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

LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

I understand that even soft coal is extraordinarily expensive in some places. Steps should be taken to yard large quantities of coal at Montreal, St. John and other places. The member for Westmorland points out that a serious condition faces the people in the province of New Brunswick. When a grave condition prevailed in 1905, in the matter of hay, the Government came to the assistance of the people in Nova Scotia by giving them free transportation of hay from Mont-11 p.m. real and other places in the West, for which they were very grateful. I will not object to any expendi-

t.ure the Government may make in an effort to prevent famine. If there is to he conscription of men, no better conscription could be had than that of having the men work in the coal mines and produce enough coal to make the supply plentiful. Ample quantities of coal are available for mining; we have railway facilities under our control, and the question of the supply of coal is not a serious one if properly handled. Pulp, for instance, is no more a natural product of our country than is flour. Everything that enters into the production of pulp is found in our own country, and the same may be said of flour. It was alleged that the price of newsprint had gone beyond a proper figure, and the Government, under the War Measures Act, cut down the price to what the producers of the commodity say is too small a figure. If it is proper to cut down the price of newsprint, why not cut down the price of flour to a proper figure? If they are charging too much for wheat, why not cut down the price? If they are charging too much for milling,- why not cut down the price and enable the people to obtain the staff of life at a reasonable figure? I appeal to the minister on behalf of thousands of coal miners, fishermen, lumbermen and farmers, who cannot get flour without paying $17 a barrel for it. When they were paying $6 and $7 a barrel for flour, the price was regarded as high; I do not know how they will be able to obtain sufficient flour at $17 a barrel. It would not be so bad if the minister could say that he had investigated the price of wheat and the conditions surrounding its milling, transportation and sale, and could announce that it was impossible to sell it at a lower price. But. this is not the case. We, were told not-long ago that over a hundred million bushels of wheat were stored in various places throughout Canada. Before long we shall have a new crop. Is it not extraordinary that with that large quantity of wheat on hand, and with the prospect of another abundant crop in the near future, the price of wheat and flour should be so high? The matter of news print has been dealt with; why not take some steps in the matter of potatoes, flour, butter, fish or any of the other necessaries of life for which we are now paying too much? Why not bring the prices down within the reacn of the poor man; or, at any rate, be able to tell him that we have done the best we could? The evidence submitted by the minister is not enough to satisfy me that proper effort- has been made to make the necessaries of life as ch^ap to the poor

man as possible, under the extraordinary-conditions that now prevail. Arguments advanced in times of peace, plenty, happiness and contentment, are not applicable to these terms of stress and strain. Action-on the part of the Government must be suited to present conditions. The people must be protected, even if, after the war is over, we should have to pay the men from whom we took the wheat, flour and other commodities for the benefit of the people. But do not let there be any suffering amongst the labouring classes and the poorer classes in this country if there is anything in the power of Parliament and of the people that can divert that suffering or produce better conditions.

Topic:   IN COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY.
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