November 21, 1966 (27th Parliament, 1st Session)

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William Scottie Bryce

Mr. Bryce:

The reason the figure is so low is because agriculture has not been growing in aggregate in the way in which, let us say, manufacturing or mining has been growing through the period. The number of farmers has been diminishing, and not growing.
The report goes on to point out that though the total amount of farm incomes has been going down, in fact farm productivity and the income of individual farmers have risen, though not at the rate of those working in other sectors of the economy.
The hon. member, in introducing his amendment this afternoon and trying to find the causes for the high cost of living, completely excused wage increases, blaming the increase in profits for the increase in the cost of living. In all the evidence put before us by the companies in the food business we have seen that labour rates in food industries have increased more quickly than profits. Referring to a few tables, we see on page 549 that the salaries and wages for one of the supermarket chains increased 11,2 per cent from 1960 to 1966 and fringe benefits increased by 9.2 per cent, making a total increase of approximately 20.4 per cent, whereas their profits in the same period increased by 8.7 per cent. I am not excusing the food companies, but I think we have to be fair. We must agree that the matter is not as simple as pretended by the leader of the N.D.P. Different sectors of the economy have been responsible for the increased cost of living at different times. We must recognize this to be fair.
In the amendment the hon. member criticizes the government for not having done anything to produce a more equitable distribution of productivity and national income. As
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Increased Cost of Living has been pointed out by the hon. member for Medicine Hat, the amendment makes little sense if we look at the record. Since this session, which opened in January, the government has introduced much legislation to help the lower income groups in our economy such as the Canada Assistance Plan which gives assistance to the sick, the blind, the crippled and the aged, the new amendments to the National Housing Act which will help people with lower incomes to purchase houses, the medicare program, and the Company of Young Canadians to help those in dire circumstances in Canada. The government has also set up the committee studying the cost of living. It is my opinion that the very working of the committee has had a corrective effect on the price structure up to now.
I think the fact that such a committee is sitting, calling witnesses and making companies reveal their records is having a corrective effect because it makes the people who set prices in the industry think twice before taking an undue profit at the expense of Canadian consumers. Statistics released at the end of October show that consumer food prices have decreased. I will not pretend that the immediate cause of the decrease has been the work of the committee, but I am fairly certain that the committee work has been one of the causes bringing about decreased food prices.
Contrary to what the amendment implies, if we compare the record of the government of this country with the records of other governments in other countries we shall see that we have been extremely effective in providing price stability and maintaining income. Despite this record the government is still not satisfied but wants to do even more.

Topic:   INCREASED COST OF LIVING
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