Item agreed to.
For investigations of mineral resources and deposits; of the mining and metallurgical industries, and of mineral technology; wages, and expenses of testing and research laboratories; for publications, English and French; for purchase of books and instruments; for miscellaneous assistants and contingencies; and for investigations by the dominion fuel board, including salaries and all other expenses- further amount required, $10,000.
There is something here in regard to the dominion fuel board. Now, there has been some high pressure canvassing since the beginning of this session, and there has been lobbying in the interests of peat. Peat, it is said, is going to save this country if a subsidy is granted to a peat firm. This is most ridiculous, and we should not be bothered by any canvassing on the part of lobbyists in the House of Commons, asking for a grant for peat. Every member has been imposed upon since the beginning of the session by invitations to entertainments and otherwise, for the purpose of lending encouragement to the new industry. We have had enough of that, and I hope the government will be sensible enough not to give any consideration to such interested propaganda.
We do not know anything about it. The gentleman says he represents some Scotch company, but nobody knows whether it is Scotch or Danish or Nordic. It is a real imposition for members to have these fellows running after them and, as I say, I hope the government will be sensible enough not to pay any attention to such a request.
I cannot allow the remarks of my hon. friend to pass unchallenged. I do not intend to refer to any company whatever, or to discuss lobbying or canvassing; but to say that we should not study the peat situation because something of this sort might have been done is absolutely contrary to common sense. Peat is a natural resource of this country; it is a fuel to be found in the central provinces and it might be utilized by the people to great advantage. It would probably result in curtailing importations of fuel, and it would give work to local men in the processing of it. I would recommend very strongly that further investigation be made into the possibilities of this natural resource. I think the government should carry on investigations in the interests of the Canadian people.
The committee is perhaps under the impression that my hon. friend from
Prescott disagrees with the remarks I have made. As a matter of fact, I fully agree with him, and what I said was not intended to discourage experiments on the part of the government in connection with peat. It is a natural resource and I think the government should continue those experiments and choose the best fields in order to secure the best sort of peat available. But that is a very different thing from saying that a subsidy should be granted to a private concern. My hon. friend from Prescott has not said anything that conflicts with the views I have expressed.
The sale of government annuities is, I understand, pretty well in the hands of certain officials throughout the country who have offices in the larger towns and cities and who do their work on the commission basis. I am informed that at the beginning of this year the commission was cut approximately forty per cent. Offhand, I would say that this is a very drastic reduction in the remuneration which is allowed these agents, and I am impelled to ask-I suppose it would be the Minister of Finance
under the circumstances-whether this reduction is made in the interests of economy or in order to discourage the sale of government annuities, and also whether similar reductions have been made in other phases of this particular branch. Either we have allowed too much in the past or we are not allowing enough now. What is the explanation of the reduction?
Until my hon. friend said that there had been a reduction in the amount of the commission paid, I had not heard that there had been, so that I shall have to make inquiry of the officials of the department to ascertain whether it is a fact. I shall endeavour to have the information if at all possible before the committee rises. I cannot answer the question offhand, but I can say that there has been no diminution in the applications for annuities; on the contrary, there has been a very marked increase in the demand. If I mistake not, the occasion for this vote, although I have not the details before me, arises because of the additional expense incurred as a result of the very largely increased demand for annuities which has been apparent throughout the year. However, I will endeavour to have the exact information before the committee rises.
I am satisfied with the reply which the minister has given in the meantime. I wonder whether he would say anything as to the attitude of the government towards annuities? Are they really in favour of extending the sale of annuities or would they prefer to see it gradually die out? I had the impression years ago that the annuities business of the government was not a remunerative one, and one would hardly blame the government if they did not encourage the sale of annuities.
There has been no change in the policy which has obtained hitherto, not only under this government but under the preceding one as well; we have pursued the same policy. The sale of annuities has increased year by year, and that in itself is evidence that there has been no intention of discouraging it. I have no hesitation in frankly saying to my hon. friend that I believe that a government another year would be well advised to review the rates paid for annuities, because they are below the actuarial requirements.
That might very well be a contributing factor. As a matter of fact I
believe 'that they fail to carry themselves to the extent of $450,000 per annum, apart from the overhead. The carrying charge involves that annual drain upon the treasury, and I think the price of annuities might properly be increased to the point where they would carry themselves, apart from administration.