Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Minister of Finance):
I desire to table two documents concerning the wartime prices and trade board. The first is a report covering the activities of the board from its creation on September 3, 1939, to March 31, 1943, a period of three years and seven months. This is the first detailed report of this kind prepared by the board and will, I feel sure, be of considerable interest to hon. members and to the public at large. An attempt has been
made to deal briefly yet adequately with all phases of the work of the board and its related crown companies, and I am hopeful that it will give information that would otherwise be requested on the order paper or when the relevant item in the war appropriation is under consideration, and thus will help to facilitate proceedings. Copies of the report are being distributed to hon. members to-day.
The second document I am tabling is a statement showing the recipients of subsidies paid by the commodity prices stabilization corporation up to March 31, 1942. The corporation was formed in December, 1941, and is the agency responsible, under the wartime prices and trade board, for the payment of subsidies necessary for the maintenance of the price ceiling. This statement covers subsidies paid during a period of approximately three months, January, February and March, 1942.
Hon. members may recall that a year ago- on April 23 to be precise-I gave a statement to the house in which I dealt at some length with the reasons for subsidies and the basis on which they are paid. At that time I said that I had come to the conclusion, after very careful study, that it is definitely not in the public interest to give current information as to the names of persons to whom subsidies are being paid, or the amount paid to each. I did agree, however, at some appropriate time, that is when the information is not likely to reveal to competitors and others intimate details of the nature and volume of the recipients' business, to give the names of individual recipients and the amount of subsidy paid to each. It is reasonable to assume, I think, that information as to subsidies paid more than a year ago is not likely to reveal anything of vital importance in regard to current business dealings.
The statement I am now tabling shows subsidy payments amounting to SI,180,215. As I have already explained, this covers only the initial four months of the price ceiling and represents but a small fraction of total subsidies paid to date. As hon. members will see, when they have had an opportunity of reading the full report of the wartime prices and trade board, total subsidies paid from the date of the application of the price ceiling until March 31, 1943, amounted to approximately S65 million, in addition to which there were trading losses on bulk purchases by the commodity prices stabilization corporation of about $2j4 million.
Although subsidies to the end of March, 1942, amounted to just over one million one hundred thousand dollars, no less than 35,601 individuals participated in the payments. This large number is attributable to the fact that
Wartime Prices and Trade Board
the most important subsidies during this period were domestic subsidies paid in connection with the production of fluid and concentrated milk. At that time a subsidy of 40 cents per 100 pounds was paid on milk used in the manufacture of concentrated milk products and 30 cents per 100 pounds on fluid milk sold in areas where there had been no price increase since August 1, 1941. These milk subsidies accounted for nearly 80 per cent of total subsidies paid to March 31, 1942, and for all but 129 of the individual recipients.
I am sure hon. members will appreciate the very heavy task involved in listing the names of 35,000 individual recipients of milk subsidies and will agree with me that the expenditure of time and money entailed in preparing such a list could not have been justified. Instead of giving the names of individual ultimate recipients of these milk subsidies, it was therefore decided to list the names of the milk distributors which had been used as agencies for making payments to individual milk producers, together with the numbers of producers participating. Thus one of the first names on the list is that of a Toronto dairy which was paid $15,053.00 to reimburse it for subsidies in that amount which it, as a milk distributor, had previously paid out in full to 404 producers delivering their milk to it.
Apart from milk the only other classifications of subsidies up to the end of March 1942 were footwear and imports. I would refer hon. members to the report of the board for details as to the principles on which these subsidies were paid. During the period covered by this statement $191,504 were paid out by way of domestic subsidy on leather footwear to 78 individual recipients and $64,758 on imports to 51 individual recipients. The statement does not specify the import or imports in respect of which subsidy was paid, listing only the name of the recipients and the total amount paid. To have classified payments by individual imported goods would have meant much additional work in the preparation of the statement and in particular cases might have meant, even after the lapse of more than twelve months, the revelation of information valuable to Competitors.
At the risk of reiterating in part what I said a year ago I want to make it perfectly clear that these subsidies are not really subsidies to any manufacturer, importer or dealer, but are in reality subsidies for the benefit of the consumer. They are paid when there is no other way of ensuring adequate supplies of a particular product for the consumer at prices
permitted by the price ceiling. In principle, these subsidies are paid to the consumer to keep down the cost of living. In practice, because consumers are so numerous, they are paid to producers or dealers on condition that they maintain supplies and carry out the policy of the price ceiling by supplying goods to others at such prices as will permit them in turn to operate within the limits of the price ceiling.
I can perhaps illustrate this point by referring to subsidies on imports. These are paid to ensure a continued supply of essential goods produced outside of Canada at costs higher than would permit their sale in Canada at domestic ceiling prices. If the subsidy were not paid, these essential goods simply would not be imported for sale in Canada at ceiling prices.
With regard to presenting a report later, covering subsidies paid in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1943, the difficulties in giving names of recipients, the chief of which is the tremendous number of individual payments-hundreds of thousands-will be sh great that it now appears that they will be insurmountable. I can discuss these difficulties when the wartime prices and trade board estimates under the War Appropriation Act are reached. My only purpose in referring to them now is that I do not wish it to be assumed that the procedure followed with regard to the subsidies paid in 1941-42 will or can necessarilj' be followed for those paid in 1942-43.
Subtopic: REPORT OF ACTIVITIES TO MARCH 31, 1943-SUBSIDIES PAID BY COMMODITY PRICES STABILIZATION CORPORATION TO MARCH 31, 1942.