This proposal does not include the question of the wisdom or the lack of wisdom of having wage controls if we are to have other controls. It does not touch the question of the advisability of having controls on the prices of farm products when the costs of what the farmer has to buy are allowed to increase. It does not touch on those matters in this proposal. I think it should. I think the public should have as unprejudiced a view of these matters as possible. Let the arguments for all sides of these issues be put forward. My hon. friends to the left of me have certain arguments; the government has some; we have some. What the people want is the truth, as nearly as it can be arrived at, and the wisest possible policies formulated.
Then the government's proposal-and here again the Prime Minister anticipated my criticism-is that the committee is to examine and report, but it says nothing about making recommendations. In all deference I suggest that most of the committees appointed by this house are not so limited. I suggest that powers ought to be given to the committee to make recommendations. Otherwise what are we to have? We are to have policies brought forward by only one party in this house. The Prime Minister suggests that members of all parties are to be on this committee, then says that it cannot make recommendations, and he suggests that that is an impartial approach to this question. I leave it to the house and to the public to decide whether or not that is a fair statement of the position.
The problem we are dealing with is a serious one. I said it was inflation. This government has been presumed to have anti-inflation policies. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it has had more inflationary policies than anti-inflationary ones. What we are interested in now is getting at the actual conditions. I suggest there are a great many facts that we do
not need that committee to get. Let me go over some of them.
On the basis of the cost of living in the years before the war, 1935-39 being taken as 100, the cost of living in Canada as announced in January of this year was 146. I venture to say that it is now over 150. The cost of living in this country went up 2-4 points in one month. It went up 15-4 in eight months. It went up 22-4 points in a year.
The cost of food is an important element in the cost of living. What has happened to that? The figures look high. They are high because at the time of the base period farm prices were relatively low. On the basis of 100 for pre-war days the cost of food announced in January of this year was 178-7. It went up 5-1 points in one month; it went up 27-1 points in eight months and it went up 38-3 in a year. Taking individual items in the cost of food, it is said that in a year the cost of bacon went up 113i per cent, the cost of butter 134 per cent, and the cost of milk 49 per cent. I mention these figures simply as evidence in the analysis of this situation.
There are some very significant facts in connection with that trend. Let me indicate a few of them. The rate of rise in the cost of living is increasing. It is increasing more rapidly in Canada than it is in the United States. It increased more rapidly over there in earlier days, but now it is increasing more rapidly here than it is over there. Since April last their cost of living increased 7-7 per cent; ours increased 15-4 per cent, or twice as much. Theirs increased 17-7 per cent in a year; ours increased 22-4 per cent in a year.
The third significant fact is that the cost of living in Canada bears more heavily on us than the cost of living in the United States bears on United States citizens. Industrial wages in this country are equal to 70-3 per cent of theirs, but the cost of living in this country is 77-7 per cent of theirs. I shall not take time to give the figures in any more detail.
The fourth significant fact is that the official statement of the increase in the cost of living does not reflect the full weight of that cost. The official statement is based on a subsistence level of living, and to all who are above that subsistence level the cost of living today is higher than the official figures show it to be.
The fifth significant fact I want to mention is this. On the basis of the present trend it has been estimated that if it continues at the present rate of increase for three months the cost of living here will equal or surpass the greatest height after the first world war. I
mention these facts to impress this house and to impress the Canadian people with the seriousness of this problem and to suggest that it will not be solved just by asking a parliamentary body to get at some more facts. We have a great many of the essential facts now. Perhaps a parliamentary body can hunt out someone who is guilty. But the government has not lacked any power to do that up to the present time, as I shall show a 'little later on.
It is important to examine the causes of this condition. The Prime Minister, in a speech in this city a couple of weeks ago, said there might be a lot of mean people around taking advantage of this situation. The Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) and, I think, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell) suggested there were greedy people around taking advantage of it. Some others said there were profiteers, and others said there were monopolies taking advantage of it.
What is the basic cause of this condition? It is the relationship of purchasing power to supplies. The Canadian government has the power to control the banking' affairs of this country, and it has allowed a policy of credit expansion which has expanded the credit of this country twice as fast as the supply of goods has been increased. Under those circumstances, as I intimated a short time ago, nothing can be expected but that prices will go up; and to the extent that the government did those things it alone is to blame, and no one else. One need not go into the specific figures at this time; that is one thing I hope we may get the officials of the government to come forward and tell us about.
The government has had power to deal with the expansion of credit. We had the figures the other day as to what that amounts to. It has also power to exercise certain controls. The criticism generally has been on the price of foods, although many other things enter into the cost of living. In recent days the chief criticism has been about prices. The government has maintained a type of control on the farm prices of foodstuffs, but it has not maintained controls on the costs of producing those foodstuffs. The result is that the production of certain foods in Canada has gone down. That is directly attributable in a large part to these policies. On December 19 last I read into the record a brief statement showing the effect of these policies on production in Canada; it will be found on page 521 of Hansard of that date. I should like to take a moment to refer to it again. The number of hogs on farms in Canada in 1913 was
4,968,000; in 1946 it had dropped to 1,771,000, or about one-third. In respect of meat, one thing on which controls have been retained, the total dressed and inspected in 1943 was 2,200 million pounds, while1 in 1947 it was only 1,290 million pounds. Cheese production in 1942 was 207,000,000 pounds. That was not a typical year. It was a good year; more was produced that year than in some other years, and a normal figure would be somewhat lower. In 1947, however, cheese production was only 118,000,000 pounds. I think in only one or two major agricultural items has production been maintained. At that time I also referred to the reduction in the acreage of feed grains, which are used for the production of this type of human food.
These are the facts. As to the extent to which government policy is responsible for this condition there may be some differences of opinion. There is no difference of opinion in the minds of the farmers, however. They have lost confidence in the farm price policies of this government, so they have to the extent I have shown, gone out of the production of these things.
What are the consequences of these rapidly rising prices, the condition we call inflation, the condition which in earlier years the government was said to be seeking at all times to prevent, the condition which has now gotten beyond its control? Let me mention some of the immediate effects and then some of the long term effects. One immediate effect is the virtual confiscation of a considerable part of the savings of the people. When a man's dollar is made worth only 50 or 60 cents, or on the basis of the official figures 66 cents, a vast number of people suffer. Another immediate effect is a lessening of the real value of pensions and all other fixed incomes. A third effect is the loss occasioned to all people who, when spending a dollar, find it is worth only 50 or 60 or 66 cents. Their feeling is very easy to comprehend. A fourth effect is a reduction in the standard of health and nutrition. When you have many people barely able to maintain health and nutrition, and perhaps many unable to do so, a reduction in the value of the dollar to 60 or 66 cents will force them far below a decent standard of living. Another effect is the stress and strain of wage disputes, when workers find their money will not buy as much as it once did. Finally there is the rise in production costs of all goods, which again expresses itself in the increasing difficulty of people with low incomes to buy enough to give themselves a reasonable standard of health and of living.
As to the long term consequences I shall
mention four or five of them. First, confidence in the future is destroyed. Business hesitates to expand.