George Gibson COOTE

COOTE, George Gibson

Personal Data

Party
United Farmers of Alberta
Constituency
Macleod (Alberta)
Birth Date
August 18, 1880
Deceased Date
November 24, 1959
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gibson_Coote
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=717ab1d6-e8dc-480c-aba9-4552f242369a&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
accountant, bank manager, farmer

Parliamentary Career

December 6, 1921 - September 5, 1925
PRO
  Macleod (Alberta)
October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
PRO
  Macleod (Alberta)
September 14, 1926 - May 30, 1930
UFA
  Macleod (Alberta)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
UFA
  Macleod (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 6 of 662)


June 14, 1935

Mr. COOTE:

Mr. Chairman, when we were considering this bill or the companion bill last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) made a statement to the effect that the insurance *companies had expressed a willingness to file with the superintendent of insurance an agreement that the rate of interest on policy loans would not exceed six per cent. Since that -statement was made I have been in consultation with the superintendent of insurance and I understand that the offer of the insurance companies was that if the amendment moved by the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. White) was passed, rather than have this bill placed upon the statute book they would give a guarantee that they would not charge any rate of interest in excess of six per cent. At that time I did not know whether any correspondence had been placed in the hands of the Prime Minister other than the letter to which I have just referred, but it was intimated to me to-day that another letter had been written to him. I have not been made acquainted with the contents of that letter and I do not know whether it is in the same terms as the previous one.

This bill, which received a good majority vote in the banking committee, asks for a maximum rate of five per cent. I find myself in a difficult position in deciding whether I should accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister and withdraw the bill in order to secure the concession which the insurance companies have offered. I realize that to those indebted to the companies under a loan which was automatically advanced there would be a very distinct concession -made in that regard. The policyholders who have borrowed under that method would be offered a considerable saving tout at tj?e same time I feel that as the bill has gone so far an opportunity dhould be given to hon. members to indicate their opinion in committee of the whole before it is withdrawn. I should like to have any hon. members who have decided opinions on this matter indicate whether they think the amendment of the hon. member for Mount Royal should be accepted. If possible I should like to see this bill discussed for at least a portion of the hour devoted to private and public bills.

I read very carefully the statement which the Prime Minister made last week and I cannot see that the 'bill as introduced1 interferes with any contract. Mr. Rowell suggested to the committee that in the case of loans made under the automatic advance provisions cf a .policy, the policy itself would be the contract between the borrower and the insurance company. But this bill exempts that type of loan from its operations and I think I am safe in saying that the bill now before us does not interfere with any contract. I believe in most policies the paragraph relating to the rate of interest at which loans may be made is generally worded to the effect that the rate of interest shall not exceed a certain per cent. There is no fixed rate mentioned in the contract, and speaking as a layman I cannot see how this bill could be regarded as interfering in any way with any contract.

I believe the rate of interest now being charged by the companies is so high as to be unfair to the borrower because in effect he is only borrowing his own money. Such a loan is not very much different from a loan made to a savings bank depositor. Such a man may have $5,000 in his savings account which he does not want to touch. He may go to the bank and ask to borrow $1,000 and tell the bank that they can earmark that amount in his savings account and hold it as guarantee for the loan. It may seem strange to hon. members but I know that suoh loans are made by banks to men who have savings accounts which for certain reasons they do not want to draw against. It seems to me that a loan under a policy is very much of that nature, and it does seem that at this time, with the low interest rates prevailing, we should not be doing the insurance companies any injustice if we enacted that the maximum rate they could charge should foe five per cent. I would rather secure the concession which the insurance companies have offered than have nothing at all, but before going so far as to ask the leave of the house to withdraw the bill-I realize that it would call for unanimous consent-I should be glad if any members of the committee who have any opinion to express with regard to the matter would state their views, and if necessary at a later stage I would move that the committee rise and report progress or if it weTe preferred-indeed it would meet my wishes-the committee might take a vote on the amendment of the hon. member for Mount Royal. So far as I am personally concerned, I should then have a much clearer view of the course I ought to pursue.

Topic:   FOREIGN INSURANCE COMPANIES
Full View Permalink

June 14, 1935

Mr. COOTE:

I wanted to make sure that I was not labouring under a wrong impression as to the attitude of the companies, and all that I had seen was the letter which was sent from them to the Minister of Finance, but I inferred from what I heard to-day that maybe a further letter was in the .hands of the Prime Minister, and that is the .reason I asked the question. If I am in order, Mr. Chairman, and so that I may have a chance of again discussing .the matter with the superintendent of insurance and possibly also with the Prime Minister, I would move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again. If that .motion is accepted, that will leave the matter open.

Progress reported.

Topic:   FOREIGN INSURANCE COMPANIES
Full View Permalink

June 13, 1935

Mr. G. G. COOTE (Macleod):

The bill

now before the house to establish a grain board is a measure which I think a majority of the farmers of western Canada have looked forward to for a number of years. Wheat has now become distinctly a national problem, and I do not think it can be dealt with effectively except through a national agency. In fact wheat is not only a national problem, it is an international problem. Most of the nations of the world have gathered together in conference several times in recent years to discuss it. It may be these conferences have not been successful, but the very fact that all these countries thought it necessary to hold such conferences and take part in them should impress upon us the gravity of the problem.

No country in the world is more concerned in the wheat problem than Canada. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) pointed out yesterday, we have been the largest exporter of wheat in the world. The importance of the industry to Canada was so well stated by the Prime Minister yesterday 'that there is no necessity for me to do more than mention it. Wheat is not only a national problem but the wheat problem has now become a national responsibility. I should like to take a few minutes to try to prove that fact to the house. I say it is a national responsibility, first because of the national immigration policy which has been in force in Canada from 1896 until 1913, with the exception of the war period. The policy has been to bring as many farmers as possible to Canada, to settle them on the western prairies and to push the wheat acreage as far north as possible. In the period between 1922 and 1929, particularly, the organized farmers of western Canada protested against this policy, and I remember that in 1923 I stated in this house that the greatest danger facing western Canada was that of overproduction, or producing more than we could, sell at a profit. I remember being questioned in the lobby by one of the Conservative members, and being asked whether or not I was sincere in that statement. He thought I was only talking for political effect, and when I assured him I was sincere he simply laughed and said, "You're crazy." The time seems to have arrived when we have produced more than we can sell at a profit. As a matter of fact that time arrived a few years ago. Between pre-war years and 1933 the wheat acreage in Canada increased by 161 per cent. We had a percentage of increase in wheat acreage greater than that of any other country. Surely the nation cannot

Grain Board-Mr. Coote

disclaim responsibility for this; it was a direct result of government policy. There was the policy of immigration coupled with that of the development of new wheats so that the wheat acreage could be pushed farther north.

I remember a few years ago the former Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell), who preceded me to-night with an excellent speech, stated he looked forward to the time when Canada would produce a billion bushels of wheat.

Topic:   CANADIAN GRAIN BOARD
Subtopic:   PURCHASE, STORAGE AND MARKETING OP WHEAT AND OTHER GRAINS
Full View Permalink

June 13, 1935

Mr. COOTE:

I believe the statement is in Hansard. However if the hon. member states he did not make it I shall withdraw my observation.

Topic:   CANADIAN GRAIN BOARD
Subtopic:   PURCHASE, STORAGE AND MARKETING OP WHEAT AND OTHER GRAINS
Full View Permalink

June 13, 1935

Mr. COOTE:

The statement has been made, anyway. The extension of the wheat area and the increase in acreage was responsible for the increased volume of production, and that was the outcome of a distinctly national policy.

The present problem of the farmer is one of price, and to some extent at least price is the result of another national policy. I now refer to the problem of the exchange value of Canadian money, a point which I believe was raised this evening by the hon. member for Melville (Mr. Motherwell). Our chief competitors, as is well known, are the Argentine and Australia. Our difficulty in connection with the price of wheat has arisen in the last five years. Prior to that time we did not have much difficulty, with the exception of some odd years, in obtaining a fair price. The internal price, namely, the price to the producers in Canada, during most of the time- perhaps not during the last year-has been lower than the price paid to our competitors in their own countries and in their own currency. The internal price to our producers is dependent largely on the amount of Canadian funds we have been able to secure for foreign funds for which our wheat was eventually sold. Late in the year 1929, by government action, the Argentine abandoned the gold standard and devalued or depreciated their currency, thereby raising to the Argentine producer the price of wheat as expressed in paper pesos. Their internal currency is the currency in which their debts are expressed, and the currency with which they buy their requirements in the Argentine. In January, 1930, about a year later, Australia abandoned gold redemption and devalued her currency

in the same way. The fact is that it depreciated very rapidly. For the past five years the pound sterling has been at a premium of twenty-five to thirty per cent in Australia; most of the time I believe it has stood at twenty-five per cent. Hon. members will recall that in the fall of 1932, when wheat was at its lowest point in Canada, the pound sterling in Canada was worth about $3.70 to $3,75. At the same time the pound sterling was at a premium of twenty-five per cent or was worth approximately $6 in Australia. At that time the Australian competitor had a sixty per cent exchange advantage over the Canadian producer. Had our currency then been at par with Australian wheat, on the worst day in 1932, instead of being worth 38J cents I believe our wheat would have been worth at least 60 cents Fort William, in Canadian currency. That would have happened without any change in the world gold price for wheat.

I have not the figures to indicate the exact exchange situation in the Argentine at that particular time, but since January, 1930, their currency has been at least as low as and sometimes lower than it has been in Australia. At the moment I am not placing the blame for this policy on any persons. It is sufficient for my purpose to state that on many occasions hon. members in this corner of the chamber have urged that our currency be brought down to the level of Australian currency. On those occasions we received very little support from either the government or the opposition. In the fall of 1932 the opposition did support us in a proposal that the pound sterling be brought up to a parity in Canada. With that exception however I cannot remember having received any support from either side of the house, nor did we receive any from the financial authorities in Canada, namely, the heads of banks and other large financial institutions.

The point I wish to make clear is that it was the national policy of Canada to. keep our currency at a high value in New York, and keeping our currency at that high value had the effect of forcing down the value of the British pound in terms of Canadian currency until, as I have said, in the fall of 1932 it was at one time as low as $3.70. That was the result of a national policy. I have indicated that by our policies of immigration, the development of Wheat areas in western Canada and our stand on monetary matters we have in the last few years created a problem for the wheat grower. I believe the

Grain Board-Mr. Coote

nation must assume the responsibility fox dealing with it.

Mosit of the increase in wheat prices we have at the present time is due to the depreciation of the pound sterling in terms of gold, coupled with the fall of our dollar to the level of the pound. This latter factor, namely the fall of our dollar, was due to a change in the money policy of the United States. I should like again to emphasize the point that we should take whatever action is necessary to give the farmer a reasonable price for his wheat, and that the nation should assume whatever financial risk may be involved in meeting the problem. For the benefit of the house may I point out that the agitation for a wheat board in western Canada has gone on for many years, dating back to the wheat board which operated during the last year of the war. In 1922 or 1923 legislation passed this chamber to establish a wheat board, but the action was taken very late in the season and as we were told it was found impossible to get. proper management the matter was allowed to drop. As long as I have been in western Chnada there has been a feeling that the selling of our wheat on the grain exchange was not the best method of disposing of it. I believe in response to feeling whibh had developed in western Canada, in 1931 the so-called stamp commission was appointed to inquire into the question of selling our wheat on the grain exchange. The report indicated an approval of the present system, but inside of eighteen months the system had absolutely broken down and wheat reached its lowest level of 38| cents. Not long after the Stamp commission had reported, Mr. Richardson of the Winnipeg grain exchange was before our agriculture committee advocating that the government should support the market. The government has been supporting the market for the last few years, and experience has proven that it is very difficult and expensive. We have not only had to support the legitimate hedges of the elevator companies to cover deliveries at country elevators, but we have also had to protect the market against the short selling of .millions of bushels of futures. We understand this short selling came from the United States, and dear knows where else. We do not really know where it all came from, but I have heard that in one day alone orders for as much as ten million bushels of short sales came on the Winnipeg market and had to be taken care of or the market would have broken, and many farmers would have had to let their wheat go at a very low price indeed. There were at all times speculators who were willing to break the market if they thought they could do it, but 92582-2304

the speculator that we depended upon to support the hedges seems to have disappeared. As one man in western Canada said to me, he has become almost as extinct as the dinosaur, and because there is no speculative interest to take up these hedges I feel that it is imperative that a wheat board should be set up.

It seems to me that under the old system it was no one's particular business to sell our wheat. We always seemed to take it for granted that Canadian wheat would sell itself. I have been told that the grain trade looked after that. The grain trade are largely interested in the elevator business; so long as their elevators were filled with wheat they were sure of storage charges, and I never could believe that they were desperately keen to get all this wheat sold and shipped out because once the wheat was shipped out the storage charges, and of course their earnings, would cease.

I repeat, I am in favour of this bill to establish a grain board, but I would also like to make it clear to the house that the board must have the financial, assistance from the nation which will enable it to pay a fair price to the producer even if it has to sell the wheat to the world at a lower price. I believe that in the national sense it would pay us to guarantee to our producers a price covering the cost of production and to sell the wheat at the best price we can obtain. In this connection I would like to draw the attention of the members to the example that has been set by the Argentine. I quote from the Monthly Commercial Letter issued by the Canadian Bank of Commerce for the month of May, 1935. With reference to the operations of the Argentine grain board it says:

In November, 1933, the Argentine government set up a grain marketing board to assist producers. Its chief functions were to set a basic price for -wheat, flaxsed and corn, to purchase such grain at the fixed price and to sell it for export only at the prevailing world price. As the world price was lower than the basic price the government would have had to absorb a possible heavy loss. This difficulty was overcome, with the cooperation of the exchange control board, by lovrering the rate at which the peso was pegged (it was already at a discount of about 40 per cent below its gold parity) and utilizing the resulting exchange profits to cover any loss on the grain board's operations. The board calculated at the outset that it might incur a loss of fifty million pesos, which would have to be recovered from exchange profits. A rise in prices_consequent on the drought last year in the United States, however, reduced the subsidy per bushel to a relatively small sum, and to the end of Sep-fember. 1934, a substantial net profit was realized on the whole operation, which it was

Grain Board-Mr. Coote

planned to use in financing the next season's crops. It is important to note that the board claims that in buying grain as it was offered, and regulating its sales to demand, it avoided breaking the world market with abrupt offerings of Argentine grain.

Apart from the success which it achieved in disposing of all but a very small carryover of the large 1933-34 crop at a price satisfactory to growers and at no loss to itself, the grain board has undertaken to mitigate, and hopes eventually to remove, the two disabilities under which the Argentine grain trade is still operating, namely, the production of a large volume of certain varieties of wheat not readily acceptable by importers, and lack of elevator and storage space.

I would like to commend this method of financing the operations of the board to the study of the committee which I understand is to consider this grain board bill. I also wish to quote the concluding paragraph of the Monthly Letter of the Canadian Bank erf Commerce dealing with the Argentine's method of handling wheat. It says:

We can no longer blind ourselves to the intensity of the competition Canadian wheat is meeting from Argentine, nor can we dismiss it as a temporary phenomenon. Argentina is now the world's leading exporter of grains, and is making every effort to consolidate her position. She has met and overcome difficulties just as great as those with which Canada now contends, and provides an example of enterprise and resolution in dealing with them.

In conclusion, I hope that we may show ;he same enterprise and resolution in dealing with the problem of marketing Canada's wheat. I trust that when this bill goes to the committee which I understand is to consider it, it will be dealt with expeditiously and thoroughly and that a plan may be evolved under which the Canadian producer may be guaranteed at least the cost of production for his crop, and that the very best possible methods may be provided for the sale of our wheat to all the buyers we can find anywhere in the world.

Topic:   CANADIAN GRAIN BOARD
Subtopic:   PURCHASE, STORAGE AND MARKETING OP WHEAT AND OTHER GRAINS
Full View Permalink