May 6, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Malcolm McLean


Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Someone asks what it means. It is descriptive of the problem we are investigating at the moment. It is a "prickly" question bristling with difficulties, and sometimes those who touch the bristles are liable to be jabbed by them. The point I wish to make, while thanking my hon. friend for this addition to the knowledge and culture of the house by his use of that very descriptive word, is with reference to what he said about the difficult position of the worker in the industry, the weight of his expenses and so on. That is one of the complaints I make against all artificial costs and burdens that are laid upon industry in Canada. In the long run the worker does not benefit, and as a net result of all these various burdens placed one on top of the other, constantly pyramiding, there is danger some day of the whole structure falling down. If that table standing there on four legs is tinkered with, if someone says that this corner is too low and therefore puts a piece under this leg, raising it to that extent, we all know what will happen. When you raise that leg for the benefit of the owner of industry, someone else will want to raise the leg next to it for the benefit of the workers in industry and that will leave your table lopsided. Some bright mind will then undertake to raise it at the other end, putting
Farm Implements Committee Report
a piece under a third leg for the benefit of the financiers and transportation interests, and finally the consumers insist that they should have their corner raised too, and that is sometimes attempted. The result is that your table is raised equally all around, and you can see what that means; the level over all is the same as before. But in the meantime you have added a heavy cost to industry and that additional burden must be levied ultimately against many with small incomes, those in receipt of small fixed payments of various kinds, and who cannot benefit from the adjustments made.
Among the factors which the committee was told contributed to the increase at the present time were materials, labour, factory burden, freights, commissions, time sales, collections, bad debts and the lack of volume. There is another one that they should have added and that is the matter of financing, because unquestionably when any industry gets into the hands of financiers, the money men, who think that wealth consists of money and papers, then it is going to add to the burden of running that industry in many ways which often bring it to the brink of failure. I should like to look at some of the arguments advanced in the committee with respect to various materials, and I notice that there were some curious anomalies. In connection with paint, which is an important item, the price of flax seed went down and the price of linseed oil went up. Undoubtedly that added to the cost of machinery. In connection with lumber, we are told that Canadian white pine and British Columbia fir in 1913 stood at 100 a thousand, I presume. By 1936, white pine was 149 and British Columbia fir 113. But in 1935, a little before the time when the increase in implement prices was put into effect, British Columbia fir stood at 93 instead of 100 as it was in 1913 and as against 108 in 1930. So that these figures do not show any upward trend. Pig iron, taken at 100 in 1913, was in 1935 up to 111.

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