George Brecken Nicholson
Mr. G. B. NICHOLSON (East Algoma) moved:
That the recommendations contained in the second report of the tSpecial Committee appointed for the purpose of inquiring forthwith as to the prices charged throughout Canada for foodstuffs, clothing, fuel, and other neces-
saries of life, etc., presented to the House on Thursday, the 26th day of June, be concurred in. (See Hansard 26th June for this report.)
He said: In moving for the concurrence of the House in this report, I wish to say just a word in regard to the manner in which the report itself was brought in and to the conditions under which it was prepared. In that connection I may say that in reality itr may be looked upon as a minority report, for the reason that the principle involved in the recommendations was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman of the committee. I may say, further, that subsequent to the passing of the resolution under these circumstances, the validity of the chairman exercising the right of that casting vote was questioned. However, whether the report comes before the House as a minority or as a majority report, those who support the recommendations feel so strongly the desirability of having something done along those lines during this session of Parliament, that they would have been perfectly willing to present the recommendations as a minority report.
Passing to the recommendations contained in the report, the first question that arises is: Is there any necessity for such a tribunal as the recommendations refer to? And that involves two additional questions: First, can such a tribunal as is suggested be of such service to the internal trade o'f this country that it will be to the general advantage of all our people? And, second, have we at present any machinery that can be used for Ithe purposes outlined in the recommendations, and which would avoid the necessity of creating a new tribunal or some additional machinery?
In answer to the first question, I would say without hesitation that there can be no question but that something is required in connection with carrying on the internal trade of the country to satisfy all of the people that they are getting even-handed justice. In the first place, the internal trade of this or any other country is the most important trade that we have, and it cames more closely into the lives of all our people than anything we can possibly have in the nature of external trade. To illustrate that, I will cite just one case, because I want to be exceedingly brief. The question of distribution of foodstuffs, clothing, and all the great variety of commodities that enter into the necessities of life, is of the utmost importance, and we naturally ask what is the best channel through which these commodities can pass from the producer or the manufacturer to
the ultimate consumer. It would be a simple matter to find any number of men who would be ready to tell you at once that our present system is inadequate, that it is cumbersome, that it is too expensive; but it would be an exceedingly difficult matter to find one man who would point to a method or practice that would result in an improvement. But my conviction is that a group of experts, working under the authority of such a tribunal as we have suggested, would very readily get to the bottom of the whole question and point out defects where there are defects, and also point out methods that the people themselves could put into effect to remedy any of these defects and bring about very much more stable and better conditions. It will be conceded that there is nothing so much in the minds of our people as the conviction that profiteering is having a marked effect in enhancing the already abnormal cost of living. For the purpose of this discussion, I shall not express my personal opinion whether these convictions are well founded or not, but the fact that they do exist and that, without question, they are at the bottom of a great deal of the unrest which prevails throughout the country imposes on the Government and on Parliament the immediate responsibility of removing them as far as possible; and my judgment is that nothing will so adequately tend to remove these convictions, to remove from the minds of the people the feeling that they are being unjustly dealt with, as to place at the disposal of the public an independent tribunal to whom all men in all walks of life can appeal whenever and wherever they feel that injustice is being done in a commercial way. The committee that has been inquiring into these subjects has received petitions from all classes of people from all over Canada-consumers, co-operative associations, retail merchants, wholesalers and manufacturers-asking that just such a body as we have recommended be set up in order that all matters pertaining to internal trade may be inquired into and in order that the people may feel that they are getting a square deal.
I would like to cite two specific instances -they might be multiplied to any extent that any one wished to go-in order to emphasize my point. Within the past two or three months there have been two or three sharp rises in the prices of boots and shoes. As far as we have been able to determine, these rises have been due directly to the very great advance in the cost of leather, and this, again, has been brought about by
the fact that a very large part of the available domestic supply has been bought up for export. The balance still remaining has, therefore, been so far enhanced in price that still further advances in the cost of boots and shoes are bound to come unless something is done to bring about a reduction of the cost of leather. Again I say that I am not going to enter into any discussion of the question whether these advances are just or unjust; but if we had such a tribunal as is recommended here, that question could be immediately inquired into, and the public would be in a position to know, without delay, whether or not they were being fleeced. If it was found that they were being fleeced, a remedy could be applied.
Subtopic: ADOPTION OF THE ISPEOIAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE MOVED.