March 21, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

The minister apparently does recognize, as he pointed out in his speech, and reminded us, that he had spoken on it in his previous budget speech, and I quote briefly from page 2314 of Hansard of March 14:
I was careful, however, to point out that we were becoming subject to inflationary pressures and that both fiscal and monetary measures would be needed to restrain the upward thrust upon prices.
I think the only quarrel that some of us have with the minister is that, having recognized that there is a problem, he does not seem to have done very much about it. On page 2216 of Hansard he had this to say:
I am sure that most thoughtful people know that a condition of "tight money" and higher interest rates is not the wilful creation of the government or of the banks or of the Bank of Canada. It is true that the Bank of Canada could have further increased the supply of money and credit. Such action would have given greater leeway for inflationary pressures to push up prices and costs to the great disadvantage of export and domestic industries alike, and indeed of all sections of the community.
I do not quarrel too much with this statement of the minister because I think he is attempting to give us, as far as he is able, an honest picture of the situation. But on the same page of Hansard he says:
The monetary policy of the Bank of Canada has been one of restraint, and the fiscal policy of the government has worked in the same direction.
Well, we have been hearing quite a bit about the monetary policy of the Bank of Canada; but when we start thinking about what the fiscal policy of the government has been which would assist in controlling this situation, then I think I might say, at the risk of being accused of coining a phrase, that we had much too little too late, because on page 2221 of Hansard the minister is recorded as having said:
I have already explained my reasons for believing that the severe inflationary pressures, which we have resisted so far with a high degree of success, are still with us to a considerable extent.
Much as I might like to do so, I cannot recommend to this house any major reductions in the general level of taxation.
Now, I may be wrong, but that is the only place in the minister's speech where I can find a direct reference to what he calls the fiscal policy of the government. In other words, apparently the fact that he has not cut taxes is the main method that the government is using to approach dealing with the inflationary pressures as far as policy is concerned. The only other thing I can think of is, as I understand it, in the estimates
The Budget-Mr. Barnett which he has tabled this year there are a few places where there has been some chopping and cutting of the construction program of the government which, if I may say so, in many cases is resulting in a real hardship through the lack of services to the Canadian people. These are the only two points I can think of to explain the minister's statement that the government is working with the Bank of Canada through fiscal policies. However, as I said at the outset, at least the Minister of Finance does recognize that there is an inflationary problem.
When I left the Pacific coast in January I came here from the province of British Columbia, but apparently while I have been away some things have been happening out there. Apparently, from reports I have heard, when I go back I am going to be returning to the province of Wenner-Gren land, as it is being called out there now. In Wenner-Gren land, which is being hailed as a paradise for Swedish multi-millionaires, we have a premier by the name of the Hon. W. A. C. Bennett. I do not know what Mr. Bennett is talking about these days, but when I left the province, when it was still British Columbia, Mr. Bennett was going around shouting at the top of his lungs that there was no such thing as inflation; that it was all the figment of somebody's imagination.

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