June 2, 1942

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

I should think some of the machines in use by certain companies have been perhaps partly financed by the department, but I am not in a position to give full information to-night. I can get that information. If the hon. member would put a question on the order paper, I would be pleased to answer it.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

I would be satisfied if the minister would be good enough to write me a letter setting out the information.

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LIB
PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Before turning to a discussion of boards under the Department of Agriculture may I draw to the attention of the committee one or two points which occurred to me while the minister was speaking this evening. If I understood the minister correctly, he stated this evening that those who could fully pay for a farm, or those who inherited one free of debt, could maintain an honest living, but that those who were obliged to pay off a substantial debt on their farms were in an entirely different position. I should not want the feeling to be created outside the house that such was the view of hon. members, or that we believed that the farmer must have a big capital investment, with his stock and machinery all paid for before he can make a subsistence, or live on the farm. I consider that the farmer to-day, and particularly the farmer in eastern Ontario, has been handicapped in a very great way in the past ten or fifteen years by virtue of the falling down of the net revenues on his farm and of the increasing of the debt.

The mere subsistence of the farmer in Canada is not good enough at this time. Only yesterday the Minister of National War Services stated that in eastern Ontario his department had had to raise the quota because the supply of available men between twenty-one and twenty-eight, and even up to thirty years of age, had been just about exhausted.

The hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght) inquired about a cure for the shortage of farm help. I believe his question was partly answered by the hon. member for Haldimand (Mr. Senn), when he pointed out that to-day the farm helper is not an inexperienced or unskilled labourer, but that he is one who to a very great extent must be an expert in his own occupation. He must be accustomed to agricultural work and agricultural management.

Throughout eastern Ontario and most definitely in my own constituency the drawing of men into the army and the volunteering of men to serve in* the army have left an acute shortage of labour. As a matter of fact, many of the auction sales in my constituency are on the properties of people of mature age whose young sons have gone into the army, whose daughters are active in war services and who are left with their herds of dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs or flocks of poultry without sufficient help to carry on. If that situation continues for any length of time, it will prove a serious detriment to the whole agricultural industry. I believe the minister has the interests of the farmer at heart, and he should put forth greater efforts to keep on the farm those who will be the farmers of to-morrow. He has said that we could sell more bacon, more eggs, more cheese, more butter and more beef if we could produce these commodities. Is that not proof that conditions of agriculture are not such as to induce our young people to stay on the farm and produce in the quantities required?

I should like to refer briefly to the priceceiling policy. These price ceilings were set in the fall of the year, at a time when the farmers had disposed of large portions of their bacon, of the bulk of their production of eggs and almost all of their production of cheese and a great percentage of their production of butter and beef. There could hardly have been a less advantageous time at which to set prices than immediately after the farmer had sold his commodities and before the middleman, the wholesaler, the retailer and the broker had disposed of theirs. I think more will have to be done to reconcile the farmers of this country to the advantages of the price ceiling.

More attention should be given to the possibility of advancing agricultural pursuits so that we can live up to the requirements of quality which are required for the export markets. We should strive to hold the markets that we may obtain by reason of the war, and one way of doing that is to maintain the quality and quantity of our production at the highest possible level.

War Appropriation-:Agriculture

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NAT

Ernest Edward Perley

National Government

Mr. PERLEY:

I believe we might say

that this has been a field day for the farmer. As the hon. member for Haldimand (Mr. Senn) has said, this afternoon and evening we have heard some interesting discussions as well as the statements made by the minister. Some constructive suggestions have been made. Reference has been made to the sale of farms, and in this connection I agree with what the minister has said. I am one of those who believe that a good farm-500 acres or three-quarters of a section in the west or two or three hundred acres in the east-will prove to be one of the best investments a man could have after the war, should the war continue for another two or three years. Much will be expected of our farmers in the reconstruction period. The minister gave some interesting figures which go to show that the industry will be in position to meet its obligations at that time.

We have been discussing that portion of the $2,000,000,000 appropriation which is to be devoted to agriculture. The greater part of this amount of $11,042,281 is to be used to encourage diversified farming in Canada. We must encourage that type of farming, even in western Canada. Our climatic and soil conditions vary, and this type of farming could be made successful. Other suggestions have been made with reference to the stabilization of the prices of dairy and other products. This is a splendid principle to apply to the prices of all farm products in order that the producer may know where he gets off at, so to speak, and have some assurance that he will get a fair return for his labour. It is agreed that agriculture is as much a war industry as any other industry. We have been asked to increase our production to meet the demands of Great Britain. The minister has a most difficult task, and I have no doubt that he must face some difficulties even in the cabinet. This setting of war-time prices has aggravated the situation and no doubt has increased his difficulties.

There has been a considerable amount of repetition in the discussion to-day. When the billion dollar gift was before the house questions were asked of the minister, and to-day many of those questions have been repeated. I have no doubt that when the minister's estimates are before the committee there will be further repetition. I do not think that $11,042,281 out of a total appropriation of 82,000,000,000 is too much for agriculture. There are only three or four of these items that need much explanation, and the minister has explained them. The amounts required to carry on the different administrations are, I 44561-190

think, a little out of proportion. The minister's department is so -organized, with experts at the head of the different branches, that this work could have been done in the department, perhaps with some increased office staff. The minister gave a most interesting statement in trying to justify these expenditures.

Another item is to provide for a programme to encourage the production of essential war supplies. The minister referred specially to the amount used in advertising in order to encourage production. This advertising was done in the daily and weekly newspapers, but in my opinion the best medium of advertising to encourage production is the price obtained for the product. If you have a parity price, production will be increased. But I believe we can leave that problem to the minister to overcome.

Commodity costs to the domestic producer are too high to-day, and labour is out of line. I am not saying that labour should not have just treatment and a fair price, -but I have figures here published by the Searle Grain company showing that labour costs are altogether out of line with the price the farmer is receiving for his products, and some adjustment must be made. Wheat at ninety cents is 30 per cent below the parity price, while labour is 42 per cent higher, taking the year 1913-14 as the period for index prices, so it is obvious that some adjustment must be made.

We are taking a register of the unemployed between the ages of sixteen and seventy, and when these figures are compiled as at May 31 I trust that the minister will make use of them to organize labour to take care of the harvest requirements this fall, so that the farmer will no longer be worried over a possible shortage of labour. The minister this afternoon referred to the encouragement that has been given to farm women's organizations to carry on their work, and the other day in the house I discussed the part that women and girls are playing in farm production and the greater part they could play. But to-night I want to stress the importance of the minister working in close cooperation with the Department of National War Services, so that when the unemployed register has been completed, the man- and woman-power that is available and not required in the production of essential munitions of war will be organized in order that there will be no shortage of labour in harvesting this year's crop. I am getting letters daily, and I know the farmers are beginning to worry over labour, particularly for harvesting; It may be a difficult matter to deal with, but I know the minister will take

War Appropria tion-Agriculture

it in hand, and I trust he will give the farmers assurance that there will be no shortage of farm labour this fall.

I have a great many questions to ask but, as the ground has been pretty well covered this afternoon, I shall postpone them until we come to the other items.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

Just a word or two before we close the night's work. After the minister finishes giving one of his fine outbursts, everything looks so rosy that one might believe that the situation in respect to agriculture in this dominion was perfect. But it is far from perfect. I think the minister himself recognizes that.

There were two or three thoughts which came to my mind while the minister was speaking. The first was this. Does the minister and do those who are around him have any conception of how much agricultural production they really want in Canada? Have they any idea how many hogs they would like to see Canada produce, and how many cows, and how much butter and cheese? Have they any idea of the limit of Britain's potential consumption, and whether or not Canada could fill the needs of Britain if she set herself about it, in addition to what Canada would herself need? Have they any idea how much Canada would be short of her maximum production after supplying all potential British needs and all potential Canadian needs?

I know this question is not easy to answer, but it does seem to me that with the number of skilful experts who are at our disposal we ought to be able to come somewhere near to forming an estimate of Canada's potential capacity, considering the law of averages. Of course we do not know whether we are going to have a wet year, for instance, which will destroy a large part of our production, or perhaps a dry year which will destroy much of our production, but there must be a law of averages covering a period of ten or fifteen years, by reference to which it ought to be possible to estimate with some measure of accuracy the potential capacity of Canada to produce. If it is found that Canada's capacity to produce wheat, after we have allowed for the production of all the oats, barley, flax, rye, and all the other things we need exceeds what Canada requires to supply the British market, the Canadian market and any other markets that may be available, considering the question from the point of view of resources and man-power, has the minister taken any steps whatsoever to decide how many men he could spare off the farm?

Word coming to me from my constituency and other parts of western Canada alarms me

because of the number of men who are being taken off their farms, men who are A-l producers. Right now I am working on five distinct cases, in each one of which the production of probably a 300-acre farm is in jeopardy this year, and probably will continue to be so for two or three years. Five cases do not sound very much, but I presume that is only one-tenth of what is actually going on in my constituency.

If that is going on generally, and if what the member for Fraser Valley said with respect to the slaughtering of cattle and what the hon. member for Leeds pointed out applies to many other parts of Canada, there is going on over this countiy a destruction of our capacity to produce which is alarming. We cannot allow a good dairy cow to be slaughtered and recover from the effects of that slaughter perhaps during this war. I laid it down as a principle two years ago that the government should be seeing to it that there is no further slaughter of female breeding stock, and that should apply not only to cattle but to hogs and sheep unless we are sure that we have a greater productive capacity than we need. It is a very, very serious matter when a herd of dairy cows are sent to the slaughter and destroyed when we are in danger of a shortage of butter, for we cannot replace them in three years, and probably never. If there is a large number of farms that are going into semiproduction; if good men are being taken off the farm who know how to run a farm and love the farm and are trained to it, men who cannot be replaced, and if we are losing by the destruction of a good deal of our live stock here and there, then it is a very serious matter. If demands should be made upon us, by reason of intensified submarine warfare in the Atlantic or from some other cause, to increase our production within two years, it would then be just too bad.

All the wringing of foolish hands would not do a bit of good. We have enough to wring foolish hands about in this country already. As the hon. member for Fraser Valley pointed out, w'ith almost unbelievable stupidity we have neglected the development of our sugar production, with the result that, in one of the best sugar-producing areas on earth, we have had to ration sugar. That is to the credit of this government and its wonderful foresightedness. The government can very easily run into a good many other shortages because of the lack of foresight to look ahead. I am alarmed at things like that occurring.

The hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe mentioned chickens. I cannot understand, if the

War Appropriation-Agriculture

need of eggs were as great as I was led to believe it was, how we can afford to have a single pullet in this country not producing.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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LIB
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

In the first place,

you have to have the eggs. It is certain you cannot get them over if you do not have them.

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LIB
SC
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

We are getting them,

and at prices which most farmers do not think are high enough, simply because there has been at times a surplus.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I am afraid the price is not high enough. There may be a surplus one year, and the next year there may be a shortage. Our whole method of approach with respect to agriculture at the present time seems to be hit or miss. As the hon. member for Fraser Valley or some other hon. member pointed out this afternoon, no man knows where he stands.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

We are sending fortyfive times as many eggs to Britain as we did in the year before the war.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

That is not the question. The question is, are we sending as many eggs to Britain as Britain needs?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

We may not send as

many as she needs, but we are sending as many as we can arrange to ship.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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?

Mrr BLACKMORE:

If we do not have

them, is it not time that we got them?

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

If you cannot send them over, or consume them here, why waste your time in producing something that cannot be sent over there?

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

How do you know

that you will not be able to send them over in a month or two?

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LIB
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

Surely we do not

expect to have this Atlantic war remain static, do we?

Topic:   AGRICULTURE
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June 2, 1942