The Hon. Member across the way says that it is a great government. We will see after the next election whether the public feels that you have a great government. I doubt very much that they will.
As I said before I was interrupted, that $300 million will be welcome in western Canada. I repeat that it will not do the job because it will be an average of approximately $2,500 to each producer. That money will come out of a fund that is close to $1 billion. The $300 million is simply a return of the contributions that the farmers have made over the years and does not give them a return of interest on their money.
For the last several years, as I travelled throughout my constituency, almost without exception the farmers asked me why they cannot opt out of this program. I told them that they are locked in. I am pleased to see that there is an amendment which provides for a ten-year opting out clause. It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on the producers. Unless there are more changes to this Bill I suspect that there will be an increasing number of producers opting out of this program.
Farmers in western Canada are in serious financial difficulty. Their input costs have been rising; their cost of fuel under this Government has more than doubled. The cost of fertilizer has been rising as a result of the National Energy Program.
June 27, 1984
Furthermore, machinery prices have doubled and tripled and interest rates continue to go up to the extent that many farmers are finding it almost impossible to meet the interest payments on the loans they have with the banks or the Farm Credit Corporation.
It is interesting to note that recently a farmer came to my office to talk about his Farm Credit Corporation loan. He was unable to meet his payments last year and, lo and behold, a few weeks ago a representative from the Farm Credit Corporation came to him and said, "You are in arrears. We want to take a statement of your assets because we are considering taking foreclosure action." This man was worried and told me that he had put in his crop and that if it rains, and it has since, he will have a reasonably good crop and will hopefully be able to meet his commitments. He wanted to know how fast they could take his farm. I said, "First, the legal procedure in foreclosing is a fairly lengthy process". I also told him that there will be a payment under the Western Grain Stabilization Program. While it will not be very large, there is an election in the offing and I also suspect that just prior to the election there will be an interim payment by the Wheat Board. I told this farmer that if he added those two payments he would probably be able to pay a substantial amount of the arrears to the Farm Credit Corporation and they will get off his back. I certainly expect that prior to the election there will be an interim payment and another payment on account of the final payment on the grain sales.
The problems faced by farmers also become the problems of the small businessman in the communities, such as the implement dealer, the fuel dealer and the fertilizer dealer. If the farmer does not have the money and is unable to get money to pay his operating expenses, the small businessman is also affected. You will find bankruptcies occurring among small business people.
The Minister talked about this Bill as one to stabilize farm income or to help the farmer. But really it is not such a Bill. The Bill is simply one to put money into the economy of western Canada without regard for the individual producer. The Minister said that the amendments will make this Bill sensitive and flexible. It will make some changes, but it will not make it a Bill satisfactory to the farmers of western Canada. When the original Bill was before the House and before the committee we on this side of the House told the then Minister that the plan would not work in a satisfactory manner. First we said it was a global plan and anyone who has any knowledge of agriculture in western Canada knows that year in and year out the whole of the Canadian Wheat Board area does not have a good crop. You have areas, sometimes large, where the crop is poor. We have an area in northeast Saskatchewan today where there has not been a crop for three years, and the Western Grain Stabilization program has not helped the farmers in that area. Even on a regional basis, Mr. Speaker, it would not serve the purpose. Some of us who served on the committee in 1973-74 recalled that we had participated in the old Prairie Farm Assistance Act, and know
Western Grain Stabilization Act
it did not function. If Members on the other side or the Minister would refer to the committee hearings, they would note that we on this side of the House made several proposals whereby the Bill could be made to function on an individual basis without any particular complications. But the then Minister, Mr. Otto Lang, would not listen to us. He said in the debates and in the committee: "We will pay out in the spring of the year." That money has never been paid out in the spring. He said it was important that the farmers have the money in the spring so they could put in their crops. That has not happened. We gave him a solution, but he did not listen to us.
I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are signalling to me that my time has just about run out. In closing, let me say that it is vital that the Bill itself, the concept of grain stabilization, agriculture stabilization, should be examined and examined in detail with the provinces. I would suggest that after the next election when there is a new Progressive Conservative Government that that examination and those changes will take place.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: WESTERN GRAIN STABILIZATION ACT