Mr. T. C. DOUGLAS (Weybum):
Mr. Speaker, when the house adjourned last evening I was pointing out that the speech from the throne had entirely overlooked certain elements in our population, not the least of which were those now facing dire poverty and distress on the western prairies. I was on the point of observing that in the district immediately surrounding the city of Weybum alone we distributed last winter over two hundred babies' layettes where children h^d been born into the world to families without fitting garments in which to clothe them. It was not an unusual thing to find new bom children clad in garments made from washed-out flour sacks. I draw these facts to the attention of the house because I believe those people have been totally overlooked in the deliberations of the present administration.
I should like also to draw to the attention of the house some other elements in our population that I think have been
The Address-Mr. Douglas
neglected as far as the speech from the throne would indicate. First I would direct attention to the large farming population. The income of the farmers, particularly those of the west but also those of all Canada, has declined steadily during the last five years, with the result that to-day the best authorities tell us that the average farm income is about $350 per year, and I know many who are living on less. The cost of living and the cost of farm operation have not declined accordingly. The fixing of the price of wheat last summer by the late administration helped a great deal, more I think than they were given credit for, but I want to suggest to the present administration that we need to go further. I would particularly direct the attention of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) to two things that need to be done if we are to help western agriculture. The first is to have that fixed price apply to all grains as well as to wheat; the second is to have that fixed price made retroactive. I know of an instance, and it is not uncommon, of a man who sold his entire wheat crop under economic pressure just six days before the price of wheat was pegged, with the result that he lost eleven cents per bushel on a fairly large crop. But there are farmers who had no crop at all, and who did not get the benefit of this fixed price. At the present time they are faced with appalling conditions. I can remember sitting in an audience in the city of Estevan and listening to the present Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) suggest that he was in favour of some type of crop insurance. I have read the speech from the throne again and again but I fail to find any indication that we are to have crop insurance or anything else that will take care of the economic insecurity of those who, through drought, grasshoppers and other whims of nature, find themselves deprived of their livelihood.
But, Mr. Speaker, there is another circumstance that is oppressing the agricultural community; that is the tremendous burden of debt that hangs about the necks of the farmers. The figures for last year show that the farm mortgage indebtedness of the Dominion of Canada is more than $671,000,000, while for the three prairie provinces it is $324,000,000. On July 1, 1932, the farm management department of the university of Saskatchewan published a statement edited by professors Allen and Hope concerning Scott municipality, which happens to be in my constituency. These gentlemen showed that there were eighty-four farm-owners in that municipality; that the average1 acreage
of these farms was 628 acres and that the average debt against each farm was $14,700. In many cases that is a great deal more than the farms could have been sold for at that time, or even at this. .
Of these debts eighty per cent were incurred when wheat was $2 or more per bushel. Today these people are trying to meet their obligations with wheat at 87^ cents or less, because many of them had only a feed wheat crop last year. Therefore I direct the attention of the government to the fact that the speech from the throne contains no adequate solution of the problem confronting this great agricultural community, that is looking to this house for some type of assistance at this time.
Then I would direct the attention of the house to the fact that across Canada there is a great army of unemployed, with over a million people living on some type of government assistance or relief. What does the speech from the throne suggest that the government is prepared to do for this army of peoplfe? It suggests that we are to have a national unemployment commission. I have read the words, " They asked for bread and they were given a stone." The unemployed of this country have asked for bread and they have been given a commission. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it is not commissions and supervision we need; what we need is to deal with the fundamental economic issue of the reorganization of our economic system in order to put purchasing power back into the pockets of the common people to enable them to buy back the things they produce. I suggest that these fundamental issues are not being met. What about unemployment insurance; what about the work and wages program about which the Liberal party have spoken so frequently in the past? The people of this country are asking about this; they want to know.
Then I would direct your attention, sir, to another class of people, men and women between sixty and seventy years of age, the people who produced the wealth of this country, who helped build the Dominion of Canada to all that it is to-day. Thousands of them have come to the place where they can no longer face the future with any degree of optimism. Large industries are no longer hiring them; many of them, salesman, commercial travellers, technicians, have been cast aside like a squeezed out orange rind.- What do we propose to do for them? They produced the wealth of the country. I maintain that they have the right to a share in it. I maintain that legislation should be placed on our statute books to take care of men and
The Address-Mr. Douglas
women who, having served their day and generation faithfully and well, now look to society to do its part in giving to them a measure of economic security.
I should like to draw the attention of the house to the plight of the great class of merchants throughout Canada. I hold in my hand an excerpt from a Saskatchewan newspaper reporting a telegram sent by the present Prime Minister to some of his constituents in Prince Albert, in which he said:
I approve wholeheartedly of their recommendations in reference to report of price spreads commission.
From that I took it that the Prime Minister was opposed to rebates and discounts, to these unfair trade practices by which large mail order houses and chain stores have gradually and ruthlessly been driving down the business of the small merchants, yet in the speech from the throne I find nothing to indicate that concrete measures are to be placed upon our statute books to meet that situation. Are we to infer that the rule of laissez faire is to continue? Darwin said that the law,of the jungle is the survival of the fittest; I wonder if my hon. friends think the law of economics is the survival of the slickest. One would gather that, as one sees the very noticeable absence of any legislation in this respect.
I draw attention to the fact that across this dominion there are thousands of exsoldiers, burnt-outs, men who gave the best years of their lives in the great war, men who to-day are partly or wholly incapacitated in the race of life. They want to know what a grateful country-at -least vocally grateful-is prepared to do for them now that they are no longer able to do anything for themselves. Some fine recommendations were made by a commission called the Iiyndman commission; what does the government propose to do about those recommendations? I think the house has a right to know.
One of the most crying problems facing the Canadian people in all parts of this dominion is the tremendous one of public health. People need dental and medical and hospital care. We have all the facilities for rendering those services, yet there is not an hon. member who does not know that people who have money can secure those services and people who have not money cannot, and are not getting them.
Topic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY