Mr. R. A. PELLETIER (Peace River):
Mr. Speaker, I shall at the outset of my remarks offer congratulations to the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Usley) upon the clear manner in which he presented his budget speech this afternoon. We might say also that we feel extremely sorry to hear of the illness which led to the resignation of the former Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning). We in this corner of the house feel particularly sorry that the government should have to suffer the loss of his services at this time. We always felt that the hon. gentleman was a most able and sincere individual. So far as we were concerned, he always extended to us the greatest courtesy and we again offer our sympathy to the government for having lost his services.
I am sure all of us realize that it was not an easy task for any government or any individual to have to face this country at this time and present a budget. We feel sorry that such a situation has been brought about, but we do admire the minister for the courage he displayed and we sincerely hope to be able to offer our cooperation. During the last few days of this session we have been asked to give our cooperation to the government, which we have done gladly, in order that the business of the house might be rushed through because of the emergencies of the present situation. We gave our cooperation because
we felt it was in the best interests of the country to do so. But the question of a declaration of war has been decided; the necessary funds have been voted to carry on, and we feel it proper to call a halt at this time in order to review the important decisions we are about to make.
The hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion) has so thoroughly offered his cooperation to the government that he appears to have abdicated his position as leader of the opposition in this house. As a matter of fact,, at the present time we have what might be-called a union or national government. Apparently there is no need to include-opposition members within the ranks of the-government when the government is receiving such whole-hearted cooperation from the leader of the opposition. We understand, of course, the motives which have led the leader of the opposition to offer his cooperation; he has done so in a spirit of assistance to the government at a critical time. Nevertheless we maintain that, once the government has been given power and authority to act, there is no need for undue haste in discussing matters that will affect, not only the present situation but the aftermath of the war.
We are grateful to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) for having been kind enough to clarify the situation with regard to a general election this year. He has made it quite clear that parliament will be assembled once again. I think that is the only fair thing that could be done and I thank the Prime Minister for that demonstration of a really democratic spirit. This will mean that, no matter what policies may be pursued in the future, we shall have an opportunity of discussing them and leading public thought by their being presented once again to parliament before the people are called upon to decide.
We have not had time to go into the budget in detail. We are more -or less in the same position as was the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens) this afternoon. Apart from touching generally on the broadest points of the budget, it is impossible for us at this time to visualize fully the different provisions and what they will mean to the people of Canada. We do know that we are facing a serious situation and that these measures have been brought down in order that we may meet that situation as adequately as possible. I believe it is proper for a private member to attempt to analyse the situation as it exists to-day and as it may exist in the near future. We know the present alignment between the conflicting armies, but the great question in Europe
The Budget-Mr. Pelletier
to-day is Russia. Everyone is wondering what Russia will do finally, and as yet no one has been able to answer that question. There are those who believe that in the event of Russia becoming involved in the war on the side of the foe of Canada, the agony of the present crisis would be greatly prolonged. For this reason we should take the proper steps to protect the people of this country in a financial way.
No one can know what will happen, but I think we should pay heed to the warnings which have been given from time to time by the Prime Minister as well as to the declarations by Mr. Eden of Great Britain as recently as yesterday. It has been stated that we are involved in a war which has for its purpose the complete destruction of Hitlerism from the face of the earth. That is quite a job, and I believe we are going to be a long time doing it unless we bring about universal conscription of all our resources. In my opinion that is the only way to strike a quick and decisive blow at the enemy.
In bringing down the budget this afternoon, the Minister of National Revenue stated that there were only three methods by which money could be raised, namely, by taxation, by borrowing and by inflation. He gave a good deal of time to the question of inflation and pointed out the dangers of an inflationary policy at this time. He should have gone further and stated that inflation is dangerous only when it is inflation, but that reflation is entirely different. As a matter of fact, the minister admitted that there would be a certain amount of inflation at the beginning. He felt that this would be absolutely necessary. I believe he used the wrong term. Instead of calling it inflation, he should have called it reflation. Reflation is getting back to the former level, and that is the term which he should have used.
There is also the question of borrowing. The minister did not go into this in detail, but I should like to submit to him that there is danger in borrowing. The minister stated that it would be necessary to borrow money to a certain extent to finance the war. The result of such a course will be that the bonds of this country will be placed upon the market and be made available for purchase by various institutions. There might be a tendency on the part of banking and lending institutions and others to call in their present loans and thus restrict the amount of credit and currency available to industry, the proceeds being invested in government bonds. This is what has happened to a great extent during the
I Mr. Pelletier.]
past few years because of the economic pressure and distress which have been prevalent in the country.
This afternoon the hon. member for Kootenay East referred to gold. He pointed out that without using any harebrained .financial scheme, without using any wild form of inflation, it would be quite possible and proper to use our own gold resources. The amount of the gold backing of our dollar could be increased, and thus our gold would be used to greater advantage than it has been in the past. This would not be taxation; this would not be borrowing; this would be using currency in terms of public need. There has never been a greater need for public credit than at this very moment.
There are in the budget many matters which need to be discussed, but I am particularly glad to note that every effort is to be made to control any undue rise in prices. I know the minister will agree with me that inflation can be brought about if there is no control over the rise of prices. I have a clipping here which I should like to place on the record, showing the amount of products in cold storage in Canada at the present time, and it might be interesting later on to see how they have increased in price without any new sources of production being drawn upon.
The quantity of creamery butter held in cold storage in Canada on September 1, 1939, was 54,975,936 pounds, as compared with 61,113,630 pounds on the same date last year. The stocks of other commodities held in cold storage are as follows:
Commodities Held in Cold Storage on September 1, 1939
Dressed poultry pounds 2,894,628Cheese pounds 52,507,421Dairy butter pounds 291,177Cold storage eggs dozen 7,861,333Fresh eggs dozen 591,488Frozen eggs dozen 6,009,041Pork pounds 25,919,044Beef pounds 9,932,231Veal pounds 3,733,649Mutton and lamb pounds 844,495Frozen fresh fish pounds 34,661,250Frozen smoked fish pounds 1,964,588Dried, pickled and salted fish., pounds 3,421,578
And so on. A complete list is given of the amount of stocks now held in cold storage in this country. Some people have already taken advantage of present prices to make a profit out of those commodities. I must say that we in this comer of the house are convinced that any increased profit has certainly not gone to the primary producer. Only yesterday I received a long distance telephone call
The Budget-Mr. Maclnnis
from a manufacturer in Montreal complaining that they were unable to carry on their manufacturing activities in that city because they were unable to get any sugar. When they went to the wholesaler, he told them he had no sugar and to go to the manufacturer; and when they went to the manufacturer, he sent them back to the wholesaler. The result was that they could get no sugar at all. Undoubtedly, when the sugar now withheld is put on the market, it will be sold at a higher price than ever before.
As the hon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Landeryou), who spoke before me, said, there can be no doubt in the country as to the stand taken by this group concerning universal conscription. We have felt that this is the only way by which we can get efficiency of action and equality of sacrifice. We feel that only by this means can we attain these results which are desired by every Canadian in this country. We believe that, no matter how great the financial contribution may be, it can never be as great as the contribution of human life. We feel that a repetition of the methods of financing the last war can only bring about a repetition of the results-debt, poverty and unemployment. Furthermore, the people would be given greater confidence in this parliament if it demanded in this hour of crisis an equality of sacrifice so far as that is possible. It is by these considerations we areT motivated, and we should like to see these policies brought into effect at this time. We feel that only in this way can parliament have the full confidence of the Canadian people. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we have decided that the only fair thing to do is to bring in an amendment to the resolution that was moved by the Minister of National Revenue this afternoon, and I shall place it before the house in a moment.
Our amendment calls for the setting of a committee to study ways and means of conscripting finance. We feel that this would not necessarily mean a long time to get results. A committee of this kind could work just as quickly as any other board or committee which has been set up or proposed by the government at this time. If industry can be conscripted, we feel that it is just as easy, if not easier, to conscript finance, and that it can be done just as rapidly. We feel that in moving this amendment we are placing before parliament what the people of this country would like to see done. They have no hesitation in offering their lives, and I feel that no one should have any hesitation in contributing to the extent of his financial ability to the cost
of the war in which we are engaged at the present time. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Camrose (Mr. Marshall):
That the Speaker do not now leave the chair, but that this house set up a committee to study ways and means of conscripting finance, and thus bring about a greater equality of sacrifice.