Thomas John BENTLEY

BENTLEY, Thomas John

Personal Data

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)
Swift Current (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
May 3, 1891
Deceased Date
June 2, 1983
agrologist, farmer, organizer

Parliamentary Career

June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Swift Current (Saskatchewan)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 235)

April 26, 1949

Mr. T. J. Bentley (Swift Current):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to congratulate the member from Rosthern (Mr. Boucher) on his maiden speech and the manner in which he delivered it. If it is ever the misfortune of the rest of the country-and his good fortune -to have him return here, which I doubt, he will no doubt do considerably better the next time. We in this group have no criticism to offer, Mr. Speaker, of the calling of an election at this time. We are very pleased. The date is agreeable to us. We believe it is time an election was called to give the people of this country an opportunity of saying what they want.

I am not going to brag about what will happen. We will allow the members from other parties to read the ballots and weep on the night of the twenty-seventh. I was interested, however, in the member for Rosthern's description of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner). If he had been a little more cognizant of the history of the last fifteen or twenty years; had he been a little less prejudiced, he would have realized that many of the things that he claims the minister stands for now, that same Minister of Agriculture opposed most bitterly within the very short memory of a great many people in western Canada.

He poses now as a great believer in orderly marketing. That same Minister of Agriculture made it very difficult for the farm organizations of western Canada, and the C.C.F. group in the House of Commons, finally to persuade him that the idea was good. And then having adopted the idea, the same hon. gentleman has been so piecemeal in introducing that type of legislation into this house that a great deal of the benefit that should have accrued has not come from it. The people have not been given the full benefit of what we believe is proper orderly marketing in order to receive parity prices. I may deal with that a little later.

The Budget-Mr. Bentley

Before going into the main reason for speaking in this budget debate, Mr. Speaker, I want to deal for a moment or two with this matter of marketing coarse grains, and all the controversy that has been going on since a little over a year ago when Bill No. 135, an amendment to the wheat board act, was introduced into this house. It will be remembered that one section of the act gives authority to the wheat board to handle oats or barley or oats and barley if it was considered necessary. I am sorry the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) is not in his seat, because at that time he was the premier of Manitoba. During his term of office there when Bill No. 135 was under discussion in this House of Commons, and when the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) made it clear that Bill No. 135 would not be proclaimed unless the three prairie provincial governments each passed conjoint legislation to make it legal, the present Minister of Justice, at that time the premier of Manitoba, disputed most emphatically in correspondence with the Minister of Trade and Commerce the need for that legislation and the need for the legality of it. While I am not going to quote all these things today, I shall refer the house to sessional paper 110C, tabled during this session of parliament, containing that correspondence between these two gentlemen, and setting out very clearly the present Minister of Justice's disagreement with the actions of this government at the time that he was premier of Manitoba. Even today that hybrid government of Manitoba between the Liberals and the Tories, who have such glorious little squabbles in this house, but who get along so well out there, did not have the courage to bring in a government measure of that kind, but had to let it come in through a private member, and even then were compelled to accept it by the weight of opinion of the farmers of Manitoba.

Yesterday the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) asked a question in this house with regard to the matter. If I remember his words correctly-and he can correct me if I am wrong; they will be found in Hansard-his question was as follows:

In view of the fact that the legislature of Manitoba has joined the legislatures of Alberta and Saskatchewan in enacting complementary legislation in reference to the marketing of coarse grains, will the compulsory marketing of coarse grains now become automatic, or does the government intend to give further consideration to the question whether the course recommended by these legislatures will be carried into effect?

The question itself was worded in such terms as to indicate the innate caution of the hon. gentleman who asked it. He has been extremely cautious in his approach to this

The Budget-Mr. Bentley matter, knowing that his own convention last fall was very much against this type of legislation and finally adopted it only with the proviso that other types of marketing would also be allowed to exist along with it.

The minister replied to the hon. member for Lake Centre in these words, which will be found at page 2519 of Hansard:

The government set the prerequisite to the act being brought into force on two or three occasions. Apparently that prerequisite has been complied with.

Then note this:

The government will study the situation in the light of what has been said in the past.

Shortly after that the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) asked a supplementary question. It was unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member for Melfort did not get the floor first; but being farther away from the Speaker he was not recognized as early as the hon. member for Lake Centre, consequently his question could not get on Hansard as it should have, but it will get there today to indicate the difference in the tone, the difference in the sympathy toward this type of legislation between the question asked by the hon. member for Lake Centre and what would have been asked by the hon. member for Melfort. This is the question the hon. member for Melfort would have asked:

In view of the fact that the three western provinces have now passed the necessary complementary legislation to last year's Bill No. 135, and in view of the fact that the western farmers are now seeding, and the amount of coarse grain seeded will depend on the implementation of this act and the prices established under it, will the minister make a statement clarifying the position of the government and stating the 1949 prices for coarse grains?

That indicated on the part of the hon. member for Melfort a sincere desire to see the farmers themselves get the type of reply that would give them some guidance, some information to indicate to them in the management of their farms whether they should sow more or less coarse grains and which kind to sow. The minister replied in the same tone that he had used before. I want to remind the Minister of Trade and Commerce of one or two things. On several occasions in the past the Minister of Trade and Commerce has made statements about this matter. In 1948, as will be found at page 1678 of Hansard, the minister said:

The government is prepared to take whatever steps lie within its power to assist in establishing marketing arrangements that will help to maintain economic and stable prices for Canadian agricultural products. The government must, however, be satisfied that any given scheme for this purpose is . . . a practical one-

I have left out a few words, but any hon. member can look them up. I am not taking

anything out of the context; I am simply shortening things up. He said:

... a workable one and one that will command the support of the interested groups concerned.

In dealing with this matter this year the minister made a statement which is reported at page 1421 of Hansard. This was not in another debate, Mr. Speaker; it was an answer of the minister and therefore it is quite in order to quote it here. In giving the answer he had dealt with the matter of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture's representations to the government asking that this particular legislation be introduced. He had gone on to say why they could not do it in the way that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture wanted it done, and he pointed out that if the farmers did not like the way he was doing it they could make use of the bill that was going to be introduced by the Minister of Agriculture and which has since been disposed of, namely, Bill No. 82. He then finished up with these words:

If, on the other hand, the western producers wish to market their oats and barley through the Canadian wheat board, and provided that their provincial governments will enact the necessary legislation, this government's position has not changed since I introduced Bill 135 in response to specific requests then made by the farm organizations.

If that is not a clear indication of a promise, a definite undertaking to do a certain job when certain conditions had been met, I do not know what it is. From the time he introduced the bill he said that if the three prairie provinces passed conjoint legislation his government would instruct the wheat board to handle oats and barley. This is what he said yesterday in reply to the hon. member for Lake Centre:

The government will study the situation in the light of what has been said in the past.

What does the Minister of Trade and Commerce want? His conditions have been fulfilled. Everything he has asked for has been done. The people of the prairie provinces, by representations made to their own governments, have finally persuaded any of those governments which might have been reluctant that it was in their interest, and that they wanted this legislation. The minister has the legislation before him; and now he has the effrontery on the eve of an election to tell the House of Commons that the government is again going to give study to the situation. If I were inclined to use rough or profane language, I would ask, "What the hell more does the minister want?"

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April 26, 1949

Mr. Beniley:

That is not a point of order; it is another speech. I do not blame the hon. member; but I do not think I should permit him to proceed further, because I would prefer to finish what I have to say. The hon. member rose to a point of order, and then proceeded to make a short speech.

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April 26, 1949

Mr. Beniley:

Coming to the budget, I should like to comment briefly on the remarks made last night by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. Sinclair). About half way down the left-hand column on page 2559 of Hansard the hon. member is reported in these words:

Farm income is up from $1,300 per farm in 1939 to $3,800 per farm in 1948.

He omitted any reference to the cost of farm machinery, to the cost of lumber to build a house or to repair buildings; he omitted any mention whatsoever of the increased cost of living. But even had the cost of production and living remained the same as in 1939, it was still not out of line or out of order to increase farm income in this country on an average from $1,300 to $3,800 per year, because anyone who reads the figures produced by the bureau of statistics and by other organizations knows that these figures are not net to the farmer; these are gross income figures.

Anyone who brags about an increase from practically no income-$1,300-to $3,800 is not doing a service to agriculture in this country. He is a babe in the woods-

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April 26, 1949

Mr. Beniley:

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.

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April 25, 1949

Mr. T. J. Bentley (Swift Current):

I should like to direct a question to the Prime Minister, arising out of a request by the Co-operative Union of Canada. Will the Prime Minister indicate to the house whether the government proposes to introduce a dominion co-operative bill at this session of parliament?

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