Mr. J. H. Blackmore (Lethbridge):
Mr. Speaker, the remarks of the hon. member for Vegreville, who spoke for Social Crediters earlier today, showed rather definitely that the bill under consideration in its present form is unacceptable to Social Crediters. We are now debating a motion to refer this bill to the parliamentary committee on agriculture and colonization. I support that motion.
The case for Canadian farmers has been fully and emphatically put by those who have spoken preceding me in several different sections of the house. The gravity of the predicament in which farmers find themselves has been made known. In so far as time and opportunity permit I should like to make a slightly different approach. May I attempt in some measure an analysis of the situation, an analysis that might help to guide us in determining what might be a remedy for the problem, first at the present time, and second over a more or less long-range period.
The minister's remarks have indicated in him a deep anxiety over the development of embarrassing surpluses of Canadian agricultural products. The minister's anxiety in this respect is widely shared among Canadian farmers. In spite of this fact most Canadians will, I believe, agree upon several basic assumptions, some of which are as follows:
1. We should save our farmers and get them up to a condition of financial ability to produce.
2. We should rescue the top six inches of our soil from further deterioration and begin at once to rebuild that soil in the interests of future generations, if for no other reason.
As an example of what can be done to rehabilitate that soil may I point to Germany where, over the period 1870 to September 1, 1903, she increased her average yield of cereals from 14 bushels per acre to 34.9 bushels per acre, paying in the meantime $340 million in subsidies for the growing of sugar beets. I do not believe the Germans will ever regret that action.
3. In co-operation with our provincial departments of agriculture, in turn working with their several district agricultural agents, we should study the wisest use to be made of our lands having in mind the circumstances at present surrounding us-and I think they are more complex than most people begin to realize.
4. We should provide that the burdens of whatever adjustments it may be necessary and deemed advisable to make will be borne equitably by Canadians as far as it is possible, it being recognized that Canadian farmers during recent years have been the victims of increasing costs of production for which government policies at Ottawa have been mainly responsible, having permitted in 1946 at $5 a ton increase in the price of steel; it being further recognized that the government at Ottawa has been likewise largely responsible for Canadian financial policies and for Canadian trade policies; and, lastly, it being recognized that farmers more than any other class of producers are unable to cut back production in accordance with available markets.
But what to do? That is the question. How to attain each of these objectives is not at present fully or even reasonably well known. Suitable witnesses before the agricultural committee could help to enlighten not only the members of this parliament but the country generally. May I suggest that Canadian thinking is much confused because of inaccurate concepts. Among such inaccurate concepts we ought to mention:
1. An utterly unsound knowledge as to the validity or the invalidity of the belief in free trade. I may say my general impression is that the people of Canada as a whole are completely at sea in respect of whether or not free trade is desirable in this country.
A fairly thorough, dispassionate and objective study of this matter is necessary to an appropriate appraisal of Canadian agriculture in its various aspects.
2. The possibilities of modifications in Canadian financial policy in solving the problems of agriculture also deserve dispassionate and objective study and this they are absolutely not getting in Canada, owing to very foolish and selfish attitudes on the part
of political parties, particularly as they apply to markets at home and abroad, as well as to the storage of agricultural products.
3. The possibility and feasibility of storage of agricultural surpluses on farms, such surpluses having been bought and paid for by the government.
4. The extreme danger of disastrous destruction of foods by war as well as the destruction of soil productivity. Generally speaking, I get the impression that very few people seem to be able to project themselves into the possible state of affairs which might prevail in the prairie provinces should one hydrogen bomb be dropped there. No one ever seems to stop to think how long it would be before they would be able to use probably anything grown in those provinces. This consideration bears very heavily upon the advisability of the storage of grain on the farm and the paying of the farmer for it.
5. The much talked of food and agriculture organization merits full investigation. Ordinarily we hear people mention the food and agriculture organization and wish that such an organization were set up, but they go no further than that. They do not probe into the question as to who ought to finance such an organization and where the financial means should come from. It is time we gave the whole matter exacting study. An agricultural committee would be a good place in which to do it.
Especially is this important, as are these other matters which I have mentioned, when we consider the fact that the population of the world is increasing by 1.7 per cent annually and that it could reach 6 billion people by the year 2000. This is not as a result of, as most people seem to think, a rise in the birth rate but because of a spectacular drop in the death rate resulting from increased knowledge in respect of curing people and also preventing them from contracting disease. These figures are to be found in a work of the population reference bureau in the United States referred to by the Alberta Wheat Pool Budget on January 3, 1958.
6. A detailed examination of the facts pertaining to the domestic economy of the United States. This study ought to be made in order that the government and Canadians generally can be adequately informed concerning the economy of that country as it affects the economy of Canada. My general impression has been that the government itself has been inadequately informed concerning this matter and has consequently been led into making remarks which, under the circumstances, might not have been really wise.
7. The matter of subsidization of essential products by other nations should also be
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization gone into with great thoroughness. Here is a list of the subsidization which certain nations are giving to products we would like to sell. The governments of many other countries have taken unusual measures to maintain the income of their agricultural producers and the following table shows the approximate support prices offered by a few governments to their wheat producers during 1955 to 1956.
Ireland $ 2.06
United Kingdom 2.31
These Canadian figures are related to No. 1 northern based Fort William.
Now any person disposed to be realistic will ask himself the question: how in the name of commonsense can it be that nations such as Switzerland can afford to support their wheat price to the extent of $4.03 while Canada is unable to support the price of her own wheat to any greater extent than she now supports it? The source of the information I have supplied is the international federation of agricultural producers news of June, 1956, as listed in the submission by Saskatchewan wheat pool and Manitoba and Alberta wheat pools to the cabinet on March 9, 1957. I think nearly everyone will agree that we ought to go into these matters with much diligence, because they indicate the kind of difficulties which the Canadian farmer faces abroad.
Another subject which also should be given an examination of the utmost thoroughness is the foreign policy of the United States. I have mentioned her domestic policy; now I turn to her foreign policy. It will be interesting to find out why it is that the United States follows the policy she now pursues, why she is so careful to protect her producers with tariffs and other restrictions which almost shut out competition from other countries. It is interesting to know, for example, that in the course of the last century the United States became the home of Friedrich List, a native of Wurttemburg in Germany, who became a professor of economics, and whose teachings had enabled Bismark to build Germany up to the tremendous strength which enabled him to impose his will upon France. This Friedrich List was invited to the United States in order that he might teach those in authority there the principles upon which
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization he had made it possible for Bismark to develop his program, and the United States apparently had the wisdom in those days to listen to this great authority. Partly as a result she has since had a determination to sell her surplus goods abroad, no matter what the difficulties might appear to be. With generations of tradition in favour of such a policy, what chance, I ask you, would even a dozen Canadian ministers of finance have of moving the United States authorities from this traditional policy to any serious degree.
The United States has used her economic power to compel other nations to buy her goods. How does she do it? This is a most rewarding study. It certainly does not leave one with the admiration for the United States which one had before engaging in that study. Her present policy began with Woodrow Wilson's 14 points particularly No. 3; it was followed up by the most favoured nation clause, reinforced in time by the unconditional most favoured nation clause adopted in 1922. The policy has been developed since then, and has resulted in such monstrosities as GATT which too many Canadians seem to think is a kind of instrument of our salvation. In fact, GATT was contrived by the United States and forced upon the rest of the nations by the United States in order to enable her to drive her goods into the economy of almost any nation under the sun.
That may seem extreme. It would be good to see an agricultural committee sinking its teeth into such a problem with genuine authorities to guide it. Hon. members sitting on that committee would then find that what I have said is true. The United States is determined to maintain employment, that is, to export her unemployment, regardless of the cost to other nations. In the course of a speech made in October, 1944, President Roosevelt declared: "I intend to find jobs for 60 million Americans by trebling our exports abroad". That was the thinking which was prevailing in the United States during the second world war, and it is prevailing there still.
We should probe into the possibilities of commonwealth co-operation enabling the nations of the commonwealth to help to protect the economies of the various members of this great family; and if the commonwealth is unable to do this we must find out why. All these matters would have a tremendous bearing on the policies we would undertake to adopt in respect of Canadian agriculture.
Another problem which needs to be studied with great care is to what extent are our surpluses the result of low prices rather than
of high prices. This matter has been mentioned once or twice by speakers who have preceded me today. If low prices do bring about surpluses, then the minister, with all his good intentions, could probably be defeating his own ends. That would be too bad. I am convinced it would help him very much if he could have the benefit of advice from an agricultural committee which could go into the whole question appertaining to this matter.
Another problem is to what extent would it seem advisable to encourage the large farm rather than the family size of farm. Naturally, all of us favour the family sized farm. I do. But before we adapt our policy to the protection of the family size of farm we really ought to go into the matter of whether we are endeavouring through our agricultural economy to produce wheat and other products as cheaply as possible or to produce farm people, and the decision would have to be made after careful consideration and after discussions in which the farm people of Canada as well as the urban people should participate. As far as I can judge, the only place where we could have a dispassionate consideration and study of all these various problems is the committee on agriculture and colonization.
The minister will feel that he is in duty bound to take measures in fulfilment of the promises which his party has made. I recognize that, but I think the minister will also realize that he is just as much in duty bound to do the right thing when he does take action and not adopt policies which might, without it being his intention and without it being his fault, actually make matters worse.
So far as I and the members of my party can judge, after giving this whole question careful consideration, it would appear that the Agricultural Prices Support Act which the Liberal administration adopted in 1944 is capable of being used to benefit the farmers quite as much as is the bill which the minister now proposes, even if he puts into it all the amendments which may be required in order to try to meet the demands of those who are talking to him and besetting him to the point where I marvel he has not already gone distracted. Having all this in mind, I should say it does not really make very much difference whether this bill is put on the statute books today or tomorrow or some little time hence, because if it is not put on the statute books the Agricultural Prices Support Act will still be there. The minister, by using vision, courage and originality, will be able to use that act to bring into effect all the good things which he has in his heart and mind.
I repeat again that I propose to support the motion to refer this present bill to the committee on agriculture and colonization, and I also point out once more that the bill as it stands at the present time is completely unacceptable to Social Crediters.
Topic: COMMONS AFTER RECESS