Mr. A. D. Hales (Wellington South):
Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on Bill No. 237, the agricultural stabilization bill, I am speaking for the first time in this renowned and time-honoured chamber. I should like immediately to join with those speakers who have preceded me in congratulating the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker on their elevation to the Speaker's chair. As this session of parliament has progressed it has become extremely evident that those appointments were well and justly made.
Like the hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Doucett), the hon. Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Smith) and our newest member from the Yukon-although he is not in his seat as yet, many of us have had the pleasure of meeting him and are looking forward to the great contribution he will undoubtedly make to this house-I am one of the youngest members of this house with respect to the number of months of service to his constituency since June 10. By that I mean the election in my riding of Wellington South was a deferred election held on July 15 due to the untimely death of the late Henry Hosking the Liberal candidate and former member of this house.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay my respects to Mr. Hosking and I am sure hon. gentlemen on the other side of the house who knew him well will join me in this tribute. Mr. Hosking and I met on common ground on many occasions and, although we shared opposing political views, I respected him for his very arduous and diligent attention to the interests of the constituents of the riding I now represent. He devoted his talents, his time and his efforts to his riding in the same way as many of us are doing now.
I am particularly happy to take part in the debate on this agricultural bill because the riding I represent has long been known for its many contributions to the field of agriculture and, I might add, to the field of politics as well. In proof of this statement I need only to mention the late hon. Hugh Guthrie, leader of the opposition and for many years minister of justice in this house, the late R. W. Gladstone, a distinguished senator, and the Right Hon. George Drew, former premier of Ontario, leader of the opposition in this house and now Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Returning to the subject of agriculture, Mr. Speaker, I take pride in pointing out that it 96698-217
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization was to my riding that the first Hereford animal was imported to Canada by the late F. W. Stone in 1860, almost 100 years ago. The first Angus cow to be imported to Canada was brought to Guelph by the late James Bowman. The first Shorthorn cattle, although landed at St. Catharines, were very soon driven to Guelph and the breed was propagated there.
The Ontario Agricultural College and the Ontario Veterinary College, the largest universities of their kind in the British Empire, are situated in the centre of Wellington South at Guelph, Ontario. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, these facts coupled with the fact that the Ontario Agricultural College is my alma mater and I am a retail meat merchant and farmer explain my particular interest in this agricultural bill.
The introduction of this bill, I feel, is the result of several things. First, and I think most important, it is the result of the depressed condition in which the farmers of Canada found themselves when our party went to the country. What were the agricultural conditions which existed across this great country of ours? I cannot speak for all parts of Canada but I do know what conditions existed in my own riding. Many farms were run down in appearance and condition, the soil was being robbed, the farmers were living off their depreciation. Many farmers were carrying on a part-time operation, working part time in factories. Farmers' wives and children were required to work in order to help make ends meet. Implement dealers were unable to make sales. I could continue enumerating these conditions but all hon. members know the story.
Between 1946 and 1956 prices of commodities and services used by Canadian farmers rose by 58.2 per cent, between 1951 and 1956 prices of farm produce declined by 21.8 per cent. In 1956 the net income per Canadian family was $4,900 while the net income per farm family was $3,037. In other words, the farm family was being asked to live on $1,863 a year less than the average Canadian family, to accept a standard of living reduced by that amount. Turkeys were pouring into my riding from the United States. Cheese came in from New Zealand. Boat loads of lambs came in from New Zealand and Australia. Canned peaches came in from the United States. And while all this was going on, Liberal cabinet ministers were travelling around the country telling the farmers that they were never better off. The hon. member for Melville (Mr. Gardiner) told the turkey producers that they would have to accept less in order to meet United States competition. Mr. Speaker, did we
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization ever hear any members of the former government telling manufacturers of automobiles, furniture, appliances, boots, shoes and clothing that they should take less in order to meet United States' competition? No, they raise prices as they choose.
The then minister of finance, Walter Harris, in his speeches conveyed the idea that his government should allow agricultural products to come into Canada from the United States in order to keep our prices down. Hon. Milton F. Gregg once said in my riding, "Canada had the best year in her history; of course, farm income was down." The question of farm income was casually dismissed as though it were completely incidental.
I have outlined, Mr. Speaker, some of the conditions that the former Liberal government knew about and allowed to exist. The election came and after it was over the Conservative party formed the government. It was decided that something should be done- yes, something should be done immediately -to correct this unfair situation. We promised we would and we have. It is well known to all how quickly our government acted with respect to the importation of turkeys. Our present Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Harkness) had not yet been appointed and was then only acting minister of agriculture when he put turkeys under price support and import control. Just speak to any turkey producer and ask him what he thinks of our party. Ask the dairy man, too; he knows about the import control on butter oil and powdered milk, etc.
We now have before us a bill that fulfils another promise we made to relieve the distressed condition of agriculture. This bill represents another proof to those people of the rural areas who gave us such wonderful support that our promises were sincere. I think the minister is to be commended on this bill, for his willingness to hear representations from farm organizations, and for his eagerness to get the viewpoints of his party backbenchers. In other words I am sure he feels that in order to be successful such a bill must have embodied in it the thinking and the suggestions of the man from the back concession. The fact that he has introduced amendments proves, without fear of contradiction, that he is willing to co-operate, assist and give sympathetic consideration to anything that will help agriculture. I have been amazed at the number of times I have heard farm delegates say when they have come to Ottawa to present their views, "There sure is a different attitude around here now".
This bill, for the first time, is going to give the farmer something to go by. It is going
to give him a chance to plan his program, to plan in advance. Some hon. members can debate and argue as they like but I feel that the old bill never did just that. Too much was left to the minister of agriculture. Support prices just seemed to be pulled out of the air. Nothing was said as to how long they would be in force. But now we have a formula, a flexible formula, a formula any farmer can use and go about his business with a sense of security and stability.
I support the bill because it is flexible, because it takes into consideration the law of supply and demand, something that is most important. The United States system of agricultural support has found that to be the case. They have had great difficulties, involving great surpluses and great cost to the treasury because they have more or less ignored the law of supply and demand.
The advisory committee that the bill calls for, composed of farmers and members of agricultural organizations, will, while setting the prescribed prices each year, likely in January, base their decisions chiefly on the supply and demand picture and they shall have regard to the estimated average cost of production as outlined in the legislation. I should like to repeat that because I think there are many who feel this aspect has not been taken into account. The bill distinctly says that they shall have regard to the estimated average cost of production as outlined in the act.
I should like to take a concrete example of how the bill will work. Suppose I want to feed a number of steers this year on a feed lot. From dominion bureau of statistics figures I can ascertain the average selling price for steers for the last 10 years. I add these prices, divide by 10 and arrive at the basic price which in this particular case is $21.80 a hundredweight. According to the legislation 1 know that the support price for the next 12 months could not be less than 80 per cent of the base price or $17.44 a hundredweight. However, on studying the supply and demand situation I could very likely estimate the prescribed price that would be set by the advisory board. Unless the supply was extremely heavy I would expect the price to settle somewhere around the 10-year average, namely $21.80. I would at least have some idea what I should pay for my stocker cattle, as close to $17.14 a hundred as possible.
In the case of hogs you could arrive at a similar price. You would take the average prices for the last 10 years, obtainable from the dominion bureau of statistics, add them and divide by 10 and you would find that the base price would be $29.08 and the support or drastic level price for 1958 should not be
under $23.26. As I said before, the advisory board should meet preferably in January and again in the fall, and after a close study of the supply and demand situation they would set the prescribed price close to today's level, namely 27 cents.
The agricultural prices stabilization bill is sound, comprehensive and courageous legislation. I do not believe the bill will correct all the ills of agriculture. It will no doubt need further amending from time to time. The government has acted-I repeat, the government has acted-as we promised we would. The success of the bill will depend upon sound judgment, a sense of fairness in the administration of the legislation and the utmost co-operation from the farm organizations to make it succeed.
The farmer on the back concession needs help. Give him a sound agricultural policy. Let the law of supply and demand work. Give him some protection from the dumping of agricultural products and he will work hard and produce the food we need. But let us give him at least an even break so he can have the standard of living which he justly deserves. I appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the privilege of speaking at this time in support of the bill. I sincerely hope it will be passed immediately so that its many benefits may reach the farmer whom we all know needs immediate help.
Topic: COMMONS AFTER RECESS