June 30, 1948

LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I have not seen the cartoon, but I want to look at it; because in my judgment, the cartoonist for the Globe and Mail is one of the beslt in the country.

While we are on this question of price control I want to bring something to the attention of the committee which I think is important. I refer to the situation which has developed in our fellow commonwealth of Australia with respect to this question of price and rent control. I have had occasion in the past to refer to the constitutional position in Canada and the constitutional power of the dominion government to continue to impose price and rent control. I know that there has been the tendency in some quarters to consider that as a rather legalistic conception and one that does not have very much practical importance. The reason I want to say what I intend to say now is that the committee and the country may appreciate its practical importance; and I want to illustrate that point by outlining to the committee just what has happened in Australia.

As hon. members know, the federal government in Australia has been controlling prices and rent, over a number of years, under wartime constitutional powers which are not unlike those possessed by the federal government in Canada. Some months ago the Australian federal government-which is and has been for some years a socialist government-introduced a law into the commonwealth parliament to amend the commonwealth act, by adding to the constitutional powers of the federal government an additional power to be known as "XIVA". That power was to be inserted in section 51 of the constitution, which reads:

51. The parliament-

That is the Australian parliament.

-shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws for the peace,-order, and good government of the commonwealth with respect to:

Then there is a long enumeration of the powers, and the power to be inserted was: (XIVA) Rents and prices (including charges).

The situation in Australia is this. The federal government exercises such powers as are specifically given to it under the constitution, and those which are not mentioned there belong to the state. That is the reverse of

our position here in Canada. Nevertheless the situation is analogous in this respect, that since "property and civil rights" is not in the hands of the federal government in Australia any more than it is here, they required this specific power. That law was submitted to a referendum-the government advocated its adoption, of course-and the government put out a pamphlet entitled, "The case for and against." This pamphlet may have been seen by some hon. members; it fully and fairly, I think, states the case for the adoption of the constitutional amendment, and against it. With the indulgence of the committee I should like to read the summary of the case "for". This is the heading: "Keep the protection you have", and it reads as follows:

A "yes" vote for commonwealth legislative power over rents and prices, will permit the continuance of-

Protection against inflation; fair rentals; security against eviction; real benefit from wage and salary increases; fair value for your money; protection of your savings and deferred pay; full value for your life insurance, superannuation and social service benefits.

A "no" vote will expose you to-

Inflation, boom and depression; profiteering, rack-renting and black marketing; eviction from your home; a scramble for houses and goods, with the rich always winning; decrease in the real value of your savings; industrial unrest.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

That was the presentation of the case for the affirmative, a- vote for this amendment. And quite fairly the pamphlet presents the case for a "no" vote. It is elaborate but I will give the summary which is given in the pamphlet. It is headed "We urge you to vote 'no'." The reasons are given as follows:

We ought not to be devising ways and means of making wartime controls permanent; we ought to be reducing them as normal conditions are restored.

The ordinary citizen will get a better deal when powers of government are divided than when they are centred at Canberra.

After the bank nationalization experience, the Chifley government should not be given another blank cheque.

"Remote control" from Canberra has produced a vast and growing army of officials, a tangle of Ted tape, inefficiency, black marketing, and injustice.

In normal times, the controls in question can be far more effectively dealt with by the states, who have full power to deal with them, and whose administration would be much closer to the people and their needs.

Centralization of administration at Canberra weakens the authority of public opinion (as the banking business has shown), and produces a spirit of official tyranny which is a sinister enemy to true democracy.

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Admittedly it is a full statement of the difficulties. I am not adopting that as my own, I am putting it before the committee as the language used in the official pamphlet put out by the chief electoral officer in Australia, It was sent to me by our high commissioner there. The referendum was held on May 29-which incidentally was my birthday, although that is irrelevant.

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Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

That is when the prince hid in the oak tree. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

The vote was overwhelmingly negative. I have the figures here. I shall not weary the committee with them; they are matters of public record. But as I say, the vote was overwhelmingly against the retention by the central government of these powers.

I am simply pointing that out to the committee for this reason. None of us can say with certainty how the Canadian people would vote if a similar issue were placed before them. In any case, that is not the procedure for making an amendment to the British North America Act. It would require an imperial statute. But it is significant that in Australia-where a labour government has been in power for some years and where presumably the idea of a controlled economy may have gained greater headway than it has here-the people in most decisive fashion declared that they did not wish to endow the federal parliament with jurisdiction over rents and prices.

Fortunately we in this country have followed what I consider to be the wise course of removing these federal controls in a gradual and orderly fashion. It has been a difficult procedure, particularly in these later stages. But I ask those who think we should have retained controls or should now re-establish them over a wide front to ponder well the results of the Australia referendum.

The Australian government now finds itself in this position. It has made no plan for the abandonment of these controls. The reports which I have received from the Australian information service indicate that the government there intend to toss rent controls back into the hands of the states about September 1. They have already abandoned rationing of beef, clothing, and the like, and they have abandoned subsidies on milk, textiles, yarn, raw cottons and so on.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MACDONNELL (Muskoka-Ontario):

Saskatchewan knows how to deal with the matter.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I should like to put this fact before the committee in as objective a fashion as I can, to reinforce the point which I have tried to make from the beginning in connection with this decontrol program: the federal government has not the constitutional power to continue these controls indefinitely. Parliament has given that right to the government until March 31 next. It is open to challenge at any time in the courts. One can appreciate the chaotic condition which might be created in this country if it were held, as it might well be held, that the federal government had no power to continue these controls indefinitely. I think that fact should be appreciated by every hon. member and by every person in this country. I have brought the Australian situation to the attention of the committee because I do not know whether its full implications have been realized in Canada.

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PC

Agar Rodney Adamson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ADAMSON:

Just for the record could the minister give the figures of the Australian vote, to the nearest- hundred thousand, or as

a percentage?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Yes, I can give it very simply. The "yes" vote was 1,645,000, in round figures; the "no" was 2,354,000.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

I think it would have been better if the minister had made .the other evening, when we were discussing the report of the prices committee, the speech he has just made. It would have given the house a better understanding of the sincerity of that report as far as the government was concerned. The house accepted that report on the assumption that something would be done, and now it is made quite clear that nothing will be done. *

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

That is not correct.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

The minister says the report was very guarded but, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre says, it was not half as guarded as the minister is. It would have been much better, much more in line with honest dealings, to tell the people of this country, when the report was being discussed, what was to be done.

The minister refereed to the Australian referendum. I am glad he did that, and glad also that he read the statements made for and against the question of controls. He pointed out that there is a socialist government in Australia. I am glad he did that, because in my opinion there is no other case on record in which a government, in presenting a referendum, has put the case for both sides as fairly as was done in this case. I hope my hon. friend will take note of that.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I readily acknowledge

that.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

We have not a referendum system in this country, and as far as we know the people of Canada have not given any mass expression of opinion in opposition, not to indefinite controls, but to controls as long as the present abnormal situation exists. The committee was appointed in February on the assumption by the government that prices had reached their limit. Early in the year, the minister himself Said that the price index would possibly go to 146, and then begin to decline. The assumption was, "We will appoint this committee. By the time the session ends and the committee comes to report, prices will have fallen, and we will be able to tell the people of Canada how successful the committee was." Prices have not fallen, and reports are that they will be much higher a month from now than they are today. And if prices are higher, as they will be, the condition of the people of Canada will be worse than it is today. All we have now is a report from the prices committtee, containing very guarded proposals, together with the assurance from the minister in charge that even those proposals will not be put into effect.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I have not made any such statement.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

I know the minister did not use those words.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Then do not say you have had an assurance from the minister.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

But we have to judge the statement in the light of conditions. The minister says we have not the constitutional right to institute price controls. The referendum or Gallup poll taken in Canada some months ago indicated that 76 per cent of the people were in favour of controls. Of course if the government is not going to stabilize prices by government action of some sort the minister might as well tell the people of Canada there is nothing he can do to keep prices more in line with income. And if there is nothing he can do, then the people will have to take the necessary steps to try and keep their income in line with prices. So then where are we?

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

The discussion that has been going on about price control is exceedingly interesting to me. It is also a matter of vital importance to the Social Credit party, which believes it has the only possible solution to this price situation. Nevertheless I do not propose to follow my hon. friends in a discussion of the matter of prices, except to say

briefly that as far as I can judge the high prices we now endure had their fundamental and primary cause in the increase in the price of steel which was permitted back in 1946. That price increase has pyramided into increases in the prices of many commodities which are directly or indirectly dependent on steel.

What can be done at present to revert to the position we occupied at the beginning of 1946 would require some very wise men indeed to determine.

I will say, however, as all hon. members readily recognize, that there is only one sure way to keep down prices. That is to increase production. The big problem we must face, then, is how to increase production, and it is about that aspect of the matter I should like to talk for a short time, concentrating my attention on the beet sugar industry.

I am quite sure the people as a whole, and probably hon. members of this house, are not vividly aware of the degree to which the beet sugar industry could increase production in Canada. In beginning my talk I should like to point out that- on February 24 of this year I received a letter from a prominent beet sugar producer, in which he used these unhappy words: "We have been turned down on all counts." He was referring particularly to the response by the Minister of Finance to the representations of a group of men who approached him asking that certain adjustments should be made this year in respect to the beet sugar situation, which adjustments they believed would result in the signing of a great many more contracts for the production of beets this year all through Ontario and Alberta. The minister turned down those people, and for a few moments I should like to talk to the minister about that matter.

I might as well tell the committee what these men asked. They wanted the minister to agree to buy the sugar they would produce in Canada this year at the same price he would have to pay for Santo Domingo raw cane sugar brought to Canada, processed in Montreal and marketed here. They considered that a very fair and moderate request; but whatever his future intentions may be, the minister turned them down completely. They also asked that the fixed valuation of sugar for import should be reimposed. That was refused, too.

Some hon. members will recall that on May 13, 1948, as recorded at page 3911 of Hansard, I spoke on the subject of "Sugar beets and the Soil", a matter of vital importance to Canada at the present time. In the course of that speech I produced evidence to prove

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that sugar beet culture always improves the soil. I should like to quote a short statement in that connection:

Statistics show an increase in the yield of crops in every country where the raising of sugar beets has been introduced.

That is taken /rom "The Sugar Beet in America," at page 257. It is to be found in reference 106, 1939, page 48, tariff board.

It is my purpose today to speak about "Sugar beets and Canada's Food Production", because these matters pertain directly to the question which we are discussing today and which is receiving the attention of the nation from coast to coast. The subject is timely. Everyone is talking and thinking about food. Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world are hungry and undernourished all the time, an experience which perhaps no one of us here has undergone unless it was during the war or some time like that. Scores of millions have not the soil resources from which to produce their required food. The average amount of arable and other cultivated land in all countries is 1-30 acres per capita, while in Canada it is 5-04 acres. Those figures were given in the Royal Bank of Canada monthly letter of June, 1948.

I should like to summarize an article which appeared in the Ottawa Evening Citizen of May 20 entitled, "The world's great need of food." This reads:

The world's food production must be increased to meet the needs of an additional 29,000,009 people each year, besides keeping pace with current needs, declared Australian director of agriculture Frank W. Bulock, in a review of the work of UjN., FAO.

He said a planned world agriculture called for the opening up of new lands, the application of every possible scientific aid and the prevention of unnecessary loss of cattle and crops.

That is exactly the text from which I propose to speak. If she is wise, Canada will recognize her duty toward the world with regard to food production and she will make broad her shoulders and assume an ample share of the food production burdens of mankind. We should not wait too long, because the need is immediate. People are hungry right now while we sit here in this chamber. They can see nothing but the prospects of being hungry for years to come. That is no small matter.

At the same time we should bear in mind those Canadians yet unborn who should have at their disposal soil as rich and as good as the soil which we possess at this time. If they are to have such soil we must adopt measures in this land that will preserve the fertility of 5849-390i

our soil to be passed on to future generations. What shall we do? Let us not forget the beet sugar industry in our planning.

By growing sugar beets our people can produce more food per acre-I want to point this out solemnly to the minister as a statement which he cannot gainsay-than they can by the use of any other crop known to man. So if we want to produce food in Canada let us not eoldshoulder the beet sugar industry. By using sugar beets our people can produce such abundance of food as only sugar beets can produce and actually improve their soil, as I have pointed out in previous speeches. From year to year they can improve the fertility, the fibre, the friability, the tilth and the health of their soil. They can increase everything that goes to make good soil.

May I say once more that this is a matter of importance, it is something for responsible men in a government like ours to consider. An acre of good Canadian land can produce food to the extent that I have indicated; and besides sugar beets are the surest crop there is in Canada, particularly in irrigated areas. Already there is beginning to be grave anxiety concerning the crops in western Canada. All over the land we are having drought which may result in almost complete crop failure. But there will be no failure in the irrigated areas where sugar beets are being raised.

An average acre of Canadian sugar beet land will produce ten tons of sugar beets. That in turn will produce 3,000 pounds of sugar at the average extraction rate of 300 pounds per ton. It will produce 2,000 pounds of dried beet tops at the average rate of 200 pounds per ton of beets. It will produce 1,000 pounds of dried beet pulp at the average rate of 100 pounds per ton of beets. It will produce 800 pounds of beet molasses at the average rate of four per cent of the beets, or 80 pounds per ton of beets.

But the production is much greater than that, as I should like to draw to the minister's attention. The 2,000 pounds of dried beet tops would be equivalent to 1,000 pounds of grain feed on the accepted basic formula that a pound of dried beet tops is equal to half a pound of grain. It would be equal to 1.500 pounds of alfalfa hay and 460 pounds of grain as used in a feed ration for cattle, this being worked out on the formula of 200 pounds of dried beet tops replacing 150 pounds of alfalfa and 46 pounds of grain.

The beet pulp would be the equivalent of 139-9 pounds of ground barley, 636 pounds of alfalfa hay and 44-2 pounds of molasses for every ton of siloed beet pulp. These figures are shown in the report of the Alberta beet growers for 1941, page 27.

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But I would point out to the minister that an acre can produce much more than ten tons of beets.

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June 30, 1948