June 4, 1917

CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I am not able to go into all the details with my hon. friend.

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LIB
LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

The minister should tell the House and the mass of the people whether he is going to do anything of that kind or not. The people have been expecting that a food controller will be appointed. When I say " the people," I do not mean only organized labour.

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LIB
LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

I might say " the organized leaders," as my hon. friend says. Prices are increasing all the time, and my hon. friend knows that either wages are not going up, or if they are, they are not keeping pace with the increase -in the cost of the necessaries of life. The minister has been asked by members on that side of the House as well as on this that maximum prices on foodstuffs be established. The minister may believe that this is a radical thing to do, but these are times when one has to do radical things, and maximum prices should be established on the necessaries of life. There has been a demand from the people, not only in large cities, 'but in small towns throughout the Dominion, that a food controller or a commission " be appointed. This is, perhaps, the last opportunity that we shall have to ask this question of the Minister of Labour as he may get through his estimates to-night, and it seems to me

that he should tell us to-night whether it is the intention of the Government to take this step. As he has said, the matter has taken up a lot of his time and the Government have had it Under consideration, but I do not want the minister to keep considering all the time until finally the cost of the necessaries of life rises to such a height that people will not be able to buy them. The minister should tell ue definitely (whether the Government are going to appoint a commission or some one to regulate the price of food. I do not know what the duty of a food controller may be, but if the question is one of controlling the quantity of food the workingman is to put on his table, I will tell my hoii. friend that he should not do that. If, however, the question ie one of controlling the prices of foodstuffs, I would ask the minister to tell us to-night what he is going to do so that the country will have the information.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHEKS:

I am very sorry that

I am not able to give my hon. friend a definite answer as to the exact moment or (hour when a food controller or a commissioner of supplies or something of that nature will be appointed, or whether any will be appointed at all. The matter has received a good deal of consideration; it is open to further consideration, and when a conclusion is reached, it will be announced to the House.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

Does my hon. friend

admit that there is at the present time a 'necessity for the appointment of a food controller?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I am not admitting

anything of that sort just now. I have two or three reports here of investigations that have been made under the authority of the Order: in Council which was passed on the 10th of November last concerning food, fuel and clothing. .One of these concerning sugar is ready, and I will ask leave, perhaps to-morrow, to lay it on the Table. Another one is in regard to anthracite coal, and there are in course of preparation several others concerning cold storage commodities, canned goods, flour, and ice.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Yes, we are getting a report ready on bread and cereals, the producing and marketing of bread.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I am afraid that is too thin for my hon. friend.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I was about to say

that it was not and is not, I think, believed or expected by any sane man that the administration of this Order in Council or of any .other legislative enactment could or would suspend the influence upon the prices of the universal law of supply and demand, or neutralize the natural effects of the world-wide war, or of the world-wide shortage in food crops, or of the transfer of mil- -lions of men from productive to destructive employment, or of the wastage of scores of millions of tons of foodstuffs in the ocean. The administration of this Order in Council thus far has not accomplished any of these, impossibilities; neither was it designed for such a purpose.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

Was it not designed

even partially to neutralize those effects?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. OROTHERS:

I am just coming tp

that. The belief that the administration of this Order in Council or of any other legislative enactment could accomplish the impossibilities that I have mentioned would require as much credulity as the belief that a man could stay the incoming tide. We all know that the prices of food and other articles have gone up very rapidly, and we all know what the main ' causes of those increases have been. This Order in Council was designed to prevent undue and unnecessary accumulations pf foodstuffs and other articles and the withholding of them from sale.

It was intended to prevent as far as possible the restraint of competition and the enhancing of prices, and in these respects I think the Order in Council has succeeded fairly well.

Clause 3 says:

(1) No person shall accumulate or shall withhold from sale any necessary of life beyond an amount thereof reasonably required for the use or consumption of his household or for the ordinary purposes of his business;

(2) Every person who shall at any time hold any necessary of life beyond an amount thereof reasonably required as aforesaid, and every person who- shall hold for the purpose of sale, whether as manufacturer, wholesaler, jobber, retailer or otherwise, any stock-in-trade of any necessary of life, shall offer for sale the said excess amount, or the said stock-in-trade, as the case may be, at prices not higher than are reasonable and just. :

That clause was intended to make it an offence to withhold from sale' anything he-

yond what a man might acquire for his own use or for the ordinary purposes of his business. Any violation of that 'clause is punishable 'under clause 9, which says:

(1) Any person w,ho contravenes or falls to observe any of the provisions of these regulations shall be guilty of an indictable offence and liable upon indictment or upon summary conviction under Part XV of the Criminal Code to a penalty not exceeding five thousand dollars, or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding two years, or to both fine and imprisonment as specified; and any director or officer of any company or corporation who assents to or acquiesces in the contravention or non-observance by such company or corporation of any of the provisions of these regulations shall be guilty personally and cumulatively with his company or corporation and with his co-directors or associate officers.

Mr. MARCH.: Has action been taken

under this Order in Council in any one case?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Not that I am aware of.

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LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Mr. MARCIL:

Was any attempt made

under this Order in Council to control the export of food. We have heard of large quantities of potatoes being sent to Cuba when potatoes were selling in Montreal at $7 a barrel.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

There is no provision in this Order in Council for preventing the exportation of potatoes or any other article.

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LIB

June 4, 1917