February 2, 1948

PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

I realize I am out of order. The Secretary of State for External Affairs said that we must and should have the power to prosecute those who hold goods over and above those required, or hold them off the market in order to get higher prices. How far does this go? Is the government's program not itself a program that has encouraged and fostered the high cost of living? Every now and then the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) would make a new pronouncement in the house. It was not a pronouncement like the budget pronouncement, which says, "Tonight at midnight this goes on." Oh, no. It was an announcement that a month or two or three months from that time we might expect so and so. The people expected it and waited for it and usually they got it. They did not get so much at a time, but they got something.

Take an example. In western Canada we are producing a tremendous lot of flax. I am told by men who know their business that in many districts they are producing as much flax per acre as they are wheat. Furthermore-

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CCF
PC
CCF

Frederick Samuel Zaplitny

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

Mr. ZAPLITNY:

I did not say it was wrong. I asked where it was.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

Not only that; but the general cost, with new seeds and new methods of harvesting, gives to the flax growers a greater return with a little less cost than is the case with regard to the production of an acre of wheat.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

All right. My hon. friends may chuckle, but perhaps if they will go into the matter carefully they will find that I am not far wrong in what I say. But what happened? In May of last year the Minister of Agriculture said to the people in the west who held flaxseed, "You are now getting $3.25 a bushel." I do not know whether or not that price was adequate. I do not know whether or not that price paid an adequate profit to the producer of flaxseed. But the government said, "You are getting $3.25 a bushel." If the government had at heart the interests of these growers of flaxseed in western Canada, they surely would have seen to it that they were not producing at a loss. But on August 1, the Minister of Agriculture said, "We are going to give you $5 a bushel," an increase of $1.75 a bushel.

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An hon. MEMBER:

That is a "flaxible" control.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

What happened? In the granaries of the farmers of western Canada were 500,000 or 600,000 bushels of flaxseed, and they held them. Why should they not hold them, if they can afford to do so? Why should they not hold them, because this government said, "You are going to get $1.75 a bushel more if you will hold them for a couple of months." So they held them. They did not

Prices Committee

deliver them to market and they got their $1.75 more. If you held off the market stuff that you did not need ia your business, is this committee going to say that you had no right to hold it and that you are a profiteer because you did so? If these people are profiteers, they are profiteers because the government gave them the opportunity and made profiteers out of them. When you compare the price of flax-and again I say, I do not think my figures are far out-and the cost of production of an acre of flax and an acre of wheat- and I am speaking of quantity production in many of the districts out west-and you find that $5 was paid for flax and $1.55 was paid for wheat, I think there was something extremely screwy in the whole government policy.

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PC
PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

This committee, Mr. Speaker, is to have an opportunity of delving into certain phases of price control. What those phases are, I do not know. I suppose we shall have to take our leadership from the majority members of the committee. I want to warn them now that, so far as our representation on that committee is concerned, we shall fight for the right of that committee to make recommendations to this house. We shall take the government at their word, as given by the Prime Minister, that they will not dodge responsibility because they set up a committee. People are to have an opportunity of going there; we are to investigate these things and let the blame fall where it may; and there is no question in my mind as to where it will fall. It will fall on the government of the day.

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LIB
PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

May I say to my hon. friends over there that it is a funny thing, but when the Prime Minister spoke this afternoon it ran through my mind that I listened to the first speech I ever heard him make back in 1908, long before some of my hon. friends opposite had ever cut their political or any other kind of teeth. I heard him in 1908. I think he was at that time deputy minister of labour and had just come back from China or Japan. He made a speech in old Berlin. He made one there later which the people did not acclaim so greatly, but they acclaimed the one he made in 1908. All during his life the Prime Minister has posed as the great friend of labour. It is said that it was through his leadership that those favourable planks were put in the platform of 1919, a platform which has rotted and disappeared since that day.

But at all events, those planks were in the platform at his behest; but the platform was heaved and shifted and shot about until it went all to shatters and slivers, so that thej' are, I believe, going to draw up a new one this year.

As I say, however, there is no one I know of in the Liberal party who ever seemed to be more interested in the welfare of the working man and the working woman in this country than did the Prime Minister. Yet I think back to the election of 1921, and I remember the speeches made across this country with regard to the high cost of living. Then I remember later elections when we were told what terrible conditions had come about as a result of Tory administration. Then I cannot help thinking -and it is vivid in the memories of all of us in this house-of how from 1939 until about eight, ten or twelve months ago, the hon. gentlemen sitting to the right of the Speaker, cabinet ministers and private members alike, bragged and bragged about how they had held down the cost of living and what they had done to keep the people in a happy and contented frame of mind. There are many things that they did to the people which they do not brag about, but the only time you can really understand them is when you get them into figures. So a while ago I thought to myself, just what is the situation? Was the situation so terrible in 1920 as compared with present day conditions? Were the people so much worse off in those days than they are today? I started to review in my own mind many of the political platitudes I had heard from all parties during the intervening years, and my memory is vivid about most of them.

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An hon. MEMBER:

The hon. member is repeating them now.

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PC

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HOMUTH:

Then I thought I would make some comparisons and these comparisons are interesting. The comparisons are not made from my figures. These figures come from the department itself. Suppose we take the cost of living, say from 1935 to 1939, as 100. What do we find? The cost of living in 19131 was 79-1 and the cost of living in 1920 was 145-4, an increase of 66-3. That seems to be a tremendous increase in the cost of living. So it was, and we resented it. The people of this country resented that increase in the cost of living. Then, when we look at the other side of the picture, what do we find? We find that the per capita tax in 1913 was $22.41; that is with regard to both direct and indirect taxes. The per capita tax in 1940 was $40.52, an increase of $18. Now what do we find? Taking it on the same basis, we find

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that the cost of living index in 1939 was 101-5. At the present time it is about 148-5, a difference of 47 points, or about 19 points lower, comparatively, than the cost of living in 1920. But what about the tax? What about these fellows who say "We cannot buy butter and the other things we need"? In 1939 the tax was S38.67 per capita. Today the tax is S192.97. or almost six times as great. That alone. Mr. Speaker, ought to answer the question of what this government has done to the people of this country, not for the people of Canada.

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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the most ridiculous motions to be brought before the house for many years. In the first place, the cause and effect of all these controls and the austerity program have been known for years. In the annual statement of even' bank, almost every insurance company and other large institution in this country we have been told the cause and effect of prices, profiteering and other economic matters. We do not need a committee to find out those things.

Why should this committee be appointed? Many of these committees have been appointed by this government during the last year or two. Let me name some of them. They appointed a committee on Indian affairs, which travelled all over Canada for two years and then could not even decide one little question: Are they citizens, or are they not? If they are. then automatically they were entitled to all rights and privileges of citizens. Then we had the famous C.B.C. committee of the house. What did they do? They brought in a report but were afraid to move concurrence. This will be just another whitewashing committee. They will know more about whitewashing than they will know about the high cost of living, profiteering, and the austerity program.

I am one of those who for many years past have tried to help the government. In time of emergency, as in war, I believe it is the duty of the opposition to help the government as far as possible. So we never complained about the Prime Minister or anyone else in wartime, because he had a great deal of experience; but the war has been over now for nearly three years, and I believe that as a private member of the opposition- and I am speaking only for myself-there should be an end of government by order in council in these matters, and parliament should function. But I remember when this situation arose previously in 1932, 1933 and 1934. and Mr. Stevens made a great success

of his work as chairman of the price spreads committee. One of the glories of the Conservative party was the work of the price spreads committee, which revealed how many people in this country, the white-collar workers and others, were suffering. As I say, I believe in giving the government some support if they are right, but not if they are wrong.

I now come to another select committee. I remember one appointed to deal with the question of the flag. They were afraid to move concurrence. Then we had another committee presided over by the then member for Northumberland, Mr. Fraser. There was a big fight in that committee for months and months; it was a regular battle. Instead of attending a fight, I would rather have attended a real meeting of that committee; but they also refused to move concurrence in the report. We had another called the C.N.R. committee. Did they find out anything about the C.N.R.? They sat around a table smoking cigars and just whitewashed the whole thing. There were many other committees, a dozen or more than I can remember. There was the labour-steel committee. They were appointed; they were going to do certain things. Did they do them? Concurrence was not even moved, as far as I remember.

It all comes down to the question of whether we are prepared to trust the conduct of this business to the government or to a useless, select committee on prices and profiteering. If you read the text of the resolution you fill see that it mentions a select committee. Well, it certainly is select. It includes a great many of those who made a great success of their trip down to Lake Success. It is high time the auditor general limited such parties to five or six members. There is a health convention going on in New York this week, and I do not know how many people we are sending to it. However, let us consider this resolution. The committee is to meet and appoint subcommittees; then they are to decide on the causes of the present high prices. Well, a day or two ago I saw some hon. members going into a store to buy clothing. I saw them come out again pretty quickly, because they only need to put their hands in their pockets to know the cause of the high cost of living. Wre cannot buy anything while this austerity program is in force.

This whole resolution is based on what was done at Geneva, where all those people met and drew up what they call a charter. For some time now the definition of a charter has been changed. The other day I looked it up in the Oxford dictionary, and the definition seems

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the history of our country since confederation. Britain should have been included in it and preferential trade with the empire. I am opposed1 to our being economically dependent upon another country not in the empire. No country will long maintain its political independence if it is economically dependent upon another country, especially if that country does not belong to the empire.

If we had only stayed in the dollar area with,Britain and the dominions, as I proposed when we were discussing Bretton Woods, the natural resources, raw materials and the manufactures of the mother country and dominions would1 have been available. The great Liberal doctrine of preferences as enunciated by Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Fielding were abrogated in 1938. That Liberal doctrine was repealed in 1938. At the time of the diamond jubilee Sir Wilfrid said, "If you want our assistance, invite us to your councils." Before the Geneva charter was passed, upon which this motion is based1, New Zealand, Australia and Britain wanted a conference of the senior dominions, but Canada opposed that. They went on to meet at Geneva without a conference. The Canadian Manufacturers' Association is a very moderate body and they presented a very moderate brief to the government on this particular question.

The Prime Minister spoke when he opened the Canadian national exhibition last September. The people of Toronto were glad to see him there and he got a wonderful reception. He and his family have had a long connection with our city. At that exhibition we were able to see the results of the preferences. The high commissioners for New Zealand and Australia were there and there were many wonderful exhibits from those countries. This is what the Canadian Manufacturers' Association said in their brief:

While it is vital under present international trade difficulties to expand markets in the United States and other dollar areas, the government and industry should intensify and extend their investigation of iways and means of re-establishing and developing the commercial trade which has been fostered and proven over so many years within the British empire. The recent trade mission to Africa was a move in this direction. Perhaps the time has come for such old customers to sit down again at the conference table to study the removal of restrictions on one another, and a return to more normal commercial trade within the empire. For generations there has been a stability in British commonwealth and empire trade relations which should be kept in mind by the government in making plans to expand international trade.

The Stevens price spreads committee, a committee similar to this, was appointed by the Bennett government. I have here a report of

a speech made by the hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Irvine), in which he refers to the wonderful work done by the Stevens committee. I am sorry the Conservative party does not have Mr. Stevens with it today. He is a wonderful man and he understands trade and commerce, and did a grand job as head of the price spreads committee of 1934.

Why should the government choose the chairman for a committee like this. If the government is to choose the chairman the committee may just as well never meet. The chairman is also the chairman of a health committee and he is off to New York. The government will write the final report because they have a majority on the committee. The Conservatives have four members; the C.C.F., two, and the Social Creditors, one.

The Stevens committee sat for months and months and it did a lot to show the consumers some of the evils of protection and big business of that day. The Conservative party were the real pioneers and the authors of protection, but the Stevens committee showed that we had made no progress. I should like to read from an address which I made to my constituents on September 24, 1934:

The Stevens committee showed us that we have made no progress in eliminating sweatshops in over 100 years, since Lord Shaftesbury got legislation to eliminate the sweatshop evils and secure a ten-hour day at the time of the great industrial revolution, which converted England from an agricultural to an industrial country.

And further down:

The time has come to stop "pussyfooting" with these cankers in the body politic and reassert the supremacy of parliament as the first duty of a government is to look after the health and happiness, welfare and prosperity of its people. The Conservative party has done itself credit in the spread prices and mass buying committee. ..

At that time I suggested that there should be an investigation into our electrical utilities, grain exchange, newsprint industry and other things of that kind. That Stevens committee did a valuable work for the white-collar workers and for labour, industry, and other people of this country. If Great Britain had called upon the commonwealth and the empire to meet before the trade conference, this Geneva charter would never had been passed and she would have escaped her present crisis. The natural resources of the mother country and the dominions would have been available and those raw materials and manufactured goods are vastly superior to those from the United States or Russia. If we could have hung together as an empire we would have been all right and Great Britain would have had no trouble at all. She would have been able to avoid her present trouble.

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But she went into Bretton Woods, Geneva and many other things. We in Canada were blindfolded. We never heard from Geneva from February 17 to November 17. We knew nothing about it in the House of Commons and we might just as well not have met. If Britain had called on the empire and the commonwealth she would have escaped this crisis and would have been able to expand her exports and markets and thus enable her industries to recover. Then the empire would have had preferential trade first, last and for all time. That could have been done because that is the best way to trade. Then, after this last war there would have been prosperity for all. It is only in that way that it could have been done. We got ourselves into this jam by agreeing to Bretton Woods and refusing an empire trade conference before the Geneva trade tower of Babel. They preferred internationalism and totalitarianism to preferential trade. We should have told them at Geneva that preferential trade is a family matter and not open to dispute with the United States. If we had kept it at that we would have been all right. The government is- now simply awaiting the next trump card from Washington, and in the meantime we are committing ourselves to the most fatal mistake we have made since confederation, in rescinding preferences; that is, we are tying ourselves up to this principle which I enunciated a moment or two ago.

If this committee is appointed it will have counsel and all that kind of thing. I notice that the conference at Havana has appointed a lot of subcommittees, with counsel, and is going to deal with the very same subject as will occupy the attention of this committee.

It will be a sorry day for the people of this country when we depart from the British preferences because Great Britain as well as France and Italy, have always been steady customers for our wheat, butter, eggs, bacon, apples and other foods, and once that market is given up we may find the United States coming back to high tariffs, in which case we shall not be able to sell them veiy much. I have been a great admirer of the people of the United States and I respect them. We certainly owe them a great deal for what they did in the two wars. But they would respect us far more if we would tell them the whole truth and nothing but the truth and be honest and aboveboard with them in these matters of trade and tell them our side of it. We have too many of our people abroad now supposed to be representing Canada in the United States. We have a whole standing army of them in Washington and ambassadors

on the seven seas. I believe the day is not far distant when the people of this country will know who their best customer was and they will regret the day when we turn our back on preferential trade within the empire.

I thank hon. members through you, Mr. Speaker, for listening to me.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

Mr. Speaker, may I now

move the adjournment of the debate.

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PC

Arza Clair Casselman (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. CASSELMAN:

No.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, the motion I just made having been turned down, I rise to say a few words tonight and shall continue tomorrow with respect to the motion made this afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), to which an amendment has been moved by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken).

I could not help but notice the great effort to which the Prime Minister went this afternoon to portray this motion as one giving great freedom to the members of the House of Commons to investigate this very serious problem of the high cost of living. At one point the Prime Minister declared that if his government had not moved for the setting up of this committee we would be condemning them and demanding such a motion on their part. I wish to call to the attention of the Prime Minister that we in this group have been having a good deal to say on the rising cost of living and its danger to the health and living standards of the Canadian people over the past two years. We have been making a good many requests and a good many demands on his government ; but never at any time have we requested merely the establishment of a committee to inquire into the matter, a committee without even the power to make recommendations to the house. On the contrary, we have considered, as the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) said tonight, that this is a responsible government that we have in this country and that it was the responsibility of the government to bring in legislation to deal with the crisis facing this country. But every time, with one exception, that we have moved motions calling for the restoration of price controls and subsidies there has been no freedom given to the members of this house to vote on such motions as they saw fit.

There was one occasion when the Prime Minister was absent from the country when that freedom was given, and that was on a motion made by this group some time ago

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with respect to the removal of the subsidy on milk. On that occasion freedom was given to the members of this house to express themselves on the merits of an idea, and the members of the house revealed here what they felt to be the views of their people back home. But on every other occasion the whips have been on, and the things we have demanded in the name of the people of Canada have been turned down. I submit that it does not impress this house at all and will not impress the country for the Prime Minister to say that it is giving freedom to the members of the House of Commons, to have a committee of sixteen members inquire into these matters, when that committee has not even power to make recommendations to the house.

I take it, Mr. Speaker, that now you may accept and might have better success in putting to the house a motion that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

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February 2, 1948