March 4, 1938

CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Who in many cases are not able to pay it. Take the railways; people use railways, but we are subsidizing those railways to no small extent. Take the canals; people use canals, but they are not paid for exclusively by the people who use them. So on all along the line; all the government services are used by the people or some of the people, but are paid for out of taxation. I cannot see why this particular service should be singled out for the application of the principle that it must be paid for just as it may be used. I do not think the suggestion I have made departs from a practice which has been common in this country for a great many years.

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John Yeo

Mr. HOIV E:

I suggest that my hon. friend is doing a real disservice to the cause of which he has been an advocate in all our committees, in that he would make radio broadcasting a public service administered outside and independent of the parliament of Canada. Radio broadcasting in this country is a corporation in which the listeners are the shareholders. It is compulsory upon those managing the corporation to satisfy their shareholders. Unless the corporation can justify its cost to the people who listen, it should go out of business. But the minute you depend upon grants from the public treasury for that sort of thing, you destroy that responsibility; you have officials administering broadcasting who need not justify their policies to any one. In advocating such a system I do not think the hon. member is doing any service to a cause in which he really believes.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Much that the

minister has said would be true also of the Canadian National railway. But what about my first alternative suggestion, the one that I really put forward, which has been overlooked-the tax on tubes? The minister has not answered the proposal. I gave the other as merely a secondary alternative.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

A tax on tubes means a tax on the manufacture of tubes. By the time

it reaches the persons who are paying the cost to-day, that tax will be multiplied at least by three, due to the pyramiding of costs from the manufacturer to the retailers' shelves. Therefore, instead of putting a fifty cent tax on the listener-because it is he after all who is the consumer of tubes-you impose a very much higher tax upon him. The question has been explored, but there seems such a tremendous waste in the collection of a tax of that kind that we have had to discard it as entirely impracticable. I might add, however, that the cost of tubes as well as of batteries is now being reviewed by the tariff commission. We have reason to believe that the selling price of both tubes and batteries is higher than it should be, and I have considerable confidence that through the work of the tariff board we may expect a reduction in the cost of this material that will more than offset the fifty cents per set increase in licence fees.

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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

I wish to compliment the

leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (Mr. Woodsworth). He is becoming more adroit every day he is in the house. He prefaced his remarks by saying that he thought these matters could be better settled in committee, but he saw to it that he put himself on record in Hansard as to where he stood in reference to them all.

An hon. gentleman, who is a member of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition and whose name I cannot at the moment recall, stated that he believed the returned soldier should be the man and the only man to collect the radio licence fee. As far as my constituency is concerned, there are many men who to-day are much poorer and are suffering much more hardship than many returned soldiers who are doing this class of work. I appreciate the services of our returned soldiers. I am prepared to say that I believe those returned soldiers are best off whose bodies were left on the fields of France and Flanders, because they have nothing more in this world to worry about. It may be that the statement in regard to returned soldiers will not be popular with that body; but I am not concerned whether my views are popular with them or any other class of persons so long as I have a conscientious belief in the statements that I make. Where the returned soldier is in want, he should, of course, be given the opportunity; but where there are others who are in more or equal need and are perhaps suffering from circumstances which make their lives and the lives of their families even more unhappy, and who by this means could make a few dollars and bring a little comfort

Supply-Transport- Radio Licences

to their homes, they should be considered along with the returned men and no injustice should be done to either.

The third point I desire to make is that the broadcasting corporation, which is independent of parliament, is in a similar position to the Canadian National Railways, and I compliment the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) upon his acceptance of the view that the people are the shareholders in all our great public holdings, including the railways, broadcasting and other services.

I may be mistaken, and if so I am subject to correction, but it seems to me there is a dual system in reference to broadcasting. On the one hand it is controlled by the broadcasting corporation and is practically government operated. On the other hand there are broadcasting stations which are privately owned. The question is whether the broadcasting corporation will make up their minds to control all private stations, take them over at their real value and operate them, or whether we are to continue to have privately owned stations. If the government is likely to arrive at a decision, which no doubt would be made known to the broadcasting corporation, that all these stations should be publicly controlled, it would seem advisable that, until the question is settled, no more broadcasting licences should be granted to private corporations, with resulting embarrassment to the government itself and to members of this house. I mention this because the matter may possibly bring some embarrassment to my colleague from Halifax and myself; he can speak for himself; I am expressing merely my own view, and I have not any positively fixed ideas on the subject. However, it seems to me that this dual authority and this dual right are not likely to give the best services to all the people. As has been mentioned this afternoon, there are those in various parts of Canada who are not able to receive the same programs in their homes as are available to and provide happy evenings for those in other parts of the dominion.

With reference to the proposed increase in radio licence fees from $2 to $2.50, I am pleased to hear that the minister and the government are taking into consideration whether the additional fee is to be imposed. So far as I am advised by those whom I have the honour to represent, including a large number of poor people, they object to this extra fifty cents, and so do I. They feel that $2 is sufficient. They are the shareholders, and we know that at the annual meeting the shareholders control. I suggest that at least we should give serious consideration to the

majority view of the people in regard to this matter. I am sure the minister will take into serious consideration the points brought forward by various hon. members of all political parties. In the government the wise counsel of the Minister of Transport will no doubt be listened to, and the result transmitted in due course, perhaps over the radio, to the broadcasting corporation.

There is one other point I wish to touch upon for a moment.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Do not talk me out; it is five minutes to six.

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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

I do not propose to talk the hon. minister out; I could not if I tried. I shall give way to the minister now, and on a future occasion I hope he will give way to me and that the chairman will not rule me out of order.

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LIB

James Houston Spence

Liberal

Mr. SPENCE:

I regret very much that the government saw fit to increase the fee. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has many enemies in the country, and it is always irritating at any time for people to have to pay extra money for anything. My motto is, "Let sleeping dogs lie." In this instance it would be better to secure the extra revenue from some other source, because there is turmoil throughout the dominion. I do not blame the broadcasting corporation for what they are doing, and I do not think anyone should censure them very much, although many people are of the opinion that the corporation is not giving the best service it could.

There is one point I wish to clear up. One hon. member spoke of the great hardship on the people in the dried out area-I assume he comes from the prairies-who are compelled to pay this extra half dollar. I should like to know whether the unemployed who are on relief and people living in the dried out area are forced to pay the licence fee at all. In Toronto those who are on relief are not compelled to buy licences. Considerable discretion is left to the department. I suggest to the minister that if people in the dried out area are compelled to buy licences, not to mention anything about the extra half-dollar, they should not be.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

No pressure is brought to

bear on anyone who is indigent or on relief.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

They do not know that and they are paying' the licence fee.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I am strongly opposed to the increase, for two reasons. One is the extent and the incidence of it, and the

other is the apparent manner in which it

Supply-Transport- Radio Licences

was brought about. If the information that has come to my hand is correct, as to how it was brought about, then I think the matter is extremely serious. I do not wish to talk out the minister's item; on the contrary I wish to cooperate with him. But it has been brought to my attention, whether rightly or wrongly, that pressure was brought to bear upon the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by the newspaper fraternity of this country. It is reported to me that in the January 15 number of a paper called "Marketing", published in Toronto, there appears the following reference to a certain meeting which was held:

A constructive suggestion was made that if the CBC would seek to secure its needed additional revenue by increasing the licence fee on radio sets, the press would stand back of it and help the public realize that such increase was just and necessary; otherwise the press would have to consider the advisability of revealing what the CBC is doing in flooding Canada with U.S. programs.

A statement like that is exceedingly serious. Sitting here, I have been wondering what authority parliament has over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. If pressure can be brought to bear upon it by such means in one connection, it looks to me as if it can be brought to bear in another. I am greatly alarmed about the matter.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

There was absolutely no pressure brought to bear. We knew, when we undertook the program of high-powered stations across Canada, that such a program could not be undertaken with the revenues then available, but the change was not made as a result of pressure.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I wish to bring to the attention of the minister a matter of importance in connection with the Radio Patent Act. There have been complaints from a number of people who have brought in radios from the United States-

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LIB
SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Bui the point is that the government gave them the privilege of bringing radios provided they were valued under $100, and an employee of one concern in Calgary told me that there were three hundred convictions against people who had brought in radios. Would the minister inform us how this matter will be dealt with? What are we going to do about the matter?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

The whole question is in the hands of the tariff board. They are making a thorough investigation and we expect to have a report in due course.

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SC
CON

George James Tustin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TUSTIN:

It has been represented to me that there has been a great deal of discrimination in the matter of advertising charges. Is there any difference between the rates which are charged United States advertisers and those which are charged Canadians?

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LIB

Item agreed to. Progress reported. On motion of Mr. Lapointe (Quebec East) the house adjourned at 6 p.m. Monday, March 7, 1938


March 4, 1938