Mr. F. S. Zaplilny (Dauphin):
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who preceded me seemed to feel it wise'that he should chide the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) for taking up a great deal of the time of this house. I think it can be left to the judgment of the house and of the Canadian people as to which one of those two hon. members uses the time of this house more usefully. This evening the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe), according to his own calculations, used up about $800 worth of time, and although he did provide us with some entertainment he
certainly did not say anything about the bill.
I will have to pass by most of what he said since it had nothing to do with the legislation before us, but I cannot resist the temptation to refer to at least one of his statements.
He made quite a thing of free enterprise.
I think he should know from his wide experience in this house, and certainly the members of the party to which he belongs must know, that it was the leader of their own party, the first prime minister of Canada as a matter of fact, who struck a blow at free enterprise from which it has never recovered.
It was he who introduced the tariff system in this country. No member can stand up in this house and talk about free enterprise and at the same time endorse a tariff system such as we had in the days of the late R. B. Bennett, which practically ruined this country. It was the antithesis of free enterprise. Certainly it was the most damaging kind of control that could have been introduced.
However, this evening I should like to deal with the legislation which is before us. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that what we are doing now in debating this bill is a continuation of something which has become an historical struggle in this country that is the struggle of agriculture to obtain its fair share of the national income. This struggle has been going on for many, many years. I should like to pay tribute to the many members, particularly those from western Canada and not all of the same political persuasion, who have from time to time championed the cause of agriculture and have made some progress. I take some pride and satisfaction in the fact that if we go over the records containing the history of this question we will find that many of the leaders of the movement to which I belong, some of whom are no longer with us, took a very active and valuable part in continuing that struggle for a fair share of the national income for agriculture.
After all, that is the central and main issue. The government may make all the excuses they want to make, the government can try to pretend that they are changing this bill in any way they want, but the central issue and the issue which farm organizations are placing before this parliament is a fair share of the national income for agriculture. Unless the government faces this issue of whether or not this legislation is designed to, and will have the effect of, providing agriculture with a fair share of the national income, then 1 say they are not fulfilling the objectives for which farm organizations and various members of the House of Commons from the west have fought all during these years.
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
The hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe repeated several times that the amendment now before us, which I seconded and support, would have the effect of killing the bill. He made a very obvious attempt to try to frighten the opposition with that statement. He knows, if he was in the house this morning, that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Hark-ness) has already killed the bill. The minister tried to drag in certain amendments in order to change the bill but ended up by saying that the bill would have to be redrafted. As a matter of fact, therefore, the original bill which came before the house has already met its demise at the hands of the Minister of Agriculture. I am glad my colleague, the hon. member for Moose Mountain (Mr. McCullough) moved the motion he did. We are trying to play fair with the farm organizations of this country. We are trying to keep faith with the people whom we represent. When I say "we" I mean not only the members in this group but the members who represent agriculture generally in this house.
During the election campaign the former government took a certain stand on agriculture. Whether that stand was the right one or the wrong one is not the question at issue at this time. I have my opinion on that and I have expressed it many times before. The former government took its stand on this question, and the three other opposition parties took an opposite stand. The Liberal government was not in favour of a parity price system. While I often disagree with the hon. member for Melville (Mr. Gardiner) I must express a certain amount of admiration for the fact that tonight he said substantially what he has been saying in this house for the last 22 years so far as agriculture is concerned. On the other hand, we had the Progressive Conservative party, the C.C.F. and the Social Credit who went out on the hustings in the last election and advocated parity prices for farm products. I am proud to be able to say that my colleagues in the C.C.F. are living up to that promise. We are keeping faith with our electors. I can give the same credit to my Social Credit friends. I cannot put any blame upon my Liberal friends because they took the opposite stand and are still taking the opposite stand. However, I cannot condone or forgive the attitude of the Conservative party or their leader who went out at election time and prate to the farmers about parity prices from one end of the country to the other. At that time every Conservative candidate seemed to know what parity prices meant and had no hesitation in talking about them. Today one of their elder members, a former minister in the second last Conservative government we had in this 96698-171}
country, has the temerity to get up and say nobody knows what parity prices are. Let me say to him that if he does not know I would suggest he consult his own Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) because his own Prime Minister seemed to know a few months ago. I shall have occasion to refer to that again later.
I said that the historic fight of agriculture in this country has been an honourable one. The farmers of this country have never come to parliament asking for something which was not their due. If anything, they have been guilty of modesty. They have a perfect right to claim that agriculture is still the basic industry of Canada. It is still the backbone of our economy, and it is still an industry which, unless it prospers, is going to bring down with it all the rest of our economy. I shall give you, Mr. Speaker, five reasons why I believe agriculture has a good case for asking for its fair share of the national income.
First of all, agriculture is the only source of food and fibre in this country. This is true not only of this country, but the Canadian farm has been traditionally the breadbasket of the world. We will never forget-I am sure the members of the government do not forget-that in the first and second world wars-perhaps to a greater extent in the second world war-the farmers of Canada provided food enough not only to feed the population of this country but to send food to Great Britain, France and our allies. I believe that to a marked extent they were instrumental in helping to win that war.
Agriculture is the source, and the only source of food and fibre in this country, without which there could be nothing else. We can talk about our manufacturing industries, important as they may be, our processing industries, our professions and everything else, but without the food and fibre upon which mankind depends there could be none of these other good things of life. Secondly, agriculture is the basis for many of our secondary industries. I sometimes feel resentful when I hear people who are interested primarily in the secondary industries, manufacturing and processing treating agriculture as if it were something unimportant. They should realize that without agriculture probably anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of our secondary industries would not exist because they are built around what is produced on the land. The people who find employment in these industries would have no income.
Thirdly, farming is a way of life; it is more than a way of making a living. Agriculture, traditionally and historically, has been a way
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization of life and one of the finest ways of life. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have been brought up on a farm realize that there are certain advantages in it. It is true there are certain disadvantages as well, but there are certain innate advantages in living close to the land. You get benefits there which you do not get anywhere else. It would be a good thing for this country if there were more people living on the land, getting the feel of the soil and living close to nature. I believe it would eliminate a great many of the problems we are facing in our lives today.
Fourth, agriculture is an important part of our national defence system. I have referred already to that in one context, but even at the present time, when we are in so-called peace, the role that Canada could play, whether through NATO or the United Nations or any other system of collective security, would be to guarantee a large and secure supply of food which could be made available in case of a world conflict. When we look at the matter from that point of view, how ridiculous and how petty is all this talk about this unmanageable surplus, about this huge world surplus. At what point does a surplus become unmanageable. I say to the Minister of Agriculture that it becomes unmanageable at the point when the leaders of the government have not the imagination to know how to manage it.
When you look at it in the context of the defence of the western world, you ask yourself what our best possible contribution would be. Do we have guided missiles? Do we have other armaments that amount to anything compared with the great military giants of the world? What would be our best contribution? It would be the secure availability of a food supply. If we had some real sense about this matter we would be providing a food bank on a national basis, to begin with, and integrating that bank with an international food bank which would be the greatest contribution any national defence scheme of this country could make to the world.
Fifth, another reason why agriculture deserves and has a perfect right to demand its fair share of the national income is that it is the one industry in which the Canadian people really excel. I do not think there is another nation in the world where, per man or per man hour or per man day, as much is produced in the way of food and fibre as is produced in Canada. In other words, we are the most efficient producers of food and fibre of any country in the world. We excel in that production. It is a matter of national
pride. It is our national emblem. That is the one thing that we can do better than any other country in the world. We fall behind some other nations in the scientific field and we certainly cannot ever hope to compete in the military field. We may fall behind in some other fields. But there is no nation in the world that can out-produce Canada, man for man. Here is something in which we can take a feeling of national pride. Here is something we can do better than anyone else in the world. We should have the sincerity to back that feeling up with something more solid than this kind of trick bill which this minister is trying to pawn off on the farmers of Canada.
The whole objection of the members of the government, including the hon. member who preceded me, to the setting up of a parity price system is the matter of what it would cost the taxpayers. I have not heard of any valid reason which they produced other than that. Certainly it is not a matter of producing too much. The only argument they have used that is understandable is that it may cost the national treasury from time to time some money to maintain a system of support prices based on parity. However, none of them, including the Minister of Agriculture, has to date placed on the record any figures or any estimate whatsoever as to what it may cost the treasury of this country if we were to establish a system of price support based on parity over a period of years. Surely the officials of his department-and if he has not economists there he might borrow a few from the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fleming); there should be a supply in that department-should be able to sit down and give him at least a rough estimate of what may be the cost under various conditions to the treasury of this country.
A good reason why neither the Minister of Agriculture nor any other minister has produced such figures is this. If they did so, I think they or at least the people of Canada would find that this whole business of what it may cost the treasury has been grossly exaggerated out of all proportion. I think what he would find is this. The hon. member for Melville gave us a very good lead in this matter when he spoke today and when he made what I thought was the most important statement in his speech. He said that the market price for food products tends to gravitate to the floor price. That was an extremely important statement from an hon. member who for 22 years was Minister of Agriculture in this country. I want to repeat that statement. He said that the market price has a tendency to gravitate
to the floor price. In other words, when a floor price is set with the backing of the treasury and it becomes a national policy that that shall be the price for that particular commodity, that fact in itself-the very setting up of that floor price-has a strong tendency to bring the market price to that level.
The former minister of agriculture when he made that statement did not make it off the cuff. It was a well considered statement and he knew exactly what he was saying. If that is true-and I believe it is true-then the only way in which we can hope to bring the market price up to the parity level is to set a proper floor price to begin with. If we did that and if it did turn out that the market price did gravitate to the floor price, and if it stayed at that level, it would not cost the treasury of this country five cents to maintain this parity price system.
But suppose that, under certain conditions, the market price did not reach that particular level and it was necessary then, under a system of deficiency payments or subsidies or whatever term you want to use, to pay some money out of the treasury in order to subsidize certain food products. What would it cost? I have not the figures. I have not the facilities to be able to make even a rough guess. But whatever the sum of money may be-and I have a suspicion that it would be a great deal less than we are led to believe- the question arises: is it worth it? Is that industry important enough to Canada that we should be prepared to take a few million dollars or a few hundred million dollars, as the case may be, in order to subsidize certain food products.
Let me point out to the Minister of Agriculture that in the last ten years the people of Canada have paid approximately $4 billion in the form of duties as a result of our tariff structure. I am not asserting that the farmers of Canada have paid all that money, but the consumers of Canada have paid that amount of money, namely $4 billion, as a subsidy-indirectly, but it is still a subsidy- to the manufacturing industry of this country. They have paid $4 billion in the last ten years. That averages to $400 million a year. I am sure that a fraction of that amount- half of it or less-would be sufficient to cover any of the deficiency payments or any of the subsidies that may be required to maintain all our food products at the parity level. Is there any reason why the taxpayers and the consumers-because after all the taxpayers and the consumers in this country are one and the same people-should not contribute to agriculture a fraction of what they are contributing and have been contributing
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization practically since Confederation to the manufacturing industry of this country. On that basis alone that money could be found.
But let us look at the matter from another point of view. Let us compare the value of our agricultural industry with some of the things we are doing for our so-called national defence. If a war were declared, or if we were in the misfortune of becoming involved in a world war within the next few days, instead of the approximately $2 billion which we are paying for national defence at the present time, it is quite likely that we would be paying anywhere from $5 billion to $6 billion or maybe $10 or $12 billion a year. No one knows where the limit may be. As a matter of fact, once we were in it there would be no limit. We would spend as much as would be necessary to maintain our war effort. We found that out in 1939, when the C.C.F. members of the house, as in 1936, 1937 and 1938, asked for a floor price. There was apprehension and we were told, if you do that the country will go bankrupt. Our whole budget in 1938 amounted to $600 million, including national defence. By the end of the war we were spending about $5 billion a year and the country was never in better economic shape than it was at that time.
That means that if the will is there the resources are there. We are capable of providing the money once this parliament makes up its mind that this is an industry which deserves that kind of support and which is going to get that as a matter of principle and as a matter of right.
We could stabilize and support a parity price system for our products for about the cost of one sputnik, half the cost of a D.E.W. line or about the cost of one fleet of modern jets. Now there is a comparison of what we could do for agriculture if we put our minds to it and if we decided it was just as important to this nation and to the world as these national defence armaments on which we are spending so much money.
Now I would like to say a word or two about the actual provisions of the bill itself. I think there are four points in particular to which the farmers of this country took strong exception when they saw the original bill. In the first place, in spite of what the Minister of Agriculture has said-in two speeches now-there is still no basis for parity in this bill. There is nothing in the bill he has introduced, which will include the amendments which he has proposed which provides a base for parity. The best one can say for the base that he is prepared to place under price supports, is that it will be something like 80 per cent of 80 per cent of the three poorest years the farmers ever had.
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
Secondly, there is no formula upon which such a base can be calculated. All of the power, all of the discretion is left to the Minister of Agriculture who is asking parliament for a blank cheque-
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.