February 1, 1943 (19th Parliament, 4th Session)


Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)


To-night I want to
follow rather closely the speech from the throne. First, let me say that I think we all meet at this time with a feeling of some relief, because the war situation during the time the house has been in recess has taken a decided turn for the better. That does not mean, I believe, that the war is nearing its close. I am in agreement with the Prime Minister when he said that he thought this war was going to be much longer than most people anticipated some time ago. If I may say so, I think when we have Germany and Italy beaten and suing for peace, we shall still have a sizable job to do in the Pacific. Therefore I am not under any illusions as far as the war goes.
I have read the speech from the throne carefully several times since its delivery last Thursday. It is long, and except for occasional statements of obvious facts, is filled with platitudes, which like all platitudes may be nothing more than empty words. If "freedom from want should be the assured
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possession of all", as the speech from the throne says, then I suggest that "the early appointment of a select committee to examine and report on the most practicable measures of social insurance" should be accompanied by the immediate raising of the pittances paid to our old age pensioners, the veterans of the last war and their widows, and the dependants of those who have lost their lives in this war, and of the beggarly provision of $9 a week for single men and $13 for married men who have already been discharged from the forces.
My knowledge of the record of governments headed by the present Prime Minister makes me very suspicious of proposals to appoint select committees to examine and recommend policies and programmes of social significance. We have had many such committees since 1921. We examined unemployment insurance, for example, in the early 1920's, and an act reached the statute books in 1940. We were promised senate reform in 1921, and in 1943 the senate remains with thirteen seats vacant and is as undemocratic, useless ands expensive an institution as could be found anywhere in the civilized world.
Thus the trite statements about the necessity for a comprehensive national scheme of social insurance and a charter of social security for the whole of Canada leave me cold, particularly when I know, as everyone in this house must know, that a comprehensive national scheme like those now in existence in New Zealand, under consideration in Australia, or a consolidation and expansion of social security measures as outlined in the Beveridge report in the United Kingdom, is impossible of enactment by this parliament without a new division of constitutional powers between the federal and provincial governments. I have said, and I repeat to-day, that the government has allowed this problem to continue when an attempt should have been made long ago to find ways and means of straightening out the difficulties and modernizing our constitutional relationships.
These difficulties should be faced by all of us. I know of course there is a fear in some quarters that any change in the constitution might interfere with the preservation of rights which are the very basis of the confederation agreement. It seems to me that such rights could be adequately safeguarded by the enactment of a statute of this parliament, or a Canadian hill of rights, recognizing clearly the rights of the minority, and of the majority as well if you will, as fundamental to the existence of confederation and thereby being the means of setting at rest once for
all the very natural fears that exist. But the passing of a comprehensive national social security plan must be preceded1 by an agreement between this parliament and the provinces that we shall have the right to enact it and put it into effect. A piecemeal plan depending upon grants in aid by this parliament and concurrent legislation by the provinces will in my opinion be ineffective and, indeed, may lead to difficulties between the provinces and the dominion and therefore may produce a dangerous spirit of national disunity.
To a truly comprehensive national plan this party will give its undivided support. Indeed, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that our movement, and particularly our late leader, J. S. Woodsworth, pioneered for old age pensions, unemployment insurance, socialized health services and other forms of social legislation. But because we have asked from time to time on behalf of the Canadian people for bread we are not prepared to accept the offer of crumbs.
Nor do we deceive ourselves into believing that even the most comprehensive plan of social services would solve our post-war
The speech from the throne states that the government has begun to explore the international agreements and domestic measures which will help to secure adequate incomes for primary producers and full employment after the war-again the kind of pious platitudes with which the lengthy speech abounds. Have we learned no lessons from our experience during the war? Surely everyone can see that we are doing things to-day that some of the ministers who surround the Prime Minister at the present time said could not be done in the days of peace because we could not find the money with which to do them. Now, with some 700,000 of the fittest of our young folk in uniform, we are producing more than twice as many goods as we produced a few years ago. Indeed, on the estimated production of 1942 we are producing more than jwo and a half times as many goods as we produced in 1933, when those same young people or their parents rode the rods or languished in unemployment and want. What we are doing to-day to win the war we can and must also do to provide for the welfare of the Canadian people. Our country has been transformed from a land of idle factories, many unemployed1 and wasting resources, into a country with almost full employment, vastly increased production, and a rising national income. When the war ends, pretence of poverty or an alleged lack of money will be no excuse for intolerable conditions, nor must we allow this excuse to be made although

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even now the government's own agencies are circularizing the employees of the government, warning them that they ought to buy annuities in order to avoid) becoming objects of charity from their relatives or the community in the future. '
In spite of the pious platitudes about adequate prices for primary products and full employment, there are unmistakable signs that unemployment and perhaps also ruinous farm prices and poverty are in the offing unless we do more than explore international agreements and domestic measures in the hope of making some undreamed-of discoveries. We dare not delay in formulating policies and programmes that will protect our citizens from the scourges of unemployment relief and poverty. We have found billions annually for the destructive, wasteful and yet very necessary purposes of war. We must assure our people that we can and will find billions annually for the constructive, lifegiving and equally necessary purpose of the peaceful development of our land.
Let us not put off the doing of it any longer. Instead of merely appointing a select committee on reconstruction and reestablishment, let us appoint a representative body-and by that I mean really representative, one representative of labour, agriculture, industry and all the principal fields of endeavour in our country-and let that representative body be a body of national planners, as it were; with this addition, the definite commitment by this parliament that Canada is prepared to accept from that body a programme of national social economic development upon which this parliament will spend, in cooperation with the provincial authorities-and I mean that this parliament will appropriate the sum of money -an amount, let us say, of not less than $5,000,000,000 in the first two years after the cessation of hostilities. With that national appropriation in sight the exploration of appropriate domestic policies could proceed with reality, and the boys now fighting our war would have an assurance that we were in earnest regarding expressions of faith in a new and better world. This, may I say, is not a proposal for priming an economic pump. On the contrary, it must be part of a national policy formulated for the social development of our resources and to prevent a return to pre-war capitalism which will mean inevitably a return to pre-war poverty. We dare not continue to allow this nation to remain under the control of monopolistic private enterprise, the power of which has grown apace during this war.
Two things, then, are necessary: first, the pledge of the appropriation of funds sufficient
to enable us to undertake immediate post-war national social development projects of housing, electrification, irrigation, reforestation, road building and so on; second, plans for the post-war conversion of publicly-owned war industries and machines for the production of peace-time goods and services. These together with monopolistic industries and financial institutions, which must be socialized, and the development of cooperative institutions, would provide us with the means for the long-term planning of our economic life for the benefit of all.
But can we even hope that the present government will plan constructively for the postwar period? Even during the present war we have had no over-all plan for the effective mobilization of our resources. We have the conscription of man-power for the army, but we have failed to apply the same policy to industry and wealth. The report of the war expenditures committee of this house, presented on Thursday of last week, should not only give us food for thought but jolt us out of our complacency. On the subcommittee which drafted the recommendation to which I wish to draw attention there was no member of this party, but the report confirms the misgivings we have expressed from time to time since the war began. Note this recommendation:
That as soon as company financial statements are available for the year 1942 a special study should be made of profits, accelerated depreciation and corporate taxation. The question of excess profits and accelerated depreciation has caused the subcommittee considerable concern. Very substantial profits are being earned in some instances far in excess of normal profits and while the Excess Profits Tax Act should result in no one being allowed to retain any excess profits which have been earned yet in many instances we found, as a result of rulings which have been given, companies will at the conclusion of the war own valuable physical assets which have been entirely paid for out of money which would otherwise have been payable as excess profits. Steps should be taken now to prevent sale of physical assets and company reorganizations during the postwar period to escape taxation or to provide for the sterilization of physical assets whose cost has been completely written off through permitting very drastic depreciation write-offs as are now in effect with respect to plant and equipment of war-time industry.
I want particular attention paid to this last sentence:
The subcommittee found that in regard to industries engaged in war production rulings have been given in most instances permitting plant and machine costs to be written off in three years.
In other words, the cost of these industries and the machines is written off in three years. The Canadian people pay for them in the
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prices they pay for war goods, and at the end of the three years the corporations own the plants and the machines.
I have often said and I want to emphasize that the profits of industry in this war not only are going to appear in the annual balance sheets of the corporations, but will be much more material, though hidden from our view, when drastic depreciation write-offs have given monopolistic industry the new factories, power plants and machines for which this nation has paid. My opinions have now been confirmed by the report of the subcommittee, which I have quoted.
I am not going to belittle what this nation has done in spite of the lack of any over-all production plan, but the thousands of trucks and the equipment covering acres of railway sidings from Windsor to Montreal are eloquent testimony to what I mean. Over two years ago we were told that this country could not build ocean freighters. Afterwards we went into merchant shipbuilding. To-day we have acres and acres of trucks and other equipment -I have seen them, and so have some hon. members who come from southern Ontario- piled high, because we lack shipping. This is the condition, partly because of the submarine menace, and partly because we had no plan of our own to build ships to transport the goods we were about to make.
Had we had a war-planning body to organize our industry and guide the use of our man-power, we should not now be suffering from acute shortages in so many directions, and have such surpluses in some others. The trouble has been that our country, at the beginning, was encouraged to believe that Canada's main contribution would be made in the raising of armies, whereas we are now beginning to understand that Canada's main contribution must be made in other fields, while we maintain the army approved by parliament, fully reinforced in the theatres of war.
. 0n September 9, 1939, in my speech supporting the declaration of war, I took a line which was then unpopular but which time is vindicating in several particulars. I said, as reported at page 57 of Hansard for 1939, second session:
We are the nearest dominion to Europe. We have tremendous resources. In modern war huge masses of men are being replaced by mechanized units which require vast quantities of supplies to maintain them in the line Frenzied demands for the enlistment of more and more men, if granted, may defeat the very object in view, success in this struggle.
Then I quoted a letter from Sir Wilfrid Laurier dated May 15, 1917, in which he said:

There is a shortage of labour in agriculture and industry, in fact in every field where brawn and muscles are needed, and in the face of this condition there are still people yelling for more men being taken away from occupations in which they are so much needed.
Those were the words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1917. And with that before us in 1939 we failed to make the inventory we should have made of our resources, our machines and our man-power, and' failed to adopt an over-all plan which would have assisted us in meeting some of the difficulties which have overtaken us.
Now again, as then, our farms are depleted of labour badly needed for the production of bacon, dairy and poultry products for overseas. Grain lies under the snow unthreshed, and t'he government discourages production of wheat which in my opinion will be needed in the future to prevent further mass starvation in many countries when the war ends. This incidentally might be utilized now, and, indeed ought to be used as soon as the submarine menace has been sufficiently overcome to feed our Russian allies, who are putting up such a magnificent fight on behalf of the united nations, and our Chinese allies, many of whom today are suffering the pangs of starvation. Yet we adopt a policy of restriction of a foodstuff which is the most easily stored foodstuff of all. Grain, too, which is stored on the farms is made a burden to producers, while elevator companies are paid storage for the wheat they have received from the farms. The government by order in council decreed last March that essential farm workers should not be drafted into the army, but-and I say this without fear of contradiction-that order is being entirely disregarded by some of its own national war services boards. Young constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are sent out to investigate the claims of men applying for postponement and, although they know nothing of the needs of agriculture, their word is accepted instead of the statements of reeves, councillors, doctors and ministers who know whether the applicants are essential on the farm or not.

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