Mrs. Grace Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kings-way):
Mr. Speaker, almost a week ago I raised a question which I wish to discuss for a few moments tonight. I drew to the attention of the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs the fact that two dairies in
March 26, 1968
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion Toronto stated they were raising the price of milk by two cents a quart. Two cents a quart may not seem like a great deal of money, but it is only one more item in the steadily rising cost of living which is bearing very heavily on the people of low income in this country, and which again is making it more difficult for the people of low and moderate means to provide the kind of diet they should provide for their families.
Milk is a vital component in a good diet. Price increases of this nature are contagious. The fact that two dairies in Toronto have already raised their price now by two cents a quart has established a pattern for other dairies across the country. This means that there is a fresh layer of price increases in a very vital area which affects the diet of the Canadian people. This is also a very serious situation from the point of view of the farmers. I learned from the Department of Agriculture that a comparison of two recent periods, 1955-57 and 1962-64, shows that the decline per person in Canada in the consumption of fluid milk is in the order of 65 pounds. That represents roughly 38 quarts of milk. In other words, during the period 1962-64, the average Canadian drank roughly 38 quarts of milk less than in the period 1955-57.
This of course reflects from the fact that the price of milk had increased and people were using instead substitutes like powdered milk at that time. Now there are other milk substitutes on the market. The farmers' markets are falling off. As milk substitutes come in this tendency accelerates. I am sorry the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs is not here this evening, because I would like him to hear this. I believe it is up to his department to provide some form of protection for the consumers against this type of price increase.
When speaking the other evening I noted that the minister said the Liberal party must set up a hotline in order to keep in touch with the public. I feel that in his department the minister has found, not a hotline but a hot potato, and understandably he is anxious to drop it in favour of the prime ministership. Should he succeed I would not be surprised if he should find that he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
If the minister really wishes to be prime minister surely the best recommendation he could have would be success in his position as minister of the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. If he cannot prove himself in dealing with the matter of the rise in the
price of milk-if he cannot prove that he can do something to protect the consumer-then I believe he has a very dubious claim to becoming prime minister. I believe he has two opportunities to prove his capacity before the leadership convention. One would be to bring forward Bill No. C-190 before we adjourn, and thus take action in some measure to bring down the price of drugs. The other is that he could take some measures to protect the consumers from these price increases in the cost of milk. He could begin by establishing a prices review board to investigate the price of milk.
I am well aware that the jurisdiction over prices is divided between the provincial and federal authorities. I am also aware that up until this time the government has adopted the attitute that it can do nothing about prices until or unless a dire emergency such as war arises. I suggest that peace has its dire emergencies and that one of these is the level to which prices have now risen, because people in the very low income groups are becoming more and more desperate and this desperation is beginning to become apparent higher up the income scale.
This matter of the price of milk is in itself a relatively small thing to most Canadians. It may have only a nuisance value. However, to hundreds of Canadians on low income this is a very serious thing. It is also very serious to the farmers of this country because the net result of this price rise does not do them any good. They do not receive the bulk of the increase.
I asked a supplementary question of the minister as to whether he would investigate to find out how much the farmer would get out of this price increase. Again there was no response to that question. In the long run, the farmer's market is decreasing across Canada simply because the people cannot afford to pay this price for milk. They cannot afford this price because of the cost of this wasteful and extravagant distribution system which accounts for the bulk of the increased cost. The minister of the department of consumer affairs should take this first step by establishing a board to look into these increases in cost, in order that the people will know who received the benefit of such increases.