Mr. J. R. KIRK (Antigonish-Guysborough):
First of all, I should like to join those speakers who have preceded me in this debate, in offering my congratulations to Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) on the excellent presentation of his first budget, and on the message of good cheer and hope which it contained.
The wide acclaim being accorded to the minister is indeed well deserved; and the measure of his worth is indicated by the generous manner in which he himself bestowed upon his predecessor in office much of the credit for such an inspiring budget.
An intelligent examination of the sound economic and financial status of this nation at the present time is, I submit, a remarkable tribute to the manner in which the finances of Canada were handled during the war-a period which was certainly the most anxious in our history. So, at this point, Mr. Speaker, I pay my humble tribute to the man who worked hard and long, who gave his efforts and ability unstintingly to the service of his country with such superb success as has made this budget possible, the former minister of finance (Mr. Ilsley). In extending my congratulations to a minister of the crown, it is with added pleasure that I do so, in view of the fact that he is a native of my own province.
In an effort to contribute to this debate, Mr. Speaker, I propose to invite the attention of the house to matters which are full of importance to the every-day life of many thousands of Canadians, and particularly to the section of the country which I have the honour to represent.
Two of Canada's greatest primary industries, fishing and agriculture, form a major means of livelihood to which the people of Nova Scotia daily devote their lives and efforts. I do not think that I am being repetitious, and certainly I disclaim any platitude, in stating that the farmers and fishermen of Canada must at all times be regarded as the backbone of this country. They know no fixed hours; they observe no particular holidays. Yet, Mr. Speaker, when one lives with them and among them, as I do, the conclusion is inevitable that here indeed is Canada; here are the men and women who are daily actually making the greatness of this nation. And so I state that
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any matters which affect the daily lives of such people must be regarded with respect and assumed to be of importance by the government and by this house.
All hon. members know of our individual efforts with various government departments on behalf of our constituents, and it is true, we can often accomplish much good without inviting the attention of the whole house to the work in hand. However, what I have to say today has not, I think, been mentioned by other speakers, and I shall therefore take a few moments to place some suggestions before the house on behalf of that part of Canada usually referred to as "the maritimes".
To maritimers, it was indeed a pleasure to hear the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MaoNicol) address this house, one week ago today, in the interests of the maritime provinces. Representing as he does not only a riding in central Canada but a riding in one of our most highly industrialized centres, the hon. gentleman's remarks were particularly gratifying and encouraging.
Few there are in Canada today who can vie with the hon. member for Davenport in personal knowledge of the outlying districts of our vast country. The interest he has shown in the problems confronting each section of Canada displays the wide viewpoint of a true Canadian-one which all Canadians might well strive to attain; and his spirit of unity and tolerance should be extolled and emulated if Canada is to find herself a truly great and united nation.
It is inspiring to those living in the maritime provinces to know that we have such a good friend in central Canada as is the hon. member for Davenport, and I am proud to pay this tribute to him.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in the fisheries industry, it must be admitted that much important progress has been made during the past few years. We are gradually approaching a point where all people directly concerned with this industry are cognizant of the necessity for scientific approach to it, whereby we may compete successfully with those countries which for many years past have been miles ahead of Canada in fisheries policies.
The present Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Bridges) is indeed to be congratulated on the fine work he is doing in the development of Canada's fisheries. I was more than pleased to learn of the expansion to be made in the department's field service. The establishing of fisheries schools and the training of young veterans in the scientific aspects of the industry will, I am sure, be most beneficial in promoting the welfare of our fisheries and our fishermen. However, in spite of whatever
progress may have been made and which is likely to be made in government policy in this sphere, I think that we must at all times bear in mind that it is the welfare of the fisherman himself which must be the nucleus of any policy for our fisheries. And no matter how many national or international conferences may be held with reference to our fisheries, or how vigorously the scientific aspect of the fisheries may be pursued, we must at all times have the general well-being of the fisherman himself as a paramount consideration. This is a reason for my having mentioned at the outset that matters which may appear to be unimportant in comparison to other major items in the budget are nevertheless of the greatest importance to the daily lives of our people. This is a function of parliament which I suggest must be borne in mind constantly by each government department and by the house as a whole.
The coast line in the counties of Antigonish and Guysborough is, as is well known, very rugged, and this makes the work of our fishermen more difficult and dangerous than it is in most other places. During the fishing season it is essential that the fishermen take advantage of every possible hour in order to secure as large a catch as possible. In the present circumstances there are days lost unnecessarily all during the season because it is not possible for the fishermen to go out in their boats. I realize that during the war years it was not practicable for the government to undertake work to overcome these handicaps. However, I have no hesitation in stating now that any post-war undertaking of the government must recognize and implement much needed and overdue construction work in this respect. I strongly urge the planning and early construction of suitable wharves and breakwaters. True, the fishermen of years ago did not have such facilities; but surely, Mr. Speaker, the fishermen of today are entitled to share in the progress of our civilization. However, sir, I have to state that rather than enjoying the fruits of such progress, our fishermen, in comparison to their fellow workers in the industrial areas, seem to have been forgotten, and the available results of our modem advancement have been denied to them. The construction of good wharves and the erection of adequate breakwaters is, I insist, an immediate necessity in many parts of the maritimes, and I trust that the representations which are being made in this respect will * bring good results. This is not a work which requires any great outlay of money, but it is one which for many years to come will react to the benefit of this great and essential industry.
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In this connection I also urge the immediate necessity for a complete change in dredging operations in the maritimes. The present position is entirely unsatisfactory, and in my opinion it can be improved immensely. I recommend the acquisition by the government of a sufficient number of large and small dredges to do the work which at present remains undone because the dredges now in use are ineffective, or because of a lack of dredging equipment. The unfortunate result of the present position is that men are actually prevented from accomplishing their work, or are severely handicapped in their efforts to do it. This is one suggestion which would solve some of the existing difficulties, and the expenditure involved would be a wise and beneficial investment for the government to make.
In another matter of practical help for our fishermen, the policy of other countries has been to erect small cold storage and freezing plants at many convenient points. Such plants have the twofold effect of preserving the fish catch and of maintaining a sure supply of bait. The lack of bait prevents fishing activities on those days when no bait is available. The erection of such small plants as I mention would solve this problem. In those few places where there are such plants, they have been highly successful. In advocating such a policy, I do so with the knowledge that the increased return enjoyed has more than justified the expenditure involved. I say that we have long since passed the stage when such facilities are regarded as extravagant. They are now actually a necessity.
In advocating such material advantages for the fishermen, I am not unmindful of the necessity for our concern with his more personal welfare. I need do no more, I am sure, than to mention the grave hazards faced by the fishermen day by day. We have, it is true, tried to minimize these to some extent, However, I know of places where the hazards can be greatly lessened, and to this end I urge the adoption of some suggestions which I shall make-suggestions which, I may say, are the direct result of representations made to me . by the fishermen themselves.
I suggest that a more thorough system of bell buoys and whistle buoys would be highly desirable as a measure of increased safety for small-boat fishermen. I am aware that there are objections to this measure because of the possibility of confusion. However, I suggest that at many points of danger which exist at present, no confusion whatever would result. Rather would there be, I maintain, a great deal of security which in too many instances
is now absent. The cost of installing such safety measures is trifling; the benefits would be great. I know that it is not a lack of a sense of responsibility which has prevented the adoption of such measures, but I would urge the government to undertake this very simple and inexpensive work as soon as possible.
I wish to mention another item respecting aids to fishermen which has already been emphasized in this house, notably by the hon. member for Queens-Lunenburg (Mr. Winters). As I have stated, I wish to avoid repetition and so I shall content myself with voicing my support and endorsement of the proposal. I refer to the maintenance of an adequate coast guard patrol. Every year in the maritime provinces we are forcefully, and all too often sadly, reminded of the necessity of an adequate coast guard. In common with other hon. members from the maritimes and British Columbia, I look forward to early action on this proposal.
In the other great primary industry of agriculture I welcome the progressive leadership given to the industry by the right hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner). Of course most of our farms in the maritimes are not comparable in size with those in central and western Canada, but we maritimers are fully aware of their vital necessity in our lives. Maritime farmers have done, and are continuing to do, a really splendid job, and are producing ever-increasing quantities of farm products. In our agricultural policy wre must continue to pursue the programme which has been given such successful impetus and direction during the past few years. Not only must we expect full and good production from our farmers, but we must also assure to the farmer a just and reasonable return from his difficult and highly important work. While maritime farmers have increased their production, especially during the war years, very often under severe difficulties, the unfortunate fact remains that they could be producing still more. Again I shall try to avoid repetition by saying briefly, and as strongly as I can, that the reclaiming of the marsh lands of the maritimes is an urgent, desirable and highly advantageous undertaking.
Perhaps I cannot do better than repeat the remarks of the Minister of Agriculture as made to this house on May 30, 1946, at page 2013 of Hansard:
We are looking for land upon which to settle men coming back from overseas, upon which to settle persons who are coming from the overpopulated areas in other parts of the world, and upon which to settle the sons and daughters of our farmers in different parts of Canada who
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young men and women who were in various branches of the services, need a great measure of encouragement in order to devote their best efforts, their intelligence and their ambition to the building of this great nation. I think we may take pride in the fact that our country's present economic status, and our expectation for the future in the light of Liberal government policies, will provide the encouragement which I mention as being needed. Indeed, the same encouragement is there for those of us of an older generation to help and guide the younger Canadians in their work.
And so, Mr. Speaker, I say that we have every reason, in the light of this year's budget, to look forward to the future greatness of Canada with full faith and complete confidence.
Mr. JOHN T. HACKETT (Stanstead): "We have just ended a year in which our accounts show a surplus-a surplus larger than the accumulated total of all the previous surpluses in our history. Today we see a Canada enjoying a degree of prosperity never exceeded in living memory. We look forward to a year of high production and incomes. . . . Our available manpower is almost fully employed, with some surpluses in special areas and trades and equally real shortages in others. Demand continues to outrun supply in many lines of business. Our exports remain at high levels, limited in most cases only by our own ability to supply. Imports are pouring into the country from the south in large volume, without appearing to divert much demand from our own production. Private business is proceeding to expand, repair and improve its capital on a scale so large that its plans will be severely limited by scarcity of materials, equipment and labour. Some increases in inventories are occurring but apparently not on a large scale, presumably because the pressure of demand in most cases is so excessive that neither producers nor dealers can keep ahead of it. Consumer purchasing continues to expand and there is as yet little sign in Canada of any widespread unwillingness or inability on the part of consumers to buy what is being offered to them."
Mr. Speaker, these are bold and ringing words, but they are not mine. They are the words of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott).
Are they true? I assume that they are; I ike to believe that they are. But should it nappen that any of the legislation embodied in what we have been pleased to call the omnibus bill be challenged before the courts; should it come about that the right of parliament. to invade the provincial field of legisla-
tion be challenged; should someone question the right of the executive to take unto itself all the prerogatives of parliament-yea, should some citizen deny the power of parliament to surpress the elementary rights of citizenship; should someone say that those rights which have been arrogated to itself by parliament, upon the basis of a national emergency, are not properly taken because no national emergency exists, then the first witness to be summonsed to dispel the fiction and to show up the falseness of the so-called national emergency would be the hon. gentleman who has spoken so truthfully and so well of his country.
The Minister of Finance tells us that employment is complete, that trade is unrivalled, that earnings are greater than ever; that we are a happy, a prosperous and a vigorous people going forward to our destiny. And those statements are made by a responsible minister after a colleague, only a few short weeks before, had said that there exists a national emergency which justifies the suppression of the constitution of this land!
I mention this, not with any desire to be disagreeable to the minister-no. I mention it so that the fiction-I was going to say the farce-of this national emergency might show its painted face and its withered limbs once again to the scorn of right-thinking people in this dominion.
And what of the budget itself? I will not attempt to criticize it in detail. Had the minister consulted me, or had he been interested in what some at least on this side of the house think, he would have done away with the excess profits tax. I think, in the first place, that "excess profits" in this sense is a gross misnomer; the person who devised that name was a master of the art of propaganda. There is something in this unseemly combination of words that savours of selfishness, something that savours of impropriety which should not be applied to the tax. This terminology should be banished from the sober and accurate language of a taxing statute.
But I go further and say I believe that the treasury itself would have been richer at the end of the taxing period had this excess profits tax been eliminated immediately. Because the minister knows, as do others who have some acquaintance with business, that it is only natural that he who has a savoury bit in prospect would wait until his participation in the benefits therefrom would be greater than if taken under the excess profits tax legislation. I submit that even if such action were contemplated, the statement should not have been made that the tax was to be abolished. I do think there are some things which either
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should be done or should be kept behind the walls of that vast and ever-changing reservoir of government policy.
My friends to the left probably will not share this sentiment: I am not of those who are profoundly impressed by the idea of planning. I like to plan for myself, and I am quite willing that my neighbour plan for himself, but the difficulty comes when we begin to plan for others who do not wish to be planned for. I am brought to this observation by the fact that after the war we entered upon a brave new era, and the minister of finance at that time-the Minister of Finance of today will correct me if I am wrong; I looked for the text but could not find it-went before a dominion-provincial conference here in Ottawa and outlined the government's great new plan. It was a plan to tax ourselves roundly during periods of prosperity and build up a treasure _ house into which we might delve in periods of depression, when taxes would be lowered and public works started that the people might have bread. I thought to myself as I listened to the budget speech how quickly plans vanish. My hon. friend and his party may have wished to continue in the plan that they outlined, but there is a master who has to be obeyed, however pious the wish that runs contrariwise. The electorate insisted on reduction in taxation, and reduction in taxation was made. Plans for the rainy day, plans for high taxes during a period of prosperity-and this is a period of unrivalled prosperity-plans for bad times and public w'orks then to be undertaken- all these plans went into the receptacle which in the end receives all plans, the ash can.
Now about housing. I have heard my friend to the left tell the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) that his plans had failed, and I heard the minister the other day himself speak of one of his measures-I think it was Housing Enterprises Limited, but I am always uncertain, Mr. Speaker, when I approach these multiple activities of government; when I begin to talk about them. I feel that the night is dark and I am very far from home. But his plans, like the plan about which I spoke a moment ago, found their way one by one into the same receptacle. Until we have broken this stiffnecked Canadian people of its waywardness, of its desire to do things for itself in its own way, we are not going to fasten the collar of bureaucracy upon them. They are going to do things in their own way, and when it is attempted to force other ways of doing it upon them, those other plans will invariably fail. So I listened the other day 83166-208J
to the minister telling the story of the abandonment of that particular plan, just as he abandoned making aeroplanes and abandoned the monopoly of the air, and just as other plans must shortly be abandoned.
But I want to make this suggestion to the ministry, ere it is bereft of all its powers of doing something for the little brother, the people. It is unfortunate that all1 the housing has been done in the cities, that all the building has been done there. Oh, I know some gentleman is going to say that this act and that act provides for housing in the country, but the houses that have been built in the country, whether for the veteran or for somebody else, are so negligible in number that we can forget them right away. We have seen the already substantial industrial development of our own country greatly increased by the exigencies of war. We have added to our plant capacity. We had to make munitions of every type, and we took into this great and new plant a new army of workers. We took in the mothers and the wives and the daughters of the Canadian people to participate in the great work of urgency; they came from the land, from the villages, from the parishes into the industrial centres. This is not one of the minor tragedies of the war. There they are going to stay, and there the government has attempted to build houses for them. If the government had consulted me I would have suggested to them that they make a great effort and offer some enticement to these brave people who had come from the land into the cities, to summons them to go back home, back to the soil. I would have attempted to entice them back by building for them good, warm and attractive houses near the source of all that is rich and good in any country- the mother earth. The government has overlooked that opportunity.
I come to another point that I would like to have heard the minister deal with more fully and more effectively. I need not assure the minister that I do not hold myself out as a person of deep learning in economics, but I do know that Canada is one of the great trading nations. This country in terms of population is small, almost insignificant; yet it ranks third or possibly fourth among the great trading nations of the world. This country exports somewhere between 35 and 40 per cent of its production. What portion of it is manufactured? I do not exactly know, but if you assume that newsprint is manufactured goods, if you assume that cheese, butter and bacon are manufactured goods, I make bold to suggest that at least half our exports are manufactured goods. We can live as we are living now if
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we can find markets, external markets, foreign markets for these goods. Where are we to find these markets? In the past always, I may say, we have bought more from the United States than we have sold to that country. To pay our debt to the United States we have relied upon the proceeds of our sales to other countries, which we have converted from pounds-sterling or other currency into dollars which the United States have accepted in settlement of our accounts. Today, outside of the United States, there are no foreign markets. There are markets to which we are shipping goods, but we are shipping goods which are paid for how? By credits that we have established. They are paid for by ourselves.
I should have been very happy if the minister had brought to bear upon that problem some of his experience and some of the information which association brings to him, because we all know that this condition cannot persist. It must come to an end, and shortly, unless there be a change. I should have liked the minister to deal with this topic, because it seems to me it is the most important question which confronts us as a people today; it is all important to our economic survival. Unless we can find markets for our manufactured products, for the products of our farms, of our forests and of our fisheries; unless we can find markets which can give us in exchange for our goods something which we can use in the United States to settle for our excess purchases there-oh, I am not one of those who thinks the world will come to an end if we have hard times-'there will be a drop in our standard of living, there will be unrest, discomfort and suffering among our people. Our people will be able to survive only if they go back where most of them came from, to the land, and any government which neglects that fundamental truth is not alert to the great possibilities and dangers which confront our people.
I should have been glad had the minister been a little more explicit, a little more careful when he talked of our reserves of United States dollars. To one who read his speech casually, to one who listened to it even with great attention, as it was my privilege to do -and possibly if too many of my party friends were not listening, I may say with a wee bit of pride for he comes from a part of Canada that is dear to my heart, he was not sufficiently explicit. I wish he had told us exactly how rapidly our reserves of United States dollars are disappearing; for we should then have been in a much better position to appreciate our plight.
I am going to ask the minister to do several things, but one thing that I want him to do, and I believe he will do it, is to tell the house exactly what inroads we made upon our United States reserves last year, and what so far this year. I understand that up to July 5, 1946, we were accumulating rather rapidly, and that after that we not only lost what we had accumulated but made heavy inroads into our reserves; that in fact we were in deficit something over $600 million. If I am wrong, so much the better; but if it be true, we should know it; we should know the full unvarnished truth whatever be the cause.
There is another matter-and this is one that is somewhat difficult to talk about because it affects our hearts as well as our heads and to many of us it affects the heart first; we are told that Mr. Towers, the governor of the Bank of Canada, is in England. We know that in the annual report of the Bank of Canada Mr. Towers has sounded a note of warning. We know that in his report on the foreign exchange control board he has sounded another note. "The testing period lies ahead." he says. He points out in guarded language, but in language that is ominous nevertheless, that there must be a change or Canada will find herself in a most difficult situation. Most people would like to know what the facts are. In this house in the last few months we have heard much about charity. In the last few days we have heard much about justice. They are great virtues. But there is one that underlies them all, and that is truth. We are entitled to the truth in this house, the whole truth, and I implore the minister to take the house into his confidence.
Subtopic: DEBATE ON ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE