Mr. COLD WELL:
I do not know how
wide this legislation is going to be. It is to provide for the administration of the act by an officer to be known as the commissioner of the combines act, for the investigation of alleged combines by the commissioner, and for the appointment of such a commissioner, special commissioners and assistants, and to provide salaries, remuneration and expenses therefor. I do not know whether the minister by regulation or statute or otherwise is going to consider the granting of increased powers under this legislation, and I suggest that some consideration be given that question and that when he brings down the legislation he inform the house in that regard.
A few weeks ago a group of merchants in western Canada had occasion to take up a matter which they believed was due to the operation of a combine, and the reply they had from the Minister of the Interior, as he was then, or rather from his secretary, was that there was no legislation bearing upon the matter, nor was it possible to effect a remedy by legislation. The situation is roughly this. Just before the war certain merchants in western Canada organized what was known as the Merchants' Consolidated, a company at that time owned entirely by the merchants themselves on a cooperative basis. Since then, by death, removal and other causes, the company has become more or less a limited concern with about fifty per cent of the stock
Combines Investigation Act
owned by these merchants. They deal in all kinds of goods, and the particular commodity they are interested in just now is something which is widely used in the west, gasoline equipment. There is only one company in Canada manufacturing a wide range of such equipment, and there are two wholesale houses that handle hardware largely in western Canada, and the organization that is owned by the merchants-Merchants' Consolidated of Winnipeg-is unable to get delivery on the regular wholesale basis through this particular company, which is an American concern with a Canadian subsidiary enjoying quite a high measure of tariff protection. These merchants believe that this operates as a restriction of trade or a combine. I do not know whether the statement made by the minister's secretary is correct, that there is no legislation that can deal with this matter at the present time. If so, I would suggest that if any amendments are to be made to the act or if any change is to be made in the regulations or in the general set-up of this particular department of government, the matter I have just brought to the minister's notice should be taken into consideration. Quite recently the radio business has been brought to our attention and there is a widespread belief in Canada that there is a combine operating in that field, because when we compare prices of similar articles on both sides of the international line we see that there is a considerable difference in prices.
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION BY COMMISSIONER UNDER MINISTER OF LABOUR