FIELDING (Minister of Finance) moved that the House go into committee to consider the ways and means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty. He said: In the presentation of the budget it is usual to devote some attention to each of three fiscal years. First we have to consider the completed year, the accounts of which have been laid before parliament in due course; next we have tb consider the current year, or as in the present instance the year which actually ended a few days ago, but the accounts of which have not yet been closed; and lastly we have to consider what is the outlook for the year that lies ahead of us. It is now some time since the accounts for the fiscal year 1907-8, were submitted to parliament and probably most hon. members who are interested have given them consideration; nevertheless for the convenience of reference it is always well to note in the budget speech the principal features of these accounts and therefore I desire to call attention to the chief points in them. The results of the operations of the fiscal year
1907-08 (that is, the year which was closed or. the 31st of March, 1908) did not differ very materially from the anticipations expressed in the last budget speech. My expectation was that we should receive a revenue of $96,500,000; the actual revenue was $96,054,505.81, or $445,494.19 less than my expectations. I had counted, however, on an expenditure chargeable to revenue fund of $77,500,000, but the actual expenditure proved to be $76,641,451.59, or $858,548.41 less than the estimate. The falling off in the expenditure was more than sufficient to balance the shortage of the revenue, and the net result was that whereas I had anticipated a surplus of $19,000,000 the actual result was a surplus of $19,413,054.22.
- Actual. Estimated Budget Speech 17th March, 1908. Greater than Estimate. Less than Estimate.$ cts. 96,054,505 81 76,641,451 59 19,413,054 22 8 cts. 96.500.000 00 77.500.000 00 19,000,000 00 $ cts. $ cts. 445,494 19 858,548 41
Surplus 413,054 22
The previous fiscal period was one of nine months and therefore it would not be convenient to make any comparison between that period and the last fiscal year. It may however not be without interest that I should call attention to what are the sources of revenue as shown in the accounts of that year:
Sources of Revenue, 1907-8.
Customs $57,543,811 25Excise
15,782,151 68Post Office
7,107,886 86Dominion Lands
It is to be noticed that the customs revenue was the largest in the history of the Dominion. It is also gratifying to be able to state that that very large revenue was realized with a lower rate of customs taxation than had existed in former times, as will appear from the following comparison :
Average Rates of Customs Duty.
Average Rate Average Rate on Dutiable on Dutiable Imports. and Free.
Particularly gratifying was the continued increase in the revenue of the Post Office Department. The affairs of that department for 1907-8 show a surplus of $1,101,957.12. I am sure the House will agree with me that this is a most gratifying return, especially when we bear in mind that there has been a wide extension of the service, that we have cheaper rates of postage, and that this department a few years ago was a constant burden on the treasury, showing year after year a very large deficit.
I have dealt so far with the consolidated fund expenditure. There is, however, a large expenditure in addition, known as capital and special expenditure. For convenience of reference I put in a statement showing what this expenditure for the year amounted to :
Capital and Special Expenditure, .1907-8. Capital Expenditure.
National Transcontinental Ry $18,910,253 58Railways
2,969,049 08Dominion lands .. .. 768,243 94Militia
Railway subsidies... $2,037,629 30
2,787,354 21Charges of management
A large proportion of this capital and special expenditure was provided out of the revenue by means of our surplus of 191 millions of dollars. Deducting from the total capital and special expenditure of $35,937,228, the surplus of $19,413,054, sinking fund expenditure of $2,234,263, and a small refund of $910, in all $21,648,228, it will be found that the increase of the net debt on the 31st of March, 1908, was $14,288,999.88, notwithstanding the fact that in that year we expended $18,910,253 on the eastern division of the National Transcontinental Railway alone. But for that outlay, there would have been a reduction in the debt of $4,621,253.
Coming now to the affairs of the fiscal year 1908-9, which ended a few days ago, I have to point out that our practice with regard to the closing of the accounts of the fiscal year in Canada differs from that of the mother country. There the fiscal year closes on the 31st day of March, and the accounts are closed up immediately. That is quite possible in a country with conditions such as those of England with comparatively short distances and complete means of communication. But in a country like Canada, with a vast territory and public business going on all over the wide Dominion, it has not been possible to close up the accounts so early. The law permits three months for closing the accounts, though we always endeavour to close them in less time. Consequently, although the fiscal year has actually closed, we are not by any means in a position to determine precisely what has been the revenue and what the expenditure for the year. The best we can do is to take the figures as we have them up to date, and make reasonable allowance for probabilities, and thus reach an estimate of what is likely to be the outcome for the year. The revenue of the year, I need hardly remind the House, was affected by a world-wide stringency which started in the fall of 1907. The revenue of
1908-9, as received and accounted for up to the 10th of April, 1909, was $84,352,581.30. My estimate is that when the returns are completed and the account is closed, the revenue will be found to have amounted to 84i millions of dollars. This is 114 millions of dollars less than the revenue of the previous year, or a shrinkage of 12 per cent. In the face of such a falling of revenue, in view of the trade depression so well known, in view of the difficulties which Ministers of Finance the world over are experiencing in the preparation of their budgets, it would not be surprising if it became my duty to report a very considerable deficit on the operations of the last year. I confess that at one time I viewed the situation with anxiety, and would not have been surprised if on the closing of the accounts there had turned out to be a balance on the wrong side. I am happy to say, however, that my apprehensions' in that di