This work could very well occupy the best minds of this House for many months instead of a few weeks, for the ramifications of every branch of industry are such that weeks might be taken to cover all the details of one industry alone.
I submit that the committee made a serious and earnest effort to follow up some branches, and a great deal of information was obtained. The net result of it, to my mind, is that any profiteering that is going on in this country is not general, but is isolated. I do not think, there is any one industry, so far as our investigation went, that could be charged with the general practice of profiteering. We discovered that one industry is conducted efficiently, and another ia conducted inefficiently; one consequently makes more profit than the other. One will sometimes make a profit running up to 30 per cent. That might be called profiteering. As- a matter of fact, it was not, but the owner had greater efficiency and worked longer hours, and therefore produced more goods. When it came to boiling it down, his profit on the turn-over was not any greater, or as great in some instances, as that of the man who made very much less. Let me illustrate my point in this way: WTe had the director of the Experimental Farm before us and he gave us this evidence. He said: There are some farmers in this country keeping twenty cows, and they will get from each of those cows about
5.000 pounds of milk a year. There are other farmers in the same county or township with twenty cows who will get from each of those cows 10,000 pounds of milk a year. Manifestly the man who is getting
10.000 pounds of milk from each cow is going to make a good deal more money than the man who is getting only 5,000 pounds. He has the same labour cost, the same capital expenditure for barns and all that kind of thing; of course, he has to buy a little more feed and has a better grade of cows. But the one is an efficient farmer and the other is an inefficient farmer. And I submit that as long as human nature is what it is efficiency will always make a higher profit than inefficiency. We had the same thing illustrated in the case of butter. One man operate ing a creamery down on Lake Ontario was able to induce the farmers of the neighbourhood of Renfrew, where there is a competing creamery, to put their butterfat on the railway car and send it down to him at Belleville. He also drew butterfat for his butter from Trenton, and there is a creamery at Trenton. Now, manifestly that man operating at Belleville is a much more
efficient man than his competitors at Renfrew and Trenton, because he satisfies the men who produce the butterfat, and he satisfies his customers, for he has a sale for every pound of butter as soon as he makes it, while other creamery men testified to us that they had considerable quantities on hand. That man had a small capital, but he made a very large return upon it. Are you going to penalize him and call him a profiteer because he has extraordinary efficiency and brain power and exceptional industry and works long hours in order to produce a large profit on his business? I submit that that kind of man should get the praise of the people, not their scorn and their blame. No committee that this House may appoint can possibly go into the details of the various lines of business connected with the necessaries of life and get out the facts in isolated cases where there is profiteering.
We had a great deal of evidence to convince me that those who produce on the farms of this country are on the average earning a very small wage-revenue for the work they do. I think the Guelph College made a survey of the whole county of Oxford and reported that the average wage-revenue of the farmer was $1,200. A man can come into the city of Ottawa and make $1,400 or $1,500 a year running a street car. So that the average farmer is not making what he ought to make. But individual farmers are making a considerable revenue, due, perhaps, to a large capital being employed and to greater efficiency in operating the farm. But that greater efficiency should not be penalized; it is something for which the man should be praised, not blamed, as I said before. I think there is something to be done, Mr. Speaker, to familiarize the people with the fact I am trying to bring out-that if there is profiteering in Canada to-day, it is in isolated instances, and it is due to exceptional genius on the part of the man who is conducting the industry.
The outcry about profiteering and the unrest that is the consequence of it is due largely to what has happened during .the last three or four years. Men who have been making munitions, clothing for the army, and other necessaries of war, have made enormous fortunes. But these men had been urged by the Imperial Government to operate their plants at double time, and they worked two and sometimes three shifts a day. There were factories in this country which were working not eight hours, but twenty-four hours a day; and a man whose plant was operating twenty-
four hours a. day would surely make a great deal more money than a man whose plant was operating only eight hours a day, because his output would he three times as large. Under these conditions the making of large fortunes was inevitable. This condition of affairs does not exist to-day and will not exist in the future. I doubt very much whether large fortunes are being made in any industry of this country today. As I say, there may be isolated instances, but no branch of industry has been making anything like the profits that were made during the last few years and which were due entirely to the fact that the men engaged in these industries were urged to speed up production.
The Finance Minister (Sir Thomas White) tells us in his Budget speech that the only solution for our present troubles is more production-produce and save. If a man follows that advice and exercises all his talents in the operation of his industry, whether it be a farm, a planing mill or an implement factory, he is to be commended for it. The law takes care of his excess profits. There is no such incentive now to make large profits as there was a short time ago. I believe that men should be advised and urged at this particular time to produce to the very limit of the capacity of their plants. The world is short of everything that people want-of clothing, of boots and shoes, of wheat, of butter, of other necessaries of life. Only one thing will restore normal conditions, and that is production -over-production, if that is possible-production to the last limit of our capacity. That mdans more profit, and it comes from greater efficiency. I submit that if out of the stress and strain of the last four years and out of the necessities of the present time we can learn to operate our businesses, whether they be agriculture or manufacturing or the working of the natural resources of the country, at a higher rate of efficiency, we shall be on the high road to prosperity and to the removal of all the unrest that, exists. That man who to-day has the means and the genius to operate his plant on two shifts instead of one is a public benefactor. He employs twice as many men; he is entitled to just twice as much profit, and as a public benefactor he should be encouraged. I believe that the people, whether they be farmers or manufacturers or mechanics in the workshops of our cities, are willing to meet all the taxes that the country imposes upon them, provided those taxes are within the bounds of reason. The Canadian people as a whole want to get
to work with a view to bringing the country back to normal conditions; only an isolated individual is looking for excessive profits.
As to this Bill, I think-and my conclusion is based upon a very serious and earnest examination of the facts-that the people are looking for a measure such as this, and the sooner it is enacted the better it will be for the country. It will have a splendid effect upon the morale of the people. If any man has a grievance, he will be able to take it to the Court of Commerce [DOT]and have it adjusted. I disagree with the view of the member for Kent (Mr. McCoig) with regard to the desirability of appointing a public prosecutor, though I recognize the sincerity of his view and admit that there is some force in it. But a public prosecutor takes a profiteer before a court of justice where all the rules of evidence are strictly adhered to; where clever counsel are able to impose barriers in the way of getting at the very evidence that may be necessary in order to bring about a removal of the grievance complained of. One of the Bills before us is to create a tribunal after the type of the Railway Board before which any citizen can appear, state his grievance and have it adjudicated. He can go before that board without engaging expensive counsel; he can make this own case and fight it out, and get not law, but justice. The equity of the case will be considered; the rules of evidence will not be used to prevent the bringing out of all the facts. If this measure is put into effect it will be an intimation to the people that Parliament is doing what it can to reduce the cost of living. I very much doubt whether this Parliament is able to reduce the cost of living; I very much doubt whether any agency in this or any other country can reduce the cost of living at the present time. World-wide conditions are operating to raise prices, and these conditions cannot be done away with merely by enacting a statute or establishing a court; they can only be settled by the people getting back to work and economizing. Our trouble, is on the one hand, a desire-on the part of men who work to cut the working day in half, or pretty nearly in half, and on the other hand a desire on the -part of others to indulge in all kinds of extravagance. While either of these conditions prevails the cost of living, will continue to be up to its present level, or will even go higher. The people have to be educated to the fact that nothing will bring us back to normal conditions tout in-
dustry and economy; and I think it would be worth while if a greater effort were made to acquaint the people with the truth of that general principle. But, while that is a proper thing to do, the appointment of a tribunal such as this, a tribunal that will enable any citizen to have his case investigated, will remove ninety-five per cent of the dissatisfaction, of the grouching, that is going on, and of the causes of complaint against Government and against Parliament. For these reasons I am a supporter of these Bills 'and hope that they will be adopted by the House.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to clear up a point raised by the member for Kent (Mr. McCoig) as to the action of the Chairman of the Special Committee in ruling out some motion which he presented for the calling of witnesses in regard to the tractor industry. My recollection is that the hon-gentleman, on the first day that the committee met, submitted a motion that certain witnesses be called from Winnipeg to give testimony with regard to certain tractors which were imported into that city.
The method which the committee was adopting was to plan out in regular order and sequence the character of the inquiry which, as the time was very limited, had to be very carefully considered, and the first point upon which they were agreed was that nothing but the necessaries of life, such as the production of butter, eggs, meat, etc., should be investigated first, and there was no attempt on the part of the chairman nor any of the members of the committee to have the hon. member's motion ruled out of order, and it was not ruled out of order-
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I take exception to the statement of the hon. member. My resolution was ruled out of order. The minutes of the committee have been censored, and everything that was said in connection with that matter has been eliminated from the report, and the hon. member cannot deny that.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I wish to state further that the sittings of the committee were carried on without any party bias of that kind until it was introduced by two hon. gentlemen who, I might say, did not attend the sessions of that committee as frequently as they might have done, so that they might have heard all that was going on. I am heartily in sympathy with this Bill. I have followed the proceedings of the committee very carefully, having attended, with few exceptions, every session the committee has held. I heard the. evidence that was produced in connection with every phase of the work this committee has undertaken, and I do not need to say that the committee has worked exceedingly hard. When you consider that the whole domestic trade of the Dominion of Canada is confided to the oare of a Board of Commerce such as is proposed in this Bill, I feel that it is of vast importance that a measure such as this should be carried into effect at once. The sum of all the evidence which we have heard from any man who appeared before the committee was in favour of the establishment of such a board. These men were men who might be affected by the operations of this board, but they felt that, in justice to themselves and to the business which they conducted, such a board should be created, because they were subjected to unjust criticism which could be cleared up by an independent hoard which would investigate these cases and decide upon them upon their merits. For that reason I am in entire accord with this Bill. If there is one subject which is agitating the minds of the people of Canada at the present time, it is this question of so-called profiteering. I am in accord with a great deal that has been said by the hon. member for Toronto East (Mr. Hocken), that the statements which have been given out as to unjust profiteering have not been borne out by the facts which have been brought out in committee. But that is all the more reason why a board, such as is contemplated in this Bill, should be established for the very purpose of protecting the men who are engaged in the industries of this country and giving them a fair chance to allow their initiative and enterprise to be properly rewarded. I do not wish to delay the House any further; I hope that, even though this session is nearly closed, the members will realize the importance of this Bill being passed and the value which it will be to the people of Canada.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I did not wish to speak on this question tonight until we got into Committee, as there are some clauses in the Bill which I do not quite agree with, hut I was very much surprised to hear the attack made by the hon. member for Kent (Mr. MeOoig) on the chairman of the committee. I have been sitting on committees ever since I have been in this House, and very frequently on special committee, and I have never sat under a fairer chairman.
Mr. MoCQIG: In reference to my criticism of the chairman for ruling my resolution out of order, was my hon. friend (Mr. Nesbitt) present iri the committee at that time?
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I can only repeat that we met with nothing but the utmost courtesy from the chairman of the committee from start to finish. I never saw a chairman or a member of any committee who worked more earnestly or industriously for the cause he had before him than the chairman of this committee, and I think it is nothing but right-and I would not havd spoken otherwise- to make that statement. I have the greatest possible respect for the way in which the chairman handled the committee and also for his views in reference to the matter. Let me say one word with reference to the draft Bill that was presented to the committee. There is no secret about this draft Bill; the Bill was, I understand, drafted by Mr. O'Connor some time ago, I believe a year or more ago. I am not saying that is correct; but, although I have not compared the draft Bill with these two Bills, there is no doubt that the tenor is very similar. As regards, however, the draft Bill having any influence upon the committee, I can speak only for myself, but the mere fact of the draft Bill being presented by Mr. O'Connor did not influence me in the slightest degree in my views with regard to the creation of a Board of Commerce.
The hon. member for Kent (Mr. McCoig) asked me if I was present at the time his resolution was moved out of order. When he spoke, I wondered to myself whether I was present or not. There were some meetings of the committee at which I was not present, but I assure the House there were not many, as the members of the
committee can testify. But I -did not remember, nor do I now remember the chairman ruling out of order a resolution moved by the hon. member for Kent. I remember, however, a resolution or a discussion in committee such as is suggested by the hon. member for
Strathcona (Mr. Douglas;, and further my memory tells me that the reason why the committee was opposed to the proposition made was the reason given by the hon. member for Strathcona, namely, that we must pay the strictest attention to the question of fooodstuffs. It was thought by the members of the committee, the day I was there, that this motion did not pertain directly to the question of foodstuffs, and if I remember correctly, it did pot come within the scope of the order of the House appointing the committee. I may be wrong, but that is my memory of the matter, and I am speaking only from memory.
As to the question of the creation of a Board of Commerce, I did not vote for it, as I stated the other day in the committee, because I thought, like the hon. member for Kent, that the present Food Controller and the Labour Department could be given greater powers, and that would answer the purpose and would be cheaper to the country than the creation of this Board.
I agree with the hon. member for East Algoma (Mr. Nicholson) the hon. member for Strathcona (Mr. Douglas) and the hon. member for West Toronto (Mr. Hocken) that the idea that there is a great deal of profiteering on the part of our manufacturers and commercial men is wrong, but owing to that very feeling perhaps it is wise to appoint this Board, because if they find, as we did, that there is absolutely no foundation in fact for that prevailing idea, it will serve a good purpose. For that reason I shall support the principle of the Bill. When we get into Committee there are some clauses on which I should like to say a few words.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
There has arisen some discussion about certain proceedings before a committee, which I submit has nothing whatever to do with the subject before the House. It is one of those unfortunate offshoots of debate which it is sometimes difficult to prevent. We are considering a motion for the second reading of a Bill to constitute a Board of Commerce for Canada, and I submit that the debate ought properly to be confined to the principle of that Bill. I trust that hereafter
hon. gentlemen will adhere more strictly to the subject.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
hon. member for Strathcona (Mr. Douglas) made two statements which I should think should not pass unnoticed. His first statement was that there was no party spirit in the conduct of this investigation until it was introduced by two hon. members on this side of the House.
'Mr. SPEAKER: I must ask the hon.
gentleman to discuss the question of the principle of Bill No. 166.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I was endeavouring to correct the statement of the hon. member for Strathcona, with reference to the action taken on this side of the House on Bill No. 166. This Bill is for the purpose of con. stituting a Board of Commerce for Canada, in pursuance of the recommendations of the special committee of this House appointed to investigate the causes affecting the high cost of living in this country. We are charged by the hon. member for Strathcona with introducing party spirit into the discussion of this Bill, and the hon. gentleman thinks that this is unfair, particularly on account of what took place in the committee, and in view of the manner in which the chairman of the committee had conducted the proceedings. I do not think that any party spirit was introduced by hon. gentlemen on this side of the House into the discussion of the report of the committee, and we do not intend to introduce any party spirit into the discussion of the merits of this Bill. The rules of the House may prevent me from discussing the report of the Committee, much as 1 should like to correct the statements made by my hon. friend from Strathcona in that regard. Suffice it to say that the report of the Committee was not a partisan report. In the discussion that took place I did nothing more than discuss the merits of the report.
Coming to the Bill before us, it is for the purpose of instituting a Board of Commerce for Canada. The Government wishes to do something to satisfy public opinion in this country. It his high time. It wishes to convey the idea to the people of Canada that . this is a panacea which will cure all evils, the best remedy for all ailments of which the consumers of this country and the people of Canada at large complain. The Board proposed by this Bill is absolutely identical with the Commission suggested two years ago by Mr. O'Connor. The Government have had his report before them for two
years, but they have not acted on it. Is not their refusal to act on that report the best possible evidence that in their opinion this remedy was inadequate? If the remedy was adequate the Government should have acted two years ago. The Government appar ently did not consider that the proper remedy during the war when the main causes of which the people complain were driving up the cost of living, but now the war is over and normal conditions are returning, now that competition and ordinary trade conditions will reduce prices, they would try to satisfy public opinion. As the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) so eloquently said this morning they want to throw dust in the people's eyes and lead them to believe that the Government has saved the situation'. Not only is this remedy inadequate, but it involves a useless expenditure, and I believe it will be a hindrance in the curing of the evil. What is the object of instituting a Board of Commerce as proposed by this Bill? It is proposed that the Board shall investigate. What will it investigate? It will investigate the very conditions that Mr. O'Connor investigated two years ago, the very conditions that Dr. McFall, as chairman of the Commission on the High Cost ol Living under the Labour Department, has been investigating for two years since the resignation of Mr. O'Connor; it will investigate the very conditions that the Special Committee appointed by this House has b.een investigating for over a month. It will disclose nothing that the people of Canada do not know. It will disclose no cases of profiteering which were not pointed out to the Government for months and years. If the Government did not see fit to .adopt the measures which would have stopped profiteering two years ago, is it to be supposed that it will act any differently when those conditions are reported upon by the Board of Commerce for Canada? No, the Government do not intend to act otherwise. A glance at some of the clauses of this Bill will enlighten the House in this respect. What will the Board of Commerce do? It will investigate, it will adjudicate, it will pass orders. Let us see what clause 41 of the Bill provides. I would like the House to give some attention to this clause because it is most important. Section 41 reads:
41. (1) The Governor in Council may, in His discretion, either upon petition of any person interested, lodged within one month after the making of the order, decision, rule or regulation, or within such further time as the hoard under special circumstances may allow.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
It is not my intention to speak at any length on this Bill. Let me say at the outset that I was struck with the statement of the hon. member who has just spoken in the concluding part of his remarks. He complained that the Government has failed for two years to put a measure similar to the one we are at present considering into effect, and now he laments that it is doing so. It reminds one of the old saying:
" You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't." I cannot help thinking that hon. gentlemen opposite have not had their ear to the ground lately, or they would know that there is a public demand throughout the country for this legislation that cannot be trifled with. It may not be possible for us to control prices, but I certainly think it will be possible to control or limit profits, at least to a considerable extent. Whether that can be done or not, the feeling throughout Canada, as I said the other day, is so intense and the country is so aflame with indignation over the profiteering that has taken place, that this Parliament and this Government are in duty bound to make an honest effort to deal with the subject. There is another thing to be noted with regard to. this legislation. As has been pointed out, a law along similar lines has been enacted in Great Britain, and also in New Zealand, and a body similar to the Board of Commerce proposed under this Bill has been in exisfc-ence for years in the United States. These tribunals, I am told, have done very effective work indeed. Everybody will admit that this legislation has been brought
down late in the session, so the coinplaint of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Fielding) in that regard is probably a fair one; but even if that be admitted it is probably the most important legislation that has been submitted to Parliament during the present session. I say, therefore, that even so wise and experienced a public man as the hon. gentleman referred to must see that it is infinitely better that Parliament should sit if necessary for another month, in order that this Bill should become effective. I believe it is in the vital .interests of the country and in the vital interests of the peace and welfare of our people, that this measure should become effective. It may not accomplish all we expect of it, it probably will not, but -I am thoroughly convinced it will go a long way in that direction. After all, stripped of its verbiage, the Bill only provides for a tribunal which will help to carry out the will expressed by Parliament some years ago to put an end to trusts and combines. The people of Canada are thoroughly conversant with that idea and, I fancy, endorsed it when it was first proposed. It should be remembered also that Bill No. 167, which is really part and parcel of the present measure, will have for its object the suppression of combines. Then we have in the measure we are now considering, Bill No. 166, provision for a tribunal to inquire into the profits that are being charged on the necessaries of life, and if those profits are found to be undue and improper, the punishment of the profiteers may follow. As I understand it, that is practically all that is aimed at in the Bills now before the House.
The hon. member for Kent complained 'about the measure and denounced it in unmeasured terms. He was of the opinion that all that would be necessary would be a public prosecutor on the lines that existed some months ago when Mr. W. F. O'Connor occupied that position. I would like to tell the hon. member for Kent and-other hon. members of the House that I discussed to-day this very measure with Mr. O'Connor-who made a universally good impression in his efforts to control prices- and he expressed to me the view that it was a thoroughly effective piece of machinery. There you have the opinion of an expert, of the man best qualified in the whole Dominion perhaps, to express an opinion on a measure of this kind. It is intimated that he had a hand in preparing another Bill along the same lines. So it must be admitted that there is nothing really hasty about the measure. It has been
in the minds of the public for a considerable time, and in the mind of this expert, and he recommends it as the right kind of Bill to deal with the question at issue. Although it is but a brief time since this Bill was introduced, there have been, expressions of opinion throughout the country in regard to it, and, notably in some portions of the press, and these expressions of opinion are quite favourable to the measure. I will read a brief paragraph from the Hamilton Spectator. All members of the House *who know anything about our press will agree that the Spectator is perhaps one of the most admirably conducted publications in Western Ontario. It says in part:
The establishment of this board is a most gratifying move; but everything will turn upon the strength and fearlessness of its personnel. It should be composed of men of outstanding integrity, ability and experience, who would share to the full the confidence of the public in whose interests it has been formed, -Especially should this be so in the case of the appointment of the chairman, upon whom, in the main, the ultimate utility of the commission will depend. If he be a man of proven courage and impartiality, the success of the 'board is assured. If, on the other hand, he be weak and vacillating, the commission will only prove an additional waste of public funds, and a further aggravation of existing discontent. It is not a Job for a political protege. The public will eagerly watch all further developments, in the hope that the board' will turn out to be the agency of relief which has been so long and ardently awaited.
I want to reiterate what I said on t.he floor the other day in connection with this matter, that if the Government thinks for one moment of appointing political protegees, hangers on or heelers, it might just as well drop the project now. In that case the time of Parliament would be absolutely wasted. The country will not stand for any but the highest type of men, and none but the very best should be appointed. As I said the other day, the consumers, the people who suffer, should have the nomination of at least one member. It may be desirable that a judge of probity, of proved integrity and of good reputation should be the presiding officer; but the, other two members must be business men, and the best business men that can be found,-men who are known to sympathize with the people, men whose hearts beat true to the ideal of public service. Many of our commissions in the past have been farces of the worst type, and thousands, if not millions, of dollars of the people's money has been literally squandered on them. No wonder there is great public contempt for such commissions and opposition to the creation of any more of a similar character.
Many of those already existing might verj well be abolished, as, indeed, this commission after it has done its work might conceivably be dispensed with.
One other point in regard to the charge that there has been undue haste, and that the whole country should have an opportunity to discuss this measure and that all interests should be notified an order that they might be present to offer their opinions. I am not so sure that the idea of putting this Bill through even hurriedly, as charged is an unmixed evil. We do not want (the corridors of this Parliament filled with all sorts of lobbyists on behalf of "the Interests." Surely the representatives of the people have the ability themselves to settle what is best in the public interest, and the absence of the lobbyist, I think, is one of the 'best things that could occur.
I repeat, if it is necessary, the matter with which w'e are dealing is of such deep interest to the country and to the people at large, that even if this Hbuse were kept in session another two- weeks it would be well worth while in order that this "Bill may become law and an honest effort made to gratify the aspirations and demands of the masses.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
Mr. Speaker, representing hs I do a portion of the city of Winnipeg, which within the last few weeks has suffered a financial loss and set-back without parallel in any other urban community of the Dominion, I feel that I may say just a few words in connection with these measures. It is my profound conviction that it is the desire of a large portipn of the citizens of Winnipeg that just such measures as are embraced in these Bills shall become law, and that at once. At the present moment there' is a condition of unemployment which may not wholly be remedied, I think, without in any way being a pessimist, when snow flies. Consequently at the moment Winnipeg probably is thinking more deeply upon this subject than any other of our cities, and although I am perfectly frank to admit that statements which have been made in this House during the currency of this session commend themselves very forcibly to me as regards what the situation really is in connection with the increased cost of living, wherefrom it arises, and what are likely to be the only remedies therefor, yet I have the belief that the expenditure which will be entailed if these Bills are put into force will be justified to the very fullest possible extent, because I think it
will give an opportunity of putting the people's minds at rest, if that which they believe to be the case is found on investigation not to be far-reaching, -but which as the member for Toronto said, probably prevails only in a limited number of cases and not in large volume. Therefore, I think that the legislation will be thoroughly justified within a very short passage of time after the machinery is made effective and active work is taken up under it.
Personally, I share the belief very thoroughly which has been expressed several times in this House, that the things most required to meet the existing conditions in our country are hard work-that character of hard work which in all the activities of our country will lead to greater and to cheaper production and economy. I fear that if we really get down to brass tables and consider the situation as we individually know it to be, and if we deal honestly with ourselves we must recognize that fact that to a very large extent those are the two things which seem at the moment to be most distasteful to the people of Canada, and which at the moment they seemingly are not prepared to adopt.
After all, we might just as well speak what is honestly in our minds when we are dealing with a subject of this kind; and I fear that what will really bring the pfeople of this country down to hard work and to economy will be the coming on, possibly at no distant date, of a larger measure of unemployment, and consequently, a larger measure of hardship. Nothing gets the people down to work like hard times. .None of us wish to see hard times, but in all human probability the problems which confront us in connection with getting the country back to normal conditions will not be squarely faced until the hard taskmaster of necessity causes the people to get down to hard facts.
So -far as the western farmer is concerned, I have no fear whatever of the outcome of any investigation into the high cost of living. I had long been profoundly convinced that for some years prior to the breaking out of the war the farmers of the three prairie provinces, taken as a whole, had not been receiving an adequate return for their labour and invested capital. That was my belief in those days, and I have never had reason to change it. It is true that during the last few years, when the prices of all agricultural products went up because of the great demand arising out of the war, certain districts of the West where
the climatic and other conditions were favourable prospered exceedingly. But 1 regret to say that the anticipation of all of us who come from the West is that in the current year the farmers in that country will experience a feast and a famine, as in previous years; in other words, that while certain districts will prosper exceedingly, others, whose weather conditions have been destructive of crops, will suffer exceedingly. I believe that if you deal with the western country as a whole and pool the results obtained by all the farmers there, notwithstanding what has been said time and again in the eastern portions of Canada with regard to the excess profits of the western farmers, it will be found that although agricultural conditions have been improved during the period of high prices, the average return to the farmers in those provinces has not been unduly large. What our people desire is that there shall be an adequate, honest and effective investigation of the wide spread which exists in respect of many foood products between the cost of production and the price paid by the consumer. I do not really believe that in the great majority of cases the people can point just to where undue profits are accruing to those who handle food products; I do not think they can put their finger on the particular place in that spread where the large profit is really made. As to other articles which the people of the West buy, they feel the same way. They wish to [DOT] know whether the manufacturer does or does not get such a profit as entitles him to be designated as a profiteer; they wish to know whether those who are the intermediaries between the manufacturer and the consumer derive such profits as to justify the application to them of the term profiteer. I know the feelings of the people of my own city, particularly that portion of it which I have the honour to represent, and I think I can say without being doubtful on the subject that the effective carrying out of such legislation as this is what the great majority of our people strongly desire. I admit that the fixing of prices with a view to safeguarding the consumer and the enacting of legislation with a view to bringing down the cost of living may not be found to be absolutely effective, but I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that they will be effective to a very considerable extent and that such legislation as this will go a long way towards satisfying the people.
The suggestion that this as camouflage, or that it is legislation of an opportunist character is, in my opinion, not worthy of reply.
The present time is the appropriate time for the enactment of such a law as this. After the passing of the first period of the war, in which there was unemployment, and, consequently, considerable distress, we entered upon a period of prosperity which was recognized as more or less artificial. There was a large and continuous demand for manufactured and natural products; these products were needed badly and needed quickly, and the prices were such as are always created under conditions of that kind. So there was a period of prosperity which unquestionably was shared largely, particularly in Eastern Canada, by all the working people. It is a question whether those who enjoyed the very high wages which were paid exercised a proper degree of thrift or saved as much as they should have saved. But the fact was that the pinch of want was not felt, and until comparatively recently there was no lack of employment.
The line of demarcation can clearly and reasonably bedrawn between the full measure of employment and the high wages enjoyed prior to the armistice and the period upon which we have now entered. That is, to my mind, a most reasonable manner of regarding this subject, seeing that the distress is exhibiting itself because the people desire that not only their views as to hours and conditions of labour shall be met, but that their wages shall be continued on the scale and to the extent that they enjoyed during those times of great prosperity tinged with a large measure of artificiality owing to the continuance of the war. That is, of course, the great trouble at the moment. There is, to my mind, nothing which will be of more value than if it .can be shown that either no large volume of evil exists in the way of profiteering or that, if such large volume does exist, there shall be the machinery created and made effective for absolutely bringing it to an end. For that reason I support the Bill. -
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
Mr. Speaker, the acting Minister of Justice (Mr. Meighen), in introducing this Bill, stated that it was as a result of the report brought in by the committee appointed by Parliament a short time ago to investigate the causes of the high cost of the necessaries of life in this country. As I am almost the only member of the committee who has not spoken upon the subject, I should like to say a few words with regard to the matter, particularly so in view of the fact that, when the interim
report was made, I was not of the opinion that it was advisable at that .stage to recommend the appointment of a commission such as is provided for in this Bill. I regret very much, in view of the importance of the facts which were elicited by the committee, that it was not appointed earlier in the session. That however, was unavoidable, and the committee have been very diligently endeavouring to '**ascertain who were reaping the profits in the spread between the old prices and the new. I regret very much that a wrong impression has got abroad throughout the country as regards the evidence adduced by the committee. The press of this country can and does reach the people as no other medium can, and I believe it could, if it desired to do so, allay a great deal of the unrest that prevails in Canada at the present time by putting the evidence in the case squarely before the people. It was clearly demonstrated by the evidence brought out that many of the large industries of this country, instead of being iwhat might be termed profiteers, were, although they were earning substantial dividends, putting their goods into the hands of the consumers of this country at a remarkably low cost of production. There were the milling companies, the shoe manufacturers and the packers, and I doubt if there are within the confines of Canada three other industries conducted on a small scale that are doing their work so efficiently and economically as are those industries who are, on the whole, charging the people less for the work they are dioing than is the case in connection with the other industries which I have mentioned. Let us' take the shoe industry as an example. A manufacturer from an Ontario city stated under oath that the profit on a shoe that, I believe, they sold to the retailer for ?4.50 per pair, was nine cents per pair, and that they could manufacture them at that margin of profit and make money in doing so. It is remarkable that the retailer was selling this shoe for $8 per pair, as his profit on commissions in handling this same pair of shoes upon which the manufacturer received a profit of nine cents. That matter should have been clearly placed before the people of this country. Instead of an endeavour being made to libel people who are putting their money into important industries in this country and characterizing them as profiteers, the blame should be placed where it properly belongs. The same thing could be said with regard to the manufacturers of flour in Canada.
The evidence adduced shows that they were producing flour at a cost to the consumer of about. seventeen or eighteen cents per barrel, which was surely a reasonable profit. The evidence adduced by a manager and others connected with some of the large packing houses of this country showed that their profits in connection with meat was about one-quarter of one cent per pound or something in the neighbourhood of one and a half per cent on the turnover. I do not believe that the Canadian people realize or appreciate what the packing industries in this country are doing for them.
I may be told that they have put local butchers out of business. In many instances that is true, but why is it true? Because they are able to hang the beef and pork on the hooks in the butcher's shop at a cheaper rate than the butcher can put it there. That is the reason Why these big industries have been built up in this country, and they are doing the people a service that they little appreciate. It was pointed out that the Swifts of Chicago are in charge of the stockyards at Toronto. We had evidence not from a butcher but from a retailer of meat at Toronto, who stated that a butcher could not go into the Toronto stockyards and1 buy animals there to be slaughtered and that the farmers had to sell to the commission men. That information was sent broadcast throughout this country, although it was contradicted in the committee when that witness was present, and it was unqualifiedly denied afterwards and proved to be absolutely without foundation.
I may say at the outset that I am not very much in favour of commissions; my experience with commissions in this country during the last few years is not such as to cause me to place a great deal of confidence in them. But we are asked to appoint a board with powers defined in the Bill now before the House with a view to allaying the unrest that has been created throughout the country. The Acting Minister o-f Justice in introducing the Bill stated that there was an insistent demand for something of this nature and it was demonstrated by the evidence before the committee that many important bodies in this country were petitioning for something along this line. There is no gainsaying the fact that there has been a very great increase in the cost of living in Canada since the beginning of the war. When the war began, it was necessary to speed up all the industries that were contributing material necessary towards the winning of
the war, regardless of what wages would have to be paid in order to bring that about, and high wages were paid to workers in order that we might win the war which was the first and paramount consideration. The workers earned wages during the continuance of the war, particularly in the early stages, such as they had never earned in their lives before. Farmers received for their products prices such as they had never received before. As a result of all those things, labour was drawn from many of the necessary avocations of life under peace conditions and turned into war channels. Is it then, any wonder that to-day we are living under abnormal conditions?
Conditions are abnormal. There is a feeling of unrest prevailing throughout this country, and I believe it is the duty of this House and of each individual member, and particularly of the press, to put the case straight before the people and not endeavour to mislead them in any degree. I am satisfied that there is a time coming, and in the near future, when, it will be necessary for the people to buckle down to work as they have never done before, and to realize it is only by hard labour they are going to overcome the difficulties with which we are confronted. Neither the Government, nor commissions, nor officials of the Government, can do very much in that regard. The matter is in the hands of the people themselves, and the sooner they realize that it is by hard labour, longer hours and the sweat of their brow that they are going to overcome their difficulties the better it will be for all concerned. I do not believe that it is in the interest of the country that we should say or do anything in which we have not absolute confidence. I for one do not believe that any great benefits are going to come from the appointment of any such board as is proposed by this Bill. I believe that the matter rests entirely in the hands of the people themselves, and the sooner they realize their responsibility the better it will be for all concerned. There is one class in the country that points to another class as profiteers. I was sorry to hear even my hon. friend the leader of the Opposition, when speaking on the Bill this afternoon, refer to the manufacturers of this country and the princes of industry as he called them as having made gentlemen's agreements by which they were fixing prices. It is true that some manufacturers in this country did make very great profits in their business during the war, but do not overlook the fact thaJt the markets were on the
rise continually, and some of these men had the foresight to purchase large quantities of raw material, and as a result of their foresight they reaped very great profits, indeed.
I was surprised at some references the hon. member for Lotbiniere (Mr. Vien) made to the shoe manufacturers. The tariff, he said, was the only obstacle in the way of having a desirable condition of affairs in this country, and he referred to the shoe manufacturers, and to one firm in particular located in the city of St. Thomas, with a branch in the United States. Why did he not tell the whole story? Why did he not tell us that the parent concern had been located in the United States for many, many years, and that it was by reason of our tariff that this firm established itself in the city of St. Thomas? Why did he not tell the House that the profits of that concern in St. Thomas last year were under $500, that for a number of years they had no profits at all, but a deficit. That was the condition of affairs in connection with this particular concern. I believe the people are entitled to know what came out before the committee. Very important evidence came out, and it is unfair to state that all manufacturers in this country who have been carrying on during the war and employing large numbers of men at high wages should to-day be dubbed profiteers and be looked upon as robbing the poor people of this country. I believe that in nine out of ten cases you will find that the very large profits were made by purchasing large quantities of raw material on a low market, which enabled the manufacturers to sell their product later on at a very great profit. There is one thing in that connection that I wish to refer to, and that is the income tax, and the excess profits tax, from which a very large amount of revenue was derived from these concerns. Where are you going to get your revenue? We have to have it. We have an enormous ..debt as a result of the war which we have just passed through, a war that has saved this country to the people of Canada, and it is a debt that we ought to face with gladness and gratitude in our hearts. Instead of inciting the people to rebellion and forming organizations with a view to preventing the industries of this country from carrying on, I say that we ought to lend our hearty support to the Government in the most difficult days that any government has had to face. I believe that the next two
years will possibly be the most difficult this country has ever experienced, and if this Bill is going to satisfy the people of this country I am not going to stand in the way of its passage, but I want to place myself on record as one who does not believe that the Bill is going to accomplish what many people expect of it. I believe that the labourers of this country, in cutting down the hours of labour and clamouring for higher pay at this stage in our history, are doing the very thing that is going to defeat the object they have in, view.
I want to say a word with reference to the criticisms that have been made by hon. gentlemen opposite of the chairman of the Cost of Living Committee. One of the first things that the committee undertook to ascertain was the cost of food supplies in this country, and with a view to doing that we brought before the committee those who might be supposed to be the best informed with regard to that matter. It was settled conclusively that there is no class of people in this country to-day who are working for a smaller wage than the farmers of Canada. That was clearly established by expert evidence as a result of careful investigation, so no further reference need have been made to it. I was very sorry indeed to hear. the Chairman of that committee, who was absolutely fair, and worked very hard indeed to bring out all the evidence that was possible, charged with ruling out certain matters that the hon. member for Kent wished to introduce. It was only for the time being, because we were following up a certain line of investigation at that time.
I do not intend to detain the House longer. As iso many other members of the committee had spoken on the Bill I thought in justice to myself I should say a word or two. I believe that these two Bills, Nos. 166 and 167, are so closely interwoven that they might well be considered together. If the people want a new toy and are bound to have it, and they think this is going to satisfy them, I am not going to stand in the way of their getting it, but personally I have not very much faith in this Bill accomplishing what many people expect of it. I do not believe you can afford to eliminate competition or fix prices. I believe that in order to bring the best to the surface you have to have honest competition in every walk of life. You have it in the schoolroom; the first thing the pupil encounters in the school is competition. As soon as competition is eliminated you may rest assured that you have reached
the stage where apathy and decay is bound to creep in.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
I am rising more for information than anything else. As I understand it, this board is to appointed for the purpose of investigating combines if they exist, and to ascertain whether there is excessive profiteering.
There are three different classes or kinds of profiteering. There is the concern which has made large profits and paid large dividends, not because of a large margin of profit, but because of the volume of business that it has, done. To this class of profiteering I do not think any person should take exception. If a concern has done a very large volume of business on a very close margin, if it has made large profits and consequently is able to pay large dividends on the invested capital, I do not see where there can be any very serious criticism, or how the high cost of living can be attributed to that class of profits. But there is another class of profiteering in which case a large percentage of profit is taken on the turnover, and unreasonable profits are made from that source. That, I think, should be checked and condemned and a remedy found as quickly as it is possible. The third class of profiteering is that which takes place with a large margin of profit and a large volume of business. This, too, I think should be checked. Any large margin of profit, for the manufacturer, dealer, or whoever he may be, taken especially on foodstuffs at this particular time should not be allowed and should be checked.
There is another phase of this problem, and I do not think I understand how the commission is going to deal with it. The hon. member for West Toronto (Mr. Hoc-ken) illustrated his remarks by citing the case of two farmers. One farmer has thirty cows and gets 5,000 pounds of milk in the season from each cow. The other farmer has the same number of cows, but by better management, better process of farming and a better class of stock, he gets 10,000 pounds during the season from each cow; consequently, he has double the profit that the other man gets, for the overhead charge in both cases is the same. That same condition prevails in other lines of business. I would like to ask the promoter of this Bill how he would propose to deal with such cases. In my own town during the war we had six .shops manufacturing shells and munitions of war. I presume they cannot be accused of being a combine because the prices for the manufacture of these goods
were fixed by the Government and there would not be any combine, I presume, in connection with the fixing of prices by the Government. One of these factories which was poorly equipped, manufactured shells for a short time and then had to go out of business because it was not able to make satisfactory goods. The owners were losing money, and they handed their contract over to another manufacturer, went out of the shell business and went back to the line they belonged to. Another manufacturing concern, the second largest manufacturer in the town also was making shells, but they practically made no profit. The others, and especially the best-equipped shop in town, made immense profits. All worked on the same article and all got the same price. What was the cause of the difference in results? One had to go out of business, another made no money but the other four made a lot of money, especially one of them. Why? (Because they were a well equipped shop, especially one of them; they were mechanics; they had a thoroughly trained staff and they properly managed their business. Not only did this best shop which made the most money make a profit on the volume but they made the largest margin of profit on each shell, simply because they were properly equipped, they understood their business and they made the most money out of it. Their competitor, right opposite them, through lack of management, lack of understanding the business and lack of ability, made none. I would ask the promoter of this Bill if the owners of these four shops that made immense profits are to be considered profiteers and if so how would you deal with them? On the one hand you have the well-equipped properly-managed business run by men who have the ability to make a success of it, and of the other you have his neighbour who, because of his lack of ability and management, has not made a profit. Do you propose that the unsuccessful man shall be considered a saint while the man who has made an extremely large profit because of his ability shall be condemned as a profiteer? What will this board do with such a man? We have heard men speaking on this question and saying that such men should be prosecuted. We have heard the hon. member for South York (Mr. Maclean) saying that the Government should not dissolve this session before they put some measure on the criminal statute books to put such men as those -I do not know where, but in the penitentiary probably. I would like to know how you are going to deal with these men. In
my judgment the Government regulations as they now exist deal satisfactorily with them. That is, they apply to them the income tax. If it can be shown that certain individuals or manufacturers have made immense profits the income tax comes in and takes a good big share of those profits, and rightly so. That is a good deal better than to deal with the successful manufacturer as if he were a criminal, or to say that because he has made a success of his business he shall be condemned before this tribunal that you propose to organize.
There is no man who realizes the necessity of thrift, economy, and all the rest of it more than does the Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White). What does he tell the people? He tells the people to practise thrift and economy and to produce more. Then you turn around and appoint a commission to penalize a man because he has the ability to manufacture cheaply and make a profit.
I believe that, so far as combines are concerned, it is a wise proposal to appoint a commission with authority to investigate and exandne into their operations and, if they find combines existing, to deal with them. If they find that any party has made extreme profits by charging too high a percentage for his goods, that is another matter that might be corrected. But if a man is selling his goods and meeting competition in the open market and if, by reason of his ability and the fact that he has a well equipped factory, and a proper organization, he is able to make profits, that man should be commended rather than condemned. To my mind, the income tax that is imposed will amply take care of any surplus profits that a man makes in a legitimate and1 honest way by his thrift and economy.
We have heard from both sides of this House this session and we have seen in big head lines in the newspapers, a good deal about profiteers. The profiteers are responsible for the high cost of living and for the evils that beset the land at this time if the press and some hon. members in this House are to be believed. The profiteers may be partly responsible and if there are persons making undue profits, I say make them pay for it, and put an end to the evil. But the real cause of the present situation, the real cause of the high cost of living and the shortage of food, is that millions of people throughout the world have for four years been destroying property and consuming food instead of producing it.
Now what is the remedy? The remedy to overcome that situation, as the Finance Minister has already told the House, is to practice thrift and economy. Industry on the part of the people, and the saving of their earnings, will tend to 'bring this country out of the present distressing situation. In my judgment the farmer must put forth every effort that he can to cultivate more land and to produce more food. And what is the labourer's duty? I have been an employer of labour for forty years and have never had a strike among my employees. Not only that, but I am a farmer's son and I have been a labourer myself.
I have earned money by hard work, and I know and sympathize with the position of the farmer and the labourer. Therefore, I can speak with some knowledge and experience on these matters. The labourer to-day is asking for more money on the ground that he cannot support his family on the wages he is receiving. The proper thing for him to do is to go to his employer and say: "I cannot support my family on
my present wages because the cost of living is so high. If you will increase my wages, I will try and increase my efficiency. If you will give me more wages, I will try and give a little more labour." The moment he does that his employer, if he is the right kind of man, will say "all right, my brother, we will agree on this: I will do everything to increase your pay, and at the same time do everything I can to increase my business, so as not only to give employment to you but to afford employment to others. You are travelling with me in the right direction. You are willing to give me more labour, I am willing to give you more pay." This is one way out of the present situation. You cannot take up a paper to-day without reading, under big head-lines, that the profiteers have done this and that. Take the case of the western farmers who have been clamouring for free implements, -and talking of all the evils that result from the tariff. I venture to. think that when some farmers of that type who are members of this House go back to their constituents, they will be told "Why in, some of these grain growing and elevator operations you have made two hundred per cent and you [DOT] are partly responsible for some of the existing difficulties." That statement will not be correct because when you come to investigate the profits which the grain growers in the West have made, it will be found that those profits were realized on a very small margin and a big turnover, which, I maintain, is
not a crime. As I say, we are told in the press that the profiteers, the big interests, and the millionaires are responsible for the existing trouble. The remedy for that I have, in part, explained, but I desire to elaborate upon that subject. We read of large -meetings of labour organizations and the members otf those organizations are being told by agitators "Why should you not have just as good a house as your employer, and enjoy all the luxuries that he enjoys, because you are just as much of a human being as he is." My opinion is that every man should enjoy all he can afford to pay for. The man who lives beyond his means is living on somebody else. If a poor man had a grown-up son starting out in life to make his way in the world, would he advise him- in this way? "Watch the clock, my son. Do not' start to work until it points to the hour. At noon do the same thing. Do not do anything that your employment or job doesi not call upon you to do. At six o'clock have your coat on and be ready to go home as soon as the clock strikes. Do not do anything to help your employer-in fact know him and go on strike every opportunity you can." But the advice the sensible working man in such a position would give his son would be this: "Try to be useful to your employer, and do everything you can for his advancement. He will recognize it shortly, and if he does not, somebody else will. By acting on this advice, you will promote your own interests. If you do not always want to remain a labourer, be useful to the man who employs you and you will obtain advancement." That is the right advice to give to the labouring classes of this country. I say to every such man, "Your duty, my boy, is to make yourself useful to the man you are working for. Show him you take an interest in his business, and if you are faithful and use good judgment your efforts will be recognized." But that is not the advice given to labour by the press of this country and the agitators who address labour meetings. If they would give such advice and state the facts plainly, it would be most beneficial as far as the labouring classes are concerned.
I have explained what in my opinion is the duty of the labourer, and I wish now to consider what the duty of the employer is. He should not be content to live in peace and luxury. He should take care oi his employees and see that they are provided with good schools and everything else that will tend to make them peaceful and happy. He should pay them all the wages he can afford to pay consistently with the
successful conduct of his business. He should not like Cain ask: "Am I my brother's keeper?" All of us are brothers and it is up to the farmer, the labourer, and manufacturer, to put their shoulders to the wheel and see if they cannot find a way out of this trouble. That trouble will continue as long as labour pleads for shorter hours and more pay without realizing its responsibilities and as long as the farmer pleads for free implements without taxes. I am sorry to have taken up so much time-
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
-but perhaps in my awkward fashion I have made my position reasonably clear. I believe this Bill will have a settling effect upon the people, and as far as the manufacturers are concerned, they welcome investigation, for they believe they will be able to show that the high cost of living does not lie at their door entirely.
I think that that will be -a source of satisfaction to the people. I do not, however, think that I shall vote for this Bill-I believe I shall vote against it. It is an old saying that " a burnt child is afraid of the fire," and the experience I have had in the last two or three years of -Government control and Government investigation of businesses that I have been connected with has not been in the direction of inducing me to favour many more of these commissions. Consequently I shall vote against the Bill.
Subtopic: BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.