May 9, 1944 (19th Parliament, 5th Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



Yes. But on the other hand, when I asked the minister's predecessor-not his immediate predecessor, but the one before, Mr. Dunning-for some information on the Bank of Canada, I was denied that information. I was told that it was none of my business to know about the expenses of a Bank of Canada doorman who travelled around the world. I do not know what are the relations between the Minister of Finance and the Bank of Canada. It is impossible for a member of parliament to attend all the sittings of the house and to read Hansard from the first page to the last, but there was something abnormal in the condition under which the Bank of Canada was created and left on an ivory tower.
I hope the minister will make clear what are the relations between himself and the Bank of Canada, but at the present time he should not be the only intermediary between the Bank of Canada and the House of Commons. He should have control over the Bank of Canada and he should submit to the control of the House of Commons.
We hear about the nationalization of banks. It is often mentioned in public that our banking system should be nationalized. W hen the Bank of Canada was created, it was created under private ownership and Mr. Bennett gave the reason for establishing it in a way-contrary to the system that had been operating for years. The capital was privately
owned, and the policy of this government afterwards was different; they made it publicly owned. The government purchased the shares and we were told that the Bank of Canada was a public, a national institution. It is a mushroom. It is impossible to know what is going on there, and those people are not in contact with the House of Commons at all. We" must have certain information from them, and also from the Minister of Finance, but in the present stage it is impossible to get information. How many times did I ask questions about the Bank of Canada and was told that, as in the case of the railways, the government did not have to answer? This is the old story. So long as the capital stock of the Bank of Canada was privately owned, while there was not exactly a raison d'etre there was something like a raison d'etre for establishing it; but as soon as the government bought the private stock and made it government owned, then the Bank of Canada had no longer a raison d'etre and we should have dispensed with it. It could be easily done. It is done in other countries. The government has control over banking in other countries. The position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the Bank of England is an example to follow in this dominion. In England they would never stand for a sy-stem such as the one w-e have here. Their policies are not made by experts; they are made by the government. This government may consider the suggestions that are made to them by the experts of the various departments, but, sir, is it not essential that the policy itself be made not by these experts but by the government? At the present time we can see where it differs from the past. In the old days when a member went to see the minister, the minister used to call the official in charge and ask him what was his answer to the complaint of the member, and then the minister decided what had to be done. But now conditions are entirety different. The same official is called and the minister asks him to decide what to do. The minister is there just as an intermediary between the member and the department, and the one w-ho is always right and makes no mistake is the official in charge. I do not believe that the Bank of Canada will serve any purpose so long as we have that system of irresponsibility.
I should like to have the gift of speech of my friend the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer) to describe the future as I should like it to be for the boys and the girls in the armed services, as well as for all our fellow citizens. But there were two things he said that seemed to be contradictory. He said that we have a burden of debt unprece-
Bank Act-Mr. Pouliot

dented in this country, which is true. He then expressed the desire that we should impose less taxes in the future. How can it be done with such a heavy burden of debt? Then he said that the Bank of Canada should be a national bank. So long as it is constituted as it is now, the Bank of Canada will never be a national bank. Even if the Bank of Canada is an international bank, our credit should be controlled by the nation. That is why it is important that the Minister of Finance should iiave a check on the Bank of Canada, and that he should be responsible to parliament for the general policies that are followed by that organization.
It would be a great mistake to put into the heads of our fellow citizens the thought that they will be given as much credit as Santa Claus distributes in Christmas gifts if a certain party comes into power. Those things are most dangerous. We should not expose our fellow citizens to disillusion. I recognize the sincerity of all my colleagues, although I do not agree with many of them. They want the redressment of wrongs. Wrongs will be redressed when the supremacy of parliament is recognized as the medium to correct the evils. Canadian citizens have a right to petition parliament for the redressment of a wrong. How can they petition parliament for the redressment of a wrong done by the Bank of Canada when there is no link between parliament and that bank? There may have been mistakes in judgment, and even mistakes of policy, on the part of some banks at certain times; but what is the remedy? It is easy to say to anybody: we will see to it that you will get unlimited credit. It was done in France. It was done at the time of the French revolution, and assignat fell down to nothing. It was done in Germany after the war, and the mark fell to next to nothing. It was easy to be a millionaire in Germany, to have a million marks. You could get them for a few cents. We shall not expose our country to such depreciation of money.
I may have some questions to ask when the committee sits, and I shall ask my good friend, the hon. member for Ontario (Mr. Moore), who is the chairman of the committee, to afford me the opportunity of asking some questions of the witnesses when they appear. But let us be very careful about making a change in what has been going rather well. When there are not too many complaints it is dangerous to make a change. It was dangerous to change the rules of the house. Would it not be dangerous to make too many changes in the banking system?
Let us not forget, sir, that the so-called prosperity which the Canadian people are
[Mr. Pouliot.j
enjoying is superficial. There are expenditures in large brackets, but sooner or later it will have to be paid. It cannot go on like that all the time. There are high wages paid and contracts are let here and there, but we are in a very precarious situation. There are many people who worry about the future, and who ask themselves what will happen when the war is over. It is time to think of that and to be very careful about the adoption of new schemes, whether they are proposed by financial wizards or others. When I speak of "financial wizards" I speak of the experts who are the advisers of the government. Sooner or later the day will come when the huge amount of taxation that is increasing will have to be paid, and it will not be a service to render to the boys who are fighting now in all corners of the world to welcome them with financial embarrassments as soon as they are discharged from the army. That is a matter for serious consideration, and I hope, sir, that no one will forget that the burden of taxation will be harder to decrease so long as the Canadian people are not told the truth in very simple language.

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