March 18, 1915

CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

The Bill contains provisions under which returns must be made upon the forms supplied.

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Section agreed to. On section 3: That every insurance company other than life and marine companies, fraternal benefit societies and purely mutual companies shall pay for Consolidated Revenue Fund a tax of one per cent upon the net premiums received by the company in Canada on and after the first day of January, 1915 ;


LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

About $350,000.

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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. MACLEAN:

On what grounds were life and marine insurance companies ex-

eluded and fire insurance companies not

excluded?

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

Marine insurance companies have to compete with American companies in the lake and ocean carrying trade, and it was thought that the imposition of a tax would place them at a disadvantage, as their competitors would not be subject to this tax. I think the matter is of some importance, especially in connection with the trade upon the upper lakes, where there is keen competition between American and Canadian bottoms.

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LIB

Frederick Forsyth Pardee

Liberal

Mr. PARDEE:

Do not our Canadian fire insurance companies have to compete with outside companies that come in here and take risks at a very much lower rate?

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

We had a rather extensive discussion of this question last night, when I pointed out that these companies were not domiciled here and had not agents here. My hon. friend was absent last night, but he will see by Hansard that the matter was very fully discussed.

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Section agreed to. On section 4: That every cable and telegraph company shall pay for Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum equal to one cent upon each despatch or message other than press despatches or messages originating at the offices of the company in Canada and transmitted thence over the company's lines for which a charge of fifteen cents or more was imposed, the company having the right to charge the one cent to and collect the same from the person paying or liable to pay the regular charges for the transmission of the despatch or message;


LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

My objection to this tax is that it is not upon the company, but upon the clients of the company. The company will of course pay the tax to the Government, but they will take care to charge it to their clients. I understand that telegraph and cable companies are doing a very profitable business, very profitable in every sense, and I think my hon. friend would do well to reverse his policy and tax the company instead of the senders of the messages.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

We have given this matter very careful consideration. I think my right hon. friend will find that the profits of telegraph companies are not large. They have to compete with telephone companies, and perhaps my right hon. friend had in mind that telephone companies should also be directly taxed; but the difficulty that arises in connection with directly taxing

telephone companies is that there are, as my right hon. friend knows, joint stock telephone companies doing business in Canada which have franchises and privileges from this Government or from other Governments. There are also co-operative telephone companies to compete with, and, in addition to that, Government-owned telephone systems. I considered very carefully the imposition of a tax upon telephone companies, v.ut when I pursued the matter I found myself brought up against the co-operative telephone companies and the Government-owned telephones in the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. It appeared to me that it would be unwise, even if we had the power, which I very much doubt, for the Government to tax the Government-owned telephone systems in the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan; and after a very full consideration of the whole question we reached the conclusion that we could not properly tax the telephone companies. Any legislation of that kind should be general in character, and not aimed at one or two individual companies. Speaking generally, those who use the telephone and the telegraph are the well-to-do members of the community; there are exceptions, of course, but what we had in mind was the levying of the tax upon those of the population who might reasonably be expected to contribute to this war taxation. Under the circumstances, therefore, we imposed the tax, as my hon. friend has said, upon the sender of the message.

There is another consideration that I am sure will appeal to my right hon. friend. The question of tolls Charged by telegraph and cable companies has been very frequently discussed in this House, and it is one of great concern to the commercial community. For reasons that it is not necessary to go into here, as they have been so often put forward in this House, I think it is extremely advisable that our cable tolls should be as low as possible,

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LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

We calculated, but it is only an estimate, to receive something in excess of $100,000.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

I must say that I am not thoroughly convinced, and for the good reason that my hon. friend has been discussing telephone, not telegraph, companies. The two things are very different, but I will take up what my hon.

friend has said about telephone companies.

I would not suggest that we should tax the * Government telephone systems. I would doubt our authority to do that, though I believe we might find authority. Government telephones were established because it was supposed that the tolls of the telephone companies were too high, and that a better service, or at all events a cheaper service, could be given by the governments. I understand that the experiment has not been a very great success in some parts of the country where it has been tried, and I do not for a moment suggest that we should tax the government telephones or the .co-operative telephones either. But let us come to the concrete fact that there are telephone companies in Canada; and there is reason to believe, I .may say it is a well-known fact that some of them, and I think all of them, are very successful. Their stock is one of the best that can be had on the market to-day, and I see no reason why under the present circumstances these companies should not be subjected to the imposition of the taxation which is being placed upon every citizen. It is expected that under this tariff, which is a war tariff, every citizen shall contribute his quota to the undertakings we have in mind. I cannot see any good reason why the powerful companies which I have just mentioned should not pay their share the .same as any other member of the commuity, and I believe my hen. friend would have been well advised if he had brought these companies under the operation of the Bill.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

After all, these companies are owned by their shareholders. Their shareholders are subject to this taxation because they will pay the tax, just as other citizens will, in the telegraph and cable messages which they send.

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LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

No, not as shareholders.

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LIB

March 18, 1915