April 27, 1950

LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works):

Only a moment ago I received a note from my office stating that this question was to be asked by the hon. member. I understand that the department is preparing an answer. However, I hope that the hon. member will wait until the Secretary of State is here, so that he may answer.

Topic:   PRINTING BUREAU EMPLOYEES
Subtopic:   OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAR BEFORE PRINTING COMMITTEE
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SHIPMENTS TO GERMANY

METHOD OF PAYMENT


On the orders of the day:


CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

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

Mr. Alistair Stewart (Winnipeg North):

should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture how we are being paid for the butter we are sending to Germany. Are we being paid in dollars or in kind?

Topic:   SHIPMENTS TO GERMANY
Subtopic:   METHOD OF PAYMENT
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture):

It is being paid for in dollars.

Topic:   SHIPMENTS TO GERMANY
Subtopic:   METHOD OF PAYMENT
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THE BUDGET

ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE


The house resumed, from Wednesday, April 26, consideration of the motion of Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance) that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the house to go into committee of ways and means, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood), and the amendment to the amendment of Mr. Coldwell.


PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Donald M. Fleming (Eglinton):

Mr. Speaker, a Canadian Press dispatch appearing in yesterday's newspapers drew attention to the fact that this budget debate has been characterized by speeches which, with few exceptions, have been related to the budget and have not strayed far afield. In the modest contribution I hope to make to this

The Budget-Mr. Fleming debate this afternoon I also propose to confine my remarks to the budget and matters related directly thereto.

Those who heard the budget delivered in this house by the minister several weeks ago must have found it impossible to refrain from contrasting the speech, its proposals, and the manner of its delivery with the efforts of the same minister one year ago. Gone on this occasion was the debonair manner, the air of confidence, which characterized the speech and manner of the minister in 1949. This was a gloomy, sober occasion in 1950. The speech was gloomy; the manner of delivery was indeed sober; and the final paragraph in which, before concluding, the minister sought to arouse a faint cheer, was in striking contrast to the manner with which he approached his task. In 1949 the minister's mood was to give anything that was asked. The 1950 mood was to refuse everything. Indeed, the only resemblance between the Minister of Finance in 1949 and the Minister of Finance in 1950 was the fact that, as I read in the press, he wore the same suit on both occasions.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

Another economy measure.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

How the Minister of Finance reconciles the note struck in his budget speech with the vaunted optimism, more accurately described as flights of fancy, in which the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) is wont to indulge with enthusiasm generated for political occasions, yet remains to be determined.

The Minister of Finance has grown up in a political school which has attached great importance to timing. As a matter of fact, following his budget speech in 1949 he permitted himself to say something on this subject for the guidance of future generations. A Canadian Press dispatch appearing in the newspapers of March 24, 1949, pictures the scene following the delivery of the give-away election budget. It pictures the Minister of Finance making his triumphant withdrawal from the chamber and his triumphant entry into the government lobby. It speaks about the members gathering around him, cheering, shaking his hand one after the other, Mr. King among them. Then the report goes on:

Mr. Abbott grinned1, took off the big brown-rimmed glasses and rocked from foot to foot on his heels, as he does.

He looked across the faces at the retired Prime Minister and said, "As Mr. King says, boys, the timing of what you do can be just as important as the thing you're doing."

The lesson in timing in 1949 will not have been lost on those members of this house who owe their presence here to the donations made for their benefit by the Minister

of Finance on that occasion; but this year the Canadian taxpayer has looked in vain for the same delicate sense of timing that characterized the speech of the minister one year ago.

The Canadian taxpayer, who is a pretty sound individual, will be applying a little of his common sense to this doctrine of timing. He will not have forgotten, of course, that 1949 was the election year, and the minister was prepared to "shoot the works", as he did. In 1950 we find the cupboard bare, because this is not an election year. In this budget speech the Minister of Finance has gone out of his way to make it abundantly clear to the Canadian taxpayer of 1950, 1951, 1952, and perhaps down as far as 1953 or 1954, that if he is expecting reductions in taxation he is doomed to disappointment. That same delicate sense of timing will dictate, in the light of what the minister has said, that any reductions in taxation shall be carefully preserved for the next preelection session of parliament, whenever that may be. The net result is that we have a complete exposure of the purpose and guiding principles of budgeting as practised by the government. It is budgeting for and by political expediency, nothing more.

Well, at times the Minister of Finance gives indications of being a realist. In a speech over the C.B.C. national network on April 11 he correctly described his own budget in these words: "It was not a popular or exciting budget." Amen, say all those who heard it. If one were to summarize the budget in a sentence, I suppose that sentence would be to this effect: the picture for the overburdened taxpayer is utterly hopeless; no reductions in taxation are possible for him.

Before I go further I wish to put in direct contrast with that attitude on the part of the government the position of the official opposition. We altogether reject the idea that expenditures and taxes cannot be reduced, and I shall endeavour to indicate some proposals that we have made and shall continue to make along these lines. We take issue with the attitude of the minister when he says in effect that it is just no use trying, so why bother making the effort to pare expenditures or reduce taxes?

Mention has been made of the subject of cyclical budgeting. In this same radio speech the minister undertook to comment on that subject. He did not know whether he had ever used that expression before, but in his speeches in the house he has certainly subscribed to the theory of cyclical budgeting; there can be no question about that. Those of us who sat in this

house in 1948 will not forget the discussions that took place at that time on the budget, when for the purpose of frightening this house and the people of Canada the minister was holding up what he pictured as the dire calamities that would follow any abandonment of the theory of cyclical budgeting. His idea then was that when times are good he should draw off that surplus of money in the pockets of the people and in that way do the people a favour, because he would be helping them out of a difficulty and helping to meet the problem of inflation. If the picture now is half as bright as that drawn by the Minister of Trade and Commerce in those flights of fancy of his, then surely this is one of those occasions for doing that very thing. But the Ministerof Finance knows quite well that politicalexpediency would not permit it; that would be equal to an exposure of the manoeuvresof the 1949 budget. The Minister of

Finance, sir, has buried cyclical budgeting.

A word now about the position of the minister in regard to expenditures. It is fair to say that the budget speech contained more references to expenditures than previous budget speeches. As a matter of fact, it may be that the minister is at long last showing some faint indications of becoming aware that there are such things, and aware of the problems connected with them. I am sure this house will condemn with all its might the fatalistic acceptance of this ceiling on expenditures which the minister took for granted in his speech. We have his acceptance of a sort of inevitability of a continuing level of expenditures at $2,400 million per annum. We have, on the part of the minister and the government, a confession of helplessness, or a lack of will;

I do not know which it is.

I was brought up in Galt, a city largely populated by people of Scottish descent. I was brought up to understand that in all honourable undertakings, and particularly in matters related to money, where there is a will there is a way. It does not fit into the upbringing I had in that environment to have the minister sit back and, with this gesture of futility, say that nothing can be done about it; that we have to accept $2,400 million per annum as the inevitable floor on expenditures. Before I go any further, let me say that I join with the hon. member for Brandon (Mr. Matthews) in the condemnation he offered in this house the other night of the fatalistic attitude toward so-called "uncontrollable" expenditure.

_ I go on from that, sir, to say that inherent in the minister's attitude there is something

55946-123J [DOT]

The Budget-Mr. Fleming of the altitude he has demonstrated towards'-parliament. It is not unfair-and I want to-be fair to the Minister of Finance-to say that whenever we have considered this subject of the necessity of a close examination of proposed expenditures, and the need for exercising the greatest sense of responsibility, the-attitude of the minister has been one of defiance.

In his speech as reported on page 1213 of Hansard the Minister of Finance gives us a picture of the treasury board reviewing these estimates, and he seems to be saying to the House of Commons: "Well, that job is done; what remains for you is to go through the motions and pass them." He glories in defying the efforts of the opposition to get these expenditures pared down by the elimination of things we can do without, without suffering a loss of needed government services.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. Cruickshank:

What, for instance?

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

If the hon. member will be patient, he will hear about it. The member for Churchill (Mr. Weaver) exposed a frame of mind which I think it is only natural to-expect on the part of supporters of this government when he spoke with admiration about what he called "the billion-dollar mentalities" on the treasury benches. He regards that as something worthy of glowing praise. It recalls to my mind the remark of the Prime Minister several years ago, made in reference to a sum of $175 million, which I would have thought was a substantial sum, but to which he referred rather disparagingly as "peanuts". There are, of course, also the recorded remarks of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who said "A million dollars-well, what is a million dollars?"

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

May I ask the hon. member if he is suggesting that the former prime minister used the phrase "peanuts" in this house?

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

No sir, I did not suggest the former prime minister used the expression peanuts". I said the present Prime Minister used that expression in referring to the sum of $175 million. I have referred to the occasion previously in the house, and I think the minister's parliamentary assistant will recall one occasion last year.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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?

John Ewen Sinclair

Mr. Sinclair:

The parliamentary assistant has no recollection whatever of the occasion.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

I do not know what the hon. member said, but it probably will not be the first time his memory has been lacking or seriously in error.

We have -made proposals, and we plan to continue to make them. I might refer briefly in passing to the proposals that have already been put forward by hon. members of the

1934 HOUSE OF

The Budget-Mr. Fleming official opposition. The house will recall the concrete proposals made by the member tor Kamloops (Mr. Fulton), and the member for Peterborough West (Mr. Fraser), about the publicity expenditure of $6 million, the expenditure on sundries of $17,500,000, and travelling expenses of $26 million. These items total $49 million. The suggestion was made that we could probably cut those expenditures in half without suffering a loss of anything essential.

I am sorry that my friend the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) is not in the house, because I should like to refer to something that concerns him. It also concerns the government, and I hope it is a matter of concern to the house. You will remember, sir, that when the government announced in the house it was proposing to use as a residence for the Prime Minister a property which had been expropriated by the government some four or five years ago, there was no voice raised in the house in opposition to this principle of establishing a home for the Prime Minister at the expense of the nation.

I want to make it abundantly clear that, so far as I am concerned, there is no thought at all of quarrelling with the idea of acquiring proper housing accommodation for the Prime Minister at the expense of the nation. But I think this house wants to see some business principles applied to the procedure being followed by the government. I say, sir, in this respect, as well as in respect to many other matters that have been exposed in this house, the government did not follow business principles that would even do justice to the proprietor of a peanut stand.

What did we find when this subject was discussed in the house on March 21? To begin with, the minister could not remember the exact price of the land and buildings. It was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $130,000 or $140,000. I suppose $10,000 is a mere bagatelle about which they do not worry. He proceeded to tell us that he could not say what the project was going to cost; he indicated, if you please, that the government embarked upon the great expenditure they were proposing to make on this property, yet did not know before they started what they were going to spend. Is that not an amazing situation? They embarked gaily on the venture of improving this old property, but when they started they did not have any idea what the improvements were to cost them. They now say the main building is to cost, for renovation and reconstruction, probably about $135,000; they are still not sure. The improvements on the grounds will cost another $10,000, and it is not known yet what the furnishings will cost. I should like

to make it clear that I am not condemning the acquisition of a suitable property as a residence for the Canadian Prime Minister, but I do condemn with all my heart such a wanton disregard of elementary business principles as applied to the expenditure of money on this or any other project.

In this connection hon. members will not overlook the words of the scripture to be found in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, where this question is asked by Our Lord:

Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost?

Apparently the government is animated by other ideas.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

This is an ivory tower.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

A further example of the kind of proposal that we have put forward is that made by my leader yesterday when he urged that the duplication of services as between dominion and provinces should have the attention of the government with a view to the elimination of that duplication and the cost thereof.

Now I come to something that is, in my humble opinion, fundamental to our whole approach to this question of the elimination of extravagance and the exercise of greater responsibility in the house in the voting of public moneys. I wish to speak about the method followed in this house in relation to the review, if it ever may honestly be called such, of the estimates of expenditures. The fact of the matter is that today the method that prevails in the house is so awkward and so clumsy that it makes any proper check of expenditures impossible. The Auditor General said truly of late:

It is generally recognized that the task of reviewing estimates produces a feeling of frustration. The limited time available and the broad diversity of public services permit only a scratching of the surface.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, little more than a scratching of the surface is possible under the procedure that prevails in this house at the present time. It seems to me to be the greatest self-contradiction for the minister to be hurling defiance at the opposition to put forward concrete proposals, as we have been doing even in the face of handicaps, while at the same time he insists upon defeating every effort we have made to devise a method that will make possible a proper and adequate review of the estimates.

What is possible? There was a time when it was at least an expression of wish on the part of Liberal leaders in the house that the house might find the kind of method that I am speaking of, a method that does not prevail today, even by faint resemblance. It

was no less a person than Mr. W. L. Mackenzie King who in this house in 1928, in a debate in which the then leader of the opposition, Mr. Bennett, had put forward the same kind of plea that I am making here today, said, as reported at page 4048 of Hansard of that year:

I entirely agree with my hon. friend that the system at present in force, under which a minister of the crown is necessarily dependent in the House of Commons on his deputy for much of the needed information, with the deputy also of necessity, often not wholly familiar with all the details of particular branches, is most unsatisfactory. Speaking for the government I would say that we would welcome a change in the present method, a change which would not only afford fuller opportunity for discussion but which would carry with it an obligation on the part of the heads of different branches of the public service to appear before a committee of the house and explain fully the reasons which have occasioned the recommendations which find their place in the estimates submitted to the house.

Those were the words of Mr. Mackenzie King in 1928.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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April 27, 1950