Mr. Chairman, I must confess that I am pleased with the changes the minister is now making in these schedules. Certainly I was very much disturbed when the budget was brought down to note the increases in the tariff particularly on fruits. While I have a great sympathy for the producer of fruits and I know that in many cases he does not get the cost of production for his product, on the other hand I must remember the cost of fruit to the people whom I represent in Manitoba particularly, and I just want to bring to the attention of the committee the prices we pay for fruits such as these, particularly berries and apples.
Last year, while travelling between Brandon and Calgary, I was fortunate enough to encounter the present premier of British Columbia on his way home, after having been in Ottawa. Discusing this matter of fruit and fruit prices on the prairies, I told him what we had to pay for raspberries and strawberries, and he was horrified. I asked him what the producer in British Columbia usually got for his strawberries per quart, and he said that if he got six or seven cents he thought he was doing very well. I said, "Well, what do you think we pay for them in Manitoba?" He said he did not know; he thought possibly we paid sixteen or seventeen cents a quart. My wife had paid in the early part of the summer thirty-three cents a quart, or $8 for a case of twenty-four quart boxes of strawberries. Before I left
Ottawa, when I visited the markets here I discovered that the people were bringing in strawberries at the end1 of the season in pails and baskets, and could not sell them for the cost of picking. When I got home I found that my people had been paying $8 a case for strawberries, which worked out at about 33 cents for a small quart box.
If it is true, as the premier of British Columbia told me-and I have no reason to believe it is not true; as a matter of fact I know it to be the truth-that the growers out there get only seven cents a box, suppose we add seven cents a box, which would give the jobber 100 per cent on his money; that would bring the price up to 14 cents. Then suppose we give the retail merchant 100 per cent on his money, which would bring the price up to 28 cents per box, leaving 5 cents a box to pay for freight, and I am sure it does not cost that much from British Columbia to Manitoba. That is the situation with regard to fruit, particularly raspberries and strawberries, on the prairies. We have ipaid as high as $9 and $9.25 a case for raspberries and from $8 to $8.25 per case for strawberries. That is the usual price, from year to year.
Now, Mr. Chairman, is it any wonder that we become alarmed when there is a suggestion that the duty on these articles should be raised? What is the trouble? Again in discussing the question with the gentleman to whom I referred, he made the statement that he would institute an inquiry into the matter and find out where the difficulty was, realizing that the growers of fruit in British Columbia and other parts of Canada were not getting the cost of production while we were being charged prices which we could not afford to pay. Let me point out to the committee the $8 a case for strawberries means the price of 10 bushels of wheat to buy one case of strawberries. How many people on the farms of Manitoba ever get a strawberry? Not 50 per cent of those people ever see one berry; they could not afford to buy them.
Topic: AS AMENDED IN COMMITTEE OF WAYS AND MEANS, MAY 19 AND 20, 1930