February 13, 1979

LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

That would be rather foolish, Mr. Speaker. When the decision on policy is made, it will be announced in its entirety.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   CONSUMER AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   REQUEST FOR REPORT ON STATUS OF NATIONAL FOOD POLICY-MEASURES IMPLEMENTED
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GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES

PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. James A. McGrath (St. John's East):

Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. In a speech yesterday in Winnipeg, the minister expressed his concern over the fact that food prices in the next few months will increase anywhere from 12 to 14 per cent. I would like the minister to express his concern in some tangible way. Perhaps he can tell us why he agreed to the removal of the subsidy on domestically consumed wheat in Canada which meant an immediate 15 per cent increase in the price of a loaf of bread.

What co-ordinating activity is he taking within his department, given the responsibility that is his under the statute to make sure that various government activities which could have an impact on food prices are co-ordinated within the context of some kind of strategy? Perhaps the minister would like to address himself to that.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs):

Yes, Mr. Speaker. As was stated on several occasions in this House, we agreed to remove the subsidy on bread because it was a subsidy which went to all levels of the

Oral Questions

population. We wanted to make sure that our scarce sources of public money went to those who needed it most. We increased the guaranteed income supplement to old age pensioners and we introduced the tax credit for children. That will put the money where it is most needed. That was one of our policies to deal with this situation.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Perhaps the minister will take the House into his confidence and tell us why he expects food prices to rise from 12 to 14 per cent in the next few months. If he has already, as he said in his speech yesterday, expressed his concern to cabinet about this and expects action to be taken, why cannot that action be taken now before food prices go up even further?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

Mr. Speaker, the predictions for this entire year are between 9 per cent and 10 per cent over the year. However, the forecasts that were given to us by different sources are that in the next five or six months food prices are likely to increase between 12 and 14 per cent. In other words, as the year goes on there will be a levelling off in the rate of increase. I and many ministers have shown our concern. The cabinet has been considering for the last couple of weeks several measures which will deal with this problem.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Perhaps the minister will tell the House who in the House is responsible for co-ordinating food policy or food strategy. Is it the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, or some other minister we do not know about? We know about the DM-10 study which the minister likes to forget about. Will he tell us who has the ultimate responsibility for this question which is causing so much concern to the people in this country?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

Mr. Speaker, there are several interdepartmental committees and committees of officials dealing with food policy. The five principal departments involved have been agriculture, fisheries, consumer affairs, trade and commerce, and health and welfare. The Minister of Agriculture and I have been acting as co-chairmen in this area.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HOLD DOWN FOOD PRICE INCREASES
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MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY

NDP

Reginald Cyril Symes

New Democratic Party

Mr. Cyril Symes (Sault Ste. Marie):

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions for the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Since the wholeasale price of rough spruce plywood rose from $185 per 1,000 board feet in January, 1978, to $245 in January, 1979, two by fours in the same period went from $195 to $265, and the wood products industry had an 87 per cent profit increase last year, will the minister report what action he is taking to stop this profiteering and thereby protect home builders and consumers generally?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. Warren Alimand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, that question was asked last week. I responded that I would refer the matter to the director of investigations under the Combines Investigation Act, to see whether there was any infraction under that act, and that I would explore other possibilities as well. 1 cannot accept as

February 13, 1979

Oral Questions

being right or wrong the allegations made by the hon. member businesses, we have done that before and we will do it again if until I make sure that some of these matters are correct. it is necessary.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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NDP

Reginald Cyril Symes

New Democratic Party

Mr. Symes:

Mr. Speaker, this price increase was brought to the minister's attention last November. He said then that he would investigate it. We followed it up in January. All the minister can assure us is that he is investigating. Meanwhile, prices are going up. Over the last two years, the wholesale price of two by fours has risen by 70 per cent, and only last week a further 10 per cent increase was announced with regard to both two by fours and plywood sheets.

Since the minister told the Consumers' Association of Canada yesterday that he expected companies with increased profits to practice price moderation, and that if they failed to do so he would have to take action, will he now call in the heads of the lumber industry and demand price rollbacks for domestic lumber?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

Mr. Speaker, I do not recall the hon. member or anybody else bringing this to my attention before Christmas, but the matter was brought to my attention last week.

I never said at any time that 1 would do the investigating, because I do not have the powers under the Inquiries Act that the director of investigations possesses under that statute. He has the right to use certain powers of search and seizure which I do not have, and he will carry out his responsibilities and report to me and to the public.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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NDP

Reginald Cyril Symes

New Democratic Party

Mr. Symes:

For the information of the minister, my hon. friend from Winnipeg North raised this matter with the minister on November 27 and my leader followed it up in January. Though the minister may not have precise legislative authority to take action, he certainly has the power to call in the heads of the industry and try to exercise moral suasion if the government is too timid to bring in legislation.

I should like to put another aspect of this question to him. Again, surely, it relates to something he can investigate with a view to taking action. I understand that upon conversion to metric measurement, plywood is one-sixteenth of an inch less in thickness than under the old Imperial measurement; in other words, there is 10 per cent less wood in an ordinary plywood sheet. We were assured when we passed the metrication bill that there would be no rip-off, as far as consumers were concerned, as a result of the conversion process. This being the case, will the minister now investigate this particular application of metric conversion and take up the matter with the company heads as well?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have a team in the field already helping consumers adjust to the metric system.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh!

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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LIB

William Warren Allmand (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Allmand:

We have already provided a great deal of help across the country and we will be glad to follow up that particular matter. With respect to calling in the heads of

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   MEASURES TO PREVENT PROFITEERING IN LUMBER INDUSTRY
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UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

?

Mr. C.-A. Gauthier@Roberval

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Employment and Immigration and concerns the three weeks of unemployment insurance benefits paid to anyone who reaches 65. Can the minister tell us whether, in view of the recent amendments to the unemployment insurance regulations, this payment will continue to be made, or if it will be cancelled?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Sub-subtopic:   THREE WEEKS' BENEFITS PAYABLE TO PERSONS 65 YEARS OF AGE
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LIB

Jack Sydney George (Bud) Cullen (Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Liberal

Hon. Bud Cullen (Minister of Employment and Immigration):

Mr. Speaker, the same thing applies under the new legislation.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Sub-subtopic:   THREE WEEKS' BENEFITS PAYABLE TO PERSONS 65 YEARS OF AGE
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February 13, 1979