I thank the committee for listening to me. and I shall conclude right away. I have been speaking as a farmer and as a representative of farmers. I am speaking not only for myself, but also for my constituents. On several occasions I have found it necessary to oppose the government. That is not because I wanted to; it was 6imply because I believed honestly that I am here to represent my people before supporting the government or any other party. That is my honest belief. I am simply trying to discharge the duty which has been imposed upon me.
And they have been sorry ever since. I may say, in answer to the hon. member who interrupted, that it is a good thing we have an election every few years because, while the people may make a mistake once we remember the old saying, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
I have represented fairly-and I say "fairly" advisedly-the people who sent me here, and I shall continue to do so for as long as they see fit to send me here.
The group with which I am associated recommend that the government take immediate steps to pay one dollar a bushel at the local elevator for the first 2,000 bushels of wheat. Again, this may be claimed to be impossible. According, however, to the figures just given by the hon. member for Portage la Prairie, 35 per cent of our farmers sow less than 50 acres, and 62 per cent, less than 100 acres. We cannot expect a number of these farmers to raise 2,000 bushels, and if they do not raise it, naturally they cannot deliver it. Quite a number of them will not deliver more than one or two hundred bushels. I believe that our proposal is fair and will give agriculture a chance to pay its way; and if agriculture prospers, I believe that the rest of Canada will prosper as well, because, as I have pointed out on several occasions, when the west is prosperous, eastern Canada is prosperous also. I have on former occasions quoted figures in this house showing that in 1926, when wheat averaged SI.40 a bushel, western Canada purchased from eastern Canada approximately $82,000,000 worth of farm machinery. That was just one item alone. Then in 1932 and 1933 when wheat was away down in price, to the lowest price in three or four hundred years, the west's purchases of farm implements dropped to around $8,000,000, or only ten per cent of what we purchased in reasonably good times.
I think any sane, sound business man must take cognizance of facts such as these, and act accordingly.
The government, I believe, should continue to pay storage on the balance of the quota of wheat on the farm, as is being done at the present time. I also believe that the government should pay an advance on that part of the quota which the farmer holds on his farm because he cannot deliver it. The farmer must get a living anyway, and if the wheat is there to be delivered, the government would not be taking any great chances in making an advance.
The question of storage was brought up by the hon. member for Portage la Prairie. If we allow something like ten per cent for working space, the elevators have a storage capacity of 582 million bushels, and paying eight cents a bushel on their full capacity means that somebody will have to pay $46,560,000 a year for storage. As we are now in a war period, I think the people of Canada should pay this charge rather than that the farmers themselves should be made to stand this expense.
Agriculture is pretty well wrecked now. If this is allowed to go on, complete wrecking of the industry will be the result. I do not think Canada can afford to have agriculture in any worse plight than it is at the present time. Do not forget that there are war debts to pay, and that all taxes are paid either directly or indirectly by the agricultural industry.
In addition, I believe the government should continue where it left off, with international cooperation with the wheat producing countries. This has been advocated for the past three or four years by the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch), myself and others.
I should also like to see the grain exchange closed. We have been told that it is being kept open at the request of the cereals board in England. That argument does not appear to me to have any force, because seemingly the British government has closed the exchanges over there since the war started, and if that course is good for England, why is it not good for Canada? Perhaps we are yet capable of being skinned a little more. That skinning should cease, and cease right away.
In conclusion, may I allude to that old theme, Canadian unity. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King),several of the cabinet ministers and private members plead for national unity. We have been told by others that unity is impossible while one part is slave and the other part free. I suggest that it is about time to free a very large percentage of our people who have been and
are slaves, and I make this plea to the government now, that they take into consideration this group's recommendations which I have just placed on record.
Like the hon. member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Leader), I am probably not so much concerned personally about the wheat problem because, as in his case, cattle has solved my problem. As a Canadian citizen, however, I am vitally concerned about this very important matter of wheat. .
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), speaking on the floor of this chamber on Wednesday, March 26, in reply to the hon. member for Haldimand (Mr. Senn), attempted to place the blame on the opposition in this house for the fact that we have not had an opportunity to discuss agriculture, and all its difficulties, at a much earlier date. He stated that when he first attempted to bring in his estimates, on February 27, I asked him to make a statement. I did ask him at half-past ten on that evening, as he stated, if he would make a statement in order to give some lead to the agricultural producers of the country as to what might be expected of them, in the matter of agricultural production, to assist in the war effort during this coming year; and I suggest that that request was very much in order. Then, on March 5, the hon. member for Haldimand rose to introduce an amendment to the motion to go into supply. He was not allowed to complete his speech until March 26. During the interval, on March 12, the Minister of Agriculture announced this acreage bonus scheme which we are now discussing.
May I say that, as a result of my experience as a member for three or four years of the advisory committee under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, I, speaking on November 14 last in this chamber, advocated a scheme somewhat similar in principle to this one, but on a much broader basis. I am convinced that something must be done to reduce the wheat acreage of this country, but, like other speakers, I also am convinced that the producers, on the quota which they are allowed to deliver, must receive somewhere near a parity price for what they are allowed to deliver. I spoke several times last year and, I think, proved conclusively that the parity price at that time was approximately $1.25 a bushel, Fort William-certainly a great contrast to this allowance of 70 cents.
I am opposed to handling this matter in the manner proposed by the government. I was disappointed that the minister did not introduce a bill covering these regulations or the operation of this scheme. Such dictatorial
powers as are involved in a matter of this kind should not be given to one individual by order in council.
May I also point out that, notwithstanding the difficult plight of agriculture from coast to coast, the agriculture committee of this house has not met once during the last two sessions of parliament. It is hard to understand why that committee has not been called together to discuss the serious condition of agriculture, about which the government professes to be so much concerned.
Under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act the Minister of Agriculture is almost a dictator, but only farmers producing under twelve bushels an acre have come under his rule. Under this new scheme all the farmers of the prairie provinces will come under his dictate. I am certainly of opinion that this authority should not be given one who enjoys the reputation of a great partisan administrator. As some evidence of what may happen, let me quote from the report of the auditor general for the period ended March 31, 1940. Referring to the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, he states on page 61-to cite just one case- Commitments of approximately $1,315,575.20 were incurred in excess of the amount appropriated without certificates of the comptroller of the treasury being secured in the manner provided for by sections 26 and 29 of the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, 1931. These overcommitments, by group classifications, are made up of: land utilization, $22,036.47; water development, small projects, $909,553.00, large projects $384,185.73.
By an amendment to the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (chap. 7 assented to 5th April, 1939), the minister may, subject to the approval of the governor in council, enter into agreements with provinces, cities, towns, persons, etc., for projects or schemes for the conservation of water. Payments during the year were made in several cases on ministerial authority only. . . .
The report goes on to quote examples. I would point out that this was taking place during the latter part of 1939-not so many months prior to the general election of March, 1940.
Turning to page 66, we find, with reference to the Prairie Farm Assistance Act:
Regulations made under the act and approved by order in council dated November 23, 1939 (P.C. 3820) provided for the establishment of a committee of review, the duties of the committee to be to examine data, to review yield categories, to consider applications open to question and to report its findings to the Minister of Agriculture. Under the statute before it was amended in 1940, the determining of the acreage yield, which formed the basis of acreage awards, rested with the Minister of Agriculture and the law officers expressed their opinion that the non-concurrence of the committee did not preclude the minister from awarding assistance. Several awards were made by the minister covering yields not accepted by the committee.
Farmers were not required to make applications for assistance. While section 5 of the act gives the power to make regulations to require farmers to furnish information and section 11 makes it an offence if any person falsely claims assistance, the farmers filed only acreage reports and the value of the certification to these reports was often negatived by changes unsigned by the farmers.
There are many other similar references on these pages, all illustrating the great extent of the authority which is vested in one minister under regulations brought in as these have been. I am very much of the opinion that there should be a minimum clause in these regulations in order to protect the small producers. It was pointed out by one of the previous speakers that the average number of acres of wheat produced by the farmers is fifty. Throughout a large part of Manitoba a minimum of eighty acres would not be too much for the farmers, and I do not think any farmer should be compelled to reduce below that acreage. There should also be some restrictions on the large farmers with an opportunity to cash in on this scheme. Moreover, when this scheme was being considered by the government, the Minister of Agriculture, I believe, invited the provincial departments of agriculture and municipal officials to Ottawa. They were amazed to read on the train, coming to Ottawa, the announcement of the policy before they had been consulted.
The three provincial governments have taken the stand that the initial payment on wheat should be at least 85 cents. The western union of municipalities, after due consideration, recommended that the payment should be 95 cents a bushel on this quota basis, and I believe the quota they advocated was approximately that which has been arrived at.
The Sirois commission in their report point out that from 1896 to 1913, under a vigorous immigration policy carried out by the government of that day, assisted by the railways and the real estate companies, a vast expansion took place in western Canada, and land ranging from 10,000,000 acres to
70,000,000 acres was settled, with the result that wheat acreage expanded accordingly. The officials under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act contend that there has been conducted throughout a considerable part of that area a soils survey by the soils experts of the three provincial governments, and they suggest that 6,000,000 acres of land should be taken out of grain production. Some headway has been made in this direction. A large part of that land lies within the boundaries of Saskatchewan. The statement is often made that, from patriotic
motives, this great expansion, in wheat production took place during the last war. On going over some of the records, I find that wheat acreage in 1914 in the prairie provinces was 9,335,400 acres. In 1918, at the conclusion of the war, it was 16,125,451 acres. In 1939 it was 25,813,000 acres, and in the last year, 1940, it was 27,750,000 acres. Therefore, by far the greatest expansion has taken place since the last war.
In the last two years, when international prices were tumbling because of oversupply, Canada has increased acreage by 11J per cent, while the rest of the world has been reducing acreage by 10 per cent. We must, therefore, face, in some manner, the issue of wheat production. More than that, while the peoples of the world procured their wheat requirements from an average of seventeen acres out of every 100 cultivated acres, we in Canada have been attempting to produce wheat on every sixty out of 100 cultivated acres in the prairies. That should convince us that we ought to cease burying our heads in the sand and face the situation.
Whether we like it or not, the economy of western Canada is facing a radical change at this time, and we must give some thought to what lies ahead of us in this regard. In the four-year period from 1925 to 1928 inclusive, we produced in the prairies 1,745,000,000 bushels of wheat. At that time the index purchasing power was 96 compared with 100 in 1913. In the recent period, from 1937 to 1940, we produced 1,511,000,000 bushels, and the index purchasing power was 50-2. In other words, in the previous four years, 1925 to 1928, we produced a quantity in excess of this year's quota requirements, and the price was still considerably more than the index is now at this particular time. Moreover, in 1928 Canada was supplying 40 per cent of the world's exports of wheat, according to the Sirois report, book I, page 144. Therefore, at that time, before people were preparing for the war-and they have been doing it for the past ten years-this unusually large surplus threatened a slump in the prices. Germany, Italy and France began to erect tariffs of $1.62, $1.07 and $1.85 a bushel respectively, which added to our difficulties during that time.
The hon. member for Portage la Prairie suggested that the chap who operated the tractor was more responsible for our difficulties than anyone else to-day, and there is some truth in that statement. I would point out, however, the great transformation that has taken place in agricultural production in
recent years. Mechanization has affected that production to a considerable extent. The following extract is illuminating:
It is stated on good authority that in 1830, unaided by machinery, it required about 57 hours of man labour to grow and harvest an acre of wheat yielding 20 bushels. The introduction and use of machinery brought the hours of labour required to grow an acre of wheat down to 3-3 in 1930.
It has been accelerated since then.
Having once made the change from horses to tractors, land formerly used for forage, pasture and coarse grains is converted to wheat production to obtain a larger cash crop, and one which can best be depended upon where rainfall is scarce.
I quote still further:
Notwithstanding criticism to the contrary agriculture has kept pace with industry so far as efficiency is concerned. In the United States between 1910 and 1930, output per worker increased 39 per cent in manufacturing and 41 per cent in agriculture. A long-range contrast shows that 150 years ago it took 19 persons living on farms to produce enough for themselves and for one person in town. To-day 19 persons on farms can produce enough for themselves and for 66 living in towns. That condition is undoubtedly comparable with the situation which obtains in this country as well.
People have been forced into mass production by machinery owing to the necessity of having to reduce cost of production. According to the Canadian Cooperative Farm Implements Journal, a binder in 1913 sold at Regina for $167, and it took 261 bushels of wheat to pay for it. In 1936 the same binder sold for $281, and required 319 bushels to pay for it. In 1940 it sold for $340 and required 637 bushels to pay for it. That is conclusive proof of the position into which producers have been forced, to some extent perhaps against their better judgment.
Since the outbreak of war, labour in this country has been placed in a highly protected position. Those in industry are protected by the government of the day, but agriculture is left to look after itself. The farmers would be content with the prices that prevailed before the great depression. They would be more than content; they would be delighted if returns from farming were on the basis of 1929. This government has seen fit to place labour on the basis of the wages prevailing from 1926 to 1929, plus any increase which may be brought about during this war effort. The yearly average of agricultural prices on this basis, taking Winnipeg as the index, would be as follows:
Wheat $ 1.20
Hogs, live weight 11.00
Cattle, best killing 9.20
Butter fat 40
I would point out that cattle is the only agricultural product to-day on anything like equality with the prices prevailing before 1930. If we take the index of all farm products for the period from 1926 to 1929 as 100, the figure for 1940 would be 69. Costs are down, but not to anything like the same extent, and those costs have increased considerably since the beginning of the war. The exchange situation alone has automatically increased the price on important machinery such as tractors.
The situation, the'-l, is that labour is in a sheltered position; industiy is booming; finance is thriving because industry is active, but agriculture is left to look after itself. According to the Searle index, labour in 1939 received wages 91 per cent higher than those of 1913-14. Further than that, we have the statement of the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) on Februray 25, that some $307,000,000 has been supplied by the government to industry in this country by way of capital assistance. Of that total, approximately $10,000,000 went to British Columbia; $16,000,000 to the three prairie provinces, and by far the greater part of the remainder to Ontario and Quebec.
I had the privilege of visiting the city of Hamilton not long ago. I was amazed at the work being carried on there, but I was later surprised to learn that that city, with a population of approximately 160,000, had received something like $26,000,000 by way of capital assistance to industry. Why, even the city of Niagara Falls, which is not very large, received $14,000,000 for this purpose. So, Mr. Chairman, you see how all this money which has been put into circulation by the government has intensified the difficulties of agriculture at the present time. It was pointed out by the hon. member for Haldimand that even before the outbreak of this war, agriculture, which includes approximately one-third of the population of this nation, received only about one-twelfth of the national income, and this great disparity has been increased since the war.
I believe farming should be considered, first, as a way of life and, second, as a business; that is, the farmer should be encouraged in every way to produce a livelihood for himself and his family. In this regard I should like to make some reference to the processing tax. Last year this matter was discussed; and, if I remember correctly, the Minister of Agriculture expressed the opinion that the producer who took his own grist to the mill should not have to pay this tax. On September 3, however, 1940, order in council P.C. 4387 was passed setting up the regulations
governing the payment of this processing tax and, after some protest by producers throughout the country, on February 1, 1941, order in council P.C. 134/813 was passed, rebating this tax to the producers of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
In Manitoba, from which I come, we have forty-three flour mills, two of them located in my own constituency. The secretary of the provincial millers' association is also one of my constituents. I communicated with the various millers through the province in order to ascertain what they had collected from the producers and turned over to the government during the first six months of the operation of this tax; and after having received that information, I am satisfied that, if this policy is continued, these local grist mills will be forced out of business, which will be an added hardship on those farmers who normally have their gristing done in this way. I have here the information from fifteen of these mills as to the amount collected by them from July 20, 1940, to February 1, 1941, as follows:
Turtle Mountain Milling Company-
Deloraine $ 3,200 00
Steinbach Flour Mills-Steinback.. 4,333 70A. W. Snider-Wawanesa
Average per mill tax paid on gristing, July 20, 1940, to January 31, 1941, $2,363.
I do not know why there should be this discrimination as between these four eastern provinces and the rest of the country; and I think some consideration should be shown those producers who wish to have their own gristing done. They should not be taxed for having their own flour produced for their own consumption.
I am convinced that somebody must endeavour to create a plan for agriculture in this country from coast to coast. During the early years in western Canada, such a plan was not needed, but to-day the situation has entirely changed. On those prairies we have some three million people, many of whom were born and raised there and who desire to
continue living there. We have many scientists of one kind and another, experts in agriculture, and I believe the government should get these people together and evolve some policy to assist in that new economy which is coming to this country whether we like it or not. The other day it was pointed out by one hon. member that seldom was a war lost by a country having a surplus of foodstuffs on hand. We are fortunate in having the great surplus that at present exists in this country. I should like to quote what was said by Mr. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England, on August 20, 1940:
Wheat for Victory
We shall do our best to encourage the building up of reserves of food all over the world so that there will always be held before the eyes of the people of Europe, including-I say it deliberately-the German and Austrian peoples, the certainty that the shattering of nazi power will bring to them all immediate food, freedom and peace.
Mr. David Lloyd George, speaking quite recently, has made statements along similar lines. It is interesting to note that when Canadian farmers are endeavouring to better their conditions, one of their spokesmen in Great Britain, no less a personage than Mr. David Lloyd George had this to say, speaking as one farmer to others at a meeting held recently in Carnarvonshire:
We must see that the farmer gets a reasonable return; it is no use thinking you can compel him to cultivate his land to the utmost, you can't; you must make it worth his while, you must bring him along as a willing helper.
That is essential, for the security of the nation, according to Mr. Lloyd George. Furthermore, as proof of the fact that in Great Britain they consider agricultural products as munitions of war, I believe the British Minister of Agriculture puts in requisitions to the government of Great Britain, which are forwarded to the Minister of Munitions and Supply at Ottawa, for all agricultural implements required from Canada to be delivered in the old land. That is significant proof of the fact that they consider agricultural production as being in the same category as all other munitions of war.
I am much of the opinion that in these times, in connection with storage on grain surpluses, we are paying altogether too much to the grain trade. On February 19, order in council P.C. 1125 was passed permitting the grain trade to erect storage facilities at the head of the lakes for an additional
50,000,000 bushels of wheat. In that order in council they guarantee a certain period of storage, and also point out that the cost of construction may be written off in a period of two years. There is an additional provision
whereby they may deduct 50 per cent a year in the filing of income tax returns.
May I remind the committee that when a farmer wishes to erect facilities for grain storage on his own farm, he must, when filing his income tax returns, spread the cost of that construction over twenty years. He is allowed a deduction of only 5 per cent, whereas by this government the grain trade is allowed 50 per cent. Certainly that is not very much encouragement for the producer to erect his own storage on his own farm.
Concerning what the grain trade has cost us in the handling of grain, I would quote from a speech delivered by the hon. member for Wood Mountain (Mr. Donnelly) at the last session. His speech is recorded in Hansard of July 25, at page 1960, as follows:
I should like to say a word with regard to the handling charges on wheat. These charges, to me, particularly this year, are absolutely ridiculous. I believe the handling charges during the past year were far too high. They may be all right with wheat at $1.50 a bushel; they may be all right in ordinary years, when our elevators may be only partly full for a few months and almost empty for the rest of the year. But in a year like last year, when they were three-quarters full all year, and next year, when they will be full all year, these charges are absolutely ridiculous. Let me give the committee an example of what I mean. We are told that the amount paid by the board to the elevators for storage alone was something like $14,612,000. That was on 318,000,000 bushels of wheat. There was an additional 100,000,000 bushels or so not handled by the board, so the total amount paid for storage alone by the grain trade and by the board must have been well over $16,000,000. But there is something else in addition. The other day the statement was made that only one-third of the income of the elevators came from storage, the other two-thirds coming from other, additional charges. So there must have been another $32,000,000 received from other sources, making in all something like $50,000,000 paid for handling our wheat last year. If anyone tells me that is a reasonable amount to pay for the storage and handling of our wheat in one year, all I say is that he does not know the condition of our farmers. We sold something like 400,000,000 bushels, for which we received approximately 50 cents a bushel, or in round figures about $200,000,000. But we paid $50,000,000 or one-quarter of the selling price, just for the handling of that wheat.
Then, at page 1961 he is reported as follows:
All the act says is that the board of grain commissioners shall fix the maximum rates that may be charged for the handling, cleaning and storage of grain. If that board does not cut this price to the bone-I say it should be cut in two-then we should amend the Canada Grain Act in that respect, because I do not consider these prices either reasonable or right. I say that the cost of handling our wheat was $50,000,000, not only on the authority of the statements I have mentioned but because of other statements I have heard to the effect that the
grain people received in the neighbourhood of 13 or 14 cents a bushel on all the wheat they handled. I can give the committee those figures if necessary, because I know what they are.
Mr. Crerar: Does that include freight?
Mr. Donnelly: No, that does not include
freight at all. That is something else which the farmer has to pay. This is just for elevation, storage, cleaning, loading into cars, service charges, diversion charges and matters of that kind.
That is, I' think, proof enough for this committee that the grain trade have been well looked after by the government of the day. I well remember looking over the contract the grain trade received the year prior to this from the wheat committee. In that contract the trade was allowed storage from the time the wheat was dumped in the pit, irrespective of the fact that the farmer is entitled to two weeks' free storage, and usually for some thirteen days while it is in freight cars en route to terminals. Irrespective of these facts, that contract allowed the grain trade storage for those two weeks, and allowed storage while the grain was in freight cars in transit to terminals. That is something which I do not think can be justified under present conditions.
With regard to the cost of storing wheat in elevators in western Canada, is it a fact that the major portion of the holdings is held by United Grain Growers and pool elevators? Is it not also a fact that the great majority of the stockholders of those two companies are farmers, and that the 866,000,000 paid for storage, or a large portion of it, would go back to the farmers who are the shareholders in those companies?