Mr. John B. Hamilion (York West):
Mr. Speaker, the speech from the throne is the product of a lazy, complacent, smug government. The speech from the throne is the product of a man convinced of the effectiveness of the Uncle Louis legend, so convinced that the old black magic spell can be weaved over the electors again in June of 1957 that he can treat the house and the people of the country with contempt. Not a single major problem has been offensively attacked in the speech from the throne. It is quite apparent, Mr. Speaker, that it is the intention of the government, if at all possible, to ensure that this is the quietest session on record, so that when they dip into their magic bag and bring forth the biggest election bribe in history there will be nothing to detract from the screaming headlines from coast to coast.
What are the problems that face us today? What are the problems they ignore in the hope that they will not have to answer? First, at home a large group comprising our elder citizens, the veterans and the blind, all dependent upon fixed incomes, are facing an ever-increasing cost of living. Second, the municipalities are placed in a taxation strait-jacket and find themselves squeezed between the demands for services of an ever-increasing population and an airtight tax formula devised by the government in order to ensure centralization of power here in Ottawa. Third, there is the tremendous threat from without to be faced by a Canadian government tied to the apron strings of a floundering giant in Washington.
What does the government offer in the speech from the throne? To the old age pensioners, to the veterans, to the blind, they offer arts and culture. To the municipalities they offer a few measly dollars in the form
of taxation on government buildings across the country. To the cause of world peace they offer a phony kind of conviction of the need to maintain the basic unity of the commonwealth, and their sympathy for the poor Hungarians.
Are these the answers of a government seized with the vision of the next 25 years set out for us in the Gordon report? I am afraid not, Mr. Speaker; and I am sure the people of Canada will give the answer to the ignoring of these salient facts of life during this year. Here was a golden opportunity to take care of great and growing needs without sacrificing a campaign against inflation.
Everyone knows that the $40 a month paid to an old age pensioner has a purchasing power of about $25 today. These people are in real need. Here is an opportunity to put the plan on a sound actuarial basis. Up to the moment we have taken increasing amounts from the general fund in addition to the percentage levy against personal income and corporation income. Here is a chance to fix an amount which will finally take care of this plan for the future, a chance to fix a percentage without taking any greater amount from the individual taxpayer's pocket.
Yet to date the government has failed to recognize the dire need of these people. If there is a real and inherent desire to help old age pensioners, the veterans and the blind, surely without waiting for this grand health plan about which we have been hearing since 1919, I believe, the government could institute at this time without financial assistance from the provinces a plan which would ensure that adequate medical and hospital care was available to those in receipt of old age, veterans and blind pensions. This would be a step which would prove sincerity on the part of the government with respect to its desire to implement protection for all.
The veterans have submitted a brief to the government which indicates that since 1925 the ratio of payment of pensions in disability cases as compared with wages has fallen behind at least 25 per cent. Surely this is also an indication of need. Their request for an increase of one-third would only place these people in the same position they were at the time they were granted the privileges they now have. Perhaps I should not have used the word "privileges"; perhaps I should have said the rights for which they so gallantly fought.
Then we come to the problem of the municipalities. Perhaps I might refer to page 6394 of Hansard of July 24, 1956, where I quoted from a brief prepared by the
The Address-Mr. J. B. Hamilton Canadian Federation of Mayors and Municipalities covering the period 1930 to 1951 which, at pages 31 and 32, has this to say:
Between 1939 and 1951, federal government revenues per capita rose from $45.33 to $270.68. In the same Interval, provincial government revenues per capita in Canada rose from $21.10 to $65.68, while municipal government revenues rose by a lesser amount from $28.07 to $45.49.
During the period from 1939 to 1951 the federal government has been able to increase its take on a per capita basis nine times, while the municipalities have only been able to increase their take by 50 per cent. The brief went on to say:
Municipal governments, relying upon less flexible revenue sources than the federal and provincial governments, have become increasingly dependent on grants and subsidies of other governments; otherwise they will be unable to finance the local services and responsibilities traditionally falling within their jurisdiction.
There seems to be a complete lack of understanding by the government of the problems facing the municipalities. There is a great deal of publicity about the wonderful job the government has been doing in bringing people to Canada, but there has been a complete failure to realize that for each person arriving here government on the lower level must immediately provide all the services and facilities required for streets, water, sewers and education. Yet the revenue agency which dips its hand in the pocket of the newcomer when he receives his first pay cheque is the federal treasury.
I would remind hon. members opposite that Mr. Frost of Ontario has pointed out very strongly that the revenue sources of this government could not exist without millions and millions of dollars being spent in development costs within his province. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that in this case as well if it is intended to indicate sincerity in connection with this problem, there are avenues of approach still open for this government.
We hear a great deal about education. When we talk about it we are told that we must be careful about what we say because of course that is a provincial matter, and that if we are going to deal with it we must set up some type of council in order to namby-pamby over the matter or we must see that the money is placed in trust somewhere where it will be available at a proper time for some provincial authority to take. I might say, Mr. Speaker, that if that is not bribery of the electors of a province, I have never seen it. But if there is true sincerity about the question of education, there is really no great problem, Mr. Speaker.
If this government is prepared to sit around the table with the provincial authorities and see that the tax base is adjusted
538 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. J. B. Hamilton so that additional amounts will be placed in the hands of provincial governments, then I say we can trust Mr. Frost to see that the schools of Ontario get the money. If they would like to add a little percentage abatement to their income tax plan for the province of Quebec, I am quite sure Mr. Duplessis will see that the schools get the money. This is again an indication that here is a government that must extract every last bit of favourable publicity out of every dollar, regardless of the consequence.
I might say that there must be other ways in which to assist the municipalities and still ensure that problems of provincial and federal jurisdiction are recognized. The problem they face is a demand for ever higher interest rates on their debentures in order to build facilities that are required for this increasing population. Yet I heard what was said by the Minister of Finance the other day. He answered a question by saying this: If the proposition is important enough I expect they will agree to pay the additional amount and get the money, but if they decide that it is not important enough I guess they will postpone it. Mr. Speaker, how do you postpone the building of necessary educational facilities? How do you postpone the necessary services that are required for houses from coast to coast for the hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to this country? What a facetious answer for the minister to give.
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that if this government really wanted to do something it could do so. Maybe the Minister of Public Works might have some ideas to suggest. He is increasing the interest rate on C.M.H.C. loans and he thinks there is going to be a great deal more money available to get that nice little increase. We have seen the Minister of Finance by remote control affect interest rates from one end of the country to the other. I am wondering if those two ministers could not get together and suggest to the financial institutions-just suggest, you know; it has been an effective method so far-that perhaps they might balance their portfolios; that if they are going to get X dollars out of our guaranteed C.M.H.C. funds they might be obliged to advance X dollars at 4 per cent or 4| per cent on the debentures backed by the people who constitute the backbone of the country and the municipalities.
It might only be a suggestion, but suggestions apparently have been taken in the past and they have worked out not too badly. It could work out just in the way the municipalities are trying to solve their own problems. When it comes time to build
a new subdivision of homes they have had to say to the developers: We want the homes, but if you want the permits to build the homes you will be obliged to bring us X number of dollars of industrial building to our community. I think there are other methods this government could use if they really had the sincere purpose of solving this problem.
I wonder what we are going to do about the threat from without. I wonder what we are going to do about re-establishing-I think that was the word used-the commonwealth and all it has meant to this country. I am reminded that the Prime Minister went to a prime ministers' conference last year. When he was questioned in the house about what he thought about commonwealth prime ministers' conferences, as reported at page 7325 of Hansard of August 9, 1956, he said this:
I have never felt that time was wasted. While there are no specific agreements reached I have always felt that the time was well spent and did serve to keep us as close as possible together.
I wonder how successful he feels he has been now that we have had the episode at Suez, Mr. Speaker. I wonder how well he understood the problems that were being created at the very time he was taking part in the conference. We have had here, Mr. Speaker, indications that the Secretary of State for External Affairs feels that his country has a great role to play in reestablishing this connection. But the other day when I asked the Prime Minister in the house whether he might consider taking the initiative in having a conference convened he said this:
No, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister does not feel that this country should take the initiative to try to determine what should be the policy of the United Kingdom government.
That quotation is to be found at page 323 of Hansard. We are not asking that the Prime Minister take over the policy of the United Kingdom government. I am going to use again the term I used previously. If there is sincerity in this government, if there is a true desire to re-establish this relationship, then it is about time this country took the initiative. If we have grown up-and for the last 20 years we have been told that the whole evolution of commonwealth relations as far as we are concerned has been part of our growing up-it is time we called a conference. It is time we held one down in Quebec city. It is time we gave some indication that we are prepared to play a leading role in maintaining what was the greatest agency for the promotion of peace in the world.
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we over here still believe in it, notwithstanding
anything that has taken place in the last few months. I believe the vast majority of the people who support the party to your right, Mr. Speaker, believe in it too. I can only ask them, does their government believe in it, and has it practised it for the last 20 years?
No, Mr. Speaker; this speech from the throne has come in like the lamb and I am sure the whole plan is that the government, after the budget presentation, will go out like the lion. However, I believe we should give them fair warning that the people of this country have been bribed once too often before election day. This year there will be no effective overtime appeal; it will take more than that.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY