June 2, 1942

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The position of agriculture is pretty well understood. If we could pass these estimates, taking up the item of $5,400,000 which we began to discuss this afternoon and then go on to the different boards that have been set up under the agricultural supplies board, we might make some progress.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I take it that when the minister was telling us the policies of the department as a part of the war effort he was not one of those whom the Minister of National War Services classed on Friday as isolationists. The minister skated very nicely round the question that was asked him by the hon. member for Acadia. I am very much interested in hearing the answer to that question, because, this afternoon, when the Minister of Labour was not in his plape, I tried to deal with the question of farm wages, especially for harvest time, and the Minister of Agriculture said that that came under the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Agriculture did not say whether he was in sympathy with the government doing something to stabilize farm wages, especially harvest wages. When he was asked about ceiling-price control, he stated that that came under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance, not under his department.

The hon. member for Acadia asked the Minister of Agriculture the direct question whether price-ceiling controls were put into effect in opposition to the minister's stand,

, whether the minister was consulted on the matter and, if so, what was his stand pertaining to agriculture. I am very much interested

in hearing the minister's answer. I think the minister should give us some lead at this time. It is only two months to harvest, when we shall be faced with a serious labour problem in western Canada, and we are entitled to some statement from the Minister of Agriculture. He has made a fine statement on the problems of agriculture. But we have not yet national selective service in operation for agriculture, and we have not parity prices for farm products in the third year of the war.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I do not want to be led away from answering the question and to be diverted into a discussion of parity prices, because that already fills two or three pages of Hansard of our earlier debate. To answer the question asked-I did not avoid answering it intentionally but did so inadvertently- the position last fall when ceiling prices were established was that prices of most farm products, in the form in which ceiling prices were set upon them, were considerably higher than they had been for some time previously. As a matter of fact, they bore a much closer relationship to the prices for the period from 1926 to 1929 than has been admitted to-night. The reason for stretching the basic period over a month was in order to take in agricultural products which were at some date in the period at the highest price levels they had been over a considerable period of time. It was quite understood then, and was so stated by the Prime Minister in announcing the policy, that certain farm products were affected by seasonal conditions; that others were affected by other conditions, and that further consideration would have to be given to them. Some of them have had further consideration. Further consideration was given to wheat during the early part of this year. Further consideration was given to beef during the last two or three weeks. Further consideration has been given to cheese since the time of the setting of that price. Consideration is still being given to butter. Wheat and other farm pro- ' ducts including butter had not in that period reached parity levels, that is parity as it is understood by farm organizations across Canada. Further consideration has been given to those different farm products since that time.

I would say in answer to the question asked, that in so far as I am concerned personally I accepted the policy-I would not be in the government if I had not-with the understanding that these commodities would be further discussed, and they have been. With regard to some of them satisfactory arrangements have been reached. With regard to others, more discussion and considerations are still required and will certainly be given

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to them by the prices board. In this, like everything else, there is no complete agreement on anything so vast as a price policy. You cannot get any "two men to sit down and agree on the price of every commodity, and more particularly you cannot get farmers to sit down and agree as to what the ceilings ought to be under existing conditions. The thing has happened which always happens. We have discussed the question. If we could not agree on the first discussion, we discussed the matter a second or third or fourth time, and finally a plan has been worked out which as nearly as possible suits all the conditions. That has been done in connection with price levels on farm products, and it is still being done.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

The minister will agree, will he not with this theory, that when the price level was frozen it was frozen on an uneven basis qua primary products generally? That is really the accepted fact, is it not? The minister himself has spoken many times along that line and I am glad to hear that the government has some flexibility in this matter.

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NAT
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Well, I am not trying to make a political speech. I just want to point out that when the price ceiling structure was set up, for some reason or another it had to be frozen from a definite period of time. That was in the fall of the year, and the new crops were coming on. With respect to certain products in my province, when the price was at its lowest point in the whole twelve months those products were frozen. That, I think, has been generally true all along. It is not quite a fair statement for the minister to make that we never objected to the policy. I have always felt that we could not allow the price structure to get out of hand, but I do object to the method that is being adopted. I say this further to the minister, that in order to maintain this structure all the way through, there is one complementary feature which will have to be adopted if he wants to have this thing rationalized, and that is a complete system of rationing. It cannot be complete without it.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I think that is a discussion which can much better take place when the minister to whom the board is responsible is here. I simply wanted to make clear the position as far as agriculture is concerned in relation to the board.

To answer the question which was put by the hon. member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy), I can only say that we have been following very closely the investigations which are being made in the United States with regard to the making of rubber from wheat and from other plants that may be grown on farms. I believe it will be within the memory of every member of this committee that prior to the war an international bureau was set up on which all countries were represented, so that countries like ours which are not carrying on investigations in connection with certain matters should have available at all times the information that is gathered in other countries. While this bureau cannot operate with the same freedom during the war as it did before, perhaps there is a greater exchange of information as between two countries like Canada and the United States than there was through the bureau before the war. We are getting whatever information is available in the United States from time to time. We have not yet gone to the expense of duplicating the experimental work which is being carried on there.

I have not any doubt that if the development in the United States comes to the point that they use a considerable quantity of surplus wheat, a very considerable quantity of the wheat in this country will be required as well.

While I may not have all the information,

I have not understood that it has as yet been definitely decided in the United States to proceed with a method of developing rubber from wheat. My understanding is that those who claim that they have developed a plan, and have placed that plan in general terms before a committee of the United States congress, have not yet demonstrated the feasibility of the plan in its entirety, and it is not yet being put into effect even in the United States as a practical method of producing rubber. But I think I can say this, that if it does become a means of producing rubber, and if conditions remain as they are in the world to-day, the people of the United States will be the first to want Canada to turn a very considerable part of her wheat into rubber. There is no commodity which is running short faster on this continent as a result of war activities than rubber, and any method which can be found in either Canada or the United States to produce more rubber on this continent will certainly be utilized by the governments of the two countries at the very earliest possible moment.

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I asked the minister

if he as Minister of Agriculture would express an opinion as to the matter of agricultural or

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farm wages being included under the price ceiling. While realizing that this is a function of the Minister of Labour, I think the Minister of Agriculture might give us some lead in this respect if he cares to do so.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I can only say this, that up to date no government anywhere in Canada has undertaken to control farm wages. I am not at all sure as to what this or any other government will do in the future, but I know there are extreme difficulties associated with setting wage levels for farmers, particularly at a time when, of necessity, there must be bidding for men in 'other places. I quite realize, of course, that if you want to go into planned, selective distribution of employees and tell everyone where he is to go, you can overcome that to a certain extent. But I have always wondered just how you will make a man hoe turnips on a farm if he does not want to hoe turnips. You may assign him to a farm and send him to a field, but there are some difficulties about directing men to jobs like farming and saying, "You must go there and farm", jobs that are not associated with the operation of a plant, where all men are working side by side at machines.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I think

there is a good deal of common sense in that. You cannot make a man work if he does not want to work.

_ 'Mr. ROSS (Souris): They are controlled for industry, are they not? Organized labour is controlled.

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LIB

George Ernest Wood

Liberal

Mr. WOOD:

I should like to make one

or two observations. This debate has been going on for some time, and I have noticed that not all the men who have been participating are farmers, although they seem to have a very wordy knowledge of the industry.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Do not criticize the

minister in that way.

. An hon. MEMBER: It is the lawyers he

is thinking of.

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NAT
LIB

George Ernest Wood

Liberal

Mr. WOOD:

I listened with interest to the observations of the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe, who seemed to be really concerned about the national income.

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NAT
LIB

George Ernest Wood

Liberal

Mr. WOOD:

Yes, he is a real farmer, and I like to talk to a man who understands my language. He was waxing eloquent about the national income of the farmers. If he will go back to 1492, in which the same figures are used as in 1942, so there may be some relation, he will find that the total national

income was almost purely an agricultural income. The party to which the hon. member belongs has always waxed eloquent on what a tariff would do to develop secondary industry. There has been a great development of secondary industries in this country and naturally, in consequence of that, agricultural income will not be as high as it was in relation to the national income. It is not many years ago that the total production of our mines was only $100,000,000. To-day it is $600,000,000. Take pulp; this industry to-day represents $250,000,000 of our income. The same thing is true of other industries. Possibly when the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe was a beardless youth in knickerbocker trousers the total national income of Canada was much less in these secondary lines, and therefore I do not think the argument we have heard is a sound one. If agriculture has been able to maintain its income, we must remember that there is only one-third of the population of the dominion engaged in that industry, and therefore the national income derived from agriculture is divided among only one-third of the population whereas formerly it had to be divided among two-thirds. Therefore I am still inclined to the view that the average income of our farmers to-day is higher than it has been in the past ten or twelve years. I used to read Hansard when I was back on the farm, and I cannot recall that the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe was ever in the least concerned in 1932 when I sold my eggs at 8 cents, wheat at 42 cents, hogs at $3.25 and butter at 14 cents. He was not concerned then about the national income from the point of view of agriculture.

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NAT
LIB

George Ernest Wood

Liberal

Mr. WOOD:

The hon. gentleman ought

to be fair enough at least to say that we have gone a long way forward in the last ten years.

I was interested in the remarks of some hon. member with regard to farm sales. I am inclined to think that when a number of farm sales are taking place it shows a generally healthy condition in the community.

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NAT
LIB

George Ernest Wood

Liberal

Mr. WOOD:

In the last ten years there

were few farm sales, for the reason that any man with anything at stake had not sufficient courage to call a sale, because he did not know whether he would get enough buyers.

I am of opinion that it is a fairly healthy condition.

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June 2, 1942