May 20, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Jean-Joseph Denis

Laurier Liberal


I wish to place myself on
record as being opposed, generally speaking, to the increase of duties on alcohol. Formerly the duty on alcohol was $2.40 a gallon. Last year it was raised to $4.40, and this year it has again been raised to $9 in the case of alcohol manufactured in Canada and $10 when it is imported. I have particu-

lar reference to. the alcohol manufactured in Canada, and it seems to me that the imposition of such a heavy duty is based upon a wrong principle. It means tl^t the people of this country will be penalized by being called upon to pay a stiff duty on using that commodity, if alcohol can be called a commodity. The true economic principle is to apply taxation as fairly as possible to everybody. In this case the Government chooses for taxation a particular class of people who are making use of alcohol, and penalizes them by the imposition of an extraordinary tax which nobody would have ever thought of a year or two ago. I am not speaking in defence of alcohol. I am not saying that it should be consumed, but my point is this: If the use of alcohol is to be allowed in this country then people should not be penalized to such an extent because they use it. On the other hand if alcohol is to be prohibited a different measure should be adopted other than the imposition of an exorbitant duty. We must bear in mind the fact that the use of alcohol is either good or bad. It is not very long ago I read an article in a scientific newspaper under the caption of "Is Alcohol food?" the article was being devoted to a discussion of a question of whether or not alcohol is a food. Some people are very strongly opposed to the use of alcohol but the Government permit its importation and therefore take a neutral stand-if I may so express it-on the question; they leave the matter entirely in the hands of the Provincial Governments. The Federal Government, not being opposed to the use of alcohol, should not impose on it such enormous duties; it is an absolutely false principle in economics. We all know that great quantities of alcohol have been imported within the past few weeks and distributed throughout Canada, including the province of Ontario. It was only a few days ago I read that 5,000 cases of alcohol were going into the city of Toronto every day. I would not go the length of offending the minister by suggesting that possibly there may have been a "leak", for I do not think the news was known a minute before it was announced in this House. The reason alcohol was imported in such great quantities by people in Ontario was no doubt by reason of the referendum last April, but in the meantime rich people in that province, to say nothing of people in other provinces, have had the opportunity of filling their cellars with cheap alcohol on which they paid a duty of only $5 per gallon. What I have said about the importation of alcohol is only incidental. The principle is wrong in so far as it imposes on a particular commodity or a particular beverage an enormous duty absolutely out of proportion to duties imposed on other beverages and commodities, and thereby strikes a particular class of the community very severely by forcing them to pay more money to the treasury than other classes who do not make use of those beverages or commodities.

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