March 15, 1968

NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

I believe this is the first time the minister has had an opportunity of explaining the administrative items of his department, Mr. Chairman. I think members would be very pleased to hear from him about the development of these several agencies, including the bankruptcy section. This course might result in considerably reducing the discussion.

Topic:   CONSUMER AND CORPORATE AFFAIRS
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LIB

John Napier Turner (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Turner:

Mr. Chairman, I defended the main estimates of the department when the department was under the Registrar General last fall. There was also a very thorough debate on the new consumer branch when the consumer and corporate affairs re-organization bill was brought before the house in November and December. Perhaps it would be more practicable if hon. members would direct my attention to whatever subjects they would like discussed. I feel we have had a fairly full review of the department within the last two or three months. I am willing to make a statement but I think it might be more useful if members of the committee were to direct my attention to specific subjects.

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCleave:

Earlier today I raised a point with the minister and while I shall not labour it, it seems to me that a situation has developed in this country with regard to one of our national sports that deserves more consideration in parliament than it has received so far. I believe that thanks largely, I suspect, to the lure of television money, two hockey organizations in Canada have conspired against the national interest of Canadians. I refer to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. These two organizations have conspired to see to it that a third city in Canada shall be denied a franchise in the National Hockey League.

We have taken enough batting around of our national pride as a result of sending inferior hockey teams abroad to represent this country in so-called amateur play. In addition, however, we find a situation that has never been satisfactorily explained, namely, that ten of the 12 professional hockey teams on the North American continent are located in United States cities. The thought that immediately came to my mind with regard to the situation in Canada was that Toronto or Montreal, or both together, were unwilling to give up their share of the revenue that could be derived from national

March 15, 1968

television broadcasting in Canada and that they had their eye on the almighty buck instead of any national pride in this country.

As the minister said earlier today, perhaps this is a matter that we cannot study in this house. However, I suggest to him that there may be very good reasons why the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission or other groups that we have set up in days gone by should be looking at this situation to see whether we cannot get Vancouver a franchise. The Restrictive Trade Practices Commission appeals to me because when we examine the motives of the Toronto and Montreal people who made the decision to support United States interests rather than British Columbia interests I believe it is apparent that they were motivated by whatever cash could be divided between them rather than any other reason.

I hope the minister will be aggressive enough in the field of national interest and Canadian pride to take a look at this situation. I suggest to the hon. gentleman, whom I esteem highly as do many other members on this side, that this might be just the crowbar that would open the door to success in connection with certain events early in April here in Ottawa. This might be just the thing that would bring him through with flying colours, assisted by Canadian pride and assisted by decisions that were made behind closed doors by a self-interested, money-grasping group of people. If there is an ounce of sportsmanship in that group I will grant it but I think it is 99 per cent self-interest. There may be a 1 per cent interest in Canada's ability to develop the greatest hockey players in the world.

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LIB

Richard Joseph Cashin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. Cashin:

I wish to make a brief comment arising out of the remarks of the hon. gentleman. I generally subscribe to the viewpoint he has expressed. However, he did use a phrase during his remarks which, on reflection, he might wish to clarify in some way. It is for that reason I am rising. He referred to the fact we are sending inferior hockey teams abroad. If this remark were to stand without any further comment I think it might cast a reflection upon the Canadian national hockey team. I believe that the building of this hockey team is something which the theory the hon. member was advocating would assist. I feel that those who are behind these men have done much work which is in the country's interest. I know that in Newfoundland, from which one member of the team came,

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs we raised several thousand dollars in order to help in the development of Canadian amateur talent.

o (3:50 p.m.)

It is in this sense that I agree with what the hon. member suggested. I think the effect that the professional hockey combine-or whatever one wants to call it-has on our young hockey players is unfortunate, and I strongly approve the action with respect to the Canadian national team that will bring an alternative course to young Canadian boys who wish to further their education. At the same time they will be able to develop their athletic skills. I am proud that we have men, willing to help, and that we have been able to raise financial resources to help these hockey players to further their education. One of the first places they visited, I believe, was St. John's, Newfoundland, and much credit is due to Alec Faulkner. I think they were a superior bunch of boys, and they did a tremendous job this year. I am sure hon. members on the opposition side would not wish to detract from the good name of our boys by using qualifying adjectives such as "inferior".

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCleave:

My hon. friend is quite right. It would have been better if I had said that Canadians and the teams they send abroad to take part in competitions are hampered by phony amateur rules. A country's team which abides by them, as ours does, may find itself at the mercy of another country's team which may not abide by them in the same way. That is true especially of world championships. I fully accept the qualification my hon. friend has made.

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PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hales:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to ask one or two important questions of our genial minister. Perhaps he might lump them together and answer them at once, so I shall begin with this question. Are these supplementary estimates all related to the new division of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, or is a general amount spread over the entire department, formerly the Department of the Registrar General?

Second, what step is represented by this number of persons who are being detailed to the new Consumer and Corporate Affairs section? Also is the minister to have one or two deputy ministers? Next I would ask whether the minister has taken any steps to co-ordinate other departments of government into his department; will his department take over some of their work?

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs

Has the minister set up in the department a consumer advisory council, which the act says may be set up? If so, how many are on this consumer advisory council and what remuneration will they be paid? If the minister can answer these questions I shall reserve any others I have to ask until we come to other specific votes.

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NDP

Winona Grace MacInnis

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):

Mr. Chairman, I wish to underline all the questions the hon. member for Wellington South asked, because I am as interested as he is in the answers. This afternoon I particularly want to ask the minister what he intends to do about what has been highlighted again by the prairie commission. I do not want him to put me off by saying that he must talk to the prairie governments and find out what they are going to do, because this is a matter which comes within the purview of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. That department ought to be leading the prairie governments in action. The prairie governments made a number of recommendations, which I have been studying, and they have been asked to take action. I want to know the minister's response to those recommendations, since he has said that he recognizes how important public opinion is in these matters.

On March 11 when the minister spoke in Winnipeg he was reported to have said that he had instructed the federal combines branch to look into the grocery retailing business on the prairies. Later that day in the house he said he was prepared to look at the report and to meet Judge Mary Batten. I know he met Judge Batten, and presuming he has studied the report, I suggest he will consider that the time for action has come.

This week end, when the minister will start out on his tour as a potential candidate for his party leadership, he and I will probably travel in the same direction-not on the campaign trail, but geographically. It is important for the public to know what the new department intends to do about the situation uncovered by the commission on the prairies, one which is analogous to the situation that was uncovered by the joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons on consumer credit. That committee reported one year ago Christmas. On the prairies there has been discovered a virtual monopoly by two big firms, both in the grocery business, Canada Safeway and Weston.

The report, as published in the Globe and Mail for Tuesday, March 5, contains these interesting facts:

The largest sellers, Canada Safeway and the Weston stores, have acquired sufficient power to enable prices to rise above competitive levels, resulting in excess profits for the large chains.

Excessive building of stores has led to underutilization of stores, unnecessarily raising the costs of retailing groceries.

The position and power of the chains has led to and required the use of self-cancelling and costly advertising campaigns.

The study also found that luxurious supermarkets, built to lure customers away from other stores, may have raised costs of food distribution.

The report goes further than did that of the joint Senate and House of Commons committee, when it pinpoints in this fashion just how much this monopoly has hurt Canadian families:

For 1966, excess profits were declared to have cost consumers of Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton, in terms of reduced wellbeing, a total of $3.5 million or $9.40 per family of four. Excess capacity cost consumers even more -$19.3 million, or $51.88 per family of four.

Grocery advertising cost each family of four $14.50, and luxurious conveniences, such as free parking and air conditioning represented 3 cents on every food dollar, or $38.72 a year for a family of four.

[DOT] (4:00 p.m.)

These figures for the average family of four may not mean much, but they mean a great deal to those on low incomes. The commission's recommendations are clear. One recommendation is that if present legislation is inadequate to correct the existing situation, the three prairie provinces should initiate a study with a view to providing necessary legislative changes, so that cases of inadequate industry performance on account of concentration can be examined and corrected. They also urged the federal government to examine the possibility of eliminating wasteful advertising and preventing the use of advertising to fortify positions of industrial control.

The minister is aware of the need for action along these lines. In recent speeches he has been talking about the troubled consumer, meaning consumers in lower income brackets. He said in one recent speech:

There are many Canadians who are troubled consumers-the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the regionally depressed. They have special consumer needs, special problems. One of the great questions of the next decade will be to expand the dimension of equal participation to all our

March 15, 1968

citizens. A program tor troubled consumers aimed at better protection against unscrupulous practices, which prey on the poor and handicapped, the development of better consumer skills, the provision of special goods and services for those who have particular needs, such as the elderly, and the provision of legal aid and consumer counselling to assist those with problems, can play a major part in opening the door for many dispossessed Canadians.

I want to say frankly to the minister, since he knows very well who the troubled consumers are-the poor, the elderly, the handicapped-that it will not be good enough merely to express concern. Evidence has been piling up before the joint committee and before the prairie committee on living costs that positions of power have been built up by two or three monopoly organizations operating in the grocery business, that it is essential that action be taken to prevent excess profit making, and that in this connection unnecessarily wasteful advertising should be stopped because it adds to the cost of groceries. I draw attention again to the recommendation that financial institutions which are essential to credit buying be brought within the purview of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs so that the combines investigation legislation can be applied in connection with them.

I wish to remind the minister of another important recommendation made by the joint committee:

Your committee noted that the Director of Investigation and Research under the Combines Investigation Act reported the discontinuance of a study of concentration in the food retailing industry in Canada on March 15, 1963 (Report of the Director of Investigation and Research, Combines Investigation Act for the year ended March 31, 1963). Your committee recommends that this study be resumed on a continuous basis and broadened to cover both food retailing and manufacturing in Canada with a particular view to examining concentration, market power and trade practices in the relations between retailers and suppliers.

The committee made that recommendation a year ago in its report, but as far as I know nothing whatever has been done about it. The prairie commission recommended to the provincial governments concerned that they approach the federal government with a request that the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs deal with a similar situation on the prairies-a situation which has become worse since the report was made.

It will not be good enough for the minister to hide behind the fact that so far the prairie governments have not approached him, or that jurisdiction over prices is shared between the federal government and the

Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs provinces. If the hon. gentleman is serious in his bid for leadership of the Liberal party, if he is serious about becoming prime minister of Canada, here is a plain challenge open to him.

The people have let it be known they are being crushed by rising living costs. We know what needs to be done. Evidence given by witnesses before two inquiries has made the facts available. Will the minister now take the action which is called for? He has already piloted legislation through the house which he says will help reduce the prices of prescription drugs by stimulating competition in the industry. This is what he must try to do about food prices, whatever method he chooses. We have recommended the setting up of a prices review board as a means of giving full publicity to excess profit takers, so that they can be brought under control and dealt with. I hope the minister will not take shelter behind the Prime Minister's statement that a review board with vague responsibilities in connection with industry as a whole is to be set up. As consumers we are asking him to set up a review board to deal with food, housing and consumer goods in Canada, now. What does the minister propose to do?

I am not concerned at this moment about false or misleading advertizing; I am satisfied the hon. gentleman will look after that. I want to know what he intends to do about the cost of living-not in the next decade, but now, before he stands up and says: I want to be the Liberal leader; I want to be prime minister of Canada. In the name of the consumers of Canada I ask what he intends to do to deal with the cost of living, which is already crushing a quarter of our people whose incomes are below acceptable levels.

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PC

Gerald William Baldwin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

After that inspiring speech by the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway the minister may conclude that he might be answering a call to higher service by remaining in his present office rather than by seeking other responsibilities. If he sees this question in the same light as I do he may be able to perform a greater service for the people by remaining where he is. I recognize he has other talents, of course, but I just thought I would place that observation before him.

The Batten report has turned the spotlight on this issue, one which could conceivably be even more serious in the near future than it is today. I should like to ask the minister whether, in his discussions with the provinces, he would give consideration to a

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs proposal which emanated from myself and other members of this party, namely that an effort be made by the governments of Canada, provincial and federal, to devise a joint approach to this problem.

Quite obviously the necessity of using the Criminal Code as a basis for the combines investigation legislation has proved highly unsatisfactory. There are cases when present procedures meet the situation, but a different approach is evidently called for. It will take either consent on the part of the federal government to shift all jurisdiction to the provinces, or else consent to grant all these powers to the federal authority. Failing this, a joint approach will have to be undertaken. I hope the minister will find out from the provinces what attitude they are inclined to adopt.

Here is a perfect example. A royal commission appointed by the three western provinces has resulted in a useful report to which reference has already been made in this debate. To what extent will the provinces be prepared to act in co-operation with the minister and the federal government in seeing that measures are taken which will be far better and more comprehensive than those possible under the restrictive terms of the present combines investigation legislation?

I say this advisedly. After listening to what the Prime Minister had to say, and observing that the government proposes to set up a prices review board, proceeding under the Inquiries Act, I am of the opinion that we can expect a dismal failure. Anyone examining the Inquiries Act will immediately observe that the powers conferred by it are limited to inquiries where the good government of Canada is involved. I suggest that on a reasonable interpretation of those words this means that if there is an attempt to inquire into matters that are purely within provincial jurisdiction this would be outside the scope of the Inquiries Act.

[DOT] (4:10 p.m.)

In addition, Mr. Chairman, I notice from an examination of the Inquiries Act that the board established under the act has the right to call witnesses to make examinations and then to report. It seems obvious that a very substantial period of time will lapse between the time the attention of the government is directed to cases of prices being charged that are higher than they should be, and the time that the report of the board is presented to the government. The period is such that the situation will probably be beyond repair.

Having listened to the statement of the Prime Minister and examined the Inquiries Act, I do not think that a prices review board as envisaged by the Prime Minister will meet the existing situation, one which I think will become more serious in the near future. If this situation is to be met the federal government, together with the provincial governments, will have to devise ways and means of approaching the problem and of finding solutions. Therefore I urge the minister to seize this particular situation as a means of exploring with at least the three western provinces whether or not such an arrangement can be brought about.

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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to make a few brief observations on this item. I am a little more optimistic about the purposes of this department. While I have heard some members say that it is nothing but a facade, I have heard others say that it is one of the most important legislative steps that have been introduced into this house. Under present circumstances, particularly during peacetime, we recognize it is experimental legislation. I am sure that as a result of application of the act amendments will be made which will bring about its better administration and increase its advantages to the people in general.

I wish to bring to the minister's attention a subject in which I have been interested for some time. When I spoke at length on the bill I mentioned the loss of income sustained by low income groups who had very little knowledge about how to purchase nutritional food at an economic price. One of the trade unions in Ottawa undertook some research into this question, Mr. Chairman, and made a survey of low income groups who purchased food at chain and other stores. They came to the conclusion that the average low income group, owing to lack of information and knowledge, wasted between $600 and $900 per year on food purchases. They had no knowledge of credit arrangements and other matters, and stores, advertizers and certain credit organizations took advantage of this lack of knowledge.

When the minister rises to answer the comments that have been made by members of the opposition I should like him to explain what is being done to inform these people and to educate them in this respect. I realize this can be done only through co-operation with other organizations in the country, whether these be trade unions, women's organizations or consumer organizations. They

March 15, 1968

must be willing to co-operate both with the minister and with provincial departments in order to bring this information and knowledge to the attention of those who require it.

I listened to the hon. member for Vancou-ver-Kingsway and to her comments about the operations of certain chain stores on the prairies. I have read the report to which she referred and I realize that it provides the basis for some very serious study and investigation. Before the minister undertakes that investigation I should like to bring to his attention a personal experience that I had in this respect. Up to the time I was elected a member of parliament and my standard of living was considerably raised I was a fruit grower and suffered from all the disadvantages of that occupation, particularly during the depression. I remember that on one occasion we sent a carload of fruit to Calgary; this was before the marketing board was established. The man in charge of this consignment went to a wholesaler who offered him a certain price. He refused the offer and said he would go to another wholesaler. He called on five wholesalers, and each telephoning the other and in each case dropping the price. After two days he went back to the original wholesaler and said he would accept the first offer, but this wholesaler already said that he could not offer the producer any more. Since he could not afford the demurrage and other expenses, Mr. Chairman, he had to accept the lowest offer.

Then later, Mr. Chairman, we tried to sell our fruit direct to the co-operatives on the prairies or to small country stores. But do you know what the brokers and wholesalers did? They notified the co-ops and the small stores that if they purchased any fruit direct from a grower in British Columbia they would receive no fruit or other imports from the United States, but would be cut off. This included citrus fruits, nuts, and so on. Therefore they were forced to buy from the wholesalers and the brokers. That situation was the direct cause of the formation of the Tree Fruits Marketing Board in British Columbia. I give that body credit for doing an excellent job since it was established, though there is room for improvement.

I suggest that in investigating the situation the minister must work with the provinces. I hope that he will inquire into the relationship that exists between wholesalers and brokers and the large chain stores. At one time they were practically controlled by half a dozen people. One of the worst offenders was the

Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs United Fruit Company whose headquarters was in the United States. I hope the minister also seeks information from the Tree Fruits Marketing Board, the producers and the cooperatives because they are all involved in pricing.

According to recent newspaper reports the provinces are becoming interested in this matter. This is natural; the consumers are aroused and want to be certain that they get better value for their dollar in the near future. On that account the government of British Columbia has passed a consumer protection act, and I see that other provinces have the same intention. This shows they are interested in the matter. I suggest that they are now in a mood to co-operate willingly with the minister in investigating particularly the cost of food and in formulating legislation, both federally and provincially, that will meet the situation.

I think the hon. member for Peace River was quite right when he said that this question cannot be confined just to investigations by the combines investigation branch. The matter covers a wider field. I am sure that if the minister, as I am confident he will, enters into this investigation with a spirit of cooperation with the provinces and to the advantage of the consumers, we will get results in the near future. I wish him well in all he undertakes in this direction.

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PC

George Louis Chatterton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Chatierlon:

Mr. Chairman, when the minister makes a few remarks later on I should like to ask him to give the members of the committee an example of some of the action that his department has taken that may prevent increases in costs, or which may stop misleading or false advertising and labelling.

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NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pelers:

Mr. Chairman, I had hoped that the minister would give us his election outline of what he intends to do with regard to helping the consumers, through the functions of this new department. The people in my riding are more interested in the protection of the consumer than in anything else. I believe the minister has a great deal of scope in this field, one in which the general public is always fleeced. One day I happened to be in an A & P store on Bank street. I was interested in one commodity, cheese. I am interested in cheese because of my personal liking for it and also because of the fact that there are several cheese factories in my area. I was interested to notice a young man wet his thumb and rub the price off a package. I looked over his shoulder and saw that the

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7694 COMMONS

Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs price was 59 cents, but that he stamped on the package a new price of 61 cents. The cheese sold by the A & P stores obviously has a mark-up conducive to the operation of its business in relation to cheese prices.

Most members of this house know that the prices of cheese vary anywhere between 41 cents and 43 cents, depending on the type purchased from the board. Members will also know that a mark-up of 20 per cent would bring it into a fairly reasonable range. I think everyone will agree that this store was literally stealing from the pockets of the public because this change in price had no relationship to the mark-up or to a change in the price they paid for the cheese. Surely the public should be protected. I realize that if a store manager finds that the price he must pay for a product he is placing on his shelves has increased, he will have difficulty in keeping this product in tune with a reasonable price. When without reason, however, he changes the price he in effect is being dishonest.

It seems to me that this is a problem with which the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs should concern itself. If the price of cheese has gone up to 45 cents wholesale, then I am quite sure that new purchases should go on the shelves at a price of 66 cents. But this had not happened. We all are aware of the wholesale price for cheese, because we pay a subsidy on it and the price is decided by the cheese marketing board in Ontario. Here we have an example of a large store marking up a price, and placing a new price on a product. We all know this happens occasionally, but so far as I am concerned this is a totally dishonest practice.

There are other problems the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs should be looking at. One is the great problem involved in the ability to look at a commodity and decide whether or not it is a fair value.

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LIB

James Allen (Jim) Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Byrne:

Taste it.

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NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

Yes. Not long ago here in Ottawa a salesman came to the manager of a small store wanting to sell him some peaches. The wholesale price was more than a chain store down the street was charging for its peaches. The small store manager said that he could not afford to buy peaches because he would have difficulty in selling them. The salesman said that his firm sold that brand of peaches to the chain store. They obtained a can of peaches from the other store and one

that the salesman was attempting to sell to this small store manager, opened both cans, and found that the can obtained from the chain store had in it three half peaches less than there were in the other can.

In this type of situation it is difficult for a housewife to decide whether she is getting value for her money. If she happens to have 11 children and there are 11 pieces in one can, and then she finds that there are only eight pieces in another, and that as a result three of her children do not have any, she knows that she can do better by buying at one store than at another.

The condition I have described would seem to be a dishonest practice. In one case a person is buying peaches and in the other case is buying syrup. Surely there is a difference between these products, and yet the labels on the cans meet the specifications and requirements laid down. I am sure the minister, who has a family, will agree that if each member of his family can have two half peaches instead of one, or one and a half of the peach halves, there is an advantage in buying from one store rather than another. Yet a housewife would have to have a great deal of experience before she would be able to distinguish between the two products.

In respect of many products it is difficult to make a decision concerning which product is better, because of the regulations in respect of markings. Not long ago the manager of a supermarket pointed out the difference in the cans he had on his shelf. This resulted from a court action in the United States where it had been decided that for many years the 10 and 15 ounce cans had been improperly labelled. These were withdrawn, one being relabelled 9i ounces and the other 14 ounces. But they were relabelled without any change in the size of the can. At the time of the discussion with the store manager he had both types of cans on his shelves. In one commodity there were six different types of cans, three of which appeared to be identical to three others, but there were six labels on those six cans indicating totally different products.

[DOT] (4:30 p.m.)

I am sure every member has had difficulty when buying a suit, both in respect of price and quality. The prices of suits appear to have gone up 25 per cent in the last year. I like to buy suits for about $35, but no matter how I try to persuade the manager of the store where I have dealt for many years, I am told there is no longer such a thing as a

March 15, 1968 COMMONS

$35 suit. He has told me that when he sells a suit for $75, it has been reduced by 25 per cent for the purposes of a sale. Perhaps the minister has no control over this situation, but it is of concern to the consumer.

Surely the minister's department could have some control over the labels that appear on clothing. Years ago I bought a suit which was marked down from $99 to $19 because the store had to get rid of them. The manager found that when a suit of this type was pressed by the dry cleaners the material scorched. It must have been much like the material in ladies' slips, described I believe as angelskin. If the iron is a little too hot when you iron such a slip, it burns and the angel is exposed.

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PC

Melvin James McQuaid

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McQuaid:

Could I ask the hon. member a question? Who does the ironing in his family?

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NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

It surely is not I; but I have observed this particular phenomenon. The suit I was talking about was made of material of this same type. The manager had showed me one that had come back from the dry cleaners, of which the whole side was scorched and discolored. Incidentally I bought the suit anyway, because I thought perhaps I would not bother getting it cleaned. In any event, for $19 what do you have to lose?

The point I am making is that in this country, with our National Research Council and scientific facilities, we should be able to have suits labelled so that we know exactly the kind of material used. If you want to buy a suit that will not burn, you should know which type to avoid. I am not sure what the material is in this suit I am wearing, but I believe it is labelled silk and wool. I am quite sure there is no silk in it, and I am not sure there is any wool in it either. These manufacturers are allowed to use labels that mean nothing in terms of actual content or quality. All we can do is buy something with a fancy name. We cannot know whether a suit will be long wearing, whether it will stand dry cleaning or resist certain kinds of beverage stains.

Surely the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs could require that proper labels be used on articles like suits, which would indicate exactly what one is buying. I agree that the major factor involved is still price; but if proper labelling were required the consumer would have some assurance as to what he was getting and would be protected at least to that extent.

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs

There is also some difficulty as to actual size. If a suit is marked 44 tall or 44 stout, that should mean something. A pair of size 10 shoes should fit feet that are size 10. Feet do not seem to change in size after a certain age, but the last on which a shoe is made does not seem to bear any relationship to a particular size. It is some time since I have had little children, but in my experience children's clothes marked to fit six year olds do not necessarily fit six year olds. In my own experience these garments were too small. On the other hand I am sure that some of my neighbours who have six year old children have found these clothes marked for six year olds to be too large. This is an area in which the department could set up a code of standardization in order that the purchaser would know what he was getting in terms of actual size.

Over the years when I have been interested in buying a major electric appliance or an automobile-usually this happens in the spring when I have spring fever, after the snow has disappeared-I have purchased a copy of a consumer's magazine. This magazine contains the results of tests and gives preferences in respect of electrical appliances, automobiles and other things. It usually indicates the weaknesses and the advantages. One is still left with the decision as to whether he will select an article with certain weaknesses but which has the compensating features of certain advantages.

This situation is the same in respect of automobile tires. When one purchases an automobile he is given the option of equipping it with two ply, four ply or perhaps six ply tires. In some areas six ply tires do not seem to be adequate because most of the roads are gravelled, and automobiles equipped with two ply tires to be used in such areas would constitute a hazard. In any event, my point is that one should be able to find out exactly what these various tires are worth in terms of requirements.

It seems to me that advertisers in this country have been able to advertise to suit their own purposes and advantages, rather than on the basis of providing information to the general public. With reference to the two ply tires, there is probably no doubt that a two ply tire of the turnpike type would meet the requirements of heat reduction better than the ordinary four ply tire. In this same context, perhaps a six ply tire would present a decided hazard to a driver doing mostly city

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs driving in a city like Ottawa, which normally has a lot of potholes. Such a driver might hit a pothole and would have to buy a new tire, because likely he would not be able to drive more than a few blocks before he had a flat tire.

[DOT] (4:40 p.m.)

It seems to me that the consumer affairs department should give to the consumer, not necessarily an iron-clad guarantee or make a prohibition in respect of these matters, but should provide the general public with an assessment of new commodities in terms of the consumer's dollar and purchasing power, as well as the protection or liability of the consumer in respect of a particular product. In my opinion a good consumer affairs department would provide this type of protection.

I go back to the suit that the storekeeper told me would burn if it were ironed. There should have been on that suit a label warning the public against ironing it, because if it were ironed it would be a fire hazard and would also be very destructive to the suit. You do not need to go as far as saying, "This garment is not protected against wash and wear," or something of that nature. This may be a label that is attached to garments only if they are not protected against wash and wear.

I suppose every woman knows that she should not iron her silk stockings, because damage will be caused to them if she does. But I am sure most people think that a steam iron properly applied is suitable for ironing a suit. If it is not, I think the consumer affairs department should insist that a label be affixed to the suit warning the public of this deficiency. In this way the consumer would be protected.

I do not know how far the minister has gone in this field. I have not had the opportunity of sitting on the consumer affairs committee, which I understand has made a great deal of noise and has done a great deal of listening. The people on that committee appear to be quite satisfied with where they are going, but I really have not seen much protection for the consumer. I therefore hope that the minister will deal with some of these problems. I do not think the minister has to say that he has solved the problems, but he should at least be able to tell us what machinery has been set up for solving them.

I believe that the general public of this country is not protected with regard to the quality or value of goods in the marketplace.

I remember the advertising that was allowed

DEBATES March 15. 1968

to take place in some of the major stores against the importation of Japanese shirts. There was an instance when at one of the large stores I bought a shirt that had on it the brand name of the store. This brand name was superimposed on a Japanese label. After a number of washings the brand name came off and I found that it was a Japanese shirt. This shirt lasted about five years, which is much longer than some of the other shirts I have bought.

We allowed this store and others to advertise against the importation of those shirts because it was said they were no good. "No good" is a pretty general term. Though the company may not have been dishonest in its advertising, they did not say the shirt would not stand up to washing and that it would turn yellow after bleaching, the implication being that if you did any of the normal things to the shirt, you probably would not have any shirt.

We are a trading nation, a nation in which there has to be an exchange of goods. Therefore it is doubly important that some control be provided in order to protect the consuming public. This control must be provided by the government. The minister will be the darling of the consuming public if he is able to indicate that he has set up the machinery that will provide the kind of protection that will allow a young lady starting out in her housewifely duties, and who has not had the experience of a social science course at high school, to go into a store and know when she buys a baby blanket that it will fit the crib next week after it has been washed. The minister will be the darling of the consuming public if a young lady is able to go to the grocery store and buy a "special", knowing that there is some legitimacy attached to the label on the commodity. Then she will be protected against the ultimate disgrace of having her husband come home and say: I see you got sucked in because of that label, if you had gone to the store across the street you would have bought that product three cents cheaper.

I ask the minister to look at an ad of Johnson's Furniture Company which has appeared in one of the local newspapers, in which they advertize a closing-out sale of new furniture. Down near the bottom of the advertisement there is a little inset that says the company has complied with bylaw No. so-and-so of the city of Ottawa, which demands that they supply the city authorities with their purchase

March 15, 1368

price, their normal retail price and the closing-out sale price of every commodity in the store. I did not know this type of bylaw existed. Certainly in a backward city such as Ottawa I would not have anticipated it. It really surprises me, and I commend the city of Ottawa for passing such a bylaw.

Whenever I drive down the street and see a closing-out sale, I wonder where they are moving to, whether it is only across the street, what kind of gimmick is involved and whether any sale is actually taking place. I was deeply impressed to learn of this bylaw of the city of Ottawa. This furniture company appears to be complying with the bylaw, which makes it mandatory that they declare the manufacturer's price which they paid, the list price, their normal retail price and the price at which they are prepared to sell the item in a closing-out sale.

I think that if the general public were provided with this kind of protection they would be in a much better position to make a decision as to whether an article is actually being sold at a sale price. The public are not able to make this decision at the present time because they have to contend with devious advertising that is really not honest and cannot be properly interpreted by the consumer.

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PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macquarrie:

Mr. Chairman, I know the minister wants to go west with the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway and I would not want to delay that process at all.

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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

That is quite an alliance.

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PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macquarrie:

I had the pleasure of being at the minister's press conference this morning when he introduced his book. The minister's book was published by the same publisher that published mine, and I think that is the reason I was invited to the press conference. The hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough and I should form a club which would indicate one could write a book without being involved as a leadership candidate.

I should like to ask the minister just one question, and I shall not delay him further. I am interested in knowing whether he now has information on the important matter about which my colleague the hon. member for Kings asked him the other day with reference to Prince Edward Island. I shall not speak further on these supplementals, except to say that I am growing very, very concerned about the tremendous extent of supplemental estimates, those things which should be an irregular item of business but

Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs with which we are asked to deal much more frequently as time goes by. I have discovered that in the last 20 years parliament has voted $6,700 million in supplementary estimates. The whole thing has become totally out of hand. Surely we can become better bookkeepers, and supplementary estimates should become the exception rather than the rule in these fields of large expenditure.

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LIB

John Napier Turner (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Turner:

Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, I gather that the hon. member for Queens was not directing the last remark particularly to our department, but to the whole scheme of supplementary estimates. A good deal of these supplementary estimates is as a result of a parliamentary decision to widen the scope of this department.

[DOT] (4:50 p.m.)

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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Howard:

I know the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs is trying his best to relinquish that position. So, as suggested by my colleague, the hon. member for Timis-kaming, he might not become the darling of the consuming public in so far as the activities of the department he now heads are concerned. But whether it is this or another minister who heads this department, perhaps the greatest amount of protection the consumer public needs is protection from the minister's own government, and from the mismanagement which exists within that government.

I wish to ask the minister whether, in his concern for the interests of the consuming public, he will at the first opportunity make strong representations to the Minister of Finance with regard to a rather ridiculous situation which has arisen within the last few days. On the one hand we find the government saying how desperately it is searching to save money in government departments, to curtail costs and increase efficiency, and on the other hand we find great wastefulness within the Department of Finance so far as the taxpayers are concerned. This very day the Department of Finance is spending nine and three quarter cents to buy a sufficient amount of silver to put into each 10 cent piece. In other words, in order to get a sufficient amount of silver to put into a dime, the government is spending 9.75 cents. This does not take into account the cost of the copper which goes into making up the dime, the cost of production, the capital expenditures for the machines, or the salaries or distribution costs of the Royal Canadian Mint. So we are losing money on every 10 cent piece we strike today. We spend twenty four and three

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Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs eighths cents to buy silver tor every 25 cent piece we strike. This is an absolutely ludicrous situation when on the one hand the Minister of Finance speaks about savings to the consuming and taxpaying public, and on the other hand he is permitting the continuation of this sort of wastefulness.

Not long ago this parliament passed a bill authorizing the Minister of Finance this year to enter into the production of coinage to be made from nickel. If only the government would implement this law and start producing coins of nickel rather than silver, they would save the taxpayers of this nation countless thousands and perhaps millions of dollars. I wish the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs would bring this to the attention of his colleagues in the cabinet and thus bring some balance to the use of the taxpayer's money in a proper and legitimate way.

Although the minister is not the only one to suffer in this respect, he appears to be suffering more than any of his colleagues as a result of two factors: One, that he is the minister of a newly established department and, two, that he is a candidate for a higher office in the government. As a consequence of these two factors, someone who has far more knowledge than I have of what goes on in the government has obviously made a search of the activities and operations of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and come up with the conclusion that it contains a great deal of fat. I think the word "fat" is used in reference to the staff within the department who are not pulling their weight, who are not cutting the mustard, as the saying goes, who are not efficient administrators, and are not serving the public interest to the full extent. Just two days ago, the Minister of Agriculture said the following in relation to the operation of the government:

The plethora of departments leads to duplication and waste. Under these conditions, the vertical structure of the public service makes the flow and tranfer of personnel in the interest of efficiency most difficult. Departments with obsolete or obsolescent functions find personnel underused, and thence underproductive. At the same time new departments are recruiting additional personnel. The result-fat.

The minister may laugh, but it was his colleague and seatmate who made these comments. It is a regrettable state of affairs for the Canadian public to find one minister, in his intense desire to become the prime minister of this nation, running around with a sharpened knife solely and simply for the

DEBATES March 15, 1968

purpose of slitting the throat of another minister. It may well be that the Minister of Agriculture knows what he is talking about because he refers here, indirectly if in no other way, to the fact that there are government departments which are obsolete, or have obsolete or obsolescent functions, and to the fact that their personnel is underused and thence unproductive. This is a pretty sad commentary for a minister of the crown to be making about the structure of the government. Perhaps one could accept it if it had been said half heartedly or jokingly, but it was said in a very serious way. This statement was contained in a speech by the Minister of Agriculture to the 63rd convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities held in the Hotel Saskatchewan on Wednesday, March 13, 1968 in Regina, Saskatchewan. The copy of the speech which I have here emanates from the office of the Minister of Agriculture.

If what the Minister of Agriculture said is correct, namely that there are departments with obsolete and obsolescent functions, that there is underproductivity, and that new departments are recruiting additional personnel, resulting in a lot of additional fat, I would suggest that the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs should direct his attention toward greater efficiency in the government. He should try to protect the consumers' interest in that regard as well as protect their interests in the market place. He should not wait until the time in April when he will have a chance to become the prime minister, but he should have an immediate conference with the Prime Minister-even though the latter will be retiring in a couple of weeks- and the other members of the cabinet to consider the degree to which the taxpayers' money is being squandered within departments which have obsolete and obsolescent functions, and which are recruiting additional personnel, the result of which is a great deal of fat.

May I call it five o'clock, Mr. Chairman?

Topic:   CONSUMER AND CORPORATE AFFAIRS
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March 15, 1968