Mr. Cyril Symes (Sault Ste. Marie):
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion on small business which I find very timely and worth-while considering the sad state of our economy, especially as it affects small businesses. After listening to the minister this afternoon outlining in catalogue form all the things which this government is doing for small business, I can only lament at the state of small business in coming months when we consider that, despite these policies, we have record bankruptcies and record financial difficulties facing this important sector of our economy. Unfortunately, I was not reassured by the programs and the lack of new initiatives forthcoming from the minister this afternoon.
This motion is timely for another reason as well, because today is the day after the tabling of the report of the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration, more familiarly known as the Bryce commission report. In it the Royal commission examined the operation of our economy and looked at the very important role that large businesses and large corporations play in our economy. That, of course, has a direct bearing on how small businesses operate in Canada today.
The very disappointing conclusion of this commission, as far as the NDP is concerned, was its conclusion that no radical changes in the laws governing corporate activity are necessary at this time to protect the public interest. I note that "in the public interest" includes not only consumers but all small businesses. Indeed, the royal commission went so far as to recommend the ending of corporate income tax and came up
May 16, 1978
with the conclusion that big is beautiful. Our party parts company very dramatically with the royal commission in that conclusion because we look at the evidence provided by Statistics Canada and other sources, and conclude that corporate capitalism is not competitive capitalism and, as a result, the small business sector of our community suffers very badly because of the domination, in both supply and price, of a few relatively strong and powerful corporations.
Indeed, if we look at the statistics provided by the government in 1975, we find that in Canada there are 206,695 non-financial enterprises. These are companies outside of banks and trust companies, etc. Of those 206,000 corporations or enterprises, only 500, or less than one quarter of one per cent, control 59 per cent of the assets, 51 per cent of the sales, and 63 per cent of the profits of all business in Canada. Those are very disturbing and startling figures. What we have in effect is oligopolistic or near monopoly capitalism in this country. We do not have free enterprise or competition, as most economists or even members of the House would define it.
I submit that when 500 firms control 59 per cent of the assets of this country, it is absurd to suggest that the remaining 200,000 corporations or businesses can provide any meaningful competition. When we have four firms in the motor vehicle sector of our economy which control 90 per cent of output, is it any wonder that here in Canada cars of any kind produced in Canada cost more t lan in the United States, even though the same cars are produced here and shipped across the border where they sell at a lower price? Surely that kind of concentration and the resulting price policies must indicate to any unbiased observer that we have price fixing of a sort and that we do not have true competition in that sector of the economy.
When four firms control over 50 per cent of all capacity in the primary metal sector, can anyone tell me that we have effective competition in this country, or when three sugar companies are dominant in their field-and recently, as we all know, have been charged with price fixing-does the consumer, or indeed any other business competitor, benefit from that kind of economic situation? The answer must be no.
This concentration of corporate power is detrimental to consumers and to small businessmen alike, because those corporations that control these important sectors of our economy dominate supply and price, and that affects both consumers and small businessmen. I wonder when was the last time that Imperial Oil or Loblaws asked us if the price was right. Indeed, Imperial Oil, which was chartered back in 1881, had accumulated by 1970 $2.3 billion in assets. Just five years later, in 1975, their assets had grown to $6.2 billion, or almost tripled in five years.
You can go through sector by sector in the economy and you begin to see the concentration of corporate wealth and power, you begin to see that the small businessman has little chance competing against these huge giants which have policies of underbidding, underselling, cornering markets and driving out their competitors. Anyone who looks at the food chain or the
oil industry in Canada might wonder what has happened to the small independent retailers. Of the estimated $10 billion in unpaid corporate taxes, we find that about $9 billion are owned by the largest 1,000 corporations.
In terms of the government's tax policy, year after year this Liberal government has favoured the large firms as opposed to small business in terms of total amounts of tax concessions and deferred taxes. That, of course, is an unfair situation. It is unfair from another point of view as well, because it is the small businesses that are mainly engaged in manufacturing, and that is where the job creation is. This government continues, in its tax policy, to give preference to large corporations, mostly in the resource field, which are highly capital intensive and not job intensive.
Indeed, if members on the government side have difficulty in accepting the words of the NDP in that regard, I should like to quote the comments of a former Liberal cabinet minister and president of the Stock Exchange, Eric Kierans, who said:
With the exception of the United Kingdom, I doubt that any nation in the world has given its corporate 1,000 a more handsome gift package of subsidies, tax allowances, two-year write-offs, deductibility of merger costs, cheap loans, export credits and insurance than our present Trudeau government.
In light of that kind of growth of corporate power and the disadvantages it entails for small business, and in light of the report of the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration, which in effect did not find anything substantially wrong with this concentration of corporate power and wealth, 1 was shocked to read in the press today the comments of the hon. member for Halton-Wentworth (Mr. Kempling) on what is the view of the Conservative party of the royal commission. I should like to quote him from the Ottawa Journal of May 16. He said:
"It's a blue report and that's our colour baby," Bill Kempling, Progressive Conservative business spokesman said Monday night, expressing a positive reaction to the report of the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration.
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY S O. 58-MEASURES TO IMPROVE SMALL BUSINESS POLICIES