December 20, 1960

PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. George H. Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

Mr. Speaker, I have given careful thought to the question asked yesterday by the hon. member for Essex East, that the house be advised, concerning the 17 permits, of the dates of the permits and of the types and quantities of goods covered in each case, with regard to shipments to Cuba.

I have to bear in mind the undertaking which is given to applicants for export permits that the details they disclose will be treated as confidential. I also have to bear in mind the very important principle observed in the Statistics Act, namely that if there are less: than three exporters of any one category of

Inquiries of the Ministry goods, statistics of export trade will not be separately disclosed but combined with those of other statistical items.

This principle is equally important as it affects disclosure of information on use of export permits, and would be involved in this case in connection with several of these permits. The information which has been requested, coupled with what will shortly appear in the trade statistics, could very well give to anyone knowledgeable in the trades concerned some commercial intelligence useful to potential competitors of the exporters, not only those within Canada but also their competitors in foreign countries. This would provide just the sort of commercial intelligence for which foreign competition is always on the lookout. Unfortunately it is impossible to predict in advance where damage of this nature can occur, and it is certainly in the public interest that the details of the business of Canadian exporters facing competition in foreign markets should be safeguarded.

As I explained in my statement to the house on Friday, December 16, I would have no reason to refuse the tabling of these permits if it were not for this important matter of principle, and I also explained that in disclosing the information I then gave the house I was already going further than I would in normal circumstances consider appropriate.

Since it is the matter of the export of reconditioned aircraft engines which appears to cause the members of the opposition so much concern, I have been assured by the companies concerned that the engines in question which were sent to Canada for reconditioning, and are re-exported for reinstallation in commercial aircraft, are not suitable for inclusion in modern military aircraft.

I have decided that it is time to call a halt to further public disclosure of the details of these transactions. Each successive disclosure represents a further impairment of the assurance of confidential treatment given to applicants. As I reminded the house the other day, it has been the consistent practice of this government, and of the preceding government, to respect the confidential nature of the information which must be disclosed by firms applying for export permits, and we do not intend to depart from this practice.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Essex East):

Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question of the minister. Would the minister be disposed to give us now the nature of the commodities covered by the permits in question? Surely this would not in any way offend the minister's sense of the kind of commercial intelligence that we should have in this country.

[Mr. Hees.l

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

I think the hon. member will find the answer if he looks back to what I said on Friday. I outlined the nature of the commodities. There were airplane engines and three or four other commodities which I specified at the time.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Marlin (Essex East):

Would the minister say whether or not there were any parts which might be used by military tanks?

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

I am not aware of any. I am advised that these exports were of aircraft engines and three or four other commodities that were mentioned. There was no mention of any parts that could be used in tanks. I am sure there were not any such parts included in these orders.

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LIB

George James McIlraith

Liberal

Mr. G. J. Mcllrailh (Ottawa West):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to direct a supplementary question to the one asked of the Minister of Trade and Commerce. Will he agree with me that the reference in the Statistics Act to the limitation on publication of statistics was to statistics gathered under the authority of that act, and not to statistics gathered on applications under the export and import control legislation?

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had made myself very clear on this, but in case I have not I think I should read to the hon. member what Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent said on this matter in this house in 1956 when the question of an export permit for 12 Harvard aircraft to be shipped to Egypt was the subject of considerable discussion in this chamber. The then prime minister refused to table the export permits, and at page 787 of Hansard of Thursday, February 2, 1956, he stated:

I think this matter has been fully canvassed and discussed ... and full information has been given as to how that ministerial order was made. The only official document which is provided for by the statute is the export licence.

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?

George Alexander Drew

Mr. Drew:

-

The then leader of the opposition:

May I then ask the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, if he will have the export licence tabled which covered this particular order?

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?

Louis Stephen St-Laurent

Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):

Mr. Speaker, that is a document which for other reasons it is not practicable to make public. All these documents dealing with individual transactions of commercial corporations are treated as confidential and are described as such in their form for purposes that are legitimately required by our industrialists who engage in competitive business.

A notice of motion, No. 24, was brought before the house on February 6, 1956 which reads as follows-

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I suggest to the minister that his response is more in the nature

of debate than an answer to the question which was asked, which itself may have been somewhat argumentative.

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could just finish. I just wanted to outline that the then government voted solidly against the production of those papers at that time.

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LIB
LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Hon. L. B. Pearson (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, may I ask the minister whether he would make public the nature of the goods exported under these export permits, as was done on the occasion to which he has referred.

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

I have done that, and I have explained it very clearly. I did it last Friday, and I will read to the hon. member exactly what I said.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

All seventeen.

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?

An hon. Member:

Send him a copy of Hansard of last Friday.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

Seventeen permits.

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

I have now found the reference I made last Friday to the articles covered in those 17 export permits. It is on page 867 of Hansard at the bottom of the left hand column:

All but five of the permits issued were to cover supply to the Cubans Airlines of parts and instruments and reserviced engines which initially had been sent to Canada from Cuba for repairs. These were for the Viscount and Britannia aircraft operated by Cubana Airlines. The other items include part of a cobalt therapy unit, some rebuilt automobile transmissions, some rock drilling supplies, and parts for radio sets. I can assure the house that no application has been received for a permit to export goods of a strategic significance to Cuba.

As I mentioned a few moments ago, my department checked with the Bristol company and the Vickers company regarding the aeroplane engines that were reserviced and sent back, and we were assured that nothing in them could be described as strategic materials by any stretch of imagination.

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LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer

Liberal

Hon. Paul Hellyer (Trinity):

I wonder if the minister will explain the difference between radio tubes and equipment for strategic uses and for other uses?

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order. It is not one of the

administrative responsibilities of the minister to be a radio mechanic. Furthermore, I think the question has been pursued as far as can usefully be done on the orders of the day.

Inquiries of the Ministry

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December 20, 1960