March 10, 1939

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The Speaker read it to himself, he did not read it out.

On the orders of the day:

Topic:   ADJOURNMENT MOTION TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. C. G. MacNEIL (Vancouver North):

Before the orders of the day are proceeded with I would ask the Prime Minister if this scheme has met with the approval of the government.

Topic:   ADJOURNMENT MOTION TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I must say to my hon. friend that I do not know what scheme he means. I have not seen any scheme. If my hon. friend will put his question on the order paper I shall try to answer it.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

May I ask a supplementary question of the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie)? The Prime Minister did not have any knowledge of the matteT referred to by my colleague (Mr. MacNeil), but apparently, judging from his remarks of a few moments ago, the Minister of National Defence did. May I ask

Defence Purchasing Board

him whether the subject matter of that plan has been approved by him, by his department and the government.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I think I have answered that question already, but if the hon. member desires any fuller information and will place a question on the order paper, I shall be only too happy to accommodate him.

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NATIONAL DEFENCE

CREATION OF DEFENCE PURCHASING BOARD TO ENTER INTO CONTRACTS FOR MUNITIONS, EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES


Hon. IAN MACKENZIE (Minister of National Defence) moved that the house go into committee to consider the following proposed resolution: That it is expedient to introduce a measure to establish a defence purchasing board with exclusive power, subject to approval of the governor in council, to enter into all contracts for the purchase of munitions, equipment, materials and supplies required by the Department of National Defence in cases where the expenditure exceeds $5,000; to provide safeguards to assure that such munitions, equipment, materials and supplies shall be purchased at a reasonable cost to the government and without unreasonable profit to any manufacturer or supplier thereof; to provide that salaries, wages and other expenses of the board shall be payable out of moneys appropriated by parliament. To authorize the governor in council to borrow such sums of money as may be required to pay expenditures of the Department of National Defence which are chargeable to capital account in the appropriations provided by parliament for the said department; and to provide a sinking fund sufficient to retire in ten years the said sums borrowed for capital expenditures of the said department, together with interest thereon at three per cent per annum. He said: Mr. Speaker, I think this is one of the most important resolutions that have come before the attention of this house during this or any previous session. In the first place, Mr. Speaker, it might be of interest and of benefit to every hon. member of this house if I be permitted to traverse some of the historical background of the efforts that have been made in peace and in war to meet this urgent problem of the control of munitions supplies. I proceed immediately, sir, to some of the efforts that were made in Great Britain in the years between 1914 and 1918 to deal with this question. I cite first The Munitions of War Act of 1915, introduced into the British House of Commons by the Right Hon. David Lloyd George, which gave the government control over labour relations in the armament industry and provided for the limitation of profits in establishments which were producing munitions. The average net profits earned in the two years immediately prior to the war were taken in that act as the basis of computation, and profits exceeding by one-fifth the average for the preceding two years were taxed at the rate of one hundred per cent. In Great Britain at that time they also had an excess profits tax which applied to all industries with certain exemptions. The average profits earned in the years prior to the war were ascertained, and profits exceeding by more than $1,000 (£200) the pre-war average profit, were taxed at the rate of fifty per cent. Then leaving the war years, and coming down to the year 1937, hon. members of this house will recall that the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Right Hon. Neville Chamberlain, then chancellor of the exchequer, introduced in Great Britain what is known as the national defence contribution. Although the provisions of that legislation were drastically modified after its introduction, there is still a special tax under the legislation on the profits of all trades or businesses over a five-year period, at the rate of five per cent in the case of corporations, and four per cent in all other cases. When the profit does not exceed $10,000 (£2,000) the tax does not apply. There are, of course, some modifications and exemptions. I come now, sir, across the Atlantic to legislation adopted in the republic to the south of us, and I refer to the Vinson Act of the United States, passed in 1934, and applying only to the United States navy. Under this legislation no contract may be made by the Secretary of the Navy unless the contractor agrees to pay into the treasury, profits in excess of ten per- cent of the contract price. Should the contractor fail to pay the treasury department levies a tax of the amount which should have been paid under the agreement. This does not apply to contracts or subcontracts of less than $10,000. In the United States they also have an excess profits tax. which is a general tax, and profits are calculated as a percentage of the existing and declared value of the capital stock, and the rates fixed are as follows: On profits in excess of 10 per cent and not in excess of 15 per cent, the rate o'! tax is 6 per cent; on profits in excess of 15 per cent, the rate of tax is 12 per cent.


CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

May I ask if the figures the minister has just given apply to all profits, or just to profits on munitions contracts?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

It refers to a general tax.

I come back now to the war years in the Dominion of Canada, and will briefly mention the various pieces of legislation that were

Defence Purchasing Board

passed by the parliament of Canada and the steps taken by the government of Canada at that time to meet the very perplexing problem of profits during the years of the war.

On May S, 1915, an order in council was passed establishing the war purchasing commission, consisting of three members. This commission was given the power generally to make all contracts for the purchase of materials of war and supplies of every kind, and for transportation, payable out of the War Appropriation Act of 1915. The largest part of the work of this commission concerned the purchase of supplies for the Canadian expeditionary force. The order in council sets forth certain provisions relating to the constitution of the board and the rules governing its procedure. For example, no contract could be made by the commission except under a requisition made upon it by the department concerned; and it might be noted, sir, in contrast to the legislation to be introduced consequent upon the resolution now under consideration and discussion, that the war purchasing commission did not require the approval of the governor in council for proposed contracts, although the council did authorize the release of funds and certain specific purchases. That is to say, sir, that so long as the War Appropriation Act gave authority for a certain expenditure and upon requisition of the department concerned, the commission had the power to proceed forthwith to enter into a contract. The commission was instructed that as far as practicable tenders should be obtained and contracts given at the lowest price offered.

Another order in council was passed on February 6, 1918. This extended the functions of the war purchasing commission to cover supervision of all purchases made by all the departments of government and not merely purchases under war appropriation acts. The board did not actually do the buying itself for all the departments, but exercised a supervisory authority over the letting of contracts and the making of purchases.

In September, 1918, the war purchasing commission recommended to the Prime Minister the establishment of a permanent purchasing commission centralizing in one office all buying for the public service. The bill was introduced into the house but was later withdrawn. The war purchasing commission ceased to function on July 1, 1920.

One word with reference to the Business Profits War Tax Act. It was introduced in 1916, and it established the following principle: that profits were to be calculated on the basis of the paid up capital stock. The measure levied a tax of twenty-five per cent on the

profits of corporations in excess of seven per cent and on the profits of individuals in excess of ten per cent. In 1917 an amendment stiffened the tax rates and at the same time introduced the principle of graduation. It provided for a tax of fiftj' per cent on profits between fifteen and twenty per cent and a tax of seventy-five per cent on profits in excess of twenty per cent. In 1920 the tax was moderated considerably. The following is a schedule of the rates introduced at that time:

Below Rate of tax

Per cent Per cent

10 None

10 to 15

2015 to 20

3020 to 30

5030 and over

60

The Business Profits War Tax Act as then formulated expired on December 31, 1920.

I think for the information of hon. members I might cite two extracts from these two guiding orders in council, in order that we may have an appreciation of the idea which underlay at that time the formation of these purchasing commissions. I refer to P.C. 1033 of 1915. The order in council was recommended by the Prime Minister of the day, and paragraph 13 reads as follows:

The commission may make report to the Prime Minister from time to time in reference to any matter within the scope of its duties as herein outlined, with any recommendations the commission may see fit to make; and the governor in council and the Prime Minister may require from the commission a report in regard to any of such matters.

The Purchasing Commission of Canada was created by P.C. 1561 on July 12, 1920. This order in council was also recommended by the Prime Minister, and paragraph 10 reads as follows:

The commission may make report to the Minister of Finance from time to time in reference to any matter within the scope of its duties as herein outlined with any recommendations the commission may see fit to make, and the governor in council and the Minister of Finance may require from the commission a report in regard to any such matters.

May I say in passing that this followed the soundly established practice of Great Britain, where financial contracts are always subject to the review of the treasury.

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
Subtopic:   CREATION OF DEFENCE PURCHASING BOARD TO ENTER INTO CONTRACTS FOR MUNITIONS, EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES
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CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

May I ask the minister a question?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Yes.

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CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

Was the commission that he has been describing answerable in the first place to any definite minister?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Yes; one was answerable to the Prime Minister, and the other to the Minister of Finance. They

Defence Purchasing Board

reported in the one case to the Prime Minister and in the other case to the Minister of Finance.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

To complete the record: has the minister the names of the personnel of the commissions to which he refers?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Not at the moment. I will get that for my hon. friend.

I come now to the purpose of the resolution, and that is the establishment of a defence purchasing board. * As hon. gentlemen will observe, there are in the resolution three fundamental features and three cardinal principles. The first is the setting up of a defence purchasing board. The second is the establishing of a basis of profit limitation upon defence contracts. The third is arranging for the financing of certain expenditures over a period of ten years with the carrying charges against ordinary accounts.

In presenting this resolution to the house, I conceive it to be my duty to review, as I have already in part reviewed, the history of the efforts which have been made and the principles established in reference to defence department purchases, and to review as far as I can in all fairness the various viewpoints and see how far we can go to establish the approach to identity of aim and unity of purpose.

In 1937 my hon. friend the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (Mr. Woodsworth) moved a resolution in this house. One part of the three point resolution read as follows:

That at no time should Canadian citizens be permitted to make profits out of supplying war munitions or materials.

That resolution was defeated by this House of Commons on February 4, 1937. I should like again to place on the record some of the observations made by my right hon. leader the Prime Minister in the course of that debate:

I share the hon. member's abhorrence of anything in the nature of profiteering. I cannot imagine a more contemptible means of seeking to make one's fortune than by doing so at the expense of the lives of others. . . .

If there are to be no profits, I cannot think of any way in which industry can be carried on other than by its complete nationalization. . . . The choice lies between state monopoly and private industry, or partly the one and partly the other. . . .

Guns and shot and powder are not the only materials required for war. They are not the only materials that present a temptation in the matter of profits when war occurs. . . .

Are all these things to be procured only under a government owned and controlled system which will not permit of profits being made? All that could result from a policy of

that sort, if it were possible, would be the creation of a non-profit socialist island inside a competitive economy. But I doubt very much if we could get that far in Canada in a great many years, and, even if we did, whether it would be a good thing for the country. . . .

I am afraid that for a long time to come we would not recover, what in the interval we had lost in the way of individual intitative and freedom. ... _

Government manufacture may be desirable in regard to certain kinds of essential supplies which we require continuously.

I think private industry, where it is engaged in the manufacture of munitions and war materials, has to be watched closely to see that excessive profits are not made. . . .

We should seek most carefully to control private industry, but I cannot see how, in a system of competitive industry, you can totally eliminate the possibility of some profit being made. As hon. members of the house know, there is a great variety of special articles required as war supplies and equipment. It would be going much too far not to expect these to be obtained at least in part from private concerns which would expect to make some profit. Where, however, private industry is permitted to undertake the manufacture of munitions and war supplies, I believe there should be very strict government supervision. All contracts should contain provisions which will ensure that there will be no opportunity for other than a reasonable profit. I may tell my hon. friend that this whole matter has been given very careful consideration by the government. So far as any contracts with which we may have anything to do are concerned, every effort will be made to prevent anything in the nature of undue profits being secured by those who obtain the contracts.

May I say that those who affect the socialist philosophy of government know very well-and I do not say this critically

that profits are made out of raw materials as well as out of the completely manufactured weapon. They know that the requirements of armed forces are not confined to weapons and munitions. Those requirements include every commodity produced by the industry of the country.

Perhaps I might analyse the point of view of hon. members of the National Conservative party, and if my hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion) does not mind I should like to refer to an address which he delivered in Toronto on December 15, in which he made some observations that were reported by the Canadian press. If they are not correct I am sure the hon. gentleman will immediately correct them. If the report is correct, however, he appeared in that address to advocate in the first place, in the manufacture of arms and munitions for Canada. government control and elimination of profits, and in the second place, in the manufacture of arms and munitions in Canada for the United Kingdom, the control of profits, presumably by the Canadian government. This address, I must admit at once, was reported by indirect narration and it is re-

Defence Purchasing Board

grettable that the exact language was not quoted in full. However, I have not seen any correction of this press report and therefore I must take it that, if the hon. gentleman does not correct it, it is accurate.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I accept- the report largely, except that I did add that I had an open mind-I do not remember my precise words- in regard to the working out of this scheme; and I pointed out as well that, owing to the fact that a large capital investment would have to be made in connection with the manufacturing of munitions, the matter would probably require further consideration. I added something to that effect.

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
Subtopic:   CREATION OF DEFENCE PURCHASING BOARD TO ENTER INTO CONTRACTS FOR MUNITIONS, EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I was

not finding fault with what the hon. member had said; I was merely wondering whether the report was accurate. May I quote from the report? The introductory paragraph of the press report reads as follows:

All arms and munitions needed for the direct defence of Canada should either be manufactured by the government itself, or under the complete control of the government, with profits

eliminated, the Honourable R. J. Manion

said to-night.

That was in indirect narration. The later (paragraph, apparently covering the same subject matter, was as follows:

Doctor Manion said he offered government control and elimination of profits as an alternative to complete nationalization of armament manufacture because-

And then they quote the hon. gentleman:

" I don't like to see the governments getting too much into business and because of the large capital expenditures complete government manufacture might involve."

The meaning to be attached to the phrase "elimination of profits" is somewhat obscured, in my judgment at least, by another sentence in which the hon. gentleman is reported in direct narration as follows:

"These proposals are fair because they leave plenty of opportunity for private enterprise."

And then he is quoted again as follows:

"There should be complete control of profits in the manufacture of arms and munitions of all kinds for the United Kingdom."

Again, not speaking critically, I suggest that my hon. friend appears to advocate the elimination of profits with respect to Canadian munitions orders, and the control of profits by the Canadian government with regard to United Kingdom orders placed in Canada. May I say at once that unless the government. of Canada, as a matter of policy, refused to permit any contracts between the British government and Canadian industry, I doubt very much how far their power of regu-

lation would go, except in so far as we have powers under section 290 of the Customs Act with reference to the export of arms.

The Canadian government, in my opinion, has no status unless it assumes its complete rights to supervise or regulate the terms of contracts between the British government and industries in Canada, and of course it is necessary to get permission under the Department of National Revenue. I am subject to correction, but it appears to me, from the reference in the Toronto speech by the leader of the opposition to war-time conditions, that his argument was not fully developed in the press reports. He may have contemplated, as the government has very definitely contemplated, that different conditions should prevail with regard to the control of industry in peace time and in war time.

In the first place, he has said that nationalization might be too costly; and secondly, he is for the elimination of profits. I should rather think that what he had in mind was the elimination of excessive or unfair profits and not the elimination of profits, as reported in that address.

May I now proceed to consider for a moment remarks made by my right hon. leader (Mr. Mackenzie King) as reported in Hansard of April 2, 1937, at page 2501:

For some months past an interdepartmental committee has been going very carefully into the whole question of the control of profits, with respect to munitions of war. . . . The line upon which we have been proceeding is to attempt to draw a distinction between war materials produced in times of peace, and what may be necessary in times of war. Unquestionably, special legislation would be required in times of war.

In the third place, although he has now left us, I should like to quote the opinions of the very distinguished leader of the opposition of last year, the then right hon. member for Calgary West. Speaking in the same debate, in reference to the remarks of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), Mr. Bennett said:

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre dealt -with the question of profits made out of war. I have made many inquiries on this subject, as no doubt he has. The business profits war tax in Great Britain, for instance, was a considered method of dealing with the problem of war profits

After very careful consideration of the whole matter by committees and by business men, Mr. Lloyd George expressed himself as being strongly of the opinion that the best method was to let the manufacturers make all the money they could, and then take it away from them by taxation

The contention of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre is that all money made from war should belong to the state. That was the general principle which was in the mind of

Defence Purchasing Board

the British government, and the principle which Sir Thomas White adopted here after it had been in operation in Great Britain

The question of maintaining the industrial life of a country during war as distinguished from its purely war activities is one which, as the Prime Minister said, is not as simple as it looks; on the contrary, it is extremely complex, for certain types of industry through the expenditure of small sums of money can be made available for producing war materials, yet that work dislocates and in some instances destroys the normal business of the enterprise. It was that fact, I believe, which was the determining factor that caused the government to proceed in the way that it did, rather than by nationalization of the whole effort in the manner advocated by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, who would be glad to see it accomplished because it means socialization of industry. It is a problem which is easier to talk about than to solve...

The reason which led to the enactment in Great Britain of a business profits war tax was that it first encouraged industry to develop to the nth power and then took away from it practically the entire amount of profits referable to the war.

We did not carry it to the same extent, but we did apply the principle.

I should like next to refer to the voluminous report of the British royal commission on the private manufacture of and trading in armaments. In part 7, chapter 12, the conclusions and recommendations of that commission are summarized as follows:

1. The most effective available means of removing or minimizing the objections to the private manufacture of and trade in arms would be the limitation of arms by international agreement.

2. The establishment of a universal system of state monopoly of the manufacture of arms is likely to be impracticable and in present conditions the promotion of general state monopoly should not be a part of the policy of this country.

3. The abolition of the private industry in the United Kingdom and the substitution for it of a system of state monopoly may be practicable; but it is undesirable. No sufficient case has in our opinion been made out for taking so drastic a step. We believe that the reasons for maintaining the private industry outweigh those for its abolition. We are of opinion that the necessities of imperial defence cannot be effectively met, in existing conditions, except by the maintenance in peace time of a system of collaboration between the government and the private industry of the country in the supply arms and munitions.

4. We are of opinion that this country should continue to promote and encourage the adoption of measures for the international regulation and control of the manufacture of and trade in arms. We believe that the proposals to this end recently submitted to the League of Nations by the government of the United States afford a basis on which agreement might be reached.

5. We recommend that the government should assume complete responsibility for the arms industry in the United Kingdom and should organize and regulate the necessary collaboration between the government and private industry; that this responsibility should be exercised through a controlling body, presided

over by a minister responsible to parliament, having executive powers in peace time and in war time over all matters relating to the supply and manufacture of arms and munitions, costing and the authorization of orders from abroad.

6. We recommend that measures be taken to restrict the protits of armament firms in peace time to a reasonable scale of remuneration, designed not only to prevent excessive profits, but to satisfy the public that they do so.

7. We are of opinion that the problems involved in formulating plans for the conscription of industry in war time will have to be faced, and should be faced without delay.

8. We are of opinion that the administration of the system of licensing exports of arms should be governed by an outlook different from and more positive in character than that which now prevails; that licences should be granted only to such firms as shall have been specifically authorized to accept orders for export by the controlling body already recommended; that the grant of licences should be restricted to orders by foreign governments, supported by import licences issued by those governments which shall state that the goods will not be re-exported.

We recommend that the practice of issuing open general licences for the export of certain classes of arms, etcetera, be discontinued, that specific licences be required in all cases, and in particular that rigid control be exercised over all exports of aircraft, whether classified as military or civil.

9. We recommend the complete cessation of the private export trade in surplus and secondhand arms and munitions of war.

Then chapter 9 of part 5 is headed: "Taking the profit out of war":

135. The complete removal of the profit motive from private industry is in our opinion neither necessary nor desirable . . . but it is our opinion that measures ought to be taken to restrict the profits of armament firms in peace time to a scale of reasonable remuneration . . . and we believe that if the firms' profits were so limited little would remain of the objections to the continuance of the private industry that are felt by a large section of the public.

Mr. MacNICOL; Is the minister now referring to private industry manufacturing war munitions, or to all industry?

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I am

quoting from the official report of the royal commission in Great Britain.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

But it refers to what, to private industry manufacturing war munitions, or to all industry?

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Subtopic:   CREATION OF DEFENCE PURCHASING BOARD TO ENTER INTO CONTRACTS FOR MUNITIONS, EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES
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March 10, 1939