Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a brief statement on the issuance of permits to exservicemen to start business.
On Friday last the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Ferguson) asked me "how much longer returned soldiers are to be refused permits to go into business," apparently suggesting that it was a general policy of the wartime prices and trade board to refuse permits to ex-servicemen. This, of course, is not the case. However, on Tuesday, when he raised the matter again he made it clear that what he had in mind was not so much a general policy but some particular instance, raised in some letter received by an ex-serviceman; so I suggested that he put a question on the order paper. He has not yet disclosed the particular letter to the house. He has, however, disclosed a letter to the press. I have assumed that it w'as the same one and have had the case traced, and am now in a position to make a statement on it without further delay.
Before I tell the house where this particular case stands, it may be useful if I explain the position and policy of the wartime prices board in regard to issuance of licences. Ever since May, 1944, when the whole question was considered by cabinet, the board has in general been issuing licences freely to returned servicemen and others. Flowever, there have been a very few fields where, because of acute shortages of raw material, it would have been pointless to issue licences freely; indeed it wTould have been unfair to existing operators whose supplies had already been drastically reduced, and uneconomical from the point of view of making the best use of available supplies to meet civilian demands. Therefore the board has not been able to grant licences freely to three groups: to industrial sugar users, to users of broom corn, and to certain manufacturers and distributors of textile products. Even here, however, special arrange-
merits have been made to ensure that exservicemen who immediately before enlistment had owned and operated businesses in these restricted fields, should get not onty their licences but also their appropriate quotas of supplies.
The most recent figures, those for the month of September, show clearly what has been happening. In that month the board issued 3,212 licences to new entrants into business; of these, 710 went to ex-servicemen. Only in nine cases was the board unable to grant licences requested by ex-servicemen; in other words, 98-7 per cent of applications received from ex-servicemen were granted. Further, if those nine cases had been filed within the last week or so they would not have been refused because they were all textile cases and the supply situation is now such that the board expects to be able to grant licences freely within a few weeks.
This brings me back to the case raised by the hon. member for Simcoe North. I find that the application, about which he is apparently concerned, reached the board's licencing division in Ottawa only on Friday, the day that he raised the question in the house, and that the board has dealt with this application in the same way as others being received currently in the textile field. A form letter has gone to this applicant requesting that the board be permitted to hold his application for a short time, because they expect to be able to issue a licence to him within the next few weeks.
I think that the hon, member for Simcoe North may have been misled by the phraseology of the letter which he handed to the press, and I would admit that the terms of the latter are not clear. The official in the board's cotton administration who wrote it was not directly concerned with the issuance or refusal of licences; the matter had been referred to him because he was in a position to advise the applicant about tire position of raw materials in the field he was planning to enter. In. this, as in other cases, the board tried to warn the new entrant of possible troubles ahead; usually such advice is much appreciated. However, as I said before", despite the warning issued, the licence application subsequently came forward to Ottawa in the usual way and it will be approved shortly.