I would suggest that I finish. It will only take a few minutes, and then I shall not bother the minister any more. The minister had a discussion of this very important matter with the gentleman who wrote the letter, and according to the letter the minister said he would have this untried, impractical method of registration satisfactorily amended. In view of the knowledge the minister now has, and particularly in view of what I believe is called the retrousse nose of a bulldog, I would ask the minister how a bulldog could be nose-printed? I suggest to the minister that he might amend this regulation. I think it would be worth while.
Mr. Chairman, I hope what I have to say will not be construed as meaning that I am in agreement with the hon. member for Melfort, but I do want to speak on farm prices briefly. I should like to draw to the attention of the minister a telegram I received from the county council of the county of Grey which reads as follows:
That whereas the drastic decline in prices of farm products has become alarming and dangerous for the future welfare of our whole Canadian economy, the county council requests our dominion government to take positive action immediately to correct this critical situation which, if allowed to continue, will force our economy to the depths of a serious depression.
The riding of Grey North which I represent is divided about equally as between rural and urban population. The urban centres, as is the case with most urban centres- the city of Owen Sound and the towns of Meaford and Thornbury-are sharing in the general prosperity of our country. There is full or almost full employment in those places, and the factories are operating at top capacity.
The farm community, however, is not so happy, dependent as it is for its prosperity chiefly on the marketing of hogs and of cattle. Grey county is second in the production of cattle and fourth in the raising of
swine in Ontario. As a consequence, since 1951 the Grey county farmer has been adversely hit by falling cattle and hog prices. While the national gross product showed a substantial increase last year, and while the national farm income was off only a little in 1952 compared with 1951, the income of the person engaged in mixed farming was decidedly lower in 1952.
This, of course, is contrary to the belief held by some city people, who think the farmer is making a killing today. There is no question but that the lot of the farmer is much better, and has improved tremendously during the last few years. I was interested in the figures given by the minister the other evening, which showed that farm products were selling at 2-5 times the figure they were a few years ago. I do not think the farmer would argue for a minute that he has not been getting a more proportionate share of the national pie than formerly; and mechanization, hydro and good roads have revolutionized life on the farm.
But life on the farm is still no bargain. In my county the proof of that fact is that the young people are still leaving the farms. The long hours on a seven day week basis, the risks of weather and markets, the shortage of labour and rising costs are the reasons young people are not staying on the farm.
As has been said so often, the farmer's real income depends not only upon farm prices but upon farm prices in relation to farm costs. As has been pointed out in this house many times, farm costs have been rising steadily, and in some cases sharply. It is difficult to estimate the rise in farm costs, because these costs vary so much from farm to farm. I noticed in the last issue of "The Farmers Guide" that the farmer's purchasing power, which takes cognizance of both what the farmer receives for his products and what he pays for his labour, material and other costs, if represented by the index of 100 for 1948 stands at 82 for 1952. This figure of 82 covers the whole field of agriculture. I submit that the purchasing index for the mixed farmer would be considerably lower than that. I do not for a moment subscribe to the statement that the purchasing power of the farmer is back to the 1939 level, as the hon. member for Melfort suggested, but I think it was lower in 1952 than in 1951. In other words, as my farmers say, there is nothing wrong with 20 cents for cattle as long as costs are brought in line.
I hear "hear, hear" from the opposition benches. I do not want to create
the impression that the Grey county farmer is not appreciative of what the Minister of Agriculture has done for him. On many occasions the minister has said in this house that the best way the government can help the farmer is by fostering and maintaining a domestic climate in which there will be full employment and the resultant maximum purchasing power. This situation certainly obtains today. This government's immigration policy has also helped agriculture. As a result 800,000 new mouths to feed have arrived in this country since 1945.
My farmers also want to say thanks to this government for its support price program. Under this policy farm prices have been supported at levels which have prevented undue losses, and at the same time have allowed the principles of supply and demand to come into play. I think the farmers realize that if the support price is fixed at too high a level, production will be encouraged and huge surpluses will result. This has happened in connection with some products in the United States. If you fix prices at a high level, the only other alternative of course would be to control production. I think most farmers are individualists, and do not want too much government intervention, certainly not controlled production. In these days when we hear so much about hunger and want in the Asian countries, it is unthinkable that we should talk about controlled production.
Or limiting it, I agree. The government's action in supporting pork, beef and butter was particularly effective in Grey county because those, with apples, are our main farm products. In the last six or eight months many farmers have come to me without any prompting to state that if the government had not stepped in and supported hogs at 26 cents, the bottom would have simply fallen out of the market. I think this government has convinced the farmer that farm prices will never again be allowed to drop to disaster levels.
We all know that there is no easy solution to this problem of sagging beef prices. Even at today's prices the Canadian farmer is getting the best prices in the world for his beef. It is obvious that it would be difficult to support beef, either by means of a floor price program or with subsidies, unless the United States border were closed. I have heard no one suggest that such a drastic step be taken.
Some people believe we are now passing through the worst period so far as the price
of cattle is concerned, and that as soon as the cattle are on the grass the markets both here and in the United States will strengthen. I sincerely hope so. I am anxious to hear what the minister has to say about that. I recall that last year, when hogs were selling at 20 and 21 cents, he predicted that within three weeks the market would be 27 cents. His prediction was exactly correct.
The farmer is the first to admit what the minister stated on Monday night, that there almost had to be an adjustment of price in the cattle market. From 1946 to 1951 the price of beef rose swiftly and steadily, and without doubt some farmers made remarkable profits. These high prices, of course, encouraged production, and I think we are in about the same position this year in so far as cattle are concerned as we were with hogs last year. I know that in Grey county the cattle population has been steadily increasing in the last 18 months. For instance, on June 1, 1952, there were 148,600 cattle in the county, and six months later this figure had increased to 161,500. The farmer knows also that from 1946 to 1951 he was capitalizing on the fact that the Canadian dollar was selling at a discount in the United States. Today the opposite is true.
When the officers of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture met the cabinet last March, they said that if they were to pick one overriding thought out of the discussion during their convention, it would be that agriculture does not feel secure in its economic position. I believe that is the thinking which prompted the telegram sent by the Grey county council. The farmers are not particularly disgruntled. They are reasonable people. They know there must be ups and downs in the market in a free-enterprise society. They have confidence in this government, but this combination of falling beef prices and rising costs has them worried, together with the fear that agriculture, as a group, may be lagging behind the industrial sections of our country. The farmers want to be assured again by this government that in this period of our country's great growth and expansion the position of agriculture will be maintained as an important and basic pillar in our economy.
few words this evening about a problem which is of interest to the whole district of Three Rivers and more particularly to the farmers of Baie-du-Febvre, as well as those of five or six other parishes in the county of Nicolet. As a matter of fact, these farmers are now facing a most heartbreaking situation indeed.
Baie-du-Febvre probably has the highest milk production of any rural parish in the province of Quebec. One of the reasons for that is that it has the use of what we call the Baie-du-Febvre commune. This very fact explains why this village and the adjoining parishes have become the most important dairying centres in the province of Quebec.
The farmers of that district have always used this commune, which is already more than a century old, to graze their cattle, that is their steers, heifers and calves throughout the summer. This has allowed them to farm their lands which are among the richest in the province. Moreover this commune has enabled them to carry on the raising of really productive milch cows.
In summertime, there were up to 2,000 or 2,500 cattle in that commune. Lately their number has decreased but it has finally settled at 1,500. Most farmers of that area were using this commune for grazing their horses, and especially their cattle. That commune had a real importance in the area, for it helped increase milk production more than any other area in the province and Nicolet was the best agricultural county in the province.
Unfortunately, these advantages, these factors which are of such importance to the prosperity of the parish of Baie-du-Febvre and other parishes of the neighbourhood are about to vanish. That commune, which has contributed so much to the prosperity of the farmers, will soon be taken over by the Department of National Defence to serve as a firing range.
All Canadians and especially the farmers of our district want Canada to be well defended. They are ready to make sacrifices, like everyone else in the country, but they cannot understand why the Department of National Defence takes over the most productive lands in the province of Quebec to transform them into a firing range since there is so much waste land in the province that could be used for such exercises.
Anyone who has the faintest notion of the topography of the district could have explained that fact to the promoter of that famous national defence firing range. Unfortunately, the department, always desirous of clouding itself in an atmosphere of secrecy to hide something or other, sent its officers to Nicolet where they set up all sorts of installations, casting a veil of mystery over the district, so much so that today when people mention military works in Nicolet county everyone speaks of the Nicolet radar. Well, there has never been any radar in Nicolet and there probably never will be. It is only a firing range, where sailors or soldiers may hold firing exercises.
Had the Department of National Defence been frank about the matter and had it revealed its true intentions about this range, the local farmers, those who are truly interested in the local dairy production, would have lost no time in protesting against this seizure of the best farming land and might have convinced the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) and his officers of the grievous injury being wrought by them on these farmers. In this way this famous range might have been moved further on, into the waste lands of the county of Nicolet, perhaps, but in any case, in such a way as to prevent this wastage of farming-land productivity in the very heart of the province of Quebec.
The province of Quebec has about 380 million acres, of which barely 28 million are fit for cultivation. Out of these 28 million, 10 million lie in the St. Lawrence river valley. It seems absolutely foolish for the Department of National Defence not to have managed to find, out of these 380 million acres, a bit of land suitable for range purposes.
Now, the study which is being made of the estimates of the Department of Agriculture indicates that this department intends to spend millions of dollars on reclamation schemes in order to transform arid lands into arable lands. However, all these efforts and the millions of dollars which are being spent on these projects will be wasted if the government, through its Department of National Defence, ruins the best lands in our province and causes considerable damage to the farmers of our district.
For these reasons, if it is not too late, I would ask the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) to bring some of his influence to bear upon his colleague, the Minister of National Defence, so that, in the future, no more land-or as little as possible-be taken from this commune, even if the firing range cannot be transferred elsewhere. Moreover, I would ask him to see to it that the Department of National Defence, if it must expropriate lands, does not pick the best ones, thus destroying that which our farmers have taken centuries to establish.
Mr. Chairman, I have waited patiently all afternoon, and I have a few words I want to add to what
has been said already by various members throughout the chamber.
First of all, the minister's statement at the beginning of this debate provided a change of pace as compared with what we have heard in other years. The statement, while not an optimistic one, presented a fairly true picture except that the comparison of years was not exactly as it should have been. Then, too, statements issued by industry always give the net income. I notice that the Minister of Agriculture quoted gross income as far as the farmers were concerned, and ignored their costs.
knows that the costs, particularly this year, have been going up while the income from most products of the farm has been going down.
I am glad the hon. member for Grey North brought to the minister's attention some of the problems that farmers in that area are experiencing, and it is not confined to Grey North. Someone must have brought the minister up to date since he addressed some very optimistic remarks to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture in Vancouver not too long ago.
Yesterday everyone in the house-and I am going to dwell on this for only a moment-was unanimous in the opinion that the international wheat agreement was a very desirable accomplishment. But in view of the fact that one of the chief importers, the United Kingdom, has not yet signed that agreement, so far as I am aware, it would seem to me that the agreement is another scrap of paper. Unless and until Britain does sign, the wheat producers of the world are going to find themselves in a very confused marketing situation.
In this as well as in some other policies the government have followed they have been influenced too much by opinion across the line. If it was not for the United States holding out for the price of $2.05 a bushel I think possibly we could have arrived at an agreement, and we all know that it would be certainly more desirable so far as Canada is concerned.
I for one have always been a bit critical of the government's apparent preference for dealing with the United States, and failing to cultivate and retain our United Kingdom markets as far as humanly possible with respect to trade. The desire of the western
producers to discuss the international wheat agreement yesterday was quite evident. They know very well they are not going to sell any great quantity of wheat to the United States.
I am one of those who believe that stronger and more effective measures should be taken to make the United States aware of the fact that we are not pleased with the embargo placed on dairy products, and we are not pleased with the prospects of higher tariffs. After all, we have some strategic and scarce materials that the United States must have. There is also the fact that the United States' supplies of raw materials are on the wane. That should be brought to their attention. They should be made aware of the fact that the good neighbour policy is something that can work both ways. While I am not suggesting that harsh measures should be taken, I think there is a method of approach that could be followed. We could point out to them that this can only add to the difficulties of two friendly nations.
The hon. member for Melfort pointed out that farmers were prepared to produce in abundance. I want to point out that farmers are being penalized because they have produced plenty. This government is sowing the seeds of another depression, first by its failure to grasp the opportunity to feed the hungry world; second, by inflation that has priced us out of world markets for our products, particularly our primary farm products, and also the action of the United States in keeping Canadian farm products out of United States markets by embargoes; and third, if we fall for the latest Soviet cold war moves. Loss of markets, inflation, overtaxation, all adding to the cost of production, are leading us right into the Soviet trap.
As a barometer of conditions on the farms, one need only go to the farm auction sales,
29, 1953 4569
where farm implements and many other farm goods are selling for much less than they have for many years. Used machinery can hardly be sold at all; and the supplies of new farm machinery in the hands of dealers is very plentiful. You see it piling up all over the country. The end result of this policy is decreased purchasing power in the hands of the citizens generally, not only in the hands of farmers. It will finally add up to unemployment and the serious dislocation of our economy.
How serious is our loss of trade? According to the Minister of Finance, in 1951, which was one of the best years as far as agriculture was concerned, 25 per cent of the people were engaged in agriculture in Canada; yet in that year they received only slightly over 11 per cent of the gross national income. When we come to 1952 we find that a lot of the people left the farms, and that in that year only 20 per cent of Canada's people were engaged in agriculture; and the trend is continuing. It is my firm opinion that the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Trade and Commerce should take another serious look at Canada's markets for agricultural products. The results so far are not good enough.