Everyone knows that everyone is spending a lot of money these days. The minister reminded us on second reading of the bill establishing his department that personal expenditures on consumer goods and purchases are running at about $37 billion a year in Canada. This is most certainly a great deal of money but it covers everything having to do with human beings and their living within our society. It seems to me to be quite a problem to know how to cut down expenditures involving personal choices and personal decisions. It is going to be a very large undertaking indeed to assist people in making
savings in this very broad and rather intangible expenditure of $37 billion. The approach seems to me to be a very essential one and needs a great deal more careful attention and consideration that we have been giving it so far.
The government seems to have forgotten the old adage not to throw good money after bad. It has been following the procedure of trying to solve the problem of too much spending by more spending. It is true that consumers do need direction and assistance with regard to the features offered by some merchandisers as against others and how to go about finding the qualities they are looking for. However, it seems unlikely that, by spending this large amount of money in this branch of the new department, housewives in northern Saskatchewan or Newfoundland will benefit very much in balancing their own personal budgets. Quite the contrary. It just adds to the over-all inflationary spiral which is already making it so very difficult for them.
The minister received the best of advice from the Economic Council of Canada on how to co-ordinate the many departments already dealing with the protection of consumers. At the resolution stage of the bill setting up his department, on October 13 of last year, as recorded at page 3070 of Hansard, the hon. member for Yukon reminded the minister in the most direct terms that it would be wise for him to follow the advice of the economic council when it said:
The implementation of these recommendations does not require a vast expansion in government activity and in the size of the bureaucracy. Any such tendencies should be strongly resisted as being neither necessary nor wise-
In view of the wide scope of consumer interests and the many departments which are engaged in activities affecting consumers, there is no possibility of concentrating all these activities in a single department, nor would it be desirable to try to do so.
The economic council was quite specific in recommending an interdepartmental committee on consumer affairs under the chairmanship of the deputy registrar general. This would have made further use of the knowledge and machinery already existing. It was one of the many steps which could have been taken to ease the growing concern in Canada about rapidly rising government spending.
[DOT] (4:50 p.m.)
The government has been warned and warned about its overspending. On page 261
March 19, 1968 COMMONS
of the fourth annual report of the Economic Council of Canada the growing uneasiness in Canada about the current pace of the over-all advance in government spending is mentioned. The very significant and alarming comment is added that the council shares this uneasiness. What is the use of setting up such groups as the Economic Council of Canada if its advice is not heeded? What is the use of enlarging departments if they are not to have any effect on results? Perhaps the minister would tell us whether any further increases are planned for the consumer affairs branch and, if so, what specific results he expects to receive from this further expenditure.
Mr. Chairman, since it is beginning to become obvious that we will not conclude these estimates before six o'clock and because of the rather specific speech in terms of figures by the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas, with the permission of the committee I might answer some of the questions which have arisen so far and then allow the debate to continue since the information which comes to me is such that at the moment I am convinced the debate on these estimates will not end this evening.
In analysing the increase in expenses of the department I should like to say first of all that of the amount of $683,753 only $175,000 relates to the new consumers branch. That amount involves the establishment of 26 positions, 18 of which have now been filled. The remainder of the expenses relating to the new consumers branch involves overhead expenses and travelling expenses related to the establishment of those positions.
I should like to go through this in some detail. The amount of $399,753 for departmental administration is divided as follows. We have a management study on cost benefits relating to the objectives of the department within the meaning of the more general report of the Economic Council of Canada so that the federal government would be able to ascertain what is the best way to meet those objectives. We feel that the $70,000 required for this study is a good investment on behalf of the Canadian taxpayers to ensure that proper administration is achieved in the new consumers branch.
Then there is an amount of $142,525 relating to the Canadian committee on mutual fund and investment contracts. The federal government is paying half the cost of a joint federal-provincial study which is reviewing 27053-492
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs the whole nature and operation of mutual funds in Canada. This was transferred to the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs from the estimates of the Privy Council. These estimates were not originally incurred by this department nor was this department responsible for them. Originally there was an annotation affixed to the blue book to this effect.
There is an amount of $10,328 involved in the obtaining of a legal opinion relating to the application of section 12(g) of the securities exchange act of the United States. This arose when the United States authorities were thinking of applying in a rather severe way the securities exchange act to those companies which had over a certain number of shareholders who were United States citizens and which had over a certain amount of assets. We were required to obtain counsel in Washington to advise us just what the legal effect of this statute was on Canadian companies having United States shareholders.
We have also retained consultants on certain specific problems and have asked for an amount of $20,000 for this purpose. There is an amount of $48,000 involved in establishing the minister's office. When the late Mr. Fa-vreau was president of the privy council at the same time as he was registrar general he was entitled to only one office. This is the first time the office requirements appear against a separate minister, formerly the registrar general and now the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.
There is a securities task force and we are asking for additional funds in the amount of $46,500 for this. Our department is looking into the possibility of establishing and the method by which to establish a federal presence in the securities field. We retained a leading authority on securities work, Professor Peter Williamson, to look into this. He retained a staff during last summer and I hope that shortly I will be in a position to advise my colleagues about this.
There is an amount of $152,400 relating to the corporations task force. This is under the chairmanship of Professor Bob Dickerson from the University of British Columbia who, with a group of academic lawyers from across the country, reviewed some specific problems relating to the amendments we seek to the Corporations Act. These amendments have to do with the disclosure of financial information, the duties of directors, insider trading, proxy solicitation and so on. I have received
March 19, 1968
7808 COMMONS DEBATES
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs that report and have submitted it to practising lawyers in the profession who came to Ottawa after taking the oath and who received only a per diem allowance for their travelling expenses. We have also submitted this report to a group of professional chartered accountants, some of whom were nominated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants and some of whom I chose from my own personal professional experience.
That adds up to a total amount of $489,753. Less the amount transferred from salaries, the total is $399,753. As I said, only $175,000 is requested for the establishment of a consumers branch in the new department which was authorized last December by parliament.
Under vote 5c relating to the Bankruptcy Act the amount of $109,000 is for the setting up of three regional offices and an investigation squad in order to meet the responsibilities as I interpret them of combating fraudulent bankruptcies in this country, which I termed rather facetiously as being one of the growth industries of this country. I think we have now turned the tide in respect of the type of enforcement we are achieving.
We have managed to work out an agreement with some of the provinces, beginning with the province of Quebec, for the use of federal crown prosecutors in respect of offences under the Bankruptcy Act and provincial crown attorneys under the Criminal Code relating to bankruptcy matters. I believe that the centralization of this type of enforcement, aided by regional offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, teams of accountants and the bankruptcy squad now established in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has made the investigation and coordination of case work, presentation of evidence and prosecution itself far more effective. On an earlier occasion in answer to a question posed by the hon. member for Yukon I gave these statistics. Here again I think we have an investment which the Canadian people would wish made in order to protect the business community of this country, particularly those small creditors who are usually hurt whenever a bankruptcy occurs.
Sub vote 25 of vote 20 in the amount of $80,000 relating to the patent division is to cover the cost of the mid-cyclical review for the professional category which was granted in January, 1967 but not paid until April or May of 1968. No funds were requested from the Treasury Board at that time. This was in response to an earlier request and since the money was not withdrawn it is brought back, I understand, into these estimates.
[DOT] (5:00 p.m.)
The hon. member for Wellington South made some inquiries about some of these expenses and asked whether the entire amount of $683,753 was spent on the consumer branch. I have answered that question by informing the committee that $175,000 is the amount allocated to the branch. The hon. member also asked me about staff and I have already indicated to the committee that there are 26 positions of which about 18 have been filled. The hon. member also asked whether there were two deputy ministers or one. There is one deputy minister over one department. He asked whether the department intended to centralize the entire administration of consumer affairs throughout the federal government. Let me answer now by saying no, we intend to co-ordinate the consumer program in accordance with the legislation. If, after a review of management of consumer programs of the federal government, we should find that some matters would be better handled in a central way the government can then make the administrative changes. We have set up an interdepartmental committee of deputy ministers, under the chairmanship of my deputy minister to look into the various consumer programs from this point of view.
I was also asked about the consumer advisory council. I am almost in a position to publish the terms of reference and once I am able to present my nominees to my colleagues and get approval I will make an announcement regarding the membership of that council.
I should like to make some comment in response to the original remarks of the hon. member for Halifax and the remarks today by the hon. member for Burnaby-Richmond concerning National Hockey League franchises. When in Vancouver and in answer to a question asked in the house I outlined the contents of my telegram to Mr. Campbell. Let me state once again that as the courts interpret the act I have no jurisdiction over services. The jurisdiction and authority of the director of investigation and research under the Combines Investigation Act are limited to goods. Professional sport falls under the service item. I do not want in any way to anticipate the current study undertaken by the Economic Council of Canada which, by virtue of a reference made by this government on July 22, 1966, is reviewing the Combines Investigation Act, but I should like to say that since services amount to about 35 per
March 19, 1968
cent of our gross national product it seems strange to me that goods should fall within the ambit of the act and services should not.
Let me say also that had I jursidiction and authority over services, and thereby over professional sport, I should be very interested in reviewing some of the contracts which are used by various clubs in the N.H.L., particularly those which tie up for life young boys around 14 years of age and of amateur status. I am inclined to think, without prejudging the situation, that had I the authority I would take more than a passing interest in that phase of the game.
Would the minister permit a question at this stage? He said that if he had the authority to deal with hockey as a service he would do certain things. Is this authority one which parliament could grant?
I feel there is constitutional authority over services as there is over goods. There are limitations under which the director of investigation and research labours, aside from limitations in respect of staff. If parliament grants a department certain priorities, as we have been granted in respect of consumer affairs and combines, particularly if they arise out of reviews such as the Batten commission, about which I want to talk later, then the director of investigation and research must be given the necessary resources to do what parliament asks him to do. It is my opinion that at this moment he has not those necessary resources.
The statutory limitation is not only in respect of services; there is also a limitation in respect of civil jurisdiction. I have always felt that we have a constitutional remedy. We have relied on criminal law which involves a very heavy burden of proof. We have not tested the trade and commerce laws under the B.N.A. Act. Again without anticipating the study of the Economic Council of Canada, I feel there is something to be said for giving damages to an aggrieved party. Under the anti-trust legislation in the United States an aggrieved party, if successful, is entitled to triple damages.
I think we must also explore the possibility of allowing cease and desist orders. Because of the complicated nature of merger and combines cases, as well as restraint of trade cases, a complaint may be brought but by the time the director, with the resources he has, is able to bring evidence of a complicated transaction before the restrictive trade practices commission and obtain a report that 27053-492J
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs there is a prima facie case, which in turn is brought before the courts by the attorney general, the aggrieved parties may be in bankruptcy. There is no authority under the act for the director to anticipate a decision and intervene or to call for a cease and desist order. Those are other limitations. Constitutionally I think the minister and the director of investigation and research would have authority over services if parliament were to grant it.
The Batten commission was again brought to my attention by the hon. member for Van-couver-Kingsway. I do not intend to go over the circumstances of the invitation I extended to Judge Mary Batten last week when she was down here, as I think the hon. member is aware of them. In respect of the grocery situation in western Canada I did ask the director of investigation and research to examine the allegations in that report. If he finds them to be substantiated he is required to initiate an inquiry. He has begun his work and I understand that officers are on their way to western Canada to examine the research and reports on which the allegations of the commission were founded.
I have also written the three prairie premiers asking them whether, in anticipation of any reference in respect of those aspects of the report which relate to the consumer branch of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, our officers may keep in touch with the research staff of the commission. I felt bound to proceed in this way because the commission was established by the three prairie governments. I can only take informal cognizance of it except in respect of the combines aspect.
The proper procedure would eventually be for the prairie governments to accept the recommendations of the Batten commission and refer them, as Judge Batten and her cocommissioners suggested, to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. In anticipation of any reference I have asked the three premiers to allow my officers to examine the data so we will have the information on hand.
As the hon. member for Vancouver-Kings-way knows, a lot of these recommendations relating to the consumer goods industry were also made by the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons, of which she was a member. There were also comments in the committee about the cost of living. In this respect the authority of this department is related to the general economic
March 19, 1968
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs policy of the government. This department does not have any special weapon with which to attack the cost of living. The board of review suggested by the Prime Minister would relate to an examination of charges, prices and costs generally. The constitutional power of enforcement does not lie directly with the federal government, and this is one reason we are contacting the provincial governments at this time for their co-operation.
[DOT] (5:10 p.m.)
I do not want to comment generally on the economic policy of the government except in so far as it relates to my particular responsibilities as minister. I do not need to comment now on what my good friend the hon. member for Peace River asked about combines, because I feel I have already dealt quite thoroughly with that subject. The hon. member for Kootenay West asked what I was going to do by way of sponsoring public information for the consumer. I agree with him that one of the chief functions of this department when we get the resources from parliament-and I realize and accept the restriction on spending at this moment-will be in the role of research, public education and information. We now have in the department a consumer information section. We hope eventually to see what we can do within the federal jurisdiction to contribute to consumer counselling.
We look forward to seeing what we can do in co-operation with the media of the printed word, television and radio to help inform the Canadian consumer. As a matter of fact we have already received co-operation from many professional broadcasters, television people and those responsible for consumer columns and consumer pages in Canadian newspapers. They have already given us a great deal of help.
I hope that within the next two or three weeks we will have ready a booklet of information for the consumer showing the average Canadian housewife where to write if she has a consumer complaint which needs remedying, action or information. That booklet should be published very shortly. I hope that for the moment the hon. member for Kootenay West will bear with me on this progress report.
The hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich asked what I am going to do about misleading advertising. He will observe that the proposed amendment of the Criminal Code
involves the transfer of section 306 of the Criminal Code, which relates to misleading advertising alongside section 33C of the Combines Investigation Act. The substance of this transfer is that instead of allowing the enforcement of this section relating to misleading advertising to rest in the hands of the provincial attorneys general, we intend to bring it back to the federal Department of Justice for crown prosecutions. I hope this will result in a more uniform enforcement of the statute.
There has been considerable case law or jurisprudence built up on those two sections. I hope that in the next review of the Criminal Code we may have more fundamental revisions to that particular section. I also refer members of the committee to the annual report of the Director of Investigation and Research, which sets out the important judicial decisions in respect of section 33C.
The hon. member for Timiskaming asked what our priorities were in the department, particularly as they relate to the consumer interest. First, we are undertaking a general review of the entire federal consumer program and the legislation enforcing it. I remember that when we were discussing the nature of the department last fall I was able to say to hon. members that the statute setting up the department was an enabling statute giving us initiating, co-ordinating and policy powers. The first step, surely, is to find out just where and how the consumer program is administered by the various federal departments and agencies and the interdepartmental committee which is now in operation under the chairmanship of my deputy minister. So the first thing is a review of the administration of and the legislation behind the present program. We have set up an information service which I have already described. We have set up a research bureau. We consider that misleading advertising is an immediate priority and we intend to enforce that section. The problem of labelling and packaging is receiving active consideration, particularly those recommendations that were made by the joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons.
Also, as I have said publicly, I am reviewing the constitutional position of the federal government with respect to bilingual labelling. If we admit that every consumer is entitled to know exactly what she is buying, she is also entitled to understand the language on the label. There are certain constitutional
March 19, 1968 COMMONS
limitations. We are bound by international trade treaties, some of which provide for language requirements. The federal government is limited in its authority, of course, in respect of interprovincial and international trade.
I could go on but I think the hon. member sees the direction in which we are moving. We are also reviewing the question of standards and grades. I want to say again that we have to decide what our priorities are going to be because with a limited complement of 26 positions we have to allocate those priorities very carefully.
The hon. member for Queens asked whether the Lieutenant Governor in Council of Prince Edward Island had made application to me, as the minister responsible for the administration of the Bankruptcy Act, to bring into force part X of that act. My answer is yes, application has been made and we are drawing up the appropriate order in council. This relates to farmers or wage earners and their creditors and derives from a particularly unfortunate situation in Prince Edward Island.
I shall do my best to obtain an immediate answer to question No. 1,101 put by the hon. member for Carleton, but I have already talked about the Canadian committee on mutual funds and investment contracts. In reply to the hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke, the last time the question arose in the house-I have talked to him privately since then about this matter-I said that I had asked legal counsel to advise me whether we should appeal the case. The advice we obtained was that we should not appeal the case. After reviewing the matter with my own officers and with officers of the Department of Justice I accepted that advice.
I hope, Mr. Chairman, that this has brought up to date my participation in the debate with respect to questions asked by members of the committee.
Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
Mr. Chairman, I think the minister has been more explicit today with regard to the work of the department than at any time I have heard him speak since the department was established or during the process of establishing it. I do not know how much this is due to the fact that he is preaching for a call, but I hope that the preaching for a call will continue and become much more definite in the next few days because I have seen today the first hopeful sign
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs that there might be a little power in the department or at least in the mind of the minister the will to use that power.
The hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke said I had referred to this whole program as a toothless wonder. That is completely correct. It has been in the past. If I understood the minister correctly, he said he was asking the combines investigation officers to look into the situation of retailing on the prairies. Is this correct?
Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
think this is the first indication that there might be some hope of the department intervening with regard to the cost of living.
[DOT] (5:20 p.m.)
I am quite sure that the governments of the prairie provinces will be only too glad to have leadership and direction from the federal department. This may very well be the beginning of a co-operative attempt to throw light on the situation and then to begin to deal with it. I am very glad the minister has taken the initiative but I do hope action will be continued in this direction for a long time in the future regardless of what may be the outcome of the forthcoming nomination convention, because there is a great deal of work to be done. The minister has the authority to do what he is doing, quite apart from the good will of the provinces, on the basis of the joint Senate and House of Commons committee examination of this matter which encompassed the whole of Canada, a much wider field than was covered by the study of the prairie commission. I believe that the minister has every right to move into this field on the basis of the committee's recommendations to the house. I am very glad he is doing so in the case of the prairie provinces on what I would hope to be a co-operative basis.
Mr. Chairman, may I interject for a moment? I hope I have not misled the hon. member. What I said was that we are examining the allegations in the Batten commission report. In other words, we would be analysing the factual basis upon which these allegations were made.
Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
hope the department will not stop at just an examination and will realize this is only the first nibble. Perhaps one cannot expect the department to develop teeth all at once. I was
March 19, 1968
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs afraid we might have to "gum it", as used to be said when all the teeth were gone. Perhaps this is the cutting of the baby teeth. In any event, I hope the examination will not be pigeonholed but will lead to action.
I was grateful to the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas for bringing us down to earth regarding the cost of the consumer affairs branch. It is true that these supplementary estimates call for only $175,000 but the projected requirement in next year's estimates is $394,400 which is a big sum of money. I am not as concerned as the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas about the size .of that sum of money as I am to ensure that *the taxpayers and consumers of this country get their money's worth. I am far less inter-*ested in curtailing that amount of money than I am in ensuring that full value is given to the consumer for that money.
This is why I wish to raise this afternoon a few definite and specific problems in connection with the supplementary estimates before us. The minister said he is ready to announce the names of the personnel who are to form the consumer advisory council so that it may begin its work. If he has time this afternoon I hope he will tell us a little more about what the consumer advisory council will be doing, because I believe the minister tried to cover up the fact that the government is not yet ready to deal with the cost of living through selective price controls.
I point out to the minister that the government's policy has been known to change on some of these matters. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have held a bait in front of us in the form of a prices review board designed to deal with increasing wages and other factors contributing to inflation but not with profits. It is possible that in view of the consumer pressure across the country we may yet live to see the day when the minister will see the necessity for the establishment of a prices review board under the jurisdiction of his department. So I should like to hear from the minister what the functions of this advisory council will be, whether it will keep in touch in a real way with consumer opinion across the country, what kind of techniques it will use to find out what consumers want, and whether it will be its job to make periodic reviews or analyses in its reports to the minister.
In my view the department should deal with one specific grievance, which has come to my desk and I am sure will reach the minister, from the Ottawa consumers protest
[Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway) .1
association on behalf of the Canadian consumers protest association. The Ottawa branch is one of 55 similar groups located across Canada from Halifax to Vancouver. I know the minister is familiar with it. As a matter of fact I believe that when the group of women came up from Montreal to see him he ran away and hid from them ignominiously.
Wait a minute, Mr. Chairman, I did not hide from them at all. They came up on short notice, as they are wont to do, and my parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Quebec-Montmorency, spent an hour and a half with them.
Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
They were not satisfied with the replacement, good as he was. However, I am glad to know that the minister was not in hiding. These people have written to me.
Perhaps he was shy.
Mrs. Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
do not think he was shy but perhaps by the time they got through he did not know they were women. He may have thought they were pretty determined individuals. These people are most anxious that the minister should look closely at the recommendations of the Batten commission that tariffs on some essential foodstuffs be abolished. They are particularly concerned about the cost of tomatoes and cucumbers in the winter months. As the minister knows, there is a very limited supply of fresh food in Canada in the winter months, at which time it is possible to get an adequate supply of tomatoes and cucumbers from Mexico. It appears that the cost of production of tomatoes by Canadian greenhouse growers is almost three times as high per pound as that of Mexican growers. Recently in Ottawa Mexican tomatoes were priced at 59 cents for three pounds while Canadian tomatoes cost the consumer 39 cents a pound.
It is not to Canada's advantage to devote resources to growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the winter months. The protection of the industry through tariffs could well be an example of "hothouse" in two senses. The members of the association are most anxious that the tariffs be abolished. If it is necessary to give relief to the Canadian hothouse tomato and cucumber growers, then let it be given in some other form, such as relief in the form of subsidies, but let us not burden the housewives with the high cost of vital fresh food for their families in the wintertime. I hope
March 19, 1968 COMMONS
the minister will seriously consider this complaint because it affects the whole of Canada so far as vital items in our diet are concerned.
I should like to speak about another matter which has not been dealt with at all in this debate. I receive a great many complaints from parents of teenagers across Canada. They feel very bitter about the advertising of buying on credit. They feel that often these young people, who are old enough to get away from home and have a part time or even a full time job, are being victimized by misleading and enticing advertising into incurring debts through credit buying facilities before they are old enough to know what they are doing and before they are fully financially independent. I think this is a field where the consumer needs protection badly. As I suggested once before in the house, the minister would do well to look at what is being done in the United States by one of the big foundations to counteract some of the fraudulent and misleading television advertising.
[DOT] (5:30 p.m.)
I feel that this is an area of particular concern when young teenagers are involved who are not really on their own except in the sense that they have the power to obtain credit but then have to rely on their parents to take care of the resulting debt. I believe this situation underlines the need for the minister to examine the recommendations of the prairie commission that facilities connected with credit buying ought to be brought within the purview of the Combines Investigation Act.
I hope the minister will take a real look at the report of the prairie commission on groceries. I am keeping my fingers very firmly crossed in this regard. I hope that his examination does not involve taking one horrified look and then deciding the problem is too big and too difficult to tackle. I hope he realizes that it may be big and difficult now but that it will become more unwieldy and more difficult as time passes.
There is one point upon which I wish to congratulate the minister. I refer to the introduction of Bill No. C-190 which could perhaps bring down the price of prescription drugs to consumers in Canada. I have been disappointed to find that one large group in the house feels that the bill is not good and they are not going to co-operate in giving the consumer the benefit of this legislation. Frankly, this is the first piece of consumer protection I have
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs seen emanate from the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and I believe that the house would do well not to adjourn until Bill No. C-190 has been passed. I for one intend to advise every consumer I can find that Bill No. C-190 is a definite attempt to bring down the price of prescription drugs. One federal party in this country does not want that done. In my opinion these people are ignoring the interests of Canadian consumers, particularly the low income consumers who are today groaning under the heavy price of prescription drugs. I do not believe the house should adjourn until Bill No. C-190 has been considered in committee and given third reading.
I believe we should have followed the idea promulgated earlier to get these supplementary estimates out of the way today so we could go on with Bill No. C-190 tomorrow. If some of us in this corner are talking about other consumer difficulties today I want it clearly understood this simply results from the fact that one of the large parties in this house would not agree to go ahead with Bill No. C-190. I hope they will change their minds because they are going to be exceedingly unpopular with the consumers across this country if they do not do so.
In my view the consumers of this country are watching very closely what is being done by this new department. The minister has made a good start in what he has been doing lately. I want to urge him not to forget the motto which he has put so prominently in his new book. It reads:
My plea is that we Liberals should embark on a crusade to defend the individual-whenever the rights of the weak are being sacrificed to the power of the strong.
This motto is in the minister's new book. The minister knows quite well that too often people who have written books have found that their contents have come back to haunt them. If the minister wants to avoid being haunted for the rest of his life he will remember that the rights of the weak are being sacrificed to the power of the strong across Canada today in the whole field of consumer activities, whether it be prairie retailing, prescription drugs, combines, housing or any other field. If the minister will embark on a genuine crusade and not just look into what is happening but seek one piece of legislation after another, he will find that a number of us in this corner will give him the same type of wholehearted support we have given Bill No. C-190. We will give this support to any effort he will make to
March 19, 1968
Supply-Consumer and Corporate Affairs co-operate with the prairie governments or any other government that will look at the cost of living and then take measures to deal with it, even if that involves price controls for the necessities. This is the thing his department will have to keep in mind. It is a big responsibility.
Mr. Chairman, I had not intended to speak at this point but the hon. lady who has just resumed her seat resorted to some blackmail in the words she uttered. I want to make it abundantly clear that a week ago last Monday the government house leader called a house leaders' meeting which I attended along with other house leaders. However, there was no representative from the New Democratic party. They ignored that meeting, and I do not know for what reason. At that time the government house leader asked us whether there was a possibility that the supplementary estimates and interim supply for two months could be dealt with before the end of that week. We thought there was that possibility and all of those present said so. The next day, or some days later, we got word that the New Democratic party would not agree to this course. They said they were going to filibuster the supplementary estimates until the end of the week. Their next approach was that they would agree to shut off this debate tonight provided the drug bill were brought before the house for consideration.
Our position on that bill has been made abundantly clear but I shall do so again so there will be no question about it. While we agree with the bill in so far as it may provide for lower prices we feel it is our responsibility and the minister's responsibility to have some concern for the safety aspect. It is this point that we want to stress. Not only should drugs be made cheaper for the Canadian people but there should also be some safeguards against drugs being imported into this country that would be detrimental to the consumers. We are not going to be blackmailed by the N.D.P. I want to make that abundantly clear. We have our own viewpoint and we are not going to be subjected to this kind of attack.
The hon. member for Prince Edward-Lennox.
Would the hon. member yield the floor for about two minutes on this subject?