Mr. W. B. Nesbitt (Oxford):
Mr. Speaker, there are two points with which I should like to deal during the present debate on the budget. Both of these matters relate directly to the budget itself. First of all is the matter of the textile industry and other similarly affected industries in the country such as the machine tool industry. I know that these matters have already been dealt with in this house at great length on many occasions besides this and that they will probably be dealt with again. But this problem with respect to the textile industry, the machine tool industry and others, of course arises owing to the matter of cheap labour and exchange advantages when trading with other countries which far overcome any tariff advantages there may be to the industries in this country.
I am particularly interested in this matter because in the city of Woodstock, which is the principal city in the riding I represent, there are 2,000 textile workers, many of whom are out of work and most of the remainder are on a short-hour week. In addition, the town of Ingersoll, which is a town of 7,000 persons also in my riding, is virtually dependent on the machine tool industry and lately that industry has been threatened for the same reasons, namely by the importation of machine tools from Holland, England
and, in some cases, the United States. For the sake of brevity I should like to deal chiefly with the matter of the textile industry. As I say, I do not intend to deal with it at any great length because it has been dealt with many times before.
As I think most hon. members of the house know, within the last few months a great many textile plants throughout the Dominion of Canada have been closing down, many of them apparently permanently. Since the textile industry is, I understand, the largest employer of persons in the Dominion of Canada,-a year ago almost 200,000 persons were employed in the industry-this situation is an extremely serious one. Recently the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) made a speech after delivery of the budget at, I understand, a radio press conference. The implication of the minister's remarks has caused a great deal of concern in various parts of the country, particularly in my own constituency. I have not before me the exact words of the minister because they were made over the radio but the effect or the implication of his words was that if certain industries, particularly the textile industry, were not able to stand on their own feet, they would have to go by the board. I do not know whether the minister is returning to orthodox Liberal policy of 1911 when the matter seemed to boil down to the question of whether or not Canadians were to be hewers of wood and drawers of water but this impression, rightly or wrongly, has certainly been created by the minister's remarks on that occasion.
I think it is only fair to ask of the minister the following questions with regard to the textile industry, the machine tool industry and certain other industries. How far is the government going to go with regard to this matter of allowing Canadian industries to be put out of commission by competition from foreign countries? The second question is this. Are we going to have a textile industry or are we not? If so, to what extent? As I think every hon. member in this house well knows, there are many considerations other than the economic one which require that we have a textile industry in Canada. The country was glad enough to have one in 1939 when the war broke out; and this statement most certainly applies to the machine tool industry as well.
Mr. Speaker, my remarks will take about two minutes with respect to this matter, and I should like to finish them if I may do so. There is one further thing in this regard. The present policy of the administration has caused a great deal of dislocation in the textile industry in particular. Many plants
have closed, and many are on short time with the consequent loss of purchasing power within the country. The Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) recently suggested to a group of farm implement workers that if they could not get a job in that industry, they could go some place else. This is certainly not an easy matter today because there is in this country a big housing problem, a fact which I understand the government is well aware of in view of the new housing act. It is not easy to go from one town to another and to find a new place to live. The cost of moving is extremely high these days, and if you have to go any distance it is an expensive proposition. More than that, there is another question that arises. Can the new industries in the country absorb all these people who have lost their jobs in the textile industry? Lastly, a great social problem is created. It is a hard thing for a person who has had a senior position of some form or other in the textile industry-a dyer or something like that; a high salaried man-suddenly to have to go out to find a new job in a totally unrelated industry and to take a menial job at a reduced income. That is extremely hard on him and on his family. I think that these are things which the minister should take into consideration with a view possibly to making some changes in the excise tax and in the Customs Act.
At six o'clock the house took recess.
Subtopic: THE BUDGET
Sub-subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE