February 7, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Leland Payson Bancroft


Mr. L. P. BANCROFT (Selkirk):

Mr. Speaker, in rising to take part in the debate in reply to the Speech of his Excellency, I wish first to deal briefly with the speech delivered yesterday afternoon by the hon. member for South Cape Breton (Mr. Carroll). I want to compliment my hon. friend upon that speech; it was a good one, and I heartily agree with nearly everything that he said. But I cannot quite agree with some of his remarks in connection with matters concerning western Canada, and I wish, if I may, to make some reference to that part of his speech.
Referring to a letter written by someone in Edmonton to a Scottish newspaper, my hon. friend asserted that the statement contained therein was exaggerated. I agree that it was exaggerated, but I contend that my hon. friend's comment in that connection was exaggerated also. He stated, according to yesterday's Hansard:
There are thousands and thousands of farmers in the West who are comfortably situated-as comfortably situated as the capitalist in Montreal or Toronto.
If the farmers of western Canada, of Manitoba particularly, are as well situated as those gentlemen to whom my hon. friend referred, why is it that the Manitoba reports show that there were 4,000 fewer farmers in that province last year than there were the year before? The reports show that there were 55,000 farmers in Manitoba in 1921 and
51,000 in 1922. I submit, therefore, that the figures do not agree with my hon. friend's statement. In designating the location of the farmers who, my hon. friend alleged, were so prosperous, he described a circle with a radius of twenty-five miles around the city of Winnipeg. Now, the constituency which I have the honour to represent adjoins Winnipeg on the north, and I have an intimate knowledge of at least a great part of the district included in that circle; my own farm, in fact, is very close to it. I would invite my hon. friend, when the session is over, to come west and look into this matter for himself. I will show

The Address-Mr. Bancroft
him around a part of that circle and I will defy him to find a farm there, with the exception, perhaps, of a few dairy farms, that has paid operating expenses in the last three years.
My hon. friend referred also to the number of motor cars in Saskatchewan. Some of my hon. friends to the right say, "hear, hear." It is a common idea on the part of certain people in this country that a farmer should never sit on anything but a wagon box. I do not believe in that, Mr. Speaker. Being a farmer myself I maintain that a serviceable automobile, obtainable at a reasonable price, has become a necessity in modem farming. My hon. friend said that every man in twelve in Saskatchewan had an automobile. I do not think that is enough. In a province where farming is the basic industry-it is practically the only industry there-in a province of great distances-and I know something of those distances, for I homesteaded there thirty-two miles from the nearest town-in respect to a province such as that I would reverse my hon. friend's statement and say that only one out of every twelve had a motor car. I think that would be nearer the mark. Furthermore, in giving those figures, he did not state what proportion of these cars had passed through the hands of the bailiff. He gave us no idea of the number of motor cars owned by men who had moved in there, and purchased perhaps with the money they brought in with them. I maintain again that the motor car has become a necessity on the modern farm.
Another question with which my hon. friend dealt was the United States tariff on farm products; and in dealing with that he asked in effect, what could the Canadian government do to remove the United States tariff against our farm products. I would make this suggestion to my hon. friend and to the government: that the best way to get rid of the American tariff against our products is to reduce the cost of production in this country, and if you do that, there will be a clamour in the United States against the tariff which raises the cost of production in that country.
The condition of agriculture in Canada today is not wholly the result of the reconstruction period through which we are passing, nor is it due to post-war conditions generally. If you go back to the years prior to the war, you will find that agriculture at that time was on the down grade. In the years 1912, 1913 and 1914 the farmers of western Canada were selling their grain below the cost of production, and had it not been for the war intervening, the government would have had to deal several years ago with this same situation that
I Mr. Bancroft.]
confronts us to-day. The net prices received for grain on the farm this fall were similar to those of 1911. Yet in 1911, as was pointed out by my hon. friend from Victoria, Alta., (Mr. Lucas) yesterday, we could buy an eight-foot binder for $180 and to-day the same binder costs us $276. I submit that about the same comparison could be made in connection with most of the articles that enter into the cost of production on the farm. Coupled with this was the fact that in those years many immigrants rvere coming into the country, and many young men who were taking up homesteads were willing to work on the farms at a very reasonable rate in order to acquaint themselves with the local methods and conditions. When we compare the period before the war with the present time, and realize that in those earlier years men were being forced off the farm in no small numbers, it will give us some idea of the deplorable condition that agriculture finds itself in to-day. It is a well-known fact that for years in this country success or failure on the farm has depended largely on the amount of free labour a man could command in his farming operations. When a man's family was small and he had to hire every bit of help required, he invariably had a hard time getting along, but as his family grew up and furnished for a few years free labour on the farm, that was the time the farmer got ahead if he ever did get ahead. I submit that there can be no permanent prosperity in this country while this condition exists, so long as the great basic industry of Canada is dependent for its success on free labour. The fact is, the fiscal policy of this country is not a sound one for the development of our natural industries. That policy was evolved at a time when the Red River valley the most fertile valley in the world, was the principal grain-growing area of western Canada. It was evolved at a time when municipal taxes were negligible, when labour was cheap, when the land was clean; and all these things contributed to a low cost of production. But to-day municipal taxes in Manitoba are in the vicinity of one dollar per acre, due to the extension of roads, and the building of bridges, drainage and schools; and the high cost of transportation and of the necessities of life has raised the cost of production to a point where farmers are quitting the farms in large numbers. There are four thousand less on the farms in Manitoba to-day than a year ago. I submit that that is a serious situation, and one that requires careful analysis, and until we have found out the reason why these men are deserting the farms

The Address-Mr. Martell
in such large numbers, it is useless to talk very much about immigration.
May I deal for a moment, not with immigration, but with emigration, and some of the causes that have contributed thereto? There should be no tax in this country on woollen clothing, which is a necessity in a climate such as ours. Yet we find that clothing and blankets are taxed as high as 35 per cent under the general tariff, and from 20 to 25 per cent under the British preference. That is little short of a crime in a climate such as ours. We find that boots and shoes are taxed from 20 to 30 per cent. Take the case of a farmer' with a large family, situated two or three miles from school-the average distance in western Canada being two miles. Consider the difficulty this man has in trying to clothe his family to withstand the rigours of the Canadian winter in the face of these taxes; and the figures I have quoted do not tell of all the taxes that the farmer has to pay, because the tariff tax is added at the factory, and the factory price increases something like 100 per cent by the time the product reaches the consumer through the ordinary channels of distribution. Therefore, the consumer pays about double the amount of the tairff tax quoted in the schedule. Can we conceive of anything that would tend more to drive men out of this country than the hardship this man's family is forced to endure under these conditions? I maintain that the tariff tax on woollen clothing has done more to drive people out of this country than any other single factor. The whole tax on necessary clothing and boots and shoes should be wiped out in the interests of humanity and in the interests of common sense. A tax on woollen goods might be all right in Florida, but it is decidedly poor business in Canada. The Canadian people voted overwhelmingly at the last election for low tariff, and I submit that they are in no mood to be trifled with. The government should start their reductions at once, and start them on the great necessities-cotton and woollen goods, and boots and shoes.
I have followed with interest the statements of those who suggest mixed farming as a remedy for our economic ills. Many of those who advocate such a policy however overlook the fact that the problem of mixed farming is inseparably bound up with the problem of wider markets. Take the livestock industry for example. In the Winnipeg stockyards last fall cattle sold for as low as 4j cents a pound for prime steers, and one cent a pound for fairly good cows in an unfinished condition. In the city of Winnipeg also, potatoes sold for as low as 20 cents a
bushel. The American tariff practically prohibits the shipment of these products to the .United States. Now, in view of these facts, to suggest a wholesale reversal from grain to mixed farming is simply adding insult to injury. Furthermore it is well known that thousands of farmers in this couniry are prevented from keeping hogs and sheep because of the tax on woven wire fencing which, through the medium of tariff and sales tax approximates 25 per cent. I say that the whole problem of mixed farming is inseparably bound up with the problem of wider markets. If you will give us markets and reduce our cost of production, there will practically be no limit to Canada's capacity to produce farm products. Better trading and better international conditions go hand in hand. International commerce tends to bring about a better feeling among all nations. Every satisfied customer that Canada has in foreign countries constitutes a bond of peace between us and those countries; and I think the idea of a bond of peace can be applied also to - Canada in a national sense as well as internationally. If the manufacturer in eastern Canada felt that he was getting the farmer's products at their real market value and if, on the other hand, the farmer felt that he was getting the products of the manufacturer at their value in the markets of the world, it would result in creating a bond between them which would make for national solidarity-a bond, Mr. Speaker, which would strengthen the chain forged by the Fathers of Confederation, which is now gradually weakening.

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