Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, I had some doubt about whether I should make a speech in this debate. I had that doubt partly because I am anxious that the debate close at the earliest possible moment so that we may address ourselves to the budget resolutions, some of which are extremely important, and the passage of which at an early date is equally important. I have been concerned, however, by some speeches that have been made in the house, not only in the debate on the budget but also in the debate on the address, particularly as to the effect they may have in the house and in the country on our measures of price control and generally on our fight against inflation.
So far as my recollection goes, no member of the Progressive Conservative party opposition, with the exception of one, the hon. member for York West (Mr. Adamson) to whom I am very grateful, has said he was in favour of our measures designed to prevent the growing and eventually the prevailing of the menace of inflation in this country. On the other hand I think it is fair to say that they have not expressed their disapproval of those measures. But they have done something which is the equivalent ; they have attacked piecemeal the preservation of the price ceiling and the wage ceiling. This applies equally to the other opposition parties and also to the utterances of some hon. members supporting the government. This being so I think it is my duty at this stage in the debate to present once
The Budget-Mr. Ilsley
more to the house the reasons for our antiinflationary policies and the great importance of administering and enforcing those policies in an effective manner.
In the budget speech I outlined the growing force of inflationary tendencies in this country. I said that the forces making for inflation are present on a large scale, and that their pressure is held in check only by the rigour of our existing taxation, by the willingness of Canadians to save on an unprecedented scale, and by our price control and wage control.
There has not been in this debate much attack upon, much objection taken to, our taxation programme-remarkably little; perhaps that will come later, on the resolutions. There has not been a serious or widespread attack on our borrowing policies. There has been some, but it has not been very great. But there has been a disconcerting tendency on the part of a fairly large number of hon. members, mostly in the various oppositions, to urge that we weaken our price and wage controls.
My colleague the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) the other night, speaking in the fuel debate, put the matter in better language than I could when he said, as reported at page 1316 of Hansard:
We have had various suggestions offered to-day for a solution of the problem. I think the one most often given was to increase the ceiling price. That is an easy solution for a great many problems, but it must be obvious to every member that if we were to adopt the practice of increasing the ceiling price to meet every problem that comes along, we should soon have no price ceiling and no price control at all, and thus be well on the road to inflation. Five hon. members of the Progressive Conservative party offered that solution. I urge them to avoid suggestions of that kind if they believe that price control is a sound policy in times such as this, because that policy can be maintained only by rigidly observing existing price ceilings. One break-through for a particular commodity invites a break-through for a number of other commodities. To maintain a price ceiling policy with frequent exceptions is an impossibility.
These attacks in individual cases have been accompanied more or less by attacks on the wartime prices and trade board and on the chairman and officials of that board, and, in some cases, on boards generally, officials connected with boards generally, and on the system which we have set up, a system which demands a certain amount of extra-parliamentary activity.
I think that in order to deal with this matter in a fundamental way I shall have to start there and explain why it is that we do have
this system; first, why it is that parliament has to delegate so many of its powers to the governor in council, and, secondly, why it is that the government has to delegate so many of its powers to boards and controllers. Why is it that we do not bring this great mass of activity into the House of Commons for discussion before it is undertaken? Why is it that we do not bring these measures before the house and deal with them by way of legislation? Hon. members must know that the reason is that in time of war the other course is essential to get action. In the last session of this parliament we sat here for six months. We dealt with a substantial number of very important measures; we could not have dealt with many more. I assume that it is not the wish of the house or the country that parliament sit here for twelve months in the year. Certainly if parliament were to deal with all the things that have to be dealt with, there would not be enough time in the year for parliament to get through the business. So far this session we have sat here thirty-seven days, and hon. members can just think over for themselves what our record of legislation achievement has been.
Subtopic: DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE