The minister has a great gift for getting off his chest a lot of words that serve to becloud the issue but do not mean a great deal. He starts in to reprove me for using personalities at one time or another, and so forth, and attempts to becloud the issue in that manner. That has absolutely nothing to do with the case in point. The minister never mentioned, in anything he said, as far as the figures he put on the record are concerned, that they did not include subsidies, let alone freight. This letter was written by a man who, as he knows, is a western beef producer and is president of a western beef producers' association. He was not writing for Canada as a whole.
I am not stretching anything too far. The Minister of Agriculture is so used to stretching things that he suspects everybody of stretching everything all the time. However, as I say, let him becloud the issue as he may, there is no question about the fact that the figures he put on the record do not present the true picture.
western beef producers. I do not see what the minister is talking about. The letter was addressed to the Prime Minister. The point I make is that the Minister of Agriculture put on the record of this house Fort William prices, in an attempt to show that this letter, as he says in his own words, is not based upon facts and, not being based upon facts, there is little use for anyone to give further consideration to it. The figures he put on take no consideration of freight and no consideration of subsidies. The percentages, therefore, which he produced and went on afterwards to say were the percentages-26-9, 31T per cent and so forth-are completely misleading. The thing I object to is the Minister of Agriculture of the Dominion of Canada standing up in this house and putting on the record figures which are completely misleading, as far as this particular case is concerned, and by means of those figures trying to prove that some other man was not telling the truth. That is not in keeping with his position and with the dignity of this house, and I object most strongly to it. When he was on his feet a minute ago he said absolutely nothing to disprove what I said.
"Sure", and I will tell you that you cannot dispute the figures I will give. I know something about this western matter. I want to say, in all fairness, Mr. McKinnon is president of the western beef producers' association, and that association is on the prairies alone, as I understand it. I think the minister went a little far in saying that he was speaking for all Canada, because during his estimates a year ago I put a set of figures on Hansard-I am sorry I have not them here-which did prove that for some years past-and I am sure the same will be true of this year-the greater amount of the beef produced in Canada came from the three prairie provinces. There are more head of beef cattle produced and sold annually from the three prairie provinces than from all the rest of Canada. If anyone wants to dispute that statement I will go to my office and get the figures in a few minutes.
I think, therefore, there is a lot of truth in this letter written by Mr. McKinnon and, as the Minister of Agriculture says, on behalf of the western beef cattle producers; and the statements made by the hon. member for Calgary East are true in every respect. Those
people buy feed in the west. They were paid a subsidy if they were feeders and they did not have to pay the freight. That letter was written on behalf of the western beef producers of Canada, and they have been fighting a battle year after year on behalf of the breeders in the three prairie provinces.
On some other item I can put on the record the exact figures for the past few years and the latest obtainable from the Department of Trade and Commerce as to the number of beef cattle produced and marketed throughout Canada, from which it will be seen that the percentage is quite a bit higher from the three prairie provinces than from all other parts of Canada put together.
The estimates of the Department of Agriculture are always taken as the signal for a full-dress debate on Canada's agricultural industry. In past debates when agriculture has been brought up, those members who did not have the privilege of representing agricultural constituencies have very often expressed the opinion that they were bored at the length of time taken up in the discussion of these estimates. However, a careful consideration of the case for agriculture will soon show that agriculture is Canada's leading industry.
It is true, of course, that during the past ten or fifteen years mining and manufacturing have also become leading industries in Canada, but it remains a basic fact that today agriculture is the greatest industry we have in the dominion. An attempt has often been made to compare existing agricultural conditions and agricultural returns with the conditions which existed before the war.
I do not think this is a fair basis upon which to make a comparison. It is a well known fact that before the war the returns of agriculturists were so small that in many cases agriculture failed to give the producers the actual costs of production. At the present time it is quite true that agriculture is a good going industry, but the returns which agriculturists get today are still below what they ought to be if they were on a fair comparison with other industries in the country.
At the present moment, we are told, approximately 33 per cent of Canada's people are either directly or indirectly dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood. It would naturally follow, one would think, that 33 per cent of the national income would go to agriculture, but that is found not to be the case. In round figures, approximately 11 per cent of the national income is collected by agriculture during the course of a year.
The reason I decided to speak on the estimates of agriculture this year is not that I am
a practical farmer; I have done so because of the importance of the industry to Canada as a whole. I believe it is about time the government began to take steps to put agriculture on a sounder basis than it is at the present time.
During the war years the income of agriculture increased enormously. According to the Economic Annalist, published in February, 1948, the net value per farm was estimated at $3,018 and the per capita value at $811. The net farm income for the same period was $2,319 per farm and per capita income of $623. With incomes in that range of figures, the farmers of western Canada have been able to pay off a large amount of mortgage indebtedness on western agriculture.
At the present time the indebtedness of western Canada stands reduced some 68 per cent compared with the figures before the war broke out. During the period of the war western Canada developed technically as well and a very large amount of farm machinery was purchased by agriculturists. From 1941 to 1946, according to the Economic Annalist, some $200 million was spent on agricultural machinery. In the census figures for 1946 it was shown that western farmers possessed 159,000 tractors. During this same period of time the increase in the amount of tractors used on western farms was some 36 per cent. While this increase in farm machinery being used by western farmers was taking place, we find that the horse population of western farms decreased by some 28 per cent or, in round numbers, by 970,000.
In the past, western Canada has found it rather difficult to find a market for coarse grains; I mean in the period before the second great war. I myself have heard many farmers, and also many farm organizations, making requests that something be done to build an industry in Canada which could make use of our coarse grains. Of course the livestock industry was one of the most-promising fields for the use of coarse grains.
I submit that at the present time the need for the development of such an industry is even greater than it was in the period before the war. Because of the reduction in the number of animals used for agricultural production, it will not be necessary in the future to feed as much coarse grains as was formerly used. The result will be that, unless our present markets for food contracts can be. held, the farmers again will find themselves in a difficult position with respect to
procuring markets for those coarse grains. I believe the government ought to take immediate steps to build up a long-term policy of livestock production. That would not only involve the holding of our markets in Great Britain and other countries as well, but also greatly increasing livestock production with a view to supplying a steady market.
I submit that could be done in two ways. In western Canada coarse grain is always a part of the production of our farming industry. That is due to the fact that the production of coarse grain is part of the system of crop rotation, so that once in four years or once in three years there is an even production of coarse grains. For example, during one cycle, the first year wheat is produced; the second year it is coarse grain, then summer-fallow, and then back to wheat. If we are to provide a market for the coarse grains, the most reasonable method of doing so would be to maintain the present livestock industry. It would be necessary not only to maintain such an industry in western Canada but to develop the livestock industry which now exists in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and the maritimes as well.
I want particularly to deal with the possibility of developing the livestock industry in western Canada and in the maritimes. I believe that we can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, if such a policy is put into effect. It might be necessary for the government to finance the policy during the first stages of its operation, but after it was established I maintain that it could be developed on profitable lines. I maintain that it would not only bring profit to the farmers in both east and west, but give Canada a thriving industry as well. In order to develop such a coarse grain-livestock industry, western Canada would be the principal part of the dominion for the production of these coarse grains. But I believe that eastern Canada, particularly Ontario and the maritime provinces, would be the place where livestock would largely have to be produced. Then by using the northern sea route from Churchill to the maritime provinces, we could transport grain cheaply from the western plains to the maritime provinces, and thus provide them with fairly cheap feed for the maintenance of the livestock industry.
It is true that such a procedure might involve the building of a number of elevators in Nova Scotia, possibly in Prince Edward Island, and along the St. Lawrence river, possibly in Montreal. After grain was delivered to those elevators in season, it could be sent out to where it was required by the farmers. If this were done, I have no doubt that we could build up in both the east and the west an 5849-249
industry that would be a credit to Canada. Not only would it be a credit to Canada, but it would mean money in the pockets of the farmers in western and eastern Canada, and it would mean that we could bargain each year for the British market. With greatly increased production it would be possible for us to retain in the future markets in Britain which we might possibly lose if we are not able to increase our production some time in the near future.
That is all I have to say with respect to coarse grains. I think I should deal for a few minutes with the meat packing industry, because it has something to do with the success of our farmers in the operation of the livestock industry. I refer particularly to the statement that was recently made by the president of Canada Packers when giving evidence before the prices committee. I submit that the president of that company took a stand which is most inimical to the welfare of the farmers of western Canada and those of eastern Canada as well. For the benefit of those farmers who are interested in what is going on in our agricultural industry, I shall put his statement on record. This statement by the president of Canada Packers appeared in the Winnipeg Citizen of Friday, May 7, 1948. This paragraph of the article is entitled "Frank Statement", and reads as follows:
"We buy cattle as cheaply as we can and we sell beef for as much as we can," Mr. McLean declared.
He later added: "I don't mind telling you that one of the main objectives in conducting a business is to make a profit."
Mr. McLean said: "I have been in the packing business most of my life and I have more confidence today in the soundness of the competitive system than ever I had before. Nothing but competition keeps individuals and businesses sound. The real danger we face is the elimination of competition. The safeguard of the whole thing is free, open, unrestricted competition."
Mr. Chairman; I rise to a point of order right there. In the debate we had some weeks ago on the setting up of the committee, the Prime Minister was specifically asked if that committee would hinder us in any way in discussing prices in the house, and he definitely said, "No".
It does not matter. It is quoting evidence before the committee. If the hon. member wishes to discuss prices, he is quite in order to do so. But it would not be in order to discuss what is going on in that committee until the committee has made its report.
Just on that point, Mr. Chairman, let me repeat what the hon. member for Macleod has said. The Prime Minister has made that point clear in this house. Whether he had any right to do so or not is beside the question. I among others asked that question pointedly, and the Prime Minister made it plain to this house that anything that happened to be before the committee could be discussed in this house at any time, if it were in order on that particular subject. The Prime Minister is on record in Hansard as having made that statement.
I do not think the hon. member is fair in that statement. I thought the Prime Minister made it clear that members of the house could discuss increases in prices in any way they wished to do so; but I do not think he ever said they could discuss the evidence being taken in a committee, or what was going on in that committee, until its report was made. That would be entirely out of order-to discuss at the present time a question which is before the committee.
In order that we might have exactly what he did say on the record, at page 543 of Hansard, although I read it on Tuesday night, I shall read it again:
Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, I have anticipated
in a reply I made to the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon), -what my hon .friend has just inquired into. I think I said that the committee would be a committee to let in light where information is needed, certainly not a committee to prevent light from coming in. If the wording of the resolution were such that it named a specific matter to be sent to a committee in concrete terms, it might be necessary, as is frequently done, to interpret its terms very strictly. But it is certainly not the intention of the government to seek to prevent anyone from discussing the general question of prices in any way he may wish because of such a motion being on the order paper or carried.
It is a question of prices, but not what is going on in the committee.