December 21, 1951

PC

Harry Oliver White

Progressive Conservative

Mr. While (Middlesex East):

I was paired

with the hon. member for Middlesex West (Mr. McCubbin). Had I voted, I would have voted for the amendment.

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

William Joseph Browne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Browne (Si. John's Wesl):

I was paired with the hon. member for Yukon-Mackenzie River (Mr. Simmons). Had X voted, I would have voted for the amendment.

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

A. Earl Catherwood

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Calherwood:

I was paired with the

hon. member for Kent (Mr. Huffman). Had I voted, I certainly would have voted for the amendment. [DOT]

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

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. Coldwell (Roselown-Biggar):

realize, Mr. Speaker, that we are to attend at the other place for royal assent to certain bills, but I believe I shall be able to finish what I have to say before we leave this chamber. The debate on this particular matter really began on November 2, and was continued on November 6. At that stage there were twenty-six speeches. The problem went to a special committee of the house which heard eight hundred pages of evidence. Finally, a report was made to this house on December 7. The debate on the bill which came to us as a result of the committee's deliberations began on December 17, continued on the 18th and 19th. There were twenty-nine speeches, three of them over two hours in length. Yesterday, of course, we had a debate on procedure when thirty-six speeches were made, and an inferential debate continued on the measure still under discussion. Consequently, Mr. Speaker, I do not feel there is very much need for me to say a great deal about the amendment I propose to move at

Combines Investigation Act this stage. I feel that all possible considerations, both for and against the bill, have been placed before the house, and that the amendment I am about to move I explained quite fully in my speech on December 17. Consequently, as I say, I do not propose to say much about it today. I think that we should avoid endless repetition.

This measure has received widespread support throughout the country. The federation of agriculture has placed its support behind this measure, as have the Canadian Congress of Labour, the Co-operative Union of Canada and the Canadian Association of Consumers. Consequently, I take it that the measure is, ini the main, reasonably satisfactory to very large groups of people in this country who have spoken' through their various organizations, as is their democratic right. I am sorry, however, that the bill does not contain certain provisions. I have to move that the bill be not now read a second time, because that is the only form that one can use. But I hope that the house will accept the amendment that I propose to move, and that the bill may be strengthened in regard to the matters I have already mentioned. Even if that were not the case, I think the bill as it stands is preferable to leaving the matter as it has been. We have had a number of investigations into price maintenance, either directly in a few cases or indirectly in a number of cases, by the combines investigation commissioner. I do not need to enumerate them. I regret that the bill does not give some protection, which I think many retailers have quite legitimately requested, against price cutting and the advertising of loss leaders. As I said on Monday, I think the hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Croll), when he made a motion before the special committee, moved something that was worthy of more consideration than it received. I also think some steps should be taken to prevent the discrimination that exists as between big dealers and small dealers.

Manufacturers give substantial discounts to dealers who buy large quantities of goods. This makes it more difficult for the individual small retailer to compete with these large organizations. I should have liked to have seen something in the bill to regulate this. I said the other afternoon, and I repeat, that certain of our farm commodities such as wheat are sold at the same unit price per bushel whether an individual buys fifty bushels, a hundred bushels or a million bushels. I think something might be done along those lines. I will not say that you could completely overcome inducements to buy in large quantities. I think we could enact legislation that would at least regulate this factor.

[Mr. Coldwell.l

As I said the other day, my amendment is in line with what I believe the Trades and Labour Congress recommended to the committee, and I thought that organization struck a note that this house should seriously consider, that is if we are to have regulation, and apparently there must be some regulation.

My hon. friends of the Progressive Conservative party, who have opposed price control by publicly appointed bodies or bodies appointed by this parliament, have been urging that manufacturers' private interests should be allowed to exercise a very large measure of control over retail prices; that is not good. But I do think that the public has some right to have some control over price levels in the interests of the consumer and of the individual who handles goods on the way to the consumer. As I stated^ I believe that on Monday I said all that I need to say regarding this matter. It has been so well debated and at such length in this house that I feel it would be repetitious to say anything more than I have said. I am going to move, Mr. Speaker, seconded by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles):

That Bill No. 36 be not now read a second time but that it be resolved that in the opinion of this house consideration should be given to the introduction of legislation providing that where regulation of resale prices is in the public interest such regulation should be under public control instead of under private control.

If this amendment should be approved by the house, we shall be delighted. If, on the other hand, it is not approved by the house at this stage, I hope the government will give some attention to these matters during the recess and ask the combines commissioner to consider the matter and make some recommendations, so that we may round out the bill now before us in such a manner that it will be satisfactory to the consumer and at the same time give those retailers in the smaller places more protection than they otherwise would have.

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

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I might be allowed to say just a word about the position of the government with respect to this amendment. The adoption of this amendment would, of course, mean that there would be no legislation at this session. In spite of the hope expressed by the hon. member that it would be accepted, I think that he will be content with the second hope that consideration between now and the next session will be given to other problems that may arise in connection with the regulation of prices.

I might say that, on this second part of the report of the joint committee on combines legislation, the part that deals with the danger

of the loss leader being resorted to, the position of the government is that we recognize that there are in this house on both sides members who honestly fear that the consequence of prohibiting resale price maintenance will, in the words of the committee,

... be to enable large and powerful retailing interests to engage in a policy of selling goods at unreasonably low prices for the purpose of destroying the independent retailer.

The government agrees with the committee that under present conditions there does not seem to be any substantial likelihood of such policies being engaged in. We feel, moreover, that unless circumstances arise in the meantime which are not now foreseen, we should await the final report of the MacQuarrie committee before considering any legislation on the subject that the committee is now considering. The government is, however, quite prepared to co-operate to the fullest possible extent with the law enforcement officers, both of the federal government and of the provinces, in the vigorous enforcement of section 498A of the Criminal Code whenever it may appear that the practices forbidden by that section are being engaged in.

Moreover, the government wishes to give close and constant attention to the effects of the legislation now being considered by the house, if it is adopted, and to any practices which may develop either as a result of that legislation or independently of it which would be contrary to the public interest. In the event of any such development which cannot be dealt with under existing legislation, the government will give serious consideration to what other legislative action it may be appropriate to recommend to parliament.

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

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

Mr. Speaker, may I say one word in view of what the Prime Minister has said?

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

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

With the consent of the house.

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

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

I carefully followed what the Prime Minister has said. He has not, of course, dealt with the point I have made in the amendment with regard to a public board to do some regulation in connection with prices, but I would say this. If the government is giving consideration to these matters, while I think hon. members should express their views on this amendment I would be prepared to say that, after they have done so, I would not divide the house on this question at this time since I realize the validity of the point made by the Prime Minister, namely that it would be difficult to introduce legislation at this session.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, without its being regarded as a speech on this amendment, may

Combines Investigation Act I ask a question? I am not clear as to the meaning of this amendment. It speaks of "regulation of resale prices" and it says:

. . . where regulation of resale prices is in the public interest such regulation should be under public control instead of under private control.

The hon. member has not explained in a manner that I can understand just what is meant by that phraseology. I am asking the question as related to the general practice that has grown up in the United States on fair trade practices, with boards administering them; and I am interested to know whether he has in mind that sort of thing or some other system of price control.

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

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

I would say this, Mr. Speaker. Where it is desirable in the public interest to regulate resale prices, it should be done by representations to a public board set up under the authority of parliament.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

May I extend the question? What I am trying to clarify is this. I should like to know whether the hon. member is proposing a board similar to the fair trade boards in the United States, where a general program of prices is approved, but where the actual fixing of prices is not done by the board, or is he actually suggesting that this board should fix prices?

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

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

I am suggesting that this board should hear representations and then make decisions as to what fair prices will be.

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

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. J. W. Noseworthy (York South):

Mr. Speaker, for a week I have had in readiness a forty-minute speech in support of this amendment, waiting for an opportunity to speak to it. I do not know whether I can reduce that speech and give it in less than forty minutes, much as I desire to facilitate the business of the house.

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

An hon. Member:

Try.

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

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. Noseworthy:

I shall try hard.

When I was speaking on the resolution which preceded this bill, on November 6, I took occasion to say that in my opinion this legislation was being introduced for political purposes chiefly; that when parliament assembled early in the fall there was a great public demand for some control over inflation and that that demand was taking the specific form of a demand for price control; and that the government, unwilling to introduce price control, offered this as a sop to the public to allay their demand, or to take the heat off, as it were, the demand for price control.

I am still convinced that this is the main purpose the government had and still has in mind in getting this bill through parliament this session. During this debate the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) called

The Royal Assent

attention to the fact that January is a month of sales in the stores of Canada. There is no question that, during the coming month of January, we shall see more of those sales than usual. As a result of the government's fiscal policy, as a result of having drained off unnecessary taxation from the people, as a result of their credit restrictions, as a result of the unemployment and part employment that has developed, stores across this country find their shelves loaded with goods that they have been unable to sell. There is no doubt that those shelves will be unloaded following the Christmas business, and I suspect that the government hopes to glean some measure of credit for this bill when those sales take place. The Minister of Justice can say to the Canadian public: Look, I told you so. We passed the price maintenance legislation at the end of the year and already prices are reduced throughout the country-prices, I may say, that would have been reduced in all probability, entirely regardless of what happened to this bill.

To give credit to the MacQuarrie committee, they did not suggest that this proposed legislation would have any effect upon the cost of living. They say on page 21 of their report:

The committee has studied resale price maintenance in the light of the two standards of judgment originally set up, namely, the desirability of a free economy and the need for economic efficiency.

The MacQuarrie committee, in their recommendation that price maintenance should be made illegal, were not thinking particularly of the cost of living, were not thinking particularly of the small retailer or merchant. It is the government that is thinking of them from a political standpoint. They were concerned only with preserving our free economy; and in the words of the report:

This study has led the committee to the general conclusion that resale price maintenance, on the growing scale now practised, is not justified by either of these standards. It represents a real and undesirable restriction on competition by private agreement or "law" and its general tendency is to discourage economic efficiency.

It becomes quite clear from the report that the MacQuarrie committee was concerned with the preservation of a free economy. I have no doubt that the government is also interested in the preservation of a free economy, and of course the official opposition is likewise interested in the preservation of a free economy.

What is true of course is that this bill is a culmination of a controversy that has developed among the supporters of the free economy system. On the one hand we have the Liberals and the T. Eaton Company of Canada supporting what they call free and open competition. I presume it is the kind of competition that Adam Smith recommended.

(Mr. Noseworthy.]

It may well be that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) has not studied much economics since he took some lectures on Adam Smith during his university days. I suggest that if he supplements what he learned about laissez-faire economy during his university days with something a little more up to date he will know that free competition within our free enterprise system as he visualizes it does not and cannot exist under present-day conditions.

The Conservatives, supported by the mass of the independent retailers throughout the country and by other groups, believe that we should have regulated and controlled competition within our free economic system. I use the phraseology "regulated and controlled competition" because that is the phrase which the pharmaceutical association, in their brief to the joint committee, used in connection with the practice of price maintenance. The financial expert of the official opposition, the hoe. member for Greenwood (Mr. Mac-donnell), made it quite clear to us in his speech that he did not believe in free and open competition. Evidently they believe that under conditions existing today there must be some regulation and some control.

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


A message was delivered by Major C. R. Lamoureux, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows: Mr. Speaker, the Right Honourable the Deputy Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable house in the chamber of the honourable the Senate. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker with the house went up to the Senate chamber. And being returned: Mr. Speaker informed the house that the Deputy Governor General had been pleased to give, in His Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills: An act to implement the international convention for the regulation of whaling. An act to implement the agreement between the parties to the North Atlantic treaty regarding the status of their forces, signed on the nineteenth day of June, 1951. An act respecting the surveys of public lands of Canada. An act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act. An act to approve the financial agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom, signed on the twenty-ninth day of June, 1951. An act to amend the Judges Act, 1946. An act to provide for old age security. An act to amend the Pension Act. An Act to amend the Canadian National-Canadian Pacific Act, 1933. An act to amend the Maritime Freight Rates Act. An act to amend the Canada-United States of America Tax Convention Act, 1943, and the Canada-United States of America Tax Convention Act, 1944. An act to amend the Supreme Court Act. An act to amend the Exchequer Court Act. An act to amend an act respecting the Revised Statutes of Canada. An act to amend the Public Printing and Stationery Act. An act respecting the Canadian forces. An act respecting the general synod of the Church of England in Canada. An act respecting the general synod of the Church of England in Canada and the missionary society of the Church of England in Canada. An act to incorporate the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren of Canada. An act to incorporate the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence. An act respecting the Toronto harbour commissioners. An act to amend the Railway Act. An act respecting construction of works for the generation of electrical power in the international rapids section of the St. Lawrence river. An act to establish the St. Lawrence seaway authority. An act to amend the North Fraser Harbour Commissioners Act. An act to provide for the financial administration of the government of Canada, the audit of the public accounts and the financial control of crown corporations. An act to amend the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, and to change its title to the Canada Elections Act. An act respecting the National Gallery of Canada. An act to amend the Civil Service Act. An act to provide for short-term credit to grain producers in the prairie provinces to meet temporary financial difficulties arising from inability to complete harvesting operations or to make delivery of grain. An act to authorize the provision of moneys to meet certain commitments for new equipment incurred by the Canadian National Railways system during the calendar year 1951, and to authorize the guarantee by His Majesty of certain securities to be issued by the Canadian National Railway Company. An act to amend the Canadian Broadcasting Act, 1936. An act to provide for the establishment of an agricultural products board. At one o'clock the house took recess. The house resumed at two o'clock.


COMBINES INVESTIGATION ACT

AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES

December 21, 1951