April 10, 1951

COST OF LIVING

AMENDMENT, MR. DREW


The house resumed, from Monday, April 9, consideration of the motion of Mr. Fournier (Hull) that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the house to resolve itself into committee of supply, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Drew.


CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West):

Mr. Speaker, in the few minutes I had at my disposal last evening I read one or two extracts from Hansard in an effort to indicate the opinions of certain members of the government with respect to the value of price controls, subsidies and rationing under what we would term abnormal and emergency circumstances and conditions. Before proceeding, I just want to read one more extract

as further proof and thus further substantiate our continuing argument in connection with this most important question.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) has been greatly interested in this question since the period of decontrol commenced in 1946. He placed a question on the order paper of February 25, 1947. I will read the question. It is as follows:

February 25-Mr. Knowles-Order of the house- For a return showing (a) the total cost of the government's price control program during the entire period thereof since the outbreak of world war II, together with a break-down of said total in such a manner as may be readily available, and (b) the amount saved by Canadian consumers as a result of this program, together with a break-down of this figure and an indication as to the basis used in computing the same.

For a considerable period, the hon. member did not receive a reply to that question on the order paper. From time to time he asked for information in the house as to when the question would be answered, and he persistently pressed Mr. Ilsley, then minister of finance, for a statement in connection with the question which had been on the order paper for so long, until finally Mr. Ilsley made in the house one of the most interesting statements that had ever been made by a minister of finance on such an important question. I wish to read briefly from the statement made by Mr. Ilsley on April 1, 1947, as reported at pages 1926 and 1927 of Hansard:

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James Lorimer Ilsley

Mr. Ilsley:

. . . the hon. member for Winnipeg

North Centre (Mr Knowles) put a question and pressed me to answer it, and I will do this as best I can, although it is almost impossible to give an answer to the question He asked for an estimate of the benefits to the citizens of Canada as a result of the price control policies; that is to say, the saving in prices to the consumer-the amount by which consumer prices were made lower than they otherwise would have been.

The following estimate gives some indication of the strain and difficulty which would have developed in the Canadian economy without price control. It is based on the assumption that in the absence of price control prices would have risen in recent years to the same extent that they rose in world war I and its aftermath. Nobody knows whether they would or would not, or would have risen higher.

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Wilfrid Garfield Case

Mr. Case:

It is an impractical question.

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An hon. Member:

Hear, hear.

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CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

To the hon. member who has just said "hear, hear", I might say that when the next election comes along the same thing may happen to him as happened to Mr. Case. I continue the quotation:

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James Lorimer Ilsley

Mr. Ilsley:

I wish to point out that we never

devoted more than fifteen per cent of our resources to the war in any year of world war I, whereas in world war II, in some years, we devoted approximately fifty per cent of the production of the country to the war. And economists have always told me that that is the main factor in driving

prices up-the proportion of output that you shoot away and send away, leaving in the country the purchasing power that was paid out to produce it, and nothing to spend it on. That is a powerful inflationary influence. It must be remembered that in many countries where there existed no effective control, prices were going up 100, 200 and 300 per cent, and I am not talking of wild inflations such as occurred in China and other places. But if we assume that prices would have risen, and the inflationary factors were more powerful in the last few years than in the years between 1914 and 1920, much more powerful-if we assume, I say, that prices would have risen, without control, just to the same extent proportionately, year by year, as they did in the period from 1914 to 1919, then these are the results you get: the consumers would have had to spend an average of nearly $8 billion between 1942 and 1946.

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John Ritchie MacNicol

Mr. MacNicol:

How many millions?

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James Lorimer Ilsley

Mr. Ilsley:

I said nearly $8 billion a year between

1942 and 1946, to buy goods and services, which in fact cost them on the average not quite $6-5 billion a year. If hon. gentlemen want to know how that is arrived at they can procure table 11, gross national expenditure at market prices, 1938 to 1946, issued by the bureau of statistics, which shows the personal expenditure on consumer goods and services for each of the years from 1938 to 1946; and if the amount spent had increased proportionately to the increase in prices in the first great war, the amount spent would have averaged $8 billion in those years instead of the $6J billion which the consumers actually did spend.

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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. Quelch;

Does that take into consideration the higher taxation?

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James Lorimer Ilsley

Mr. Ilsley:

No; it does not take that into account. Taxation was part of the stabilization policy.

We in this group recognize that.

High income taxes were probably the most powerful factor in the anti-inflation policy. In short, if prices had risen as they did in the last war and its aftermath, the consumers would have had to spend $1J billion more than they actually did.

It should also be noted that the general stabilization program held down the cost of munitions and other military expenses, thereby saving a further large addition to the already heavy national debt.

1 am sure that sentence will appeal to the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton), in view of the statement which I understand he made at some public gathering quite recently. I continue:

It is estimated that government expenditures averaged $4 billion a year between 1942 and 1946. Without price control this cost might have been at the very least twenty-five per cent higher. I think that twenty-five per cent is based upon the other figures which I have given with regard to the additional percentage which the consumers would have been obliged to pay; and the stabilization program has thus meant a saving of another billion dollars a year. From these estimates it is possible to see that the cost of the control program was under $200 million a year, while the savings to the consumer purchasers and government as a buyer were on this hypothesis possibly $2J billion a year. The figures are tentative but do give some idea of the relative magnitude of the cost of and the savings effected by the government price control program.

Here we have, Mr. Speaker, from the highest authority-the minister of finance of the day, who had the portfolio during the greater part of the war period-proof as to the value

Cost of Living

of price control and subsidies in savings to the government and people, and definite proof as to the cost of those price controls and subsidies to the Canadian people. We have that on the highest authority. Yet, Mr. Speaker, in reading the Canadian papers recently, I note that one Liberal member of parliament gives as his reason for opposing the policy of price control and subsidies, and for supporting the government's policy in that connection, that price ceilings would be more costly than inflation to the Canadian people. I just wish to read from the Nelson Daily News of March 31, which reports a meeting of the East Kootenay Liberal Association at Cranbrook on March 29. It has this to say in part, in reporting the speech of the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Byrne):

He supported the government in its stand against price controls establishment and its alternate policy of credit control to reduce buying power on the grounds that enforcement of resulting rationing and price ceilings would be more costly to the public than present inflation.

I presume that report is correct, because I read the same sort of report, in almost identical words, in the Cranbrook Courier of March 29. When the hon. member made that statement, I think he was unaware of the statement of the former minister of finance with regard to the relative cost of price controls and subsidies, and the savings effected for the Canadian people. For every dollar spent on price control and subsidies, according to the statement of the highest authority, the saving to the average Canadian consumer was between $12 and $13. Surely it is time the government acted in. this situation.

As I said before, I certainly am aware of its difficulties, its ramifications and the complications attending it under this system. But the government could act in the sphere of food, clothing and shelter, these three things that so seriously affect the lives of the people who have the lower incomes in this country. I am not personally concerned about the price of liquor, or the price of luxuries, or things of that sort. But I do think that this government should act in the field of food, clothing and shelter, and act now. If we are to protect the living standards of the families of this country, particularly of people raising families at this time, something must be done to protect those who are in receipt of fixed incomes, because they are in a very difficult position. I realize it is difficult to remedy the situation, and, shall I say, place them in a satisfactory position in relation to other groups in the community. We will have to roll back prices where possible after investigation. Those who are living on small pensions and fixed incomes find themselves in

Cost of Living

very difficult circumstances. Then there are those who are anxious to build houses. I believe the very foundations of democracy are built and maintained by people who own or desire to own their own houses. In my personal experience from dealing with people I have noticed that a change in the attitude of some men toward life takes place when they are able to build or own their own homes and have a little plot of ground around them to cultivate. These three things-food, clothing, shelter-should be given very serious consideration and action should be taken by the government now.

I realize that the present inflation is not all the government's fault. I think every fair-minded person realizes that. Some of it has been the result of human nature and of human greed. I know of many storekeepers who are very much perturbed by the constant rise in prices. They have shown me their invoices and have explained to me how much concerned they are about the situation. They know of its effect on their customers. But I know of other storekeepers who are storing supplies in their basements and are working havoc with prices just because they can take advantage of the Canadian people's circumstances at this time. Some manufacturers are raising prices unduly. There is no question about that.

Some manufacturers in this country have an excellent reputation, and are willing to accept a reasonable standard of profit. We realize that under this profit system a reasonable standard of profit is necessary if the system is to continue to function; but I know personally of individuals who have taken an exceptional advantage of present circumstances and shortages.

I come finally to the question of lumber. Lumber is a very important thing in this country in connection with the building of houses. There are lumber manufacturers in this country who have done their best to maintain a reasonable price throughout the difficult years; but owing to the competition for lumber from the United States, lumber prices have risen almost dramatically in the last two or three years, and to such an extent that at the present time there are thousands of Canadians who even a year ago were considering building a house, but owing to the increased cost of lumber, the increased cost of hardware and other things, are denied that opportunity and privilege at this time. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the government could well make certain that the Canadian requirements are met by a quota on the export of lumber, and establishment of price control on the lumber sold in the domestic

markets. The return from lumber sold to the export market is quite sufficient to secure for any lumber company an adequate profit in relation to the lumber they would have to sell on the domestic market. I think control of lumber is a very necessary step at this time.

I have made some investigation of the prices of lumber in this part of Ontario. I have heard references made to the prices charged by the lumber industry in British Columbia. I can say this in all truthfulness, and I am sure in this I shall be supported by other British Columbia members, that the prices that are charged for lumber in the city of Ottawa are simply out of this world as compared with the prices being charged for comparable grades in my own district of British Columbia.

I want to bring another thing to the attention of the; minister. I know a little about lumber grades. I have an interest in a little tinpot mill, and we grade very strictly. Everything that goes out of the mills in our district for export is good quality lumber and timber. I think that is generally the practice throughout British Columbia.

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IND
CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

The same as our apples. I think that all products sent from British Columbia are of good grade. But, Mr. Speaker, I was in Calgary last year and met a man driving a truckload of lumber. He was coming out of a lumber yard. I said: "What grade of lumber have you on there?" He said: "This is a load of No. 1 common." It was not a load of No. 1 common at all. It was a load of lower grades of lumber being sold as No. 1.

I think the government should do something to protect the lumber purchasers on the prairies, because in my opinion this overgrading has occurred out there in recent years. There is a dilution of lumber grades, when it reaches the prairie market, by a few wholesalers, jobbers, retailers, and so on. I should like to see the government give democracy an opportunity to function.

As I have said over and over again, this is a most difficult question. There is no overnight solution to it; but we in this group believe that if the government takes into its confidence organized labour of this country, the organized farmers, the representatives of the co-operative movement, the representatives of the consumers movement and some representative women, and these people are permitted to get around a table with representatives of the federal government, a great deal can be done under the leadership of the government, in co-operation with the

people's representatives and organizations to stabilize prices and improve this very unsatisfactory situation.

The cost of living index on March 1-not April 10-was 179-7. When the Canadian people read that in the papers it appalled many of them. Without doubt some minister's statements in previous months were an invitation to greedy people to raise prices, and without doubt some greedy people have taken advantage of the situation. The fiscal policies of the government and its credit restriction policy are not sufficient. That is evidenced by what has happened.

There are certain interests in this country who are against price control. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been consistently against price control, I think because it is aot in favour of any restriction or controls that appear to interfere with the operation Df free enterprise. The Canadian Manufacturers Association has been against price control consistently, and some of the lumber organizations throughout Canada have been against price control. I remember in March, 1947, the Western Retail Lumbermen's Asso-fiation made representations by letter urging ;he dropping of price controls immediately, when this government was following a policy of limited decontrol. In that letter they said something to this effect: If only price controls would be discontinued production would ncrease and the cost of lumber would drop. As a matter of fact production has increased greatly since that time, but owing to condi-ions in the external market and the demand 'or lumber internally, instead of prices Iropping, they have constantly increased.

For price control, or should I say a form of profit control, we have a majority of Canadians as indicated by public opinion polls. We have organized labour. Organized labour as a whole does not want wage freezing, but organized labour is in favour of price :ontrols and subsidies and is willing to ;o-operate with the government in order to Jo something to bring about a satisfactory relationship between wages and prices on ;he basis of negotiations and the practice of ;he principles of collective bargaining.

The organized farmers are in favour of price controls, necessary subsidies and regula-:ions of that type. They do not want price freezing, but they are willing to work in :o-operation with the government in the best interests of the country and in co-operation with labour to bring about a satisfactory relationship between prices and wages and ;o on. We have the co-operative movement .eaders expressing themselves as being firmly n. favour of price controls, subsidies and accessary regulations, and indicating their

Cost of Living

willingness to co-operate with the government. We have the veterans organizations. The British Columbia command of the Canadian Legion has taken a firm stand on this question, as have other veteran organizations. They are ready to co-operate. Then there are women's organizations and a large number of civil servants who are looking forward to the day when the government will take action.

If this government will only let democracy function and give the people the opportunity to participate, we can expect results. I know from experience that when a challenge faces the people they are ready to meet it. Things do not necessarily have to be smooth or easy. The government should give the people something to live for, and a worth-while purpose. This government can give the Canadian people something to live for by asking them to co-operate in developing a stabilized price structure in this country and a system of subsidies which will help to equalize the cost of living, help to equalize the burden now on the backs of the lower income groups by bringing about a more satisfactory relationship between wages and prices.

(Translation):

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LIB

Joseph-Omer Gour

Liberal

Mr. J. O. Gour (Russell):

Mr. Speaker, when I hear the opposition blame the government for the rising cost of living, I wonder if it could not be said instead that the Liberal government has so well run the country that we are enjoying an era of prosperity without precedent in history. Due to the markets the government has been able to find abroad for our products, the purchasing power of our people has increased substantially. This results in increased demand and, therefore, brings us higher prices for our products, higher wages, et cetera.

I would be tempted to twit the opposition about it, especially the official opposition; indeed, from 1930 to 1935, they showed so little capacity for running the country that they caused part of the people to go bankrupt. In fact the country was then swarming with unemployed, wages ran from 10 cents to 60 cents an hour, whereas today our workers are getting 60 cents to $2.50 an hour. Farm products were selling at ridiculous prices. Most farmers even lost the savings that had been put away for two or three generations while their income was barely sufficient to feed their families and pay their taxes.

Cost of Living

I have a few suggestions to help the government check inflation and lower the cost of living. It could be done by lowering the price of a wide variety of goods. My suggestions will not be welcomed and I trust that, if they are accepted, those who will suffer from them will not bear me too much ill will, for I make them sincerely.

In the first place, I believe that industrialists and businessmen should1 not be allowed to spend more than 25 per cent of the cost of a product for advertising purposes. I suggest that legislation to that effect would lower the cost of goods by something between 5 and 25 per cent, for the cost of advertising is really borne by the consumer.

I think an excess profits tax similar to the tax we had during the last war should be levied against all individuals, industrialists or others who, in the past four years, have had a taxable income of $5,000 or more, so that a 100 per cent tax might be levied on all incomes over and above the computed average for those years, and that they should be granted a reimbursement of 20 or 25 per cent in 1955 or 1956. Such taxation would curtail profiteering, force prices down, and bring substantial revenues to the government.

I believe we could also ask all our people, especially during 1951 and 1952-or as long as the world crisis prevails-to work from two to eight hours more a week. This would bring about a surplus of goods and consequently a lowering of prices which would benefit our working class and people of restricted means.

I am sure the government will take the best available means-and there are many-in order to fight inflation, which is disheartening to people of smaller means.

The new budget will be brought down tonight. I am sure the government has made the necessary provision for a sound administration of the country and that whatever regulations are made will prove satisfactory to all our people.

Unlike many hon. members of the opposition, I do not wish to put an end to prosperity in Canada. Our workers have more money and live in better homes than ever before. Farm buildings are in better condition than ever and the situation keeps on improving; we see new structures going up as well as community recreational centres, not to mention an ever-increasing number of new cars and new tractors driven by well fed and well dressed people.

I realize that, from time to time, the government must curb the ambitions of some people and bring them back to reason, but

nothing should be done to jeopardize the prosperity which, thanks to the present administration, our people have enjoyed since 1935. I therefore urge my leaders not to make the mistake of acting on the advice of those who, from 1930 to 1935, handicapped the development of Canada.

(Text):

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be natural, having regard to the speech delivered last evening by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), that I begin my remarks by referring to what the minister said. I must confess that in part the speech was a great surprise to me. I listened with much interest to the minister's account of various proceedings which are being carried out by his department, but when he came to the end of his speech he used words which I imagine were a surprise to a large number of people in Canada who think they are suffering at the present time. The minister said, as reported on page 1762 of Hansard:

I am sure that we can get along quite comfortably as consumers and still engage in a substantial defence effort.

And a little later:

Unless all-out war comes, Canadians can continue to live well.

Now, I listened to that and I said to myself: What are we talking about? Is there really any rise in prices at all? Yes, the ministei indicated that there was a rise. At page 1758 of Hansard he said that prices had gone up about 16 points or 10 per cent, and I think that is roughly within a year. When I read this I could not help wondering what would be the feelings of the people of whom the hon member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough' spoke last night. Incidentally, I think thf hon. member for Hamilton West can speak with a particularly strong title for the housewives of Canada as she herself is not only ar efficient member of parliament but also ar efficient housewife. When we heard what she had to say it was certainly most difficul' indeed to -square it with the words of tht minister which I read. Indeed it seems tha' when the minister speaks about this matte: he is able to maintain an attitude of detachment, almost as if he were an onlooker.

I leave that and come back now to what ! think is the feeling of the great mass of th< ordinary people, the people who really believf that they are suffering seriously. I thinl these people, and indeed a very large numbei of the population of the whole country, havinj regard particularly to what happened in th< month of February', believe that we have ai inflation which is at any rate giving a verj

good imitation of being a runaway inflation. I was pleased to hear the minister say that the month of March had apparently flattened out but we must not take too much comfort from that because, after all, it is not as if at the present stage of costs we should be content to go on as we are. There has got to be something much better or people are going to continue to suffer in a way which is extremely hard for them to bear.

The thought of inflation and what it does reminds one of a remark of Lenin which I believe Stalin is in the habit of quoting often, that the way to destroy a capitalist country is to debauch its currency. When those in Moscow watch what is going on here at the moment, and what has been going on for some months, it seems to me that they will be chuckling a bit and saying: Well, these people are trying to get ready to meet us in the field but if they go on as they are now, managing their affairs as badly as they are now, it may be that they will destroy themselves, or at any rate weaken themselves to the point where their defence effort will be utterly blunted. It is interesting to note that the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Clax-ton) in a speech he made in New York the other day was uttering what almost sounded like a signal of distress by reason of the fact that high prices were indeed blunting his defence production by increasing -costs so enormously.

One would -have reason to worry about this matter much less if we were in the full swing of our defence expenditure, but we are told that we have only made a good beginning. I did not see this in print but I was told the other day that Mr. Harris, the steel controller, speaking from where he sits, said that we really would not be under a full head of expenditure for about a year. The minister will correct me if I am wrong on that, but that was reported to me, and it makes me feel that the present situation gives cause for just that much more anxiety. It makes one feel that, even if March has flattened out, the pressures still to come make the whole situation full of danger.

Why are we in this trouble if defence expenditures are still at a comparatively early stage? I want to ask also whether it could have been averted. I think a good deal of it could have been averted, and I shall try to say why. I suppose there are two main reasons why we are in this difficulty now. The first is, as the minister said last night, that we have had bad public psychology. People have been running to cover, people have been hoarding. Anticipating higher prices a great many people have bought goods, I am afraid, speculating for a rise. The minister is somewhat tired of

Cost of Living

hearing his own remarks quoted on that point, but he made it very clear when he said that people were "governing themselves accordingly". What he said was that people, anticipating and fearing that some kind of controls might be put on, were "governing themselves accordingly"-in other words, buying up commodities.

Human psychology is one reason, and there I think we are fully entitled to blame the government. The hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge), who has just spoken, called for a lead from the government. I thought some of his remarks were quite sound, and that we do need a lead. I feel ever so strongly that the government has not taken the lead.

When we met in this chamber last September the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) and others pressed very strongly that the government should say whether or not there was an emergency. The government hesitated to do so, and I think that people have hesitated to believe that the situation is as serious as the actual figures show it to be. I think that remark also applies to the -situation in Korea. It is quite astonishing how we have dissociated ourselves from the happenings there, which are tremendous, even though at the present time they seem to be in a lull.

The next cause, and a very active material cause for what has happened, is that there has been what I call a gross failure on the part of the government to use the financial controls that are available to it, particularly through the Bank of Canada. The Bank of Canada was set up for the very purpose of giving the government an effective agency to control credit. I shall try to show the house in the course of the next few minutes that in this respect there has been a grievous and inexcusable failure. I think it is desirable that the public should know the causes of the present situation. As a matter of fact if people know the causes there will be some occasion for them to take heart and say: Well, if those causes are met we may have a better hope for the future.

As the leader of the opposition said some weeks ago in the house, there is a terrible feeling of insecurity abroad. I would say that this insecurity has invaded the minds of all but the well-to-do-and perhaps even the minds of many of them. Second, those who have wage contracts with automatic cost of living escalator clauses may feel that they can escape, and third, those who are so well organized that they feel they can have their wages keep pace with the cost of living. These three classes might to some extent escape the prevailing sense of insecurity

Cost of Living

although I suggest that as things are going now none of them will feel secure because they surely will realize that if this thing goes on and is not checked it will undermine, as the minister said last night, the very foundations of our society.

This situation demands qualities which are hard to summon up in peacetime. There is no doubt in the world that it demands energy, activity and all that kind of thing, but it also demands a certain forbearance. It also demands that people should not try to tread down other elements in the community regardless, and think only of their own welfare, because if that prevails in the end they will be dragged down also. It is easy to describe the disease. It has been described so often we are tired of hearing about it. It is the case of "too much money chasing too few goods". It is easy to describe the cure- "more production and less consumption". That is easily said, but I have here an epigrammatic statement made by a competent economist from which I propose to read because I think it puts in simple words very pertinent advice which we should all bear in mind, and which could have a very practical influence on the situation if we would really bear it in mind. He said:

If when I get a larger income in dollars for myself I produce at the same time correspondingly more than I produced before, this will not raise my neighbour's cost of living.

But as often as I get a larger income without at the same time producing correspondingly more than I produced before, my success in getting more income for myself must raise my neighbour's cost of living.

And in parallel with this, whenever my neighbour gets a larger income in dollars for himself and at the same time enlarges his own output correspondingly, he will not raise my cost of living.

But as often as he gets a larger income without at the same time producing correspondingly more than he produced before, his own success in getting more income for himself must raise my cost of living.

I suggest that there is a lot of practical common sense in that, and if by some, magic we were all able to realize the force of that statement and practise it, that in itself would go a long way towards solving the problem. I suggest also that governments, by wise instruction and wise leadership, could do a great deal to make that view prevail.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

Will the hon. gentleman say who wrote that?

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Yes; Gilbert Jackson, who I think is one of the most earnest students of economics. I think we can also say, and I imagine everyone will agree with this, that civilian demands must be reduced through economy of expenditure by governments, businesses and individuals.

[Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood) .1

We must have higher taxes; we must have credit restraints; we must have control of scarce commodities. As a matter of fact the minister referred to this very thing last autumn. I should like to read just a sentence from what he said when he actually spoke of controlling prices. Apparently there are some people who feel that even to suggest such a thing is hardly done in respectable circles, so I want to read to the minister part of what he had to say at page 458 of Hansard for last September. Speaking on the Essential Materials (Defence) Act he said:

The purpose of the measure is to try to see that war buying is not permitted to be a factor in increasing prices. In other words, if for war purposes we shorten the supply of materials and the remainder is insufficient for domestic supply, we then take the right to fix prices on the materials for domestic use, and arrange distribution.

To me that seems sensible. That seems to recognize what is actually happening, that purchases by governments have upset and are upsetting the ordinary operations of the market. The other day we read that the United States, which had been stockpiling tin, brought down the price of tin by a very substantial amount in one day by ceasing its operations. That shows the effect actions by governments are having day by day on the markets.

Of course it is commonplace to say what we all agree with, that production is all important. I suppose we could easily have a calculation made to show that if by some comparatively small percentage, probably less than 5 per cent and perhaps only 2 or 3 per cent, we could increase our production each day, our problems would largely disappear. Unfortunately that realization will never get abroad while we are utterly unconscious of the fact that we are living under stress, that there is a real emergency, that we are in real danger, the kind of danger which in wartime made us all prepared to do for our country more than we would ordinarily do. I believe enough in human nature to feel that if the people could be made to realize the urgency of the situation, much could be done in that way. But as we listened last evening to the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), interesting as he was; as we have listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent); as we have listened to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott)-and of course we shall hear more from him tonight on this subject-one gets the impression of people who are onlookers. One almost gets the impression that the government has become so complacent and so pleased with itself that it really feels that nothing very much can be wrong as long as it is in power. That is a very pleasant

belief, but it does not just cover everything. I would say also that these signs of complacency have existed even since last September, even since the time when I think it became perfectly clear that we were in an emergency and should have acted accordingly.

I think we saw that attitude exhibited in this house the other evening when this debate was suggested. When the figures for February were quoted the Minister of Trade and Commerce said after all they were five weeks old, and for that reason there was nc urgency about debating them. I could not understand what the minister meant, unless he felt that people had been so numbed by those figures for February that they really had no power of feeling left. Then we heard from the genial Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) who told us there was no use having a debate because nobody would pay any attention to what we said. Those were not his exact words-

Topic:   COST OF LIVING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
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LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

I would not interrupt when the hon. member was speaking.

Topic:   COST OF LIVING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
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April 10, 1951