Mr. H. A. Bryson (Humboldl-Melforl):
This is a moment, Mr. Speaker, which I am not likely soon to forget, in rising for the first time to take part in a debate in the House of Commons.
First of all I should like to add my congratulations to those of others in complimenting the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) upon the return of his government to power in this country for the next four years. I think those of us in opposition should submit cheerfully to the will of the people.
While it is a great privilege for me to be here today as a representative of the people of my constituency, it does carry with it great responsibilities; not only to the people who sent me here, but I cannot help feeling an obligation to the man who has represented a great part of my constituency so ably and so well over the years in this house. I refer to Mr. Wright. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and for the information of hon. members, may I take this opportunity to say that Mr. Wright has just undergone a very serious major operation. I am sure I speak for a great many of Percy's friends here when I say that we wish him a speedy and satisfactory recovery.
It would be quite superfluous on my part to talk at length to the house about the constituency I represent. I am sure that on former occasions you have been told not only about the very fine people who live there but also about the productivity of the soil in that area known as the Carrot river valley. In passing I might say something about the composition of the constituency of Humboldt-Melfort. As you know, it is the result of the redistribution bill, and is composed largely of the old constituency of Melfort, formerly represented here by Mr. Percy Wright, and the old constituency of Humboldt, the representative of which during the twenty-first parliament was Joe Hetland.
I should like to say here that Joe Hetland's path and mine crossed many times during the campaign. I am doubtful if there is any member in the House of Commons who had an opponent who was any more fairminded or played the game any better than Joe did.
When agriculture is discussed in the house I am told that those of us from the west, particularly those of us from Saskatchewan,
are accused-and I imagine there is some justification for the accusation-of wanting to talk about wheat to the exclusion of every other problem faced by agricultural producers in this country. And if I follow that pattern this afternoon it is not because I am entirely oblivious to the very complex problems which I know are faced by other producers of agricultural products in this country, but rather that I may be a little better informed on those very acute problems being faced by the farmers of western Canada, and Saskatchewan in particular.
I think we should approach the discussion of agricultural problems in a systematic manner. First of all, do we believe there is a problem? Then we must find out why it exists. What are the reasons? Then we should suggest what we believe should be done to resolve some of those problems.
I believe I can say without fear of successful contradiction that, in so far as the welfare of the people of Canada is concerned, agriculture is and in all probability will remain Canada's most important industry. I am sure also that cereal grains must be considered a very important factor in the agricultural economy of the country. Therefore it is only natural that we in Saskatchewan should think in terms of wheat, because what a great many of us cannot forget is the fact that in Saskatchewan-and I do not say this in any boastful manner-we produce more cereal grain than all the other nine provinces of Canada combined.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we believe we may have some justification for continuously bringing this problem of wheat to the floor of the house. I was, to say the least, annoyed when the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) read a telegram to the house from Mr. Roy C. Marler, president of the Alberta federation of agriculture, who obviously was speaking for himself. And I should like to have the opportunity, before very long, of telling Mr. Marler right to his face that that statement was ill-advised, unwarranted and entirely irresponsible.
Mr. Speaker, every barn door in western Canada is covered with figures to disprove that statement. We are told here-and I am not going to argue the point, because it is true-that Canada's national income is the greatest in its history. The inference of course is that agriculture shares fairly in that tremendous national income. But, as has been said over and over again in this debate, the facts disprove that statement. In spite of the fact that 23 per cent of all the people of Canada are actively engaged in agriculture, they share in only 11 per cent
of the national income. And, mind you, we were worse off in 1953 than we were in 1952.
According to a forecast in the agricultural review, a publication issued by the Minister of Agriculture's department early last year, this prediction was made:
Indications are that the farmer's costs of production will rise in 1953, and in all probability he will be asked to take less for what he produces.
While as yet we have not the complete figures for 1953, I think that forecast will prove to have been correct.
Then, again, the Canadian Pacific Railway is proposing that its freight rate structure in Canada be based on a return of not less than 6J per cent on its capital investment relative to its rail operations. They believe that 6i per cent on their capital investment is a minimum they must have in order that that industry may remain in a solvent position. Yet what are the facts? Again from the department's own figures over the past twenty years, in Canada agriculture has had returned to it on its capital investment less than 2 per cent.
I should like to mention one other thing to prove that there is something basically wrong with our agricultural set-up in Canada. This is recorded in Hansard of last year, in the income tax debate. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) made the statement that he did not believe that 90 per cent of the farmers in eastern Canada made enough money to pay income tax, and he doubted very much whether more than 15 per cent in western Canada paid income tax, in spite of the fact that over and over again we are told that the farmer is in a mighty prosperous position, and that he had never had it so good in his life.
In the light of what I have said, we believe there is justification for this problem of agriculture being brought up again and again in the House of Commons. During the past five years we have seen surpluses of every product of agriculture pile up in this country. I will say that the government has been able to dispose of some of these products. They have been able to dispose of them, and we are not faced today with terrific surpluses for one reason and one reason only, namely that the farmers all across this country have cut back on their production. They could see no market; they could see no price; they could see no future in growing commodities which are so badly needed in the world today.
Had we had the foresight to accept sterling in part payment, had we removed those restrictions on the importation of goods from
The Address-Mr. Bryson in return for our products, possibly this condition never would have resulted; but we deliberately did everything we could to discourage trade with Britain, by the imposition of tariffs, taxes and duties on manufactured goods coming into this country. We deliberately discouraged that trade, and Britain, in frustration, had to turn to other countries to try to get these agricultural products where she could, and which she so badly needed.
But, Mr. Speaker, the reasons which I have outlined are not the reasons which were given to the people of Canada by the Minister of Agriculture for this dilemma we are in. He gave us other reasons. When he spoke to the Hudson bay route association the Minister of Agriculture said, "Great Britain does not want our food, other than wheat." He made that flat statement. British goods are not competitive in this country with Canadian and United States goods, we are told. We know that is false. We know that possibly some United Kingdom goods are not of the design that we are used to, or something like that, but in the main British goods are acceptable in Canada.
Then we were told that there was a problem of convertibility. We were told that if we accepted sterling we could not do anything with it. I submit to you that we can do lots of things with sterling. Many other countries of the commonwealth will accept sterling. Perhaps the best thing we ever could have done would have been to accept sterling as part payment and re-invest it in Britain in the form of credits, in order that Britain could rebuild factories that were destroyed during the war, and in that way enable her to manufacture more goods to trade with us for our agricultural products. We believe that could have been done.
Finally, when the federation of agriculture and the farm unions in Canada became worried about the loss of our United States markets, those few flimsy markets that we have there for our agricultural products; when they saw those markets going by the board, they asked the Minister of Agriculture to address the annual meeting of the federation of agriculture in Vancouver, and they put the proposition to him there. They said to him, "We must get back the British market which we have lost". The Minister of Agriculture said to them, "Great Britain today is buying beef from the Argentine cheaper than she can buy it in Canada. Great Britain is iable to buy bacon in Denmark for something like 30 cents a pound". In effect he said, "If you farmers want that kind of market, I will get you back the British market tomorrow;
the United Kingdom, in order that the United Kingdom could trade manufactured goods but you do not want that kind of market.
The Address-Mr. Bryson The farmers of Canada have priced themselves out of the British market".
To quote Shakespeare, "This was the most unkindest cut of all". Possibly there was some truth in what the minister said, but the farmers were not to blame for it. It was because of the policies which have been pursued by this government, which have allowed our cost of production to rise and rise until we have come to the point where it is pretty tough to compete with some of these other countries.
I am not too concerned about the price of goods we sell; I am not concerned about the price of pork or beef, or cheese or anything else. What I am concerned with is that there is no relationship between the cost of production and the prices we get for the things we produce. That is the key to the whole situation. These rises in the farmer's cost of production, Mr. Speaker, the unprecedented rise in the cost of farm machinery over the past five to eight years, the rise in the price of farm fertilizer, the rise in the price of farm fuels and everything else- these are the reasons why it is pretty tough for us to compete in some of these markets of the world. And the Minister of Agriculture says, "You fellows are to blame".
I shall mention only one other thing. I am going to speak for a moment about fertilizer, and when I am through with that I am going to make a request of the Minister of Agriculture. In 1943 fertilizer-and this is old stuff-
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY