January 19, 1973

PC

Peter Reilly

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Reilly:

If hon. members from the party which pretends to speak for the weak, the old and the poor mean to denigrate the things I have been saying with that kind of cheap, juvenile barracking, let them go ahead. I hope their remarks are on Hansard, and I hope it is recorded that they were made by members of the NDP.

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An hon. Member:

This is not a television game.

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PC

Peter Reilly

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Reilly:

It is marvellous to hear this kind of thing. I only regret that more of the people of Canada are not here to listen to the high level of debate practiced by the party to my left which thinks itself an intellectual party.

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?

An hon. Member:

You are not on television.

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PC

Peter Reilly

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Reilly:

Neither are you. As I said to the people across the aisle a few minutes ago, it is a good thing the hon. member is not on television.

It has been said that wage and price controls would hamper the operation of the free market. I do not believe that to be true, because the market in those areas which have a bearing on inflation is not free anyway. Prices and wages are fixed by powerful corporations and powerful unions; there is very little free movement in those areas that really affect the people of Canada. I believe that the public of Canada deserves a place in the councils of those organizations if we are to make certain that the public interest will be served when those in lofty positions make a move.

There is no need for me to become involved in the area of farm prices or small manufacturing prices, Mr. Speaker, because these, as nearly as I can determine, are regulated by the market and there is no need to interfere with it. The only place where we need to impose regulations is in that area where powerful corporations and powerful unions now make the rules. Perhaps we might include certain essential areas such as rent controls. Those controls need to be imposed, perhaps only temporarily, until we can determine how to bring those factors more into line with the incomes of so many thousands of Canadians who are not making- it now. Those prices need to be frozen.

I think there is no doubt that the people who are suffering under rampant inflation want controls. They do not want guidelines or voluntary restraints that penalize those who co-operate and reward those who refuse to co-operate. They want firm, mandatory controls which will make certain that those on fixed incomes, the working poor and the unemployed, will be rescued from the relentless exploitation of the rich and powerful and selfish people of this country.

If this government and this House of Commons truly understands its responsibility to the people of this coun-

try, if hon. members have the vaguest understanding of the problems that bear so heavily on so many hundreds of thousands of unfortunate Canadian citizens, they will somehow summon the courage to take the drastic step. The government does not have that courage now.

There is still a chance for members to go out into the boondocks and see how real people live. Then they will move at once to consider price and wage controls, and impose them-because, Mr. Speaker, this move is no longer a debating point for an economics class: it is a very urgent need. We must help those who cannot help themselves. We, the members of this House, can help the people if we will. In my submission, we will not be helping the people through the mechanism of this committee, no matter when it reports.

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Leonard Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the introductory efforts which the hon. member for Northumberland-Durham (Mr. Lawrence) made the other day. His first three attempts to be recognized and gain the floor of this House were not very successful; he fell flat on his face.

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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Stanfield:

I wish food prices would fall flat on their face.

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

He was certainly prominent before coming to this House.

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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Which people fell flat on their faces last night?

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

I will have something to say about that later, Mr. Speaker.

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PC
LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

I am mentioning the hon. member for Northumberland-Durham at this time for this reason. He and his former colleagues in the Ontario government were so interested in serving the needs of the people on the hustings that they could not even maintain or build a bridge across the Petawawa River so that 12,000 people could reach the shopping plaza and buy food, no matter what its price was. They could not reach the bargains at the shopping plaza; and the hon. member was one of the super-ministers in the Ontario government at that time, Mr. Speaker.

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An hon. Member:

What about northern Ontario? Was he responsible there, too?

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

One thing-

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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Stanfield:

The party opposite was not very successful against the hon. member.

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

I am interested in seeing one thing, Mr. Speaker. I come from rural Ontario. I do not want to see farming communities of this country crucified for the sake of political gain. The cost of operating a farm today is very high, and the farmers must have a fair return for the risks they take.

Food Prices Committee

Another extremely important matter-I am not sure whether it has been mentioned in this debate-is freight rates. For those who live some distance from the large urban markets, freight rates are very important when considering food prices. For example, farmers throughout eastern Ontario raise a lot of beef and hogs. They not only face the freight costs of shipping the animals to the slaughter-houses but they are faced with the cost of bringing the product back to the local market. For this reason, I compliment the government for including the matter of freight rates in the Speech from the Throne.

Anyone who wants to check former speeches I have delivered in this House will find that time and again I raised the question of freight rates not only on food but on manufactured goods. We must also consider the processing industry. A study of freight rates in Canada will also be of importance to the developing economy in this country. Whether it be food processing plants or any other type of industry, it is as important to this country to have equalized and fair freight rates for all areas of Canada as it is to have a regional development program. When I speak of food processing, I refer to fish in the Maritimes, wheat in the west, mixed farming in Ontario and the various plants which deal with these types of products. If we take a serious look at freight rates along with an investigation into food prices, we will be hitting the whole problem of food costs with a double-barrelled shotgun rather than with pellets travelling in various directions.

Many people criticize all outlets, from the foodliners to the small corner stores, for the high cost of food. I think it is fair to say that many retail outlets operate on a very small percentage of profit. I hope the committee will study all areas of this problem, including the farmers, the consumer making his purchases in the foodliners, and other food middlemen across Canada. We cannot permit the rumour to be spread, as it often is, that the farmer has it made. The farmer today works far longer hours than the average citizen in this country in order to keep his operation going. It is his business. His money is involved and he has deadlines and payments to meet.

I have spent a considerable amount of time in sessions of committees of this House. I think it is extremely important that the make-up of the proposed committee include a fair representation of people from all walks of life and all interests. We do not want a committee representing only one or two views. The same is true with regard to witnesses who will appear before the committee. When the steering committee decides who should appear before the committee, they should call for a good cross-section of people-the producer, the middleman and the retailer. Also, people involved in transporting food throughout Canada should be invited to appear before the committee in order to deal with transportation costs.

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NDP
LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

Without this guideline, it will be impossible to get a clear picture. The hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway (Mrs. Maclnnis) has served on many committees of this House, some of which I have chaired. I have very high regard for her conduct and what she has to offer. I heard her mention the word "consumers." Cer-

January 19, 1973

Food Prices Committee

tainly, consumers' organizations should appear before the committee. What I am trying to say is that all groups should be represented. We should not merely load the gun in committee and then come back into this House with a report that is not viable.

The committee will be made up of members from all sides of this House. Because of our present make-up and the party system in this House, every member who serves on the committee should be sincere and dedicated. Hon. members should be interested in bringing a fair report to this House which will be in the interests of the consumer, the producer and all others involved in the food industry.

In my opening remarks I referred to the fact that farmers must pay for shipping their animals or food products to markets where they are processed and then returned. I think it important that we have regional slaughter-houses instead of shipping hogs, sheep and cattle to large centres where the industry is tied up in a few very large conglomerates. I think the committee should make an in-depth study of this aspect of the problem.

Another way to protect the farmer is to examine what has happened during the past 12 months. In eastern Ontario, stretching through to North Bay, there was a very serious wet weather problem and many farmers lost their year's crop. They are faced with additional expenditures this winter in order to bring their herds through the winter months.

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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker:

The government did not do very much to help them.

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LIB

Leonard Donald Hopkins (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Hopkins:

The government gave them assistance. This was done here in Ottawa on the initiative of a number of members of the Liberal caucus on that day.

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January 19, 1973