July 6, 1955

LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Right Hon. C. D. Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

Mr. Speaker, perhaps it is unfortunate that I was not in the house on Friday when this question was raised. I thought all the facts of the situation on that date were known to hon. members. The Prime Minister's statement made on that day was perfectly correct.

We received, in the ordinary course of business, an application to the Export Credits Insurance Corporation for an undertaking to insure 85 per cent of the purchase price of a quantity of grain to Poland-a quantity of

250.000 tons. That application was considered by the officers of the corporation and by the financial officers of the government, and it was reported to me that the application was a good commercial transaction, and one that the Export Credits Insurance Corporation could recommend.

I placed that recommendation before the government, and the government agreed that the Export Credits Insurance Corporation could take on the commercial loan under section 21 of their act.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

When was that?

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):

That was prior to last Friday-I cannot say the exact date, but a few days prior.

The government has taken no action since then. The agent of the Polish government was informed that the Export Credits Insurance Corporation was agreeable to underwriting the transaction. Yesterday or the day before, I am not sure which, the agent of the Polish government bought in Winnipeg

50.000 tons of No. 5 wheat. Payment was 50433-362

6, 1955

Wheat-Negotiations with Poland made in cash by him, and the Export Credits Insurance Corporation has not been asked to underwrite that loan. Whether it will be asked to underwrite that loan, I do not know, because it is rather expensive to buy that kind of underwriting. But that purchase of

50,000 tons was made by the Polish government. It may very well be that later an application will be made for underwriting by the insurance company; and if it is made I am quite sure that the underwriting will be undertaken. That is the purpose of the Export Credits Insurance Corporation-to underwrite exports from Canada, where the transaction promises to be a good commercial transaction.

An attempt has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) to distort the situation by associating that transaction with another deal.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):

Now, we have listened to the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps you had better listen to me for a minute. The two are not related in any way. They are not arranged under the same legislation. We will be very glad to discuss the relative positions when the opportunity offers. What I am saying to the house is that, as far as the government is concerned, the position has been unchanged and will continue to be unchanged until my estimates are discussed, in this matter of the Polish transaction.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, on a further question of privilege, I would point out that at page 5718 of Hansard, when this matter was called to the attention of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, he is reported as saying this:

Mr. Speaker, the only comment that was made this morning was that the situation would be unchanged when the estimates were up for consideration.

These are the important words:

The negotiations were completed prior to today, and the announcement that was made today informs hon. gentlemen opposite but it does not change the situation.

I submit we are now entitled to know when the negotiations were completed and what the nature of those negotiations was. We are entitled to know that from the Prime Minister, who told us they were not yet completed.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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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 do not think this is the proper time for a debate, but I am not going to allow to go unchallenged the imputation that I did not fully and frankly inform the house of what had taken place or that I said anything that could mislead the house.

Wheat-Negotiations with Poland

The house must realize that this is not a sale of wheat by the government to a government. This was an application by the representative of the government of Poland to know if the Export Credits Insurance Corporation would issue a policy for 85 per cent of the purchase price of wheat for a period of twelve months. They were informed, after the matter had been considered by the government at one of these half-hour meetings that we have at two o'clock to do the business that is urgent, that, if an application were made, a policy would be issued under the usual terms and at the usual rates.

Now, I do not know what has taken place between the vendors of wheat and the purchasers of wheat since that time. The Minister of Trade and Commerce tells me there have been 50,000 tons purchased and paid for. As we understood it, the information that was sought by the representative of Poland was whether there would be the possibility of obtaining insurance on a purchase of 250,000 tons. It is about that that the information was conveyed to them that they could obtain that insurance. Now, the negotiations for the purchase of wheat take place between the purchaser and the wheat board, or there is a transaction such as I saw this morning, a transaction being made or negotiated with the representative of a private organization. That is the situation.

When I informed the house that I understood the negotiations were proceeding satisfactorily, that was the fact. We had said that the Export Credits Insurance Corporation would issue an insurance policy, if it were applied for, on the usual terms. The information we had was to the effect that the negotiations with those who were entitled to sell the wheat were going on satisfactorily but had not been completed.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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PC

William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rowe:

But they were completed.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. SI. Laurent:

I do not think they have been completed at the present time. I have no information about anything but those

50,000 tons bought and paid for.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

The minister says they were.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

The negotiations as far as we were concerned were completed. All we had to do was to say whether or not the Export Credits Insurance Corporation would be prepared to issue an insurance policy. We said that the insurance policy would be issued. But the whole transaction will not be completed until there has been an application for the policy and the premium has been arranged and the payment of the premium provided.

That is the situation. It is an ordinary commercial transaction. We may be making a

mistake in trusting the credit of the purchaser of that wheat, but we do not think we are making a mistake. The hon. gentleman refers to the Ming Sung guarantee, but that guarantee was given at a time when we were extending loans to all those with whom we had been allied in the last conflict because we wanted to start the ball rolling for the restoration of international trade. Had there not been a revolution in China this loan would have been repaid long since.

If unfortunately a world war should break out before the expiry of twelve months it might be that this obligation for the wheat would not be met within the twelve months, but we are prepared to be sufficiently optimistic about the situation to continue to sell our products abroad on the assumption that there is not going to be a world war within the next twelve months. If that turns out to be wrong, then we will have made a mistake and we will be subject to such punishment as the Canadian people may see fit to mete out. But there is no question of privilege on behalf of any hon. member of this house concerned in the question of our good faith in making that commitment in an effort to find a commercial market for the large quantity of wheat this country has to sell.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, may I point out that there is no question of good faith in carrying out-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

-the transaction; it was a question of privilege in relation to what was said. Your Honour was misled and your words show that Your Honour was misled.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has read only part of what you said. What you said is to be found at the bottom of page 5682 of yesterday's Hansard, as follows:

It may be that the deal will be made, and at that moment the opposition may enter into its role and criticize the action of the government.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-REFERENCE TO PROCEEDINGS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS ON JULY 5
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

May I say that as far as I was concerned my judgment was based mainly on the question of the urgency of debate. That was the first point I dealt with because I began my remarks by saying:

Standing order 31, when it speaks of urgency, means urgency of debate.

That is the point with which I dealt. Then referring to the reply given by the Prime Minister on the previous day I went on to explain further that if the matter was still pending it could not be a definite one. May I say at this point that the first part of my decision was the main part. I said a moment ago, and with all deference to both the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. mem-

ber for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell), that I did not think that the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition was one which could properly be raised by way of a question of privilege. I say this although on many occasions similar questions have been raised by way of questions of privilege. But are we not faced now with a dispute about certain allegations of fact? If we are faced with that situation, should we not consider citation 192 of Beauchesne, third edition, the last part of which reads as follows:

A dispute arising between two honourable members as to allegations of facts hardly fulfils the conditions of a privilege question, and, if deemed to be a matter to be at once entertained, it is more convenient to postpone other business rather than extend the area of privilege.

I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) was quite right in raising the matter but it is one which tends to open a debate. Several rulings are to the effect that a question of privilege is not debatable. It is therefore not fair at this time to postpone any other business for the purpose of allowing a debate as between members of this house on a matter of this kind. The matter could be fully aired whenever the estimates of the Department of Trade and Commerce come before the house, and no doubt it will be aired at that time. I think that the point has been fully stated and that great latitude has been given. Without any further remarks on my part I should like to ask the house to continue its business.

Questions

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COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES


Fifth report of special committee on estimates.-Mr. Tucker.


FINANCE-FISHERIES REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES BACK TO COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY

LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. W. E. Harris (Minister of Finance) moved:

That items numbered 112 to 127 inclusive and item 529, in the main estimates 1955-56; items 653 to 656 inclusive and item 789 in the supplementary estimates 1955-53, relating to the Department of Finance and item 795 in the further supplementary estimates 1955-56 relating to the Department of Fisheries, approved and reported upon this day by the special committee on estimates, be referred back to the committee of supply.

Topic:   FINANCE-FISHERIES REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES BACK TO COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
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July 6, 1955