April 28, 1949

CCF

Rodney Young

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

Mr. Young:

I am sure the hon. member will believe me when I say I had no intention of misinterpreting what he said. I agree that that is what he said; but he laid stress upon the principle of each man receiving wages high enough so that he could practise the old-fashioned ideal of thrift, and thus lay aside a little for the declining years of his life. I have not attributed to the hon. member anything more than that. But I am going to attribute something to the party to which the hon. member belongs. I would say that since confederation the policy of that party has not sufficiently encouraged the principle of higher wages to make his ideal possible. I offer that as a personal opinion, and it is possible that the hon. member will not agree with me. However, I will leave that to the people of this country on June 27, and we shall see whether they agree with me. But as a man who has worked for wages all his life, with the exception of the short period when I was in the armed forces, and the period when as a D.V.A. veteran I drew $80 at first and then $90 a month-and with the prices we have had since the war-and in the light of my experience as a picket on strike lines, I find it extremely difficult indeed to appreciate the point of view put forth by the hon. member for Grey North.

I have no objection to people who work for a living in this country having high wages so that they may put some of them aside. That is a splendid idea. But when we refer to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre we are dealing with an idea of putting through parliament-and I hope it may be done by the next government-a railroad retirement act which would be beneficial to the railroad workers, whether they get high enough wages to lay something aside, or whether they do not

and the latter would be more likely the case if the existing social order of capitalism continues. Since in the past that has been the condition, it is in the nature of the system, with the competition of one man against another in order to procure a job, or perhaps to stand with the unemployed, who, when capitalism functions, stand outside the gates, to take away that job if any individual dares to strike for higher wages-I say it is in the nature of capitalism

that in those circumstances we will require a railroad retirement act.

I was also interested in the suggestion of the hon. member for Grey North that there have been many men who have devoted their lives to public service in parliament, in the legislature and in other walks of life, and his suggestion that it would be a nice thing if those men could also have some sort of retirement fund. My, how my heart is wrung for the unfortunate members of parliament! How my heart is wrung! And when I think of the widows of the imperial veterans in my riding who receive no pensions, whose husbands have died and who are left to scrub floors on their hands and knees-how my heart is wrung with the desire of M.P.'s for a pension! What a splendid thing, gentlemen! Is it not strange that we have not considered the case of the poor, the indigent, the case of the cripples and those people who have no pensions and who need them so much worse than we do? Do not hon. members think it is somewhat of an anticlimax at this late date, in view of the hours remaining for this house to sit, to bring up this suggestion of pensions for members of parliament? When the people of this country read that speech-and I hope they will-they will most certainly be amused. They will be amused enough to do something about pensions for M.P.'s on June 27 or thereabouts, I hope.

My time is limited and, as I said at the outset, I did not rise to make a forty-minute speech. But the speeches to which I have listened and which were forty minutes long have compelled me to say something at this time, something which I consider should now be said. Let me now say, on behalf of merchant navy veterans, that conditions as they exist at the present time are intolerable to many of the young men who in 1939 went voluntarily to man the ships we were so busy building in our shipyards so that we could transport to beleaguered Britain the food that was to make possible the maintenance of that island fortress of democracy. These young men voluntarily undertook that service, one which at that time was most dangerous, the service of the battle of the Atlantic.

During the years that they were at sea, many of them had their ships sunk under them. They came back and, at the end of the war, when the rewards were meted out by a grateful people through its government, we found that the army, navy and air force were given the full benefits of our Department of Veterans Affairs allowance for education. Many restrictions, however^ were placed upon the men of the merchant navy. These men are granted an allowance while studying to become plumber, bricklayer, car-

penter or any one of the useful trades that we need in this country; but the army, navy or air force veteran is permitted, provided that he has the entrance requirements, to go to university. These veterans are permitted to enter the professional classes. They may become doctors, dentists or lawyers.

The only inference that can be drawn from the different treatment accorded the merchant navy veteran who served his country as gallantly as any member of the armed forces and is a veteran of the armed forces, is that the merchant navy veteran is considered mentally deficient. Many of these men entered the service as boys of eighteen or nineteen. They undertook a very dangerous work. Is it considered that they are unable to become members of the professional classes and that they should be restricted to the trades? I do not think that is fair. I think an injustice is being done to our merchant navy veterans. I should like to say this, Mr. Speaker, that not only are they saddled with these disabilities by comparison with the veterans of the other services, but if they reach the age of thirty they receive no assistance for education. No attempt is made to give them an opportunity to even learn a trade.

These boys who joined in 1939 at the age of twenty, in 1949 are already thirty. The years when they could have been learning something useful they devoted to the service of the cause of democracy in order to contribute what they could to the downfall of nazism. They are now being told, "You are thirty or over thirty; I am sorry there is nothing to be done for you."

At the very time that this is being done to the merchant navy veteran, a policy is being pursued by the Department of Transport by which ships are being sold to foreign flags. Canadian merchant navy veterans who are serving now in the merchant marine in peacetime are having the keels sold under them. They are unable to find work in the ports of Vancouver, Halifax or in the other ports of Canada. At the very time when they could be learning some other way of making a living, even this is denied them. The government is presiding very gracefully over the dissolution of the Canadian merchant marine. Contracts that were made with companies purchasing ships formerly owned by the government stipulate that when the ships are sold the government is under no obligation to rebuild or lay a new keel for a period of five years. At the end of the five-year period a two-year extension can be granted, which means that for seven years there will be no replacement.

Merchant Marine Veterans

Within the last few months two or three dozen ships have been sold; that is quite a slice out of our merchant marine. The result is that the crews are being laid off. The men who sacrificed so much during the war are not to be allowed any reward or recognition for the services they have rendered. I raised this matter earlier and one hon. member-I do not hold it against him since it was probably an excellent humorous remark-suggested that simply because a man was a merchant navy seaman whose ship had been sold and whose job taken away, that did not mean he could not learn to do something else. He went further and said that, like myself, he might become a member of parliament. Of course, the number of jobs as member of parliament is limited; I think that is very obvious.

I might say that is precisely what I am proposing here tonight and I hope that the hon. member who made that statement is with me one hundred per cent. If these merchant navy men are not going to be allowed to work as mariners any longer, if we are going to sell all our merchant marine, they should be given an opportunity of learning some other trade. One way in which that could be done would be to extend the age limit for merchant navy veterans beyond the thirty-year mark. These men of thirty should not be told, "We will give you no assistance in learning a trade." Another way in which it could be done would be to permit these men to enter not only the trades but also the professions.

There is a case in my own university of British Columbia. This young man entered the merchant navy during the early years of the war. He went through the battle of the Atlantic and when the dangerous period was over, this gallant young man decided he was no longer needed in the merchant navy as much as he was needed in the army. Leaving the merchant navy, he joined the army and went overseas. He saw some action, after having had one ship sunk under him in the battle of the Atlantic. Under the D.V.A., he was able to go to the university of British Columbia. After he had been there for less than a year and after having gone through the veterans' school to pass the necessary entrance examination, he was notified his credits in the army were now completed and that the government would be unable to grant him further credits.

He went to the department and told them that he had served with the merchant marine during the early years of the war. They said, "Oh, yes; well now, would you like to be a plumber or a carpenter or a steamfitter?" It happens that this boy wants to be a doctor.

Potatoes

He is willing to serve the seven or eight years which it takes to become a doctor. We are short of doctors in this country and the boy has ability. Simply because he volunteered during the dangerous period of the battle of the Atlantic to face the worst dangers any man could be called upon to face and, when that danger was over, switched to the army, which was the next most dangerous task, he is being penalized. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this is a grave injustice. As a veteran, and even if I were not a veteran, but as a Canadian citizen and as one who is grateful to the men who did so much for Canada in the recent conflict, I believe that before this house closes this government should give some assurance of better treatment for these men. I appeal to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) and I appeal to the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as to the cabinet, that they do something for these merchant navy veterans. I believe, politics and elections apart, that the least they could do would be to raise that age limit beyond thirty.

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Mr, H. H. Haliield (Victoria-Carleton):

did not intend to speak at this time, but I have one or two grievances to bring before the house. The first concerns the manner in which the agricultural prices support board handled the support for potatoes in the maritime provinces this fall. During August and September the price of potatoes went below the cost of production owing to a surplus crop throughout the world. As hon. members know, the agricultural prices support board was set up in 1944 by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) and it had the unanimous support of this house because every member from an agricultural constituency thought it was a good act and a fair one. The farmers and producers of agricultural products throughout Canada were held down by ceilings during the war years. They were also asked to produce to the limit, and they did a good job in producing. They did a better job than those in any other part of the world. I want to read some statements made by the Minister of Agriculture when he put this act before the house in 1944. As reported at page 5581 of Hansard of 1944 the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) quoted the views of a Liberal convention held in Ottawa as follows:

We advocate a policy under which Canada will (h) provide security for farmers and fishermen by safeguarding against inflation now and by guaranteeing minimum prices for their products against collapse of prices after the war.

Then he went on to say:

Speaking at London, Ontario, on October 15,-

That was October 15, 1943.

-I made this statement as Minister of Agriculture when speaking to a group of people, representatives of agriculture in that area, got together by the Kiwanis club, as reported in the Windsor Star of October 16:

"In placing ceilings upon products, with limited subsidies now, the government is assuming responsibility to maintain floors until this country is reestablished after the war. The government owes this to the farmers who have maintained production under ceilings, and also owes it to the men and women who will return from the services to the farms."

On December 2, 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), speaking over the radio said:

"As an essential part of its post-war policy the government intends to ask parliament, at the next session, to place a floor under the prices of the main farm products."

In the speech from the throne this statement was made:

"To insure economic stability for agriculture, you will be asked to make provision for a price floor for staple farm products."

The bill which is based upon all these statements is the bill which is now before the house, and I submit it to the house, Mr. Speaker, for second reading, with the suggestion that in the committee stage I shall be prepared to answer any questions I can that may be asked by different members of the committee.

Then Mr. Perley, the member for Qu'Appelle, asked this question during the debate as reported at page 5582 of Hansard:

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George Halsey Perley

Mr. Perley:

I should like to know also whether

the minister will forecast what will happen in the twelve years following this war. He made a comparison between 1918 and 1930, a period of twelve years. What does he forecast will take place with respect to prices between the time this war ends and 1956? It would be interesting if the minister would tell us that.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I stated my reason when I gave

the figures; it was in order to show that it would be impossible to have this bill run for a stated number of years, because the real drop in prices after the last war did not come until 1931. That was true not only in this country but in all other countries.

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Richard Burpee Hanson

Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury):

What does that

prove?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

It proves that you cannot say this legislation should last for only three years or only five years. It must be left to the government of the day to determine how long it should be retained. We are not attempting to say now that this legislation will be retained for only three years or five years or any definite period. For the same reason I would not try to prophesy what will happen between now and 1956. We are setting up this board to keep track of what happens.

Then the Minister of Agriculture went on to say that it would be unfair to ask the farmers to cut down production after the war because the government asked them during the war to produce goods to the limit. He said it would be unfair to the men returning from overseas to the farms to ask them to cut down production and to take lower prices and a lower profit on the cost of production. Speaking to the Ontario milk producers on

February 9, 1949, the Minister of Agriculture stated that Canadian farmers were entitled -to prices to justify their wartime sacrifices. But how was the delegation treated that came here from the maritime provinces with regard to potatoes after the price had gone away below the cost of production? The first delegation came on August 30, 1948. They received no encouragement, although they were told that the board might consider a starch program. At that time potatoes were selling in Canada away below the cost of production. That was not in accord with what the minister stated this act would do to keep potatoes not only above the cost of production but above the cost of production plus a profit during the time that the act was in effect. I asked the minister this question when the bill was going through the house, as reported at page 5624 of Hansard, of 1944:

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PC

Heber Harold Hatfield

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hatfield:

My understanding of this bill is that if the price of an agricultural product goes below the cost of production the board immediately takes action to remove the surplus from the market or to bring the market price up to the cost of production perhaps by taking the commodity off the market, putting it in storage or processing it. Is that right?

The Minister of Agriculture replied as follows:

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I was careful to see that there was nothing in the bill which said that we were going to base any decision on the cost of production. The cost of production may be only part of the consideration. I think it is possible the board might determine that the farmer should have considerably more than his cost of production because of some other experience he has had in order to get through the transitional period in a proper position.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. Blackmore:

What we are concerned about is that the time may come when the board may force the farmer to take less than the cost of production.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I would hope that that time will not come and I do not think it is likely to under this bill.

And he goes on further to say that there will be no agricultural products dumped during the time that he is Minister of Agriculture. I would say to him that, if he is not relieved of his position on June 27, he will see agricultural products dumped in the maritime provinces. I assure him of that.

The first delegation came here on August 30, 1948, as I said before. I drew the attention of the government to the matter in August. I also drew attention to it in a letter of September 16 addressed to Mr. Taggart, chairman of the agricultural prices support board. The minister of agriculture of the province of New Brunswick, Mr. Taylor, sent to Mr. Taggart, chairman of the board, this telegram on October 7, 1948:

Received your letter re prices support on potatoes. Greatly disappointed board's refusal to recognize appeal potato growers of Canada particularly in

Potatoes

light of announcement re Nova Scotia apples. This appears to me as rank discrimination in light of loss of South American markets. Letter following.

A. C. Taylor, Minister of Agriculture,

New Brunswick.

The hon. member for Prince (Mr. MacNaught) asked the chairman of the agricultural prices support board to give some relief to the potato producers of Prince Edward Island, in another letter. Letters were also sent to the Minister of Agriculture and the deputy minister of agriculture. The result was that three delegations came to Ottawa and were turned down. After that happened the United States government took a hand because we were shipping into the United States market under their support price and using their support plan to support our potatoes. They threatened to put an embargo on potatoes going into the United States market. On October 27 the agricultural prices support board was asked to come to Washington. The chairman of the agricultural prices support board, the deputy minister of agriculture of Prince Edward Island, the deputy minister of agriculture of Nova Scotia and the deputy minister of agriculture of New Brunswick proceeded to Washington on November 1, where they met with the United States government. An agreement was entered into at Washington on November 2, under which our government promised to put an embargo on our table potatoes entering into the United States market. They also agreed to police the shipments of certified seed potatoes to the United States market. What happened? They returned to Canada and nothing was done. The deputy minister of agriculture of Prince Edward Island wrote a letter to the chairman of the agricultural prices support board on November 22 and this is what he said:

I may say that I have been bombarded with questions regarding the potato situation since our Ottawa and Washington trips and have managed to keep silent and look stupid, the latter phase being less difficult than the first, right up to the present time.

Yours very truly,

(Sgd.) W. R. Shaw.

Deputy Minister.

He was keeping something to himself that he should have told the farmers. That is the reason he said, less difficult to keep silent than look stupid. The hon. member for Resti-gouche-Madawaska (Mr. Michaud) came here with a delegation on September 20. We had a meeting with the agricultural prices support board. We also interviewed the Minister of Agriculture. The minister told us that he was quite agreeable that we should have a support price on potatoes and that he would put it on as soon as he had a report from the board. The hon. member for Restigouche-

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Potatoes

Madawaska wrote to the Minister of Agriculture under date of September 22 and this is the first paragraph of his letter:

Dear Mr. Gardiner,

I came to Ottawa Monday mainly for the purpose of discussing the potato situation with the officials of the agricultural prices support board. I was informed of the meeting by Mr. H. H. Hatfield, M.P. for Victoria-Carleton. As you probably know, the two of us represent by far the two largest potato-growing constituencies in New Brunswick.

The hon.. member for Restigouche-Mada-waska wrote to the agricultural prices support board asking for a support price. What happened? They put a support price on potatoes effective April 1, after the farmers had gone to the expense of holding their potatoes, and the price was set below the cost of production. That price was $1.15 a hundred in the bins on the farms. Just compare that with the agricultural prices support board program across the border in the United States. It was $3.25 a hundred loaded on the car, compared with $1.15 a hundred in my constituency in New Brunswick and in Prince Edward Island in the bins on the farms.

On motion of Mr. Hatfield the debate was adjourned.

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BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

We still have to deal with interim supply, the Atlantic pact, the international wheat agreement, third reading of the pipe lines bill, the pipe lines incorporations, and the budget debate, and we shall take them in the order which may be found to be most convenient, but interim supply will have priority in the forenoon at least.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

May I dare to hope that the international wheat agreement might follow interim supply.

At ten-thirty the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to the order of the house passed on March 14, 1949.

Friday, April 29, 1949

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April 28, 1949