There is no credit coming to any government which claims that it has raised income from nothing, or practically nothing, to $3,800 a year. What I am trying to say is that agriculture has still not had anything like its share of the national income.
In this connection let me place on record some figures given by the Canadian Federa-
The Budget-Mr. Bentley tion of Agriculture, as they appear in the second to last issue of the Alberta wheat pool budget, page 3. They say that for the years 1931 to 1936 inclusive there was a net loss of from 4-0 to 7-0 on invested capital in the agricultural industry of this country. There continued to be a net loss during the following years from 1937 to 1941 on investment returns of from 3-9 in 1937 to 4-7 in 1941, inclusive. Here is something to remember; during the period from 1937 to 1941 the companies which handled, processed and sold food had a return on their investment of anywhere from 6-7 per cent to 10-9 per cent during the period 1937 to 1941. During the time the primary producers of foodstuffs were losing money on their investment the handlers were making money; and during the greater part of that period there was no war. In this country a Liberal government could have given serious consideration to adjusting the economic factors so as to reverse that condition.
Is it any wonder that the farmers had incomes of only $1,300 a year in the first year mentioned by the hon. member for Vancouver North? The picture changed slightly, so that the farmers received a small return on their investment in the years 1942, 1943 and 1944. In 1945 however they again had a slight loss. During those years every one of these food handling companies had definite returns of from 7-4 per cent to 9-9 per cent. Taking the period from 1937 to 1947 the returns to food handling and processing companies go from a low of 6-7 per cent to a high of 10-9 per cent, whereas only in a few years of that period of time did the farmers receive any return on their average investment.
Figures showing average returns for farmers are misleading, because even with the mechanization of farms many farmers do not receive anything like the average mentioned by the hon. member for Vancouver North or the figures I have just mentioned. Only a few in the higher brackets help to bring the average to anywhere near speaking distance.
However, those were not the principal points I had in mind today when I rose to take part in this debate. What I had intended to deal with is something close to my heart, namely co-operative institutions. There has been no mention whatever in the budget of any relief whatsoever from the iniquitous legislation in operation for three years in connection with co-operative institutions. No consideration has been given to the representations of these co-operative organizations. Every member of the House of Commons I am sure has received a memorandum addressed to all members of parliament under
The Budget-Mr. Bentley date of April 23 from the Co-operative Union of Canada. This is a summary of a brief presented to the government on April 4, some two weeks after the budget was announced.
For years these people have been asking for a federal co-operative act which would clarify all co-operative operations in this country. It will be remembered that not quite a year ago, in the 1948 session, the house passed a private bill to establish the Canadian Co-operative Processors Limited-I always refer to them as the horse co-op. They had to come here to get a special act of parliament; and they got it.
There is no reason why one act could not be passed to give every co-operative organization the operations of which extend across provincial borders the same type of legislation. This act would govern their procedure, and that is what the co-operative union has asked for. Might I add that the union speaks not only for the Co-operative Union of Canada, but for le conseil Canadien de la co-operation. This last named organization will be known to anyone who understands anything about co-operative enterprises in Canada. There are already three of that type of organization, besides the one I mentioned, that apparently cross provincial borders. There is the Maritime Co-operative Services Limited, the Interprovincial Co-operatives Limited and the Canadian Co-operatives Limited. There is no reason why this government should not give consideration to the matter, nor is there any reason why it should not place on the order paper this year an act such as that asked for by the Co-operative Union of Canada.
As an indication of why I think this government has not done what it should have done, I would point out that hardly ever is cooperation mentioned in this House of Commons but the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) gets up and makes a pompous speech about how the Liberals of Saskatchewan made the co-operatives. I have disputed that time and time again. I have told the minister where he is wrong. I know the history of co-operatives as well as he does, but he insists upon pinning all kinds of medals upon himself, even those found around the stockyards, by claiming that he is the father of the co-operatives. If he wants to make that claim stick by concrete action, why has he not convinced the members of the government, most of whom do not know anything about co-operation in any form, that he has something on the ball and it is necessary to have an act of this kind. He has failed completely to do that.
The result is that every time a co-operative association wishes to do business outside the borders of a particular province it must come
down here with its hat in its hand to ask permission. Expensive counsel must be sent down here to do the necessary work and it costs a tremendous amount of money before an act is finally put through to give that one co-operative the right to operate outside its own province. One act would do the same thing for all.
Nothing has been done for co-operatives in this budget by way of removing what I consider to be the most iniquitous tax in this country. I have said that before and I say it again. Any time a group of people are prepared to organize themselves into a cooperative and say to themselves, "We will do business for ourselves in a non-profit way," the government prohibits that by legislation and by doing so commits an iniquitous act.
These people do not complain about paying income tax on that part of their business that is done with people who are not members of their co-operative, but they claim that when they are ready to do business as a co-operative association at cost by the patronage dividend method, there is no reason why they should not be permitted to do it. Yet the government steps in and imposes a three per cent tax.
I should like to tell the house what has happened in connection with thirty-two little co-operatives in my district. Some of these are quite small, only handle bulk materials like fuel, wood, coal, possibly some binder twine and other stuff that is easy to handle and does not require very much labour. There are larger co-operatives that do quite an extensive business, but I am referring to these thirty-two small co-operatives around Swift Current. In 1947 their tax amounted to $4,500, an average of $141 each. Some of them hardly had net earnings of that amount. The amount collected by the government would not pay the cost of collection.
The government is determined to do nothing to offend private business in this country. They have told these little people that they cannot do business as co-operatives until they submit to the tax laws of this country and pay an income tax on the amount of capital employed. I think the word I have used to describe this sort of action is right. If I were given to using unparliamentary language I would use words different from what I have.
The government has had ample assistance from our Progressive Conservative friends in carrying out this program. I am sorry the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) is not in his seat because I intend to refer to a speech he made on March 31 when speaking on the budget, as reported on page 2221 of Hansard. He was there quoting from the remarks of Dr. Karl D. Butler of Washington, president
of the American Institution of Co-operation, as reported in the Rural Co-operator, as follows:
Both co-operatives and other business enterprises emphasize the profit motive as the principal business incentive.
I do not deny to the hon. member for Souris the right to believe that nor am I denying to Dr. Karl Butler the right to come up here and say it, but I do emphatically deny every single word in Dr. Butler's statement, even though it may be believed by the hon. member for Souris. I am going to present some evidence in support of my statement.
I do not think there would be anyone in this house who would have the courage to say that the co-operative institutions of Canada are not based on the Rochdale principle. I know that there are not many who know anything about it. There are very few members of the Progressive Conservative or Liberal parties who know anything about it.
Subtopic: DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE