Hazen Robert Argue
They patted themselves on the back.
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS RESPECTING DEFINITIONS, CONTROL OF DELIVERIES, ETC.
They patted themselves on the back.
We can do that too, because we have something to pat ourselves on the back about. We got rid of the surplus that you talked about, and when you went back to Assiniboia you found out that the farmers like the acreage payments. That is probably why you switched parties.
There was one other charge that I think should be answered. It was made by the new wheat critic of the Liberal party, the hon. member for Ottawa West (Mr. Mcllraith). He said it was rather unusual that the wheat board should be taken away from the Department of Trade and Commerce and placed under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Agriculture.
Now it is back in veterans affairs.
Let us face facts. We know it was a good move because since that time, and with the co-operation of the Department
Canadian Wheat Board Act of Trade and Commerce the government, through the Minister of Agriculture and the former minister of agriculture, has been able to negotiate large sales of wheat to communist China and other countries and unload the surplus. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Maybe the change should have been made in the days of C. D. Howe, because I am confident that Mr. Gardiner would have liked to have the wheat board under his thumb. He could not get along very well with Mr. Howe. He practically admitted that in Alberta on several occasions and apologized because there was such a large surplus of wheat at that time.
When we hear loose criticism of that nature I wonder whether the Liberals are not looking for something to talk about in the hope of influencing somebody and confusing the people enough so the odd farmer may vote for them. It will take more than the hon. member for Assiniboia, the new member of the Liberal party, to convince the farmers of western Canada that they need the Liberal party to look after their interests.
Let us review the situation. The Conservative party has always stood solidly behind the wheat board. We created it, and we believe it is a good marketing institution. It organized the sellers so they could deal with the organized buyers. We also believe that the Canadian wheat board should be under the Department of Agriculture, because then you have the proper relationship between the Minister of Agriculture and the board, and the minister can work hand in hand with the Minister of Trade and Commerce and his department. Finally, I say that when the hon. member for Assiniboia or any other member of the Liberal party says that we have undermined the wheat board, he is just whistling "Dixie" but he has got the wrong tune.
Hon. J. W. Pickersgill (Bonavisia-Twillingate):
Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to take part in the debate on this bill until the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Woolliams) displayed another of his varied talents today and undertook the role of historian. He told us about the devotion of the Tory party in the thirties to the wheat farmers and how grateful the wheat farmers were to Mr. R. B. Bennett. I sent for a parliamentary guide, because I lived in the prairies in those days and I remember something about that devotion. Of course the hon. gentleman did not say that for 22 years after the event he described the farmers of western Canada expressed their gratitude to the Tory party in the following fashion:
By voting C.C.F.
In 1935 the Conservatives got three seats in the prairie provinces and the
Canadian Wheat Board Act Liberals got 29, which perhaps gives some indication of what the farmers thought. The hon. gentleman, perhaps, was not old enough to remember that. In 1940 the Conservatives got three members; in 1945, at the end of the war, they managed to get it up to five when Mr. Bracken was their leader; in 1949, they dropped to four and in 1953 the number went up to six.
Tell us how many we got in 1958.
I do not need to blow the hon. gentleman's horn. However, I point out that these people who can sweep the west can also be swept out of the west, and there is plenty of history to prove it. I suggest it is not only out of the west they are going to be swept.
It seems to me that perhaps we might more profitably be discussing the wheat board in 1962 than this denaturing of history in which the hon. gentleman engaged. His history, of course, is just about as good as his journalism, of which we have also had some recent examples. Having risen, I cannot refrain from reading the first paragraph of the order in council to which the hon. member for Ottawa West referred. I have had some experience with orders in council.
Mr. Bell (Saint John-Alberi):
You sure have.
1 was clerk of the privy council at one time, and while I was clerk I reduced the number of orders in council by about 70 per cent. This was not of very great importance, but in a government that was supposed to be devoted to passing orders in council I thought it was a reasonable record. However, in all the time I was clerk of the privy council, which after all was only one year, and in all the time I was a bureaucrat, which was rather longer than that, and all the time I have been a member of this house, I have never read an order in council quite like this one. I should like to think, sir, I was eloquent enough to describe this order in council in the way it would have been described by the hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) if he had been on this side of the house and this order in council had been passed by the previous government.
This is the order in council which guarantees this China wheat sale. The government were scared to come to the house and ask parliament to vote a guarantee as they should have done. They preferred, in a backhanded fashion, to give a guarantee, and let us look at the legal authority for it. I quote: His Excellency
The Governor General in Council:
His excellency the governor general in council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance-
This is not done on the recommendation of the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Trade and Commerce or any of these other lesser lights, but upon the recommendation of that super guardian of the treasury, 18 hours a day, the Minister of Finance.
-pursuant to the Canadian Wheat Board Act-
He does not even mention the section. He does not dare do that because there is no section which has any relevance to this matter. I suppose it was felt that by mentioning a statute it would give the appearance of statutory authority to this incredible provision, and here it is:
-is pleased hereby to authorize the Minister of Finance (a) to give to the Canadian wheat board an undertaking-
Just listen to this, sir.
-to give to the Canadian wheat board an undertaking that, in the event of any default by the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation in respect of payments due to the board under contracts for the sale of Canadian wheat and barley made under the long term agreement between the said board and the said corporation, such parliamentary approval as may be necessary will be sought to enable direct reimbursement by the government of Canada to the board of any payments in respect of which the corporation is in default-
Well, talk about contempt of parliament; talk about taking parliament for granted; talk about an arrogant attitude, this is an assumption by hon. gentlemen opposite that they will always occupy the treasury benches, because this is a long term arrangement. What is the undertaking? It is that they will come to parliament and ask for this money; that is the kind of guarantee that they purport to give. It is no wonder it was so difficult to get any of these details out of the government.
Now, the right course to take, as the hon. member for Ottawa West said last night, is to use export credits insurance. Everybody wanted to see this wheat sold. Everybody was glad the wheat board sold it. I do not think everybody was so glad that the Minister of Agriculture, after the contract was signed, wasted public money by flying to Hong Kong and pretending he had signed the contract there. This is the reason, of course, the government keep this date a secret. They do not want the plain fact to be revealed to the public, although it is well known throughout the trade. It is common gossip in Winnipeg, and the government has not dared to deny it because they know it is true. Here is another example of the attempt of this government to give the impression that these ministers do everything that is done by good administrative machinery which has been there all the time.
The wheat board was able to sell wheat to China because the Chinese were starving and had to have it. I am glad, speaking for myself, that starving people are going to be able to eat this wheat. I hope we are going to be paid for it. However, I say there should be some respect for the rights of parliament on the part of hon. gentlemen opposite. They should have insured this sale properly under the export insurance act. If they felt the transaction was too large to come under that act-and I think that might have been a reasonable attitude to take-they should have come to this parliament and told us what they were doing. Then they could have asked parliament to sanction it.
We were reminded yesterday, sir, in very gentle tones that we had a tremendous filibuster, an awful fuss, in this house six years ago because the government of that day sought to lend $80 million, at a good rate of interest and with excellent prospects of recovery, to a company to build an important undertaking which prevented a much more serious recession than would otherwise have been the case in 1958. This was a big parliamentary matter. Here is a guarantee of a sale of $100 million and it is made in this back room manner, behind closed doors. This is the kind of undertaking given to the wheat board, which the wheat board was no doubt obliged to accept and keep quiet about. If there should be a default the government would come to parliament and ask for the money, treating us like rubber stamps.
I say, sir, it is a shocking thing that has been disclosed by the hon. member for Ottawa West. It does seem to me that this bill ought to contain a provision asking parliament to validate this matter instead of leaving it in this extraordinary state. The right hon. gentleman who is head of this government went back and forth across this country from the time he was elected to parliament 22 years ago yesterday until he became prime minister, talking about government by order in council.
This is the first order in council I have seen in my experience that appears to have no legal authority of any kind whatsoever. I am not a lawyer and I may be wrong, but I would be most interested if the Minister of Veterans Affairs or the Minister of Justice will show us the statute which gave authority to the government to give this kind of guarantee and this kind of undertaking without asking parliament for the authority to do it. It seems to me this is the kind of thing against which the right hon. gentleman used to be so eloquent in the past, and it is the kind of thing that should not be tolerated if we are to continue to have parliamentary government.
Canadian Wheat Board Act
I am quite sure that distinguished hon. members of the house, like the hon. member for Bow River, will go about saying that the Liberals are opposed to the sale of wheat to China just because we want to know the terms on which it has been sold, but should that kind of lie be spread about in western Canada I do not think anybody will believe it.
They know it now.
That is pretty good evidence of the kind of honest, honourable and straightforward campaign that hon. gentlemen are apparently boasting about carrying out, because they know there has not been one hon. member belonging to any party in this house who has opposed the sale of wheat to China. I do not know of any hon. member who did not welcome the sale of this wheat, and was not indeed very glad that, when there was difficulty about some of our other markets, this market was open and available to us.
That is no excuse for saying that parliament should not know the terms on which the sale was made and the terms under which it is guaranteed. That is not saying that the government is justified in hiding these things and, when they are exposed, trying by blackmail to prevent a debate.
Order. I think the hon. member is getting his argument back to a decision already taken in this house, in the line he is now taking. I have been very doubtful about the relevance of the whole debate on the guaranteeing of the sale to China because the wheat board act, which it is now proposed to amend, apparently has nothing to do with the guarantee. But, as there was discussion yesterday, I have not been prepared to interfere. However, when he is reopening the debate which resulted in a vote in this house on the production of the contracts, it seems to me he is going beyond the scope allowed.
Well, sir, I am quite unaware of having said anything that had to do with any vote in this house. I am discussing this order in council, which was produced in this house as a sessional paper, and I always understood it was perfectly proper for hon. members to do so. At no stage am I aware that any decision was taken in this house about it. That is precisely what I am complaining about, that this guarantee or purported guarantee is nothing more than an undertaking to bring a vote to parliament at some time in the future under certain contingencies. I am complaining that that is an
2214 HOUSE OF
Canadian Wheat Board Act improper act for the executive to take. It is contemptuous of parliament; it is a presumptuous act, and it deserves the censure of the house as an attempt by the government to usurp the control of finances by the house. I am saying that this bill now before us should contain a provision enabling parliament to determine this matter, and determine it now in the light of all the facts. That is my whole point.
And protect wheat board funds. (Translation):
Mr. L. J. Pigeon (JoIieite-L'Assompiion-Monicalm):
Mr. Speaker, I was quite astonished at the remarks made by the hon. members for Lapointe and Drummond-Artha-baska (Messrs. Brassard and Boulanger), and in particular by the latter's attitude, when he condemned the policy of the Canadian wheat board, charging that it causes serious harm to eastern farmers.
I hope the western farmers will remember these remarks made by the hon. member for Drummond-Arthabaska because that is one of the ways that are used to try and divide the farmers of this country.
As usual, you misunderstood me.