August 31, 1917

CON

William Wright

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WRIGHT:

The statement has been

made that the miller is making $5 per barrel on flour. I take exception to that statement. I do not believe it is true, and I do not think any gentleman who inquires of any miller in this country will get a reply that will warrant him in making such a statement.

As to the statement of the hon. member for Edmonton that the bulk of the wheat for milling was bought last September, I want more than the hon. gentleman's unconfirmed word. I do not think there is money enough in all the milling companies to buy sufficient wheat to keep all the mills of Canada running for twdlve months. That would be an enormous amount. No doubt they would buy as they could, but I venture to say that somebody has been buying wheat from that time until to-day. Who was buying it? The milling companies. No doubt they are buying wheat to-day and have been buying it every business day since last September. They axe buying it to grind it into flour, and it is being ground into flour.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I think my friend has

thoroughly established the truth of the statement that there was a profit on flour to the miller up to $5 a barrel.

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CON
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

His argument substantiates that fact, and if there is any doubt about it, he can find that $5 a barrel right in the dividends of the milling companies. He could find it last year, and I am satisfied he will find it this year because, if they made a killing last year, they made a double killing this year.

I do not think that the hon. gentleman is right in quoting me as objecting to the Government fixing a price for wheat. My memory is that I was anxious to know if a

price had been fixed for flour. Whether I said so or not in connection with the price of wheat, I think it would have been only fair that, when a maximum price was fixed for wheat, a maximum price should also have been fixed for flour. That is the position I took, and that is the position I still take.

I plead guilty to having asked the minister questions in regard to the difference in price between Winnipeg and Minneapolis, and I have no apology to make for having asked them. The Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster) will recall a very lengthy lettergram which he received from an association in Calgary, who were certainly in very close touch with the farmers, because they are entirely an association of farmers, in regard to this very matter. I did not find fault with the Government for having fixed a maximum price for wheat. Recognizing war conditions, I am of the opinion that speculation should, so far as possible, be cut out; that is to say, that no man should be allowed to take advantage of the needs of the country by reason of his special position of advantage in regard to money or anything else, and that it is perfectly right that, under war conditions, there should be a fixed maximum price for wheat. The question is, what is a fair price? It is not the business of the Government, in fixing a maximum price for wheat, to put that maximum below what is fair according to the world demand and the world price. I agree to the fixing of price as a means of cutting out speculation, of cutting out the obtaining of an undue profit by individuals or associations by reason of the exercise of what my friend speaks of as their best judgment in taking advantage of the situation. That, I quite agree, should be cut out; but I do not agree that it is any part of the business of our Government or our country to fix a price below what is fair according to the market prices of the world

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CON

William Wright

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WRIGHT:

Does my hon. friend suggest that $2.40 is too low, that it should have been fixed higher?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

As matters turned out, I say so, certainly. That was the point I had in mind, that when we found that, for almost one whole month, the price in the United States was anywhere from five cents to fifty cents a bushel higher than it was on the Canadian side and it was necessary to impose a prohibition on the export of grain to the United States-I say that was evi-

dence to my mind that the price had been fixed lower than it should have been, and I think it was perfectly legitimate on my part to call attention to that fact. I cannot [DOT]agree to the principle that the price of wheat to the farmer should be fixed simply at the whim of the Government or of the Board of Grain Supervisors or of anybody else. It should be fixed on the basis of the fair world's price at that time and from time to time.

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CON

William Wright

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WRIGHT:

It was fixed, as I understand, at the price which prevailed at that time. .

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I could not say anything about that. There is no doubt that the holders of grain in the prairie West lost, as a result of the fixation of price by the minister, a matter of not less than $3,000,000 in cold cash in the month of August. My judgment is that this country cannot afford to lose money'in that way, that it is not right that we should be put in that position, and that the judgment upon which the minister fixed the price was not well founded. That is my criticism, and I think it is a perfectly legitimate criticism. I have further been anxious to know what is to be the future course. We know that grain goes down in price as the supply comes in, and while $2.40 was the price fixed until the end of August, we are anxious to know what the price is going to be in September, if the same policy of a fixed price is to prevail.

It is understood that the United States has fixed the price for September at $2.20 a bushel. I am not altogether familiar with the matter, but my impression is that that is somewhat above the price at which September options have been sold. However, we are anxious to know what our Government is going to do, and what the fixed price in Canada is to be. I take it that the Government must now have reached some decision. This is the last day of the fixed price of $2.40 a bushel, and we are anxious to know what the price is going to be for September, or if there is going to be a fixed price, and whether it is going to be a minimum as well as a maximum price.

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CON

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LALOR:

Did the hon. gentleman

make a statement in the House this session that the price of $2 per bushel was perfectly satisfactory to the farmer?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Oh, no, I never presumed to say what the farmers would be willing to take, but I was discussing some negotiations tl\at were in progress between the Minister of Trade and Commerce and certain representatives of the farmers last fall when it was suggested, on the one hand, to fix the price at $1.30, and the farmers' representatives, ak I understood, were willing so far as their influence could go, to close the transaction at $1.72. That is my recollection of the circumstances.

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CON

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LALOR:

I think, in answer to a question by myself, the hon. minister said the farmers of the West were perfectly satisfied, if they received $2.

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CON

William Wright

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WRIGHT:

My hon. friend (Mr. Oliver) is trying to get away from the contradictory positions which he has assumed in this House in the last few weeks. He took the ground that this Government was refusing to take action in setting a fixed price for wheat, stating positively that the farmers of the West had practically got rid of all their wheat, and were no longer interested in the price.

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LIB
CON

William Wright

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WRIGHT:

He said it was in the hands of the big concerns. He immediately turns around and seizes the opportunity of bringing a little political grist to his mill, and he appears to think that the farmers of the West got that wheat back again in some miraculous way, that they were interested, to a very serious extent, in the action taken by the Government in setting a fixed price, and that they lost a large sum of money, I think he said $3,000,000. Did the farmers lose that?

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LIB
CON
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I said that in large measure it was the grain dealers, and that the grain was largely out of the farmers' hands. At the same time, any farmers who held grain would suffer the loss just the same.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

I was listening, and I understood the statement of the hon. gentleman from Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) to be as alleged by the hon. member for Haldi-mand (Mr. Lalor). I am quite sure he said-whether he meant it or not-that the farmers of the West had lost $3,000,000 by the fixation of the price at $2.40.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I would ask to have the statement corrected, because my memory is as I have stated. I may have said that the farmers had lost it, but I corrected that statement, and said it was largely the grain dealers, because the grain was largely out of the farmers' hands, but it was $3,000,000

lost to the business of the West, and we could not afford to lose that money in that way.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

My hon. friend is so solicitous for the grain dealers that he would like to see them get $3 for the grain they held for speculative purposes, rather than $2.40, which would result in mulcting all the consumers in Canada in the increased cost of flour.

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August 31, 1917