There is not a member on that side of the house, there is not a member of the government who realizes what unfettered competition means, who will approve of it. The hon. member for Charlotte was applauded when he read that letter, and especially by the hon. member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair).
Mr. Speaker, I take it you have good intentions. I would ask hon. members to consider for a moment what is meant by unfettered competition, unbridled competition, no restraint upon business at all, the law of supply and demand working to its utmost capacity. What does it mean? It means that all the rich men go into the market and collar everything. Despite what the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) may say, they corner the wheat, they corner the butter, they corner the eggs and sell them for as high a price as they can get. That is what is meant by unfettered competition. That is what is meant by the law of supply and demand being allowed to work. The government has to step in to protect the wheat grower. It has to protect the butter producer, the egg producer, the fish producer. Everybody in the community is protected against the working, of the law of supply and demand.
In connection with resale price maintenance, how does it work? Take the manufacturer. He has his capital investment upon which he has to pay a dividend if he is to remain in business. Above all he has to pay his workmen. How does he pay his workmen? Generally they are unionized, and he has to pay a fixed price sometimes set by collective bargaining or through some agency of the government. Nevertheless it has been the practice for many years now for manufacturers to pay the wages demanded of them, and that is done by fixation of some kind. Is it so absurd that manufacturers, who have to pay a fixed price for a part of the cost of the products they produce, should make an agreement with retailers as to what the
Combines Investigation Act ultimate product shall be sold for? It is only reasonable that the manufacturer should be able to sell at a fixed price, and it is not unreasonable that he should talk with the retailer about what a reasonable profit would be.
Getting back to that unfettered competition that is so approved of, we are all familiar, although perhaps not so familiar as we might be, with the beginning of the industrial revolution in England when machinery was first invented. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) referred to what occurred in the days so highly approved of by Adam Smith when men, women and children were crowded into ugly tenements close to the factories and children of the smallest size were put to work at the machines. That was unfettered competition. We have got a long way from that. Does the hon. member for Charlotte (Mr. Stuart) want us to go back to that sort of thing? That is what unfettered competition means if he wants to go back to it, the law of supply and demand.
The Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) and the Minister of Agriculture are continuously being haggled in the house about what they are doing for the wheat growers or farmers in various lines. Suppose some of the big packing houses of Canada were allowed to store huge quantities of produce and sell them at any prices they felt like. There have been complaints that that has happened. Suppose they bought eggs at 20 cents a dozen and sold them for 65 cents. Suppose they bought butter for 30 or 40 cents a pound and sold it for 60 cents a pound. Would there not be complaints from my hon. friends to the left who represent farming communities? Surely there would, and the same thing applies to any industry. We have to have regulation of business, it is true.
All sorts of labour laws, laws regulating workmen and laws regulating the sale of produce have been put on the statute books of different countries in the last one hundred and fifty years. Certainly there is no doubt that unfettered competition is dead, but in this particular case it will be revived if the bill goes through. Therefore I suggest to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) that he should give consideration to the subamendment that has been brought before the house.
Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the atmosphere of growing warmth towards participants in this
Combines Investigation Act debate to say a few further words. It seems to me that as we approach closer to the Christmas season the good spirit of charity is at last beginning to prevail in this chamber. We have listened to speeches mostly from this side of the house. Unfortunately we have not heard many of the private members opposite contribute to this debate. I can understand the reason for that, because in listening to the discussion it has become quite evident that the main conclusion evolving therefrom is that the bill is suspect. There is a great deal of suspicion arising from the contemplation of the proposed legislation, mainly because sufficient evidence has not been produced as to its merits or demerits.
I say it is obvious. That opinion has been expressed on this side of the house. I was not privileged to participate in the activities of the special committee, but it is unfortunate that its deliberations were cut off before the retail merchants association had a chance to make their representations. I say that because our discussion seems to be boiling down to the respective merits of the retail merchants' case and the case for the large chain stores. We might have avoided all the confusion in discussing this topic if there had been ample opportunity for presentation of the retail merchants' viewpoint at the committee level. We on this side of the house have stated our attitude toward the bill. What about the other side? I have here the Winnipeg Tribune of December 18, and I should like to read a paragraph from the column "Ottawa Notebook" written by Mr. Arthur Blakely to indicate that there is a good deal of suspicion amongst members on the other side of the house if only it had been allowed utterance. Here is what the writer of the column has to say:
There are mutterings within the Liberal ranks too-
That is quite obvious. I can hear them now in this chamber.
-over the proposed ban on price maintenance. One night this week four or five Liberal M.P.'s buttonholed Justice Minister Garson in the Liberal lobby and insisted that he justify the legislation. Within minutes the group surrounding the minister numbered an even dozen. Before it ended his audience numbered close to thirty-almost all of them backbenchers. Questioning was hot and heavy before Garson satisfied the last skeptic and made good his escape.
These mutterings and ominous rumblings or grumblings from the government side, as the newspapers have described them, have obviously continued and would indicate that there is considerable suspicion regarding the legislation before the house. In the previous remarks I made on this subject I dealt with the dangers of centralization. I
am very interested in the problem of centralization, the tendency toward bigness, because I represent a riding that has suffered considerably economically, politically and educationally from the effects of the increasing trend toward centralization. I pointed out, for example, that there is this tendency toward bigness in government. I based a question on that, as to whether it was a desirable or good thing to have government assume more and more control over the lives of individuals. Then, of course, a concomitant situation to the centralization trend is the tendency for population to concentrate in huge metropolitan areas, which generates the social problems of which we are only too keenly aware in our larger cities.
Now in Manitoba generally, and particularly that part of the province from which 1 come, we have been making progress against this trend toward centralization. I might be pardoned for labouring the viewpoint of my constituency-