Mr. Speaker, some hon. members have very limited contributions to make.
3G5S HOUSE OF
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization I have just heard another one. Between November 7 and December 24 I was out of Canada. During my absence the resolution which preceded this bill was brought down and discussed. Then the bill itself was brought down and during the course of discussion was amended. Following that, I believe on December 21, the house adjourned for the Christmas recess. Almost immediately after my arrival at my home on December 24 I was besieged by farmers who came to speak to me about this bill. Some were speaking only for themselves as individuals and others were speaking possibly for themselves as individuals but were also officials in local farm organizations. They immediately started asking me certain questions about Bill No. 237.
I was in a very happy position at that time because I had never even heard about Bill No. 237. Having been out of the country, I had not seen the resolution and I had not the slightest idea as to what the bill contained. I did not even know the title of it. Therefore I was in the very fortunate position of being able to say to the farmers, "Obviously you do not like it; tell me why". I made notations of their complaints. Certainly it was not a case of stirring them up at all.
Later when I returned to Ottawa on January 3 I examined the bill for the first time and read all the debate relative to it and I found that there was ample justification for their complaints, the main one being, of course, that the formula which had been faithfully promised by Conservative candidates did not appear anywhere in Bill No. 237.
I have been amazed when I have contrasted the observations made by Conservative members in this house while they were in the official opposition with respect to parity and what we have been hearing in this house today from government members concerning this subject. It seems repetitious for one to refer again to the comments that have been referred to so often but, after all, at times it does seem absolutely necessary.
I noted that when the hon. member for Fraser Valley was speaking on Friday he took us back once again to certain amendments which were moved by Conservative members while they were in opposition. He referred us, for example, to March 12, 1956, on which occasion, as recorded at page 2024 of Hansard, the then private hon. member for Prince Albert, our present Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker), moved an amendment to a motion in the following words:
-"in the opinion of this house consideration should be given by the government to the advisability of introducing during the present session legislation to create a parity of prices for agricultural products at levels to ensure producers a fair price-cost relationship".
Those words "parity of prices" stand out so large, Mr. Speaker, that probably even I could read them if I were to remove my glasses. The words used by the Prime Minister on that occasion were "parity of prices". There was never a suggestion on the part of any Conservative member when he was in the opposition that he did not understand the meaning of the word "parity". There was no suggestion on the part of any Conservative on the opposition side of the house at that time that when he spoke of parity he meant 70, 80 or 90 per cent of parity; he talked of parity and nothing else.
Today we found one of the ministers of this government referring to the question of parity in a rather interesting and unsual way. He said, in effect, that an arbitrary 100 per cent of parity was a fantastic assertion. In fact, he created the impression, in my mind at least, that he considered it ridiculous because he went on to say that it does not stand analysis. In addition he also said-perhaps not in these words because I do not have his exact words before me-that it insults one's intelligence. Is it not strange, Mr. Speaker, that we are hearing these things only now? Why in the course of the speeches made before the last election by Conservative candidates did not these same persons stand before their audiences, and especially farm audiences, and say, "Well, after all, the word 'parity' sounds good. Maybe it is good. I will try to find out something about it and if I find it is good I promise I will do something about it."
But no, that is not what they said. I appeared upon more than one platform with my Conservative opponent during the last election campaign and addressed meetings the bulk of which were sponsored by local branches of the farmers' union of Alberta and he, like all the other Conservative candidates was a most agreeable individual. In fact, he was so agreeable that I am prepared to believe that if the farm organizations had asked him to demonstrate that he could stand on his head he probably would have been agreeable to the suggestion.
I recall very well that we were asked certain questions. Do you believe in parity? If you were elected would you press for parity? And the answer in every case was yes; but, of course, we must remember this, that there is now ample evidence to demonstrate that just about every Conservative candidate in the country had his own private version of what
the Conservative party stood for as far as agriculture was concerned. We had that demonstrated in this house, for instance, when the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fleming) was asked what he was prepared to do with respect to the acceptance of foreign currency as partial payment for Canadian agricultural products. The minister in as many words asserted that we have not been asked to accept foreign currency and the policy of the government would certainly seem opposed to the very idea. I mention that because of the fact that my friend the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Johnston) upon one occasion at least during the course of his speech was challenged by the minister who said that his party never did promise that. What the party as such may have promised I am not prepared to say, but it is a fact that every Conservative candidate I have heard speak in my part of the country pledged that if elected, even if he were in the opposition, he would fight for the acceptance of foreign currency as partial payment at least for Canadian farm products sold abroad. As has already been pointed out, even in the House of Commons certain members of the Conservative party including the Prime Minister have gone on record on the floor of this chamber as having supported our amendments which called for that particular policy.
A little earlier I referred to the observations made this afternoon by the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources (Mr. Hamilton) who read from certain publications. His purpose was to demonstrate to the house that farm organizations across this country have endorsed Bill No. 237. He read from a publication known as the Rural Co-operator. I have in front of me the very editorial he was reading. I watched carefully as he read several paragraphs and I was hopeful-in fact at one stage I was very close to asking him- that he would also read paragraphs 10 and 12. He did not. Therefore, I shall read paragraph 10, which reads as follows:
A support price may be set at any point that will ensure a steady supply of a particular commodity and also permit the efficient farmer to make a living, provided it is above 80 per cent of the average price in the previous 10 years. According to the provisions of the bill the cost of goods and services the farmer has to buy will be taken into consideration in setting a support price. But the price will be set by order in council on the recommendation of the prices support board after the prices support board has consulted the advisory board of farmers for which the bill provides. The price will not be set on the basis of a known and established formula as recommended by the C.F.A.
Paragraph 12 reads as follows:
I feel that we should thank the government for giving the farmers support legislation. But I think the bill would have been much more acceptable to farmers if some formula had been included as a guide for establishing price supports that would
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization provide a fair relationship between farm prices and the cost of goods and services the farmer has to buy. Then it would be possible to discuss and negotiate support prices in the light of an agreed measure of the farmers' position in the economy.
I would suggest that these two paragraphs probably would lead most to conclude that while Gordon Greer, the Ontario federation of agriculture president, was, in that editorial, expressing a degree of appreciation for the fact that the government was endeavouring in its own way to do something, the bill itself actually falls considerably short of what the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is asking for, and certainly it is a known fact that the other Canadian farm organizations feel exactly the same way toward it.
I find that farmers in my area take the strongest possible exception to the fact that this formula is missing from the bill. Possibly during the course of the discussion the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Harkness) might indicate to us whether Bill No. 237 does fall completely within the pattern of his own personal thinking. Probably the minister should indicate to us whether he does feel sincerely and conscientiously that we can line this bill up alongside of his own many declarations in the House of Commons since 1945 and whether the two do not conflict violently. Maybe he will be quite successful in doing that.
Then, I would ask him to take the speeches of the present Prime Minister of Canada since 1940-I believe I have heard most of them-and place this bill alongside of his declarations and see whether or not there is violent conflict between the two. There is absolutely no doubt in any farmer's mind that the party which now forms the government of Canada did during the election campaign give an absolute assurance to the Canadian farmers that under a Conservative government they would be provided with a fair share of the national income. This bill cannot, even by the wildest stretch of the imagination, provide that assurance.
Secondly, I should like to point out that there is not a farmer in this country who has forgotten that less than a year ago the Conservative party pledged equity to the farmers of this country. It is my absolute conviction, Mr. Speaker, that no such assurance can be given under the provisions of Bill No. 237.
I have already stated, and it has been pointed out many times, that over the years, and more particularly during the last election campaign, the Conservative party promised the Canadian people adequate parity. I can recall during the election campaign picking out that word "adequate" even at farm forums where all candidates appeared. I pressed myself to try to find out what the
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization word "adequate" meant in relation to parity, to see what is was and who would define it, if and when the Conservative party ever formed the government of Canada.
I think I know now what the official definition of "adequate" is if considered in Conservative language. Certainly it does, as far as I am concerned, create a contradiction when placed alongside the word "parity". I repeat that there was never an indication in this house during all the past years by Conservative speakers that parity meant anything else but parity. This bill does not-let us not kid ourselves into thinking that it does- provide parity and the Canadian farmers, by their demonstrations, today have clearly indicated that they too do not accept it as something which will provide real parity.
The Canadian farmers were promised by the Conservative candidates that if they were elected in sufficient numbers to form the government of Canada there would be established for agriculture a fair cost-price relationship. Again I say this bill cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee a fair cost-price relationship for agriculture. Possibly it does on certain items, but certainly wherever items are excluded it is utterly and completely impossible for that situation to be established.
Finally, the Canadian farmers were assured that the Conservatives, if elected, would guarantee to correct social inequity as applied to the farmer and the inferior economic position in which agriculture had been allowed to fall. Well, Mr. Speaker, cash advances did not do that. Cash advances, as a temporary sort of remedial measure, were supported by us. In the circumstances it was necessary. It certainly has not done anything to guarantee that situation.
Once again I suggest to the house that if it is the minister's conclusion that this bill can or will provide social equity and place the farmers in a proper position in our economy, I would almost have to accuse him of being inebriated. I am absolutely amazed, Mr. Speaker, at the position taken by the government with respect to the amendment which asks that the subject matter of the bill be referred to the standing committee on agriculture and colonization. How often in the past 18 years I have sat over there in the house when the Conservatives were also sitting over there and heard them damn the government of the day for not making more use of the committees of the house. Here would have been an admirable opportunity to demonstrate that they believed what they declared when they were over there. All this eyewash about it holding up the bill unnecessarily, and it is nothing but eyewash, does not impress me very much. This bill, the previous bill and
the resolution preceding the legislation have been before the House of Commons for how long? Well, a couple of months.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.