June 4, 1954

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

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

I should like to ask a question of the Prime Minister. Having informed us of measures coming forward, can he tell us when we may expect to see copies of amendments to the Post Office Act and the Municipal Grants Act, and also when we may expect to proceed with those two pieces of legislation which have been announced?

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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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):

Mr. Speaker, I am under the impression that the amendment to the Post Office Act is now before the other house.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

That is right.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

I think that is so. It will probably come here from the other house either today or very early next week. With respect to the other legislation-

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

It is on the order paper, in the resolution stage.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

The resolution is on the order paper, and will be called as soon as it can be reached conveniently.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, I would point out, on a question of privilege, that I feel it would be desirable to have some indication of when it will come forward, because the presence of that resolution on the order paper has prevented the introduction of other motions relating to this subject. I would like to have an assurance that we are proceeding with it, and some indication of when we may expect to do so.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

The resolution stands in my name. I will be happy to bring it before the house just as soon as it suits the convenience of the house. We seem to be making fairly rapid progress now in connection with the estimates, and if we can dispose of a few things, such as contempt of court, and one thing and another, in the next day or two, we may be able to bring it in.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Since this has to do with the proceedings in the house, may I point out that the suggestion that there is any delay in proceedings is not consistent with the practice of this house, and that we have reached a stage in the session when it will be highly desirable that we have information in regard to an act which affects many municipalities in this country, and also is covered by a resolution which has had the effect of preventing our introducing a resolution dealing with this subject in another form-which we have indicated we believe would be a more satisfactory procedure.

I think therefore the time is more than due for this to be dealt with, so that we can have the act before us, study its effectiveness and deal with it more satisfactorily when it comes up.

The house in committee of supply, Mr. Robinson (Simcoe East) in the chair.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENTS TO POST OFFICE ACT AND MUNICIPAL GRANTS ACT
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DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE

LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

We will proceed with item 295. May I inform hon. members that they will find the vote at page 43 of the blue book, and the details at page 360.

Customs and excise divisions-

295. General administration (including the former customs excise seizure expenses and adjustments), $2,822,515.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell:

Mr. Chairman, I understand that we are to deal specifically with the customs and excise divisions this morning, and that general remarks may be postponed. Does the minister propose to make a statement?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

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

Mr. Chairman, by way of a brief explanation, I should like to speak for a moment or two on the estimates which are now before the committee.

These estimates cover the operation of the customs and excise division of the Department of National Revenue, consisting of the headquarters at Ottawa and their operative branches, consisting of some 232 ports and 104 outports situated throughout the country. As the committee is aware, this division is closely associated with the industry and commerce of the country through its control of imported goods and the collection of customs duties, as well as excise and sales taxes, and of the excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products. There is also a more pleasant association, at least from the importers' point of view, through the procedures for the refunds and drawbacks of duties and taxes remitted under certain conditions.

In addition to this relationship with industry and commerce from which, by the way, we derive by far our greatest customs and excise revenue, this division is concerned with a phase of work which is more familiar to the general travelling public, that of examining persons, motor vehicles, aircraft, trains and ships entering Canada.

A third phase of the division's activity is supervision under the Excise Act of those licensed establishments who manufacture or use alcohol or tobacco in the manufacture of their products.

In keeping with the general development of the country, more goods were imported into Canada in the fiscal year ending the 31st of March, 1954, than ever before, there being over 60,000 more import entries than in the fiscal year 1953, which reached an alltime high of 3,365,695 import entries. Again more vehicles than ever before travelled back and forth across our boundaries. In the fiscal year ending 1954, over thirteen and a half million vehicles, carrying returning Canadians and Americans, entered Canada, which was over 900,000 more than the fiscal year ending March 1953. In the calendar year ending 31st December, 1953, there were over one million more vehicles entering Canada than in the previous calendar year.

You will see in the estimates an increase in the number of positions and in the amount for salaries. This is directly related, over and above the general increase in civil service salaries, to the increasing amount of work which this division is called upon to perform. I should like to tell the committee that the staffing of our ports is rigidly controlled on a systematic basis, whereby the department 83276-348

Supply-National Revenue can gauge very accurately the number of staff required at ports in relation to the amount of business which is presented to and processed through the port, the hours of service required for the general and importing public, and the number of points of duty which have to be manned by customs officials at international border points throughout Canada. I think the committee will agree with me that in this division, which is responsible for the collection of revenue, amounting to over $1,518 million in the fiscal year ended March 31, 1954, any arbitrary method of staff restriction which is not realistically geared to the actual facts could result in a loss of revenue, if by physical inability, inadequate customs and excise examination and supervision resulted.

The estimates as tabled before you show an increase of $2,643,131, but 95 per cent of this is accounted for by salaries and wages, the remainder being made up of such things as law and other costs, uniforms, telephone, telegraph, teletype costs, and so forth.

At the same time there is a decrease of $86,400 in vote 298, construction or acquisition of buildings, works, land and new equipment over last year's estimates.

I shall be pleased to answer any questions from the committee concerning these estimates.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell:

I have listened with interest to the recital by the minister of the mounting activity, accompanied of course by the mounting work, and I have also listened with interest to his explanation that the additional amount being expended is nearly all salary increases.

I was surprised that the minister said nothing about one aspect of the work which seemed to me important, and which I thought he would refer to because of the legislation which was passed in December last. I refer of course to the amendment of the Customs Act, which proposed to deal with dumping. I should like to recall to the minister one or two of the things which he said in December last. I should like to recall that he and others stressed that this was not a tariff measure, that it was a measure of law enforcement; and I wish that could be said loudly enough so that some people of the baser sort would not insist, as soon as anyone speaks about the enforcement of the tariff law, that he at once becomes a high-as-Haman's-gallows tariff man. It was made very clear in this debate on both sides of the house that what we were attempting was the enforcement of law. I propose to ask the minister to give us something in the nature of a progress report on the act and its effects, on the steps which have been

Supply-National Revenue taken to make it effective, and on the results.

I should like to remind the minister briefly of one or two things which he said in December last, as reported at page 674 of Hansard as follows:

This revision of the law is designed to help meet the difficulties arising from end of season and end of line imports which are dumped into Canada at abnormally low prices.

He also said:

I should make it clear to the house that the proposed amendment is fully consistent with our international obligations.

Everyone will agree that the progress of events since that time, the existence of substantial unemployment, the manifest difficulties which certain industries are finding, and in general the whole trend of business from a seller's to a buyer's market justifies us in asking the minister to explain in more detail what steps have been taken to make the enforcement satisfactory, and just what the results are.

Last autumn the minister explained that calculations of prices relevant to the operation of the act would have to be made over a period of months. At page 977 of Hansard he referred to the training which would have to be given. I understand that certain special procedures were contemplated. I wonder whether the minister would now make a general statement, which I suggest should include first of all whatever changes of method, including staff, have been carried into effect and second, just what results, if any, he feels have been achieved. I might say I understand that general comments which would ordinarily be made on the first item are, in this case, being reserved until later.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

Before the minister makes that statement I should like to say this. I have to go out to a committee, and I wish the minister would include something on this point. The Minister of Finance has a bill on the order paper to amend the customs tariff. In schedule B of that bill it is indicated there is to be a change with respect to goods on which there is a drawback; that the drawback is to be removed. I wish the minister would explain whether that has reference to coal imported from the United States and used for metallurgical purposes? That coal now is subject to a drawback which practically wipes out the 50-cent tariff on it. Will the minister clarify the point as to whether it refers to that particular import?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

I just noticed that the hon. member for Greenwood, after making some remarks which I considered were somewhat general, and which would ordinarily take place in the general discussion on the

first item, indicated that the general discussion might take place on a later item. I have not been informed of any such arrangement. It would of course be in the hands of the committee if such an arrangement were entered into. Might I be informed of the intention in that regard?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

The hon. member for Greenwood has correctly stated the situation. In order to arrange the business of the house it was found convenient to have the debate on this matter take place at a more convenient time later so that the matters which required question and answer could be dealt with now, and then at a later time one could make the general observations that he wished to make.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Is that agreeable to the committee?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. McCann:

If I may, I would answer

the question of the hon. member for Cape Breton South having to do with the matter of drawback at this time. That has gone through the resolution stage and of course will be in the bill presented by the Minister of Finance. I suggest it would be better if his question were brought up again when the bill of the Minister of Finance is before the committee. It is really a matter of settling policy.

I should like to draw to the attention of the committee that the Department of National Revenue is an administration department entirely. When the statutes are handed to us we do the best we can to administer them according to law.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL REVENUE
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June 4, 1954