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


Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Big-gar):

I note from the order paper, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) is to move another bill, and there is another resolution-the bill dealing with emergency measures for the conservation of Canadian foreign exchange resources, and the resolution dealing with agricultural products. Therefore I do not expect to follow the example of the leader of the opposition and discuss these two other measures today. I intend as nearly as I can to keep to the problem which is before the house in the resolution which has been moved this afternoon by the Minister of Justice.
First of all, I think that the problem before us is one of the gravest that parliament has had to face for many a long day. I am glad as a matter of fact that parliament was called at this particular time because it gives Parliament an opportunity to discuss the problem that most nearly affects the people of the country, namely, the cost of living. Because of that, apart altogether from the other measures that are to come before us, made
necessary by various actions of the government, which we can discuss on another occasion, I am glad that we are here today with this opportunity. My only regret is that the resolution now before us does not extend the time of these emergency powers beyond March 31, because I am quite convinced that in the next three or four months the condition we now have will become aggravated on account of the other policies which the government has adopted and which the Minister of Finance announced about three weeks ago.
So I say that it is because of that condition that in my opinion the extension of powers is insufficient to meet the needs of the present situation. To those who do not believe that these powers should be extended, but that they should be discontinued as soon as possible, what are the alternatives? Well, the alternatives that are suggested by what you might call the more or less classical old-fashioned conservative economists of this country, the free-enterprisers of laissez-faire, are really three in number, and they worked very well for some people half a century ago when the world was a different sort of world and the economy under which we operated was a different sort of economy.
In those days they would have suggested immediately that in order to meet a situation such as this there should be an increase in the rates of interest. They would probably have suggested, if the condition had been as we have it now, what some of the people are suggesting today, that is, that we should devalue the dollar. Now the devaluation of the dollar in a country where we depend so largely upon imparts for many of our commodities in manufactured goods, for so many of our supplies in the way of food and other materials-things like raisins and currants from California, grapefruit, oranges and orange juice which we need in this climate, as well as vegetables from the United States, which is a source of fresh vegetables in the depth of winter, and materials such as cotton and so on-the devaluation of the dollar, I say, entering into the cost of these basic articles, would further raise the cost of living for the hard-pressed people of the country. Consequently I have always been in support of the policy which has been followed of resisting all attempts to devalue the Canadian dollar. In my opinion at least it would have benefited only a small group of people, particularly those who own and not those who work; because the workers who work in the gold mines would have found their cost of living mounting and would have suffered with all the rest of the people who work for their living, wherever they may be employed in this country.

Transitional Measures Act
The third suggestion that has been made is one that is being made also by some influential newspapers. Take for example an article which appeared some weeks ago in the London Economist that labour might be compelled to move from one industry to another in Great Britain, and in other countries as well, by creating a pool of unemployment. A pool of unemployed would tend to bring down costs, so these so-called classical economists claim. But compulsory hunger-

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