December 19, 1951

LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. LaCroix:

Humbugs in their policy, indeed, when the Conservative party clamours for government price control but would leave it in the hands of manufacturers.

And, in answer to my hon. friend's question-

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Humbug!

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Humbug!

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. LaCroix:

Humbugs, when they talk of inflation, yet oppose a measure that would check its growth.

Humbugs-

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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?

Some hon. Members:

Humbug!

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. LaCroix:

Humbugs, when they talk

of protecting the people against exploitation by big interests, for when they have the occasion of enabling these people to purchase goods and products at reasonable prices, they try to prevent them from doing so, as they have demonstrated during this debate.

The Conservative party may have been able, thus far, to win by-elections, by preaching against the high cost of living. But today it has cut short all its chances of ever winning an election, by showing itself in its true light to the Canadian people.

May I be permitted, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate the government on its courageous attitude toward the moneyed interests. It has been shown once again that the Liberal party, although it has not yet reached perfection, is still much nearer the people than the Conservatives.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Humbug.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. LaCroix:

As far as the Conservative party is concerned, it has demonstrated once again its inability to see where lie the true interests of the great mass of consumers that make up the population of this country.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Humbug.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. LaCroix:

Moreover, it proves today that its eyes are wide open to those who feed its electoral fund, and only pretends to have one eye turned to the Canadian people.

Combines Investigation Act

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Humbug.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, I realize that it is perhaps on the face of it a little bold-

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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?

An hon. Member:

Louder.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Thank you. I am glad you are listening.

I think it is perhaps a little odd for one who was not a member of the committee to step into this fight. Indeed, I do feel just a trifle like a camp follower. We had all the front-line troops in action yesterday, or at least some of them, and I hope we shall hear from more of them today. I hope we shall not merely have the speech of the member for Montreal St. James (Mr. Beaudry), who gave such a fine exhibition last night, but short of his vote. At any rate I am going to suggest that camp followers have their uses.

I had a recollection that the battle of Bannockburn was won by camp followers, and I have some evidence to that effect which I hope will be of interest. It is not very flattering to the English, but I hope this may be of interest to the men of Scottish descent and also, because of the ancient alliance, to those of French descent. In those days we all fought against the English. Briefly, this is a description of the outcome of the battle. The final impetus to the rout of the English was given by a historic charge of the gillies-that is the camp followers- who had been watching from the heights. They charged down the hill blowing horns, waving such weapons as they possessed and holding aloft improvised banners. Their cries of "slay", "slay", seemed to the weary English to betoken the advance of great reserves, and in a few minutes the whole English army broke and fled. I can hardly hope, Mr. Speaker, that I shall have such a dramatic effect on this assembly. At any rate, I put that forward with respect as an indication of the use a humble camp follower may have.

It is difficult to remember it perhaps, but this bill was introduced as a measure which would supposedly have some action on inflation, but that seems to have been left so far in the background now that we are dealing with it purely as it affects the Combines Investigation Act. Nevertheless, I think we should remind ourselves briefly of what was said in the speech from the throne. I quote from page 2 of Hansard lor October 9, 1951:

Every measure will be taken which my ministers believe will be effective in counteracting inflation without impairing our free institutions.

Later there is a reference to this particular measure. In spite of this fine introduction

Combines Investigation Act I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the bill has become a foundling. I understand a "foundling" is a child whose parents are unknown and cannot be discovered. While the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) sponsored the measure, through the speech from the throne, in dignified words, when he came to speak about it-I was going to say he blew hot and cold but that would not be correct because there was no hot, he really just blew cold on it. What he said was this, as recorded on page 41 of Hansard for October 15, 1951:

... as regards Immediate additional measures to curb inflation, while others may develop, the only one we are prepared to submit at this time is the one that will arise out of this report ot the combines committee with respect to resale prices.

Then he said:

I do not think that is going to have a very substantial effect on the index ot the cost of living;...

Having been rejected by the Prime Minister, the bill found itself on the doorstep of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson). He seemed to have received very little help from his side of the house, except from the chairman of the committee to whose efforts I shall try to do full justice. The Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), whom we all remember as the guide, philosopher and friend of the Minister of Justice from two years ago when he first became famous in this house, apparently has taken no interest in this matter. We may hope that before we are finished we may have some words from him.

I want to pause for a moment to comment on the fact that the primary objective of the bill was to bring down the cost of living; and, as I say, that seems to have been lost sight of. It is getting smaller and smaller. Everyone who has spoken about that aspect of it has pooh-poohed it to the point where now we almost forget that it was ever in the picture of all. I feel it is desirable-I know the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) will be interested in this-to point out that this is the third and last of the special hopes that were held out to us in these last months for dealing with inflation. The first hope we had was economy. I am not going to take the time of the house to any greater extent than to remind you that that has gone down the drain. The parliamentary assistant, followed by the minister, has told us, not with sadness as I think they should but with the greatest equanimity, that apparently we must expect nothing from government economy. They prescribe economy for other people, but not for government.

The second great panacea or the second method of reducing prices was high taxes. We were told that they would be painful but

they would have a very salutary effect. I want to admit that at one time that was the general belief. This belief has been exploded now because we have developed elements in the community who are so strongly organized that they are able to defeat the purpose of high taxes; that is to say they are able to augment their income enough to offset the taxes. This remedy, therefore, has really passed out of existence. I was interested in observing that no less a person than the president of the Bank of Montreal referred to that in his annual address, and gave his serious opinion that we will have to revise our thinking about the effects of high taxes.

Finally we have this last remedy, and indeed it would be flattering to describe it as even a damp squib so far as inflation is concerned. The best proof of that is that no one has seriously suggested it would be effective against inflation, not even the chairman of the committee. I say, therefore, that so far as anti-inflationary effect is concerned this measure has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. We can consider this bill purely as to its validity in dealing with the question of resale price maintenance, not expecting that it is going to have any considerable effect. The Prime Minister blew cold on it early in the session, and I think it was the chairman of the committee who suggested that there was only one per cent of the products in food stores that were price controlled. At that time he was making another argument, but I think the argument can fairly be used as showing that he does not think it will have much effect in reducing prices.

As I said, I was not a member of the committee so I propose to say very little on the argument which has been made so forcefully that the committee was conducted in an unsatisfactory manner. Anyone checking the high spots of what has taken place could have no doubt but what there was backing and filling, rather as if it were a peculiar shunting yard where the trains go up and down but hardly ever get out.

First of all there was the reference to the speech from the throne, and then the doubtful opinion of the Prime Minister a day or two later. Later still came the explanation by the Minister of Justice. That is extremely interesting because, in effect, he said that they had found there is such a thing as public opinion, that public opinion had begun to assert itself, that it had made an impression upon them, and therefore they had decided that they would have a committee.

When the committee was set up, it appeared to be constituted with the end of taking a

wide view and of trying to deal with this problem on the basis of finding out the truth, even if it took some time. But there was another miscalculation and quite soon-in about a week, if I remember rightly-the committee was limited in its objective because it was found out by this time that this was a difficult matter, a matter of importance, and that really to get at the truth-which some of us feel is important-might take some little time. The operations of the committee were therefore limited and an attempt was made to take a middle course. I suggest that this course is one that would much better be called a muddled course than a middle course because I think what was done was calculated just to make the worst of both worlds.

The idea apparently was that the Mac-Quarrie report was to be taken as more or less gospel, but it was to be open to people to come along and prove-I think that was the word used by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson)-that it was wrong. I think the word "proved" was used. At any rate, that was the general intention, namely that people had to come along and knock the MacQuarrie report down.

That was, of course, something that was difficult to do because in the MacQuarrie report there were no facts; there were just opinions; and, after all, every man is entitled to his own opinion. The result of this negative method was rather odd because it really meant that, in order to save time, the committee were reduced to the position that they would in the main allow evidence only from those people who were against the report. The result of all that was that positive evidence for the views of the MacQuarrie report and for this measure we have before us was given to a strictly limited extent. Hence, when the Minister of Justice came to make his speech, the evidence he gave was scarcely, if at all, taken from the evidence of the committee but was largely the result of investigation made by his own research department. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it is small wonder that the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) and others complained vehemently, as they are well entitled to do, against such a method of carrying on the committee.

The second reason that I find it easy to believe that the committee was conducted in an undesirable manner was the speech made yesterday by the chairman of the committee. Last Saturday the chairman of the committee was acting for the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) in guiding through the financial administration bill, and I thought he did a competent and orderly job. I can only wish that yesterday he had adopted the

Combines Investigation Act same tactics, because I regard this as a serious subject. I do not think this is a subject to be made the occasion for the kind of histrionic display that we had yesterday; and when I say that, I think it is the least critical thing that can be said about it. The temptation to play to the gallery was strong. I am sure that it is heady stuff-having the large majority, which we hear of so often, faithfully pounding their desks. I think I myself would enjoy it greatly.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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LIB

John Sylvester Aloysius Sinnott

Liberal

Mr. Sinnoit:

Come on over here.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I can only hope that some element of caution would prevent me from going as far as the parliamentary assistant went yesterday.

To speak seriously, Mr. Speaker, I think we are entitled to have the chairman of a committee give a much more balanced report-and that is a conservative statement-than we had yesterday. I think I can remember a good many occasions on which chairmen of committees have tried to indicate the various views that prevailed; but really this committee seemed to me to get to the cloak and dagger stuff in the speech of yesterday; and I thought the parliamentary assistant unnecessarily went far out of his way to sneer at the business community.

I have noted one thing he said which I greatly regret, and I take it that that was the kind of thing that some of my colleagues here have objected to in the committee itself.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I want to read this because, first of all, it contains a sneer; and then, second, it contains a suggestion as to utterly improper conduct on the part of the business community which, so far as I know and so far as my reading of the evidence goes, was not warranted in any way by the evidence which was given. I read from the speech of the chairman yesterday as reported at page 2147 of Hansard:

If the manufacturers get together in a back room-

You see the idea, Mr. Speaker-the back room. The whole thing at once is shrouded in an atmosphere of criticism and suspicion. To my mind that is not the way in which this thing should be considered. I propose to read a report of the British committee on this subject. They had considerable difficulty. They had criticism to make of resale price maintenance, though on the whole they refused to recommend against it. But what struck me about their report was that they were trying to get at the truth. They were giving both sides. I admit that it was a report; it was not a speech in parliament;

Combines Investigation Act but I do not think that any speech in parliament by a responsible representative, least of all by a responsible person who has been head of an important committee, should descend to this kind of thing.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Hear, hear; either in the

house or as chairman of the committee.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I will read

the quotation from the speech to which I have referred, starting again at the beginning:

If the manufacturers get together in a back room and decide that such a retail price shall be the official price, that is obviously an illegal combine and it would be up to our efficient combines branch to commence proceedings against them. If all the retailers organized together, that would also be a combine.

Because there would be more of them, it would1 be that much easier for our combines branch to find out. But if each manufacturer-

And here is the innuendo, Mr. Speaker.

-tells all his retailers at what price they are to sell, then it is easy for these manufacturers to get together informally ...

I repeat that so far as I know that was not suggested. It was left for the chairman of the committee, in his speech, to add this innuendo gratuitously. To continue:

The effect on the consumer is the same, there is artificial fixing of prices . . . That is really the case against resale price maintenance.

I cannot help wondering if that last sentence is exactly what the chairman intended to say because, if I follow his reasoning correctly, he is saying that resale price maintenance includes this horizontal meeting of manufacturers which he has insinuated is the kind of thing that took place. I put forward that interpretation. If there is any escape from it, let us have it; but that is my understanding of it. I regret that that was said. It seems to me a great pity that it should be said by anyone in this house, but most of all that it should be said by a man who had the honourable position of presiding over this important committee and who heard the evidence.

Then there is another thing that the hon. member did which I think is gravely improper. The chairman was not content to give his own opinion; he was not content to give the opinion of other members of the house-which of course he is entitled to do-but he dragged in the civil servant who was acting as clerk of that committee and quoted him.

Topic:   COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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December 19, 1951