January 13, 1970

PRIVILEGE

MR. BURTON-ADEQUACY OF ANSWERS TO ORDER PAPER QUESTIONS

NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Burton (Regina East):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege concerning answers to questions placed on the Order Paper. On October 23 I placed on the Order Paper a series of questions, Nos. 256 and 259 to 264 inclusive, asking for information about the designation of areas under the Regional Development Incentives Act. My questions concerned all provinces except the three maritime provinces which were completely included in designated areas. My first question with respect to each province was: "What criteria were used by the Department of Regional Economic Expansion in the selection of designated areas for the province... ". The answer provided to each question was: "Weighted measures of rates of economic growth (employment, income and population) and of potential for secondary industry"-a clear case of bureaucratic gobbledegook.

I then placed a motion for papers on the Order Paper asking for a copy of all correspondence between the government of Canada and each of the provinces regarding the selection of designated regions under the new Regional Development Incentives Act. The answer I received was that correspondence was exchanged only with the province of Alberta. This correspondence was subsequently tabled in the House of Commons and provided information on the views of both the government of Canada and the government of Alberta with respect to the designation of areas in that province. This was then followed by a series of questions in which I asked for information about the specific proposals placed before the government of each province by the government of Canada and the views of the provinces concerning these proposals. The standard answer submitted to each of these questions was that "the details of such consultations are confidential matters."

My question of privilege is that there has been a systematic attempt to evade the provision of information to which this House is entitled. Legislation passed by this House provided for consultations to take place with the provinces and now members are denied access to information on these consultations. We are told we have no right to know.

Furthermore, I submit that there is a conflict between the answer provided to questions 577 to 583 inclusive, and 596 to 598 inclusive, which indicated that the details of such consultations are confidential matters while the government had already provided full information on consultations with one province in response to motion for papers No. 140 concerning correspondence exchanged between the government of Canada and the government of Alberta. If it is possible to provide information on one province, how can the government hide behind confidentiality with respect to other provinces?

If Your Honour thinks there is a question of privilege I am prepared to move a motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections for further consideration.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. BURTON-ADEQUACY OF ANSWERS TO ORDER PAPER QUESTIONS
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

I thank the hon. member for having given the Chair the notice required under the Standing Orders. It has given me an opportunity to look into the complaint which has been made by the hon. member for Regina East. I have reached the conclusion, after giving the matter serious thought, that although there might be a grievance on the part of the hon. member, in the circumstances to which he has alluded I cannot find that there is a question of privilege. I think I should refer the hon. member to citation 181 of Beauchesne's fourth edition, among other citations, which provides that in circumstances such as those mentioned by the hon. member for Regina East there cannot be a ruling that there is a legitimate question of privilege requiring the referral of the matter to a committee. In the circumstances I cannot put to the House the motion to which the hon. member referred a moment ago.

January 13, 1970

The Canadian Economy

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. BURTON-ADEQUACY OF ANSWERS TO ORDER PAPER QUESTIONS
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ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

THE CANADIAN ECONOMY

LIB

Edgar John Benson (Minister of Finance)

Liberal

Hon. E. J. Benson (Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, as part of the national effort to curb inflation the Prices and Incomes Commission is working to secure the support of the business community and professional groups for a program aimed at limiting price increases and charges for services. If meaningful progress can be made in this direction, this initial step will be followed by efforts to restrain increases in wages, salaries and other cost elements that affect prices. This will help to restore a balance between total money incomes and the total quantity of goods and services produced in the economy.

[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)

It is important that major discretionary price changes in the Canadian market should be avoided while these discussions are taking place. Such price increases, even if planned well in advance, could easily be interpreted as being made in order to avoid the scrutiny which would follow the adoption of a program of price restraint.

With this in mind, the government has requested the copper producers and the railways to suspend the price changes announced around the turn of the year and they have agreed to do so. On behalf of the government, I have also had discussions with representatives of the two banks which had announced increases in their interest rates on instalment loans for consumers; they also have agreed to meet the government's request to suspend these increases.

I want to make it very clear that the government will adopt the same attitude toward any similar proposals to raise prices between now and March 1.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very obvious that if the Prices and Incomes Commission is to have any real chance of persuading the country to adopt a program of voluntary restraints, this kind of holding operation is essential. The mystery has been why the government did not realize this long ago.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Stanfield:

The Prices and Incomes Commission would have had a better chance to succeed if some of the other increases in prices of important commodities that were allowed to take place had been put off at least temporarily. The fact that they were not has made the task of the commission that much more difficult. I think the reason is that the government did not in its heart really believe in the importance of a program of restraints. The Minister of Finance, in his interim budgetary statement, was very quick to dismiss them at that time as having already failed. I hope the government now realizes that if this program is to succeed it must give the program its active support. I hope the government realizes the importance of this program succeeding at this time.

While a program of fiscal restraint and tight money may be perfectly satisfactory to the government and while the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance may be prepared to tighten the screws further, the rate of unemployment contemplated by the Prime Minister is not acceptable to the country.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Stanfield:

I hope this statement by the minister indicates that the government has finally stopped pooh-poohing such efforts and intends to support them. The government must recognize that any program of restraint must be phrased in specific terms. It must be comprehensive and not just related to part of the economy. This should not be too difficult since the Prices and Incomes Commission is talking about something temporary of about a year's duration.

It is late in the day for the government to be acting, but I am glad to see that those approached have co-operated. I think other industries would also have co-operated and thereby have made the task much simpler. The policy of the government to date has been one of deliberately creating unemployment in order to control inflation. It has not worked. It is not acceptable. I hope the minister's announcement today means that the government is finally getting down to a serious, effective and acceptable anti-inflationary program.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. T. C. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

Mr. Speaker, on December 10 last, as recorded at page 1814 of Hansard, I asked the Minister of Finance what the government intended to do about the proposal of the copper industry to implement a further

January 13, 1970

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

The minister has done something. He has managed to forestall two price increases-one in copper and one in interest rates. But what about the increase in the price of steel which will lead to increases in prices of almost every other commodity used in Canada? What about the increase in the price of oil, the increases in the price of automobiles? The Minister of Consumer Affairs pleaded with the auto industry not to implement them, but they were implemented despite his pleas and protests. Surely the public ought to know whether the financial position of these companies makes it necessary for them to increase their prices or whether they are merely taking advantage of an inflationary psychology to pick the pockets of the public.

What the minister has done here is not to roll back prices. He has allowed price increases both for the copper industry and other industries and he has permitted the banks to make increased profits. He has done so without lifting a finger. All he is doing now is to say: Boys, you are pushing things too far. It is like catching somebody who has picked your pocket, taken $100, and then he gives you back 25 cents for carfare to get home.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please.

[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Real Caoueile (Temiscamingue):

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance will no doubt again hit the headlines in the papers. He has actually stated today in the House his intention to fight inflation with outdated, inefficient methods, i.e. by useless statements and programs. As a matter of fact, the minister knows perfectly well, as we also do, that after the Christmas and New Year holiday season prices are more liable to drop than to

January 13, 1970

The Canadian Economy rise. If the minister wants to see this for himself, let him come with me along the commercial streets of Ottawa, Hull or any other Canadian city and see the special sales now on in every line of business, with some stores offering 40 or even 50 per cent oft their regular prices.

But the minister says that in order to stop inflation it is necessary to ask the Prices and Incomes Commission to get the support of the business world. Indeed the businessmen did not wait for the recommendations of the Minister of Finance or of the Prices and Incomes Commission to put goods on sale at reduced prices.

Mr. Speaker, it is not by saying that the minister has asked two banks not to raise their interest rates, as they wanted to do, that we shall manage to curb inflation or restore the economic balance or, as the minister said in his statement, that his intervention or that of the Prices and Incomes Commission will help to restore a balance between total money incomes and the total quantity of goods and services produced in the economy.

Mr. Speaker, the minister is deliberately misleading the entire Canadian population. He must think that hon. members are ignoramuses because never in the history of Canada have total money incomes been sufficient to buy the total quantity of goods and services produced in the economy. That is why consumers are forced to mortgage their income for three or four years ahead of time in order to buy products which are already one, two or even- ten years old. And the minister states that, on the whole, balance between the purchasing power and available goods will be restored. What a misleading statement!

Mr. Speaker, why do the minister and the government tolerate, for example, that a province such as Quebec to finance Quebec Hydro should have to go and borrow $50 million in the United States at an interest rate of 10 per cent for a period of 25 years? As a matter of fact, in 25 years the province of Quebec will have paid $125 million in interests on a $50 million loan, which is in fact a net loan of only $45 million since the brokers will get a $5 million commission on the transaction.

Mr. Speaker, that is the cause of inflation in Canada. It is the entire system which must be revamped. I understand that the minister's statement will get the headlines, but truth nonetheless has its rights. We must admit that our system is obsolete even if tolerated by an irresponsible government.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Sub-subtopic:   INFLATION-SUSPENSION OF COPPER PRICE AND BANK INTEREST INCREASES
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ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE BOARD

TABLING OF ANNUAL REPORT

LIB

Jean-Luc Pepin (Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Hon. Jean-Luc Pepin (Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce):

Mr. Speaker, could we revert to motions for a few seconds?

Topic:   ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE BOARD
Subtopic:   TABLING OF ANNUAL REPORT
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January 13, 1970