February 2, 1948

?

An hon. MEMBER:

People could go barefoot if they had to.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: Let me tell the hon. member of a rather disagreeable experience I had, but one that left me no worse than I had been. About two months ago I went to a doctor who examines my eyes from time to time and, after looking at them and going through a lot of testing, he said to me as I was leaving, "Do you smoke?" I replied,

"Yes, but not very much; certainly not enough to have any deleterious effect on me." He said, "What do you mean" I said, "I smoke perhaps a dozen cigarettes a day." He said, "I think you had better cut it out."

I replied, "It sounds rather foolish to me but if you say so I'll do it." He told me to come back in five or six weeks time and he would look at my eyes again. I went back five or six weeks afterwards and he examined me once more. Then he said, "By the way, did you stop smoking?" I said, "Of course. I paid you for advice and you gave it to me, and I wasn't going to waste that advice, but during the whole time I was off smoking I felt I was doing something rather foolish for which there was not very much occasion". He said, "Well, perhaps there was not much occasion. You might start again but don't overdo it".

That was a matter of five or six weeks without smoking and I suffered nothing extraordinary from the abstention. Certainly I would not want to pay $185,513,309 worth of taxes for the right to have that kind of luxury. These two amounts of taxes on spirits and on tobacco together with $17,000,000 on amusements yield to the federal treasury $336 million odd, and I suppose these are the kind of taxes that the leader of the opposition would like to wipe out.

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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FRASER:

You know perfectly well they are not.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: When the leader of the opposition-perhaps I should say if and when the leader of the opposition, that is a better way of putting it-is leader of a government, he will be in a position to recommend to His Excellency the removal of these taxes, which this government will not do.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You must have worn rose-coloured glasses.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I am sorry, but there were two interruptions coming at the same time and I did not catch either.

I do not think the hon. member for Peace River really wants this committee to be converted into the kind of committee that would never get anything done. The public is concerned at the present time and actively concerned. I can give him that assurance. I have heard it from a great many people oraliy and I have read it in a great many letters written to me. They are much concerned about these three matters. They may at some other time or perhaps even at this time, in another committee, be concerued with regard to how Canadian industries are financed. But I do not think they would be impressed by

Prices Committee

being told that we are to find out how Canadian industries are financed before we ascertain whether or not certain prices which have been charged for certain food commodities were above those that were fair and reasonable at the present time.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON:

Is that not a cost factor? Your own Prime Minister said it was.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: There may be a million things which are cost factors. If there are, they are covered by the general terms of this resolution. If you instruct a committee that is being set-up to go out and find out about these other things, even if they are not factors in the recent increase in the cost of living they will have their instructions to go and find that out and they will not give you the other answer until they are prepared to give you that one too. I do not think that is what the Canadian public want at this time.

I have said more than I intended to say, Mr. Speaker, and I will not say anything further.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. J. A. BRADETTE (Cochrane):

Surely I do not need to apologize, Mr. Speaker, for rising at this time because I have been careful not to take up too much time of the House of Commons. I wish to preface my remarks on the discussion of the present resolution by quoting an article which appeared in the Financial Post, and in the Ottawa Journal of January 12, dealing with the present prices.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

There they go again; the cost of living.

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LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I would gladly take my seat in order to allow the hon. member on the other side to go ahead, and to speak after he gets through.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Not now.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member for Cochrane has the floor, and I would ask hon. members to abide by the rules of the house which provide that the member who has the floor should not be interrupted without his permission.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I am quoting from the article I mentioned, which reads as follows:

Screaming about high prices will not help us. Hard work and prayer are the only effective cures. The world is short of goods and harvests and until that situation is corrected, general price levels cannot possibly recede.

Canada and the United States could if they desired forget about the rest of the world. They could stop the flow of goods and food to Europe,

CATr. St. Laurent.]

sit back and revel in their own plenty. They alone of the nations of the world have the capacity and production to do this just now. But such a callous course .would soon bring its own reward. There can be no permanent peace, prosperity and happiness for North America until Europe is rebuilt.

I preface my remarks with that quotation because I fully understand the seriousness of this situation. I know that every section of the Canadian population is discussing and debating the high cost of living, but it is a problem which will not be solved by demagoguery and half truths. It will be solved only by uniting our people and by proper measures in an effort to solve that serious problem.

I want to compliment the government upon presenting this resolution to the house. I know that in my section of the country-and I believe this applies to the whole of northern Ontario-at the very least, 90 per cent of the people are satisfied that such a committee should be set up. To me it is a puzzle to understand the mentality of some of the opposing groups because time and time again we have heard, more particularly from the Progressive Conservatives, that the individual members of parliament were losing their initiative and prerogatives and that the government was taking to itself all the functions which should belong to parliament. Yet the moment a cpmmittee of this kind is being formed, whose members would be given full scope for their initiative, knowledge and sincerity of purposes, immediately we have to face unfair opposition. But I want to say that I am sincerely convinced' that the great majority of the Canadian people want that resolution to be carried and want that committee to function as quickly and strongly as possible.

I have had some experience in committee work for a number of years, and I believe it is a wonderful part of our parliamentary system. It gives scope for the exercise of prerogatives and initiative; in fact it is partly a government in miniature. The government is giving some of its prerogatives to that committee. From looking over the names of the members of that committee, I am confident that they are all good men and true, that they are all sincere men with some experience in all activities of life, that they will do good work. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) spoke this afternoon in presenting this resolution, some adverse comments were made, and the industrial relations committee was mentioned. Who will dare say that that committee did not do wonderful work? It is true that it did not stop the strike. It did not function

Prices Commiltee

for that purpose. However, it did a certain amount of good in helping to have proper legislation passed with regard to labour. The same thing applies to the war expenditures and economy committee. What member in any section of the house will dare say that committee did not do wonderful and useful work? It was an alert watchdog during wartime and assisted to a great extent in liquidating the surplus we had in the post-war years. I say these things most feelingly because time and again in the last five or six years, particularly from the Progressive Conservative opposition, we have had it said that we were losing our initiative as members of parliament. A necessary committee is being formed now which the Canadian people are asking and begging should be formed as rapidly as possible, and the official opposition have decided to turn it down; they 'have practically decided not to vote for it and in fact, if possible, not to work in it. I hope they will reconsider their attitude and stand, because they will soon find strong public reaction against such an attitude.

It is a hard situation that has been so well explained by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent). Who will dare say that any other party, if they were in power, could solve the problem in a short period of time? With regard to our international situation, which has a bearing on our present situation, who will say that whoever may happen to be at the head of the government, whether in this country or another country, can solve the problem of inflation or the high cost of living in a few days or a few weeks? We have been very fortunate so far at St. Moritz, and I hope we shall also be fortunate in bringing some of our prices in line with those in Switzerland. This afternoon when the leader of the apposition (Mr. Bracken) was skating all around the subject, and was doing some very fancy skating. I could not help thinking that he never mentioned the fact that his party for the last two years since the war has been over has been asking for the elimination of all controls. The second prize may be given to the leader of the C.C.F. party. He was also extremely skilful in skating around the subject when he spoke of price controls, price ceilings and so on, not to mention wages. We cannot get away from the fact that when you mention control of prices, of necessity you must have control of wages also, because it is one of the primary costs of production, no matter whether it is on the farm or in industries.

With regard to the matter of subsidies, 1 must state that if I were looking out for my 5849-50

own personal political advancement in my constituency I would ask the present administration to re-establish subsidies immediately to the extent of S150 million or $200 million a year. That would be the line of least resistance. It would be at the moment fairly popular; it would be good politics. It would be camouflaging to the Canadian people the actual cost of commodities, of food and so on. But this is not the way to deal with the people. During the last five or six years I have been astonished at the extent to which the leading spokesmen of the C.C.F. party have been thinking in terms of subsidies and hidden taxation. There has been a very great change, it seems to me, because previously they did not seem to believe in that principle. For many years I heard the principles of direct taxation propounded by the C.C.F party, so that the people might be familiar with the exact situation.

What happens under subsidies? The Canadian consumer is not in a position to know the cost to the farmers of the production of milk, wheat, meat and so on. Then subsidies were taken off. It was not something the people accepted very gladly; it was not a very popular thing for a political party to do, but at the same time it was the implicit duty of the government to be fair with the Canadian people and not pay the cost of camouflaging the situation out of the federal treasury. At the present time who will say that the price of a quart of milk, at 18 or 19 or 20 cents, is too high when our farmers are getting from $4.15 to $4.35 per 100 pounds of fresh milk? The moment the subsidy on milk was taken off, the cost to the consumer was bound to increase. Because of that increase, the Canadian people immediately became agitated in their minds. They wanted to find out the actual cost of production. They wanted to find out how much it cost the farmer and how much it cost the distributor to produce and deliver a quart of milk. This is true democracy. From what I heard this afternoon-and I speak of this matter with some delicacy-apparently our dear friends of the C.C.F. party think any other country in the world is a better country than Canada, that any legislation, any government, any economy is better than we have in Canada.

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PC
LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I did not say that. I know them; they are doing the same thing here that they did during the last federal election, at least in my own constituency. There we had two C.C.F. candidates, and all the time they were talking about the wonderful legislation in the Scandinavian countries,

7/8

Prices Committee

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

And I hear members of that party say, "Hear, hear." Is that the way to tell the people what is the actual cost of living? Do they mean to suggest that because the British people pay lower costs than we do in Canada, eventually somebody else does not have to make up the difference?

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CCF

Gladys Grace Mae Strum

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mrs. STRUM:

It is the way to keep up the national health, anyway.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I am rather surprised at that remark. I do not want to make any comparison, but I believe the Canadian people, under our present economy, are also able to maintain their health; and I make that statement deliberately. Why are hon. members always trying to cheapen their own country in making those comparisons? They are not called for.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You are off the beam.

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February 2, 1948