CANADA'S FUTURE AS AN AGRICULTURAL COUNTRY
AN ADDRESS BY HON. JOHN S. MARTIN, B.A.,
M.L.A., MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE FOR ONTARIO.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
January 17, 1924.
PRESIDENT BROOKS introduced Hon. Mr. Martin, who said:
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Empire Club,--I regard this gathering as an evidence of interest in one of the most important problems before the country at this time. The future of our agricultural industry is a matter of great import, not alone to those directly engaged in the industry, but as well to the people of the towns and cities. It is a commonplace, but none the less a truth, that the prosperity of agriculture is at the basis of prosperity in a country like this.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND. Let us recall briefly the historical facts so as to get the setting for our present conditions and problems. Let us take the long view and note the progress of the past fifty years. The figures are almost staggering. Fifty years ago there were only a little over a 100,000 bushels of wheat grown west of Ontario, and the past year there were over 446,000,000 bushels as well as an equal number of millions of bushels of
Hon. John S. Martin, B.A., M.L.A., was educated in the schools of Port Dover, the University of Toronto, and the Ontario Normal College. After teaching for a brief period, he took up Agriculture and specialized in high-grade White Wyondotte poultry. Very successful as a winner of prizes at poultry shows, he has built up a large export trade covering almost every quarter of the globe. He was appointed Minister of Agriculture, July 16, 1923, and is an effective speaker.
other grains. To look at it in another way, there were 1,646,000 acres under cultivation in 1871 and about fifty millions fifty years later.
The growth in population and growth in wealth have accompanied the development which these figures indicate and which has all taken place within the period of fifty years-a brief period in the life of a nation. Even in the past ten years, to make it a more recent comparison, the acreage in wheat has been doubled and there have been similar great increases in all classes of production.
METHODS AND CONDITIONS OF LIVING. Along with this development there have been remarkable changes in the methods of production and the conditions of living. The past fifty years have witnessed the great development of the use of machinery as applied to farming. It is estimated that, if the work on the farms of Canada necessary to produce the crop of last year had all been done by hand, it would have required four times as many people to handle the crop as were actually engaged. The introduction of machinery has radically changed agricultural methods and has therefore necessarily had a great bearing on the distribution of population as between the country and the centres. With this development of machinery for farm operations, there has been an equally marked development in the conveniences and environment surrounding the farm.
The little red school house and the mission and the church have made education and Christian influences available in all parts of the country. The rapid extension of telephones, the development of good roads, the use of the automobile and, in a limited number of cases, the availability of electricity, have all had their bearing on farm life. It is safe to say from a survey of these facts that, in spite of the handicaps which still exist, there is no country in the world under which farming is carried on under better conditions than in Canada today. (Applause)
DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION. An important chapter in this development has to do with not only the increase in population but the distribution of population as among the different sections of Canada. In 1871, only 2.96% of the population of Can28.37% of the population west of the Great Lakes. Canada was west of the Great Lakes. In 1921, there was This naturally 'has an important bearing on the relative position of our own Province of Ontario. In 1871, the people of Ontario made up 43.94% of the population of Canada; in 1921, the people of Ontario made up only 33.38 % of the population of Canada. This does not mean that Ontario herself has gone back. The reverse is true. It simply means that her relation to Canada as a whole has changed.
This brings us to the fact that the old Province of Ontario has made most substantial contributions in both men and money to the upbuilding of the Western Provinces of Canada. When we talk about rural depopulation in Ontario, we must remember that many of the best farmers and farmers' sons of this Province left their homes to develop a new country in the west. What has been Ontario's loss has been Canada's gain. No one can look over the recent history of this country without noticing the positions of prominence and influence which the sons of Ontario have filled in Western Canada, and this has meant a great deal, perhaps more than we can appreciate, in the steadying of conditions and the maintenance of the highest British ideals and conditions in the transition period of this new country.
AS TO THE FUTURE. Now as to the future. Attempting to look into the future is a hazardous pastime at any time but is perhaps particularly so now. Today, however, we are taking the long view and hence we are on surer ground. There are those who are pessimistic as to the agricultural future of Canada. I am not one of these.
Taking the long view, we cannot but realize that Canada has come through much more trying times than those in which we find ourselves at the present time. There have been dark days and days of depression but these have invariably been followed by sunshine and prosperity. We must recognize that our basic conditions are sound and and we still have, undeveloped, a vast wealth of resources which will give profitable employment to a vastly greater population than we have today. Therefore, I believe that agriculture will continue to be the basic industry of Canada and the keystone of our development and prosperity.
CHANGING TENDENCIES. But there will be changing tendencies in our lines of development. In looking over the figures of the past fifty years, one is struck by the fact that, while the acreage under crop has increased enormously, while the production has made Canada the greatest wheat exporting country in the world, there has not been anything like a corresponding increase in live stock production. In the last fifty years, the number of milk cows has scarcely trebled, the number of beef cattle has increased a little more than three times, and the number of swine just a little more than twice. The number of sheep is only a few thousand greater than fifty years ago. Contrast these facts with the abnormal increase in acreage, and we have surely one of the outstanding features of our agricultural history of the last fifty years. The fact is that the older Provinces have increased somewhat but the newer Provinces have gone into these liners only slightly. Hence, I believe that, though there are still millions of acres, both in the older Provinces and the newer Provinces, which will repay cultivation, the most notable development of the next twenty-five or fifty years will be along the lines of live stock. This means more diversified and specialized farming. It has been the experience of Old Ontario that those farmers who took up a specialty and made a success of it have been the ones who have proven most prosperous. There is, of course, only a limited extent to which real specialized farming can be carried without overdoing the market but there is vast room for the development of diversified farming, and this is what is taking place in the West at the present time.
It is only six or seven years ago since the first carload of butter was shipped out of Western Canada. Before that time Ontario had been shipping butter into the West. Today upwards of 40,000,000 lbs. of creamery butter are produced in the Prairie Provinces, the combined output of which is rapidly creeping up to the output of Ontario.
The explanation of this is simple and is to be found in the relative purchasing power of different commodities. It has been figured that the purchasing power of wheat in the middle of December was only 60 1/2 % of the purchasing power of commodities in general, but that of butter was 108 1/2 %. This shows how the operation of the economic law is bringing about diversified farming and this development may be expected to continue. It will mean that we must look to the British market as an outlet for our surplus more than ever before, and it means keener competition for Ontario and for Canada in general in the markets of the world. While I do not wish to enter into matters of political controversy, I have no hesitation in saying that a preference in the British market would be most effective in the agricultural development of this country as well as of other parts of the Empire in the years which lie immediately ahead. (Applause)
THE STORY OF NEW ZEALAND. The necessity of adapting farming operations to changing conditions was never more clearly brought out than in the case of New Zealand. For many years the principal industry of the New Zealand farmer was the production of beef and mutton for the British market. Excessive shipping charges and keen competition of other countries less remote made it absolutely imperative that the New Zealand farmers specialize in other lines. They turned to dairying and today they are second only to Denmark in the exports of butter to Great Britain, and first in exports of cheese, Canada for the first time taking second place. They went at it in a business-like manner and today the average size of a dairy herd in New Zealand is four or five times as large as the average herd in Canada And although a very small country, their energy and efficiency have been an outstanding example for the whole world. Canada has many advantages over New Zealand. (1) We are much nearer the British market. (2) We can make much better use of the by-products, such as skim-milk and whey. (3) We have a much better home market and we have splendid dairy schools and an excellent system of general dairy instruction. However, with these advantages it behooves us to be up and doing.
SOME PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. In order that the agricultural future of Canada may be all it should be, there are some problems which require solution and which may be mentioned at this time.
First, there is the economic problem involved in the bringing about of adjustments which will put the purchasing power of the farmer's dollar back where it was before the war. If you look over the prices which are being paid today for commodities as they leave the farmer's gate, you will see that the prices are practically what they were before the war. This is not true of prices as they reach the consumer, and neither is it true of the prices of commodities which the farmer must buy in order to carry on his business. It is easier to state the problem than to offer a remedy, but the problem is there and its solution is fundamental to our real agricultural development.
Then another of our problems is immigration. It is most apparent that one of the most vital needs of Canada is more people, especially upon the land. The lure of the great country to the south is very strong and thousands of our young men are leaving the farms each year. This has produced a great scarcity of farm labour and today many of our best farmers are carrying on under most discouraging conditions. It is of vital importance that this need be relieved at once, and to fill this need farm help must be brought in to take the place of those who have left. Great care should be taken in the selection of these people and preference should be given to people of the same character and national instincts as those at present here, as it is of the utmost importance that Canada remain truly British in character. (Applause) After exhausting the possibilities in Great Britain it would be well to turn our attention to Denmark, Holland and other countries of Northern Europe. These people live under conditions similar to those in Canada, and it has been proved by experience that they assimilate well.
Then there is the question of education as it affects agriculture. I have always maintained that if we wish to produce a race of people who will love the land and will wish to remain upon it, the whole trend of our present system of education is wrong. In my own case, looking back, there was never anything in my whole school training in the public or high school to suggest that I remain upon the farm or that farming was a desirable occupation. The trend at all times was away from the farm towards city or professional life. It is my hope and wish that some modifications of our present School Course may be introduced so that the desirability and opportunity of country life will be brought home more effectively to the pupils of our public and high schools. To make farming profitable, we must have highly trained farmers and this education and instruction must begin in the public school. (Applause)
In my opinion the farmer of Canada has not kept step with the times. With the complication of modern society, business has organized on a gigantic scale. The day of the small individual has to a great extent passed. Competition has forced firms either to consolidate or go to the wall. Economy and efficiency are vital to success. The farmers must combine if they are going to market their products effectively. As an example of this, I would just refer to the British Columbia Fruit Growers' Association and the splendid way they market their products, also to the New York State Dairymen's League. This League practically controls the sale and distribution of milk and milk products within a 300-mile radius of New York, and the prices to the farmers are uniform in that whole district. Similar plans can be carried out in Ontario in marketing such products as dairy products, fruit, eggs, honey, etc. The farmer works very hard and should be entitled to a fair recompense. To many a farmer an eight-hour day means eight hours before dinner and eight hours after dinner.
I do not believe the general public realizes what the hours of the farmer are. Take the example of a man who is testing his dairy cows. To get the nearest maximum production from those cows they must be milked four times in twenty-four hours. That means that they must be milked at 6 o'clock in the morning, 12 o'clock noon, 6 o'clock afternoon, and 12 o'clock at night. Now, can you figure out how the farmer is going to get very much time for sleep? A man who has a dairy herd under test has a real job, long hours--almost slavish hours. Try to realize that thousands of Canadian farmers who are testing their cows, are willing to do that, to give their time, in order to secure the greatest amount of production, to improve the herd, and all that. We do not realize what a great task such men have before them. For that reason I feel that we should be sympathetic towards the whole business. (Applause)
With reference to co-operation, I feel that it is necessary for the salvation of the farmer and the salvation of the farmer is necessary for the salvation of the general public. A particularly marked example of co-operation is Denmark. For over forty years they have most successfully carried on practical co-operation. For example, they assemble individual products and ship in bulk. They also purchase, in bulk, nitrate and other articles used on the farm. They apply to lessons of modern business and as a result the Danish farmer is prosperous and the Danish people are supplied with the very finest food products. More than 8617o of the Danish farmers are members of local co-operative associations. Nearly 90% of the milk goes to the local co-operative creameries and as a result more than 92% of the farmers of Denmark own the land they cultivate. This achievement is remarkable when one recalls the fact that about fifty years ago the soil of Denmark had been virtually exhausted by centuries of production.
Up to 50 years ago they had been grain-growers, but just like New Zealand they saw they must change. Premier Massey made a shipment of 150 head of cattle to England, and the returns did not pay the transportation charges, so that it was a case where they had to do something; it was not a case of willingness, but of compulsion; they were right up against the wall, so they turned their attention to the production of something that would break down the transportation charges, something that they could ship with a profit to the British market. That something was dairying.
Denmark had the very same experience. They had been producing grain, but the United States and Argentina came into the market. These countries could produce grain more cheaply, their land not being so valuable, and producing larger crops. For centuries the farmers in Denmark had been feeding the land with artificial fertilizers, yet they could not produce grain at a profit, so they took up the production of bacon hogs and eggs, and today there is not an agricultural country in the world more prosperous than Denmark. It was simply a case of adaptation through actual conditions.
Then last, but not least, there is the problem of citizenship involved in the better understanding between the people of the city and the country. They each have their part to play and that part should be taken with an understanding of the problems of the other and sympathy with the difficulties of the other. Instead of bitterness or class hatred, there should be substituted both in feeling and in action the spirit of co-operation causing all to realize that they are first of all citizens of Canada and owe a common duty to the country which is so great a heritage. (Applause)
PRESIDENT BROOKS: Gentlemen, in introducing Hon. Mr. Martin I referred to Sir John Martin Harvey as a former speaker before this Club, a gentleman who has done much for Art and Literature not only in Canada but in the Old Land and the world over, a gentleman. whom it is always a pleasure to have with us, and he has consented to make a few remarks.
SIR JOHN MARTIN HARVEY.
Sir John was received with loud applause and said:--
Mr. President, my esteemed Namesake, and Gentlemen of the Empire Club,--I feel this is taking a rather unfair advantage, for there was an understanding that if I was able to accept your hospitality I should not be called on to address you, because I always feel that to address a distinguished assembly like the Empire Club of Toronto is a very serious matter which requires great and grave deliberation, and is not to be taken up lightly. So, Gentlemen, you must look upon my few words merely as a grateful acknowledgment of your kindness in welcoming me here today. I remember very vividly two or three previous occasions on which I had the honour of addressing you on a rather more serious note than I shall assume today. First of all, I owe you my profound apology for arriving so late, but it reminded me of the magnificent and unerring showmanship of my dear old Chief, Sir Henry Irving, who always contrived to do a thing in such a manner as to attract the largest amount of attention. (Laughter) I think, Gentlemen, that fine showmanship of that sort is a very admirable thing. (Laughter) I have laboured at it all my life, and have never been quite able to achieve it. I also ought to apologize to the Club for not having come last week, but I am at the mercy of the Secretary, and some confusion arose. Well, Gentlemen, when I tell you that one day I have to be Oedipus, and another day I have to be Hamlet, and another day I have to be Petruchia, and another day Stillemonde, you will understand that any sense of my own identity becomes somewhat obscure and I find it very difficult to keep a clear eye upon my actual life instead of the life of the imagination which I have to lead every night. Gentlemen, I am not going to keep you, except to express my very deep interest in the address which our friend, the Hon. John Martin, has given us today. (Hear, Hear) One or two points struck me very forcibly. You may wonder that I should be struck forcibly by any question of agriculture, which does not appear to have very much connection with the stage, but it is not so remote as you would think. One of our most distinguished actors in the history of British drama, Betterton, was reported to have been as good a farmer at Reading as he was a tragedian at Drury Lane; and if there is one ideal of true life which is present with the actor more than any other I think it is the ideal of leading a country life. (Applause) You noticed what immense enthusiasm greeted the remarks of Mr. Martin on the magnificence of the country life. It is almost pathetic because here we are. It is because we are all compelled to live in the city that we greet with enthusiasm such a remark as that. (Laughter) We do envy Mr. Martin's pleasure of spending so much time in the country. Another thing that struck me was the question of preference which should be given by Britain for the output of Canada. I am not going to venture upon any political matters, but that point struck me very forcibly, and I hope and pray most profoundly that that can be arranged. (Hear, hear, and applause) What is so frightfully difficult, Gentlemen,--and you must have felt it, too- is to get our people at home to realize the enormous vitality and future and doings and achievements on the other side of the sea. I wish the British Government could all be brought over here to Canada, and then to New Zealand, then to South Africa, then to Australia, and come in touch with the life of these places, because they do not seem to be half awake to the potentiality of them. (Loud applause) They are dull and stupid and parochial. I hope they will report me in London. (Laughter) Though I do not suppose that anything I can say will have very much weight in Westminster, but if we all hammer away at the same point perhaps something will be achieved ultimately. The other point was immigration. That was a strong point you made, Mr. Martin, and I strongly believe in the profound sense of what you say in regard to it. Immigration is not an unmixed blessing, and I agree with you when you say that it should be, to a certain extent, restricted-modified, at all events in the direction of welcoming to your shores those who are likely to assimilate racially. I think I may be forgiven if I say that to a visitor like myself to the United States, no problem is so great as that of the assimilation of the people who have migrated to that country, who have no sympathy, who have no racially common ground. That is the difficulty. When we go to the States if we could only get at your true American we should know where we were; but it is this immense dilution of racial qualities which are remote from our understanding and sympathy--I will not say unsympathetic-that makes the United States such a difficult problem for us to deal with. It is because you have given more care to the selection of your immigrants that you have preserved the British tradition which we look for in Canada, and which we so very deeply and gratefully acknowledge. Well, Gentlemen, I did not intend to speak half as long as this--but the fact of the matter is that Mr. Martin aroused so many reflections upon this question which did not occur to me before I came, that I have been tempted to speak far too much. Well, there you are. Thank you very much indeed, and I should have been only too happy to give you a proper address such as was within my modest scope, but the fact is that our presence in Toronto at this time has been to realize an old promise that when I came back to Canada I should bring in addition to our old plays, which you have so kindly supported hitherto, our biggest and most expensive productions. Well, I made that promise; I have done it; here we are, and my staff and company are almost dead. You have no idea what it is to bring across the water and transport to these various big centres eight complete productions. When I tell you that one entire production is completed in the afternoon and then swept off the stage and another entire production is put up for the public to see, in about two and a half hours' time, perhaps you can realize what an enormous strain it is on my company and staff. Well, we are pulling along; we are still alive, and we have to continue and carry on, but we do need all your support, Gentlemen, and if I am not able to come here as often and stop as long as I should like it is simply because the strain of my work in my own particular job is about as much as I can stand. (Loud applause)
THE VICE-PRESIDENT, MR. JOHN O'CONNOR, expressed in happy terms the thanks of the Club to the speaker.