Mr. G. R. Webb (Leeds):
Mr. Speaker, may I add my voice by way of congratulation of the mover and seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. May I also add a word of welcome to those new members who have taken their seats at this session, and an especially enthusiastic welcome to my leader, the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Drew). Not only has he given a great deal of inspiration to hon. members on this side of the house, but he has created a sense of interest throughout the house and has given high hopes to men and women in all walks of life for a greater and more united Canada. His presence here portrays vividly great changes, one being the fact that it has created a housing problem within the seating arrangement for hon. members of the Progressive Conservative party. Every available seat is now taken. I think it only fair to give notice at this time that, should any further by-elections be fought, further seating arrangement be made accordingly.
The speech from the throne begins with these words:
The first concern of government in world affairs is to ensure peace and security.
May I hasten to say that I am fully in accord with those sentiments and I believe all hon. members of the house and in fact all people across Canada are also in accord with those sentiments. After spending many days listening to the speeches that have been delivered in this house, some good and some not good- probably mine will not be so good-I have not as yet been able to develop any great feeling of comfort, especially from what has been said on the government side of the house. I
realize that there are many problems that present themselves in carrying out those high aims and achievements and I should like to deal with a few of those problems as I see them as well as with some of the things that have come to my attention as I have gone across the country. It seems to me that there are two things, both closely linked together, which are spoken of more than anything else, namely, the high cost of living and the very high taxation.
We hear a lot about the need of keeping down prices, but we do not hear so much, especially from some quarters, about the need of keeping down all kinds of government taxes. In my opinion the various government taxes, direct and indirect, are as much a part of the high cost of living as are prices. High prices are sometimes escapable, but I have yet to find a way to escape high taxes. Therefore, to my way of thinking, high taxes are in reality a greater factor in the high cost of living which affects the people of Canada so much at the present time.
Not only are high taxes hard on the individual, not only do they constitute an important factor in the high cost of living; they affect adversely the whole economy of Canada. High taxation adds to the cost of production, which in turn means higher price tags on the things we have to sell. For a country which must sell about one-third of what it produces in order to keep prosperous, that does not seem to me to be a healthy situation. The nations that buy our goods are not particularly interested in our high taxes, in our production or other costs. If our prices are too high, it follows that they are going to buy from other countries whose price tags are lower. I think we must accept that as being reasonable.
Therefore I submit that something must be done to overcome these extremely high taxes. They are crippling enterprise, stifling development and denying adventure. More and more capital is shrinking from too great risk. More and more businessmen, including farmers, are asking themselves whether it is worth while to work for the state by extending their efforts or whether it is not better just to coast along. High taxes affect people in all walks of life. While it is not my purpose to pick out any particular class, for just a moment I should like to refer to the effect high taxes have had upon the farmers. May I say right here that I have had very close connections with farmers all my life and I know something of their ways.
I have never found farmers to be opposed to the payment of taxes provided they are applied on a fair basis, but they are certainly opposed to the present government's method
and basis of taxation and the manner in which the laws governing taxation are being enforced. On February 1 the hon. member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. White) went into this matter in some detail and I need hardly say that I am heartily in accord with everything he said at that time. It is not my purpose to take up the time of the house by repeating what he said, but I would direct the attention of hon. members to his remarks as reported on pages 150 and 151 of Hansard.
I suggest that anyone who has not given particular attention to what the hon. member said, in so far as his remarks applied to farmers, would find his time well spent by reading his speech. What he said applies to farmers in general, and certainly to the farmers in my district.
I believe that if the farmers were approached in the proper way, if the tax form they are required to fill out did not require such an extensive bookkeeping system, if they were allowed the exemptions to which they are justly entitled, if the government would eliminate the present questionable and mysterious method of enforcing the income tax laws, they would be ready to pay just the same as anyone else. I submit that a large portion of the present vast army of tax collectors and what-have-you might be dispensed with and the Department of National Revenue would thus be able to save some money.
Just in passing, may I enlarge upon what I mean by just exemptions, to which I think the farmer is entitled. Anyone inside or outside the house who has had any experience in farming knows that the farmer works anywhere from ten to fifteen hours a day. That is not a three or four day week, it is a seven day week. Then consideration should be given to the assistance which he receives from his wife, not only in connection with running the household but also in connection with outside work. Then assistance is provided by any sons and daughters, in fact by everyone connected with the farm household.
As far as I can figure out, our farmers do not get the exemptions I have just referred to. They are not given consideration for the hours of work they put in. If that were considered, and if consideration were given to the exemptions to which they are justly entitled, then I think you would have an entirely different situation in connection with the collecting of income taxes from farmers. In addition it seems to me that, in the result, you would have a much happier and more satisfied people. Urban and rural people would be brought more closely together, and would eventually understand one another
The Address-Mr. Webb much better; but in my opinion the farmer has done a great deal, especially during the war years, to bring about a balanced economy. We read in the press, and in fact we hear from many other sources, about the possibility of a reduction in income tax this year. We are led to believe that we should expect one when the budget is presented to the house.
I hope this is not only wishful thinking, because it is long overdue. I can only say that I believe the Canadian people are, and have been, very suspicious of the government withholding relief from taxation until a time when they might hold it out as an inducement to the people of Canada to return the present government to power. That is hardly fair, but from the reports I receive from people right across Canada it would seem that any relief in taxation which may be forthcoming in the budget will probably be too little, and definitely too late, to accomplish the desired result.
There are many taxes to which I might refer, but it is pretty hard to pick out one tax which seems to be more discriminatory than another. I believe that almost all members of the house have been receiving letters, and have been approached on many occasions, about the tax on jewelry. That is only one article, and I am not going to spend very much time on it at the moment because other speakers have dealt with the matter. I refer particularly to the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Shaw), who made a speech the other night. I have read his speech, and I should like to refer members to page 751 of Hansard where it seems to me that he has set out the situation very well. I believe that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) has been pressed on many occasions with representations about this tax. Therefore we can only hope that some consideration will be given to this particular business, because we are all anxious to have businesses in our respective communities carry on in a prosperous way. I know they are very much affected at this time.
I had intended to say a good deal about the wartime prices and trade board, but I do not want to repeat any more than is necessary. At this stage of the debate it is pretty hard to talk about anything that has not already been referred to. Dealing with the activities of the wartime prices and trade board in my community, I cannot do better than to refer you to the remarks that the hon. member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. White) made not long ago. After listening to his speech and reading it, I can only say that my experience in the constituency of Leeds has been very similar. I refer the members of the house to pages 152 and 153 of
1020 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Webb Hansard, where the hon. member states his experiences. I only wish to add that I concur in his remarks. It seems to me that it is about time that drastic changes were made.
I want to turn to another matter to which I have referred on different occasions when the estimates were before the house, the question of rural postal service. At the beginning of my remarks I said I was going to mention several items, and this is one of them. On several occasions I have brought to the attention of the postal department the fact that a large number of families in our rural areas are not receiving postal service. It has always been my contention that, if one person is going to receive postal delivery in a rural district, then everyone within that area should receive the same service, if at all possible. I know of cases in my part of the country where there seems to be definite discrimination, and for reasons that are pretty hard- to understand. I suggested in the house at one time that I thought it would be reasonable to make a survey of the various postal routes. I know there are some of them that are much shorter than others but which really should get more money. The condition of roads varies, and there are many other conditions which should be taken into consideration. Until such time as a survey is made, may 1 say that I cannot see how anyone can possibly sit in an office in Ottawa and know the type of delivery that should be made, how often it should be made, and what the cost of the delivery should be on a reasonable basis. I am not going to say anything more on that subject.
There is another matter that is of great interest to me, and on which I have spoken on different occasions. In passing I want to bring to your attention again my opinion about national parks. I believe the government-and I will give them a little credit here-are on sound ground in increasing the expenditure on national parks. In my view such parks constitute a great Canadian asset which should return dividends from year to year. As time passes, and the number of tourists increases, they will prove immensely valuable. I feel that very soon eastern Ontario-and incidentally I think it would be quite in order for me to suggest the county of Leeds, which after all is the most popular resort area in eastern Ontario-should also have a national park on a basis that is really worthy of this country, and in keeping with the natural beauties and attractions of this section of Canada.
Closely linked with that subject, of course, is the tourist business. Every session since I have come to the house I have spoken about the value of tourists to our country, not only because we need hard currency, but also
because we need the friendship of those who come here. People with whom we have played golf, fished, and possibly sailed, and whom we consider as personal friends, will feel favourably disposed to trade with us if we extend the right hand of fellowship, and if we do not withdraw the hand too quickly to count the tourist dollars which we hope repose therein.
The tourist industry has been kicked around in various departments of the government since I have been here, but I do not think it should be regarded any longer as a sideline. I think it should take a major place in some department of the government which will be able to familiarize itself with it, and carry on year after year, instead of having it turned over to a different department every year or two. I think that our efforts in this direction certainly should be increased, because after all it is a very important factor in our everyday life, especially in my particular part of the country. The hon. member for Lamb ton West (Mr. Murphy) touched on this question in his speech the other day. He asked for a commission. I have not had an opportunity of talking with him since, but I think last year we both asked for something a little different from what we have had. This might be the answer. In closing this particular portion of my address, I should like to say that I no longer consider this a sideline of this government and I hope the department concerned will give the matter special consideration.
I should like to mention one other item which seems very important to me and which has not been mentioned in the present debate. It concerns accidents at level crossings, about which we read every day in our newspapers. In this modern age, nothing is more antiquated than the average level crossing. Most of these crossings were constructed in the horse and buggy days. The tremendous increase in the pace and volume of traffic today has made these crossings entirely inadequate and extremely dangerous. I made a survey of the accidents at these crossings during the last two years and although I did not bring the figures with me, I can tell you they were shocking. A large number of people lost their lives or were maimed for life in level-crossing accidents throughout this country. This week I read a newspaper report of five people who were killed at a level crossing near Kirkland Lake. Within the last two days two more people have been killed. So often when we pick up our morning newspaper we read of another accident at one of these dangerous railway crossings.
Most of these crossings are going to be with us for a long time. I realize that the
elimination of all level crossings within a short period of time is quite impossible. All we can do in the immediate future is to eliminate the more dangerous crossings which exist on the heavily traveled highways and streets. I trust you will bear with me if I give you an example of one of the most dangerous level crossings in the province of Ontario. This crossing is located on the main line of the Canadian National Railways close to the railway station in the town of Brockville. At this point the railway line intersects Perth street, which is the street used by most north and south bound traffic in the town of Brockville. I travel this highway frequently and it is a very rare occasion when I am not halted at this crossing for a considerable length of time. I am not going into too much detail at the moment, but this is the main east and west line of the Canadian National Railways and is consequently heavily traveled. Incidentally, the railway yards are also in that area. A considerable portion of the town is on the north side of the track and it is not unusual to see hundreds of school children waiting to cross at this point. On many occasions the fire department has been delayed at that crossing, with very serious results.
I am sorry the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) is not in his seat at the moment because I believe he is familiar with this particular crossing. If he were here I am sure he would agree with me when I say that this crossing is one of the most dangerous in this province; in fact, I would not be surprised if it were one of the most dangerous in Canada. I have described this particular crossing and tried to tell you of the inconveniences and the hazards that prevail there. I firmly believe that the correction of this situation would be a great relief to the railway men who have the responsibility of handling rail and road traffic at this busy point, and it would add to the safety and convenience of the pedestrians and vehicles using the crossing.
In discussing possible solutions with the local citizens, I have been informed that vigorous complaints have already been lodged with the representatives of the Canadian National Railways. So far this has brought no results. For the present I must be content to let my case rest at this point, but I feel this is an important matter. While I have mentioned a specific case in my own constituency, I would not want anyone in the house to feel I am selfish about this, because I know there are many equally dangerous crossings in other parts of Canada. As I said before, I do not believe all level crossings can be eliminated at once, but I do feel that some of the more dangerous ones, at which acci-
The Address-Mr. Hansell dents have been frequent, should receive some special consideration by the Department of Transport.
It is not my intention to labour this question, but I should like the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) to note that I have not finished with it. I trust that, before the minister's estimates are before the house, he will be able to give me some sort of satisfactory reply as to the possibility of improvement at this particular crossing. I believe it is important to the people in my constituency.
In conclusion, I submit that the immediate necessity is for a revolution in the government's thinking. Whether such apprehension can come to this government, which seems entirely out of touch with the man* on the street, is of course another matter. It may be that no redress can be hoped for without a deeper and more drastic change.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY