March 27, 1946

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Well, I have not needed it as much as some people, so far. I have here some of the opinions expressed by this same newspaper just a year ago, and I should like to place one or two of them on Hansard in .order that we may understand just what the position is' from time to time. I have here a clipping from the Winnipeg Free Press of March 23, 1945, just about a year ago. The first sentence is:

The supply of foodstuffs during the coming year has become a matter of urgent concern to the governments of .the united nations. The /prospective deficiency in the supplies of meat is the main cause for anxiety.

Then further:

The first matter to be examined in. this connection is the recently announced policy regarding wheat. The government has decided to increase substantially the returns which western farmers will receive from wheat . . .

This policy is bound to have important repercussions -on the nature of agricultural production in the prairie provinces. It is widely expected that the increase in the returns from wheat, coming on top of the shortage of labour and the growing strain on the agricultural population, will result in a further expansion in wheat acreage at the expense of animal feed stuffs and live stock production. It is clear that such a development would be directly contrary to the real needs of the situation.

That was just about a year ago, that this paper was saying that to encourage wheat production in Canada in order to take care of the food situation that was developing would be a mistake. I could go on and read some two or three more issues of the same newspaper along the same lines. I think I shall read only one portion from the issue of April 11, 1945:

When Canadians think of food relief for Europe they think, too often, of wheat. We have great wheat surpluses, but wheat is not the answer. It cannot be ground quickly into flour in Europe because of the war-damaged mills and power shortages. Every flour mill in Canada is working to capacity, so there is little chance of our increasing our flour supplies.

Having read those three statements from the editorial page of the Winnipeg Free Press, I do not think I need go farther than to say that even newspapers sometimes change their minds. A year ago they were advocating a policy entirely different from that which was read to this house yesterday in order to

indicate that the statements I made a week ago were not based upon the facts, were not based upon the experience of farmers, and were not in the best interests either of the farmers or of the people who were depending upon us for food. Yet within twelve months the same newspaper was arguing that we ought to have been doing what I maintained last week we were doing I may say I had some controversy with the newspaper at that time. The suggestion was made that we had raised the prices of grain and that by doing so we were going to deplete our live stock because we had not raised the prices of live stock sufficiently. They went on to suggest that we had not increased the price of bacon at all after having increased the price of grain. I wrote them to point out that we had increased the price of bacon after raising the price of grain, and that we did consider there was a pretty fair balance, as a result of which we believed the farmers would make their own choice. It is true I did not come out and say, "Seed a greater acreage." A great many people were saying that, and it was being said by some from whom I was quite sure it would be just as acceptable to the farmers of western Canada as any advice I could give in a matter of this kind. So that what I said the other day was this, that in 1943 the government had announced an increased .price for wheat, and increased prices for oats and barley, and by those increased prices had encouraged the production of grains as against live stock; and that we had done so advisedly. As I stated a week ago, I went across this country and addressed twenty-five audiences in the part of the country concerned, indicating that we were not asking the farmers any longer to keep down the production of wheat, that we were desirous of having them make the decision on the basis of their own needs. If they required cash immediately they could produce live stock and sell it upon a market which was available at all times. 'If they did not require cash immediately it was quite safe to produce wheat, and store it in bins against the time when we would require it. I believe the farmers acted upon the suggestions which were made over that area which is, pictured in the maps I exhibited a few moments ago. We had great increases in wheat acreage, greater than we desired. So that on every occasion that I spoke to the farmers with regard to this matter I said that 23,000,000 acres was too high, that it should be brought down to 21,500,000 acres as soon as possible. Last year for the first time we told them to main-

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

tain it at 23,300,000 acres for this one year; then we could again size up the situation in Europe and tell whether it would be essential to do the same thing in the years ahead. We were two years in advance of either the Free Press or anyone other than the government in encouraging increased acreage.

I think I have fully covered the position I took the other day. I have repeated that the policy of the government is one of having one-third of the land in the three prairie provinces summer-fallowed, one-third in wheat and one-third to provide feed grains and fodder for live stock; and on that basis we shall produce more food than we shall in any other way. We did agree to continuing this year with an acreage of 23,000,000 acres, which is 2,000,000 acres higher than our judgment suggests in normal times.

In order that I may not be misunderstood with regard to this, and in order that this house may know that the Free Press is fully informed with regard to it, may I point out that I have here an editorial which was written on the 19th day of this month. The other one, which was read yesterday, was written on the 22nd. My telegram is dated the 23rd, in reply to the first editorial. In that editorial it was stated that the government did not seem to be very firmly convinced as to what way the farmers ought to go, and that we were not giving the kind of leadership that ought to be given. It was stated that some others, including provincial governments and grain concerns, were giving definite leadership, and that they agreed in that leadership to the effect that we should have increased acreages in wheat.

I sent this telegram on March 23 to the editor:

Have just read your editorial headed "Greater cultivation needed", in which you refer to leadership and uncertainty.

There has been no uncertainty since last December as to the wishes of the'federal Department of Agriculture or the government of Canada. The advice of this department to the western farmers is that they do not take any land out of summer-fallow or feed grains this year and sow it to wheat.

This advice is based upon every experience we ever had in western Canada to get increased food production immediate or long time.

If the Free Press on its own responsibility wishes to advise otherwise they are of course free to do so without it costing them anything as are some others referred to. It has been the dominion treasury and the farmers that have* had to pay the costs of poor farming practice coupled with drought in the west over the past twenty years.

The only direction some desire to recognize as leadership is their own. We are not leading in the direction you appear to wish to go but we are leading in the opposite direction.

I wanted to make that as clear as I possibly could make it. I hope it has been published. I say that because it cost this government and others $217 million in the last drought period to take care of those who during the years immediately after the last war followed a policy similar to that being advocated now. Those of us who had experience with that situation, have no desire to return to it-even if the government were prepared to pay the money.

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PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacNICOL:

What was the length of time over which the government had to give $217 million?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

From 1930 down to 1939, probably. It 'included the last two terms of government. That is an enormous sum of money. And those of us who are entrusted with the care of the money in the treasury of the country feel that we have some responsibility. If others persuade farmers to go in another direction, and the farmers go along and suffer as a result of it, then so far as I am concerned, following the experience-1 have had in the last twenty years, I want to be on record everywhere possible as having said that the only policy to ensure us against drought and the only policy to ensure us against pests is a summer-fallow policy which puts one-third of our land under summer-fallow.

Had it not been for the closing observations of the leader of the opposition I would have had nothing further to say. However, he did say something further, which requires some comment. I do not know why the leader of the opposition thought he had to make some explanation about his becoming leader of the Progressive Conservative party. Most people do not require to make explanations after having made moves of that kind.

No, most people are well understood by all, and particularly people who rise to the height of becoming leaders of great political parties. Everyone knows they are the leaders of those parties. Everyone knows they are leaders because they have always-or at least for a very long time-been members of those parties. They have fought for them, worked for them, led others into them, and so have gained leadership. They require to make no explanations whatsoever.

For instance, we understand why the bon. member who sits at the far corner of the house is leader of the Social Credit group. We understand why the hon. member who leads the C.C.F. party is leader of that group. We understand why the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) is leader of this group. No one needs to explain it.

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

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PC
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

My hon. friend says "stopped thinking". They may do that in his party, but they do not in this. Thos,e of us who started early and^ kept right at the job of trying to convince the people of Canada that our policies are best for the country do not need to go around explaining our position. We do not need to try to convince the people that we have taken a certain position for the first time. We have

The Address-Mr. Coldmell

been taking the position which we take to-day with regard to farm policy and other matters for a very considerable period of time. That is the position we took during the period from 1921 down to 1929, which was the best period for agriculture that this country had experienced down to that time. Just as my hon. friends opposite in the short period of five years demonstrated that their policy was the worst possible policy for agriculture. So have we, since 1935, been working at the job with the same set of principles, with the same views with regard to agricultural methods and practices, demonstrated to the people of western Canada as well as to those of eastern Canada that we have arrived at the point where agriculture has passed the heights it rose to under the previous Liberal government. Even the leader of the opposition says that in the last three years agriculture has been in the best position it has ever been in, even back in the twenties. But he goes on to say even mpre than that; he says, "What we are worried about is the future." The only thing if he is concerned for agriculture that he needs to be worried about is whether anyone will ever put him in office.

This government with the policies which have been in effect during the last ten years, developed to fuller completion in the last five or six years and which are guaranteed by the agreements which were read yesterday by me and which will be submitted on grain later 'by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. MacKinnon) and by the further arrangements that will eventually be brought down will satisfy even some of the criticisms that have been made in this house. Some people may be sorry before it is all finished that they made the criticism they did. They may find that some of the things they proposed are not only already arranged for but are in position to be brought down in sufficient time to take care of what they are worrying about in connection with farm production and the condition of the farmer in the immediate future.

Therefore I say that in voting on this motion of want of confidence that is now proposed, the thing for this house to do, first, is to vote down the amendment in order that we may get on to the main motion and, then, vote the main motion through in order that this government may get on with the job of further improving agricultural conditions in this country.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Mr. Speaker, I had not anticipated speaking again in this debate, but since the opportunity has arisen, and, as the Minister of Agriculture

(Mr. Gardiner) has quite properly stated to the house, this debate affords an opportunity to discuss some matters that are before the country, and there may be a danger of some misunderstanding as to where we stand in this controversy regarding price ceilings and the production of food, I felt that I should like to say something further this afternoon.

Before I proceed may I say that I was greatly interested this afternoon in hearing the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) rise on a question of privilege and read into the record a short statement by Tim Buck. I presume that the marriage of convenience which seemed to have been consummated before the elections has now been very happily dissolved.

As I said a moment ago, I am rising to say something about the discussion on the removal of price ceilings. The other evening the hon. member for Rosedale (Mr. Jackman) urged the removal of price ceilings in the building trades. He complained about the difficulties of the builders in obtaining labour because of insufficient wages, and in obtaining materials because of insufficient prices. I listened last night to the hon. member for Stanstead (Mr. Hackett) who stated that in his opinion butter should be seventy-five cents a pound, or, indeed,'perhaps even a dollar a pound. I believe that some adjustments must be made in the prices of farm commodities, but let me say to these gentlemen a t once that if prices are allowed, to take flight, then we are in for a severe trimming of the consuming population of this country. Inevitably the prices of all the things the farmer has to buy will rise, but the prices of the things he has to sell will trail -the prices of the things he has to buy. The worker will find himself chasing prices upward and wages never catching up with them. Then when we get to the peak, as we found after the last war, there will be the collapse and inevitable suffering by the working people and farmers of this country.

May I say that the demands we have been listening to in this house from the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken) and from some of his followers are strangely like those that are now being heard in the United States, where the former isolationists in the senate and house of representatives, and the newspapers which supported1 the isolationists in that country, are demanding the removal of price ceilings and the elimination of controls. I venture to say there is no desire on the part of those in Canada who are really behind this move to benefit either the worker or the farmer. In reality it is engendered by powerful business and financial interests in this country

The Address-Mr. Coldwell

who want to puncture the price ceiling and get rid of controls in order that they may have a Roman holiday.

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PC
?

Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

I may say this, that the past record of these same big business people, as was noted yesterday by the hoa. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis), fully confirms the opinion I have just expressed.

I want to place before the house exactly where we stand in this controversy. We have always urged, because we believe in it, economic and social planning of an intelligent sort. We believe that our economy should be intelligently directed in the interests of the Canadian people. And may I say to the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch), who objected to voting for our subamendment last evening on the ground that his group had not a mandate for the establishment of a socialist state, that that amendment did not ask for a socialist state but asked for the institution of intelligent national planning. At the moment there is a need for such planning. If ever there was a need of intelligent planning of our economic life and of our production of food, it is now, when starvation faces millions of people from one end of the world to the other; and this can be met, it seems to me, by encouraging the production of food and of other materials. In order to encourage that production, the people who work and produce must be guaranteed, not only now but in the day's to come, the reward of an adequate and rising standard of living. That means, of course, that the prices of consumer goods and of farm commodities must bear a direct relationship with one another.

Floor prices and minimum wages are essential, but in considering floor prices and minimum wages let us remember that if we are to have floor prices, minimum wages and adequate standards, we cannot allow speculation of the type that will shoot prices high in one period and depress them in another. Under present conditions, ceiling prices and fair wages are essential, and in order to arrive at both fair prices and fair wages we require a national plan under which negotiations to set these fair wages and proper prices would be conducted by the representatives of agriculture, of labour, and of industry. That is what we mean when we talk about a national planning authority. A mad scramble for higher prices and higher wages obtained by strikes and by pressure groups will sooner or later cause economic and social chaos.

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PC

George James Tustin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. TUSTIN:

Does the hon. member think the farmer is getting a fair price now?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

The farmer wants a fair, reasonable and stabilized price for his butter, his eggs, his wheat, his hogs and other products; and I told my hon. friend how that might be arrived at-if he had listened to me-in the very last statement I made before the one I am making now.

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PC
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I answered his question. I said that in order to achieve a fair price, that price must be based on negotiation among all those interested. I am not one of those who guesses, as the hon. member for Stanstead did, that the farmer might get a dollar a pound for his butter, or guesses, like somebody else, that he might get $3 a bushel for his wheat. The only manner in which prices can be found to be reasonable, fair and stable is by intelligent examination and by negotiation among the parties concerned. That is the manner in which I would answer the particular question.

I do not believe that the farming population of this country desire to take advantage of the widespread starvation which exists throughout the world to-day. I was reading only this morning an account of the recent by-elections in Great Britain, and I was greatly struck by the attitude of 'the British people who -today are enduring a greater austerity programme than they endured even in the days of the war. One of their constituencies, the Hey-wood and Radcliffe division, up to 1935 was regarded as an entirely safe Conservative seat. In the general election last summer the Labour party won the seat by a small majority. In the by-election that was held last month the Labour party won that constituency again, by a slightly reduced majority; and when the result was made known the successful candidate, Flight-Lieutenant Greenwood, summed up the whole matter in a single sentence. This is what he said:

I have won this election because the people of this division were not prepared to sell their birthright of two thousand years of Christian principles for a packet of dried eggs.

To-day, Mr. Speaker, a packet of dried eggs or the lack of it-Is a symbol of the austerity programme in Great Britain. And I do not believe that the farmers of this country are prepared to forgo the teachings of two thousand years of Christianity and try to wring the last cent out of a starving world.

I am rising this afternoon because I find that lately, in the Winnipeg Free Press and some other papers, we have been bracketed with the Progressive Conservatives.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

That is a compliment to

you.

The Address-Mr. Coldwell

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

No. If it is a compliment it is a very left-handed one.

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PC
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I am rising because I want to make it very clear that we are not joining them in the propaganda to get rid of all price controls including the controls on the prices of farm produce. In order to show that I am not saying this only this afternoon I should like to refer to the speech I made in this house on March 18. At that time- and I do it again 'this afternoon, in spite of what the Minister of Agriculture has said- I criticized the government because I believed that they were failing to take a risk this year in increasing the production of cereals, which I believe is warranted. The house will remember I expressed the opinion that if we did increase wheat acreage beyond a certain level, we were incurring some risk. But I believe that that risk is warranted this year; and about that may I add at once that there may be an honest difference of opinion. I went on to say this, Hansard, page 57:

Uncertainty wtih .regard to prices of farm products is already causing a serious decline in some products. Agriculture needs the assurance of floor prices which will be reviewed from time to time and be set in relation to the cost of production and the sacrifices farmers made or are making to the maintenance of price ceilings. 1 wish to say at once that we cannot subscribe to the propaganda that farm prices should be allowed to find their own levels by open market trading. True, levels of some" farm products, notably wheat, would reach a high level now; but inevitably the day would come when they would become equal! v low. Consequently we believe the fanner desires, not high prices at one period and low prices at another, but some stability in price levels.

The farmer, like the industrial worker, wants fair, stabilized returns so that he may maintain a decent standard of living every day of every year.

The Minister of Agriculture pointed, out that many of my hon. friends who sit in the Social Credit group are from farm constituencies, representing a farm population to whom this problem is of vital interest. Let me say to him that around me in this party are men who in the main, with only three or four exceptions, represent farming areas.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

My distinction was

different from that. I said that the Social Credit group, I thoqght, had the largest proportion of men who are actually farmers, men living on the farm.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I am not sure about that. I have not checked it up, but I doubt whether even that is true. In any event, however, it is correct to say that the two parties sitting to your far left, Mr. Speaker,

do represent largely the wheat-growing area of this country; consequently this matter is of vital interest to us. It is true that the farmers during these war years, in spite of improved prices, have not received either the returns for their labour or the recognition which they deserve of their contribution to the maintenance of price ceilings.

I have stated on a number of occasions in this house that the assessment for income tax, for example, which has been mentioned several times in the debate, is wrong so far as farm families are concerned. Some allowance should have been made long ago for the farmer's wife and the farmer's family'. These wives and families have contributed a great deal, in their long hours of labour on the farm, to the building up of farm incomes, and some recognition should have been given to them long ago. I hope that when the new budget comes down their remuneration, if you like to call it that, will be considered a legitimate part of farm expenses.

I wish to say something about the wheat policy of the government, and I shall deal with wheat for the reasons I gave a few moments ago. The policy of the C.C.F. prior to and during the early part of the W'ar was a pretty continuous demand for increased prices for wheat in order to give the farmer a return which would enable him to hire the necessary labour, buy the necessary machinery, and attain a reasonable standard of living; and as long as wheat prices remained at 60 cents, 70 cents, 90 cents and SI a bushel we fought for increased prices for wheat, and fought continuously.

Farmers organizations want stabilized prices, and I am glad that the Minister of Agriculture was able yesterday to place before the house the outline of the agreement that has been reached with Great Britain. I had hoped that some such agreement might be reached, and now we have before us an agreement which does guarantee certain prices to farmers this year and the two succeeding years. I have not examined all the details of the agreement. Some of these prices may' be out of line, too low. If so, then I agree with the member for Acadia that if the farmers are asked to take any price that is too low, they should not be penalized on that account but the difference should be made up by all the people of Canada. It should not fall on farmers alone.

Farmers organizations, as I have already said, continue, as they continued in those years, to demand adequate and stabilized prices. Our- position now is this, that the act establishing a floor price of $1 a bushel

The Address-Mr. Coldwell

ought to be amended and at least SI.25 substituted as the floor. I should prefer to see an amendment made, not on the basis of SI.25 but on the basis of a thorough discussion with the farm organizations concerned, and by negotiation and by intelligent appraisal, to find out what the floor price really ought to be at this time. Perhaps it might be nearer SI .55. When this floor price is set it should take into consideration the average cost of production, and some consideration should be given to the contribution that agriculture made during the course of the war.

I want to make this abundantly clear, as I said a short time ago, because of articles that have appeared in the press linking us in some degree with the propaganda of the Progressive Conservatives, and incidentally with the private grain trade of the country. The C.C.F., in common with western organizations, including, may I say, some western Liberal organizations, have always condemned reliance on open market trading as a method of fixing prices. We have consistently urged and we urge now the abolition completely of the Winnipeg grain exchange. Why keep it in existence, particularly when these new agreements are before the house? We have condemned the grain exchange and that method of marketing because of fluctuating prices, high at some period and inevitably low at another.

We believe in a democratic and intelligently planned economy in which prices would bear some relationship to each other. I think we can be proud of what Canada did during the war in the provision of food, when we came to the fore in the supplying of all kinds of commodities to the united nations through mutual aid. Our principal contribution even then was of great quantities of wheat.

My hon. friend the member for Swift Current last night outlined part of the history of the wheat problem. The Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. MacKinnon) announced on September 28, 1943, that all the Canadian visible wheat had been taken over by the wheat board in order that we might carry out commitments we had then made under mutual aid, and the wheat board became the only marketing agency. It was at that time, I believe-in fact I know-that the initial price of $1.25 a bushel was set, an increase incidentally which pleased us, because it was 35 cents a bushel more than had been prevailing up to that time; and subsequently the government purchased from the wheat board for mutual aid the wheat it needed, which

I believe at that time amounted to 150 or 160 million bushels, at a price of $1.43 a bushel or thereabouts.

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LIB
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I thought it was $1.43. Then came an interesting development which caused a great deal of discussion throughout western Canada. There was a shortage of United States bought wheat from us, about wheat in the United States. We had built up surpluses, and thank heaven we did. The United States took 200 million bushels, and at $1.46 a bushel.

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March 27, 1946