Mr. White (Middlesex East):
They do not like it. Consequently they can make all kinds of statements and rash promises because they will never be expected to carry them out. I agree, however, on the question of pensions which many others have mentioned and which I have mentioned from time to time. In view of the tremendous increase in the cost of living it certainly seems to me that the $6 increase is not adequate. I have said before and I say again that if the pensions could be hooked to the cost of living, the government, the old age pensioners and Canadians generally would know just where they stood, and they would not be obliged to face, every once in a while, this question of increasing old age pensions and other pensions. According to the Gordon report-if the Gordon report is to be taken as gospel-it would look as though in the next 15, 20 or 25 years the
cost of living, if all these things are going to go on, would march on up and up. If that is the case, every four or five years the government are going to be faced with this recurring problem.
Some things have been said about trade. Trade is our economic lifeline. To me the disturbing feature is that we are employing people abroad in other countries to do and produce many of the things that we ourselves could do and produce. We are importing a large amount of agricultural products and we are exporting many of our raw materials in order to buy them back as finished products. I was greatly interested in what the Minister of Finance had to say this afternoon when he was dealing with the attitude of this government and of people generally toward the Geneva trade treaties known as GATT. I am one of those who have always been critical of the GATT because we have surrendered our authority to a group of civil servants sitting beyond our boundaries who decided whether my business or your business will sink or swim. They are so far removed from the people that you have not any opportunity to argue with them or deal with them. Yet when it came to a showdown and when it looked as though the maritimes were going to slip entirely out of the grasp of the government, all of a sudden they found a way in which they could circumvent these GATT treaties. It seemed to me that it was a bit of a deathbed repentance or a conversion at the last minute. No doubt within the next two months we shall see more of this sort of thing and we shall hear about some changes that are being made to fit the occasion. It is regrettable that it must come at a time when an election is near and not necessarily when it was needed. This need has been known for quite some time.
I was also interested to note that the minister agreed that agriculture was not receiving its just and fair share of the national income. However he went on and tried to justify the government's position by saying that in almost any other place in the world farm products are cheaper than they are here. However that does not solve the farmer's problem and he is not happy about it. I am rather of the opinion that farmers generally would have taken it with a great deal more grace if the government had tried to do something about it but they have not done so except with regard to potatoes.
I think that all groups within the country recognize the economic squeeze that is affecting the farmer because those industries that are supplying goods to the farmer are finding that business is dull. Many of
the machinery companies are being obliged to reduce their activities. Some are going broke. That situation only reflects the buying power in the hands of the farmer.
I was glad to see that the government had at last taken some action to bring to the maritimes some measure of help, late as it is and probably it is not too great. Some time ago the Minister of Public Works turned the sod for the Fanshawe dam at London, Ontario. We now have an investment there of several millions of dollars and the project is about half completed. But when delegations from the city of London and other Thames river valley municipalities waited on the minister two years ago the matter was going to be given some study. Then lately the project was turned down because he said they were not able to prove that the moneys spent would create enough saving to warrant the expenditure. Should floods occur on the upper Thames river, a sizeable area to the north and west of London could well be under water again as it was in 1937, I believe, and the property damage-to say nothing of the loss of lives-could run into many millions of dollars.
The part that I do not like about it is that we had $1 million with which to help Nasser clean up his canal, and that we have other millions to throw around the world in order to make good fellows of ourselves. Yet we have not any money to spend on our own people. The people of Saskatchewan have been asking for help in connection with a dam there. I do not think there is any doubt that the increased prosperity that could be brought to that area would pay far greater dividends than will the $1 million we spent in connection with the Suez and the money we have spent in other places abroad. I just want to put this question up to the government because one never knows what can happen on these rivers in the springtime.
As I said, many millions of dollars have been invested in the Fanshawe dam, in some reforestation projects along the watershed and the smaller auxiliary dams, and if this river should go on the rampage this spring or some other spring and a disaster occur, would the government be as quick to come to our assistance in the Thames valley as they were to spend millions of dollars on Suez or as they were to give assistance to Cabano and Rimouski at the time of the disastrous fire? I have not forgotten that, and I do not think a good many other Canadians have forgotten it.
There is another subject I want to discuss tonight. During this session and other sessions I have mentioned some things about
agriculture. I am going to mention them tonight from an entirely different viewpoint. For many years Canadian agriculture provided not only food for this nation but was able to export food to the United Kingdom and other countries, especially during wartime. Today, except for wheat or grain, we are not self-supporting. We are spending over $2,000 million every year, and have been since Korea, on national defence. Let us hope a war never occurs, but if it is advisable and wise to spend that much money on national defence it would seem to me that all the money will be wasted if our communications are broken and we are without food. We are in a very serious situation in that regard. You will recall that Britain has struggled heroically to make her island self-sufficient so far as food is concerned. No one knows what might happen, but I say that if a war should occur there is no doubt in the world but what the United States would look after herself first. If the lines of communication were broken we would find ourselves with an army and a civilian population without sufficient food.
A lot has been said about civilian defence; how they are going to evacuate the cities and take the people out into the country. It seems to me like a wild idea. Where are you going to put them in the country, out in the barns? How are you going to feed them? The farmers of the country have been treated by this government in such a manner that they are daily leaving the soil and going to the cities because of shorter hours and higher pay. As I say, if a disaster should strike, the United States will take care of the D.E.W. line and their own country and we might find ourselves in a very serious situation. If the evacuation of our cities were to take place during the winter, I do not know what would happen. If it took place in the summer and the people were sent into the country areas, they would only be there about a month when they would be eating grass because we could not produce enough food to feed our own people. I feel it is a shortsighted policy to spend $2,000 million a year on national defence when the first essential for defence is food. The aim of German submarine warfare was to starve Europe, and we could find ourselves in a similar situation. I would say it was the folly of the century to let our agriculture deteriorate as it has during the last few years.
Just to give you some idea of the amount of food imported in 1956 into an agricultural country such as this. There were 3.5 million dozen eggs imported; 9 million pounds of cheese, in a country that used to export millions of pounds of cheese to the United
Kingdom; 3 million pounds of powdered milk; 4 million pounds of canned corn; 26 million pounds of canned tomatoes; 3 million pounds of canned beans; 22 million pounds of dressed poultry. All this was imported into a country which throughout its history was an exporter of food products. I feel it is the duty of a government to protect the lives and livelihood of its people. This government seems to be worrying about the people in Egypt, Europe and Asia more than they are about our own people. I say, what good is an army, navy or air force if you have not any food to feed the people? The government is now asking us to vote them supply so the people can vote them confidence on June 10 next. I have an idea the people are not going to be quite as certain as the government seems to be that they are going to get that confidence.
I have in my hand a marketing service report from the Department of Agriculture. This is a weekly report, and it is amazing to see the amount of agricultural products that are brought into this country each week. This report refers to vegetable and fruit products, and I am only going to mention three or four of them. During the week ending March 1, there was imported into this country 107 carloads of tomatoes; 41 carloads of apples; 25 carloads of onions; 46 carloads of potatoes. I believe what I am saying about these products applies particularly to southwestern Ontario. When I think of the number of tomatoes that used to be grown, and could be grown, on the shores of lake Ontario and in the counties of Essex and Kent, I am surprised to find we are importing this amount. The minister shakes his head, and I know he will say these are fresh tomatoes.
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY