Mr. Georges Villeneuve (Roberval):
Mr. Speaker, in the first place I wish to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne, the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona (Mr. Hanna) and the hon. member for Gloucester (Mr. Robichaud). Not only did they deal in a masterly way with the problems of our times, and present a realistic picture of their respective constituencies, one in Alberta and the other in New Brunswick, but they did not fail to speak in support of national unity, in accordance with Liberal party policy, and as had been done by great leaders such as Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Right Hon. Mackenzie King and the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent. I was proud to hear my good friend, the hon. member from Edmonton-Strathcona, speak French because, as he sits beside me in this house, I have often had the opportunity to help him practise that language which he now speaks with an ease worthy of the efforts he made. I have no doubt that the electors of Edmonton-Strathcona are proud to be so well represented by their member.
The Prime Minister was particularly fortunate in his choice of a true Acadian as seconder of the address in reply. Here we have a member of that race which "knows not how to die" because it remains conscious of its role in a greater and more varied Canada, moulded in mutual respect based on mutual understanding, a perfect factor of national unity.
Mr. Speaker, as did many other hon. members, I would now like to speak of social security and more particularly of family allowances. These are so welcome to the large families of my constituency that I have been asked to make representations to have the basic rate increased. I would like however, before I do so, to go back
The Address-Mr. Villeneuve for a moment on the history of the legislation enacted in this regard, originating from the statutes of 1944-1945, chapter 40, entitled "an act to provide for family allowances", providing for the paying of allowances for each child residing in Canada as follows: from birth to 6 years of age: $5.00 a month; from 6 to 10 years: $6.00 a month; from 10 to 13 years: $7.00 a month; from 13 to 16 years: $8.00 a month.
The above-mentioned act, which was passed during the 1944-45 session contained, however, under clause 3, a reservation to the effect that the allowance rate be reduced by $1 for the fifth child; by $2 for the sixth and seventh, and by $3 for the eighth and every following child. This proviso which was prejudicial to large families was probably the result of the insidious and unfair campaign launched by a group of people who, over the years, have dwindled to nothing and who, at that time, referred to family allowances as the "Quebec baby bonus". Future events were to show those people that they were behind the times in their social thinking for, in 1957, we find that Ontario is the province with the greatest number of children eligible for family allowances and that, due allowance being made for the population of the different provinces, Newfoundland is the province with the highest amount in family allowances.
In its 1949 legislation, chapter 17 of the statutes for that year, this government amended the act in repealing the proviso I mentioned, which had the effect of putting on an equal footing all Canadian children, whether they were from families of five children or of fifteen children. The large family had won its case. If the Liberal government of 1944-45, under the leadership of the Right Hon. Mackenzie King, can take credit for initiating family allowances, that great social legislation, in the highest sense of the word, the Liberal government of 1949, under the leadership of the present Prime Minister, deserves the congratulations of the Canadian people for dealing fairly with the large family. With regard to this point, I do not think that quantity is prejudicial to quality, otherwise the member now speaking could not be proud to be the tenth of a family of twelve, several of whom are now efficiently pursuing the object pursued by their old mother now 72 years old, who is still living in the contentment of duty done with regard to her country, the greatest asset of which always remains its human capital.
The budget for the fiscal year 1945 appropriated for family allowances the large amount of $190 million. It was the first time
Mr. Villeneuve in the history of this country that the Canadian mother was getting these allowances. In the fiscal year 1949, which saw the repeal of that proviso and of the decreasing rate, the amount of $284 million was set aside in the budget for family allowances. In the budget of the current 1956 fiscal year the amount of $399,240,000 is set aside for that purpose. Those who claim that family allowances have remained what they were in 1945 do not take into account the adjustment made in 1949 with the repeal of the proviso which was in the 1944-45 act nor the above figures which show the increase in the amount paid under family allowances, with due allowance for the increase in the Canadian population.
In the light of actual facts, I think the subamendment introduced on January 17 by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Shaw) moving a vote of non-confidence with regard to the Government, mainly in respect of social security legislation, is hardly logical, especially so when I think that during the 1944-45 session at the opening of which the Liberal government of the day had announced the institution of family allowances in the speech from the throne, his political group voted against this very government. In fact, the speech from the throne read by His Excellency the Earl of Athlone, then governor general of Canada, on January 29, 1944, contained as can be seen on page 2 of Hansard the following passage:
The family and the home are the foundation of national life. To aid in ensuring a minimum of well-being to the children of the nation and to help gain for them a closer approach to equality of opportunity in the battle of life, you will be asked to approve the establishment of a measure introducing family allowances.
On January 28, 1944, the then hon. member for Dorchester, Mr. Leonard Tremblay, moved the adoption of the address which contained the aforementioned paragraph about family allowances. On February 10, 1954, Mr. Tremblay's motion on the address was put to a vote and, among the 21 members who then voted against that motion, I find, at page 380 of Hansard, the name of the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Shaw) alongside the names of the other members of his political party who joined hands, for the occasion, with the members of the C.C.F. party, these same good Samaritans who would like today to wrest from the Liberal party the credit for being the first to advocate family allowances.
I see in the subamendment a sign of that habit of plagiarism prevalent among many members of the opposition who, frustrated by their failure to understand the needs of the
population as early as the many Liberal governments which have been in power since confederation and especially since the advent of social security for Canadians of all ages and all classes, indulge in barren criticisms and take no account of the various aspects of that question. For a long time Canadians from all parts of this country have shown that they reject the tenets of an abject socialism or those of a retrograde and backward conservatism. They look upon the Liberal party as a middle-of-the-road party, having regard to the anticipated results of those various tendencies and that is why they have given that party their confidence, and rightly so, and will do so again, I hope, at the next opportunity.
I have always said and, I go on saying to my electors, especially to those who have a tendency to minimize the achievements of the Liberal administration in the field of social security that it was the Liberal party which enacted our social security legislation in Canada, which later improved that legislation and will continue to do so when the time comes and the opportunity arises.
Mr. Speaker, I believe, as do my electors of Roberval constituency, that the time has come, in 1957, to appropriate more money for social security benefits, particularly in the matter of family allowances. Twelve years have gone by since the enactment of that legislation and eight years since the last adjustment in 1949. Since then the cost of living has constantly increased so that family allowance benefits have correspondingly suffered a loss in buying power. I would therefore humbly ask the government to give the matter particular attention. I will be so bold as to express the hope that it will see to it that family allowance benefits be revised upward to as high a figure as possible. I am expecting a pleasant surprise in this regard when the hon. Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) brings down his budget following a special recommendation from the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin).
Mr. Speaker, before going on to another matter, I would like to ask the government to set at $400, instead of $150 as is the case at present, the income tax exemption provided for in the case of each child receiving family allowances. In so doing the government would put everybody in the same position, from the point of view of income tax and once again would prove the very great importance it attaches to human capital, the most valuable form of our wealth, the greatest of all,
that which, providing it is accompanied by a modicum of material goods, has made Canada a country where life is particularly pleasant because of the security it provides.
I would not like to conclude, Mr. Speaker, without putting to the government a suggestion which it might find far-fetched but which, in my humble opinion, would be of very great assistance to the future development of this country. This suggestion relates to the personal income tax.
Income tax has meant tapping hitherto unused savings. The economy of this country has benefited from this use of hitherto unproductive money, money which is now at the service of progress, thanks to the distribution which is carried out by the government throughout Canada, to mention only that aspect of the matter.
Canadians who, formerly approved the selfish principle of holding back while hoping to receive, have now learned to give something in order to get something. The transition between those two states of mind was achieved in the course of fifteen years, so that now Canadians agree at least to consider the income tax as a necessary evil. Since 1940, the year when this federal tax was restored, many citizens did not file any income tax reports and many now have to perpetuate the errors, originally made in their favor, which now prevents them from expanding their undertakings as they should. That has given rise to secret hoarding of money which does not contribute to the economy of the country and which prevents the establishment of many undertakings. This initial tax evasion, besides causing worries and giving rise to other frauds in order to justify the first one, affects a great number of Canadians who would like to make a better contribution to the development of their country. Add to that the fear of income tax investigators, unnecessary borrowings at the bank for the sole purpose of better concealing the facts-which has the effect of paralysing the credit of many Canadians who would greatly need it to maintain their business, or to expand it, or to set up new business undertakings, and you have an idea of the problem caused by the haunting obsession of the original false return. Thus, the economy of the country is partly paralysed, because I do not think I am wrong in stating that the gross figure of the national business would be increased by 2 billion a year if the government declared a general amnesty for all Canadians who have filed income tax reports prior to 1957. In this way, everyone would begin from scratch without worrying about the past, but they would feel the need of
The Address-Mr. Harkness making their reports in the future knowing what the consequences could be. I think that in so doing the government would lose on current claims but would gain very much in the future in revenue accruing from personal income tax.
There is a "maquis", a secret resistance movement against income tax. This movement undermines our national economy and is a major obstacle in the way of capital formation for small industries which would be likely to develop our smaller communities, and even our rural communities. Highly satisfactory manpower can be found there, but at the present time there are few openings save for common labourers who live from day to day since in their community there are no small industries capable of absorbing them.
A general amnesty of this type, by freeing so much hidden or unproductive capital, might prove the starting point of wide development of small industries in our smaller communities and, especially in semirural districts, would ensure progress and prosperity. This thawing out of capital in these areas will bring about a development which will make for decentralization of industry and population in this country. I am convinced, being in the confidence of a large number of business men, that such an amnesty would touch off a general economic expansion in every part of this country.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY