Mr. JOSEPH NEEDHAM (The Battle-fords) :
I suppose the budget is the most interesting piece of legislation which is presented from year to year in parliament, because in the budget we have a review of the past year's income and expenses and also estimates for the ensuing year.
If we take the volume of expenditures as presented in the budget for the year just closed, it is not encouraging from the point of view of the outlook for the Canadian people. It reports a deficit for last year amounting to $55,660,000 and an estimated deficit for the ensuing year amounting to some $66,000,000. The hon. member for Camrose (Mr. Marshall) went fully into the matter of debt, with which I had intended to deal at some length, so I shall be as brief as possible in that regard.
Debt and more debt constitute the big problem which we are facing, and along with that, of course, goes increased taxation. Debt is the great millstone round the necks of the people, if it is looked at from one point of view; but along with that is the matter of interest, which, to my mind, is never given the attention it should have. At the present time our federal, provincial and municipal debts are tremendous. We heard from the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) that the federal debt is some three and a half billion dollars, our provincial debts are around two billions, and our municipal debt is about a billion and a half. For a population the size of Canada, these are staggering figures. When we go into the matter of private debts, the amount of which in many instances is just guess work, I am reminded of the brief submitted by the Saskatchewan government to the Rowell commission in the fall of 1937, and I recall one item which stated that the agricultural debt of Saskatchewan stood at $525,000,000.
I have said that, looked at in one light, our debt problem is staggering. However, according to evidence given in the banking and commerce committee, a question was asked by the hon. member for Vancouver-
Burrard (Mr. McGeer) of Mr. Towers, governor of the central bank:
Mr. McGeer: Is it possible for you to imagine any way by which we are ever going to pay the debt we have got?
Mr. Towers: As the debts of the government are an asset of the Canadian people, I do not see much point in the thing; except that, to the extent that the government thinks that the distribution of those assets of the Canadian people-which are its debt-is unsatisfactory, it may take steps to remedy that distribution in any way that lies within the legislative power; in fact, in any way, I suppose-by income tax or succession duties or any other action it cares to take.
So when we learn that the debts are an asset to the Canadian people we might glory in those debts.
Subtopic: DEDATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE