If my hon. friend would study that return a bit, as I have done, he would see how ludicrous the whole system is that we have been following. For instance, consider what came to our attention not very long ago; in order not to transgress the rules of the house I will not state what it was, but some hon. members will recognize it when I give the particulars. Here was a great, powerful firm importing tremendous quantities of goods, ten or fifteen million dollars' worth in a year. They go before the department and get the margin of discount varied from about 17 per cent to 25 per cent. Another firm producing absolutely the same articles and importing goods to the value of millions of dollars pays a different discount. Can any member of the government or any member of a previous government, under which the practice also obtained, say that such a situation is fair? I venture to say that within the next six months this government will be faced with claims for the refund of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of dollars wrongfully extracted because of the differential in that allowance.
Let me give some further items, and I could give dozens. Here is one headed "Current values for duty." There is no authority for this bulletin, which deals with flashlight cells; standard 6 inch dry cells; standard 6 inch dry cells in assembled units of two or more; standard 45-volt radio B batteries; heavy duty 45-volt B batteries: 45-volt B batteries (special) cells other than cylindrical. Here is another, also dealing with flashlight batteries and so on. It may be argued that these things have been considered, and all that; but my point is that under the practice that has become established it is within the power of departmental officials to change the tariff without reference to the parliament of Canada. Furthermore, a study of these matters shows that in almost every instance
the change results in the tariff being raised.
I am not going to say that I am opposed to all that has been done; not at all. The chances are that with most of it I would agree, but I say it is done in an improper way.
Take the instance I gave a moment ago. It was ascertained that the competing firms- and there were many, though I mentioned only one-never knew that there had been a change in the rate of duty, because that is what it meant to the first firm. The others did not know a thing about it; they had no opportunity to appear before any body, and the public did not know anything about it. There was no hearing. It was done by regulations passed by the department, without reference to the tariff board, the customs board, or any other board. It was done in the way I have indicated and, Mr. Chairman, I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to this: Fourteen hundred
bulletins are mentioned, and I asked for specific information as to the date issued, the authority, and the date repealed or suspended. All the information is here, and it shows that in only 152 cases out of some 1,400 was there authority of the minister or by order in council.
I contend, Mr. Chairman, that that is not in accordance with the spirit of the Customs Act or the customs tariff. I think the theory of tariff in this country has been that if there is one thing sacred to parliament it is the fixing of the rates of duties on goods, but by the strange wording of these items in the tariff the authority of parliament is flouted and the power of parliament to control and fix duties is disregarded.
Earlier in the session I had intended to go into this matter with much greater care. I hold in my hand, for instance, a folio containing dozens of orders issued within the last few months. Again let me say to the Minister of National Revenue that I am not reflecting upon his administration. I am calling in question the practice that has grown up in this country over the years. Let me examine just one or two of these orders that have been passed recently.
Here is one dated December 3, 1936. I am not saying this cannot be justified; but this is the change. This order is headed "Made in Canada Rulings," and in one case after another the same thing applies. It is that little word slipped into the item to which I object. Without any reflection upon hon. members of this house I venture to suggest that there are very few who really appreciate 31111-160
the significance of those words in an item. And how common the practice is to change an item.
Furthermore, I have known instances in the past where a firm would come along, and under the law they are supposed to be manufacturing to supply the Canadian market, and they would claim that they were doing so, when in fact they had not even started to manufacture. They had some of the facilities to do it, and they declared they were going to do it, and undertook to do it; and it was a question whether they could supply the market.
I call attention to this fact: Canada is a vast country. If a small firm in the eastern or in the central section of Canada says: "We are going to manufacture" or "we are manufacturing this article, and therefore the tariff on imported goods should be under a higher, instead of a lower rate," that little firm does not supply the market in the west. It could not supply it. It could not supply the market in the maritime provinces. On . the other hand, if it happened to be in the west it could not supply the east. And yet, possibly because they manufacture to a certain extent, the commodity is changed from the item under which parliament placed it, and carried into another item.
It may be argued that care is taken, and all that, but what I submit is this: This matter should never be left to the judgment and authority of the officials of the customs department.
Subtopic: CUSTOMS TARIFF