Hon. E. N. RHODES (Minister of Finance):
I have received many representations in protest against the alleged unfair action of wholesalers who are said to have anticipated the budget and in consequence have it is alleged reaped substantial profits through raising prices immediately on the stocks of sugar they have in hand.
The question of forestalling is a very difficult one to deal with. It has proved difficult and baffling to all governments, and up to the moment I know of no effective remedy which has been discovered to meet the situation. There is this to be said, that while there can never be an exact balance, the fact remains that when a tax is removed the reverse of this picture holds good, and the wholesaler on that occasion is out of pocket the amount of tax which is remitted, to the extent of the stock he has in hand.
I may say that all wholesalers have not been quite so fortunate, if the sugar wholesalers have been, because I know of one instance where one firm in one city borrowed 818,000 for the purpose of paying the duty to take tea and coffee out of bond, in anticipation of this very thing happening, and in that instance they will be losers to the extent of the overstock in hand and the carrying charges in the meantime.
While it is doubtful whether a remedy can be found, I wish to take this early opportunity in the session to say that the matter will be most carefully inquired into, and if a remedy is available to meet the justice of the case it will be applied.