Mr. W. G. Blair (Lanark):
Mr. Speaker, I should first like to offer my congratulations to the mover (Mr. Hanna) and the seconder (Mr. Robichaud) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I always pay particular attention to this part of this debate. This year I thought the addresses were of a high order. They showed an amount of careful preparation, and the subjects they introduced were well thought out. The addresses were delivered in a very fine manner.
I wish to speak for a short time tonight on the question of the railway strike. In this connection I wish to present a petition which I have received from the clerk of the town of Smiths Falls. In that town there are 1,700 people involved in this strike. This petition did not come to me in the usual way of petitions; it came in the form of a letter. I could not present it in the usual way by filing it with the Clerk or during routine proceedings, because the letter is addressed directly to me. With your consent, Mr. Speaker, I should like to read this petition into the record because of the fact that it is a letter addressed to me. It reads as follows: Municipal Offices Smiths Falls Ontario.
January 8, 1957
Dr. W. G. Blair, M.P.,
Dear Dr. Blair:
At a meeting of our municipal council duly convened on the evening of January 7, 1957, the following resolution was passed for your attention and action thereon:
"Whereas the welfare of the town of Smiths Falls and district is threatened by the railway strike
The Address-Mr. Blair Be it resolved that the mayor convey to the federal member for Lanark county, Dr. W. G. Blair, M.P., this fact and ask him to inform the government of Canada of the urgent need of having the strike settled."
F. R. Gilroy,
Having presented this petition which came in the form of a letter, there are some things I wish to say concerning this strike because it affects a considerable proportion of the people of the riding which I have the honour to represent. The general consensus, so far as I could judge from the addresses in this house, is that this strike is having a very serious effect on the economy of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and that the sooner it is settled the better. We heard one address yesterday from a maritime member concerning conditions around the port of Saint John. We know the situation with respect to the western wheat farmer. We know the effect on industry in Ontario, and I think opinion is unanimous that this strike must be settled as soon as possible.
I was glad to hear today that there was some sign of settlement of this strike by getting these people together. We hear a great deal about automation, and there are people talking about automation now who never even thought of it two weeks ago. Certainly automation is going to make progress, and any person who would say it is not is simply talking in a foolish manner. Automation will proceed, and automation on the railways will increase in the coming years. I think a good example is to go back to conditions in England in 1850 at the time certain improvements were made in the textile industry with the introduction of new looms, whereby it was possible for one workman to do the work that was formerly done by four or five. At the time automation was introduced into the textile industry it was the main industry in the midlands of Britain. These textiles were shipped all over the world. When the new looms came into use people were thrown out of work. There was a great deal of unemployment. There were riots and difficult times in England. It was not easy for people to understand just what was happening, but there must be progress along those lines. Progress will be made in so far as the railroads are concerned.
I had one thing in mind concerning this strike. I admit candidly that I am not so well versed on labour matters, but I am concerned with the matter of safety. I noted that in the report of the conciliation board there was one sentence that cast some doubt on the question of safety. In considering the
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The Address-Mr. Blair question of removing the firemen or engineer's helpers, as they have been called, from the locomotives, there was the suggestion that we would try this thing out and if it did not succeed then we could return to the old system. At least that is the way I interpreted that part of the report, that various changes could be made. I confess, sir, that I have not had experience with labour relations but I have had experience with casualties. I cannot get away from the feeling that there should be a full inquiry into this matter. In so far as the firemen are concerned, they have made a statement that this procedure is not safe. I believe that the firemen are a group of highly responsible people, and if it is not safe there should be a full inquiry into the matter.
If it is ruled by an impartial board that automation has proceeded to the point where the other man is not required on the engine, that is one thing; but if there is the slightest element of danger, then that should be taken into consideration. Any person who has had any experience with railroads knows that wrecks have occurred even under present conditions. It is rather difficult to get away from the matter of human error. Sir, I can call to your mind some accidents that have happened in Canada. I can refer to probably one of the worst accidents that ever happened on a railroad; that is the one that occurred at Almonte a few years ago. It was a dreadful accident; and with all the safety devices on the railroad, with good crews and every care being taken, that accident did happen with the resultant loss of life and horrible injury. I am not fully convinced, therefore, that this matter of safety and the question of human error has been dealt with fully as yet. I feel there should be a further inquiry by a board to make absolutely sure the public is protected.
It is all very well to say you can try this out. It is just like driving an automobile; it is a lot easier to fix the automobile than it is to recover from physical injury. I am glad to see that there has been some move toward an inquiry along that line. As I have stated, I will not be fully convinced until I read a report concerning the matter of safety. I want to be absolutely sure the public of Canada is protected from any form of accident. In my opinion this matter of safety is the crux of the whole thing. Either we do require that extra man on the engine or we do not, and that is the matter which must receive careful consideration from any board appointed to investigate the situation.
Another aspect of the strike with which I am concerned is the matter of people employed in public utilities. I know I am suggesting something very difficult, but it would
seem to me that those employed in public utilities-I am thinking of such public utilities as the hydro, police force and firemen, without whom we cannot get along-should work out some formula or some device for conciliation between the employer, which is generally a municipality or a province, and those working in the public utility. I feel it would be better for such a move to come from labour. It is a very difficult thing to work out, I admit, but if a move were made along that line I think it would be of benefit to all concerned.
I wish to turn for a few minutes to the question of agriculture. I was glad to note the other day in the speech from the throne that some consideration would be given to the question of submarginal land and the possibility of using some device such as the prairie farm rehabilitation act. We go back in the history of this country to the time when the pioneers came here. In going across the country it is very easy to see the areas in which these pioneers settled. They took the high land, and the valleys and lower parts of the country were not utilized at first. They cleared the timber right off the land because it was their ambition to put in crops of some kind to carry them through the ensuing season.
Since that time we have carried on a program of cutting down everything in the nature of timber. I have seen areas in the country where anything that would make a small piece of timber seemed to have been ruthlessly cut down. We have formed no program for the replacement of those trees. This is becoming very important now, because there is usually a spring run-off and there are no trees to hold back the water. The water goes down the streams very rapidly, and we are trying to correct that by building reserve dams.
That is not the answer, Mr. Speaker. We should have a program in this country something like that which has been adopted in some of the Scandinavian countries, namely, if you cut down a tree, plant a tree. There are places in some of the older areas of Canada which do require reforestation, because some of the land was not suitable for farming when it was first cleared. There are other areas which are now classed as submarginal land, which could be used if that land had not been mined but had received proper crop rotation, and if the farmer could have afforded to place fertilizer on the land.
You hear remarks made by economists in agriculture that the time is coming, because of the new type of machinery that is available at the present time, when the larger farm will be the only type of agricultural
unit that will pay. I for one would be very sorry to see some of these smaller farms discontinue operations. The usual description is family farms. I cannot help but think of the fine families that were raised on those farms and the contribution they made to the economy of this country. But I do believe that some of the farms that are worked out at the present time have been mined on account of the fact that farming is becoming a difficult financial venture. I believe that some of those farms could be brought back by the proper use of fertilizer and crop rotation, and that the situation is not hopeless. But there are abandoned farms, Mr. Speaker, the occupants of which have become discouraged. You will find them working in industry. They are not doing any practical farming but are living in the houses on the farms and spending their time in industry. The general complaint of farmers across the country, and especially in my part of the country, is that the prices received for farm products have not kept pace with the prices of consumer goods that the farmer buys. They will all tell you that. This is becoming very apparent to the farmer and is causing many of them to leave the farms; and it is discouraging many young people from entering into the occupation of farming.
Then there is another thing. There has been a steady upward movement in the cost of living. It has gone steadily up in the last three months. I was rather surprised and sorry to note the other day that while the added cost of living was due to various things, there was one thing that seemed to balance out the other way, namely the lower price received for farm products. From the reports we receive I am quite sure that 1957 may be a better year in agricultural circles so far as prices are concerned. There has been the feeling that it may be slightly better than it has been the last four years. Toward the end of last year there was some rise in the prices of agricultural products, and 1957 may be a better year, or equal to 1954; but net farm income will be hundreds of millions of dollars less than the record year of 1951 because costs were lower in 1951 than they were in 1956. Retail prices of food in the stores in 1951 were about the same as they were in 1956, but freight costs, wages and processing costs have increased.
I am going to quote one very well-known authority on agriculture, namely Mr. Bryan L. White, for whose judgment on agricultural matters I have the greatest respect. In the farm page of the Ottawa Journal he points out this fact:
The Address-Mr. Blair There is only one deduction for any fair-minded person to draw from these facts. It is that the farmers of Canada have practically paid for all costs added to food since 1951.
Mr. White was referring to the matter of costs and farm income in the years 1951 to 1956, and he went on to say this:
Wages in the food processing industry have advanced every year, packaging has cost more, but few if any of these costs have been reflected in consumer prices. They have all been deducted at the bottom from the farmer.
I did mention, sir, that I was interested in this committee. I hope when the committee makes its report on the so-called submarginal land it will remember other things, namely that it is necessary to have trees to preserve water; and if industry is going to grow in a province such as Ontario recognition must be given to the enormous amount of water that is used by industry at the present time. Water has become precious. The building of reserve dams will not fully cover the whole matter. It is necessary that we learn and progress more along the line of reforestation, and also consider the deleterious effect of erosion on land.
The matter of reforestation is something that is very important at the present time, but it is difficult to get people to understand it. When our ancestors came to this country it had immense forest cover, but we are only beginning to realize that we cannot proceed without doing something to bring back the land. I remember talking to a forestry man in the Ontario government. I mentioned a part of the country to him and asked why we could not cover those thousands and thousands of acres with pine trees. The land was originally covered with white pine. He made a remark that amazed me. He pointed out that this land had been burned over and it would really take hundreds of years before the land would again become capable of growing pine trees.
It is not a foolish project to carry on a reforestation program, because in time the timber will begin to pay as it did years ago when the land was first cleared, when the trees were sold in the form of squared timber and mighty rafts went down the river to Quebec. The market for squared timber was one of the principal markets of our earlier pioneers.
There is one other matter that I wish to talk about tonight, sir, and that is some of the things that are misunderstood in so far as public relations are concerned between urban and rural dwellers. There is one matter that is really very interesting, because the other night I heard a man speaking on the radio who was evidently a trainer
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The Address-Mr. Blair of athletes. He was talking about the harmful effect of milk. There are people talking about this who do not know what they are talking about, because we have always regarded milk as being the perfect food. If this propaganda goes out from people who do not know what they are talking about it will have a harmful effect on the dairy industry.
Medical research has been carried on into the cause of some heart conditions. The work is not yet completed, but there is a feeling that various animal fats have something to do with the causes. When we consider that for years children have been raised on milk-and we believe that milk is a perfect food-it would seem to me that we must attack this problem with common sense, because the eating of fats, or the eating of anything, is all a question of temperance and how you use it. The overeating of any particular type of food is a foolish thing.
This idea is taking hold in the public mind, possibly due to the fact that people read in the paper of the large number of citizens who seem to have developed heart conditions. This is to the detriment of the Canadian dairy industry. This has not yet been advocated by dietitians, and the question of temperance enters into this matter. As I have said, intemperance with regard to any form of food could produce the same effect.
The Prime Minister, in speaking of the matter of health yesterday, made mention of the fact that men in public life and those occupying high positions were subject to great strain and stress, and that the demands of their positions were having a bad effect as far as their physical condition was concerned. The day before yesterday we had the resignation of Hon. George Drew the leader of this party due to ill health, and yesterday brought word of the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden for the same reason. Sir Anthony Eden underwent a most difficult operation three years ago, and those who are his political enemies could very well bear in mind that here is a man who carried on and did a job for his country despite his physical condition. The President of the United States, General Eisenhower, has had difficulties with his health, as has Mr. Dulles. I fully agree with the Prime Minister that the strain and stress of public life is taking its toll among people who are at the head of governments and those who occupy prominent positions. No matter what our political affiliation may be, I feel we should take this into consideration and a measure of sympathy should be extended toward these people.
Before I leave the question of agriculture I should like to refer to an article which appeared in the Globe and Mail this morning.
The article is somewhat interesting, and it concerns the health of farmers. It seems that in the southern United States there is an organization known as the international federation of agricultural producers. The Louisiana State University school of medicine conducted a survey in which this organization was interested. The survey revealed that more than 60 per cent of the population of the United States suffers from headaches. The investigation also revealed that medical students had more recurring headaches than anyone else in the country, while farmers had fewer than any other group. This is not a joke; it is a report of the survey made by the Louisiana State University school of medicine. The article goes on to say:
It was not suggested that farmers have less to worry about than other people. The reason for fewer headaches on the farm may be that farmers breathe more fresh air.
I have inserted this in my address because I thought it contained a touch of humour. I am perfectly sure that if farmers do not suffer the physical ills of headaches they certainly suffer headaches in the slang sense of that word. It is a fact that the returns from the sale of farm products have not kept pace with the increased cost of living to the farmer. That is the issue which is causing so much difficulty for the farmer at the present time.
There is one other matter contained in the speech from the throne with which I should like to deal, and that is the question of aid to municipalities. Every person in this chamber, every home owner, and every person who rents in this country is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that taxation on real estate has reached the saturation point; there is no doubt about that. I noticed a statement made by the premier of the province of Ontario a few months ago. He said he had to deal with the reception of 750,000 additional children in primary and elementary schools within the next nine years. This simply means the province of Ontario and its municipalities must make arrangements for the education of almost double the number of pupils they have at the present time.
It is going to be extremely difficult for the municipalities to meet that increased demand by the addition of elementary and high schools. In the same period of time the universities will also double the number of students they have. This is a most serious matter. The young people of this country are our greatest asset. Meeting the increased demands involves in addition to education the supplying of public utilities, sewers, roads, highways, and all the things that are dealt with by the municipalities.
There is no doubt but that real estate has reached its saturation point in terms of taxation, and that at some stage in the next few years we must make arrangements for increased expenditures. I have grave doubts that the broadening of the taxation field through an increase in population or increased industrial expansion will entirely cope with this matter. With regard to aid to the municipalities, any thought the government has given to this matter and any start it makes, no matter how small it may be, will be a step toward some realization of the position of the municipalities. If conditions do not change in the next nine or ten years we are going to be faced with a serious problem. In some way or other there must be a means of granting increased aid to the municipalities.
There are other matters, sir, which I might mention at this time, and one is the position of the veterans. Before I left my home last week I watched a television program which dealt with an institute that cares for homeless men, men in a difficult financial position; as a matter of fact it is a mission. During the program the superintendent of this mission interviewed some of the men who were enjoying a free meal there. In many cases they were returned soldiers, and some reported that they received the veterans allowance. Others said they were not able to work because of their age or state of health, and some were not in receipt of a pension adequate to provide them with a room, meals and the comforts of life.
There is one group of ex-soldiers for whom I wish to make a special appeal. I refer to the soldiers of the first war who served only in England, and who are not eligible for veterans allowance. It is important to remember that they feel they have just as much right to receive the war veterans allowance as do members of the second war who served only in England. This feeling was created possibly because a theatre of war was declared with regard to one war and not with regard to the other. Many of the men who served only in England in the first war were held in position there, and some were ill or unfit. It was through no fault of their own. They made themselves useful in their positions. If you have had any experience in the army you will be aware it is not a good thing to take a man away from a job he is doing well.
Those who served in the first war are growing old, and they are few in number. They look at their comrades who served in the second war, many of whom served only a short time in England, and they feel they are
The Address-Mr. Caron being discriminated against because they are not receiving the war veterans allowance. Certainly their hearts were in the right place when they enlisted, and it is not their fault that they are not eligible. They are becoming older and fewer in number all the time.
In view of the decreasing number of these old gentlemen, who with the best possible motives enlisted in the first world war, I ask the government to reconsider the matter of war veterans allowances and grant allowances to those who served in England in the first world war. As I watched the movie showing these men being fed I felt that there was something wrong when they were forced to obtain a meal at a mission in order to keep body and soul together. Certainly this parliament should do something.
There are not many of them, and it would not cost this country very much. I hope no member of the government will say that we of the opposition ask the government to spend money and at the same time ask the government to save money. This is a small matter, and it does not enter into the question of spending money. It is the duty of Canada to look after these aged citizens who with the best motives volunteered in the first world war.
I know some of these men personally. They have no pensions, as they are in between the age groups. The average age of men who served in the first world war is in the early sixties, and many of them are not eligible for the old age pension with a means test. They are receiving nothing. The fact that they served should be recognized. I know it would be the wish of every Canadian that these people not be neglected.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY