March 29, 1944

LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Hon. C. W. G. GIBSON (Minister of National Revenue):

I understand that the

representation has been received. It is receiving consideration at the present time but no decision has been reached.

Wheat Board Accounts

Topic:   INCOME TAX
Subtopic:   REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF TIME OF FILING FINAL RETURN
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AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS


On the orders of the day:


NAT

Ernest Edward Perley

National Government

Mr. E. E. PERLEY (Qu'Appelle):

I wish to direct a question to the Minister of Trade and Commerce. Are the accounts of the Canadian wheat board audited by an officially appointed auditor? If so, who is the auditor and when will the last audit of the 1942-43 crop year be made available?

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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NAT

Ernest Edward Perley

National Government

Mr. PERLEY:

I think the minister is prepared to answer that.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

In my opinion the question is one that does not need an immediate answer.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I suggest to Your Honour, with great deference, that we are nearing the Easter recess and a number of matters such as the one raised by the member for Qu'Appelle have an urgency which otherwise they might not have. I should be glad therefore if Your Honour would, from now until the recess, consider the advisability of a little more latitude towards such questions.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I think the point taken by the leader of the opposition merits consideration, but such a question as the one now asked, inquiring about the name of an auditor, is not of sufficient urgency to call for an immediate answer.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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PC

Norman James Macdonald Lockhart

Progressive Conservative

Mr. LOCKHART:

May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, in addition to what the leader of the opposition has said, that there are a number of accountants in the armed forces who might easily be excused. I would ask' the minister to take it up with the proper member of the cabinet to see if something could not be done, because there is a dearth of chartered accountants to prepare corporation statements.

Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Acting Minister of Finance) moved that the house go into committee of supply.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Leader of the Opposition):

Before we go into interim supply there are one or two matters which I should like to bring up at this stage. If it is desirable to postpone my remarks, I have no objection to bringing the subject up later, but perhaps it might be just as well for me to proceed now.

In going into interim supply I realize that there is n,o necessity for any extended discussion of the resolution which the Acting Minister of Finance is about to introduce. Formal government requests of this kind have been granted time after time and we have no objec-

tion to that procedure being followed on this occasion. I take it the minister is asking for one-sixth of the regular civil estimates, including the supplementary estimates which were tabled the other day. The amount no doubt will be smaller than might appear from the total of the estimates themselves, since some of the estimates of the civil departments are statutory.

I hope the minister will be able to give to the house some plan or scheme being pursued as a policy by the government in connection with economies to be applied this year to civil estimates. We should like to know how they compare with last year's estimates. We want to know what is and what is not controllable. We want to know how the interest on the national debt, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was included last year in nonwar estimates, compares with the interest in the year before the war, and last year as well.

I would ask the minister at this stage to inform the house as to what plans are being laid down by the government in connection with a post-war taxation policy. That is one of the things we will need to know, so far as our committee is concerned. While economies are essential, and while we are anxious that not a cent will be wasted so far as non-war expenditures are concerned, at the same time I hope that consideration will be given to such matters as increase in old age pensions. We are hopeful that the age will be reduced, that the rate will be increased, and that due consideration will be given to the contributory feature mentioned in the speech from the throne.

The public accounts committee, which deals with matters relating to civil estimates, was set up at the beginning of the session. On February 25, the Prime Minister referred to that committee the public accounts and the auditor general's report. The committee has not yet met. I understand that one of the members of this party has already asked that the committee be convened. I suggest to the government that some other means ought to be made available under which, upon matters being submitted to them for consideration, this committee would automatically convene. I am hopeful that the committee on public accounts will begin its work, and that it will not be necessary on other occasions, as it was last year and has been again this year, to call attention to its failure to sit.

The public accounts committee has a big job on its hands. Many examinations are to be made. It is in that committee that the bulk of the work of examination of expenditures must be done. I refer, of course, to expenditures envisaged by the supply measure

Interim Supply Bill

now being introduced. I hope that the government will give some further latitude in respect of the type of material allowed to go before that committee. I remember that last year the public accounts committee was not allowed to deal with the wartime information board. That matter was referred to another committee and was not dealt with.

This party is anxious to facilitate the passage of interim supply. We reserve, however, our right to discuss any items in the various parts of supply as proceedings go on. I believe that is the undertaking which has always been given, and it is one I now ask the acting minister to give. May I caution the minister and the house that at a time like this members of the opposition and members generally must watch with ever-increasing care for waste and extravagance. For that reason we hope that when these estimates come down they will be in keeping with the general spirit of the times.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee of supply, Mr. McCann in the chair.

Topic:   AUDIT OF WHEAT BOARD ACCOUNTS
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INTERIM SUPPLY BILL

LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON moved:

Resolved, that a sum not exceeding $46,331,283.90, being one-sixth of the amount of each of the several items to be voted, as set forth in the estimates for the fiscal year ending 31st March, 1945, laid before the House of Commons at the present session of parliament, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for the fiscal year ending 31st March, 1945.

He said: The proposal this afternoon, as the leader of the opposition (Mr. Graydon) has said, has come to be a part of the regular course of financial procedure owing to the fact that the sittings extend considerably into the new fiscal year, making it impracticable to wait until the whole estimates are passed. The bill which will be founded on the resolution is to provide one-sixth of the items to be voted in the main estimates for the fiscal year 1944-45, which were tabled by the Minister of Finance on February 11, 1944, and which cannot be passed through all stages before the beginning of the new fiscal year, on Saturday, April 1. I think the leader of the opposition was in error when he suggested that this bill is one-sixth of the main estimates, plus the supplementary estimates. It is in fact one-sixth of the main estimates. The further supplementary estimates which were tabled the other day are supplementary with respect to the year 1943-44, and do not apply to the new fiscal year.

This is the usual proportion which is granted at the beginning of the year, and the amount asked is necessary not only to cover salaries and other normal costs of government for the first two months of the year,

but also to enable initial advances to outside offices, in order that their operations may be undertaken without delay. There are certain seasonal operations on which the heaviest expenditures occur in the early months of the year, and these have also to be financed. They include agricultural services, surveys and explorations, and sessional expenses of parliament, for which one-twelfth would be inadequate to provide for urgent requirements.

I want immediately to give to the house the undertaking mentioned by the leader of the opposition, namely that it is understood that the passing of this bill will- not prejudice the rights and privileges of members to criticize and discuss any item in the estimates when they come up for discussion from time to time throughout the session. The usual undertaking is hereby given that such rights and privileges will be respected and will not be curtailed or restricted in any way as a result of passing this measure.

My hon. friend has asked for certain things and, in what he has said, has dealt with two or three matters. As the committee will see, the total estimates this year amount to

8702,369,000. This represents an increase of $54,455,000 over the appropriations for the current year 1943-44, which were $647,914,000. The committee will be interested in knowing how that increase was brought about. It is accounted for by additions to various expenditures which relate solely to the war or which result directly or indirectly from war conditions. The items are:

Increase of interest on public debt

and other debt charges $75,344,000

Increase in cost of administration of income tax and excess profits

tax 1,199,000

Increase in post office service expenditures 2,511,000

The first item answers the question asked by the leader of the opposition with regard to the increase in debt charges. This total will be compared with the net increase of this year's estimates over last year's of $54,455,000.

My hon. friend will not expect me this afternoon to go into details of possible economies. I am sure that these matters will be gone into fully when the estimates are being considered. In general, the policy of restricting normal peace-time expenditures to the minimum required for the maintenance of essential services is being continued. It is, however, considered necessary and desirable at this time to make provision for gradually intensifying certain scientific investigations and research as well as preparing the ground

Interim Sup-ply Bill

for the orderly expansion of our commercial and other relations at home and abroad. Preliminary steps along these lines are reflected in relevant appropriations throughout the estimates.

My hon. friend has indicated that there should be economy and paring of expenditures, but at the same time he has indicated that there should not be too many economies, that there are some items in connection with which he thinks increases should be made.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I just wanted common sense applied.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

My hon. friend mentioned old age pensions. Old age pensions of course will be discussed at the appropriate time when whatever measure there is in that respect is brought down. I am not in a position this afternoon to make any announcement with respect to that. Neither am I in a position to accept my hon. friend's invitation to make an announcement with regard to the taxation policy. That is distinctly a budget announcement which will be made in due course.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I was dealing only with the post-war period.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

My hon. friend asked what were the uncontrollable expenditures in these estimates. He brought that up, of course, because he realizes, as we' all do, that there are certain expenditures with respect to which economies, or at least paring, cannot be practised. The larger uncontrollable expenditures are as follows:

Interest on public debt and other

debt charges $307,058,000

European war pensions (1914-18). 37,000,000

Government contribution to unemployment insurance fund 15,000,000

Old age pensions 31,526,000

Other pensions and superannuation. 5,623,000

Care of returned soldiers (1914-18) 15,584,000

Subsidies and special compensation

to provinces 98,876,000

Maritime Freight Rates Act 4,400,000

Sundry other items 3,508,000

In the fiscal year 1938-39 interest on public debt and other debt charges required an expenditure of $133,147,000. The present estimates provide for an increase of over $174,000,000 in this item alone as compared with pre-war expenditures. I think that gives my hon. friend the comparisons he wanted. The first was a comparison of the debt charges of a year ago and those of to-day, and in this item the increase is roughly $75,000,000. The other was a comparison between the debt charges of 1938-39 and those of to-day, where the increase is about $174,000,000.

After deducting the total of uncontrollable items, namely $518,575,000, from the total of these estimates, there remains an amount of $183,794,000 from which reductions are theoretically possible. However, even in this sum are many services, such as those rendered to our primary industries, which it would be unwise to reduce even at this time.

I do not think my hon. friend will expect me to go into the matter of the public accounts committee. He knows and the committee knows that each committee is master of its own procedure. I vmderstand that it is in order, as soon as the committee is set up, for any member of it to give the clerk of the committee a notice which I believe the clerk acts upon and calls the committee together to give consideration to whatever business may be before it. He spoke also of enlarging-I think that was the word he used, or something to that effect-the scope of the committee or the type of reference which shall be made to the committee. In this respect I am not in position to say anything further than that the committee has the widest powers in respect to the examination of public accounts. The policy will be adopted which has been adopted in the past of giving the committee full scope in that respect.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I was not asking for any enlargement of the powers of the committee. I was asking only that the government accept the reference to the committee of such things as I referred to, such as the wartime information board, which was refused last year.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I am not familiar with the circumstances regarding the wartime information board. All I can say is that the committee has the right, subject to the usual rules of the house and to the rights of other committees, to consider any matter which is properly the subject of consideration by the public accounts committee and that those subjects are very broad. I do not think I have anything to add to this statement, unless there are some questions hon. members would like answered at this stage.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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LIB

James Lester Douglas

Liberal

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weybum):

It was very difficult to hear the minister and I did not catch the figure he gave when he was dealing with uncontrollable expenditure. He referred to the interest on the funded debt, and I believe he mentioned $317,000,000.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY BILL
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March 29, 1944