William Ross MACDONALD

MACDONALD, The Hon. William Ross, P.C., Q.C., LL.D.

Personal Data

Brantford (Ontario)
Birth Date
December 25, 1891
Deceased Date
May 28, 1976

Parliamentary Career

October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Brantford City (Ontario)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Brantford City (Ontario)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Brantford City (Ontario)
  • Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons (September 27, 1945 - April 30, 1949)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Brantford (Ontario)
  • Speaker of the House of Commons (September 15, 1949 - June 11, 1953)
  • Leader of the Government in the Senate (January 1, 1953 - June 1, 1957)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 527 of 527)

March 2, 1936

Mr. W. R. MACDONALD (Brantford):

Before entering into the debate on this motion, allow me, Mr. Speaker, on this my first opportunity, to congratulate you on the high honour which has been bestowed upon you. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) were in his seat I would take this opportunity of felicitating him on the high honour conferred upon him by being elected to the eminent position of Prime Minister of this dominion. I trust some of his colleagues will deliver this message to him. I further congratulate him on the body of men with whom he has surrounded himself and who now form the cabinet of this country. It was said of the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier that he surrounded himself with a cabinet of talents. I hope the present cabinet will prove


to be at least equal to and probably greater than that of the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

As I rise to speak to this motion I do so not for the purpose of defending or condemning the agricultural implement manufacturing companies. I rise because I am honoured to represent that great industrial centre, the city of Brantford, in which are situated two of the largest farm implement manufacturing companies in the dominion. During the days of prosperity under the former Liberal administration there were employed in those factories approximately three thousand men. Unfortunately, during the last few years the number employed has decreased at times to less than eight hundred. Therefore I feel that I would be recreant to my duty if I did not at this time say a word on behalf of that great band of loyal workers who have struggled honestly for years to turn out the implements which reap the crops of this country. We have heard a great deal of the hardships of the farmer, and far be it from me to belittle them. I know the trials and difficulties of the farmers. But I would remind the house that others also 'have suffered trials and difficulties. We have heard that a large percentage of the farmers are in virtual bankruptcy. I would remind hon. members that in Brantford approximately one-quarter of the population was not only in virtual bankruptcy but would have been in actual need had it not been for government assistance. In January, 1935, out of a population of about 30,000 there were on actual relief 7,237 people, or approximately twenty-five per cent. This year I am happy to say that that number has decreased to 5,719, but it is still about twenty per cent.

It has been said that in 1929 there was produced in this country about $40,000,000 worth of farm implements. In 1932 that production decreased to about $5,000,000. In 1926 farm implements amounted to 1 -18 per oent of the total manufactures of this country, while in 1932 farm implements amounted to only 0-32 per cent of the total. I mention these figures so that hon. members will have some idea of the effect that has had on Brantford. It means that the working men of that city have been out of employment; they have had to struggle to maintain their standing in the community. I bring this matter to the attention of the house in order that we may all realize that Canada must be looked upon as one great country. I do not believe in sectionalism; I do not believe in provincialism. We cannot set the east against the west; we cannot set Ontario and Quebec against the maritime and the western provinces. The farmers must not be set against


Farm Implements-Mr. Macdonald.

the manufacturers, or manufacturers against working men or working men against farmers. We must regard these problems as our common problems, and as a united people, not as one class only in the nation, try to solve them.

I should like at this time to clear up some misconceptions. Naturally the farmers buy a considerable number of farm implements. I have in my hand a chart which appeared in the Nor'west Farmer, a journal of very high standing published in western Canada. According to this chart, of the total income the farmer receives he spends only three per cent on farm implements and repairs. Not a very large percentage of his income, hon. members will agree. I also notice that he pays eight per cent of his total gross income for interest, and eight per cent for automobiles. The amount he spends on farm implements and repairs is less, I am safe in saying, than he spends on any other class of goods. So it must be agreed that farm implements are not his major expense.

Then, as has been stated by two former speakers, the implement companies have not made money. I am glad that statement has been made, because there is a feeling abroad- I have met with it from time to time in conversing with members of this house and other people throughout the country-that the implement companies have been making a great deal of money. They have not. During the last five years one company not only has not made any profits but has gone behind $20,000,000. The other company in my constituency has lost all the surplus it had and is in debt to a very large amount. With regard to the investors in those companies, very little has been paid to them. One company did pay dividends to its shareholders in 1928, but at the time it commenced to pay those dividends it was sixty per cent in arrears on its preferred stock, which showed that it had not been making much up to that time. That company paid dividends for two years and for two quarters of 1930, but since then no dividends have been paid. I have heard it said that the deficits of those companies are due to a large extent to bad debts. True, there have been many bad debts, and the debtors of course are the farmers of this country. One company informed me that during the last three years their collections were as follows: In 1933 they collected

twelve per cent of their outstanding accounts; in 1934, eighteen per cent and in 1935, sixteen per cent; and it cost them each year to collect those debts fifteen per cent of what

JMr. W. R. Macdonald.]

they collected. So there cannot be much money in that.

I should like to remind hon. members of certain laws in effect in Canada. For instance, when an implement is sold the company may take a lien on it. The farmer does not pay cash.. In the event of non-payment, however, the manufacturer cannot go in and seize the implement, simply because he happens to hold a lien. The law has been changed so that the farm implement manufacturer must go to the commission to obtain its permission to seize the implement. The chances are that the commissioner will say, "Well, let the farmer keep it a little while longer. Let him keep it another year, anyway, and we will see what will happen then."

I would diraw hon. members' attention to the fact that if through no fault of his own a farmer does not pay his debts, or cannot pay them, he has some recourse. He may go to a board which has been set up under the Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act, and in the event of his owing one of the farm implement companies an amount of, say $800, the chances are that the official on the board will say, "Do not worry about the farm implement company; pay them $200, and call it square." The farm implement company has no recourse. I mention this point to show that the farmer has been receiving some consideration. I do not want to set the farmer against the workingman, but I must remind hon. members that if one of the workers in the factories of Brantford cannot pay his debts he is not protected by a creditors arrangement board. His creditors enter a claim in the courts, and in the event of their obtaining judgment against him they seize all he owns. There is no recourse for the workingman; he has to pay. I sometimes hear it said that the manufacturer wants to beat the farmer, but I do not believe that is right. The manufacturer knows that the farmer is his sole customer.

One of my purposes in rising to-night is to try to instil a better spirit of good will not only between workers and farmers, but among workers, manufacturers and farmers. The statement has been made that prices have increased, and we have been given comparisons between prices of 1911 and those of 1930. I do not intend to meet the argument at length. As a matter of fact I have not a clear recollection of conditions in 1911, but I do know there has been a great change between conditions of those days and those of 1930. Unfortunately the farmer has not benefited to the extent he Should have. I know, however, that the city dweller has to pay more for

Farm Implements-Mr. Macdonald

everything he buys, and that the manufacturer of all lines of articles cannot manufacture as cheaply to-day as he could in 1911.

The hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Johnston) stated, quite correctly, that since the war prices of automobiles have decreased. The statement is made that to-day we can buy a better automobile for less money, and on the face of it that would seem to be a good answer to the question: Why should not farm implements be in the same class? I would like to remind hon. members, however, that the farm implement business has been in existence for generations, whereas the automobile business started during our generation. Mass production has just developed in the automobile industry, but in the implement industry mass production was at its height before the automobile was invented. For these reasons I would say that the two industries are not comparable. However, if hon. members do wish to make a comparison I would suggest the comparison between the tractor and the automobile. I believe such a comparison will show that to-day the tractor costs just about half, or at any rate considerably less than it did in 1918. Prices of tractors have declined, because in 1918 they were not being turned out in such large quantities as they are to-day.

Certain figures were quoted to which, if I have time, I shall direct my attention in a few minutes. It must be remembered, too, that there have been improvements in farm implements, and that to-day there are certain implements a farmer can buy at the decreased or former price, if he is content to take an obsolete implement, or one that is not quite up to date. Prices of the older types of implements remain where they were, but improvements have been made, and if a farmer wishes to obtain the improved article he must pay more for it. I am informed on reliable authority that to-day the farmer wants the best implements he can buy, and that the manufacturers cannot sell the old style machines because the farmer wants up to date machinery. We cannot blame him for that, because we all feel the same way.

It is true that prices have been increased.

I do not deny that between 1911 and 1935 prices were increased, but again I am informed that the implement of to-day is worth considerably more than that of 1911, and if you take into account the repairs which had to be made to the implement of 1911 and compare repair expenditures with what the farmer has to pay to-day, I am advised that the implement sold to-day is a better buy, dollar for dollar, than that of 1911. I would draw the attention of hon. members to the

fact that although prices of implements, generally, have gone up a small amount, prices of spare parts have not increased. Prices of spare parts remain as they were.

I shall not go into all the prices quoted by the hon. member for Lake Centre, but if hon. members followed them they would know that in no instance is the price for 1936 greater than it was in 1930. True, there is a slight increase over 1935, but the 1930 price in practically every case was higher than that of 1936. If you take the 1936 price and compare it with that of 1935 you find that the increase by percentage has not been very great. As a matter of fact if one were to take the trouble to figure it out he would find that it comes to only approximately three per cent, while in some instances there has been no increase. I think hon. members will agree that three per cent is not very great.

I suggest that we are not tackling this problem in the proper manner. Again I wish to express my sympathy for the farmer. There are farmers in my constituency, and I should like to see them buy their implements as cheaply as possible. On the other hand there are thousands of working men in that constituency, and I want to see them employed at fair rates of wages. I do not think the time of hon. members should be spent in costly investigation. Last year the farm implement industry was investigated very thoroughly and carefully by the experts of the price spreads commission. They went into every phase of the industry. Is it the desire of the house that in order to investigate this industry we should again spend thousands of dollars of the public money and also have the implement companies spend thousands of dollars of their money? I do not think we should go about the matter in that way. As the increases have been only three per cent,

I think we should devise ways and means of obtaining for the farmer a better price for his products so that he will have money with which to buy the necessary implements.

It is my intention to support the treaty between the United States and Canada because I feel that it will put more money into the hands of the purchasing public. In conclusion, let me say again that I trust the house will not decide to spend thousands of dollars to investigate this industry, but will devote its attention to getting more money for the products produced by the farmers so that the working men in Brantford may obtain a fair wage for the work they do and implements may be sold to the farmers at a reasonable price.

Farm Implements-Mr. Perley

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March 2, 1936

Mr. MACDONALD (Brantford):

Were the tariff walls there when they were exporting? Were the tariff walls on the foreign countries when they were exporting?

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March 2, 1936

Mr. MACDONALD (Brantford):

I am

sorry that I cannot give my hon. friend the correct figures. However I can say on very good authority that the working man is getting more money to-day than he did in 1911. Of course, I am not satisfied with the amount he is getting and I hope he will get even more when conditions return to normal.

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