Mr. JOHNSTON (Lake Centre):
Canadian chamber of commerce. If the Canadian chamber of commerce is right, I
[Mr. J. F. Johnston.)
suggest that the hon. member for York South is out of step with big business in this country because they take a position directly opposite to that which my hon. friend took this afternoon.
In presenting his budget and annual financial statement the other day, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) referred to the fact that the funded debt of this country had been increased materially. But I suggest, if one may for the moment assume the role of a Pollyanna, that there are features of the national debt from which we can extract some comfort. One is that the carrying charges are no greater on the increased debt than they were when the funded debt was about one billion dollars less than it is to-day. Second, 74-15 per cent of government bonds are to-day held within the Dominion of Canada and 12 per cent in the old country,, making a total of 86-15 per cent that is held within the British empire.
It is also pleasing to note that the Minister of Finance intimated that Canada is no longer in the fifth position among the trading nations of the world as set out in the statement of the Canadian chamber of commerce, but to-day has gained the fourth position among the great trading countries of the world.
The Minister of Finance also referred to the initial payment for wheat and to the guaranteed eighty-cent price paid last year. Western members coming to Ottawa for the opening of the session had not been here very long before we learned that some of the eastern members were not in favour of this system of paying a bonus on wheat. That is not to be wondered at. As one who was brought up in Ontario but has since lived many years in the west, I can readily understand why that attitude might be taken. The eastern provinces of Canada produce very little wheat, none at all I think for export, and when it is pointed out to the labouring classes in these eastern provinces that the payment of this bonus on wheat may make their bread dearer, one can understand that opposition to this system might grow; but I shall not deal further with that phase at the moment.
Hon. members will recall that the Minister of Finance in his speech referred to wheat as the back-bone of international trade. I took the trouble to look up the statistics on the production of wheat and its value to the western provinces over a period of years, and I found that in the last twenty-five years western Canada produced a total of 7,371,810,000 bushels of wheat, or an average yearly production of 294,872,000 bushels. Deducting
The Budget-Mr. Johnston (Lake Centre)
our domestic requirements, I find that we had
5,373,786,000 bushels of wheat and wheat products for export. The average price of wheat during that twenty-five year period was ninety-two cents a bushel. This gave to Canada in new wealth in every year of that twenty-five year period an average sum of $214,951,000. One does not need to stretch his imagination very far to understand why during recent years Canada has felt the depression more than she would have done had western Canada been producing her usual crop of wheat. But we have not been producing our annual bushelage, and on top of that the price has been greatly reduced.
For wheat and other grain shipped from western Canada during that twenty-five year period there was paid in transportation costs nearly one billion dollars. These figures, I submit, indicate the importance of the wheat industry in our Canadian economy.
This brings me, Mr. Speaker, to a consideration of the policy to be adopted for the marketing of this year's w-heat crop. Something has already been said on that, and there has been a great deal of missionary work done by certain interests. Those of us who come from western Canada know that it is the big question in the eyes of western people. We have been receiving many letters about it from our constituents. In replying to these letters that I received I invariably pointed out to my people that the representation of Saskatchewan in this house amounted to only a little over eleven per cent of the membership and that consequently we were in no position to force our will upon the house. An initial price of sixty cents has been mentioned, but I can say right away that from the outset I felt that was too low. Under existing conditions our people cannot get along with an initial price of sixty cents.
With regard to the acreage bonus as submitted to the house by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), I am all for it because I believe that in its working out it will assist those who need assistance most. We all know that under last year's policy the man who had most got most and the poor fellow who had little or no wheat got little or nothing. Under the acreage bonus scheme the man who has least will get most, and that I submit is a sound principle. Why do I say that sixty cents a bushel is not enough? I have here an index of the prices of things which the western farmers have to buy, comprising 147 items. Taking the 1913-14 index of 100, we find that these 147 items stand at 136-6 to-day, and the price of wheat No. 1 northern as at November 15 last was 38 per cent lower than in 1913-14-that is, the open 71492-213J
market price. On the basis of the board price it was 10 per cent lower. This means that a bushel of wheat in western Canada in November last-there is little change to-day -had a purchasing power in relation to the things farmers have to buy, on the open market, of 45 per cent in comparison with a purchasing power of 100 before the war. On the basis of the board price to-day the farmer of western Canada has a purchasing power of 66 per cent of what he had before.
Under these conditions I suggest a higher initial payment than sixty cents is necessary if western Canada is to carry on. I believe, however, that a lower price than eighty cents with the acreage bonus will work out better for the majority of farmers than 80 cents without the bonus. As a farmer from the west, knowing the conditions there, I am quite satisfied and would be greatly pleased if this parliament sees its way to give an initial price of eighty cents, but I do not believe that is likely.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE