I am speaking now of the securing of potatoes in ample time for-planting; this letter was received about four weeks ago. I had similar communications from Nova Scotia. One man wrote me that he had purchased 100 bushels for seeding purposes at $1.50 a bushel. This shows that the course suggested would not have been a wise one. Speaking generally, I think that any Government should go slowly in the matter of fixing arbitrary or maximum prices or imposing embargoes. Such courses should not be followed unless the necessities of the case are abundantly clear. My hon. friend referred to the United States. While the United States has appointed a food controller, Mr. Hoover, they have not taken any definite action; they have not even got their legislation through. The Secretary of Agriculture for the United States, with whom I have been in constant touch, kept me informed of all the proposed legislation and all their discussions, which I have followed with a great deal of interest. Mr. Houston himself said in the course of his remarks that he regarded the fixing of minimum and maximum prices as a course so important that it should only be employed as a very last resort. So far from exercising those powers in the United States,
they have not even obtained them. They are asking, however, for very large powers, and rightly so. As my hon. friend says, we are living in abnormal times, and it is well that these powers should be in existence so that the remedy may be available when it is shown to be absolutely necessary under certain conditions. After all, we are all striving for the same thing-not to discourage production. The cost of production has gone up 100, 150 and 200 per cent, and it is vital to the future of Canada that no producer be discouraged in his efforts. At the same time, I know that every member is desirous also of trying to secure the best conditions for the consuming population, who are facing hard times, and to eliminate wild speculation or manipulation-which, I think, does not exist to the extent that some people think it does. In regard to the imposition of these arbitrary measures, any Government should move very slowly if they are going to move at all.
The minister speaks of the necessity of encouraging the producer. Would he say that this was not more than a reasonable encouragement to a flour manufacturer? I Tead from the statement of the Minister of Finance on page 1957 of Hansard, where he says that the Government tax for the year 1915, when the tax was only 25 per cent of the excess profits, was $380,000 on one milling company. According to that, the excess profits of this flour milling company, after allowing for their earning the usual dividend of 7 per cent on all their investments, would be $1,520,000. Does the minister think that is an ordinary profit which ought to be encouraged? The . minister says that he is informed that the price of potatoes has gone down to $1.50 a bushel. Just the other day in my own oity 'seed potatoes cost $8 per barrel. I bought some seed potatoes for myself, and I have the bill for them.
informed that speculators are going through the different counties and buying up the crop of potatoes before they are taken out of the earth. If that be the case, the Government should stop that speculating. These speculators are also contracting for supplies of eggs, and they will control the
prices in the fall. The minister says that it is our duty to encourage the farmers; it is not the farmer who received the profit; it is those speculators who start six months ahead and gather in all that the country will grow and then fix the price. That is what is going on in Montreal, and the minister should take note of what I have just said, and if it be true, he should stop that speculation. The minister says that the dealers are now trying to sell the potatoes at $1.50 per bag. They were holding the stock, and would not give us a bushel of potatoes unless we paid $4 a bag. From twenty-five to fifty cars of potatoes were allowed to freeze on the tracks at Montreal because the dealers preferred to have them freeze to lowering the prices. I do not want to throw the blame on the Government, but they should stop this speculation for the coming crop.
I would suggest to the mayor of Montreal that he should follow the example of the mayor of New York, who now, I notice through the press of New York, is offering one dollar per bushel for all the potatoes that can be grown in the state of New York, so that he can sell direct to the consumer in New York potatoes at a reasonable price.
That price may seem fairly high, but that is what the mayor of New York is offering. As regards the price of coal, when hard coal is sold in the city of St. John at $14 a ton, but I would like to know, and I have not heard through this discussion, any suggestion as to how this Government can control the price of coal. We buy that coal in the United States, and regardless of what the mayor of Montreal may. say, the Government of the United States have so far not attempted to control the price of coal in that country. I am a very large buyer of coal for manufacturing institutions with which I am connected, in particular one in my own town where we use about five carloads of soft coal a week, and to-day we are advised to buy that coal now and not wait until later to buy it, because, if we do, we shall have to pay a much higher price for it. It costs us 35 cents per ton to deliver soft coal from the mines of Pennsylvania to our town, and that coal is costing us to-day in the neighbourhood of $9 a ton, over $8 anyway. How can this Government control the price and give us our coal cheaper? We used to buy that coal at $2.60 a ton. The price is controlled by the mine owners
of the United States, and the United States Government has not interfered with them in any way so that I cannot see how this Government can be held responsible for the price of coal in Canada. Will the mayor of Montreal or the hon. member for St. John tell us that the local dealers are charging exorbitant prices for coal and making exorbitant profits?
I do not think any one on this side of the House has argued that the Government can control the cost of coal in the United States, but it has been suggested by some hon. members that the dealers in Montreal and other cities have been charging more than is fair. Whether that is true or not, I do not know; my complaint has always been that the Government ought to build vessels for the coastal trade of Canada.
not laugh at that. That is a pretty serious matter and ought to be attended to. I only state it because the Minister of Labour said that he would investigate the situation. Before very long, the United States Government will take charge of the coal produced in that country. We, on this side of the House, are arguing that it is the duty of this Government to take control of the necessaries of life, particularly those which are produced in Canada, such as flour
I think I understood the argument of hon. gentlemen opposite correctly and I understand that they are complaining of the price of coal in Canada. The hon. member for Montreal, St. Mary's (Mr. Martin), complains that in the city of Montreal coal is being sold at too high a price. The hon. member for St. John (Mr. Pugsley) has raised the same argument, but at the same time-and I hope it was not on account of the votes of the coal dealers-he said that he did not think that the coal dealers were charging too much.
The price of coal is regulated by the price at the mine and the freight added to that, and I doubt if there is a coal dealer in Montreal to-day who is making over fifty cents or a dollar a ton profit on the coal he. sells. I am not speaking of the coal sold in 25 or 50 pound lots
I think we should be absolutely fair in this House whoever happens to be in power,
and not try to raise questions to influence the minds of the consumers when there is absolutely no reason for it. We have no control over the price of coal at the mines, and hon. gentlemen opposite know that just as well as we do, but the question is being discussed in this House day after day. I agree with the Minister of Agriculture that in order to get our farmers to produce more grain and grow root crops they must be encouraged, and you cannot encourage them by stepping in and controlling prices. I represent a farming constituency, and I believe the farmers of this country are entitled to the world's markets for the products of the farm. It is not all fair sailing for the farmers of this country. How about the thousands of acres of fall wheat that were ploughed up last year and which brought nothing to the farmer? How about the fall wheat in Ontario today that will not show over 50 or 60 per cent of a crop? Farmers are entitled to every cent they can get for the products of their farm.
That is a very good price, but if cheese is worth 25 cents a pound they deserve to get it. They are entitled to the price the world's markets give them for cheese. If you are going to control the product of the farm you must also control the product of the mine and factory, and if you are going to do that you must control wages.