Mr. M. Y. McLEAN.
I would not refer to the subject at all had I not on a former occasion drawn the attention qf the House and the government to the dangers existing from the multiplication of these mergers or combines and a necessity for some legislation, which would enable us to regulate them. And I wish to congratulate the hon. minister, and the government on the promptness and courage they have displayed in bringing in this measure. I have considered this Bill very carefully, indeed; and in so far as I am able to judge, it meets the circumstances of the case al-
most at every point. It furnishes the necessary machinery now lacking, and provides a simple, easy, satisfactory, practical and inexpensive method of putting that machinery in operation. Futhermore it is designed to afford protection to the consumer without unnecessarily harassing, or worrying the producer, and I have no doubt it will have that effect. In fact I do not know of any country which has on its statutes a law so simple and effective as this one is likely to be. The difficulty in our present law, as has been explained very fully by the Minister of Labour (Mr. King) is this, that the burden of putting it into operation rests entirely upon the individual. While the exactions of these combines may amount to a very large sum in the aggregate, to the individual they may amount to only a very comparatively small sum, and consequently it is not worth while for an individual to incur the expense, odium, and trouble of conducting a prosecution, and therefore no action is taken, and the combines are permitted to go on and prosper. In my opinion this legislation is calculated to provide this missing link. From the study I have given the subject, I certainly think it will accomplish that object to a very large extent.
My hon. friend from South Lanark (Mr. Haggart) has expressed his general approval of the Bill, but doubts whether there is any' possibility of finding out whether or not a combine exists. I do not think there should be any great difficulty oh that score, because it should be tolerably easy to ascertain what is the proper price of an article, and the proper cost of producing that article, and what would be a reasonable profit. It seems to me there should be no serious difficulty in this matter, and I think that the proposed commission would be an excellent medium for that purpose. It may be asked, is there really a necessity for legislation of this kind? Have we any combines or trusts in this country that are actually injurious to the interests of consumers or any other class? Now, it is very difficult for any individual to say whether or not such combines or trusts exist; but, as has been pointed out by the Minister of Labour today, a very large number of-I will not call them combines, they have now the more polite name of mergers-a very large number of mergers have been established during the past year in addition to those which formerly .existed. The avowed object of these mergers of capital is to reduce the cost of production, and I have no doubt that they will secure that object to a great extent; but if the cost of production is reduced, surely the price of the article produced should be reduced proportionately. Do we find that to be
the result? It may be in some instances. I do not know one single instance in which that has been the result; but I do know of some instances in which we have been informed at least that the contrary has been the result. There are one or two instances which occur to my mini at the moment. One has been mentioned during this discussion,, that is, the cement merger. This merger was organized during the past year. The price of cement, as I am informed, and believe, previous to the merger being formed, was a dollar a barrel. Immediately after the merger was formed and got into operation, the price was increased to $1.50 a barrel. There was also a merger formed of the carriage makers of the country, and I am informed that immediately afterwards the price of certain carriages was increased by at least 25 per cent. I am not prepared to say that that is wrong. I do not know that the price of these articles is greater than their actual value; but I do know that these increases have taken place since these mergers were formed, and I know that there is a very strong feeling in the public mind that these articles are being sold at too high a cost through the influence of these secret combines. I, therefore, think, that legislation of this kind is necessary, not only in the interest of the consumer, but "in the interest of the producer-to give the consumer an opportunity of satisfying himself whether or not these combines exist, and if they do not exist, to enable the producer to free himself from the suspicion cast upon him. Without going any further, I have no hesitation in saying that this legislation shall receive my most hearty support, and I believe that it will receive the approval of a very large majority of the people of this country.