Mr. R. W. Mitchell (London):
Mr. Speaker, in rising to take part in this debate hon. members will be glad to know that I will not keep their attention for more than a few minutes. I say that for two reasons. The first is that the speech from the throne was so devoid of anything of a constructive nature that there is little to be said about it. The second reason is that I deplore repetition and any repetition which I may make of previous remarks will be purely for the purpose of emphasis.
I should like at the outset to conform with tradition by congratulating the hon. member for Verdun (Mr. Leduc) and the hon. member for Trinity (Mr. Carrick) upon their addresses to the house. I feel that both expressed foresight and progress which seem to be sadly lacking once members of the machine have been in the house long enough to be suppressed and made to conform.
The speech itself was a masterpiece of double-talk. It was full of sound signifying nothing. This government has looked back into the past and has failed entirely to forecast or foresee any sound measures for dealing with the economy as we face it today. I submit that we are committed to a policy of bungling along without any plan or program and without any rhyme or reason. We are destined, for another year at least, to be governed by a self-satisfied government with neither initiative nor vision. Order in council is still senior to the will of this house. Without planning, each crisis has to be faced in a spirit of crisis, met with catch-as-catch-can remedies, and without preparing any ground for the future. Shakespeare put into
the mouth of Lear the words: "Nothing will come of nothing." I submit that that is a suitable epitaph with which to bury and forget the speech from the throne on this occasion.
The subject of unemployment was conspicuous by its absence. Much has been made of the amendment to the Unemployment Insurance Act, which, I submit, is nothing more or less than a sedative or palliative and is much the same thing as administering morphine to a person who is suffering considerable hurt. It does not go to the root of the trouble. It does not cure the ill.
We are told there is no problem. But, Mr. Speaker, I submit that examination of the figures produced by this government itself indicates that the unemployment situation in this country is not only severe but is growing worse. We are told it is seasonal and sectional. We are told that we have a greater working force than ever before. There may be and probably is some element of truth in these statements, but they are half-truths at best, and half-truths are dangerous.
The basic problem, however you clothe it, is to provide an opportunity for work for every Canadian who is able and willing to work so that he may be able to play his part in the development of this great country.
I was gratified to note that amendments will be introduced to the War Veterans Allowance Act, and to the Blind Persons Act. We have been pleading for these on this side of the house for some considerable time and it is our hope that the remedies offered will be neither too little nor too late. It is our hope that they will not be merely temporary stopgap remedies but that they will go to the root of the problem and solve the misery and the troubles which have faced these classes of persons for many years.
I was also personally gratified to note that amendments are to be introduced to the Railway Act and to the Municipal Grants Act. I say that not only because of the relief which will be offered to municipalities, but also because they point up a much broader picture which I wish to discuss. During the last session it was my privilege to speak in this house with respect to the continuing problem faced by municipalities in the raising of sufficient taxes to enable them to carry out the purposes and objects of municipal government.
I am not naive and accordingly I do not believe that these remedies, these pieces of legislation, are to be introduced as a result of what I said. There must have been many others from all sides of the house clamouring at the cabinet door to produce this sudden about-face.
We have learned to be grateful for small morsels which fall from our master's table, and these measures, if and when they are introduced, will we hope be something more than small morsels.
Referring to the Municipal Grants Act, may I point out specifically as an example that the total assessment in the city of London is some $146 million and that the assessment of federally-owned property is some $4 million. I have heard, and seen in the press and elsewhere, various suggestions as to what form the amendments are to take, but on any basis there is going to be some relief for municipalities, such as London, which have a high proportion of federally-owned property.
The Railway Act amendments will be welcomed, particularly by those hon. members who represent large cities. The government apparently has finally seen the necessity of curbing the damage and destruction which is wrought by level crossings in our cities and towns. They also apparently have finally seen the necessity of maintaining an even flow of traffic rather than creating and continuing the bottlenecks which tie up our cities many hours during the day.
May I once again be specific about London. London is fortunate in that it is served by the two major railways. It is unfortunate in that these two railroads divide the city into three almost equal parts, and in the centre of these parts is located the bulk of the industry and business life of the city. It is apparent from that that the bulk of our working force must at least twice a day cross one or the other of these railways. It is also apparent that those who wish to go to the business area or to the shopping area are in the same position.
May I say that on the C.N.R. there are only three major north-south routes on which there are overpasses, and on the C.P.R. there are none. For verification of my remarks with respect to the hold-ups with which traffic is faced I would refer hon. members to Mr. Donald Gordon, with whom it was my pleasure and privilege to sit at a major London crossing for 15 minutes last summer while he witnessed one of his trains being made up.
These temporary measures do not answer the problem. They simply perpetuate the inroads which this government has made into the tax dollar. The provinces and indeed the municipalities continue to be the victims of the tax grab and they have lost the right or the opportunity to govern or maintain themselves financially. Only so much of the dollar which is earned can be put out in taxes. The field has been exhausted and the municipalities are faced with a complete
The Address-Mr. R. W. Mitchell inability to increase their mill rate and tnere-fore must accept the charity of this government. This is a policy of self-perpetuation. The municipalities cannot bring themselves to bite the hand that feeds them, particularly when that hand controls the larder as effectively as does this government.
It is therefore my earnest hope that the government will enter into conferences in a spirit of co-operation and not of domination so that out of them may come a new tax formula as a result of which the provincial and municipal bodies will be able to enter into the field themselves.
I suggest there is no person more capable of governing his house than the master of that house. I am at times the master of my own house and I do not welcome advice or influence from outside. But I suggest that municipal councils and mayors are the persons in the best position to decide how and where municipal funds shall be spent. They are on the spot. They have the firsthand knowledge but they must have the money. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to the government that as a measure of good faith instead of making grants in lieu of taxes they pay taxes to the municipalities on federal holdings. Second, I suggest that they reduce their taxes thereby enabling the municipalities to increase theirs and avoid the necessity of municipalities coming to the federal government for grants.
May I now refer for a moment or two to one of the depressed industries about which we have heard. I refer to the textile industry of which I have some little knowledge but I am satisfied that at least some of my remarks will refer to other industries in the same boat. I presume that as soon as one mentions that hateful word "tariff" one is branded as a high tariff man, and I refer to the word "tariff" as a means of protection, not of taxation. I suggest to the house and to the government that it is high time that we took a realistic view of tariffs and thereby protect our Canadian industries and our Canadian workers.
We have tariffs and we may as well accept the fact. My colleague, the hon. member for Queens (Mr. MacLean), illustrated that most adequately yesterday from the cradle to the grave. These tariffs apparently are designed for two purposes. One is protection and the other is taxation. With the latter I cannot agree. A tariff for the purpose of protection, to be adequate today, must be examined in the light of today's conditions.
By way of example may I refer to tariff item 523b which deals with woven fabrics, wholly of cotton, printed, dyed, or coloured, and I will touch only the most-favoured-nation
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The Address-Mr. E. W. Mitchell column which provides that these fabrics, if valued at more than 80 cents per pound, are subject to a tariff of 17J per cent and 3 cents per pound, if valued at 50 cents or more but not more than 80 cents per pound, a 22A per cent tariff, and if valued at less than 50 cents per pound, a 25 per cent tariff. I suggest that these tariffs were designed to enable our Canadian manufacturers to compete in the range of low priced cotton goods. We recognized the fact that we probably could not compete economically in the higher priced range of cotton products, and therefore certain protection was given.
But, Mr. Speaker, we must now examine these particular tariffs in the light of changed conditions. The price of cotton has risen. What was formerly 50 cent cotton, and accordingly given some measure of protection, is now in the bracket of high priced cotton and does not receive the same protection as it did. Second, let us not forget the fact that the value of the Canadian dollar compared with the value of the United States dollar has drastically changed.
Another problem of the textile industry has to do with the marking regulations passed under the National Trade Mark and True Labelling Act. Perhaps I should say that the problem has to do with enforcement and the additions which should be made to these marking regulations. That it is not a small problem may be indicated by the fact that imports of certain types of hose from and including July of 1953 until and including June of 1954 amounted to 1,169,025 dozen pairs for a value of $5,710,935. There are two particular aspects of this imported hosiery to which I wish to refer. The first is that so far as I can find there is no requirement that the country of origin be stamped on these items. Yet I have with me, Mr. Speaker, a pair of white ankle stockings which were sold over the counter of a store as being made in Canada. They are not made in Canada; they are made in the United States.
The failure to stamp the name of the country of origin in the case of the United States, Spain and Japan is enabling certain people to sell foreign products to Canadians who are conscious of the need to buy Canadian and desire to do so. We are defeating our purposes. We are trying in one breath to educate Canada and Canadians to buy Canadian, and then we permit certain of our citizens to sell products made in the United States with the statement-oh well, they are made in Canada; you prove me wrong.
The second aspect of these marking regulations requires that I refer to the hosiery marking regulations issued on the 14th January, 1953. Paragraph 5 provides in
brief, and I will not quote it, that if there is more than one item contained in a pair of hosiery they must be marked equally if the hosiery is stamped, with the largest component being named first. They also provide that where there is less than 5 per cent of the material content in the hosiery, excluding toe and heel reinforcing, they may not be marked or described in any manner whatsoever.
This particular pair of white stockings which I have in front of me has in the centre of the marking in large capital letters the words "combed cotton". Immediately beneath that in the same size lettering is the word "nylon", and if you look very carefully and have good eyes you can see below the word "nylon" the words "reinforced toe and heel". The first- reaction in looking at that is that they are "combed cotton nylon". That would be my reaction, but I am not a shopper. The second reaction would be that there is certainly nylon there, and even if you read all the words you see it is "combed cotton nylon reinforced toe and heel". To which part of the stamping does the word "nylon" refer?
These stockings have no nylon whatsoever except in the reinforcing of the toe and the heel. My plea is that we assist one of our staple industries to assist itself by enforcing and, if necessary, expanding these regulations so that Canadians who are conscious of Canada's future can be in a position to buy articles properly marked.
Lastly, I wish to say simply one word about the centennial the city of London is celebrating this year, to which reference has already been made in the house, and to extend a most cordial invitation to members of the house and to their constituents to visit us and help us in the celebration of our one hundredth anniversary.