Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, I have a supplementary question with regard to the response of the minister that he is conducting investigations only for the purpose of determining whether there are possible violations of the combines act. Can we take it from this that the minister is not actively conducting any investigations relating to the rate of inflation and the inflationary forces that may be at work in the economy but rather is confining his attention solely to the anti-combines aspect?
Hon. Robert K. Andras (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, the economic causes and effects of inflation and of increased prices would be more properly investigated by the Department of Finance, although we are interested in these matters from the consumer viewpoint and from the point of view of possible contravention of the combines act.
May I ask the Minister of Finance what precise steps he is taking with regard to surveillance of the inflationary factors in the economy? What research is going on under his authority, and in what manner is this research being carried out?
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Finance is following the price situation on a daily basis. As I said yesterday to the House, the nucleus of the Prices and Incomes Commission that has been retained is also monitoring price movements here, in the United States and abroad. As I said yesterday, on the basis of the figures for the first seven months of this year the movement of prices in Canada compares favourably with that in any other country in the world including the United States.
Order, please. The Chair will recognize the Leader of the Opposition for a supplementary question, but I have to point out that we have not yet completed the first series of questions. After this supplementary question I think I should recognize the hon. member for Richmond.
Mr. Speaker, could the Minister of Finance inform the House precisely what the nucleus or rump of the Prices and Incomes Commission consists of, how many people it includes and, very briefly, what their roles are, because the complacency he has exhibited toward the recent price increases is not very reassuring?
On the basis of prices, the opinion of the government is that the present situation does not warrant price and wage controls. If the situation should develop where price rises were much more substantial and of a type amenable to general control measures, then of course that would be done. I say that the present situation does not warrant it. I say that the record of the cost of living in Canada compares favourably with that of any country in the world.