March 1, 1928 (16th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)


I presume my hon. friend will accept him even on that name. Whle all the members on the government side who have spoken in this debate and members of the government themselves have stressed the prosperity which they allege to prevail in this Dominion, I have noticed that all this prosperity is present in the abstract. Not a single member has stood up in his place and said that in his particular constituency industrial conditions are excellent; that the people are busy; that the working men have full pockets, and that the larders of the women are well stocked with food and the other necessaries of life. This government is a government by statistics. When you try to pin them down to hard facts, every member of the government immediately turns to statistics to support the spurious case which they want to present to the people. Why, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) in his first address in the house this year took almost three and a half hours, and most of that time was consumed in giving statistics to prove to the people of this country that they were prosperous. I, for one, prefer the method of the late revered leader of the Liberal party, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who said that if a people were truly prosperous it was not necessary to quote statistics, that when the man in the street put his hand in his pocket he knew whether or not he was prosperous. While banking institutions may be prosperous, while certain sections of this country may be prosperous, while the farmers of this country, due to their own work and thrift, may be in a more or less prosperous condition, while the pulp and paper industry is probably prosperous to-day, by the test of Sir Wilfrid Laurier the working people of this country, the great mass of the people, are not in a prosperous condition, or are not as prosperous as they should be.
Why, this government says, we are reducing taxation. But, Mr. Speaker, if you look over the estimates for the last five years you will find that year after year there has been a steady increase in expenditure on the part of this government. Year after year this government has been collecting more and more money from the taxpayers. True the government have taken off some of the nuisance taxes which they themselves imposed. They have brought the sales tax back to three per cent, the point where it was when they came into office in 1921. But I maintain that if this government economized as they should do, and economized as the people of this country demand, they could have taken off the sales tax entirely and have got rid of

The Budget-Mr. Cotnam
the nuisance tastes years ago. Anyone who looks over the estimates even for this current year will agree, 1 think I am quite safe in saying, that this government could cut down their expenditure by fifty to seventy-five million dollars a year without one public service in the country suffering thereby, if they were willing to cut out their political patronage to political heelers and hangers-on and give the country a good straight square and honest deal in the matter of government. It is a strange thing how the government can expect this country to grow and prosper-and to me it seems impossible-in the face of the fact that in the last five years they have spent over two billion dollars in administering the -public affairs of only nine millions of people. I cannot understand how we can prosper when this government are spending at least $40 per capita per annum for every man, woman and child in the Dominion. It does not matter how they get the money out of the pockets of the people, whether by direct or indirect taxation; the fact remains that the people of Canada must pay the bill. You can cut down your sales tax, cut down your income tax, cut down all your taxes, but if you continue in the aggregate to collect more revenue than you have been collecting in the past, the people of Canada must eventually pay the piper, and they are paying it to-day.
Yes, the government have reduced the income' tax. I do not think that helps the labouring man in this country very much. The bon. member for East Essex, when speaking this afternoon, said that if you bought an automobile in the city of Ottawa to-day, now that the reduced sales tax is in effect, you could buy it ten dollars cheaper than before this budget came into effect. But I ask you, how many working people in this country are to-day living on less than $1,000 a year? I venture to say that probably sixty per cent of the labouring classes in this country are earning less than $1,000 a year, and they are not buying motor cars, I can tell you, to say nothing about benefiting by a reduction in the income tax. I do not believe in this reduction in the income tax. I believe the income tax should be collected, and collected from the people who are able to pay. The people who have the money in their pockets have the right to pay; it is their duty to contribute to the running expenses of this country instead of the government collecting a sales tax from the little fellow who can earn only $2 or $2.50 per day.
In 1921 we had the Prime Minister-at that time he was leader of the opposition-in my c mstituency. He came there all arrayed 56103-60
in battle armour, equipped with sword and shield, and he was going to slay a number of dragons that were then in the way. The present Prime Minister in opposition was a wonderful filter at imaginary evils. They must slay that dragon, he said, of the high cost of living. The poor consumer in this country was paying more than he should have to pay for the necessities of life. Where is the cost of living to-day? Why, it is higher to-day than when the Prime Minister was touring the Dominion in 1921, and I do not now hear him raising hia voice against the high cost of living.
Another thing of which he complained was that the Conservative government was a government by order in council. But yet this government, which, according to a return tabled last year, had passed 25,000 orders in council from the time they came into power up until last year, have I presume up to now passed 35,000 or 40,000 orders in council, and the Prime Minister never raises his voice against that evil which was so rampant in thi3 country in 1921.
The Prime Minister was also going to reform the senate. He has been in office now for six years, and reformation of the senate so far as the Prime Minister and his cabinet are concerned, is as far away as it was at the time of the flood. However, he did perhaps take one step towards the reformation of the senate when he appointed the ex-Minister of Customs and Excise in this country, a man who had assisted in defrauding-

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