June 4, 1917

CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Yes. The war will not last forever, and when the war is ovei freight rates may be cheaper.

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

Then the food controller wil not be able to do anything in the way of reducing the cost of the necessaries of life.

Is that the minister's conclusion?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Not at all. The operations of the influences which bring about high prices cannot be suspended by this Parliament or by a food controller. I do believe, however, that the designs of this Order in Council can be carried out; the withholding of foodstuffs from sale at rea-

sellable prices, the restraining of competition, and the enhancing of prices by artificial means.

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

What section of the Order

in Council prevents the accumulation of foodstuffs in cold storage warehouses?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The report on cold

storage, which is in process of preparation, will be ready in a short time. It will cover such commodities in cold storage as eggs, cheese, pork, bacon, ham, beef, mutton, lamb, halibut, creamery butter, dairy butter. An hon. gentleman on the other side said the other day that a certain firm was seeking insurance on $2,000,000 worth of commodities in cold storage, and that was set forth as an instance of the accumulation and holding of foodstuffs until prices went up. I have here information concerning the purchases and sales of one of the largest cold storage companies in Canada.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I would Tather not

mention the names, unless my hon. friend insists. I will show them to him in private if he so desires. On February 24 last the firm to which my hon, friend refers had on hand in one place $2,145,368 worth of such foodstuffs as I have mentioned. In a month they purchased articles of this kind to the value.of $2,427,439, and sold $2,242,290 worth. On the same day they had on hand in Montreal $682,487.09 worth of these articles. They purchased in a month commodities of the kind mentioned to the value of $465,176.61, and the value of the sales made was $484,899 18. On the some date they had on hand, at Winnipeg, $89,051.73 worth of these articles; the quantity purchased that month was $25,230.62; and the quantity sold was $50,698.29. The gross value of the commodities on hand, February 24, 1917, was:

Toronto $2,145,368.18

Montreal 682,487.09

Winnipeg 89,051.73

Total $2,916,907.00

When we have a firm doing as much cold storage business as this firm is doing, having over $2,000,000 worth of these commodities on hand, and buying in and selling out two or three million dollars worth a month, that does not show that it is holding back any commodities for an increase in price. This firm has a month's supply on hand at a time. This firm is at the present time turning over $3,000,000 a month; in fact, I am told that it is turning over a million dollars a week. The

common idea that these commodities are hoarded up in cold storage for the purpose of keeping them there until prices go up is not well founded. One trouble, I think, is that we have not enough goods on hand. This firm, which is the largest firm of its kind in Canada, has only a month's supply on hand, and if it cannot buy any more goods, it cannot ship any more away, it is buying and selling every month. We have gone into these different commodities, sugar, coal, cold storage commodities, canned goods, and the report, on cold storage, is in process of preparation and will be ready in a few days. I am glad to say that so far as the prices of sugar and coal and the quantities of foodstuffs kept in cold storage are concerned, there is no reason for complaint.. It is a very good thing for the people of this country to know what the conditions are, because statements that are not well founded are frequently made to them. One hon. member has said: Can

you point to any article on which by your efforts you have reduced the price? I do not know that I can. I cannot point to any particular burglary that police constable John Brown has prevented by walking the streets of Ottawa, for the last five years, but it does not follow that we should abolish the police force of Ottawa. The refiners, the wholesalers, and the retail dealers know that we are on the job.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

No, we are not asleep on the job. I want to know if my hon. friend, by sleeping, could send out 500 of these questionnaires-

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

Any office boy could do that.

Mr. CROTHERS-and get all the answers back and tabulate them, and if they were not complete ask for further information. I know that cannot be done by little work. A great deal of work is being done. Some days ago we wrote a firm at St. John, N.B., for some further information, and a day or two ago we received the following reply:-

St. John, N.B., May 29, 1917.

We are in receipt of your favour of the 23rd instant and note contents. The writer has been away or your letter would have been replied to before.

The discrepancies you notice between the prices we furnished you with and the American companies mines prices are easily explained :

In the first place we do not buy the coal ex mines, but f.o.b. vessel at tide water. We think the company's prices for April ranged at about $5.50 f.o.b. schooner at New York; but it has been for some time practically impossible to purchase coal from the companies and get vessels loaded promptly, and as vessels will not

wait two or three weeks for cargo, it has been necessary to go outside to individual operators and pay two or three dollars a ton premium for spot coal. Our figures for April were made up of some coal purchased and shipped in March, but which did not arrive here until April and of one cargo purchased and shipped in April, the latter costing us,-coal, freight, insurance and cost of discharging approximately $11.65 per gross ton.

That is what the coal actually cost them per gross ton.

Since then prices have advanced and we have paid as high as $9.

You will understand that these prices are fluctuating all the time. When we are able to charter a vessel we have to go into the market and secure spot coal; sometimes the premium we have to pay is greater than at other times and sometimes we can secure a little lower rate of freight than at others.

We are now landing coal that is costing us $14.50 per gross ton at our dock. At the moment we are selling at $14.00 per net ton.; but we expect to advance the price in the very near future. [DOT]

That is just a sample of scores of letters we are receiving every day from all parts of the country. When we receive an answer that is not satisfactory we ask for an explanation, and we get from other sources information to check up what we receive from these people, so that in the end we are satisfied we get the correct information. I do not desire to take up any further time in dealing with these matters that come under this item.

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

I am sure that the people of this country will not receive very much encouragement from the explanation which the Minister of Labour has given this evening. The minister stands as the apologist of all those who have succeeded in forcing up the prices of foodstuffs in this country to a point which it is almost impossible for the ordinary man to reach. The conclusions of his observations are that nothing is done; nothing is to 'be expected, and nothing is possible. He expressed the pious hope that after the war conditions would be such that a reduction in the cost of food commodities *might be brought about.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I was speaking about the freight on coal. The hon. member is covering everything now.

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

The minister was speaking about sugar and everything else. The minister and his Government, while expressing some desire to appoint a food controller,

TMr. Crothers.]

have to admit this evening that even although a food controller is appointed, he can accomplish nothing. The minister says that the conditions we have in this country to-day are conditions which have inevitably resulted from the war, and that therefore the Government is unable to do anything to relieve the situation. That is not the language of Mr. Hoover, who is the food controller in the United States. Mr. Hoover, in the last four or five weeks has spoken in many places; he has spoken before the legislature at Washington in support of a Bill to enable the United States Government to take control of these food products, and he has pointed out that in nearly every case proof is available that the increased cost of living is due to speculation and to the undue enhancement of the cost of foodstuffs by those who are engaged in - the business of distributing them. In the United States there is, apparently a live Government, and a live minister who has charge of that particular situation. The Minister of Labour did not make any particular reference to the matter of flour. We know that some weeks ago when the question of flour was brought up in this House, the Minister of Labour, with a wave of his hand, endeavoured to assure the country that something was being done because he had sent Mr. O'Connor down to Montreal to make an investigation, but Mr. O'Connor returned, and instead of the price of-flour going down, it went up until the United States Government took action to close the grain exchange in the city of Chicago.

The reflex result of that was that the price of flour was reduced to some extent in Canada. The Minister of Labour will not deny that the price of flour was boosted in Canada on account of the operations on the Grain Exchange at Winnipeg. That grain exchange has been closed, and I believe the Government has made some effort to eliminate the operations of the speculators, and as a consequence the price of flour has been reduced in some slight degree in the last couple of weeks.

The Minister of Labour has referred to the question of coal. The minister cannot have forgotten that the city solicitors of Montreal endeavoured to hold an investigation under. the Order in Council for the purpose of reducing the exorbitant price of coal. They had not proceeded very far when they were faced with the difficulty of being unable to proceed by reason of not being able to prove that a conspiracy existed for the purpose of ejnhancing the price of flour, for in the opinion of the city

solicitors unless a conspiracy were proved nothing could be done under .the Order in Council.

I was rather surprised that the Minister of Labour ventured to produce his Order in Council again this evening. I think it is the third occasion on which he has read it to the House, but in no single instance has he been able to show that anything has resulted by reason of the Order in Council or from any proceeding taken under it. It is just as well that the Government cease talking about a food controller. There is no use in going to the expense of appointing a controller or a commission to control the price of foodstuffs, because we have the statement of the Minister of Labour this evening that no result will follow any activity in that respect, as the cost of everything in Canada is due to war conditions. But there are other countries at war, and the consumers of those countries fare very much better than we do, the consumers of Canada. In the United States the conditions created by the war are no worse than the conditions created by the war in this country, and the moment war was declared by the United States action was taken for the purpose of dealing with the question.

The price of onions had gone up enormously in the United States. It was stated that the price was due to the supply not being equal to the demand, and apologists for those who were responsible for increasing the price of that article came forward, just as the Minister of Labour has done to-night, with every explanation bnt the correct one. But the moment the food controller was invested with authority-

Mr. CROTH'ERS: Will my hon. friend

allow me a question? Has not the hon. member been advocating in this House and outside that we should take action to er able the farmers to sell their products in the United States^ so that they could get a higher price?

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

They did not get a higher

price in the United States. When our farmers could have realized a better price in the United States the Government refused to allow them to sell their product in that country. It was not until food products had become so high in this country that the ordinary consumer could scarcely buy them at all, that the Government allowed food products to be exported to the United States, when we were paying more for those commodities than ever before.

Coming back to the question of onions, the food controller in the United States held

an inquiry and wa.s able to put his finger on the cause of the trouble. While it had been reported that the high price was due to the supply not being equal to the demand the food controller discovered that large quantities were being warehoused in the United States; the manipulators gave out that the supply was not equal to the demand, and therefore the price had to go up. The moment the food controller took the matter in hand he discovered where the difficulty was, and the price of onions at once came down. There was a gentleman who really understood what his business was, and was really interested in producing results. All these matters- which the Minister of Labour referred to are being dealt with in other countries and perhaps in no other country outside of Germany have prices gone up to the extent that they have gone up in Canada. As I said at the opening of my remarks, we in this country have to settle down to the conviction that nothing will he done to relieve the situation because the Minister of Labour either cannot or will not take action. -

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

I hope we shall not hear again hon. gentlemen opposite charging us on this side with wasting the time of the House, because thte Minister of Labour tonight has taken, two hours simply to repeat, practically word for word, what he has already repeated in the House two or three times this session.

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CON
LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

Whether my hon. friend wished to put us asleep, or out of business altogether, so that he could get his Estimates through I do not know, Jbut the fact remains that though we have been sitting here for nearly four months and the high cost of living has been .brought to the Minister's attention time and again in this House, not one single Btep has been taken by the minister to bring down to a reasonable level the price of any article of food used by the consumers of this country. Not a single thing has been accomplished. The minister indulged in a dissertation to-night about his Order in Council and his questionnaires. Why, any office boy would be dismissed if he sent out such a set of questions as the minister's. Since we have been discussing the cost of living in this House this session, the price of two main articles 'of food has practically doubled; I re'fer to flour and potatoes. All that the Minister of Labour has done has been to send Mr. O'Connor down to Montreal to ascertain the

reason for the rise in the price of flour. After all these months have been wasted the minister tells us to-night that he does not know whether it is advisable to appoint a commission or a food controller to look into the whole question. He read his Order in Council clause by clause, and told us that everything was lovely, that prices were not too high, they could not be lower; and, as my hon. friend from Richmond says, he apologized for those who' were manipulating the food supplies of this country and charging the people double prices. The Government apologizes for these food manipulators; it stands by them, and as much as says to them, "Go on, keep up the prices as high as the people of Canada will stand for. We will defend you on the floor of the House. We will not take any action to bring the prices down." That is the position of the Government tonight. The Minister of Labour says that nothing can be done. Certainly nothing is being done. I imagine this is the only country where the Government is absolutely powerless to do anything, and acknowledges it. Since this House met I venture to say that potatoes have doubled in price, and flour has almost doubled too. Did it cost any more to raise the potatoes that have been sold for such high prices in the last few months, than to raise the potatoes that were sold last fall? Did the wheat that produced the flour that brought from $13 to $15 a barrel only recently cost more to produce than the wheat that produced the flour that sold for $8 or $9 a barrel last fall? Not one cent. And yet this Government say they can do nothing to control the price of flour. In the meantime the people have to pay double the price for their bread. The Minister of Labour tells them he can do nothing. Everything is all right. The men who have been manipulating the market to the disadvantage of the labouring class and every other class have the sanction and even the benediction of this Government. The minister says:

"It's all right, gentlemen; go ahead; squeeze the last cent out of the people who must have potatoes and bread." There is the position. And the bad feature of it, to my mind, is that the minister comes forward to-night and says: We can't do anything; everything is all right; the prices are moderate and you have to pay them: some time, after the war is over, some time in the future, dimly distant or near, conditions may change and food may be cheaper, but in the meantime nothing is being

done and nothing can be done. Well, if the Government cannot do better than that, they ought to acknowledge that they are not capable for the job, and they ought to step down and out. No wonder they want a coalition. It is all well enough to discuss these matters here, but the millions of workers in Canada, who find it difficult to make ends meet and to provide food enough on their tables, see no possible prospect of .anything better after the statement made by the Minister of Labour to-night. I think it is up to the Government, it is right up to the Prime Minister, to see that a change is made in the workings of the Department of Labour and that something is done 'to control and regulate the prices of food. One good able man in charge as a food controller would very soon stop the prices going up here, and m many cases would cut down prices that have been raised by means of manipulation, as has been the case with many food products. The minister tells us that nothing has been decided. After all these years and months they have not decided whether they will appoint a commission, or name a food controller, or do any- . thing. Well, it is a poor lookout for the consumers of Canada when that is the position taken by the Government.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

If my hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) could point to some country where a food controller, or commissioner of supplies, or government official of any kind, had reduced by his action the price of foodstuffs, it would be more to the point. But look on that picture and then on this. Until a few weeks ago the hon. gentleman was urging with great eloquence that wheat and flour should be permitted to go into the United States free because it was dearer there. Now, he finds fault with the price of potatoes because they have been allowed to go into that dearer market-

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The hon. gentleman

mentioned potatoes only a few moments ago. He complained that they have gone up in price. To a certain extent that is due to the fact that they have been shipped to the United States.

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June 4, 1917