Mr. GIROUARD (Translation):
Mr. Chairman, last Tuesday I called the attention of the house to the petitions which I have just mentioned. The hon. member for Dorchester (Mr. Gagnon), when he spoke on the same evening, thought fit to make a statement which I think it is my duty to deny, because when the hon. member made that statement he knew that it was not in conformity with the facts. Here is what the hon. member for Dorchester said:
But now the hon. member for Drummond-Arthabaska is having petitions circulating in our counties asking this government to give a bonus on butter, cheese and eggs.
The hon. member for Dorchester met me about a month or a month and a half ago and asked me some information about these petitions which were being circulated, I think throughout the provinoe of Quebec. I then informed the hon. member for Dorchester about the origin of the movement which allowed these petitions to be made as well as the requests included therein. The hon. member knew perfectly well that, so far as I was concerned, I had no petitions circulated in my riding or in any other Quebec riding.
I regret very much that he thought fit to make such an assertion, knowing for some time that it was not consistent with the facts or the truth.
Now, he read a letter from Mr. Albert Rioux. I had the opportunity, last Wednesday, to deny certain statements made by this gentleman. It is pretty hard, because of that letter, to restrain from saying that this Mr. Rioux was entirely in bad faith when he made such remarks about me, not only by intimating but by stating that I had used the party's funds to pay the cost of the printing of the petitions which were signed in my riding. I also had the opportunity, on the same day, to say that I was glad, whenever I could do so, to help in any possible way, even financially, the farmers of my riding who come to me for help. The fact that Mr. Rioux made that statement shows that, in his duties as president of the Catholic Farmers' Union, he did not always put aside his partisanship, as he should have done when occupying such position. We must not forget that Mr. Rioux was a Conservative candidate
in the last provincial election and that the present government has just rewarded him for his work on behalf of the party by appointing him a member of the revision board in the province of Quebec, at a high salary. I think that this should have been another reason for him to refrain from making malignant insinuations such as he made about me in his letter to the hon. member for Dorchester.
Now, sir, as to the exact contents of these petitions, the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) has not seen fit to give a definite answer this evening. Everyone admits that the miserable situation in which the farmers find themselves to-day is the consequence of the low prices they are receiving for their products. No matter how much legislation they introduce, the government will find it difficult to reach the root of the trouble if their legislation is not designed to cure the disease at its source. The trouble is that the farmers are selling their products, in most cases, below the cost of production. They have been doing so for many years, and that is why they are asking that minimum prices be fixed, in the same way that this government has maintained a minimum price for wheat without having recourse to the marketing act. This could apply to butter and cheese as well. It would be very difficult, I respectfully submit, to place the cheese produced in our various provinces under the control of the marketing board. The government would certainly not think of doing so, any more than it would think of placing wheat under the marketing act. If I remember the discussion that took place when the marketing act was adopted, it was made to apply to wheat, but I believe the opinion was generally expressed that wheat should not be brought under the act. The same should, I think, apply to cheese. Canada's cheese production fell off to a considerable extent following the imperial trade agreements signed in Ottawa in 1032. Our exports of this commodity are still too high, howerver, for the country's entire production of cheese to be placed under the act. I sincerely hope that during the long adjournment the government has just obtained, they will reconsider the matter in all its aspects. If the hoe. ministers from the province of Quebec will seriously study the subject with a view to providing effective help to the farmers of our province, I am sure that during the month of May the government will bring forward the legislation necessary to raise the price level of farm products in the province of Quebec and in the whole of Canada.