Mr. A. M. NICHOLSON (Mackenzie):
Mr. Speaker, although every member of this house is greatly concerned over the trend of events in the world to-day, I am sure that we should not lose sight of the problems that exist in our own country. Seven hundred million dollars is a very large sum of money, and I am sure that all the members of this house are anxious that this appropriation be spent in the best interests of the Canadian people, at this critical time.
Rising for the first time in this house, I do so to plead for more adequate assistance for agriculture under the clause providing for the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada, than has hitherto been provided by this parliament.
In making our greatest contribution towards the successful prosecution of the war, the producing of foodstuffs will play an important role. It seems certain that those engaged in the manufacture of armaments will be assured of their costs and profits. I ask that the farmer be given assurance that the return he receives for his produce will enable him to pay his taxes, his store bills fend provide a decent livelihood for his family. In war or peace, during my lifetime at least, the farmer has not received for his products a return which would enable him to live as other groups in society have been living.
The impression was created in this house a year ago by the Minister of Agriculture
War Appropriation-Mr. Nicholson
(Mr. Gardiner) that wheat could be produced at from thirty to forty cents a bushel, and legislation was passed to guarantee the farmer a return in that price range. It is true that farmers have been continuing to produce wheat at these low prices, but what has been happening during the process? Western members at least are familiar with the problems that exist throughout the wheat belt, of mortgaged farms, of farm buildings and country schoolhouses in a dilapidated condition, of undernourished children, of poorly paid school teachers, and a whole host of other problems.
Recently I had sent to me some forty-four communications from my constituency reporting on a variety of conditions in the different parts of 'that riding. I might mention that this riding is a large one, being 104 miles east and west and 621 miles north and south. I should like to give the house the findings contained in four of these reports. Two of them were received from one of Saskatchewan's best wheat producing areas, a place where crop failures are unknown. The others were received from northern settlers who are trying to reestablish themselves on the heavily wooded land of northern Saskatchewan. One report comes from an Icelandic settler, another from an American, another from a Canadian from the time of the United Empire Loyalists and another from a Ukrainian. These men are representatives of four racial groups which are making a splendid contribution toward the building of a better Canada.
The man of Icelandic extraction has been on his farm since 1904, a matter of thirty-six years. He reports that during that period he has paid $50,000 in interest and principal and that the value of his farm is now $8,000, but he still owes $4,200. He reports that during 1939 he spent $100 for hospital and medical services; for dental services, $40; for books, $4; for newspapers, $10; for travelling for pleasure, $25; for recreation, $30; for groceries, $300, and for clothing, $200. He states that approximately 35 per cent of the people in that farming community have furnaces in their farm homes, that five per cent have electricity, that 75 per cent have radios, while 40 per cent have pianos. He reports that no home in the community has running water.
I might say that this man is considered to be a well-to-do farmer.
The next report comes from another good farming district. This man has been on his farm since 1903, or for thirty-seven years. He has paid $25,000 in interest and principal. He values his farm at $11,000 but he still owes $12,000. During the year he paid out nothing for dental services, and nothing for books. For medical and hospital
services he paid out $35, and for newspapers, $18. He reports that in his community there are no farmers with running water in their homes, that one per cent have furnaces, one per cent, electric lights; 75 per cent have radios and two per cent have pianos.
The Ukrainian farmer reports that he has been twenty-one years in the north country trying to become a self-supporting Canadian on a bush homestead. He has paid out only S150 in interest and principal, and he values his farm at $900, with $734.75 still owing. He values his house at $50 and his furniture at $25. During the last year he spent one dollar for dental services and one dollar for books. He spent $2.50 for newspapers and nothing for travel for pleasure or recreation. For groceries for himself and his wife he spent approximately $50. He is twenty-two miles from the nearest doctor and fifty-five miles from the nearest hospital. In his community there is not a single home with running water, with a furnace, with electric lights, or with a piano.
Another settler in the new north is a man who with his wife has spent the best part of a lifetime in large cities. They went north when the depression set in some ten years ago, having left one of our western cities rather than face the humiliation of going on relief. The wife is a trained nurse, a woman who would be a real asset to any community and who is a real asset in this community. Their place is worth, according to the assessment roll, $1,060. They owe $600. They value their house at $250, and their furniture at $275, because most of their furniture has been brought north as a reminder of better days gone by. During the past_ year they spent for medical and hospital services, $19, although this trained nurse is in need of a major surgical operation. They spent for dental services nothing; for books, nothing; for newspapers, $2; for travel and pleasure, nothing, for recreation, nothing, and for groceries, $150. In their community, no homes have running water, or furnaces or electric lights. Fifty per cent of the homes have a radio and one per cent, a piano.
Summarizing the information contained in these forty-four reports, I find that the average is as follows:
Value of house $510 83Value of furniture
Amount spent in 1939 for medical
and hospital services
Although in my constituency, with over 28.000 electors, we have twenty-six towns with sufficient business to warrant the rail-
War Appropriation-Mr. Nicholson
way companies locating station agents there, we have in the constituency only sixteen medical doctors, five hospitals, six dentists and only seven banks. My only reason for mentioning the banks is that in the early years of settlement nearly every small town had its local bank, but as the effects of the depression were felt, together with the results of producing wheat and other farm products at less than the cost of production, bank after bank closed their branches until to-day we have only seven chartered banks in the constituency. I place this information before the house in order that hon. members may realize the necessity of dealing with the urgent problems confronting agriculture, particularly in western Canada.
With respect to proposals for giving the farmer a better deal I wish to make two recommendations. Mention has already been made by several speakers in this house of the election on March 26. Our province has sent a large number of government supporters to this house, and one of the important factors in the election in Saskatchewan was the assurance given by the hon. Minister of Agriculture that the wheat producers would receive an interim payment on the 1939 wheat crop. I quote from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.
Topic: WAR APPROPRIATION BILL
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR GRANTING TO HIS MAJESTY AID FOR NATIONAL DEFENCE AND SECURITY