AN ADDRESS BY HON. JAMES G. GARDINER, B.A., LL.D.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, February 14, 1946
MR. THOMPSON: Gentlemen, the Empire Club of Canada is honoured today by the presence of a Dominion Cabinet Minister, who is no stranger to us, in that this is his third visit to our platform. Those of you who had the pleasure of hearing him at this club on the previous occasions are, I am sure, looking forward, as I am, with great anticipation to today's address.
Our guest speaker, who was born and brought up on an Ontario farm, went West as a farm labourer at the age of seventeen and has since been a resident of Western Canada. From 1916 on, he has been the owner and operator of a 480 acre farm in Saskatchewan, where he successfully raises cattle and hogs, as well as field crops of sweet clover, oats; barley and wheat.
A graduate of the University of Manitoba with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, having specialized in History and Economics, he also holds the honorary degree of LL.D. from both the University of Manitoba and the University of Ottawa.
He has been in the public life of this country for well, over thirty years, entering the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1914 and was Premier of that Province for 6 years. He has devoted all his political career to the furtherance of agriculture and it is doubtful if any man in the Dominion of Canada today has a broader knowledge of the history and economic background of the farmer. In 1935, whilst holding the office of Premier of Saskatchewan, he was asked by the Prime Minister of Canada to come to Ottawa and take over the portfolio of Agriculture which he so ably fills to this day. Back from Europe but a few days, where he was one of Canada's leading delegates to the United Nations Conference, he has been gracious enough to come to us today to tell us of conditions overseas particularly in respect to the vital food situation, which he investigated thoroughly.
Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to now present to you, the Hon. James Garfield Gardiner, B.A., LL.D., who will speak to us on the subject of "Food".
THE HON. JAMES G. GARDINER: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: My subject for today is Food. Twenty years ago I delivered an address at Grouse Mountain over Vancouver to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Canada. You invited me to repeat the speech here. I made it the opportunity to enlarge upon the advantages of having a cosmopolitan population in Canada, and I prophesied that the time would come when a Canadian citizenship, based upon these European and British immigrants, would emulate the accomplishments of the British and give service to mankind.
Two notable things have happened recently which verify that prophecy. The first is best illustrated by the facts in relation to my own province of Saskatchewan, which I am sure are typical.
Over forty per cent of the population of Saskatchewan is first or second generation immigrants from European countries. Just under forty percent of those who gave their lives in the recent war from that province bore the names of those same nationalities. The second is we have considered it wise to establish Canadian Citizenship by Act of Parliament, which I hope will be made law at the coming Session.
In March 1935 I was again invited to address your Club on the Drought Area of the West. I pointed out that it constituted the area from which surplus food was produced for export, that it had not all blown away, and that with the return of the seasons with average rainfall it, would produce again. That prophecy also has come true. During the six years of war that area produced more tons of food than in any other six years since it was broken from the virgin prairie. If it had not been for the bountiful harvests in that area throughout the six years of war, very little if any food could have left Canada for the United Kingdom and the battlefronts.
It is not an accident that this can be said. In June 1935 the Bennett Government introduced a measure known as the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. A few weeks later we took charge of the administration of that Act. We took sub-marginal lands out of cultivation. We moved people on to better lands. We fenced 1,300,000 acres into community pastures. We irrigated certain areas. We put water in farmers' backyards. We spent $20,000,000 doing these things. We spent $100,000,000 keeping farmers on the land to produce again. It rained throughout the war and they did produce again.
The Federal Government paid the freight on the grain from Fort William east, and from Calgary went into all other parts of Canada. This made it possible to produce meat and dairy products, during the time when their production was essential, as they were never produced before. Great volume was shipped to Britain under Government to government contracts which established stability in the industry.
The result is that wherever one goes in Britain or on the continent, the name of Canada stands high among those who are talking- about food, either in terms of quantity or quality. The world is now looking for food and naturally attention is turned toward Canada. We have satisfied those outside Canada that we are following sound policy in producing maximum results.
Canadians are not so easily satisfied. People in a democracy have a right to criticize their government and the freer the country the more voluminous is the criticism. Those of us who have been in politics over a considerable period take criticism in our stride. If we are not capable of doing that we do not remain long. I think you will agree with me when I say I have had my share of it. But since I have remained constantly in the public service since before the First Great War I am sure you will agree I have benefitted by criticism.
The criticism early in the war was that the West is growing too much wheat, they should take up mixed farming, feed wheat to their hogs and produce bacon for Britain. Those who were critical then did not agree when we replied in 1940, on our return from Britain, that all the wheat Canada could produce and store would be consumed within two years of the end of the war. Now, that the estimates made in outlining our policy in 1940 and 1941 have been realized almost to the bushel, the same critics are saying that we should not have fed so much wheat to hogs. It provides more calories than any other available food.
Well, Mr. Chairman, you cannot eat your cake and have it too. What was wanted in Britain from 1940 to 1945 was bacon and beef. We produced the bacon and beef for them in greater quantities than anyone thought possible. Thanks to our farmers, who followed our advice in spite of criticism, and packing and shipping organizations which co-operated in every way, we were able to deliver and are still delivering record quantities of eggs, cheese, milk, meat and wheat to Britain and European countries.
Mr. Chairman, the war has not changed the location of Canada on the earth's surface; the war has not changed the nature of our soil; the war has not changed the climate. Our natural markets remain much what they were before the war, with this exception-that we hope some nations have learned in the hard school of war that narrow nationalism does not pay. If so, the quantity we can market of all farm produce will be increased. There is no reason, therefore, why farm policy should be materially changed.
I might also say that last fall we put an embargo on the shipment of barley to the United States for brewing purposes. We limited the amount to be supplied to our own breweries in order that feed would be available. We have refused within the present week to release barley to Europe for brewing purposes. In order to retain barley in the drought areas for feed or make it available for feed in Eastern Canada, we have been paying the malting premium on all barley which is sold for feeding purposes.
Everything which is being discussed at present as related to the food position was known last summer. To meet it we cut our butter and sugar rations. We regulated the consumption of rice to about one-half of normal. We rationed meat when others were dropping rationing. We took all canned meats off this market. In short we did almost everything others are talking about now. Britain knows that. Europe knows it. The farmers of Western Canada are delivering wheat to the needy people of the Allied world at from 25 to 40 cents a bushel less than others are obtaining for it. That is one reason why our wheat and flour is in such demand in countries which, while preparing for war a few years ago, condemned these same farmers to greater poverty than I witnessed in Europe during my recent visit.
If that policy is to be continued then either all Canada must bear the burden rather than the farmers alone, or the plans agreed to with countries concerned must protect us against a return to the economic warfare which preceded the fighting war in Europe.
What Canadians should realize is what all other countries admit, namely: that the farmers of Canada carried through in a most unselfish manner one of the most essential war jobs. What we should realize further is that they are doing just as effective a job through the transitional period.
At the beginning of the war we called in representatives of the Provincial Departments of Agriculture and outlined Britain's needs. We stated to them that fortunately Britain's needs did not require that we change our agricultural practice. All it required was that we produce better quality in greater quantity. Later we called in farm and processing organizations along with government staffs. We invited first the farm press and later the daily press to give publicity to the conclusions. We stated from the beginning that we were not going to direct or compel farmers to produce any particular commodity. We decided to advise them and where necessary assist them from the Treasury to make changes which would increase necessary production. Throughout the war this plan has achieved marvelous results. We hope to continue it in peacetime.
The experiences during the war have established a technique which we believe will obtain similar results during the transitional period. I visited Britain in 1940 to learn their needs first hand and to establish some financial basis upon which our surplus could be marketed throughout the war. We entered into agreements establishing quantity and price in advance. We then placed these needs for the succeeding year before the farm conference in December. The quantities in the agreements formed the goal at which we were aiming. As long as feed and labour was available we raised our sights. When in 1943 labour supplies were affected by the needs of the services and feed supplies began to lower because of a reappearance of drought in the West, our sights had to be lowered. We pride ourselves on the fact that whether the sight could be raised or lowered these conferences have succeeded in setting attainable objectives every year since 1940. We were able to attain the objectives because we planned to achieve them.
We first assured that pesticides and fertilizers would be available. We assisted in their distribution to Eastern -and British Columbia farmers.
On the Prairies it requires a three way division of land, one-third summerfallowed, one-third sown on spring plowing or in grass, and one-third sown on the previous year's summerfallow. At the beginning of the war about one-fifth was summerfallowed. We paid the farmer $4.00 an acre to increase his summerfallow and grasslands and $2.00 an acre to increase his feed grains. This cost us $82,000,000 over three years. But as stated at the beginning we have produced the greatest tonnage in our history.
The second was that to get the maximum of production it would be necessary to feed whatever livestock available labour, water and grass would render possible in the prairie provinces and ship surplus feed grain to other parts of Canada to assist in livestock production. This distribution was encouraged through the payment of freight east and west from the prairies.
The third was that returns should be stabilized through entering into long time contracts with our best markets, particularly Britain. It is our intention to follow this policy so long as it is desired by our best customers.
Contracts based upon this policy are in existence to the end of this year which dispense of all our surpluses as soon as extensions are finally arranged the details will be announced.
Following this policy has brought about the most satisfactory results ever achieved on our Canadian farms. It is not our intention to change because we believe following that plan, and basing the findings of the Annual Conference upon it, obtains the maximum production and the best possible distribution and returns. If that is correct it accomplished the desired result of feeding the greatest number of people. It would be a mistake and would help no one to depart from sound agricultural methods.
The war came to an end last year. We took advantage of the first opportunity to visit Britain and Europe to explore their needs. Fortunately we do not need to change our established policy to meet their requirements as far as it is possible for us to do so. We are looking to the future and food will play a most important part in establishing or disturbing the peace. The great wars of the past have been caused by men finding themselves unable to feed their families where they are and moving to more sparsely settled areas without consulting the wishes of those who already occupy them. Forms of government have been responsible for taking the final act, but all the great migrations from thickly populated Asia to less densely populated Europe and later to America resulted from a search for food and shelter and usually brought war.
After listening to the discussions at London and listening to the pleading of people on the continent of Europe and coming back to our own sparsely settled continent, I am satisfied that the world has not yet taken any decided action which will establish peace indefinitely.
Every country from Britain east to the far coast of Asia is overcrowded with people. Every policy discussed to date has as its objective feeding people where they are and forcing them to remain docile, even when and if starving, by armed forces. Few countries are inviting them to come to where the food is.
What we must eventually have in Canada is enough people settled in close proximity to food producing areas to consume the greater part of the food produced there. A distribution of population which brings that about will make it possible for staple foods such as wheat, meat, eggs and dairy products to be supplied at prices consumers everywhere can pay. In other words we will be able to exchange our products for his to the advantage of both.
If industrialists of Canada are looking for distant opportunities to make profits instead of expanding east into the maritimes and west into the prairies, I hope they will find themselves crowded out of this, the best country in the world, and over into the crowded areas by some more prudent industrialists from those areas who will come and bring their staffs with them.
This war has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that if the markets of the masses who live south of the American boundary and elsewhere are made available to Canadian industry to increase our volume we can compete with any one. I f we are permitted to do so our population will increase. Much of the industry which is attempting to maintain too great numbers in Britain and Europe will migrate and a healthy distribution of population will follow.
If the rest of the world does not free their markets and seeks to maintain all--the industry and population where it is, that does not excuse Canadians for assisting the world into another World War. Canadians who are looking for an opportunity to expand can find plenty of room in Canada.
The area from the foothills of the Rockies to the Pacific Coast is inviting industry by its resources of coal, gas, oil, water power, minerals, timber and twelve month ports. The Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have their opportunities. The Maritimes have been denuded of thriving industries by a greed for profits.
Canadian industrialists should spread industry across this country just as farmers have spread farming across this country. Farmers thrive most when industry is near and labour thrives most when food is produced in close proximity to factories. This should be done in the national interest even at the expense of profits.
There has been a long painful advance through the ages from totalitarian state control to individual enterprise and freedom. The incentive which has led the advance in many places has been profit. Like most other good things the ability to make profits can and has been used to exploit the masses. The masses have made up their minds that any exploitation which prevails must cease. If we are going to save the world from the reactionary movement now under way which would carry us back to the most objectionable form of monopoly, state ownership and control of all the resources and machinery of production, we who are individualists must subject profits to the needs of state and through the state to the needs of the masses. Men will still fight before they will starve or see others starve. When mankind ceases to have the guts to do so the sooner the atomic bomb will repeat Sodom and Gomorah the better.