June 4, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


John Gillanders Turriff



Whether my hon. friend wished to put us asleep, or out of business altogether, so that he could get his Estimates through I do not know, Jbut the fact remains that though we have been sitting here for nearly four months and the high cost of living has been .brought to the Minister's attention time and again in this House, not one single Btep has been taken by the minister to bring down to a reasonable level the price of any article of food used by the consumers of this country. Not a single thing has been accomplished. The minister indulged in a dissertation to-night about his Order in Council and his questionnaires. Why, any office boy would be dismissed if he sent out such a set of questions as the minister's. Since we have been discussing the cost of living in this House this session, the price of two main articles 'of food has practically doubled; I re'fer to flour and potatoes. All that the Minister of Labour has done has been to send Mr. O'Connor down to Montreal to ascertain the

reason for the rise in the price of flour. After all these months have been wasted the minister tells us to-night that he does not know whether it is advisable to appoint a commission or a food controller to look into the whole question. He read his Order in Council clause by clause, and told us that everything was lovely, that prices were not too high, they could not be lower; and, as my hon. friend from Richmond says, he apologized for those who' were manipulating the food supplies of this country and charging the people double prices. The Government apologizes for these food manipulators; it stands by them, and as much as says to them, "Go on, keep up the prices as high as the people of Canada will stand for. We will defend you on the floor of the House. We will not take any action to bring the prices down." That is the position of the Government tonight. The Minister of Labour says that nothing can be done. Certainly nothing is being done. I imagine this is the only country where the Government is absolutely powerless to do anything, and acknowledges it. Since this House met I venture to say that potatoes have doubled in price, and flour has almost doubled too. Did it cost any more to raise the potatoes that have been sold for such high prices in the last few months, than to raise the potatoes that were sold last fall? Did the wheat that produced the flour that brought from $13 to $15 a barrel only recently cost more to produce than the wheat that produced the flour that sold for $8 or $9 a barrel last fall? Not one cent. And yet this Government say they can do nothing to control the price of flour. In the meantime the people have to pay double the price for their bread. The Minister of Labour tells them he can do nothing. Everything is all right. The men who have been manipulating the market to the disadvantage of the labouring class and every other class have the sanction and even the benediction of this Government. The minister says:
"It's all right, gentlemen; go ahead; squeeze the last cent out of the people who must have potatoes and bread." There is the position. And the bad feature of it, to my mind, is that the minister comes forward to-night and says: We can't do anything; everything is all right; the prices are moderate and you have to pay them: some time, after the war is over, some time in the future, dimly distant or near, conditions may change and food may be cheaper, but in the meantime nothing is being

done and nothing can be done. Well, if the Government cannot do better than that, they ought to acknowledge that they are not capable for the job, and they ought to step down and out. No wonder they want a coalition. It is all well enough to discuss these matters here, but the millions of workers in Canada, who find it difficult to make ends meet and to provide food enough on their tables, see no possible prospect of .anything better after the statement made by the Minister of Labour to-night. I think it is up to the Government, it is right up to the Prime Minister, to see that a change is made in the workings of the Department of Labour and that something is done 'to control and regulate the prices of food. One good able man in charge as a food controller would very soon stop the prices going up here, and m many cases would cut down prices that have been raised by means of manipulation, as has been the case with many food products. The minister tells us that nothing has been decided. After all these years and months they have not decided whether they will appoint a commission, or name a food controller, or do any- . thing. Well, it is a poor lookout for the consumers of Canada when that is the position taken by the Government.

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