Colin Emerson BENNETT

BENNETT, Colin Emerson, Q.C., B.A.

Personal Data

Grey North (Ontario)
Birth Date
March 5, 1908
Deceased Date
April 30, 1993

Parliamentary Career

June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Grey North (Ontario)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Grey North (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs (October 14, 1953 - April 12, 1957)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 39)

April 13, 1956

Mr. Bennett:

Is that not awful?

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April 10, 1956

Mr. C. E. Bennett (Grey North):

Mr. Speaker, first of all I am going to take advantage of this budget debate to again direct the attention of the house to the present difficulties of the Ontario farmer. As I said a few weeks ago in the house, the urban centres in my riding are enjoying the general prosperity of Canada but the income of my farmers has been reduced considerably. There is no question about it; in fact, the farmer has lost ground quite seriously during the past two years.

In his budget address the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) said that Canada's gross national product had reached a record high of $26-6 billion, up 10 per cent from the previous year, and he predicted in his budget speech that there would be a further rise of 5 per cent next year which, as the minister said, is the average annual increase in our gross national product during the last few years during which time our country has experienced such a great growth and development. My concern tonight is not only that the farmer is not now sharing in the general prosperity of the country but that his lot may not be any better during the next fiscal year.

Many figures have been given both by hon. members in this house and by farm organizations to show that the farmer's income is down. Some of the figures are exaggerations and others are certainly misleading in that they make comparisons with peak years, but there is no doubt that the farmer in both Canada and the United States is being caught in a cost squeeze.

Over the weekend a farmer from Grey county showed me his income tax return for 1955. His gross income amounted to $5,382.50, made up in round figures principally of cattle sales amounting to $1,600, proceeds from the sale of hogs $2,450, and proceeds from the sale of dairy products $1,150. His expenses totalled $4,073.98 which left a net income of $1,308.52. This net income was the return on his investment and the wages for himself and his wife. I do not need to point out to the house that if the total hours worked by the farmer and his wife were divided into the net income of $1,308.52, forgetting altogether the interest on money invested, the rate of wages per hour would be at a ridiculously low figure. The farmer of whom I am speaking is a good average farmer who lives on a good 100-acre farm.

I think most people are convinced that the farmer's real income is down and they are sympathetic with the plight of the farm community. Now the question is what can be done about it.

I want to say first of all that the farmers I represent are appreciative of the agricultural policies developed and implemented by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) over the last 20 years and the farm policies of this government. To be fair I must point out that the net worth position of the farmer is much better from a capital point of view now than it was in 1940. Mortgages have been paid off; he is in a sounder capital net worth position. On behalf of my farmers I would like to thank the Minister of Agriculture for his announcement that the floor support under butter will be continued for another two years at 58 cents. I have received many thank you letters from farmers in my riding expressing appreciation of the floor support under butter. In 1955 Grey county produced more butter than any other county in Ontario and this floor is of the utmost importance to the farmers in my riding.

The farmers I represent are also appreciative of the price support which has been given to other farm products. I said a few weeks ago in the house that if it were not for the floor price of 23 cents under hogs there is no doubt in my mind that the price on hogs today would be considerably lower. The support of 38 cents under eggs is also of material assistance as are the premiums paid on grade A and grade B hogs and the feed grain subsidy. All these things help the farmer.

The question remains: How are we going to get the price of cattle and hogs up to a figure nearer parity with the costs of the farmer? I do not wish to go over the same ground I have already covered in this house but I am of the firm opinion that it is of prime importance to have on the statute books of Canada, and of the provinces, legislation to assist the farmer to help himself by setting up marketing agencies and marketing boards whereby there can be orderly marketing of farm products, whereby the farmer can sell his farm products in a modern, efficient, salesmanlike manner, and whereby he will have some control over surpluses.

I think all hon. members know that a reference has been made to the Supreme Court of Canada to test the validity of the present Ontario marketing legislation. In my opinion the Ontario and federal governments were very wise indeed to refer this matter to the supreme court because there has always been this question of constitutional validity

The Budget-Mr. Bennett and jurisdiction in connection with the marketing legislation.

If the supreme court renders a verdict that our legislation is faulty, if it says that the Ontario marketing legislation is ultra vires because of some deficiency in our legislation, then I would urge the Minister of Agriculture to have legislation prepared in advance so that new legislation would be placed on the statute books of Canada, at this session, to authorize the provinces to pass marketing legislation which would be within their competence.

Marketing schemes and agencies will not solve all the difficulties in the present situation but it seems obvious to me that 100,000 individual Ontario farmers cannot market their farm products on a hit or miss basis, and where there are surpluses, on a panic basis, and expect to receive a fair return for their investment, risk and labour. Especially is this true when one considers the recent development of the concentration of buying power in the purchasing of foodstuffs. The packing houses used to be blamed for fixing the prices of livestock, but the concentration of organized buying power has shifted to a new and different level, the large retail chain organizations.

It is said that 60 per cent of all buying of foodstuffs for the whole dominion of Canada is concentrated in the Toronto area, and that buying there is confined to four or five large retail chain organizations. Just think of the tremendous authority of this buying power exercised at this level. For instance, these large organizations may say this week, "We will push Ontario Northern Spies instead of Florida oranges", or "We will push pork this week instead of fish." A decision such as that is of tremendous importance to the producer. What chance has one farmer in competition with 99,999 other Ontario farmers in the face of this organized concentration of purchasing power?

Farmers all over Ontario are coming to the conclusion that while governments may help them, the farmers must help themselves by setting up central selling agencies. Selling is a professional business just the same as buying for the chain stores is. And farmers are now realizing that they will have to employ modern methods and engage top-notch professional salesmen if they are to find lucrative domestic and foreign markets.

I would like to ask hon. members, where would the western wheat farmer have been during these recent years of huge surpluses if it had not been for the wheat board. The milk producers of Ontario are properly organized and at the present time they are satisfied with the prices they are receiving.

I urge the government, as I have said, to have legislation ready to pass at this session, if it is necessary to do so, to empower the provinces to pass valid marketing legislation. I think our federal legislation should include power to widen provincial marketing schemes into national schemes if and when the time comes that a national marketing scheme is necessary.

Dr. H. H. Hannam, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said recently:

The government assistance we have in mind will be that of co-operation and assistance in carrying out marketing programs, more so than providing any considerable financial assistance.

If we as the federal authority then pass this empowering legislation we will have done our part. If the provincial governments do not take advantage of it or if the farmers do not utilize the legislation to the fullest extent, at least we will have done our part.

You may think that I am speaking against the consumer this evening when I advocate the setting up of a counterbalance to the power which has developed in the hands of the chain stores, which power undoubtedly has resulted in the lowering of prices to the consumer. On the contrary, I submit that it is essential, if our economy is to remain on a firm footing, that purchasing power be restored to the farmer. The farmer is dragging at the present time, and if he continues to drag, if he does not bring us all down with him, certainly he will at least brake the growth and development which our country is presently experiencing.

The only other representation that I have to make to the right hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) is to ask him to give consideration to doubling the premium on grade A hogs. As hon. members know, at the present time the premium is $2 on grade A and $1 on grade Bl. This proposal of mine is not an original one, as it has been put forward on a number of occasions by 'farm organizations. I remember that a former member for Wellington North, Mr. Darroch, made a speech on this subject some time between 1949 and 1953.

While the Ontario hog producers association has achieved a good deal of success up until this time, admittedly it will take time before it can materially up the price of hogs, as it would take any marketing agency some time to improve the price of the farm product with which the agency was dealing. However, I am confident that if the Ontario hog marketing association will continue to tighten its organization and better its selling techniques that it will continue to exert an influence for better hog prices. In the meantime it is essential that we place more purchasing power in the hands of the farmer.

Last year Canada consumed about 90 per cent of its pork and most of our exports went to the United States. As we all know, Canadian farmers have been able to sell pork in the United States at prices considerably higher than the U.S. farmer is receiving for his pork, simply because we are selling a quality product. The United States buyer has always been interested in our lean bacon. It would seem logical therefore that quality production should be further encouraged and at the same time place additional purchasing power in the hands of the farmer. It might be argued that the doubling of the premium on grade A hogs would have a tendency to encourage production, but in refutation of that argument I would say that tendency would not be nearly as great as would be the case if the floor were raised under hogs.

I think the Minister of Agriculture would say to me that if I want the premium on grade A hogs raised I should go to the premier of the province of Ontario. It is true that in Ontario we did have a premium on grade A hogs provincially which was discontinued some time ago. The only thing I can say to the minister on that point is that the government of the province of Ontario has not shown much interest in the farmers in this regard, and therefore I am appealing to him to help the hog producer in a direct way. After all, we did grant substantial assistance to the western wheat farmer this year, and this is one way we can help the hog producer who is also in serious trouble.

Turning away from farm problems, I should like to make one or two suggestions to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) and I will state them very briefly. One is that I hope that some day soon the government will give favourable consideration to the granting of a handicap allowance to blinded persons of Canada without a means test. I do not think I have to elaborate on the great handicap under which the sightless citizens of Canada are living in this modern age.

The other point I want to make is that I think we should increase our contribution to the Olympic fund. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) said in the house that no application had been made for assistance but if one were made I would hope that the government would be generous. In the days of the cold war I do not think there is a better way of selling our country and our people than to make a better showing than we have been making at the Olympic games. I know there have been many editorials in the papers saying that we have got to be good sports, we cannot win the hockey crown all the time and so on, but I think

The Budget-Mr. Bennett the point that rankles in the minds of Canadians is that we did not make the best use of our talent and Russia did. That is no reflection on the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen who were good sportsmen and good representatives of our fair dominion.

There is one other point I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Finance, and it is probably a very minor one. I should like to say this to him. A person who gives his or her blood to the Red Cross or a recognized blood bank clinic should, I submit, be given a receipt for so much money, say for $25, for a pint of blood or whatever the current price of blood is, which receipt would be used by the donor as an income tax deduction. At the present time if a person gives $25 to a hospital he may deduct that amount from his income tax but a person who gives $25 worth of blood cannot claim a deduction. What brought this to my attention is the fact that in the small town where I live it is always the same small group of people who are going to the hospital and giving freely of their blood. It is usually people in the working classes who could certainly use an income tax deduction. Of course, you would have to exempt people who gave blood for use by a member of their families or for replacement at a hospital of blood used for their families or their friends. However, I think my proposal is an equitable one and would also have the result of increasing the giving of blood in Canada. We can always use a large quantity of blood in this country.

The budget has been called a standpat budget, and I suppose that phraseology does describe it as far as tax changes are concerned. I thought the minister was quite clear in his explanation why there could be no changes in the general level of income tax or in the sales tax or special excise taxes. But certainly the phrase "standpat budget" does not describe that portion of the minister's budget address which dealt with Canada's booming economy. Nor does it describe with any accuracy the great fiscal achievements of the government during the past year in the field of federal-provincial relations.

As the minister said in his address, at the federal-provincial meetings held this year a foundation was laid for a working arrangement with the provinces to look after those Canadians who are out of work and who are not covered by unemployment insurance. Again, a more advantageous tax sharing plan has been arrived at, certainly more advantageous for the provinces, in place of the present tax rental agreements, and this is an important step. Finally, the foundation has been laid for a national hospitalization scheme which will provide for both hospital care and


The Budget-Mr. Bennett diagnostic services whenever six of the provinces, representing a majority of Canadians, decide to enter into an agreement with the federal government under the federal-provincial health scheme.

My constituents are particularly interested in the national health plan because while the great proportion of the labour force and people in the middle and upper income brackets in the cities are covered by some health insurance scheme, in the smaller places a great number of people are not so covered. Therefore I look forward to the time when six provinces, representing a majority of Canadians, signify their willingness to enter into the agreement.

Before I sit down I want to congratulate the Minister of Finance on the forecast he made during his budget address last year with respect to the fiscal year 1955-56. His forecast was remarkably close. As usual, the Conservatives were very pessimistic last year. They seem to like to be pessimistic. I remember that when I first ran in 1949 I did not know very much about Progressive Conservative policies but one of the main planks in their platform was that our international trade was dwindling, that Canada was very dependent on international trade and that we were headed for ruin, despair and a real old-fashioned Conservative depression. In 1953 the story was just the same. The Tories then said: Oh well, that would have happened if the Korean war had not come along and saved the Liberal government.

As a matter of fact, the first time I ever heard a leader of the Conservative party was back in 1925. You will recall the campaign that was waged then. It was called the blue ruin campaign. Again last year we had gloom and despair. To be fair about the matter the Conservatives did have a young man, the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Hees), who was their national president and who tried his best to inject some new spirit and optimism into the party. The Gallup poll a year or two ago reflected that he was meeting with some success-not much, mind you, but the Conservatives did gain a point or two. However, the old line Tories could not go for this new optimism, this new look, and they quickly kicked him downstairs. The Gallup poll of two or three months ago showed that the Liberals were creeping up again. I suppose the old line Tories are satisfied with their policy of keeping things as they are.

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April 10, 1956

Mr. Bennett:

It would have done you good if you had attended at Walkerton. To be specific, last year the financial critic of the Conservative party, the hon. member for

Greenwood (Mr. Macdonnell), had this to say in the opening portion of his speech, as found at page 2764 of Hansard of April 5, 1955:

Whatever else can be said, I think we can regard this as a delightful excursion into optimism.

How pessimistic he was and how wrong he was!

Getting away from pessimism, may I say that in Maclean's magazine of March 31, 1956, I read an article written by Mr. Peter Newman in which he predicted that the Canadian gross national product would reach the sum of $43 billion in 1965 and $65 billion in 1975. I am confident that when the Gordon report is tabled it will at least be in line with Mr. Newman's thinking, because I am absolutely convinced that our country is going to continue to grow and expand and prosper as it has done during the last 20 years under the wise and sound fiscal policies of this government.

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March 20, 1956

Mr. C. E. Bennett (Grey North):

I just want to comment very briefly on this bill. The Canadian Farm Loan Act has not been used

to any appreciable extent in my district, but I think it will become increasingly important in the next two or three years because the sources of first mortgage money on farms have been drying up. About five or six years ago we could get first mortgage money on farms from loan companies and individuals. These people are now finding more attractive investments, and I suppose that results partly from the fact the farmer's real income is down. I believe, therefore, the Canadian Farm Loan Act will be used to a greater extent in Ontario in the next few years.

I was glad to see that the percentage ratio of the lending value has been increased to 65 per cent. All in all this act has been administered effectively and well. If I were to offer any critical comment on the administration of the act, I would say that the appraisers have been rather conservative in making their appraisals. I hope that under the new amendments the appraisers will take the full market value of the farm and then apply the 65 per cent.

If I were to say anything else that could be construed as critical, I would say I do think it takes a long time to process the applications under this act. I know there are reasons for these delays. Sometimes it is the lawyers searching the titles; sometimes it is the appraiser being slow getting on the scene; sometimes it is the applicant himself. I wish though that the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance would discuss the matter with the chairman of the Canadian farm loan board to see whether these loans can be speeded up. The fact is that one can get a loan much quicker through a trust company or an insurance company than under the Canadian Farm Loan Board Act.

Like previous speakers, I am glad that chattel mortgages and second mortgages are being eliminated. I do not believe they served any useful purpose. From the federal point of view I think all of us want to help the farmer, particularly the farmer whose real income is down. Sometimes from that federal point of view we are limited in the way in which we can help the farmer. The Canadian Farm Loan Board Act and legislation such as the Farm Improvement Loans Act constitute a way in which we can offer real help to the farmer, and therefore I welcome the amendments to this act. I welcome the fact that the legislation is being widened and liberalized and I say to the parliamentary assistant, I hope this act will be interpreted and administered in a generous and liberal way.

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March 13, 1956

Mr. Bennett:

It is hard to get wound up again. In finishing off this subject, this butter program has not cost us much money.

A few million dollars sounds like a good deal of money but it is a very insignificant sum as compared to what it has done for Canada. If it does turn out in two or three years that we develop a surplus-I believe the minister does not think we are going to develop a surplus-perhaps he might consider a wider base for dairy products support. Perhaps we could support powdered milk and cheese. We are always talking about increased help to the poor underprivileged countries in the east and one of the agricultural products we could ship there would be powdered milk. There are not many agricultural products that we can ship to the Far East.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

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