April 4, 1938

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not for operating expenses.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

The same vote exactly.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Then I am misinformed. The Minister of Finance says that we did make a provision of this kind last year.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

A million and a half.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I have a very strong opinion that in the bill, this grant should be subject to conditions; that it should be made perfectly clear that the utilization of this money for political purposes will be a criminal offence, that any person who makes canvasses for election purposes and endeavours to secure support by utilizing this as a weapon of offence should be subject to punishment under the criminal code. Matters have reached a stage where I think action is called for now and not some time hence. Men have been

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going into public meetings and marking names down in a book. They have been saying to people, " From whom are you getting your sustenance "7 and " Who is providing your relief "? No threats are made, but the impression is left on the minds of these poor unfortunates that they must necessarily support Liberal candidates in the provincial election. I think that that sort of thing is just as bad as anything can be in this country, and it should be ended if at all possible.

When we grant a sum of money to enable a government to carry on, one of the conditions should be that any endeavour to utilize that grant for political purposes shall constitute a criminal offence and be punishable accordingly. I think the government should make it perfectly clear, beyond peradventure or doubt, that the time has come when this sort of thing should disappear. It is one of the matters that is causing great difficulty at the moment in this confederation. Anyone who has observed conditions in Canada to-day must be more or less concerned about the feeling in the two larger and richer provinces, as manifested by the utterances of public men, in connection with these provinces supplying money for this purpose. It is incumbent upon us to create a situation that will not enable that sort of propaganda to be continued. Nothing could be more fatal to this confederation than for large sums of public money to be taken from the richer provinces to meet the extreme conditions that prevail in several of our provinces without its being made apparent that that money must be used in the strictest sense of accountability.

There is another point. I think a condition should be inserted that with respect to this 82,000,000, it shall be utilized for the purpose of paying the salaries of teachers that are in arrears in the province. I can conceive of nothing worse than the condition indicated in various letters that I have received. I fancy every hon. member has received similar letters; I am thinking of a circular communication which indicates the dire necessity due to the arrears of salaries accruing to teachers in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Only the other day I had a communication from Alberta pointing out that the condition in Saskatchewan to which attention had been directed was not limited to that province, that in Alberta the teachers were in much the same situation, and that if action was taken in the one case it should be taken in the other. Apparently no request has been made by Alberta for a grant for operating purposes, but there is one from Saskatchewan. I suggest that it would be proper to provide that the moneys

thus granted should be available for liquidating the arrears of salaries due to the teachers in the province.

The Minister of Justice is not in his place, but he must have had his attention directed to the fact that in Saskatchewan a direct tax has been imposed on trains and elsewhere for educational purposes. This is a percentage tax on the amount of the account. If my information is accurate, and it seems to be borne out by the records, the legislature of Saskatchewan has endeavoured to make this tax reach into other provinces. It is being applied to transactions that indicate the importation of goods into Saskatchewan from the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Alberta or elsewhere. According to the British North America Act there must be a free movement of commodities between provinces, and to impose a tax on such movement is entirely wrong. This tax has been imposed since we last granted 81,500,000 of money. Until the minister said the language was the same, I was not aware that it was, but this $2,000,000 should be considered in the light of the additional sum in excess of what was granted last year, and in the light of the tax properly imposed with respect to matters within the province and improperly imposed with respect to transactions originating outside the province.

In any event some assurance should be given, since we are providing the money, that it will be utilized for the purpose of providing for the arrears of salaries due to teachers in the province of Saskatchewan. I am not going to dwell on the hardships they have experienced or on the difficulties they have had to encounter, because every member of the house I think has received a communication in which the distressing facts have been very succinctly put forward. I think it would do much to satisfy the older provinces, which have sometimes made complaint, if it could be stated that a part of this money will be used, as urged by the organized teachers in various parts of the dominion, for the payment of the salaries of school teachers in Saskatchewan.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Mr. Chairman, I need scarcely say that as the minister from Saskatchewan I am surprised at the issue which the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) has just made of the fact that the province of Saskatchewan is under the necessity of asking for assistance from the federal government. The leader of the opposition has taken the rather high ground which he has been accustomed to take on a number of occasions during this session, of attributing to everyone else political incentives in connection with everything that any government in Canada

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which does not happen to be of the party to which he belongs undertakes to do. I can scarcely conceive of any more objectionable political issue being raised on anything that might take place in this house than that contained in the speech which has just been delivered to this committee.

The leader of the opposition has taken the opportunity which this vote of $2,000,000 presents, a vote arising out of the necessities of the people of Saskatchewan, to make a purely political speech, to put it on Hansard for the use of people in any election campaign which may take place in western Canada within the next twelve or eighteen months. The right hon. gentleman could not have made more obvious what his intentions were than he did in the early part of his remarks. He has run through practically the whole gamut of the activities of the provincial government, from those having to do with schools to those having to do with entirely different matters, in order to make it appear that some use might be made of these funds which would not be to the benefit of all the people of Canada.

In the first place no such use as he indicates can be made of these moneys because of the fact that this was an undertaking given to the province of Saskatchewan some months ago, and given on the understanding that this vote would be presented to the house during the present session. The expenditures for which this money is to make provision are expenditures which have been undertaken and carried out since the time that undertaking was given by this government and cannot in any sense be made a part of any appeal that may be made in Saskatchewan or elsewhere in connection with any election campaign that may be held in the future.

There has been a propaganda carried on recently throughout the whole dominion of Canada, coming from a source which those of us who live in Saskatchewan know something about, having to do with the school situation in that province. The leader of the opposition has just made use of that propaganda in placing his views before the house. The province of Saskatchewan, ever since its inception in 1905, has been quite capable of looking after its own school affairs, and when the leader of the opposition undertakes to bring the school affairs of Saskatchewan on to the floor of the federal house for discussion, he is assuming a responsibility that was never intended to be assumed either by the opposition or by the government of the Dominion of Canada. School matters are dealt with by provincial governments, and I might point

out that whereas the previous government in Saskatchewan, because of the financial difficulties through which they were passing, found it necessary to reduce the school grant from $1.50 to $1 per day per room, the present government has increased the grant from $1 back to $1.50 per day, or an increase of fifty per cent, and is paying this increased grant.

In addition to that, the present government of the province has been making loans to the school districts of $30 a month to assist in the payment of school teachers' salaries; and the province itself, after the report which was received from the Bank of Canada, has levied upon the people of the province a sales tax of two per cent, which is a tax not only on meals on trains but on practically all sales made in Saskatchewan, an exception being made of some of the food products and other important necessities that are sold in the province from time to time. I have not heard that the government has made any attempt to put the tax on transactions outside the province. As a matter of fact, I think it has been very careful not to render its act ultra vires by attempting to do any such thing.

The government of the province has assumed the responsibility of taking care of the schools; and if any moneys advanced to Saskatchewan by this house were to be earmarked for school purposes it would result, I think, in this house assuming responsibility in connection with the administration of matters having to do with education which I am quite sure the federal parliament does not intend to assume. One could scarcely conceive of any suggestion being made to this house at any time that would stir up greater difficulties between the federal government and the governments of the provinces than that which was just made by the leader of the opposition to the effect that in making a grant of money to Saskatchewan for ordinary government purposes we should stipulate that a certain part of that money should be used for school purposes.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is not what I said, Mr. Chairman. I said to pay teachers' salaries.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Well, paying teachers'

salaries is a very important part of school purposes in any province. When the right hon. gentleman quibbled over "school purposes" to say he had in mind paying teachers' salaries, he was not only playing to the gallery, and to the political gallery at that, so far as Saskatchewan is concerned, but he was assuming something that the people of Saskatchewan will not assume.

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Then some play was made of the fact that this vote was for ordinary government expenditures, and the question was raised whether this had ever been done before. The right hon. gentleman needs only to go back to the last period of government in this dominion and to look over his own records to find that in Saskatchewan his government provided very considerable sums in one of the years during that period, for the very same purpose,-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

For special purposes.

Mr. GARDINERand no such conditions were placed upon that provision of funds as he is suggesting should be placed upon the grant of this particular amount. I suggest it has been fairly well proven to this house and to the Canadian people that Saskatchewan has been going through a very difficult period; that they do need some assistance from other parts of Canada; and I want to state on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan that we appreciate the manner in which other parts of the dominion have come to the assistance of that province. I know that Liberals and Conservatives, including the governments of the two old provinces of Canada and the people of Canada in general, have been satisfied that in respect of any funds which have been provided for the province the provincial government has shown the desire not only to play fair with all the people of Canada, but so to administer the funds provided as to give service to all the people of that province irrespective of what their political leanings may be. I would think that the committee should pass-

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CON

Frank Exton Lennard

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNARD:

What about fruit and vegetables?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

WThat is the question?

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CON

Frank Exton Lennard

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNARD:

What about the distribution of vegetables during the past few months?

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

What about it?

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

What has my hon.

friend got to say about the distribution of vegetables during the past few months? I venture to say that if he were to go out into the province of Saskatchewan and ask every single individual-and I could give him a list of the names of practically all of the recipients, if he desires to have it-whether that distribution of vegetables had been properly made, he would find that at least 999 out of every 1,000 would say it had been properly made. I suggest further to him that when

certain interests in Toronto wrote letters to the wholesalers of Saskatchewan and asked them to send in letters that might be published indicating that there were criticisms with regard to the distribution of food in Saskatchewan and Alberta last fall, they did not publish any criticisms that they got, and certainly they did not publish the replies of the wholesalers to whom they had written. Criticisms were invited, but criticisms could not be found. If anyone were to go through Saskatchewan and Alberta to-day and follow that distribution of vegetables, cheese, beans, fish and apples, they would find, over the whole trail followed by those commodities, satisfaction on the part of the people who obtained them.

I think the time has come when these votes should be considered on theiir merits. The leader of the opposition has stood up all too often this session and waved before this house the flag of political corruption. I have been tempted on one or two occasions to remind him that if we were to bring into this chamber all the street corner stories that are circulated at election time and all the newspaper rumours that float around on such occasions we should probably not have to go further back than to about two weeks before the election of 1930 in order to remind him of some of the stories that appeared in the press of that time, calling attention to meetings cancelled and trips made to Montreal, calling attention to what was going to happen immediately after the election was over if his party were elected to office. I would only need to follow that up a few weeks later to find that everything which was then rumoured in the press was actually done on the floor of this chamber; and I might suggest to him that probably he is on rather dangerous ground when, on every occasion that a vote is brought before this house, he raises the political bogey and suggests that someone is going to make some political use of the moneys that happen to be voted.

Let me repeat that this two million dollars is money which is necessary to pay for things that have been done in Saskatchewan; it is necessary because of undertakings given some considerable time ago. It can in no sense be considered a vote of money to be used either this summer or a- year from now, whenever any election may be held in Saskatchewan, for the purpose of influencing votes there, and I would ask the leader of the opposition to accept this statement and so consider it.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I assure this committee that I have no knowledge of any propaganda connected with a circular sent out by teachers

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with respect to payment of salaries. The first knowledge I had that there was anything of a sinister character attached to it came from the speech just made by the Minister of Agriculture. I received a letter pointing out that teachers were unpaid and that the Saskatchewan situation merited careful thought and consideration. Another letter came from teachers' organizations in other provinces asking that consideration be given to that thought. I wrote and stated that at the appropriate time I would mention this matter in the House of Commons. That is all I know of anything connected directly or indirectly with propaganda so far as schools in Saskatchewan are concerned. So far as I know the people behind the movement are earnestly concerned about the non-payment of teachers in that province; and when I saw this provision in the estimates, namely to enable that province to continue essential services pending improvements in crop, I regarded the payment of teachers as an essential service and I therefore brought it to the attention of this committee. I withdraw no word I have said with respect to it. I think it is a matter that merits not only careful consideration but the giving of some assurance that the money will be utilized in part for that purpose.

On Friday last the teachers' organization of Alberta sent me a communication pointing out that this provision had been confined to Saskatchewan; that they too required consideration, and that any effort which might be made by parliament to provide salaries for teachers should not be limited to Saskatchewan. Now the picture as presented by the Minister of Agriculture is entirely different. He says that this money is spent already, that we are voting two million dollars to cover an expenditure that has already been made by Saskatchewan, and that it was made in consequence of a promise which was given some time ago. Just how they got the money is a question which will have to be considered at a later stage, with respect to another matter. So far as that phase is concerned I can only say it is quite obvious that the money cannot be used to pay teachers if it has already been spent. .

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The obligation for its expenditure is already assumed.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

If the obligation has been assumed for the amount, it is quite obvious that a free disposition of it is no longer possible. A condition has arisen which makes it no longer possible to apply it for that purpose. I am much obliged for that information. It is true that it is for the year ending

March 31, 1938, but the provision was to continue essential services, and I assumed from the language that it meant to continue them beyond the date when we gave our sanction to the appropriation. However that does not appear to be so.

So far as the other phase of it is concerned, namely the question of the provision made by the province for the payment of its own essential services, I have only this to say, that the imposition of the sales tax and its application were, I thought, a very proper thing to do; but when I learned that it was endeavoured to apply it on the importation of commodities from the neighbouring province of Manitoba I thought there must be some mistake. I am told definitely, however, with respect to certain commodities that come from Manitoba that the two per cent sales tax has been applied, at the risk of the act being ultra vires, as the minister says.

I am not going to follow the distribution of vegetables to-day; I had no intention of doing so, because there will be a time and place in which we will follow that distribution. But I do desire to make it perfectly clear that there have been complaints-I have large numbers of them-as to the method of distribution and the method of acquisition of the supplies that were distributed by the federal government. This is a matter that the minister has now brought into the issue and I will not discuss it.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

It was introduced in reply to a question.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is true; the minister was answering a question asked him. However, I do not intend to deal with that matter now. There is an occasion in the estimates to deal with it, because we as a dominion have expended public moneys to purchase supplies of apples, cheese, beans and other commodities and, as the minister indicated some time ago, the particulars will be forthcoming, as to the names of the people to whom these commodities were distributed, the manner of distribution, and so on. For the moment, however, I was dealing with the one question of essential services and of the necessity of these essential services, if they are carried on with this money, being made subject to a condition, which would have no value now inasmuch as the obligations have been incurred and the expenditures made in part. But the minister made some observations which either meant something or meant nothing. If he desires to discuss the reason why I went to Montreal I am prepared to give it to him now. I went there because of

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his beloved Beauhamois, to make it quite clear that none of that fund went to the Conservative party in that election. That is easily verified, and if he suggests that there were any other discussions I can tell him, with a little effort in looking up some papers, where I was during the time I was there! I could give him. considerable information if he desired to have it in connection with other matters that would be vastly interesting to this house and possibly to himself.

The purpose for which I rose has been entirely vindicated by the minister's intimation that so far as this item is concerned it has either been already spent or commitments have been made under it. But this is supply for the year ended March 31, and presumably there will be further appropriations for the year ending March 31, 1939, and then I will follow the observations which I have made by offering an amendment to meet a situation which I think should be met. I will not do so now. I wanted to have an explanation, which the minister has given, as to whether or not this money was for the year ended March 31, or whether it was to be used to continue essential services beyond that time. The minister has given an assurance, which ends that phase of the matter, that the money was for the year ended March 31, 1938, and that commitments have been made or expenditures already completed that make it no longer possible to impose any conditions. That serves entirely the purpose I had in mind.

May I assure the minister and the committee that if I seem to be anxious about some of these matters I am not thinking in terms of any political effect in other places. That was not my intention at all. But no thoughtful man who looks out upon the country to-day and realizes the disharmony and disunion that exist between the provinces can help being concerned. I am sure that the Prime Minister is. I am sure that every man in this house is concerned about confederation, and every effort that we can make, however trifling it may be, that will do something to render it less possible for the critic to make the observations that have been made will be all to the good. And these observations have been made not on the street corners, but in reputable magazines and papers; they are not gossip in the current press but calmly and carefully considered statements, well balanced statements with respect to these matters. In this light I did venture, as I believed it to be my duty, to direct attention to the possibility of removing one at least of the many causes of friction between component parts of this confederation. There never was a time when

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there was more need of our endeavouring to do so. If in consequence of the observations I have made the minister is annoyed, that is my misfortune and not my fault. But it is to be hoped at least that the concern for the unit, the confederation, the nation, will outweigh the considerations that each of us may have for the moment for the component provinces comprising confederation.

Mr. lOUNG: Those of us who come from Saskatchewan and are familiar with the very severe plight in which the teachers find themselves can all say how greatly we sympathize with that section of the population. I take it from what the leader of the opposition has just said that he approves of giving a grant-to help to pay the salaries of teachers, which he describes as an essential service.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No; I do not want the hon. gentleman to misunderstand me. If the provinces are given a grant of money it is a very appropriate thing for us, who find the money, to say that a portion of it, without indicating what portion, should be utilized in liquidating unpaid teachers' salaries.

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April 4, 1938