September 25, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


Thomas John Bentley

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


I frankly admit that, and will go into that Later. But the point I am making now is that we know that the quota system and authorized deliveries mean the same thing. It means that someone in authority-and this has to be so, and there is no quarrel with it-the wheat board officials presumably-and we hope they are competent officers-will be authorized to tell the farmers each year what their authorized wheat delivery shall be. With the guaranteed price of SI a bushel below which wheat is not allowed to fall, if the Winnipeg grain exchange is still operating, and if the wheat board is not continuing to take all deliveries, it is quite within the range of possibility, and past history indicates to us that this will be so, that the open market price can conceivably hover around that $1 a bushel, which means eighty-three or eighty-four cents to the bulk of the farmers in western Canada at their local elevator point of delivery for No. 1 northern; and remember that No. 1 northern does not comprise all the grain we deliver because we sometimes get grade 5 and grade 6, and even feed wheat in years of frost, and there is a very heavy spread between the price of No. 1 northern and the lower grades. If the wheat board officials or those in authority say to the farmer this year that he can deliver only six or seven bushels you can readily see, Mr. Speaker, that it will be utterly impossible for the farmers of the west to finance their operations. It cannot be done.
I would point out that we are not opposed to the authorized deliveries or the quota system. I believe that that is the general feeling all over the west. There may be some farmers who do not like it, but I am speaking for the bulk of the farmers who are in the big farm organizations there. Here I should like to point out to the government where they might sometimes learn a little from those institutions. I am not going to tell the government to-night why many of us from the prairie provinces have no longer a great deal of faith in their foresight or ability to foresee for some years ahead, but as the minister has said, a request was made in 1932 by the western farm organizations to have the federal government, then under Mr. R. B. Bennett, set up a wheat board to take delivery of western wheat and market it direct. Mr. Bennett did not see fit then to do that. As a matter of fact, when the first forerunner of that demand from the western farmers came as early as 1930 in a resolution passed by the United Farmers of Canada at Saskatoon, asking for a floor or peg price of 70 cents a bushel for No. 1
northern wheat, Fort William, Port Arthur or Vancouver, Mr. Bennett refused and said that he and his administration had no intention of interfering with the free marketing of wheat. From that time on there was constant debate between the Bennett regime and the officials of the organized producers, and in 1932 the western farmers made their request for a wheat board, with power to set up quota deliveries, so that in years of tremendous surpluses, which we were told was our great bugbear at that time-we were told that we were too good at the job; that we raised too much wheat-the wheat board would accept for delivery that volume which could be comfortably sold on whatever export market our Department of Trade and Commerce could find for us and fix the price of that exportable surplus at something approaching the cost of production as near as could be estimated, and the balance of the farmer's surplus production would be left in the granary on his farm as a very fine safeguard against a future bad crop. If you were a grain farmer, Mr. Speaker, you would appreciate just how comfortable a feeling it give you in a year like this or 1937 if you can look out into your yard and say: Well, the crop has gone, we will not get our seed back, but thank goodness last year or the year before we were able to save 1,500 or 2,000 bushels which were not required on the market that year. It gives a feeling of security to the wheat farmer when he can look at his bins and know they are not all empty.
In that year we asked for the quota system. But the Bennett government did not give it to us. In that same winter we sent to Ottawa a petition signed by 107,000 Saskatchewan citizens. Mr. Bennett and his government would not grant that request. It was not until the dying days of his administration in 1935, when he had to face the whole of Canada in an election, that he finally acceded to the request of the western farm organizations and brought in his wheat legislation. Had he and his administration not been so arrogantly certain that they knew better than a bunch of old farmers what should be done to market their wheat, they would have listened and taken advice from the organized farmers at that time, and undoubtedly one would have thought that the Liberal administration that took over from the Tory administration in 1935 would have learnt that lesson. But no. For the next five years until 1940 the western farm organizations continued to make their representations. I am saying this now to the government across the floor, and I am saying it in all sincerity, and can prove it, if proof
The Address-Mr. Bentley

is wanted. I shall not have time to do so to-night, but before this session is over I can produce the documentary evidence necessary to prove every statement I make. This organization came to the administration time after time and asked them to operate a wheat board on its behalf to protect the wheat growers of western Canada, but the request was refused time and again. Within a year after the new administration of 1936 took office, the wheat board ceased operating as an active agent in the marketing of wheat, and the peg was held at ninety cents a bushel. Later, in 1938, the price was fixed by the wheat board, through government action, at eighty cents a bushel. The following spring the present Minister of Agriculture came west and told the western people that we could no longer expect to have a pegged wheat board price of eighty cents a bushel; that it was too big a load for this country to carry, that it was costing Canada too many millions of dollars, and that we would have to submit to a drastic reduction, in other words from eighty cents a bushel to sixty cents a bushel, basis 1 northern at the point of delivery at terminal elevators, Port Arthur, Fort William or Vancouver.

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