June 4, 1917

LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

This is not the first time the hon gentleman has cut a sorry figure since he came back. It is very easy for my hon. friend to get up and try to create a diversion in order to help the Minister of Labour out of a hole. The Minister of Labour has signally and absolutely failed in bis duty in dealing with this problem of the high cost of living. My hon. friend the member for North Simcoe (Mr. Currie) need not think that in getting up and getting excited he is going to divert the attention of this committee, or this country, or this Parliament, from the main question before them .as to whether the Minister of Labour has not absolutely and ignominiously failed in dealing with this great problem before the Canadian people.

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CON

John Allister Currie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CURRIE:

The West needs coal and has to have soft coal and I ask my hon. friend now if he will be willing to have the duty. taken off soft coal. We are anxious to know.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

If I had the responsibility I would deal with this question. My hon. friend is supporting a Government that has to deal with it and if my hon. friend wants the duty taken off coal he had better go to them to have it taken off. It is not the question of duty that is the issue here. It is the matter of price control in regard to which this minister has failed.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

The fact remains that, as my hon. friend from Pictou (Mr. Mac-

donald) has stated, there is a great need that something should be done in regard to this question of the high cost of living. What did we learn from the minister? The only thing we did learn was that nothing has been done and nothing will be done. That is all we ever have learned from the Minister of Labour. To-night he gives an exhibition which, in the classic words of the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Cochrane), might simply be described as hoeh, an expression that seems to be parliamentary because it was used by the Minister of Railways not four days ago. The Minister of Railways and Canals has the advantage over the Minister of Labour in that he says more in less time and inflicts less suffering on those who have to listen to him than does the Minister of Labour. If the minister never laboured before, he might to-night be called the labouring minister. I do not know whether the minister endeavoured to obstruct his own estimates or not. If that was his purpose he succeeded absolutely. The Opposition is sometimes accused of trying to obstruct a minister's estimates but the hon. gentleman to-night obstructed his own estimates. His only purpose must have been to endeavour to tire us out so that rather than be penalized by the infliction of a speech such as he gave us we would allow his estimates to go through and get home out of here. But, we do not look at it in that way, and I am the less inclined to look at it in that way because of the outstanding way in which the minister deals with the whole question. Our complaint always has been that the hon. gentleman's friends, the middlemen, are making an improper and exorbitant profit, and we say that it is his duty to protect the producer at the one end and the consumer at the other, and to see that there is not an unjust tribute extracted by these middlemen. What does my hon. friend say? He says that the people of Canada in 1911 decided that the middlemen should be protected. If his words mean that, I say that the people of Canada decided no such thing in 1911.

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CON
LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

The hon. gentleman

stated as clearly as he stated anything that in 1911 the people decided for the very things he contended for, and against the things which we contended for. I make the statement that the people of Canada in 1911 did not decide what he says they decided. The people in his own riding

wanted the Farmers' Bank subscribers paid, and he appealed to them on that issue and made promises, and on that he was elected. The hon. member for Peterborough (Mr. Burnham) was elected on the ne temere cry, and the Eucharistic Conference and all these cries were heard throughout Ontario and Quebec. The minister laughs just as he has always done ever since he took the position he holds, and which carries with it the duty of looking after the interests of labour and the interests of the consumer. He laughs as over a joke, although he holds this important position, and he gives no reason, no explanation when his delinquencies in regard to serious matters are brought to his attention. I say again that in 1911 the people of Canada did not decide that they desired that the middlemen should be protected. They did not decide that there should be less of a gap or spread between the producer and the ultimate consumer, because that issue in Ontario and Quebec was carefully kept away from them and was not made an issue of the election. The people decided to vote for the Minister of Labour because they wished their deposit money returned and their subscriptions in the Farmers' Bank cancelled. Yet, he tells us that they decided the trade question in 1911. Again, to use the classic words of his colleague, that is nothing but "bosh." What does the minister tells us in regard to this question of the high cost oF living? It is a serious condition of affairs, says the minister. The minister has a dual responsibility, because he has the guardianship of the protected interests and the labour interests. Did my hon. friend protect the interests of the consumer? What did he say to my hon. friend from Richmond (Mr. Kyte) and my hon. friend from Westmorland (Mr. Copp) when they asked him when there was going to be some relief? He said, After the war is over you can buy cane sugar at the same old figure. Is that not a bright prospect to hold out to the people? What is the use of his regulations number, 13, 15, 14, 4 or 6, or whatever numeral it may be? He says hope springs eternal in the human breast, and we hope that some day the war will be over and that we will get back to old prices. Last year we did not think the war was going to be over, although some of us indulged in the hope that it would.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

All I was talking about -and I think my hon. friend from Moose-jaw knows it-when I was speaking to my hon. friend from Westmorland, was freight.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Yes, that is the question he asked, when we were going to get any relief for tonnage.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Hansard will show it

is.

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LIB

Arthur Bliss Copp

Liberal

Mr. COPP:

If Hansard shows that, it is absolutely wrong, because that is not what I asked.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I remember quite well.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I admit that freight

has as close a relation to the question that was put to him as the Farmers Bank has to Reciprocity, and that, is about as close as we expect the minister to get to anything. He does say, however, that when the war is over things yvill come back to normal and we can buy sugar and other things at the old prices. What is the good of wasting money on all these post cards that he has? What is the good of filling the department up with a lot of information such as he read to us in his most entertaining and fascinating style to-night? It is thrilling to listen to him, a rare treat to hear an address such as we heard, regulation 6, regulation 3, regulation 5, but that is not going to reduce the price of food even in the Minister's own estimation, and I think if he cannot seriously address himself to this problem, he should stop trifling with it. He laid down a principle I was sorry to hear him enunciate, because I do not want the minister to go so far that the Government would let him out. It would be a great loss to us on this side if anything happened to him. One of the greatest friends we have, in a political sense, is my hon. friend, especially among the labour people; a real asset is my hon. friend, and v.e certainly would not want to lose him. But I think if, I understood him his position is that he makes Orders in Council, puts .them through, has them approved of by His Excellency, and then he says to the provinces: You go on and execute this

and see that it is obeyed. If I understand him aright that is his position. If that is his position, the people of Canada may as well know that he is just trifling with this very serious state of affairs, just trifling, laughing again, because that is all he is doing if he does not address himself to the enforcement of these regulations and the actual bringing aibout of what he wishes to accomplish. Suppose the Minister of -Customs took that attitude, that he simply passed his regulations or laws declaring that it is a criminal offence

to smuggle, and then left the provincial governments to get after the smugglers and enforce the law. He would soon find that the customs revenue decreased and that the customs laws -were not enforced. And may I not say the same of the Finance Minister? If he did not see that the banks and insurance companies behaved themselves, the result would be very serious. It is a common thing for him to make them obey the laws that have been put in force. And so, with the war upon us, with this great crisis upon us with regard to exorbitant prices, the Minister of Labour has not discharged his duty, not one-quarter discharging it, when be has merely made an Order in Council and has said: I am

not going to do anything to have it enforced. I appeal to the minister to use some of the machinery in his department -and a very good- department it is in many ways and no doubt he has -many excellent officials-, and no doubt he himsel-f has a good fundamental knowledge of how it should be administered, through his legal training-I appeal to him to use some of that machinery and to say that from now on he will not only make the laws but compel people to obey them, and not say that it is up to the provincial governments. That does not satisfy the people of Canada. He does not do his department or the Government of which he is a member justice by saying: we wall pass an Order in Council and let the provinces enforce it or not as they please. This is a matter of Federal concern and Federal administration, as well as Federal legislation.

My hon. friend also made reference to the food control in the United- States. I do not think his reference was a very -happy one because the food control in the United States has been appointed, and- has been so lately appointed that you could not expect results from its appointment. But the very fact that in the United States they have decided to appoint a food controller shows that they are proceeding to do what they can to control exorbitant prices. But the Minister of Labour here has not decided that he will even take such a step as that. I say that so lately ha-s the food controller in the United States, Mr. Hoover, been appointed, that there is no help to the minister in making such a comparison.

My main motive in rising is -to urge the minister not only to make the legislation, Orders in Council and Acts of Parliament, but really to enforce them; and I am sure that he will find the provincial governments

willing to co-operate, on whichever side of politics they may be, and in that way some good really may be achieved. I ask the minister if he will not take into consideration the matter of not only enacting these pieces of legislation hut of enforcing them throughout Canada.

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LIB

Arthur Bliss Copp

Liberal

Mr. COPP:

I certainly was much disappointed to realize that it is absolutely impossible to get any assistance from any. agency with reference to the high cost of living as we have it to-day in Canada. The Minister of Labour says that hope 'Springs eternal in the human breast. I still have hope that the minister is not expressing the absolute, decided, policy of the Government in doing nothing with regard to this very important matter. I am not here to quarrel with the Minister of Labour in regard to his department or his laxity here, there or elsewhere. But I do want to impress upon the Minister of Labour and upon the Government of this country the seriousness of the condition of affairs throughout Canada with regard to the high cost of living as it affects the ordinary common people of this country. When my hon. friend tells me, and I presume seriously, that it is absolutely impossible to reduce the price of coal to be sold and delivered to the common people of the city of St. John and other sections of distribution in my own province in the coming winter for less than $15 or $20 a ton-

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. H. BENNETT:

Would you allow the rich peeple to have it at the same price?

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LIB
CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. H. BENNETT:

My hon. friend is not a demagogue?

~ Mr. COPP: I am not a demagogue. I say on. behalf of the ordinary poor people of this country that if the rich man can afford to [DOT]pay $15 or $20 for coal, I have not the same sympathy with him as I have with the poor people who cannot pay that price. And I can say to the hon.. gentleman, and I say it as sincerely as I ever spoke, that if, during the coming winter, a number of the common people in the city of St. John and the city of Halifax and other cities throughout 'Canada have to pay $15 or $20 a ton for the coal which they burn, they are facing a coal famine in this country; and if they have to pay $15 and $16 and $17 a 'barrel for their flour, they are facing starvation. I still hope that the Minister of Labour and the Government of which he is a responsible member may yet see their

way clear to change their view and do something, The day is not too late and the time not too far spent for them to do something in the interests of the people who must suffer during the coming year unless something is done to decrease the cost of living in Canada. I am not here to talk politics.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Arthur Bliss Copp

Liberal

Mr. OOPP:

No. My hon. friends laugh. L am not here to talk politics in regard to this matter. I am speaking on behalf of men and families under the conditions throughout this country, and I know those conditions and hon. gentlemen opposite know them. I venture to say that there are a number of hon. gentlemen opposite who will agree with me that unless something [DOT]can be done to decrease the cost of living in Canada a very large number of people are .going to feel it and feel it very severely. I do on behalf of these people ask the Minister of Labour and the Government yet to consider carefully if some action cannot be taken that will, in some small degree, assist the people in regard to the reduction of the cost of living.

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June 4, 1917