement. Rather we must ensure that the benefits are lasting.
With these remarks and expressing once again the pleasure that the occasion has given me, I have the honour to move, seconded by the hon. member for Montma-gny-L'Islet (Mr. Fortin), that the following address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To His Excellency the Right Hon. Vincent Massey, Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, Governor General and Commander-inChief of Canada:
May it please Your Excellency:
We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both houses of parliament.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY, MOVED BY MR. W. H. JORGENSON AND SECONDED BY MR. LOUIS FORTIN