I should like to have a few more words with the minister about the wartime prices ian-d tra-de board and this question- of the re-imposition of price controls and subsidies. I hope -that we are now able to discuss this matter in a little more reasonable atmosphere than was the case for a number of months prior to last night. Until last night any request from this corner of the house for a reimposition of -price controls and subsidies was met with a negative reply. The minister has told -us on occasion that it could be done only by the restoration of wage controls. He has told ,us on other occasions that some controls were being maintained in so far as that
was permitted by the parliamentary statute, but it was clear that the general approach of the government was negative.
However, we now have the adoption of the prices committee report, which, although it did not go down the line for over-all price controls, suggested that some controls and subsidies should be put back on. Earlier this evening I felt that the minister indicated a slight change of attitude, in that he stated that the recommendations of the committee as approved by the house would be given immediate consideration. I should like the minister to recall a question which was asked him last Thursday by my colleague, the hon. member for Churchill, and which had to do with the minister's promise earlier this year that if prices of meat and butter got out of hand controls would be reimposed. That promise took the form of a statement which the minister made on March 4 of this year, as reported on pages 1864 and 1865 of Hansard in reply to a question by the hon. member for Lethbridge. On that occasion the hon. member asked this same question. I think I Should give the committee the text of the minister's answer on that date. This is the Minister of Finance speaking:
Perhaps I had better answer that question. The situation with respect to ceilings on meat, including beef, is this. The government announced late in January, I think, that it intended to reimpose ceilings on meat and on butter; and it was pointed out at that time that the imposition of retail ceilings on meat involved quite a technical operation in working out what those ceilings should be with respect to, I am told, nearly 200 items. That work has been proceeded with _ and it is now completed; but in the meantime tire retail prices of meats are somewhat below the prices which were prevailing at the time the announcement was made, and therefore there has been no necessity to impose the formal ceilings. As I say, the technical work has been done, and in the event of its being necessary to do so, ceilings can be reimposed promptly.
As long ago as March 4 the minister indicated that the technical work, even though it was complicated and involved nearly 200 meat items, had been completed and that the government was in a position, through the medium of the wartime prices and trade board, to put ceilings back on if the same became necessary. I should like to ask the minister what work has been done in the meantime by the wartime prices and trade board to get ready to put ceilings back on as might now be desirable in view of the approval that this house gave to the report of the prices committee. It seems to me that the argument which the government has used in the past Should not now be used because of the action taken last night by this house and
because of the at least slight change in attitude shown by the minister earlier this evening when he said that immediate consideration would be given to this report.
I know something of the splendid work the wartime prices and trade board did in the years when the government gave it half a chance, and it would seem to me that that board would now have some machinery ready and some of the technical work done, so that it would be possible for the government to act upon the report of the prices committee.
I am not now asking the minister for a restatement of the promise he made at eight o'clock; I am asking him to state what plans have been worked out and what work has been done by the wartime prices and trade board to get ready to carry out an anticipated change in government policy.
Subtopic: DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS