June 1, 1951

LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

Nova Scotia of course had put forward their suggestions too. However,

I was told that the practice in Newfoundland had been to encourage their people to produce potatoes for consumption by those who live in Newfoundland, and that the practice of the government in the past had been to encourage a rather higher price for potatoes. They had developed a condition under which the farmers were able to prodhce their potatoes and obtain for them, in the local markets, prices which paid them fairly well. They took some objection to our subsidizing the marketing of potatoes to make it possible for someone to come in and undersell them. I think there is some reason in that. It was definitely stated at the time that they did not follow along with some others who were advocating another policy.

On the general question of the marketing of potatoes, we have no objection whatsoever to doing the same thing in one province as in another. It is for that reason that we have insisted on the producers in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick organizing under some system that could be applied in other provinces if other provinces wished to apply it. The system now being followed there in connection with the marketing of surplus potatoes for this past year is that of making

Supply-Agriculture

use of the Agricultural Products Co-operative Marketing Act under which they set up boards which take delivery of the potatoes and pay to the producer a certain initial payment.

The suggestion was made a few moments ago that 22 cents a bushel is paid by the people who process the potatoes into starch, and I think that is about the correct figure. It was also suggested that someone else was going to pay some other amount. Everything that has to do with that is written into the agreement, and, so far as I can recall, the only order in council-I do not have it here at the moment, but it will be here later when we come to that matter-is the one giving me authority to sign the agreement. The agreement is with the marketing boards in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. If Nova Scotia desires a similar agreement, it will be necessary first for the producers in Nova Scotia to form a similar organization and come here with the idea of obtaining similar support.

Dairy products were referred to, and I notice that the member who asked some of the questions is not here at the moment; but there was a general question having to do with the price of butter at different times.

I might tell him, and others who are interested, something that apparently is not generally understood. There never was a time last year when we were short of butter in Canada. As a matter of fact we had 10 million pounds of butter still in storage on the first of April, which is a higher amount than we had in seven out of the last eleven years. The first of April is the beginning of the month when our production again reaches the amount of our consumption. There was no shortage of butter in Canada at any time last year. I think if we start from there we can reason much more-

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PC
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

We did not import any. As a matter of fact we tried to stop some people from importing it, but they did import it.

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PC

John Alpheus Charlton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charlton:

The government allowed the importation of the butter.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

Eventually, after it was

purchased, and purchased in spite of our views on the matter, we permitted that butter to come in, with the suggestion that it was to be put absolutely at our disposal when it came in; but that was not done. All that can be fully explained when we come to discuss dairy products.

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PC

John Alpheus Charlton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charlion:

I should like to ask the minister a question.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

My hon. friend asked me to make a speech on this matter, at the

Supply-Agriculture

outset, and if he will permit me to make it, we -can have a discussion when we come to dairy products.

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PC

John Alpheus Charlton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charlton:

The question is relevant.

The minister has referred to butter, and I think this would be the right time to ask the question.

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LIB
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

The hon. member will realize that on the first item we have a general discussion. The Minister of Agriculture is now giving a general reply to the general discussion which has taken place. However, when it comes to answering questions, I think the practice has been to wait until the specific item is before the committee.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Mr. Chairman, in any debate in this house a member may rise and ask a speaker if a question can be asked. Why is there any objection? The minister is willing to answer.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

The hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra will understand that whenever an hon. member wants to ask a question of the member who has the floor, that member must give his consent.

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PC
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

Usually the member who has the floor acknowledges that he consents to reply to the question by taking his seat. The Minister of Agriculture took his seat, as did the hon. member for Brant-Wentworth, when I stood up. Therefore it was apparent that he was not giving his consent. As a matter of fact he said that he would deal with it when we come to the item. That is by no means giving consent to the question asked by the hon. member for Brant-Wentworth.

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PC

John Alpheus Charlton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charlton:

Mr. Chairman, the minister said he would allow the question, so I think it would be all right. Why did the government not give out information regarding the number of pounds of butter being held by the government if there was no scarcity?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

The government not only gave out the information, but I read it very carefully from my place in the house. If the hon. member will refer to Hansard for this session he will find that at the time I announced the floor price for butter for the coming year as 58 cents, I pointed out clearly, and emphasized the fact that there had not been any shortage of butter, and there was not any shortage on the first of April of this year. We had approximately 10 million pounds.

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PC

John Alpheus Charlton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Charlton:

That was long after the price had gone up to 85 cents.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

It was not long after the price had gone up to 85 cents. It was just about in the middle of the experience.

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PC

Lewis Elston Cardiff

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cardiff:

Who got the difference

between the price at which it was brought in and the price at which it was sold?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

If we had followed the policy my hon. friend has been advocating for some years, they would have had that margin all the time. As a matter of fact by following the policy we did, butter was absolutely controlled during all the time that we had butter. We had butter until the week of March 24. While we had butter the price remained at 62 to 64 cents, but when the government had no more butter-butter was still in the country, nevertheless, in storage- the price went up as high as 84 cents. I believe a question which is just as important as why it went up is why it went down again. It went down 12 cents in two days. I have a better idea as to why that happened than I have as to why it went up. I can explain that fully when we come to discuss dairy products. It is for that reason we are interested in seeing to it that the government does have some control over the product, and for the last two years we have been attempting to have that control.

At the end of the year preceding the one about which we are now talking, we were accused of having too much butter, and we had 28 million pounds. Everyone said that was too much, and we should not have had it. It was a surplus that we could not sell. Then, when we got down to' 10 million pounds we were told we did not have any butter at all. Going back over the years we have found that when we had 10 million pounds on the first of April we had all the butter we ought to have. In the years preceding this year, the men who are now being accused of having taken too much for butter always had the right to charge more for butter in the wintertime than they paid for it in the summer. When a committee of this house investigated the matter a few years ago, it was admitted by those who are now being accused of having taken too much for butter and margarine that they did have a margin of profit of about 12 cents a pound on butter. I have not any doubt that for the short period of two or three weeks this spring these people had a margin which gave them a considerable profit.

The question which has been asked is, why did this government not do something about it? The real answer to that is that the authority is with the province. During that period any one province in which butter was stored could have controlled the butter. This government has no control over prices in

that sense except during wartime. The trouble with some of my friends is that all their experience in public life has been during wartime or since the war, and they believe the authority of this government is the same in peace as it is during a war.

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June 1, 1951