July 4, 1952

COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE

SUGGESTED INVITATION BY CANADA TO COMMONWEALTH COUNTRIES


On the orders of the day:


PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, since it would appear likely that this will be the last day we will meet before the adjournment until November, and in view of the reported statements by the Prime Minister of Australia in regard to the desirability of holding a commonwealth conference, as well as another statement from London, I wonder if the Prime Minister could not give some assurance that Canada will consider extending an invitation, having regard to the fact that Canada's position is a peculiarly favourable one to indicate a willingness to explore this possibility.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I do not think there is any probability of Canada taking the initiative in the near future. The hon. member knows that these stories are not without some background, but I am not at liberty to discuss any details at this moment. I think any initiative taken by Canada at this time might be a serious embarrassment to those who have already taken initiative to bring about this kind of conference.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Arising out of the reply to the leader of the opposition just made by the Prime Minister, is it not a fact that departmental officials are now gathering information preparatory to a conference to be held in November? Is there not something like that going ahead at the very moment?

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

There is information being gathered for the purpose of making it available to those who are considering the calling of a conference at a not too distant date. The Canadian government has expressed its desire to co-operate to the fullest possible extent and to make whatever information can be gathered here available for consideration in that connection.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I do not want to enlarge this matter because we must not extend it into a debate, but in view of what has been said

and the desire we all have that everything be done to advance a meeting of this kind I would most earnestly hope that Canada, with its peculiarly favourable position in relation to the commonwealth and the United States, will consider giving every possible lead in this direction that can be given.

The house in committee of supply, Mr. Robinson in the chair.

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE Customs and excise divisions-

302. General administration, $2,105,832.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Hon. J. J. McCann (Minister of National Revenue):

When we had a discussion last night with reference to this matter the hon. member for Greenwood asked several questions which I will attempt to answer at this time. As reported at page 4227 of Hansard for July 3, he said:

First of all I should like to know what the minister considers was the loss to the treasury last year from smuggling operations. He will recall what the Minister of Finance said . . .

The only answer I can give to that question is that nobody knows with any degree of accuracy what that loss was. It can only be an estimate and I would hesitate to make any estimate of what the loss has been in dollars and cents. The hon. member also said:

I do want, however, to get from the minister what he considers the most significant facts. First of all I want to know the number of prosecutions and seizures which were being made prior to the change in the tax on April 8 last, and whether the minister has reason to think the situation has improved very greatly. Some opinions I have heard, though I cannot profess to have verified them, seem to indicate that the change is not nearly as great as one might expect.

I will give the hon. member the information with reference to seizures and perhaps that will suffice to answer the question. Cigarettes seized in the fiscal year 1951-52 amounted to 14,375,891. As against that from April 1, 1952, to May 31, 1952, cigarettes seized amounted to 2,633,932. With respect to prosecutions, for the fiscal year 1951-52 completed prosecutions numbered 508 and those convicted numbered 498. From April 1, 1952, to May 31, 1952, there were 122 completed prosecutions and 117 convictions. The

Supply-National Revenue number of motor vehicles forfeited for carrying smuggled goods in the fiscal year 1951-52 was 152, and from April 1, 1952, to May 31, 1952, the number was 27. In that period there were 41 cases still pending.

I think perhaps I should put on the record the answer to the question of the hon. gentleman as to cigarettes seized by both police and ports for the years 1951 and 1952. I shall give first the 1952 seizures for the months of January to May inclusive. The figures are as follows:

1952 No. seized

January February March .. April ... May _____

1,889,290

1,470,019

1,060,025

1,494,772

1,139,160

I think the figures for the last six months of 1951 indicate the trend. They are as follows:

July ....

August ... September October .. November December

No. seized 873,980 960,674 734,747 1,323,645 2,048,838 1,521,594

In the whole year 1951 there were 11,080,291 cigarettes seized. The trend of the figures through July, August, September and October and reaching a high point in November indicates to me personally that smugglers of course always operate under cover if they can. In November the hours of darkness are longer which makes it easier for the smuggler to carry on his operations. Of course I think there is always going to be smuggling of cigarettes as long as there is a differential between the price at which they can be purchased in the United States and the price at which they are on sale in Canada. I will not deny that.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Could I ask the minister a question? Before the minister makes his general observations, I am wondering if he is going to give me the figure I asked for particularly last night. That was not the number of cigarettes seized but the number of seizures, that is to say, the number of cases of law-breaking. I said last night that seemed to me the most indicative figure. It is that figure that I should like to get particularly, and all the more because I notice that the prosecutions-and I would be interested to know why-seem to be only a small fraction of what I understand to be the number of seizures.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Is this for cigarettes?

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

This is all seizures.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I said last night that as long as we get a comparable figure we can carry the thing right through. Last night the minister gave me some figures for cigarettes and then said later that they were the figures for everything. What I am interested in is getting a comparable figure that can be carried right through.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

I doubt if it is possible to give a comparable figure. I say that for the reason that so far as a great many seizures are concerned there might be one carton oi cigarettes, a pair of boots, a tire in a trunk and something else. You could not put that down merely as a seizure of cigarettes, but it is a seizure.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

As long as we get a comparable figure I think that is the best that can be done, but I should like a comparable figure throughout.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

We will give comparable figures for all seizures for the first six months of 1952. They are as follows:

All seizures

January 559

February 609

March 641

April 660

May 707

June 648

Would the hon. member like the figures for 1951?

Starting in January the total number of seizures were: January, 426; February, 421; March, 457; April, 514; May, 600; June, 617; July, 587; August, 680; September, 731; October, 697; November, 687; December, 644. I can give you the totals in 1951 of cigarettes involved-the number of cigarettes that were seized.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

On the

figures the minister has given, as I took them down, the figures for 1952 show no lessening. The figures for 1952 run along practically parallel with those of 1951. I do not want to labour this and spend a lot of time on it but the minister says there is a peak from which we are receding.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

Mr. Chairman, I think that might be explained by the fact that there is an extra effort and more vigilance on the part of the police in making seizures- and on the part of the department too.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

We can give those figures. I think perhaps the most recent ones might be given first. In 1952 the total number of seizures in January was 559.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

One other question. If I took the figures down correctly the number of prosecutions for 1951-52 was only 508.

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July 4, 1952