March 21, 1947

LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Older! I wish to draw the hon. member's attention to the fact that a rule of the house, which is unfortunately not sufficiently adhered to, forbids the reading of speeches. I take the liberty of interrupting the hon. member for the following reason: I wish to explain to him that the reading of speeches is forbidden in order to prevent any hon. member from expressing the views of persons who do not have the privilege of being members of this house. The hon. member, who is reading from a newspaper, is not expressing his own views but is only repeating someone else's opinions. I would therefore ask the hon. member to stop reading from that newspaper and to express his own views.

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SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall continue with my speech. During the war, subsidies to retailers took care of the price and control of milk. The government paid a subsidy of two cents per quart on milk. The consumer did not have to pay any more for his milk, and the producer and distributor received a two cents subsidy for each quart of milk. What has the government done since the end of the war? They have maintained harmful controls and they have abolished beneficial subsidies. As soon as controls give way to subsidies, farmers will start producing instead of selling their equipment, their live stock and everything they need for production. Prior to the control era, they were able to tend their farms and give something to Canada. The granting of subsidies will be an incentive to production. Retailers will secure a fairer distribution of goods and the price he w'ants, buyers will pay less, and the government will have accomplished its function, that of providing the consumers with adequate supplies of goods and giving them satisfaction as to quality.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is the only way of encouraging production in Canada. The C.C.F. demand still more control. They keep on asking for controls and they never talk about suppressing them. They want controls for the people and not for themselves. They wish neither to control themselves nor to be controlled, but to subject the people to controls. It is claimed by some that there

is a shortage of goods in this country. The hon. member for Portneuf (Mr. Gauthier) said a moment ago that we wanted sugar in Canada.

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LIB
SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

I know quite well that in certain towns people have hoarded 500, 600 and even 700 pounds of sugar-which proves there was some sugar to be had

because they feared a shortage. Such hoarding took place throughout Canada. Others purchased 50 pounds, whole cases of butter, without surrendering ration coupons. Now some people imagine that it is absolutely necessary to subject Canadians to rationing.

Mr. Speaker, there is not to my knowledge a single member of the house- who, because of rationing, has had to go without sugar, butter and clothing although our constituents and the citizens of this country in general were subjected to rationing. Even in the parliamentary restaurant there is no shortage of sugar; we get all we want. And yet, Mr. Speaker, I know of miners, workers and poor families who are short of sugar, of butter, of the necessities of life. Are we to spend our t,ilne trying to find means to prevent them from satisfying their needs?

Instead of gauging the rations on Canadian stomachs, the stomachs have to conform to the size of the rations obtainable with the coupons. Such a system is undesirable. Canadians prefer subsidies, so that our country may enjoy plenty. I was saying that the hon. members do not like rationing as it applies to them, nor controls for that matter.

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LIB
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An hon. MEMBER:

You do not know what you are talking about.

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LIB
SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

They do not like controls as they apply to them and I maintain they have no right to vote for controlling their electors. Our constituents have elected us to serve them. They must be just as important as the members of this house. They are entitled to their own opinions about food, just as much as the members of this house, including the hon. member for Rimouski. I know that certain hon. members from Quebec will support the resolution, not because their electors are in favour of it, but because they have to submit to party discipline. Party politics are paramount to the common good and to the electors.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Don't be ridiculous.

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SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

I would not be at all surprised to hear in the very near future that some hon. members from the province of Quebec who voted for the resolution will have to face delegations of electors from their various constituencies.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Is that a threat?

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SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

In order to avoid meeting them in their hometown station, some of these hon. members will have to flee across fields and jump over fences when they get off the train.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order! I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. I wish to point out to him that he is now speaking in parliament and that he is using language unworthy of the chamber in which he is heard.

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SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

Mr. Speaker, I do not want it said that I am in favour of the regimentation of our men. women and children, under a government dominated by finance and controllers. I shall vote against the resolution with the utmost energy and if our financial set-up does not permit at this time the granting of the logical and necessary subsidies we are claiming in order to promote andi stimulate production, it is no fault of mine. Let the government take the necessary steps in this direction or else we will be forced some day to see that it is replaced unless it reassumes its sovereignty in the near future.

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, which of these two philosophies-controls or subsidies-is one of selfishness paving the way for the Soviets. My hon. friend the member for Rimouski (Mr. Belzile) shall have to speak more intelligently the next time, otherwise his remarks will boomerang against him.

If the members of parliament think they are intelligent enough to take care of themselves, they must admit that their electors are also capable of doing the same. Therefore, controls must be done away with and replaced by subsidies which will stabilize our economy by stimulating production and making distribution easier.

I have one further remark to make, Mr. Speaker. We no longer need the bureaucrats who, throughout Canada, as everyone knows, have the duty of distributing ration coupons, which are used for depriving us of our fair share of goods, under the pretext that we must have an uninterrupted production and a more equitable distribution. Instead of paying bureaucrats for rationing the people who pay their salaries, the government should compel

them to produce, so that we may have a greater abundance from which all Canadians will benefit.

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LIB

Ludger Dionne

Liberal

Mr. L. DIONNE (Beauce):

Mr. Speaker, I shall not take up the time of the house to refute the unfounded statements which in the course of his remarks the hon. member for Pontiac (Mr. Caouette) has repeated in reading a newspaper article, but I must register an emphatic protest against the untrue statement which the hon. member made when he said that it was possible to obtain plenty of butter and sugar in the parliamentary restaurant. That is a falsehood and I ask all hon. members of this house to contradict me if I do not speak the truth.

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SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

Mr. Speaker, I did not say what is rationed in parliament, I was referring to sugar. When I stated that it could be obtained in any quantity, I was right and I stand by what I said.

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CCF

Eric Bowness McKay

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. E. B. McKAY (Weybum) :

not come to the aid of workers in need, as, for example, the steel workers at Hamilton last year and the coal miners in the maritimes now who are on strike for nothing more than a living wage.

Big business argues that increased wages materially increase costs of production. Of course there is some increase, but not to the extent which is claimed. Every wage increase, small though it may be, brings demands from the manufacturer for increased prices for his goods. But wage increases do not appreciably increase the cost of production unless they are very large. In the United States it was revealed in the eighteenth quarterly report of the O.P.A. that the percentage of price increases for fifteen major industries, which include petroleum, food, iron and steel, and textiles between January and September, 1946, required to cover wage rises was only 2-5 per cent, but the actual price increase demanded of the public by the same industries was a little less than eighteen per cent, or seven times more than was necessary to meet the increased labour costs. When consumers are informed that labour costs have increased the prices of consumer goods they should keep in mind these figures so that they may be able to place the responsibility for the high prices they pay where it rightly belongs.

The decontrol policy of the government is not popular with the great mass of Canadian people. In January of this year, sixty-six per cent of the people interviewed by the Canadian institute of public opinion registered their disapproval of the removal of price control. This represents a cross-section of the Canadian public and may be considered as a fairly accurate gauge of public reaction to increasing prices. If two-thirds of the Canadian public are opposed to decontrol of prices at this time I suggest to my Progressive Conservative and Social Credit friends that such a large percentage of the Canadian public must include a good many Conservatives and social erediters who do not approve their party's stand on this matter.

More recently a survey conducted by the same institute revealed that the public was still of the same mind. In answer to a question, "If it were your job to decide the first problem to be tackled by parliament at Ottawa which of these would you put at the top of the list?" there followed a list of important problems facing the Canadian people, but at the top of the list in the answers was placed the control of prices and the cutting of taxes. Everyone recognizes that these are the two items which figure largely in the family budget. The government is reducing expenditures so

that there is promise of tax reductions, but the policy of decontrol which the government is now following, at a time when production has not yet caught up with demand for consumer goods, is increasing prices contrary to the wish of the great mass of the Canadian public.

One must assume that the government, by continuing such a programme is being dictated to by big business who are the only people which can benefit by decontrol; big business represented by the Canadian Manufacturers' Association which in Toronto on January 28 of this year called for a removal of price control as soon as possible.

Consumers are of the opinion, as revealed by surveys to which I have referred, that controls should be maintained until goods are in plentiful supply. They should be retained until production has reached a stage at which they can be removed without increasing prices of goods to consumers. Should prices increase much more, they will reach a level that will discourage buying, since people will not have money enough to go around. A surplus of goods will then result which, in turn, will cause lessened production with unemployment in its wake.

Controls should be maintained as an antiinflationary measure. There is less inflation in Canada as a result of the government's war policy of price control than in the United States. But we are rapidly nullifying the effect of this policy by removing controls too quickly. Inflation is always to be feared. A boom is inevitably followed by a slump. Westerners can remember only too well the effects of the slump in the thirties when, according to the Rowell report, page 175, table III, the following prices were paid in Saskatchewan in 1932: wheat, thirty-five cents a bushel; rye, twenty-four cents a bushel; cattle, $20 per head; oats, thirteen cents; barley, nineteen cents; eggs, cents a dozen; butter-fat, fourteen cents a pound.

No one in his right senses wants a return of such conditions. But the policy of too rapid decontrol will lead to it. Present policies are causing inflation. Inflation can have but one result-recession or depression. The government must assume responsibility for the high prices which consumers must pay in the immediate future if its present programme is continued. It will be held responsible for the aftermath which will follow. I appeal to the government to reimpose controls on all essential commodities before it is too late and to discontinue its policy of decontrol as soon as it is humanly possible to do so.

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Public opinion is demanding that the price line be held. Old age pensioners are asking for it; the disabled veteran is hoping for it, and both the worker and the farmer are insisting upon it. On these grounds, we in this corner of the house appeal to the government to take immediate action to arrest the upward trend of prices of consumer goods so that the Canadian people may not be the victims of the distress and suffering that such a policy engenders.

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PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. R. PEARKES (Nanaimo):

Mr. Speaker, I hope I shall not be considered out of order if I express to you and to the ministers a certain degree of sympathy for having listened to this very long debate on this particular resolution, but I feel that some value will accrue from the discussions which have taken place, because I believe there is no problem about which the people of the country are more perplexed than the question whether controls should be removed or should not be removed. It seems to me that the various parties are not so widely separated in the objective which they are striving to achieve.

I could subscribe wholeheartedly to the final remarks made by the hon. gentleman who has just sat down, namely, that the country wants the government to stop the rising cost of living. I believe that every party in this house wants to prevent the" cost of living from going up, but the problem which faces us, the problem which the country is interested in, is to find the method of stopping this increase in the cost of living.

From the point of view of the removal of controls, I think this debate has brought out quite clearly that there are certain controls at least which do retard production, and if production is retarded, then is there not a danger of the cost of those particular articles going up? I can give one or two examples to show where control has definitely retarded production in certain small, particular items, and these are items the production of which has been undertaken by certain returned veterans whom I have met in my own constituency. In some cases they have been able to overcome the difficulties.

I would refer to one particular type. A group of young air force men started making souvenir furniture which was placed on sale in the city of Victoria and was readily bought by United States tourists. Everyone seemed to be happy. The veterans were turning out the goods; the retail merchants were selling them, and the tourist was taking away something he could remember Victoria by. But the controllers caught up with it and said that the article produced by these veterans

of the Royal Canadian Air Force was selling for more than a similar article was sold for before the war. Actually this was nothing more than a souvenir coffee table which was decorated with inlaid wood and so forth and made to look quite attractive, but the ruling was that a coffee table was a coffee table, no matter how much you dolled it up, and therefore it would have to sell at the' price at which coffee tables were selling in 1939.

I wrote to various departments about the matter and got most courteous letters in reply, but the result was that no change could be made in the price, and therefore these veterans had to stop making that particular article, and so they produced no more of this souvenir furniture which was so attractive to tourists coming to Victoria.

I would illustrate that type of control by another example. I refer to two veterans who started crushing lime out of an old limestone quarry. It was what you would call a one-horse show. One veteran broke the rock and put it into the crusher, and the other man bagged it up at the end of the crusher and took it out and distributed it to nearby farms. They were selling this crushed lime at $6 per ton bagged, and their united efforts enabled them to put through from two to three tons a day of really hard work. Oh, no! They could not sell the crushed lime at that price because there was a control upon it, and about a hundred miles away there was a quarry run by a bigger concern which was able to sell at the quarry mouth crushed limestone at $4 a ton, bagged. This happened to be on an island and there was no one going to that island to buy any of this crushed limestone at the quarry, so that the company had to ship it, and was able to ship by means of their barges to cement works in other parts of British Columbia. The selling of the limestone was very much a side issue with them. When they had a little by-product surplus which they could deliver, they were prepared to sell it to farmers next to this little quarry where these two veterans were trying to turn out the product for $6. The company were able to sell it at $11 a ton, for it had never been sold in that area at anything less than $11. Those two veterans would have been put out of business, and the farmers in urgent need of the crushed lime in that area, because of the shortage of that type of mineral in the pasture lands, would have suffered in consequence. Threatening letters were sent to the veterans. They were told that if they offered the product for sale or attempted to sell the limestone at more than 14 a ton they could be prosecuted. I must

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admit that in that case, after nearly six months of correspondence, it was agreed to let them go on selling the crushed limestone at $6 a ton, as a special concession.

There, I suggest, are two examples of the type of control which is retarding production. Another type of control which seems to be objectionable is the control where the administration of it costs more than the benefits that accrue from the control on the price of the goods. If you have to have a great many inspectors, administrators and agents travelling all over the country, checking on the various storekeepers, taking up their time in producing returns and proving that they are living up to every little detail of the regulations, I suggest that the cost of that administration takes away from the take-home pay of the wage-earners of the family more than is saved to the housewife of the family in getting that particular commodity at a cheap price.

It seems to me that these two types of control must definitely come off if we are to stop the increase in the cost of living.

For just a few minutes tonight I wish to refer to another form of control which to a certain extent is covered in this omnibus bill. It is not a control of prices but is, I think I could say, a control of men's habits. One of the fifty-five orders in council deals with the interim army. I wish to ask whether it is necessary to maintain an interim army at this time. We realize perfectly well why the interim forces were established after the war, during a period of uncertainty when no firm policy had been devised for the regular forces of the crown. It was necessary to have a force in the interim, an interim force, as it was called.

The pattern for the future defence force has been decided on, and we find that the army are short of recruits. Letters are being sent out from the adjutant general's branch to veterans, I presume, or to a large number of veterans-it is addressed, "Dear veterans" -asking them to come back into the forces in order to make up the numbers required not only in the active army but also in the reserve armj'. Yet we still keep several thousand officers and men in this interim army, and by one of these orders in council are continuing this interim army until September of this year. Surely any man who has been in that interim force has had plenty of time to decide whether he is anxious to go on soldiering in the regular' forces of the crown. He can make his decision. Just because there are no vacancies, is there any reason why he should not go in? But if he does not want to go in, or if the officers of the department do not

want that particular man in the regular forces, why not let him get out now? Why not let him go into industry and work producing some commodity which is urgently required? There are still men who are in neither the active force, which in the old days was called the permanent force, or in this interim force but who are still in the active army-that is the wartime army-although they have never disclosed their intention of remaining in the interim army or of going into the active force. Those men in the old war-time active army are, I presume, being retained there under the provisions which are made in these orders in council. Why do we need all these men, some of whom are unwilling soldiers?

There is another regulation which governs the behaviour, shall I say, of the army. It says that the active army and the interim army in Canada are still on active service. I suggest that is an unnecessary control on the habits, behaviour, deportment and discipline of the men of this country. Why should the army in Canada today be considered on active service? I think that is a form of unnecessary control which gives an indication of the inability of the government to release itself of powers which it obtained during the war. After some of the remarks which were made last night in this house, one is diffident about suggesting that we should copy what has been done in Great Britain. But I offer for consideration that the active army or the regular army in Great Britain is no longer on active service, while the regular army here in Canada is on active service. I cannot avoid feeling that is a ridiculous control. It affects the wellbeing and the method of life of the soldier who is in that force, because the scale of punishments while an army is on active service is much greater than the scale of punishments for the same military offences when the army is on its peace-time status. Theoretically, while on active service a man can be shot at dawn. I am not going to suggest it will be carried to that extreme, but the scale of punishment is much heavier on active service than it is in ordinary peace-time soldiering.

There is another point which governs or controls the lives of the soldiers. In peace time, a soldier who becomes dissatisfied with the conditions of the service or who has an opportunity of going to a better job and bettering his mode of life has the option of breaking his contract by purchasing his discharge; but as long as our army here is on active service, a soldier is not permitted to purchase his discharge. I know of a young man who decided that he would remain in

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the regular force, the active force, and some eighteen months ago he signed up so to do. He is a well educated boy and has become disappointed with his prospects. We know that sort of thing happens quite frequently. He has applied no less than five times to purchase his discharge. The reply has always come back-and this has been referred, so I am told, to the senior officers of the department- that "the active army of Canada is still on active service here in Canada; therefore you may not purchase your discharge." That is the case of only one individual of whom I know; probably there are others, but I think it indicates the frame of mind which may exist over on the government benches which makes it so frightfully difficult for them to relinquish the authority and power they have enjoyed.

I know this debate has revolved mainly around the question of price control as far as commodities are concerned, but I wanted to bring in these illustrations of this other form of control, namely control of our armed forces. I cannot avoid thinking that at the present time, nearly two and a half years after the end of the war, it is unnecessary to control the lives of our soldiers to such an extent that we say they are still on active service here in Canada.

I want now to mention just one other point in reference to veterans; that is, the freezing order which has prevented a veteran from occupying a house he purchased or that was purchased for him during the war. If he had occupied that house before he enlisted and went overseas I believe he could insist upon the tenant moving out; but, as the war went on, our men came back and purchased houses with their savings and gratuities, or acquired them by other means. Until now they have not been able to remove the tenants occupying those homes unless those tenants have been unsatisfactory in that they have not paid their rent, and so forth. Recently, of course, the restrictions were modified slightly, but only to a narrow extent; that is, from one fixed date to another. At the moment I have forgotten the actual dates within which the freezing order has been lifted, but I think it was up to the end of 1945. A veteran purchasing a house after that date cannot get possession of that house.

I have had brought to my attention several cases in which real hardship is being caused. I know of one veteran who is living in a bunk-house, holding on to a job he does not want, until he can get a place to live. He has a place of his own, with some five acres of land, only a few miles away. In the middle of

the war, out of the kindness of his heart, he allowed another family to move in. That family is not working the land, which is lying idle; this veteran has to keep a job he does not want, thereby preventing another man from getting that job, and his land must remain idle because he cannot remove the tenant. One could go on and give numerous cases of that kind, and I suggest that the removal of certain controls-even including those connected with rents-which make it difficult for a veteran to move into his own house should be undertaken, because that is working a definite hardship on many men who have been overseas.

To sum up, I feel that controls which retard production, controls which cost too much to administer, and controls which unnecessarily govern the lives and mode of living of men, should be removed.

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March 21, 1947