Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking to the house before the luncheon break the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) challenged
me to outline what I suggest the government should do to control inflation and the steadily rising cost of living. I am sorry to see the Prime Minister has not seen fit to come into the house at two o'clock. I assured him at three minutes to one that I did not have time then to outline these positive programs, but that if he would come into the house at two o'clock I would be glad to do so. It is easy to see that the Prime Minister is not interested in positive programs, and is not interested in positive suggestions which he has continually asked for. When an hon. member is asked to give them, rises in his place, and is prepared to do so, the Prime Minister turns tail and runs away.
That is a pretty good indication of how the Prime Minister regards parliament. He is not interested in it. He is not interested in its operations. He is not interested in the ideas which are put forward in all sincerity by members of this house.
The first thing I would do to control inflation would be to control the government spending which has doubled in the six years during which this Liberal government has been in power. By so doing, the government could greatly relieve the upward pressure on prices, which is brought about by the increased government spending which has been going up at a phenomenal rate each year since the government took office six years ago. Several tunes in the past three or four years I have suggested that the government should do this, but on every occasion the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance (Mr. Benson) assured me there was no need to do this, that the government's policy of raising taxes would look after the steadily rising cost of living-
Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but I must remind him that the house is now seized of an amendment to a motion to adjourn. I realize it offers a fairly wide scope for debate, but it would be appreciated if the hon. member would relate more to the question of whether the house should adjourn until September 22 or October 22.
I shall be glad to do that, but what I am speaking about is the need for parliament both to remain in session and to return much earlier than October 22 because of the great many important matters which must be dealt with by parliament since the government obviously does not have the
July 25, 1969
answers to the problems, as has been demonstrated day after day in this house. The Prime Minister and other members dealt with these many subjects, and I am sure you will realize, Mr. Speaker, that what I am doing is the same thing. I am outlining the reason parliament should remain in session, and should meet again much earlier than the designated date of October 22.
As I say, the government has always answered that it cannot cut expenditures in the present fiscal year. It has assured the house that it would do so in the forthcoming fiscal year, the next year. But as you and I know, Mr. Speaker, cuts of that kind are the type of routine cuts that every minister of finance makes in the estimates of every department when they are brought before the Treasury Board.
Each minister, as much as he possibly can, always inflates his estimates before they go before the Treasury Board. He knows they will be cut very drastically. By putting in as much as he can, he concludes that he will receive the most workable package possible. Every minister, or every member of this house, who is, or has been a minister will realize that this is true.
So the cuts in the next fiscal year have always been simply routine cuts. I suggest that we ask ourselves whether it is possible to make cuts in the present fiscal year. The answer is yes, because it was actually done in 1962 by the then Conservative government. On June 23, 1962 the government of that day was faced with an international monetary crisis. In order to obtain the international credit which we need to keep the country's currency solvent, we were required to cut $200 million in expenditures immediately. Those expenditures were cut within a period of three days. Cutting $200 million on that date, effective during that present fiscal year, amounted to the same thing as cutting $265 million in a full fiscal year.
[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)
Therefore, remembering that this can be done, the government should immediately cut one quarter of a billion dollars from its expenditures in the present fiscal year, thereby greatly reducing the upward pressure on prices, and lowering the increasing cost of living. Let us remember the reduction in spending that took place in 1962. If the government cuts $250 million from its expenditure this year, it would be doing little more
Motion to Adjourn House than the Conservative government did in 1962 when it cut its expenditures by $200 million in that fiscal year, during a period of three days. This can be done, and it is necessary that it be done immediately.
The second suggestion I have for controlling the escalating cost of living is to lower prices by increasing productivity. I urge the government, as I have done on many occasions in the past, to bring in tax incentives in order to interest industry in this country to invest in new plant, machinery, and production systems, necessary to cut the cost of production, materially and lower the selling price of goods. This could be done if the government introduced tax incentives. The cost to the treasury would be more than made up-many times over-in subsequent years as a result of greater sales abroad of Canadian products. The lower cost of production would make possible lower selling prices, and this could be brought about by greater productivity.
The third positive suggestion I make to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) is that he approach the provinces immediately at a federal-provincial conference with the objective in mind of persuading the provinces to give the federal government the means to impose consumer credit restrictions. As we all know the public today is being bombarded with advertisements urging it to buy anything from a packet of pins to a red convertible, with little or no down payment, and several years to pay. In other words the public today is spending a vast amount of money it does not possess.
We all agree that credit is very necessary to our economy, and reasonable credit should be made available. What I suggest is that unreasonable or ridiculous credit should be avoided. A down payment of at least 25 per cent should be required on purchases that are reasonable, and a payoff period should be allowed depending on the type of product. Today consumer spending is completely out of control, and vast sums of money are being spent that people ini Canada do not possess.
This great increase in the purchasing power of the Canadian people is one of the things pushing up the cost of living. There are inflationary pressures because there is an overdemand for goods resulting from easy credit. As the governor of the Bank of Canada advised the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs a few days ago, consumer credit control would undoubtedly have been imposed by the federal authority
Motion to Adjourn House in the past two years if the federal government had possessed the power.
At the present time the provincial governments possess that power, and they are as worried about inflation, and the increase in the cost of living, as we in the federal government. I am sure if the Prime Minister called the premiers together, and asked for the power to bring in credit restrictions, enforcing a provision that credit be advanced on reasonable terms, thereby reducing this upward trend in prices, the premiers would be glad to give the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance this power.
My fourth suggestion to the government is that it should require the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, set up specifically to do this job, to protect the consumer against unfair prices for goods. This department has been in operation for some two years, but its record has been nil; it has not done the job it was set up to do, paid for by taxpayers' dollars. It has not required the producers in this country to keep their prices to the consumer at a reasonable level.
Let me suggest to the Prime Minister, who I am glad to see entering the house, although I am sorry he missed ten minutes of-
very constructive suggestions for which he asked, but which he obviously did not want or he would have been here on time. I say to the Prime Minister, now he has deigned to come into the house, that he should require his bumptious Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Mr. Basford) to do the job he is now being well paid to do, but is not doing. His only activity today seems to be to sprain his wrist once in a while patting himself on the back, as he has done so often in this house.
A good example of what the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs is not doing was referred to during the question period yesterday. He was asked by the hon. member for Wellington (Mr. Hales) whether it was the intention of his department to require bakers to pass on to consumers the savings that would immediately be made available to them as a result of the great reduction in the price of wheat. The minister refused to answer the question, signifying very clearly that he intends to do absolutely nothing about this situation, just as he has refused to do anything about requiring importers of goods
DEBATES July 25. 1969
resold to consumers to pass along the lower prices made possible as a result of tariff reductions brought into effect three years ahead of time. This minister seems to be content with making snide and smart aleck remarks, and doing absolutely nothing constructive.
I hope the Prime Minister will review my remarks in order to ascertain what has been done by this department. I think the members of the house would be interested in hearing an answer to the question regarding that. I think the answer must be nothing, and that the minister has no intention of doing anything.
Those are the four suggestions I put forward to control the increasing cost of living which, as I say, is presently going up at the rate of 10 per cent per year. Statistics indicate an increase in the cost of living month by month. This has been taking place during the last several months.
The recess of parliament is intended for today, and it is proposed that we will not come back until October 22. This means that the processes of parliament will be absolutely worthless for this unnecessary extended period of time. This government attempted to increase taxes and has met with failure on each occasion. It is now attempting to bring in measures that will prevent the opposition from criticizing its actions. The length of the debate now indicates that that policy is not working.
Evidence today demonstrates very clearly that the reduction of tariffs as a result of the Kennedy Round, implemented three years early, is having no results. This is because the minister will not take action requiring importers to pass on these reductions to the consumer. What the government has done has been absolutely useless. The only way we are going to get action from the government is by staying here, requiring the government to answer questions regarding the positive suggestions we put forward, and requiring it to take some action on behalf of the Canadian people.
[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)
Another problem that should be dealt with by parliament, and obviously can only be dealt with here because the government refuses to take action, is that of pollution. The President of the United States has set a very impressive example by personally heading their environmental quality council. On
July 25, 1969 COMMONS
that council he has put all the senior members of his government. This is evidence of the fact that the President of the United States and the United States government consider this to be the No. 1 problem in that country. The problem is just as grave in Canada.
I have asked the Prime Minister on several occasions whether he will follow the good example of President Nixon, and he has simply said no. The Prime Minister could not care less about this problem. The water he uses at Harrington Lake is not polluted, and he does not give a hoot about the holidays and recreation of millions of Canadians being spoiled by pollution. He does not care that the beauties of our countryside are being spoiled because pollution is an extremely grave problem, and is becoming worse.
The government has produced absolutely nothing in the way of legislation requiring pollution to be controlled. It has not called the provincial premiers together to discuss what can be done on a co-operative basis. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that the government has done absolutely nothing. I direct these remarks to the Prime Minister, who asks for positive suggestions and then is too occupied to listen to them. He could not care less whether or not parliament meets.
We need a national pollution policy for this reason: It is very difficult for a province to bring in good, tough legislation requiring municipalities to instal the type of machinery costly machinery necessary to deal with pollution. Legislation must be enacted which deals with this problem on provincial borders. For instance if Ontario were to enact a tough law, industries from other countries that might be settling in Canada and looking for a place in which to establish a factory might say, "We shall not go to Ontario because they have tough laws with regard to pollution; therefore we had better go to Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia or somewhere else."
If we are to have the kind of legislation that is necessary to require industries and municipalities to instal the type of machinery that will remove bacteria from waste before it is released into the environment, it must be a national law which applies equally to industries and municipalities in all parts of the country. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is responsible-as is President Nixon, who has accepted the responsibility-for calling together the provincial premiers and proposing to them that there be a national law requiring pollution control in their provinces.
Motion to Adjourn House
The provinces know that a national law is the only thing that will be effective in this area; therefore they would welcome this kind of invitation. But the Prime Minister could not care less. He will not invite the provincial premiers to Ottawa to discuss this matter and put into effect an anti-pollution law. He cannot be bothered. He wants to talk about the constitution and matters of the classroom. As the former deputy prime minister, the hon. member for Trinity (Mr. Hellyer), said before he was forced to resign because he could no longer stomach the sort of thing that occurs in the cabinet, the Prime Minister is not interested in the practical problems that today plague the average Canadian. He is interested only in matters of the classroom, I suggest to the Prime Minister that now is the time to get out of the classroom, to call together the provincial premiers and suggest that they give him the power to pass a national anti-pollution law.
I hope you are. This is the first sign of life that I have seen in the Prime Minister. Perhaps it is not too late, if he is listening. Very seldom does he listen in the house. He likes talking, but not listening. The Prime Minister should do what was done by parliament in wartime to make it easy for industries to get into the production of war materials.
Declare war on pollution, you bet your sweet life. And let us see you do it, instead of sitting in your seat and doing nothing. To make it easy for industries to get into war production the government of the day made available to industry low interest loans, very fast write-offs, and other inducements. The machinery that industry and municipalities must invest in, in order to take the bacteria out of waste, is very expensive. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he make this move as a means of helping industry and municipalities to do something to solve the problem. Nothing will be done if we simply keep talking of pollution the same as we talk about the weather.
The Prime Minister has to do three things. He has to call the provincial premiers together. I see that the Prime Minister is making notes on a little pad. I will give him time to write down that suggestion. I am speaking through you, Mr. Speaker.
The Prime Minister must persuade the provincial premiers to give him the power-they will do this readily because they are anxious to solve the problem-to pass a national anti-pollution law which will make conditions in all provinces the same, and then there will be no question of industry going to another province if the regulations with regard to pollution are not so difficult there. In addition the Prime Minister should make low interest rate loans available to industry and municipalities, and fast write-offs. If he does that, he will be taking a good step forward.
I now wish to speak about the matter of poverty in this country. Last August, nearly a year ago, the Economic Council of Canada made available a very valuable report to the Canadian people and the government. It devoted 38 pages to the question of poverty, which it described as a national disgrace. When the Prime Minister was asked whether he agreed with that description he said yes. So the Prime Minister knows that poverty in this country is a national disgrace. The government admits it is a national disgrace, and it came into power pledged to bring in the just society, which should include the elimination of poverty.
On September 13 of last year I asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider increasing the federal minimum wage as an example and inducement to the provincial governments to follow suit and bring minimum wages up to a reasonable level. This is very necessary because, as the report of the Economic Council of Canada pointed out very clearly, poverty does not exist to the greatest extent with people who are on welfare. Those people are usually maintained just above the poverty level. The report pointed out that those suffering poverty in this country are for the most part living on minimum wages, which vary across Canada from 80 cents an hour to $1.30' an hour.
The Prime Minister is making some motions about the time. I am glad that for once he is paying attention to what we have to say. I ask the Prime Minister not to worry about the time; I will look after that. My time is not up; I have a few more minutes, have I not, Mr. Speaker?