I hold in my hand a copy of Hansard. I know there is some argument as to whether Hansard is a proper record, but it indicates that 409n was agreed to and that is the last entry in Hansard for yesterday. That will be found at page 5179. There is no mention of item 409o.
I took my pen and marked a line after "n" and before "o". The discussion was on "n" and not on "o". Two or three times the chairman asked if the item was adopted or not, and finally the committee rose and the item carried but "o" was not called.
Item 409o. Hansard is not the record of the House of Commons. We have it here properly recorded and properly signed, "Item 409, 409a, 409b, 409c, 409d, 409e, 409f, 409g, 409h, 409i, 409j, 409k, 409n and 409o."
With the consent of the committee we will take up 409o and see what can be done about it. This item includes storage batteries, and it is most interesting. I should like to go back to 1935 when Mr. Bennett was Prime Minister and show the committee what the duty on storage batteries was at that time. I am interested in this because in many country places where no power is available the farmers rely upon storage batteries for a great many things and they are a little handicapped in their purchases. I will tell the committee what handicaps the rural class of this country.
In 1935 there was a distinction between electric and galvanic batteries, the ordinary storage battery. A change is now being made in the designation of the item. Previously the tariff was most complicated. For electric and galvanic batteries the British preferential tariff was 15 per cent; the most favoured nation, 25 per cent; intermediate, 25 per cent and general, 27i per cent. Listen to this description of "battery" that is given. The term used was not general, it was specific and it made the thing most complicated. Listen to this:
Batteries, storage electric, composed of plates measuring not less than 11 inches 'by 14 inches
and not less than three-quarters of an inch in thickness, and complete parts thereof: free; 25; 25; 27|.
The rates given are for the British preferential, most favoured nation, intermediate and general. I wonder if that description was put there to protect the manufacturers of storage batteries. All other electric and galvanic batteries were 15, 25, 25 and 27J. There was a distinction made between the two kinds of batteries. That was the tariff that existed in 1935 and it continued until 1940, but now it is being changed. We now have storage batteries under item 409o, which reads:
Equipment for generating electric power for farm purposes only, viz: engine, gas tank, generator, storage battery, and switchboard or panel; and complete parts of the foregoing: British preferential tariff, free; intermediate tariff, free; general tariff, free.
The most favoured nation tariff has disappeared. The explanatory note does not mention what the tariff is now, but according to the information I have it is free, 25, 25 and 27 J. The description here is most vague. All the items are put together and it is most difficult to find out what we want in the tariff. We have to refer to a book that is published outside of our government, the "Canadian Almanac" which lists all the tariff items alphabetically. I suppose the Department of Finance and the Department of National Revenue maintain their own alphabetical indexes, but the members of parliament are not provided with a copy, and when they want information about the tariff they have to go to the excellent compilation made by the "Canadian Almanac". That means, strangely enough, that if we want information on the tariff we have to rely on publications outside of the government unless we wish to go through a whole lot of work. That is one point.
What will be the effect of this reduction on imports? Before the war it was easy for anyone to send $100 or $500 to the United States, or to England or anywhere else, to obtain storage batteries. Tt is not possible to do that now except with the authorization of the foreign exchange control board. I am all for a reduction in the tariff on this item, but because of the autocracy of the foreign exchange control board it is impossible for the farmers to get any batteries from the United States. They cannot take advantage of this tariff reduction to secure what they need. I remember that a long time ago a committee of this house sat and considered the duties on agricultural implements and brought in a report recommending a decrease in duties, but nothing was done about that unit! now; and now, when it is done, it is to no purpose. That is
my complaint. So long as the farmers are handicapped in getting what they need, by the regulations of the foreign exchange control board, it is impossible for them to take advantage of this reduction in the tariff. The same thing applies to exports. It is impossible to export because of the export restrictions. What is the use of the export permit branch of the Department of Trade and Commerce? They cannot do anything. They are under the control of the controllers of the Department of Munitions and Supply and under the wartime prices and trade board. That is the position, and it means that traders are tied up.
Some storage batteries are manufactured in Canada, but it is essential that our farmers have access to an open market in the United States to buy their batteries there because they are not well served by the firms in Toronto, who always serve wholesalers before serving the small dealers in country places. I had to bother the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance a number of times over numerous and justified complaints with respect to the radio service in Temiscouata county. We have a very good service there under an excellent man, but it is impossible for him to get the materials he requires from the manufacturer or from the wholesaler. That is another reason why the matter should be considered in connection with this tariff item which we are now considering. The perfect radio service of Temiscouata should have the opportunity to order as many storage batteries as they need to supply the farmers of my district without going to the manufacturers in Toronto, who do not give them the service to which they are entitled. It is as clear as crystal. The tariff item itself is good, and I do not oppose it. Once more I say that I am opposing the restrictions imposed by the Department of Finance through the foreign exchange control board, which make these tariff provisions perfectly useless.
I have the highest regard for the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who I believe is a great collaborator with the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Finance should not have ail this power in his hands through the various organizations which are under his control. How is it that the British preferential tariff has been left for so long at fifteen per cent on electric and galvanic batteries? It was impossible to secure batteries f-om the United Kingdom and yet this government is the one that is preaching patriotism. They say their heart is with Great Britain, but when it comes down to brass tacks there has been a fifteen per cent tariff for so long on British goods. I have done some research but
I did not have the time to examine the whole record between 1940 and 1944. I realize, however, that it waa only after a long time that the tariff was changed.
I might give the names of some of the Toronto firms which are most unsatisfactory, and one gentleman who knows all about it is precisely the hon. member for St. Antoine-Westmount, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, with whom I have dealt regarding these matters. It is impossible to get any satisfaction from these Toronto firms. When one of my constituents sent a Toronto firm an accepted cheque it was returned and the firm did not fill the order. The parliamentary assistant then got in touch with the firm in Toronto, through one of the controllers, and notified them that in all fairness they should serve my constituents in a better way. But what did they get? They got what they wanted drop by drop, only a very small quantity at a time. During all that time the farmers were suffering on account of the stupidity of these people. I am against manufacturers having the power to control the exports of any other manufacturer, or to control the imports of any other manufacturer. So long as the various organizations under the department of finance are not submitted to the control of parliament, we shall get nowhere.
There is another thing I want to say. I am greatly concerned about the way in which tariffs are made. I go back to April 6, 1936, when I made this motion in the house. I quote from Hansard of April 6, 1936, page 1815:
Mr. Pouliot moved for a copy of the last draft of the Canadian American agreement as it was on October 23, 1935.
Mr. Mackenzie King: I am not aware that there is a draft of any Canada-United States agreement dated October 23. 1935. If there is. I think it would be a privileged document and as such could not properly be brought down.
Mr. Bennett: It has been distinctly stated
that there was no such draft.
Mr. Pouliot: Then nothing was done by the previous administration in that connection.
My point was not so much that the Bennett government, through Mr. Herridge's negotiations with the United States government, had done nothing, but rather that this government took office on October 21, 1935, and, the Canada-United States trade agreement was entered into at Washington three weeks after, on November 15. [DOT] What wizards! Is it possible for any man on earth to make a treaty in three weeks when nothing has been done before? There was no agreement as to any item of the tariff at the time. Now, sir,
they are precisely the people who boss the whole show, and it is impossible to criticize them and they are above all of us.
My conclusion is this. The controllers, the wartime prices and trade board, the foreign exchange control board-if these are to subsist any longer, to the detriment of the Canadian people, they should be told definitely by the Minister of Finance that the needs of the Canadian people should be looked after, and merely because a man lives in the country he should not be deprived of the advantages which a man who lives in the city has. Every Canadian citizen has the right to the same facilities and the same comfort, but until now, through the stupidity and greed of the manufacturers of batteries in the cities of Toronto and Montreal, the Canadian farmer has been deprived of storage batteries. Many a time when he asked for a battery he could not get it because it was easier to fill larger orders.
It is a simple matter for the minister to avoid a lot of useless correspondence by giving formal orders, in the first place, to the wartime prices and trade board, and in the second place to the foreign exchange control board, to impose no restriction on the import of such goods. He should also notify the Canadian manufacturers that if they do not serve the country people as they deserve to be served, the foreign exchange control board will allow the Canadian merchants who sell batteries in rural districts to buy all they need from the United States, and give them the right to send money to the United States to buy those batteries.
It is not mjr desire to handicap the Canadian manufacturer; on the other hand, if the Canadian manufacturer is not serving the Canadian people it is the duty of the government to redress that wrong; and the government must be obeyed, too. It is very easy for them to do that.
Besides that, the Minister of Munitions and Supply should not miss an opportunity to tell the chief of controls-successor to one who was connected for a long time with Barclay's bank and is now one of the numerous heads of the Tory party, namely Harry Borden:- that he should do nothing to give privileges to the big dealers in the cities at the expense of the smaller dealers in rural communities. It is easy to do that. If the respective controllers-Donald Gordon, of the wartime prices and trade board, or L. Rasminsky, of the exchange control board, and the rest- do not obey the minister, out they go; the minister can fire them at any time, because, I assume, they are there "during pleasure"
I use the words "during pleasure" because that is the term which is used most of the time in connection with appointments, but it should be interpreted as meaning "during good service". So long as the storage battery man is dealt with in that manner, to serve the few instead of the many, the system cannot work at all, and these organizations should be condemned severely and bitterly. I am sure that all hon. members who represent rural communities agree with me in this matter. I hope they will say so to the minis
ter, and that there will be a change in the near future.
I have been most patient, and to show my good will and my earnestness I will send the whole file with regard to electric storage batteries to the Minister of Finance. I am sorry he does not read French, but most of the letters are written in English and he can learn what the trouble with these people is. The kind of thing I have mentioned will be found, I am sure, in all rural communities from coast to coast.
It is time to recognize the farmer, to give him the same rights as the man who lives in cities. I have nothing to hide in my files; they are an open book; and the minister will see that an injustice has been done to the country people, and has been repeated. I do not ask him to read all the contents of the file; he can hand it to one of his secretaries to report to him on the matter; but I should like him to inform himself of the facts and then act promptly.
Mr. IL8LEY: Mr. Chairman, with regard to imports from United States of such articles as batteries, the foreign exchange board never denies to importers the funds-