March 10, 1948

PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

They did not put embargoes on exports and imports.

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Subtopic:   EXCISE TAX ACT AMENDMENT
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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

I would suggest to my hon. friends, if they want the general public to take their new trade policy at par value they

had better change their attitude in regard to brushing aside in such a carefree fashion the Geneva trade agreements and the value which those agreements will ultimately be to Canada. I suggest in all sincerity to my hon. friends, let us stop wasting the time of the house-[DOT]

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Hear, hear.

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PC
LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

Forget about the smoke screen of constitutionality and let us get down to a study of the actual terms of this measure.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

I was wondering whether the hon. member could direct our attention to the provision, if any, in the Geneva trade agreements which requires that the Minister of Finance should impose excise taxes on Canadian-made commodities being sold to Canadian consumers and announce these taxes over the radio before parliament is in session, and impose the taxes before parliament has even had a look at them.

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

In response to my hon. friend all I can say is this, that if any hon. member, knowing all of the facts back in September and October last when the Geneva trade agreements were in their final stages, would have been prepared to risk the consummation of these long-term agreements, well, I cannot agree with his point of view.

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CCF

Thomas John Bentley

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BENTLEY:

Mr. Chairman, I do not suppose that members on this side will condemn me if I do not attempt to deal with what the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Cleaver) has said. In my opinion it is not worth discussing.

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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

Would the hon. member permit me to ask a question arising out of what the member for Halton has said?

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CCF

Thomas John Bentley

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BENTLEY:

I would not mind if it did not provoke another speech from the hon. member for Halton. We are in committee and the leader of the opposition can put his question to the hon. member when I have finished in about eight or nine minutes' time. I dislike to be discourteous, but I am afraid of what he might provoke. It has been reiterated that there is no tax yet imposed. Mr. Chairman, this reiteration is just plain nonsense to ordinary people like myself. On the purchase of any of the articles listed in this resolution, twenty-five cents out of every dollar spent leaves the buyer's pocket; so far as he is concerned it is gone, and in most cases he will never get it back again, even if this measure were defeated.

Excise Tax Act Amendment

I am not going to do as some hon. members have done. I shall not assail the minister personally because of what is called his facetiousness. I am rather glad he is not a sour-puss, that he is genial in his replies.

I hope he does not wisecrack too much and make light of the matter, but certainly he is better the way he is. Neither would I ask for the minister's resignation. I would prefer to see sufficient members stay in the house on this side, without pairing and absenteeism, so as to assist some day in defeating the whole government over there and giving the people an opportunity to say what they want to have done. I have laid no charges against any party on this side. I simply express a personal wish and say what I should like to have happen, that is, the defeat of the government, in whom I have no confidence.

However, the aspect with which I wish to deal is somewhat different, and that is the effect of this measure upon the people. In my opinion it is an unfair system of rationing, whether it is designed for that purpose or not. On page 1543 of Hansard the minister is reported as having said that the particular articles which are included in this list are not, in their essence, necessities of life.

I say a statement of that kind is an indication of the utter callousness of the government. Electric toasters, refrigerators and gas refrigerators are a great necessity in a great many apartments occupied by lower income receivers in our Canadian towns and cities. Curling irons and tongs are a necessity to women who are unable to afford the advantages of the beauty parlour but who, nevertheless, are just as anxious, and have just as much right, to be neat and attractive as their more fortunate sisters. Combs and mirrors are just as necessary to poor people as to anyone else.

Has a government any moral right to apply a tax that rations the lower income groups out of the right to have, shall we say, waffles, if they like waffles, by withholding from them waffle irons?

The minister expressed regret that he had received no commendation for the abolition of the tax. that is the consumption and sales tax, on electricity and gas used in homes.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

And on sugar.

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CCF

Thomas John Bentley

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BENTLEY:

After all, while that would gratify those who are equipped with all these appliances, or maybe the people who buy these appliances in spite of the excise impost, yet many of the people I have mentioned will receive no advantage if they are not able to buy these articles and use them.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

We all eat sugar though.

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CCF

Thomas John Bentley

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BENTLEY:

I will come to that. The abolition of the excise tax of one cent a pound on sugar is acceptable, but I submit that it can hardly be called significant enough to cancel out the new excise impositions. I repeat what has been said so many times, that this tax is unjust and unnecessary and has been applied without proper authority. It makes the poor poorer and hurts the middle-income group. It is very likely that some of the industries engaged in the manufacture of some of the articles listed here will have a considerable amount of unemployment if this tax goes into effect on all the articles mentioned.

On the constitutionality of it, much has been said by learned gentlemen on this side.

I am not going to try to deal with that. I do not believe it is constitutional to tax over the radio but, as I say, I am not going to argue that. Certainly, however, the argument that has been put forward over here as to the constitutionality of the measure and the imposition of this tax, which is certainly a tax that is being collected, has not yet been effectively answered by the other side of the house, which is responsible for it, and I think the committee is entitled to a reply in that regard so that we can see what the actual constitutional position is from two different points of view.

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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

Early in his remarks the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Cleaver) referred to something I am represented as having said in the house on December 19. Would the hon. member give me the reference?

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

I read a statement which the leader of the opposition made, as reported at page 535 of Hansard, at the foot of the page:

Mr. Bracken: Mr. Speaker, we shall have

no objection to the Minister of Finance giving us all the information he can tonight, but we would be opposed to attempting to make any progress in discussion.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I should like to add to what has been said by the hon. member for Swift Current (Mr. Bentley). First of all, I wish to endorse all that has been said on this side of the house, especially in the debate last night, against the constitutionality of this procedure. If anyone will read the circular sent out under date of November 18 to all customs and excise collectors, being series D, T.C. 242, No. 898-C, he will see that it instructs all collectors that from that day on they are to begin collecting this tax, and it has been collected every day since that time. That should dispel further argument as to whether the tax is collected or not. I have never read, in the history of any democratic country, of such a procedure having been taken to tax the people

Excise Tax Act Amendment

of a country, as was done by the minister in his broadcast over the air that night, when [DOT]parliament was not in session. Added to that, there was some discussion this afternoon about the emergency and how it came into being. That emergency was pointed out in the previous session by several speakers of this party before that session came to an end. I wish to refer to something that happened last fall, in the months prior to November 18, in connection with the foreign exchange control board.

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

I am going to ask you, Mr. Chairman, to rule on the point of order. I was not allowed to discuss foreign exchange control.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

This is under foreign exchange control.

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

We are not discussing foreign exchange control.

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March 10, 1948