Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)
Canadian Wheat Board Act ernment's policy with respect to coarse grains must necessarily be closely linked with its ability to fulfil its contracts. We have undertaken to deliver a large quantity of live stock products to Britain. These live stock products cannot be produced unless we have the coarse grains to produce them. The more wheat we grow, the less coarse grains we grow, and the less wheat we grow the more coarse grains we may grow. My question is, will the Minister of Trade and Commerce tell us, when he speaks later, what the government's coarse grain policy is to be? Does the government expect to increase coarse grain supplies in order to help fill the British contract for bacon and other live stock products-cheese, eggs, et cetera? If so, where does it expect the increase to take place? Does it expect western Canada to grow more hogs and produce more cheese, or does it expect the western farmers to supply coarse grains by means of various subventions so that the increased production, can take place in Ontario, Quebec and eastern Canada? The government's policies with respect- to the production of bacon have resulted in maintaining a very high production of bacon products in eastern Canada, but they have resulted in lowering it in the west. Is the policy to be to continue to encourage the production of coarse grains to be fed in the east in order to increase our supply of bacon in Britain,-or what is it to be? Then the minister or other ministers should give us some idea of what the government's long-range policy is in other fields of agriculture other than that of wheat and coarse grains, its long range policy regarding our major farm products. Prior to the war, we had in Europe a substantial market for coarse grains and we also had a considerable market for animal and dairy products. In has been suggested that the government proposes trying to take a larger part of the British bacon market and hold it against the Danish and other hog producers. If this is its policy we should like to know it. In that connection we want to know also what it will cost the taxpayers of Canada to pay for this policy of the government. This is a question which has not had much consideration, but before we get through with these measures I am sure the government will see that it has an important bearing on what the policy should be. The government should also give information with respect to its policies relating to quotas and authorized acreages. By order in council the government has been enabled to say to the farmer, "We will only take wheat from a certain acreage; if the acreage is beyond 83166-37 that we may not be able to take the whole crop." It is reserving the right not to take more than from a certain authorized acreage. By order in council the government also has the power to say, "We will not take more than fourteen bushels an acre on this authorized acreage." We want full particulars as to the government's policy in this respect, in so far as this measure carries out the plans of the past or modifies them. To the extent that quotas on reduced acreages are applied, it of course reduces the farmer's market and his income. I would also ask the minister to give us information with regard to participation certificates. When the wheat board takes this grain from the farmers it advances an initial price and gives farmers a participation certificate which entitles them to payment of any balance the government may have after it sells the crop, any balance above what it has already paid. We want to know the government's policy with respect to these participation certificates. [DOT] Under the old wheat board act, these certificates were to be paid up -when each year's crop was sold. The whole principle of the measure was to settle the one year's crop operations at or shortly after the end of that crop year. But now, by order in council under its war measures and continuing powers, the government enabled the board to say, "No, we will not pay the participation certificates at the end of each year, but will wait for five years and whatever there is left then, if any, we will pay out to the farmers." On the basis of five months' sales of this crop year-we do not know, but the minister should know-it has been estimated that the government will be holding S100 million- some say more-of the farmers' money at the end of this crop year. That is a lot of money. If it is to be the policy of the government to continue to hold this money, and I gathered from the minister's statement tonight that it was, that may be satisfactory to the government, but it is not a satisfactory policy in so far as the official opposition is concerned. We will fight that policy with all the force at our command. We want the government either to pay the farmer a parity price year after year, the parity price being now about SI.55, rather than the advanced price of SI.35 which is now paid; or, if the government declines to do that, to guarantee the initial payment, as a floor price, of not less than ninety per cent of parity, which would be about SI .40 a bushel, and then undertake to honour its participation certificates every year. In other words, the govern-
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ment should pay what is a fair price now, what is a parity price, $1.55 a bushel; or, in the alternative, if it thinks that is not a policy it can support, it should pay to the farmer $1.40 a bushel advance, and later give whatever amount of money is in the hands of the wheat board at the end of this year and every year, instead of holding the balance of the money, as it proposes to do, for five years. Another point on which the minister should give information is as to the wheat supplies, what is spoken of as the visible supplies of wheat now in existence in the country. What is the amount of our visible wheat today? It is said to be very low. One would expect that it would be relatively low in view of the huge demands and the shortages elsewhere. Complaints are made about hold-ups in shipping, and demurrage charges that have been incurred. I understand that these demurrage charges are not charged to our farmers or to this government but become a charge upon the British government. It is suggested that some offers for wheat from abroad have been accepted, while other offers from abroad have not. What is the government's policy in this respect and where has our wheat gone, other than the 160 million bushels due to Great Britain, and to what countries and at what prices? What we are concerned about, and I am sure the government is as much concerned about it as anyone else, is that whatever is done there shall not have been discrimination against any country which will result to our disadvantage later on. That is one of the difficulties arising out of a transaction such as this wheat agreement where 160 million bushels, or nearly two-thirds of the whole export crop, is put in one place at a price far below the world price, when other nations want it and are even paying from fifty to seventy-five cents a bushel more than we sell it for to Britain. And the members of the house will want to know the cost to the farmers of maintaining the government's price control policy. I think we should have from the government a comprehensive statement as to where the farmer stands with respect to the government's price ;ontrol or price ceiling policy. The farmer aas been subsidizing bread consumers. The minister's announcement yesterday was an admission of that fact and of course no one disputes it. What his decision yesterday meant was simply that, instead of the farmers subsidizing the users of bread, the government is now going to do it. The farmer has been subsidizing bread consumers, and this is true of the wheat, bacon and cheese sold to the British markets. [Mr. Bracken.1 The farmer does not object to paying his share of taxes, but in too many cases he carries too much of the burden of the government's price ceiling policy. We do not want parliament to adjourn without knowing what the government's policy is to be in this respect. We had a bit of a misunderstanding towards the end of last session. The government gave us to understand at the conclusion of the session that it would consider maintaining the milk subsidy. I do not say it undertook to maintain that milk subsidy. At any rate, it did not do so, even though a vote of the majority of the house instructed it to reconsider its policy of getting rid of that subsidy.
The government reconsidered it and threw it out.
Mr'. ABBOTT: The government adhered
to its original policy.
Yes. The government
adhered to the original policy after the house had asked it to reconsider what had been done.
We did that.
The government reconsidered it and threw it out. I should like to have the government announce a policy now and tell us whether it will change that policy after we are gone. In other words, what the farmer wants to know is what the government's policy will be with respect to his share of maintaining the price ceiling policy.
There are two other questions. One has to do with the wheat agreement in its relation to the expansion of trade, in its relation to what is spoken of as multilateral trade. In a few months Canada will be joining with some twenty-six nations in Geneva to begin negotiations to restore the widest possible measure of international trade, to try to increase our trade. I should like to ask the minister or the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) or the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) if they do not think the United Kingdom-Canada wheat agreement makes more difficult of accomplishment the international trade organization proposals for expanding multilateral trade. Our information is that this agreement is already proving an embarrassment in those discussions, and) we think it is natural that it should. I should like to have a frank statement from the government as to its view. I think every member of this house wants to give a fair deal to agriculture. And we feel that, whatever merits the British wheat agreement may have, it will prove embarrassing to us in trying to expand our trade, and that it will stand in the way of the Geneva programme which
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seeks to expand export trade. I say, whatever merits that agreement may have, we think it is increasing our difficulties in that way.
My last question is this. With respect to the policy of embargoes practised by this government on grains and live stock going to the United States, we want to know the government's policy regarding the embargo on the exports of major agricultural products, such as live stock products and cereals, to that country. Of course we want the British market; and we want a part of the European market. But we take the view that it is absurd to think that we can abandon the United States market for all time. As hon. members have said tonight; as has been said elsewhere by experts on trade and, as I tried to say myself a couple of weeks ago, we are lending a great deal of money to Britain, and she is not buying from us goods to the value of the money we are lending her. And from the United States we are accepting much more than the amount of goods we are exporting. It must be apparent to anyone that such a combination of conditions cannot last very long. We should anticipate what we are running into when those loans to Britain and to other countries are exhausted. We shall need the United States market in the future just as we need the markets of other countries. I would therefore ask for a clear-cut statement from the government as to its policy of continuing the embargo against exporting our farm products to that country.
Mr. Speaker, I have said that, this agreement having been entered into by this nation with Britain, it is now an international agreement signed by this government and signed by the British government. We have to recognize that. But now wre are being asked to continue for a number of years the wide powers given to a board composed of a few men with respect to the marketing of a large portion of the agricultural products of this country. What I have asked of the government is that it give us information along the lines of the questions I have asked and then, in the light of that information-
Mr. Speaker, may I rise to a point of order before my hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, finishes. I do not wish to interrupt the statement which has been made, but most of the information which has been asked for is information which would properly be given on the bill which is to be brought down, but which is not yet on the order paper; I have reference to the bill to be brought down providing for the marketing of farm products other than wheat. I believe that most of the information which is being asked for, if it were allowed to enter into the discussion in connection with this bill, would 83166-37*
preclude similar discussion in connection with the bill to which it applies. I think much of that information should come down on that bill.- It is all right to ask for information in regard to wheat and gram, but all the other information has some bearing on the other bill which is to be brought down.
When will the other bill be brought down?
Within a day or two.
I have indicated the kind of information this house should have and the people of this country should1 have in dealing with an important measure of this kind. If I have asked for anything here which has no direct bearing on the bill before us, I will not press the government to bring forward that kind of information at this time. But there is plenty of information I have sought which has a direct bearing on this bill, and I would respectfully ask the minister to see that it is given to us before he expects us to give second reading to this bill.
I would ask the minister also to say whether he is prepared to have this bill referred to the committee on agriculture and colonization. We want it referred to that committee. If the minister will say that it will go there, it will save some time in debate in this house. If he does not, then we on this side will move an amendment that that be done. Either before or after it receives second reading, we shall move that it go to that committee, because we believe that in that way members of the house will get to understand thoroughly this measure and be able to assess its merits and demerits.
On motion of Mr. Burton the debate was adjourned.
At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Wednesday, February 19, 1947