June 2, 1921

CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ACT


On motion of Hon. Mr. Wigmore (Minister of Customs and Inland Revenue) Bil' No. 211, respecting the Department of Customs and Excise, was read the second time, and the House went into committee thereon, Mr. Boivin in the Chair. On Section 2-department constituted.


L LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

There is some reference in this section to a preventive ser-IMr. McKenzie.]

vice. I have had some communications *with the commissioner of the department in regard to a case in my county, in the northern part of Victoria, where complaints are being made about the illicit distillation of liquor. In previous years there were a couple of officers in that part of the country, but a few years ago the Department of Inland Revenue dispensed with the outside officer. The official at Bay St. Lawrence and McLellan was dispensed with, and since then, I am informed, there has been considerable illicit distillation of liquor in that part of the country. I have been requesting the department either to appoint a man or send one down there to look after the business. Only a couple of days ago I had a letter from a respectable clergyman saying that no one had been sent to the district and that this illicit traffic is creating quite an annoyance to himself and others. Is it the intention of the Government to appoint an officer there permanently? It is exceedingly difficult to send a man down there off and on, and it would be much less expensive to have an official on the spot permanently. In winter time, at any rate, it is practically impossible for a man to get there; the place is 125 miles from a railway, and it would be a physical impossibility for a man to get through the large accumulations of snow. There should be an officer on the spot as there used to be; if there were, there would be no trouble of this sort.

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CON

Rupert Wilson Wigmore (Minister of Customs and Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WIGMORE:

Since this matter was called to the attention of the department, a man has been sent down there. He returned a couple of days ago and reported to the dep|rtment. The department is now considering the advisability of appointing a man permanently rather than sending one from time to time. An officer would have been sent before now but for the impassable state of the roads and the adverse weather conditions. We realize that this illicit traffic is increasing, and a closer watch will have to be kept.

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L LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

I notice that the deputy of the department is referred to as Commissioner of Customs. Why is he not designated deputy, as in other departments?

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CON

Rupert Wilson Wigmore (Minister of Customs and Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WIGMORE:

He is the deputy, but he is also chairman of the Board of Customs Commissioners, and that is why he is called Commissioner of Customs.

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Section agreed to. On Section 3-Minister's duties, powers and functions.


L LIB
CON

Rupert Wilson Wigmore (Minister of Customs and Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WIGMORE:

It is the usual constituting clause which appears in all Acts.

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L LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

I thought it was a reflection on the present minister, and I wanted to remove it.

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CON

Rupert Wilson Wigmore (Minister of Customs and Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WIGMORE:

Thank you.

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Section agreed to. On Section 6-Entry not perfect unless invoice produced, and on foreign shipments of $100 or more bears a certificate of trade or consular officer.


UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

We have already discussed the general question whether or not there should be trade agents in the United States. I do not want to repeat

10 p.m. the debate on that question, but this clause contemplates allowing these officials to collect fees and keep them. There may be exceptional circumstances to justify that, but, speaking generally, the practice is not a sound one of allowing officials to collect and keep fees. The wiser policy, wherever you authorize a public official to collect fees, would be to make him account for them and let him receive whatever salary is fixed. I want the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster), whose department is affected by that clause, to consider the suggestion.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

The suggestion is a very proper one, and it is not at all the intention to do other than turn in to the general fund the fees that are collected; and they shall be accounted for. But as in similar cases in other countries, there are sometimes men who are appointed as subagents or sub-commissioners who are at some outport or place that is not very important. They get a certain allowance and they have to account for the fees. But instead of, for instance, remitting to a far country a small amount and having a cheque sent back, or adopting some method of payment which involves transmission for a long distance and also expense, an arrangement can be made with any bank which is close at hand so that these fees can be paid into that bank and checked out again.

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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

The practice my hon. friend proposes is that regulations may be made to determine what proportion of these fees, if any, shall be retained. I quite

agree that fees should be paid into a bank and checked out whether that may be possible, but in this case the department is not doing anything of the kind. What it proposes will lead to confusion and is not, I think, in accordance with sound business.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

There may be some instances where it will be difficult to make use of a bank. This simply gives a discretionary power, and that power will not be used except where it is practically impossible to carry on transactions through a neighbouring bank.

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UNION

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Unionist

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

We were

informed the other day, when the resolution upon which the present Bill was founded was before the House, that the clause in question was inserted at the suggestion of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, and therefore I shall direct my remarks to him. I am going to move that this clause be struck out and I hope the committee will unanimously support my proposal. But if hon. gentlemen should make a mistake in judgment and not support my amendment, I hope the Minister of Trade and Commerce will not proceed with the enactment of the clause without at least giving himself the opportunity of a further study of it and providing that it will not go into effect except upon proclamation. I want to say to the minister that this clause will not carry the judgment of anybody in this country who has given to it any study or reflection whatever. I venture to say there is not a business man in Canada who will accord it his approval, if he considers it for ten minutes. Somebody made the astounding statement the other night that the clause is calculated to extend Canadian trade in the United States. Well, trade is usually extended by consuls, vice-consuls, or even by trade commissioners. I admit that the sending of a special trade commissioner, possessed of special qualifications, to a foreign country to study a special trade-for example, the extent of cotton production in India-might be of great advantage to people engaged in that particular industry. I also agree that a trade commissioner, designated to study trade conditions in foreign countries, with directions to report to his home country might do some good, although I have some doubts even as to tjiat. If my right hon. friend were to go to the most advanced industrial countries in the world, that have the most experienced trade representatives abroad, I think he would find them giving it as their judgment that

they did not believe their trade was substantially increased by having trade agents. Trade can only be increased by reason of the operations of the law of demand and supply. There must be a buyer and there must be a seller. Well, does my right hon. friend mean to say that he is going to extend trade and commerce by having trade agents who are to be paid $2.50 in respect of each invoice? The contention was made here a few days ago that the United States does exactly the same thing, and in this country. Well, the United States is not an exemplar to us in all things. They make mistakes just as we do. They made mistakes in years gone by, and have perpetuated them, and persisted in them, just as we and other people do, therefore, the practice of one country cannot be presented to the people of another country as a safe guide always. Now I have made inquiries of the American consular agents in Canada and I am informed that while theoretically they are supposed to do what they can, along with their other duties, in extending American trade, yet, practically, and as a matter of fact, they pay no attention to it whatever. In my own province I know several of the persons appointed as consular agents who grant these certificates to Canadian exporters to the United States, and I know as a matter of fact that during the whole period in which they served in such capacity they never did anything to extend American trade in my province-they never thought of it. You canot extend trade through the influence of a man who is paid a small fee of $2.50, on invoices accompanying the exports to another country, which individual has, in all cases, other duties and other work to perform.

I would rather have my right hon. friend approach the United States and inquire if- as between Canada and that country- some formula could not be worked out by which-so far as Canada and the- United States are concerned-this practice of exacting a fee upon the invoices, known as "the consular agency fee" should be abolished. I believe that if my right hon. friend approached the United States with a proposal of this kind he might possibly succeed. He should direct his efforts to bringing this about rather than adopt the foolish absurd, ' and irritating practice which the United States follow. Now people who are engaged in business know how inconvenient and irritating the practice is of requiring the payment of a fee and an

invoice upon exports from Canada to the United. States. In many cases men are obliged to travel from twenty-five to fifty miles in order to secure certificates, and from time to time to overcome this inconvenience requests are made by Canadian business men to appoint further United States consular agents at points here, there, and everywhere. I suppose that within the last twenty-five years the United States Government have had twenty-five hundred applications, at the rate of one hundred a year, to appoint consular agents in order to meet the requirements and convenience of Canadian exporters. Now -how could you possibly get a sufficient number of persons appointed in the United States that would meet the requirements of American exporters to this country? I see that my right hon. friend -has a vote of $100,000 in. the Estimates this session for this purpose. It will not commence to meet what I think will be the legitimate demand which will be made upon this service if it is created in the United States. I think you Will find that in many cases Americans will refuse to accept the orders of Canadians if they are obliged to go twenty-five or one hundred miles in order to secure this certificate, or if they are obliged even to send a letter a distance of fifty or one hundred miles and be exposed to the delay consequent thereon.

Now, at this late hour I do not wish to detain the committee unduly, but I simply put my views before the minister with the hope that he will abandon this proposal. It will not extend Canadian trade to the amount of one dollar. I venture to make the statement that he cannot find in the United States any business man who believes that American trade has been extended in Canada by reason of the appointment of consular agents and the exaction of this fee on the granting of export certificates. The United States is doing business in this country by reason of the fact that we want some of their productions, and that their commercial travellers are in Canada every day meeting their customers. And the way to build up trade between Canada and the United States is to have the Canadian exporter send his commercial agent or representative across to the United States and meet at first hand prospective purchasers of his productions. Why waste $100,000 cr more hoping to extend trade in this way when the Canadian exporter and the American importer can be brought to-

gebher almost within forty-eight hours? I regard the whole proposition as directly inimical bo the business interests of this country. I say that it should not be accepted by Parliament, and I trust my rigtht bon. friend will agree to abandon it altogether. But if he remains adamant,

I hope he will at least insert somewhere in the Bill a proviso that this clause shall only come into effect by proclamation, so that in the meantime he will have adequate opportunity of canvassing Canadian business opinion on the matter.

Further, I would urge upon my right hon. friend that instead of endeavouring to repeat what I think is a mistake on the part of the United States, he should approach the Government of that country with a view of entering into some arrangement whereby the requirement of a certificate upon export invoices and the exaction of this fee of $2.50-which, after all, is almost petty graft in the eyes of the business men of that country-will be abandoned.

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UNION

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Unionist

Mr. LALOR:

May I ask the hon. member for Halifax a question? In exporting to the United States all exporters for any amount over $100 must get a consular certificate and pay a fee of $2.50 or $3, I forget which.

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L LIB
UNION

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Unionist

Mr. LALOR:

That fee we must invariably pay. Now, what is the judgment of the member for Halifax as to shipments coming this way? Will the American pay that fee, or will they make Canadians pay it, or will we be able to take the same position as the Americans do? If we are able to take the same position, then I do not see any reason why Americans should not pay a fee on their exports into Canada. I must say that I hardly realize what our position would he, whether we would be compelled to pay or not, because we are obliged to import from the United States cotton, coal and so many other commodities that we cannot get along without. Whether we can make them pay that consular fee or not is a question, hut if we can I would be glad to make them pay it.

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June 2, 1921