;he house adjourned I rose to make a few -emarks, and the chairman very kindly :alled it eleven o'clock. A few moments ago [ asked a question of the Minister of Agriculture, and he said that he would mswer it when we came to deal with his istimates. I shall now present the question
again, since it is based on an urgent request from a couple of farmers who came to my office today. I repeat the question, so that the minister when he is answering other questions will answer this one. What is the cost-of producing a pound of margarine for the market as compared with the cost of producing a pound of butter for the market?
Since we have started to deal with these estimates I notice that a great many western members have taken up the cause of the farmers of the west. In all discussions on farming and administration of the Department of Agriculture the western members stick together as though they had a common cause in the interest of the western farmers. It is difficult to tell whether they are Liberals, Conservatives, C.C.F. or Social Credit. If there is a farmer's problem before the house they are all inclined to stick together, and thby get their demands granted by the government by so doing. We had an example of that not so long ago when all the members from the west took up the cudgels for the farmers and they were granted a subsidy of some $65 million.
In the course of their remarks some of the western members were inclined to think that the eastern members are not so much interested as they should be in the cause of the western farmers. But I say that the eastern members have always been and still are interested in the western farmers, and a large majority of them are doing more for the western farmers than the western members are doing for the eastern farmers and their problems.
I do not take any objection to the members from the west, of all political parties, grouping together and making one demand. In fact I congratulate them on their having a co-operative spirit. We in the east sometimes take our politics a little too seriously, with the result that the agricultural problems of the east are not getting the attention from the department or from the government that the western farmers get.
The one important problem at the present time-the hon. member for Victoria-Carleton brought it to the attention of the minister- is that of marketing our surplus potatoes. For the first time in this house or anywhere else the amount that was allocated to assist the potato grower to market his surplus product has been mentioned. As the minister stated yesterday, that amount is some $300,000. It has been allocated to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This will not be more than $150,000-probably it will not be over $100,000-for Prince Edward Island. It is only a small item when
you compare it with the $65 million that the wheat growers received. When you compare these two amounts you see the unfair attitude taken by the department and by the government toward the eastern farmers. We have had discussions of the price' that was to be paid to take care of the surplus potatoes in our province. I understood it was to have been 44 cents a bushel. This is at least 16 cents below the cost of production. However, as I said a moment ago, no evidence has been given of an order in council having been passed to pay the farmers for their surplus potatoes.
In the discussion that took place yesterday on this matter I find quite a difference between the views of the minister and those of the hon. member for Victoria-Carleton. They seem to disagree as to how this price should be paid and how much each government is to pay. There is a little difference in our province, because at the time that this question was uppermost in the minds of the farmers a provincial election was in progress and the farmers, rightly or wrongly, were led to believe that they would get 22 cents from the starch factory, 22 cents from the local government and 22 cents from the federal government, which would make 66 cents. I do not say that the Minister of Agriculture put out that proposition, but it was current during the election. It was good campaign material, judging from the results of the election that took place on April 26.
However, there is some misunderstanding with regard to the payment of 22 cents from the starch factory. If they are unable to take all the product that is being offered, will the government, either the federal government or the local -government, take the amount that the starch factories are not able to take? In other words, instead of dumping two or three million bushels of potatoes, will the government pay the same price of 44 cents in our province, and a little higher price by the barrel in New Brunswick? That is a matter which the farmers are considering at this time when they are planting their potatoes. It would be of great assistance to most of them to know just how they are to be treated with regard to the dumping of potatoes, which will have to be done in many instances.
It seems strange that a good food such as eastern potatoes should be dumped when other parts of the world are experiencing famine. We know that the government endeavoured to assist the farmers of western Canada by selling wheat to some of these distressed areas-wheat that was not fit for dour purposes. I think they should have -,-onsidered at the same time selling millions
of bushels of extra choice potatoes, instead of having them dumped, when food is so scarce.
I shall not deal with any other matters, with the exception of the one pertaining to potatoes. However I would ask the minister when- he replies, to answer these questions:
1. Was there or is there a proposal to pay the -potato growers of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island $300,000? If so, when was this proposal passed, and how much was allocated to the Prince Edward Island growers?
2. Will the farmers be paid- 44 cents a bushel for all potatoes dumped?
3. Will farmers who were forced to sell at very low prices receive a sum of money which will place them in the same position as those receiving 44 cents a bushel?
4. Is there to be a plan for the marketing of potatoes in 1951, and, if so, will the minister outline that plan?
Mr. Chairman, yesterday afternoon and evening several matters pertaining to agriculture were discussed. I am sure hon. members from the maritime provinces will forgive me if I do not refer to the potato problem, because I do not know very much about potatoes-other than possibly the difference between mashed and French-fried.
One other subject of interest to wheat farmers was the international wheat agreement. The discussion was introduced, I believe, by the hon. member for Lake Centre, when he suggested- that the government should ask for a- renegotiation of the contract. This sounded all right. I do not know whether it would be beneficial or not. I think all will agree that all members of the government are interested in seeing that we get as much as possible for our wheat.
We come now to the subject which has been discussed at some considerable length: I refer to the South Saskatchewan dam Along with other hon. -members, if at al possible I am i-n favour of getting started or the dam. The suggestion was made that the work might be held up until the time o: another election. I suppose that was throw! into the discussion more or less as a joke. Mr. Thatcher: What do you mean, a joke' Mr. Smith (Moose Mountain): Because
there would be no good reason for holding i up until the time of another election. I would take ten years to build the dam and if that would elect the present government the hon. member will be sitting where he i for a considerable length of time-at leas until after another two elections.
The suggestion was made that we are united on the subject and that we would not play politics with it. With this I agree. I have no criticism of the government I support in respect of its playing politics. The only quarrel I have is that at times they are not political enough, and I have been urging some of the ministers to realize that on occasions they should be a little more political.
The suggestion was made that the South Saskatchewan dam was required because we need more electricity in that province. In the constituency I have the honour to represent is found the chief supply of electricity for the province. This supply is found in the Estevan-Bienfait area; it is made possible by cheap coal. I am not going to discuss the question whether a supply of water would give us cheaper electricity than coal. I do know, however, that at Bienfait, south and east of Estevan, the coal companies supply the power commission with coal to make their electricity at a price of less than a dollar a ton. I am informed that on that basis we can manufacture electricity from coal at just about the same price as it can be produced from natural gas. I am not sure of the cost of electricity at Estevan, but I understand it is produced at the plant for less than one cent a kilowatt.
In the Estevan area we have been interested in getting a smaller dam on Long creek. I understand this is being held up because of a report which is expected from the international joint commission. I shall not discuss the matter further. I have discussed it with the minister on many occasions, and I shall speak to him privately again. However, if the South Saskatchewan development, which might be considered more important, does not go ahead, I would be hopeful that money would be made available for the dam at Estevan on Long creek.
I cannot let it carry just yet. If one may judge from what has been said by hon. members who spoke yesterday and today, I believe it can be said that the farmers, and people generally in the east, are agreeable to the development of the dam on the South Saskatchewan river. If the result will be the production of more wheat and flour, if it will make the western provinces more prosperous, then I am sure all the people in Canada will be in favour of it. There is no doubt in my mind that through the years it will pay for itself.
Yesterday the Minister of Agriculture said that as far back as 1947 he was sold on the idea. The minister has had four long years 80709-2301
to sell the idea to the rest of the cabinet, but, according to what he said yesterday, up to now that has not been done. We know that the hon. gentleman is one minister who is thoroughly familiar with his department, and we know also that he is a clever politician. I do not like to see projects of this kind carried over from year to year. If it was a good thing for Canada in 1947, it should be good in 1951; it should not be left until 1953 or 1954, just before an election, before work is commenced. Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today, if it is necessary and if it will make our country more prosperous?
I think the irrigation scheme is a proper one; it has worked out successfully in other parts of southern Alberta, and at various other places in Canada. There is no doubt it will be successful in the South Saskatchewan area. My late colleague, Mr. John R. MacNicol, who sat in the house for a number of years, talked about this project for many sessions. It was not a matter of selling the idea to the government, because the government must have known about it for a long time. The late Mr. MacNicol was an engineer by profession. He knew the area, and had travelled by river from one end of it to the other. He was convinced that the dam could be built, and that when built it would stay there.
Some Liberal members referred to the production of power, but I am not in favour of the dominion government developing power. It is quite all right to build a dam for irrigation purposes, but the production of power should be left to the provincial government or to a corporation similar to the Ontario hydro. After all, the C.C.F. government have been bragging about the situation in Saskatchewan, and I think they are quite capable of taking care of the power situation.
There is one question I should like to ask the minister which he can answer later. A few weeks ago the price of butter jumped ten cents a pound. I should like to know why that sharp increase occurred, and also why the price of margarine immediately jumped ten or twelve cents a pound. These things should be controlled. I am not going into the question of price control, because the chairman would stop me, but I think this is information we should have from the minister.
Mr. Chairman, I have no intention of saying anything about western wheat, because that is about all we have heard for the last eleven years I have been here. I have no objection to the western wheat farmer getting all he thinks he should get or should have got out of his wheat, but I do not think the treasury should be bled to meet the
losses that have been sustained. If the marketing was not done properly, then we should go back to where the fault lies rather than try to take it out of the treasury. That is all I have to say about that.
The dairy industry of Canada is in about the worst condition it has been in for a long time, for several reasons. One reason is the entry of cheap oils to be used in the manufacture of a spread as a substitute for butter. The dairy industry cannot compete against them. If the government or the Minister of Agriculture is not any more interested in the dairy industry than to let that sort of thing happen, then we cannot expect very much.
You cannot compete against cheap oils. If people want to buy margarine, that is all very well, but the dairy industry cannot compete against such a spread. I suggest to the government that milk production should be pooled. I do not know whether any thought has been given to this in past years, but it should be considered. There is no reason why a farmer producing milk on one side of the road should receive a different price from that received by the farmer on the other side of the road simply because he sells to a creamery, a cheese factory, a concentrated milk plant or what have you.
Milk production should be pooled and the products sold at the same price according to grade. If it was handled in that way it could then be put into the production of whatever commodity was most needed. That is the only way you will ever have sufficient butter to supply the demand. You will not get it even at 58 or 60 cents a pound, because too many farmers are allowing calves to suck cows because they cannot see their way clear to working ten or fifteen hours a day and paying income tax at the same rate as other people who work only an eight hour day. A farmer must work ten or fifteen hours a day to get up into the taxable income bracket, while other people can make the same money working an eight hour day. If a farmer gets into the income tax paying bracket it is because he works long hours. There should be some adjustment.
I should like the minister to tell us why the price of hogs went down about four or five cents a pound a few weeks ago and yet the retail price of pork did not drop at all. Then the price rose again after a short period. The only one who suffered was the farmer.
Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the minister where the Nova Scotia potato grower stands with regard to the subsidy on potatoes. There are quite a
few potato growers in Nova Scotia. It is true that they do not always have to take as low a price as the potato growers in Prince Edward Island or New Brunswick, but sometimes they have to take less than the 44 or 45 cents per bushel which was mentioned last evening and this afternoon.
I support the hon. member for Queens and the hon. member for Victoria-Carleton, who have asked for a support price for potatoes in the maritime provinces. This is a large item of production in those three provinces, especially in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. I do not see why a farmer who has put in long hours growing potatoes should have to sell them at 25 cents or 30 cents per bushel with no floor under his price, while the western farmer gets a good price for his wheat and has the benefit of a floor under his price. The same goes for butter. The potato grower should receive the same consideration. I want the minister to tell us why Nova Scotia was not brought under this agreement. It may be the fault of the provincial government. 1 understand they have a good marketing board in that province. I should like to see a support price for potatoes, to govern not only the old crop but to be carried forward in connection with the new crop.
Mr. Chairman, so that there may be no misunderstanding in the minds of the minister and hon. members I should like to put in a word for the newest province. There may be some who wonder whether we produce anything down there except fish. But we do grow some potatoes and other vegetables, and I submit that our dairy industry also should receive some consideration. We have a peculiar situation in that the United States bases fly in their milk from Prince Edward Island and thus by-pass the richest part of the newest province. It seems to me that the western part of the province could supply the needs of these bases.
When the minister replies, as I believe he will, I should like him to give us his views on price support. I believe he is entirely in favour of support and floor prices for agricultural products. I am satisfied that he has always felt that that is a good thing. I should like to know whether there is anything bad about floor prices. Is there any reason why floor prices cannot be applied to all commodities produced in Canada? Is there any disadvantage in putting floor prices under the different commodities produced all across Canada?
This is scarcely the time for cross-questioning. I think the best time for that is when we get to the items concerned.
I am quite prepared to give a general reply to what has been discussed, but I doubt very much if at this stage I should discuss every individual item. They are all covered under specific items. When we come to dairying we can discuss dairying much better than we can discuss it now.
On the general question which has just been referred to, I would say to the hon, member that I am going to Newfoundland on Sunday.
I intend to spend three or four days there next week and make myself better acquainted with their situation in relation to agricultural production. I hope that following that visit I shall be in a better position to discuss matters of that kind. I would point out, however, that the only criticism I heard from Newfoundland with regard to potatoes came at the time of our conference last year, when it was being suggested that we should subsidize the marketing of potatoes in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.