June 4, 1917

LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

The increase in the price of coal in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada is due, not to the putting up of the price by the coal companies, but to the increase in the cost of transportation, over which the man who produces the coal has no control. The Dominion Coal Company and the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company had steamers carrying their coal at reasonable cost, but these stearqers have been taken from them and the coal is now put on board cars, the man who takes it away paying the cost of transportation. The coal producers should not he blamed for the cost of transportation.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I was speaking of exclusively anthracite coal.

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LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

I understand that even soft coal is extraordinarily expensive in some places. Steps should be taken to yard large quantities of coal at Montreal, St. John and other places. The member for Westmorland points out that a serious condition faces the people in the province of New Brunswick. When a grave condition prevailed in 1905, in the matter of hay, the Government came to the assistance of the people in Nova Scotia by giving them free transportation of hay from Mont-11 p.m. real and other places in the West, for which they were very grateful. I will not object to any expendi-

t.ure the Government may make in an effort to prevent famine. If there is to he conscription of men, no better conscription could be had than that of having the men work in the coal mines and produce enough coal to make the supply plentiful. Ample quantities of coal are available for mining; we have railway facilities under our control, and the question of the supply of coal is not a serious one if properly handled. Pulp, for instance, is no more a natural product of our country than is flour. Everything that enters into the production of pulp is found in our own country, and the same may be said of flour. It was alleged that the price of newsprint had gone beyond a proper figure, and the Government, under the War Measures Act, cut down the price to what the producers of the commodity say is too small a figure. If it is proper to cut down the price of newsprint, why not cut down the price of flour to a proper figure? If they are charging too much for wheat, why not cut down the price? If they are charging too much for milling,- why not cut down the price and enable the people to obtain the staff of life at a reasonable figure? I appeal to the minister on behalf of thousands of coal miners, fishermen, lumbermen and farmers, who cannot get flour without paying $17 a barrel for it. When they were paying $6 and $7 a barrel for flour, the price was regarded as high; I do not know how they will be able to obtain sufficient flour at $17 a barrel. It would not be so bad if the minister could say that he had investigated the price of wheat and the conditions surrounding its milling, transportation and sale, and could announce that it was impossible to sell it at a lower price. But. this is not the case. We, were told not-long ago that over a hundred million bushels of wheat were stored in various places throughout Canada. Before long we shall have a new crop. Is it not extraordinary that with that large quantity of wheat on hand, and with the prospect of another abundant crop in the near future, the price of wheat and flour should be so high? The matter of news print has been dealt with; why not take some steps in the matter of potatoes, flour, butter, fish or any of the other necessaries of life for which we are now paying too much? Why not bring the prices down within the reacn of the poor man; or, at any rate, be able to tell him that we have done the best we could? The evidence submitted by the minister is not enough to satisfy me that proper effort- has been made to make the necessaries of life as ch^ap to the poor

man as possible, under the extraordinary-conditions that now prevail. Arguments advanced in times of peace, plenty, happiness and contentment, are not applicable to these terms of stress and strain. Action-on the part of the Government must be suited to present conditions. The people must be protected, even if, after the war is over, we should have to pay the men from whom we took the wheat, flour and other commodities for the benefit of the people. But do not let there be any suffering amongst the labouring classes and the poorer classes in this country if there is anything in the power of Parliament and of the people that can divert that suffering or produce better conditions.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The proposition of the hon. member for North Cape Breton that we should get information and lay it before the members of this House and the people of this country is quite a reasonable one. It is only a few months since this Order in Council was passed. I have here a full report regarding the conditions as to the price of sugar, I have another in regard to anthracite coal, and perhaps my hon. friend heard me say that we had in process of preparation other reports concerning flour, the canneries and cold storage. I am going to lay all these on the Table; others will follow just as soon as we can have them completed, and we shall secure a great deal of useful information from every one of these reports.

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LIB

William Stewart Loggie

Liberal

Mr. LOGGIE:

When the minister was telling us about the price of anthracite coal, I understood him to say that the reason for coal being so much dearer at St. John was the fact that the coastwise freight was $5-

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CON
LIB

William Stewart Loggie

Liberal

Mr. LOGGIE:

-and also that coal was very dear at New York city. The minister gave that as a reason why coal was so much dearer at St. John than at Montreal. Am I correct?

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CON
LIB

William Stewart Loggie

Liberal

Mr. LOGGIE:

That seems to me rather a far-fetched excuse. I do not doubt as to the facts of a particular case that may have happened in that way, but, as a matter of fact, to take coal from the pit-head to St. John cannot cost but very little more than to take it from the pit-head to Montreal; and if that be true, how can the minister make that an excuse for coal being so much dearer at St. John than at Montreal, if the rail freight from pit-head to St. John is

practically the same as from pit-head to Montreal?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The coal is not taken by rail at all.

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LIB

William Stewart Loggie

Liberal

Mr. LOGGIE:

That can be done. People can buy it at New York. I beg to differ in a way from the minister. As a matter of fact, I know that until last year we never igot a car of anthracite coal in my town; but last year we got anthracite coal by rail, and I cannot see why anthracite coal cannot *be laid down at St. John by rail at practically as low a price as it can be laid down at Montreal. The difference the minister stated as to the values at St. John and Montreal is not real in fact; it may 'be so in some special case, but it is not as to actual value, because there is no good reason for such a difference. The difference in mileage is very small, and there is first-class railway communication west direct from St. John. I therefore cannot understand why there should be any great difference in the cost of haulage between the pit-head and St. John and between the pithead and Montreal.

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CON

John Allister Currie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GURRIE:

The hon. member knows

that the rate from the coal mines in Pennsylvania to Montreal is governed by the water rate from Cleveland to Montreal, and that if he takes coal straight by rail to St. John, the freight is higher. If the hon. member is a shipper, he ought to know that fact.

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LIB

George Perry Graham

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

A little earlier in the

evening a matter came up with reference to the application of the fair wage clause to the Imperial Munitions Board contracts, and some hon. members wish to discuss that question. As the only way we can discuss it is by keeping an item open, I would suggest that we let all go through except one.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Leave the last one.

Progress reported.

On the motion of Hon. Mr. Rogers the House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.

Tuesday, June 5, 1917.

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June 4, 1917