I am sure the whip will
follow the same course on this occasion. We are here as free people and as members of a national party. We will vote according to our conscience and according to what we believe is best for the Canadian people as a whole and the people of our own constituencies. We enjoy the benefits of a free democracy in this country. Under such a way of living no doubt we reap wonderful benefits but at the same time there are also weaknesses in the system that must of necessity be overcome not only by the effort of the government, but also by every citizen. No government would be strong enough to overcome a situation like the present one by itself unless it has full co-operation by all. Every citizen of the country who is worthy of the name must make the necessary sacrifices in order that the system we cherish, our freedom and democracy, our parliamentary system, our right to free expression, may be preserved.
That does not mean regimentation. It means the free will of a free people to do
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things according to their conscience. It means the freedom of a member of parliament to vote according to his own conscience in the best interests of his friends, his constituency and the country as a whole. The easiest way for the government to settle the question of the high cost of living would be to impose controls all across the board. That would be the easiest way, but would it be a really democratic way? Would it really be a solution? Under the present circumstances will the Canadian people be ready and willing to accept such a method of governing the country and regulating the actions of our people at the present time? Personally I would say absolutely no, that it would not be acceptable to the Canadian people.
It is true that during time of stress, time of war, when our young men and women are willing and ready to make the greatest sacrifice that human beings are called upon to make, to give their lives for their country because of certain ideals, then the citizens as a whole are willing to make certain sacrifices, and controls will then work. However, some people must have short memories when they clamour for controls such as we had during the last war. How many times have I seen newspapers and periodicals cursing controls and criticizing Donald Gordon! How many times have I had private conversations with representatives of industry and others who were maligning the name of the man who administered controls and his personnel, although he made a marvellous job of it and was a fine Canadian. It was not always pleasant for him. How many times have I heard my own family, relatives and friends in my own constituency abusing the system and the government of the time although they were doing a magnificent job!
When we speak of controls let us be careful about it. Does anyone in the house want control now all across the board on all commodities, control that will affect our exports and imports? Certainly people are not ready for such a situation. I notice that the amendment moved this afternoon by the leader of the opposition is well guarded in its language. You heard it, and I will read it again. It is as follows:
This house is of the opinion that in view of the announcement made on Wednesday last of the greatest monthly increase in Canadian cost of living during the month of February to the disastrously high level of 179-7, immediate consideration should be given to the adoption of appropriate measures to hold down the cost of living and halt inflation.
There is no mention of control there. I can only see one primary reason why control is not mentioned. I refer to what the leader of the opposition said in the House of Commons on February 21, 1949. I will read
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his words in French because at the moment I only have the French copy of the speech that he made. He said:
Mechanism of a dictatorship:
I do again urge members, and particularly those on the government side, to read carefully these arbitrary powers, these orders in council carried forward by statutory enactment, and which we are asked again now, in 1949, four years after the termination of hostilities, to renew. There you will see the mechanism of dictatorship. There you will see power to exercise almost unlimited authority over agriculture, over industry and over the economy of our country. Wider powers could hardly be imagined. And those pokers are exercised, not under the direct authority of parliament, but under the executive power of the government itself, without any clear definition of their limitations or purpose.
I remember perfectly that during the last federal elections, my Conservative opponent went around my riding saying that the leader of the opposition . . .
During the last election the leader of the opposition was saying that controls should be abolished immediately. I do not know how the leader of the C.C.F. party could interpret the amendment moved this afternoon as involving absolute controls so far as Canada is concerned. It certainly is not there. If the amendment carried, there, would be no implication of such a scheme. If you read the amendment you will see that the word "control" is not even mentioned.
In this country the cost of living is affected in two different ways. We are a great exporting country, I believe the fifth in the world, and for that reason our national economy of necessity must be very sensitive to the export trade. We have to buy raw rubber from the United States, for instance. In January, 1950, rubber stood at 44; in December of 1950 it was 164. We have to buy raw wool from the United States, Australia and Britain.