March 19, 1954 (22nd Parliament, 1st Session)


James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell:

I will defer to your
ruling, of course, Mr. Chairman. I now want to read clause 5 and I shall then read what the parliamentary assistant gave to us in explanation of it. Clause 5 reads as follows:
The governor in council may establish a list oi goods, to be called an import control list, including therein any article the import of which he deems it necessary to control for any of the following purposes, namely,
(a) to ensure, in accordance with the needs of Canada, the best possible supply and distribution of an article that is scarce in world markets or is subject to governmental controls in the countries of origin or to allocation by intergovernmental arrangement;
(b) to implement any action taken under the Agricultural Prices Support Act, the Fisheries Prices Support Act, the Agricultural Products Co-operative Marketing Act or the Agricultural Products Board Act, to support the price of the article or that has the effect of supporting the price of the article; or
(c) to implement an intergovernmental arrangement or commitment.
I now wish to draw to the attention of the committee the remarks made at page 3067 of Hansard by the parliamentary assistant, as follows:
The provisions of this bill, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the control of imports, differ from those in the existing act only in that the purposes for which import control may be exercised, as set out in section 5, include specific authority "to implement an intergovernmental arrangement or commitment." This change is being made to define more clearly the power that is required from time to time to carry out arrangements with other countries, particularly with the United States. It is preferable on occasion that we control our imports at the request of the United States, rather than leave it to the United States to impose export controls on shipments to Canada.
With reference to paragraph (c) of the measure, to which I shall return in a moment, I would just like to point out the extraordinary, unlimited range in this paragraph. The parliamentary assistant did not make any comment on paragraphs (a) and (b). I quite understand that, because they are not new paragraphs, and he probably feels that the reasoning which was used at the time the measure was passed would still be valid.
I would earnestly suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the situation has changed vastly since then. I now wish to read what was said by the then minister of trade and commerce, and I hope the parliamentary assistant will

agree that the reasons given there are largely if not utterly inapplicable now. I wish to read from page 568 of Hansard for 1947, volume I:
The provisions in respect of import control are equally necessary, though there may not be quite as general an understanding of the reasons therefor. In some instances the major supplying countries of a given commodity have taken control of its distribution and stipulate that an importing country, in order to receive an allocation, must agree to import no more than a stated quantity. Such a situation may arise from an international allocation of goods in short supply, such as the present international authority dealing with edible oils and fats. Alternatively, it may arise from one or more countries deciding to market a commodity by making allocations to the various importing countries. Where such an allocation is made it is necessary for us to ensure that the limited quota available to Canada is not acquired by a few of the bigger users, at the expense of smaller consumers. It should be noted that the supplying country, in many of these instances, establishes a fixed quantity for Canada, but it is no concern of theirs as to how fairly the share allotted to Canada is distributed among the Canadian interests that require supplies. That is something that Canada must look after herself.
I believe the parliamentary assistant will agree that much of what is said there is quite inapplicable in regard to the present situation. Indeed, I believe he will agree it is entirely inapplicable. For, whatever reasons have been used to place articles on the list within the last few years, it has not been these reasons. I hope the parliamentary assistant will be able to explain that.
As far as I can see we have no explanation for the continuation of paragraphs (a) and Ob). Indeed, it would seem from an examination of the export and import control board reports that they have no relationship whatever, particularly to paragraph (a).
I would like to read the new paragraph (c) and to ask the committee to consider very carefully the wording. If you had allowed me to read that passage I intended to read, Mr. Chairman, which is full of interest, then what I am now going to read would have been of much greater interest to the committee. However, I am sure you would not allow me to take up the time of the committee now on that point. The wording of paragraph (c) is as follows:
to implement an intergovernmental arrangement or commitment.
That is broad enough, but it does not say how that commitment is to be made, nor does it define in that paragraph what an intergovernmental commitment is, though I notice that the definition section says the minister means "the Minister of Trade and Commerce" and:
includes any person authorized by him to perform his functions under this act;
In other words, as far as I can see, an intergovernmental arrangement or commitment can even be made by telephone. T do

not see any reason why it could not. I do not know whether it could be made by the proper official. But again I do not see any reason why it could not, particularly when you consider the power that is being sought under this act. It appears to mean that the proper officials can take actions which really mean, in effect, that in respect of the action taken the tariff arrived at by a process of careful debate in this house ceases to matter, because what is the use of having a tariff if you say this or that article may not be imported at all?
That, Mr. Chairman, seems to me an extraordinary power for the government to seek. As I said before, it nullifies the tariff laws. It is really an unlimited power, as far as I can see. The paragraph "an intergovernmental arrangement or commitment" does not even say that it is limited to the effect of this clause. Lawyers might construe it that way, but the words are wide open. The parliamentary assistant himself, whom I would now like to quote, does nothing in any way to limit it. He says, as reported on page 3067 of Hansard of March 16, 1954:
. . . the power that is required from time to time to carry out arrangements with other countries, particularly with the United States.
I do not wish to labour the point, Mr. Chairman, but I feel the powers asked for here are unprecedented. I do not like to use the word "unprecedented" because someone may drag up a precedent which is very strong. However many precedents there may be, I do feel the clause confers extraordinary powers. It is quite unlimited and unless the parliamentary assistant can suggest how it is limited we are, in effect, being asked to hand over this power to the executive, which means that four men sitting together can exercise this power and bind the people of Canada.
I have read what was said in introducing this measure years ago. I have argued that by no stretch of the imagination have we a situation which corresponds with that, or comes anywhere near approaching it. The report of the import and export control board for 1952 states that one of the things which was done by the order in council at the request of the United States authorities was adding non-ferrous metal scrap in order to control imports from the United States.
I would ask the parliamentary assistant to tell me by what stretch of the imagination that came in under the act as it was before. I am not able to think of anything which confers the power to do that, as the act was constructed before. I am ready to be corrected, but I assume
19, 1954
Export and Import Permits Act the feeling that the government did not have the power is the reason for putting this clause in the bill now.
As I said before, Mr. Chairman, we have got used to this kind of legislation. We know the Minister of Trade and Commerce does not need legislation. He simply says, "Who would stop us?" We know he said in this house not long ago as reported on page 4197 of Hansard, April 21, 1953:
If we have overstepped our powers, I make no apology for having done so.
I must admit, however, that other ministers are more considerate. They do come here and they do allow us to pass legislation. They, at least, allow us to be present at our own funeral and they allow us to be the instrument of our own degradation. If we pass this legislation we hand over this power to a government which is supported enthusiastically on the other side of the house and by some of my hon. friends on my right.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I stress the unlimited power in paragraph (c). There is no suggestion of any limitation. With regard particularly to paragraph (a), no reason whatever has been given for passing it. I suggest to the parliamentary assistant that the reason used by his predecessor in 1947 is no justification whatsoever, and in particular I would ask him to give us some account of how this section is being used at the present time, or whether in fact it has practically petered out. I would also like to know if, in fact, the reasons for which it was originally instituted have disappeared, and whether it is now being used, as I suggest, for purposes completely different from those originally put before us. I believe that is a fair statement, but I am open to correction.
As I read these reports of the committee, I ask myself where they spell out in the act the things it has done. If that is so, I suggest that this section should not be passed. I hope that the parliamentary assistant will be able to answer some of these questions.
Before I take my seat I just want to say that if in fact it turns out on this account that this section has almost passed into disuse, I hope that we shall not be asked to pass it just because it is nice to have lots of power lying around. This gentleman in England whom I was not allowed to quote has pointed out at page 200 that you could have not only departmental regulations but even departmental circulars acquiring the force of law. I suggest that we should not slip any further in that direction and that this section as it stands at present should not be passed.

Export and Import Permits Act

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