December 11, 1947 (20th Parliament, 4th Session)

PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

There is no question but that we are sitting here in December and that the session was called now rather than later on for the purposes of the government and nothing else. What I said was that this was a specially called session, and so it was, and so it was represented by the government itself. Nobody in Canada misunderstands that. And now we are being asked to remedy a situation that results from the government's own
Transitional Measures Act

(mismanagement in this respect. That is what rit amounts to.
What are the facts as to the crisis-the real (crisis, not this temporary crisis? The first is that the government did not perceive the crisis early enough, and when it did perceive ;it, it acted too late; and when it did act it acted improperly and in an ill-conceived manner. Nevertheless its plans are now in [DOT]effect and we are called into session only to [DOT]approve of them. This resolution then is the only urgent problem with which the government has to deal.
Why did the government call us into special session? Only the Almighty and the Prime Minister know, but I think the Canadian people understand that we were called here just in order that they might be confused.
As to the measure itself, we have no time to deal with it adequately. If we did, it would take all the time of this specially called session. The government will pass this measure anyway. It was the law until March 31 next ibut for the government's mismanagement. No doubt there are some things in the measure which will need to be preserved so long as the government's policies result in the severe shortages we have today, but only *under those conditions and no others.
Bringing this measure before us now raises two questions. It raises the question of the principle of controls, the principle of the government's undertaking to run the nation's economy. It raises also the question of the success of the government in administering the controls which it has already had. I wish to touch briefly on these two questions.
In wartime the government asked for wide powers and the nation freely granted them- powers to control prices, powers to control wages, powers to allocate workers to jobs, powers to impose rigid price ceilings, powers to control costs, powers to control profits. Under those conditions a good job was done during the war. But if you remove any one of those controls you create conditions under which you will not get those results. When peacetime came the government came along and said: We want a continuation of those powers. And the government then took some and left out others. But its efforts to control our economy have failed. As I said, unless we have all these controls right through from one end to the other, they must necessarily fail. And to have them all means going to the extreme regimentation and takes us clear into the field of communism and totalitarianism.
We take the position that the government having undertaken to control the economy and

having failed, it is now answerable to the public. The fundamental position is this, that the government has both expanded credit and restricted supplies by controls so that now there is a greater supply of credit than of goods, with the inevitable result of rising prices. And now the government is attempting by the partial use of controls to correct that situation.
Our position is that when you apply one control to correct one condition you raise two problems elsewhere, and when you use controls again to correct those two problems, you have four problems on your hands. We do not believe in the principle of restrictive controls except under very emergent conditions.
Some people have distinguished between controls and subsidies. The government itself has done that. The minister who introduced this bill has done it. In discussing his revaluation plans, as reported in Hansard of July 5, 1946, at page 3181, he had occasion to comment on subsidies, and he said this:
The fourth matter which I wish to mention is that the policy of paying subsidies will remain in effect in order to prevent undue increases in prices of articles of major importance in the consumer's cost of living or in primary producer's costs of production.
That was the position the minister took with respect to subsidies on July 5 of last year.
Now I want to touch on the way in which the government has used the powers given to it under its emergency legislation. I shall give two or three illustrations. First of all, take milk. That was dealt with in this house more than a year ago. and - the majority of this house took the position that the subsidy-should not be removed. But after the house adjourned, the government, following out its own policies, did remove the subsidy and the price of milk went up.
I might also mention what was done in connection with flour, or wheat, or bread. The subsidy for wheat was taken off, the subsidy which the government gave to millers who bought wheat to be made into flour to be consumed as bread in Canada. That subsidy was removed and the price of wheat to millers went up, the price of flour followed, and the price of bread followed that. I just want to point out that while the government had that power, it chose to exercise it at the very worst possible time it could have chosen. Here we have an export commodity, wheat. We sell three times as much of it as we consume in Canada, or nearly so. The price of wheat is dependent upon outside conditions and fluctuates widely. It may be 40 cents or it may be $3.40 a bushel; we have seen as

Transitional Measures Act
wide a fluctuation as that in the past fifteen years. But this parliament in its wisdom has said that to prevent prices getting so low- they once reached 40 cents-we are going to establish price floors. We are not by that legislation going to let it drop like that. Even if it does drop that far outside, we are not going to let it drop that far at home. The legislation provides that we are going to subsidize the producer in order to protect him and in order to protect our economy.
You have the right, which you exercised until a few months ago, with regard to wheat for Canadian use, that when the price was high you would see that for bread it was subsidized. The subsidies which had until then been applied were taken off at a time when wheat prices had reached the highest point in our history. They have gone up a little higher since then. When prices went up the government chose to take off the bread subsidy. What could happen but that the price of bread would rise, jwith a commodity selling at 40 cents at one time and eight times 40 cents at another time? Are we going to protect the producer when the price is low and refuse to protect the consumer when it is high? My criticism is that that was the wrong time to take the subsidy off, and that taking it off then could not help but result in increasing bread prices; and those prices, added to the rising cost of living in other commodities, give rise to unrest among workers, causing threats of strikes and all that kind of thing. My criticism is that that was not the time to take off the subsidy.

Topic:   TRANSITIONAL MEASURES ACT, 1947 CONTINUATION IN FORCE UNTIL MARCH 31, 1948
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