February 2, 1948

LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I am showing sound arguments against subsidies. But it is so easy to get started on subsidies, and it is very hard to stop. I say the government was very courageous when, at the time the war was over, it accepted the responsibility for the gradual and partial withdrawal of controls, price ceilings and subsidies. And when such actions were taken the Canadian people accepted these withdrawals with patience and loyalty.

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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. WRIGHT:

Do you suggest we should take the subsidy off feed grain?

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

I did not mention feed grains, but there also, subsidies should remain withdrawn.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

During the war the

people gladly accepted controls, though not always very happily, and naturally with some criticism. Some of the C.C.F. and of the Progressive Conservative party have talked severely about bureaucrats. From what they have said it is clear they would have figuratively hanged Mr. Gordon, who did a marvellous job. But no credit is due to them, because time and again he was opposed by them. I did not hear any cheering from that side of the

Prices Committee

house at that time. They politically capitalized on price controls in my own section of the country, against some of the restrictions the Canadian people had to accept.

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PC
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Quack, quack.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

The leader of the C.C.F. spoke about by-elections and he was trying to prophesy or act as a prophet with respect to by-elections. Well, I hope the government will find it unnecessary to hold by-elections in the winter months. I had an experience with one in 1935, and I do not want to have it again, if possible. The leader of the C.C.F. tried to prophesy what would happen.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

He just called for a byelection to be held; he did not prophesy at all.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

And the same leader of that same party criticized the Aluminum Company of Canada during the war when they were doing such a good job. They talked about the scandalous and exorbitant profits made by the Aluminum Company. But there was no scandal; it was one of the big corporations which did such a good job during wartime. To their viewpoint it was going to be an issue that would slide them into power.

The C.C.F. have tried to pass as prophets. Their leader .prophesied in 1944 I believe, that in the following summer there would be

250,000 unemployed, and no doubt he was hoping that would be the condition. But it did not happen

again he was off the beam in that connection.

And what would be the -attitude of the C.C.F. party if we held by-elections? Will they speak about the serious international situation? Will they speak about the problem of -atomic energy? Oh, no, they will talk only about the high cost of living. They will talk about tremendous profits. They will try only to show that tremendous profits are being made, and yet when proof is offered them they vote against a committee which will give that proof, if there is any to be found.

That is the kind of by-election they would wage. It would be demagogic, capitalizing on a serious situation, making an appeal to false prophecies. That is one of the weaknesses in a democracy. In a matter which the Canadian people want to have solved in a practical way, working through the machinery of their -representatives in parliament, to look into the present situation, with a view to solving it to some extent, we find the mentality of the opposition which says, "No, we do not

want to co-operate with you at all. We do not want to co-operate with the Canadian Parliament."

There will be a price to pay for that lack of co-operation, because,-and I repeat what I said earlier,-the foundation of this committee is one of the very finest that could be found.

I believe it was only two years ago that members of the opposition were asking that the war expenditures -and economy committee be replaced by a royal commission. The Progressive Conservative party are always harping on the suggestion that they are losing their prerogatives as members of parliament. We find that one day they want a royal commission to inquire into the high cost of living, suggesting that it will be better than the present committee which has been nominated.

Will they dare say that a judicial inquiry would be better than a committee of inquiry? Will any of those hon. members answer: Yes, that it would be better? No one will dare say so; because I repeat that on this committee we have a group of sincere men. We have men of all walks of life and all political persuasions.

Do they think for one moment that even those of us who sit on the government side of the house would not give anything if we could have the cost of living 20 per cent or 25 per cent lower than it is at the present time? We are just as human as they are. And the people of Canada understand the situation. They know this condition is not the fault of the Canadian parliament or of the government. They have enough vision and enough intelligence to discuss the situation and to realize that it is due to several factors, some of which were so well set out by the Secretary of State for External Affairs. Will they say, for instance, that the fact that we are so close to the United States where they have a highly inflationary condition, is not causing some inflation in this country?

I heard with a great deal of relish the speech of the leader of the opposition where he said that the cost of living in the United States was practically lower than it is in Canada. Well, I must have visited the wrong place last fall. But I did go to that country to visit as a delegate to the united nations meeting, and when I was there if I ordered a round steak or a sirloin steak they charged me S4 for it, while in Canada I could get that steak for SI .25.

The cost of living in the United States is much higher than it is in Canada. As I said at the beginning of my address, who is there who will say that it is not the duty of Canada

Prices Committee

to help Europe in every possible way, and more particularly Great Britain? Who will say that, even if the western and eastern farmers have to make a certain sacrifice in the matter of prices of goods they have to sell? When will the C.C.F. stop saying that they speak for all the farmers of the west?

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CCF
LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

In my view, this is the first time in the national life of this country when the primary producers of Canada are coming into their own.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

A long time coming.

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

Well, yes-and some of you do not seem to relish it. Who will dare say that the farmers are not getting fairly reasonable prices? Who could begrudge them reasonable returns? I will go farther; it has been said, and repeated, that the Canadian packers are fleecing the farmers. If that is true, we should use with promptitude the machinery available to make them come to order, because no one has any right under present times of stress to profiteer, no matter who it happens to be.

May I repeat-and I speak for the farmers in my own constituency-that we are working to get fair prices; and I hope that in our Canadian economy it will be possible to maintain those prices. It will not be done through subsidies, or by camouflaging the issues. How many people in the city of Ottawa, if tomorrow they were getting their milk at ten cents a quart, would realize the work there is in producing that quart of milk? The same applies to cheese and to butter. Why camouflage those issues? Why not inform all our people of the exact situation as far as our farmers are concerned, and of the absolute necessity of getting fair returns for their hard work?

Who will deny that, generally speaking, what we pay for food is to a great extent based upon the cost of production? Will any one argue, for instance, that a quart of milk at 20 cents is higher relatively than shoes at $20 or $22? The Canadian people are beginning to realize these things. They are beginning to realize that when in the past the farmer was selling his butter for 25 cents a pound he was not getting a fair remuneration. At that time no one was worrying about the farmer, but new they are worrying because they have to pay reasonable prices, and I hope that the farmers will come more and more into what it is only fair should come to them.

As far as I am concerned I hope that the committee will use all its talents and sincerity of purpose to bring about an end to

profiteering at the expense, not only of our farmers but of everyone in our country. These are things that we cannot tolerate. We on this side of the house are just as honest about that purpose as members on other sides. I think every hon. member knows that the Canadian people are fair in all their actions, and yet some on the other side would try to make political capital out of this matter. I just want to say that any effort to raise passions at the present time is not being fair to Canada as a whole and to our population.

Only a few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting in Timmins about sixty ladies from that section. These ladies made up the consumers league of Timmins and other organizations. They were trying to deal with this situation and to get at the roots of the problem. They represented all political parties. There was a leading lady of the communist party, a leading lady of the C.C.F. party, a leading lady of the Conservative party and a leading lady of the Liberal party. They were meeting together in an effort to find an eventual solution of the high cost of living.

The meeting was presided over by Mrs. Stevenson and she showed by her statement that she was practical and that they wanted to be logical. She told me that they had heard that some organization was asking the present government in power to resign. She told me that she said to herself, "What would be left? Who would take charge? What would1 be the alternative? What party has a majority in the House of Commons if the present administration resigned under pressure? Was it the C.C.F. or the Progressive Conservative or the 1'Union des Electeurs? Surely not." That showed the intelligence and comprehension of these people. Let me read the resolution they passed, which was as follows:

In order that the health of our children can be assured so that they may grow up to be useful citizens of our great country and to protect the standard of living of all people the consumers league of Timmins feels that the following program should be implemented by the government at the next session of parliament.

1. Price controls established on all essential consumers' goods.

I told them that consumer goods would cover a wide field, that outside of a few jewels or a few other high priced articles it would cover almost all items. Then they asked that prices be rolled back to the levels of January, 1946. That showed that these ladies had studied the problem. They knew that they could not be rolled back to the levels of 1943 or 1944 in a short period of time. They knew

Prices Committee

that during the war when we had rigid controls and price ceilings, at times those controls and price ceilings were broken under pressure by labour, by business, by finance or by other groups. They were never stationary; they were never static; they were always dynamic. T-he index of the cost of living went up by leaps and bounds from 1939 to 1947 because the pressure was so terrific, and impossible of stopping completely.

Then they asked for subsidies on foods such as bread, butter, flour, et cetera. There is a country often referred to by our C.C.F. friends, which they always show as an example to our own country. I refer to New Zealand. I should like to quote to the house what one agricultural leader there said about controls. The article reads:

Not long ago, Mr. Mulholland, head of the farmers union of New Zealand, an organization similar to our Canadian federation of agriculture, in discussing at its annual meeting, the progress of New Zealand agriculture, made this statement:

"Unfortunately, our experience of government, or political control of prices, indicates the danger of the development of political pressures and sectional interests, losing sight of the national welfare, and selling, consciously or unconsciously, their support to a political party for the prices which they will undertake to give them. It is not impossible, in fact I think the danger is real, that this pressure might develop to the extent of active civil commotion."

That is what controls generally do. It becomes a question of, are we free people or are we not free people? I am ready to admit that the day is gone when there will be no control of any kind. Under our present times there is bound to be always some control, but the Canadian people will not stand for a thorough implementing of a rigid over-all peacetime control. That is so, no matter what may be said about Great Britain. I know whereof I speak when I say that some of the controls there are highly resented by the people. It may have been an extreme article, but the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Low) quoted an article last fall giving details of what had happened to one farmer in Great Britain. Perhaps that article may be taken more as a joke than anything else, but it shows what may happen under complete government controls.

Absolute controls are not necessary, but at the same time some controls and severe actions will be necessary over the ambitions of the avaricious and the profiteer. We are now creating that machinery in the form of a committee to be made up of members from all sections of the House of Commons. No one will deny that they are all well qualified

and are sincere. I was greatly impressed with the list of members and I quote from the resolution:

That the committee shall consist of: Messrs. Beaudry, Cleaver, Fleming, Homuth, Johnston, Knowles, Lasage, Martin, Maybank, Mayhew, MeCubbin, Merritt. Nicholson, Pinard, Smith (Calgary West), Winters.

I do not think anyone can find fault with the membership of that committee. I do not think anyone will dare say a word about the honesty of every member in his efforts to try to solve this problem which affects the people, not only in his own constituency but throughout the whole of Canada. I appreciate the opportunity that has been given me' to speak. I know that the boos which I heard at the beginning of my remarks came without premeditation. I have been here for quite a number of years, and I do not think anyone can accuse me of being disrespectful to other hon. members. I think all hon. members know and agree that I do not take up much of the time of this house at any time.

Before I left the meeting to which I referred a few moments ago, one of the ladies told me that they would be watching me when I went back to Ottawa to see what I did about price controls. I told her that it was the right of every hon. member to rise in his place every day of the session and speak, but I told her to consider, if that were done, how long it would take to complete the work of the house. I told those ladies that the most efficient work by a member is done in the different departments and in connection with one of the most important aspects of parliamentary procedure, committee work. I have always made it a point to attend religiously and attentively at any committee of which I am a member. I told those fine ladies that if I did my duty in the department and in connection with the administration, that if all sections of the House of Commons got together and worked on this serious national problem, eventually a solution would be found.

Before I take my seat may I make a sincere plea for the passing of this resolution unanimously, with any amendments that may be necessary. I am sure that the Canadian people would appreciate such action by this house. They would realize that no section of the house wants to play politics on such an important and serious question.

One thing I like about the resolution is that the committee is to have power to appoint subcommittees to deal with specific phases of the inquiry. The Secretary of State for External Affairs mentioned in his address tonight certain matters that might be looked

Prices Committee

into by the committee. I think every member has heard rumours that the packers have made too much money. The committee can ascertain whether that is a fact, and if any profiteering has been done those who have been guilty of it can be brought into line. We have also heard that some wholesale firms have been holding back textile goods, pillow cases and the like. The committee can go to the bottom of these things and find out what are the facts. We have heard that some great industries prefer to sell on the black market rather than to the legitimate one. The committee can investigate, and if it is found that that is not true the rumours will be dispelled. If it is true, those who are guilty can be brought to punishment, as they deserve. And so I conclude by asking for the unanimous support of the house for this resolution, and by its adoption to accomplish fruitful and constructive work, that will be highly appreciated by all our people.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. KARL HOMUTH (Waterloo South):

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to my old friend the hon. member for Cochrane (Mr. Bradette). I doubt if anyone has known him longer in political life than I have. I knew' him back in the old days of provincial politics when perhaps he was not so unkind to the Conservative party as sometimes be appears now. I knew he was going to speak this evening. There was the usual general understanding that arrangements would be made through the Speaker as to who would follow in this debate. I came into the house expecting to hear, after the leader of the Social Credit party (Mr. Low), my old friend from Cochrane, and then I was to follow him. But shortly before the leader of the Social Credit party finished his speech I noticed a galaxy of cabinet ministers lining the front benches, and I said to myself: They are here to pay tribute to one who has been very loyal and has done a great job for the Liberal party but who, in the last couple of years, has been more or less ignored. Then suddenly the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) rose in his place and usurped the position on the list of speakers that was to be taken by the hon.. member for Cochrane. To my mind he rose for one of two purposes, either to defend the government or to make his first bid for the leadership of the Liberal party by showing his ability in defence of the government.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

That is not funny.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

It was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. I realize that some of his admissions were most damaging

to the government and certainly did not support many of the points made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) this afternoon. It was the first time that any responsible minister of the crown admitted that, in spite of all the promises which were made during and toward the end of the war -jobs for everybody who came back from overseas, tens of thousands of houses to be built to shelter them, the cry that went out in the election of 1945, jobs with good pay for everyone, and nothing to worry about, the heaven they fought for was going to be here-such prosperity as we have had1 has been dependent upon the lending of1 money.

Let me say to the hon. member for Cochrane that I enjoyed his speech. I realize what a great job he would1 do in meeting the women who came to see him. He and the Prime Minister have been the best dodgers of women we have had in this house for many years, and perhaps some members of the house may be inclined to congratulate them. Nevertheless I hope that as a result of his speech tonight, in defence of the government he will soon be able to occupy a vacancy in the senate.

I should like to refer to one or two points raised1 by the Secretary of State for External Affairs in his address. He said he would be opposed to the committee making recommendations to the house, that if they made such recommendations the government would not necessarily accept them but would have to use its own judgment. In other words, we should have a nullification of the committee's work, just as the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) the other day nullified the 'Geneva agreements.

The minister, in referring to one clause of the motion, said that people who had been guilty of certain offences could be prosecuted. He admitted that the government had the power to prosecute profiteers and those who withheld from the market goods of which they had a superabundance. If the government have that power, why do they not exercise it? As our leader said this afternoon: If you have the power to prosecute the profiteers, why do you not exercise that power?

This committee is proposed to be set up because of the tremendous hue and cry across this country following the action of the Minister of Finance in bringing down his austerity program, and because of the hue and cry against the profiteer. Has there been profiteering? Frankly I do not know. There are those w'ho say there has been, and perhaps there has. The Minister of Labour (Mr. 7S4

Prices Committee

Mitchell) says there has been profiteering. Speaking to the construction association, he said that the profiteers in this country were the greatest menace to free enterprise that we have.

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LIB
PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

He admitted that there was profiteering. Then -why did the Minister of Labour not see to it that those profiteers were prosecuted? He had the responsibility, and if he knew that there was profiteering it was his duty as Minister of Labour to see that profiteers were prosecuted. Why set up a tribunal such as this? You can get evidence of the high cost of living today by simply looking at the small armful of groceries that a woman, carries home for five dollars as compared with what she got for the same money a few years ago.

Have we not a tribunal in the high cost of living today as compared with what it was a year and a half ago? Have we not a tribunal in the type of taxation we have today, compared with the type we had only six months ago, on some items that are very important to the every-day life of the people? Why set up a tribunal in this house to say, these are the facts, these are the things that have happened. How far back are you going in the investigation? Are we to search diligently for the cause? If we do, then I say we must go a long way back to see the general trend of government policies over a number of years, over the war years, when the government was warned time and again to prepare for the post-war period.

When this committee meets and finds something it thinks is wrong, why should it not have the right to make a report to the house and have the government take action as they ought to do? I quite agree that the government have the right to initiate action. It is the government that must initiate action; nevertheless they should not hesitate to take a recommendation from the committee that they themselves set up, a recommendation as to what should be done with regard to profiteering or anything else that has tended to increase the cost of living beyond the point that is a fair standard.

We know that committees do report to this house, but reports mean nothing. I do not think there ever was a time when there was a greater condemnation of a government than our leader made this afternoon. He referred to the committee on the flag, and then there was the industrial relations committee. Not only did the committee on industrial relations report to the house, but the house almost unanimously adopted their report. With the

exception of some members of the C.C.F. party, the members by an overwhelming majority adopted the report, and the government failed to act. They failed to carry out the recommendations of that committee's report.

My own opinion of this committee is this -and I am a member of it-so far as I am concerned, let me say right now that this will not be any whitewashing committee. It will fight for the things it is set up to do, and I hope the house will accept the amendments that have been proposed, so that we shall be given greater powers to do the things we ought to do. To my mind this committee is set up for one purpose, and that is to whitewash the government. That is the purpose, to take away from the government the responsibility which is theirs.

The government says it is not responsible. The Prime Minister this afternoon referred to the high cost of living and he said it is not only in Canada but is happening all over the world. I have known the Prime Minister for more years than most members of this house have known him. I know his ability as a very subtle politician. I know the Prime Minister and I know how he has been able to change situations to suit the best interests of the party which he leads. I think back to the election of 1935. I can remember the Prime Minister going across this country laying all the -blame for the depression on the then government of Canada. There was no depression in other parts of the world. In 1930 the Prime Minister had had to face an honest electorate and he got out. In 1935 the Prime Minister befuddled the electors by telling them that the situation then existing was -not worldwide, that it was something that had happened in Canada, that Bennett was the man responsible for all those things, and the people believed him. Now the people do not.

He says that this situation is not confined to Canada, that it is general. But this government was saying to us all during the war and in the post-war period that regardless of what happened in other countries, such things would not happen in Canada, with the Liberal party in power. There were to be homes for all the veterans. There were even -pictures in the literature of the 1945 campaign. But compare those pictures with the actual situation today and the comparison is a sad one.

They talk about profiteering. Let me say this now in all sincerity. No one should know more about profiteering than this government, because this government is the

Prices Committee

biggest profiteer there is. While food prices and the prices of other things are going up and up, the government is still accepting its increased sales taxes and other indirect taxes, which just helps to pile one load on another until today the people are wondering how they will keep their families.

Who caused the profiteering in vegetables in this country? Is there anyone in this house, or any man or woman in the country who will say that the increase in the prices of vegetables was caused by anything other than the austerity program announced by the Minister of Finance? If you start interfering with economic laws you must interfere with all, and when he said, "You can no longer buy in that market in which you have been accustomed to buy over the years, and these fresh vegetables are no longer yours to be had in the stores of the country", he should have said at the same time, "In spite of the fact that I am against controls, I am interfering with one part of the Canadian economy and now I have to interfere with the rest of it, and I will see that the people get those vegetables and canned goods which are available and get them at the prices which were being paid when the austerity measure came into force."

But the government has put on new taxes, new controls, not at the prices that were in effect prior to the bringing in of the austerity program, but at present prices. This is the new control the government is bringing into force; and I say to the people of the country, to the government and to the members on this side of the house, that there is only one party responsible for the situation as it exists today, and that is the government of the day, because when they interfered with one part of the economy they had not the courage to interfere with all.

This committee will be set up when this motion carries and it will be carried with the government's overwhelming majority. A lot of them will vote for it with their tongues in their cheeks, just as so many members, speaking in the last debate in this house, because they did not want to be recorded back home-

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LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

Order.

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February 2, 1948