December 28, 1951

LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

2448 HOUSE OF

Combines Investigation Act

Topic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

The Minister of Justice will be quite busy enough, I think, Mr. Speaker, between now and the time this debate closes -I think he is going to be extremely busy trying to cover up his lamentable exposure of ignorance on this subject. For two hours and forty minutes last week we listened to a marathon exposure of his lamentable ignorance on a subject upon which he, as a responsible minister introducing a bill, should have been well informed before he started. That is another fine sample of the way in which the government is preventing others from getting information on this subject when they have earnestly sought it with a view to arriving at intelligent decisions.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

Will the hon. member permit one question which is really for the purpose of getting information?

Topic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Yes.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

How is the price arrived at which the manufacturer sets for the retailers?

Topic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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?

An hon. Member:

Where?

Topic:   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:

How is the price arrived at in the United States, under the fair trade practices?

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

I expect that in every case the manufacturer will have due regard for the cost of the article, for what is a fair profit, for the ability of the people to pay and for what they are willing to pay for his product.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

Is it not a fact that the manufacturer sets the price and that, if he can get one retailer to agree to it, that price is applicable to all retail business in that state?

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Mr. Speaker, I could not imagine any greater act of folly on the part of any manufacturer than to set the price of his article or product at an amount which the public will not pay. What we have been told in the evidence before the committee, so far as we were allowed to get any evidence, was that the manufacturer is not foolish enough to set the price of his article at a figure that the public will not pay. He is not going to price himself out of his market. That is the protection of the public.

In this measure the government is not protecting the interests of the consumer. On the contrary, the government is exposing the consumer of this country to the grave danger of being made the fair game of the big merchandising outlets and big merchandising interests which will, with the extinction of more and more of the small retailers, acquire a greater and greater degree of monopoly control of merchandising in Canada. That

is the danger that has confronted the government in this matter; and that is the danger that the government chooses to ignore in favour of pursuing partisan purposes with regard to this measure. It is not simply a matter of trying to keep small retailers alive for the sake of the small retailers alone, Mr. Speaker. The consumer of this country has no greater assurance of fair play and proper trade practices than in the existence of a healthy retail trade flourishing through a multiplicity of small retail outlets. If you jeopardize the existence of those small retail outlets, you are placing in pawn not simply the life of the business of the small retailer but as well the fundamental interests of the consumer in this country. Many hon. members of this house who are being called upon today to be whipped into line and to do the government's bidding in this debate and in the vote to follow know that; and many of them have told us so privately around these corridors in recent days. The question is not being asked by members of the official opposition alone: Why this unseemly haste? That question has been asked, I may tell you, Mr. Speaker, by many Liberal members in this house.

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LIB

John Sylvester Aloysius Sinnott

Liberal

Mr. Sinnoll:

Name them.

Topic:   AMENDMENT TO FORBID THE FIXING OF SPECIFIC OR MINIMUM RESALE PRICES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

I am not going to embarrass them.

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Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

It would be a serious embarrassment to many of them. I am not going to embarrass them. They are going to be embarrassed enough when this vote comes. But that is the fact. That question, why this undue haste, this unseemly haste, this indecent haste, remains unanswered. It remains unanswered because the government is prepared to sacrifice the interests of the small retail outlets in this country, and is prepared to sacrifice the long-term and fundamental interests of the consumers of this country in favour of jamming through this house a half-baked, ill-considered, unjust measure to further its own partisan interests.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a great deal about the fair trade practice in the United States, but I think that no one has yet explained it except the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) who did so to some extent last night. The reason that we did not support the amendment of my hon. friends was that we had been going into the matter of this practice in the United States. As was stated last night by the Minister of Justice, the fact of the matter is that the first so-called fair trade act was placed on the statute books in the United

States by the state of California. That act was found to be unsatisfactory to the manufacturers and two years later, in 1933, there was added to that legislation a clause which made the resale price agreed upon by a manufacturer and a single retailer binding upon all retailers upon notice. That was the crux of the legislation which was copied in forty-five of the forty-eight states during the period of the depression when things were difficult indeed for retailers everywhere. As the minister said last night, the latest Californian legislation was so hastily copied that even typographical errors and errors in punctuation in the Californian legislation were copied in the acts put on the statute books in various states. In a recent case in Florida, when this matter was under challenge, the court pointed out that the power to fix prices under fair trade acts is vested in private persons; that no right to review the fairness of the price is provided for; and that no test or yardstick of fairness is defined. It has also been pointed out that the first fair trade acts were upheld in the courts in an atmosphere of crisis and emergency which no longer exists. The inference of course is that today different conclusions may be reached.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

What is the hon. gentleman reading from?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

I understand that today the legislation is practically defunct in some forty-two of the forty-five states that enacted the legislation.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

No evidence to that effect.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

The hon. member says that there is no evidence to that effect; but the hon. gentleman gave no understanding to the house that he knew anything about the fair trade legislation and practices in the United States.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Will the hon. member permit a question? Will he indicate what he has just been reading from?

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December 28, 1951