Mr. K. R. Daniel (Oxford):
Mr. Speaker, in order to make it unanimous, and to keep continuity in this debate, I should like to join with the other hon. members who have spoken and congratulate the mover (Mr. Brown) and seconder (Mr. Demers) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I should like also to join in the courtesies which have been extended to the new members, and to welcome them to their new seats in this house. At the same time may I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and the leader of the official opposition (Mr. Drew) upon their elevation to positions not only of great honour but also of great responsibility in connection with the affairs of this country.
In the course of my remarks I intend to refer to several items which are of great concern to the people of my constituency. I shall first say a word on behalf of the old age pensioners. Almost every hon. member who rises in his place in this house says something about old age pensions, and I would not feel that I had done my duty in this respect, even at the danger of repeating what other hon. members have already said, if I did not make a plea on behalf of the old age pensioners in my constituency.
It is common knowledge to all members of the government, as well as to all other hon. members, that these old age pensioners are in destitute circumstances since the cost of living has increased to its present high level. This is a situation which has developed more through government policies than anything else. The pensioners are caught between the anvil of fixed income and the hammer of increasing food, rent and clothing costs; in short, the increasing cost of living. The same thing might be said of all Canadians in the lower-income brackets. They are virtually in the same position. Their incomes have not increased at the same pace that the cost of all the things they have to buy has increased.
The government has permitted this situation to continue and snowball down through the years despite the fact that it has had record surpluses, and despite the fact that it could have made other adjustments in income-tax levels, which would have brought some measure of relief to Canadian workers. It would appear that now some consideration is forthcoming, but the tragedy of it is that it is coming in an election year. No matter
The Address-Mr. Daniel how the government may seek to interpret it, any gesture towards income-tax concessions now can be considered as nothing short of political bribery.
The government has seen fit to give some indication that tax reductions definitely are forthcoming in the next budget. The hint was given in the throne speech itself in one paragraph, which referred to the high level of national prosperity, and the fact that the government would recognize this in its budgetary proposals. This reference in the throne speech constituted an amazing budget leak, but there appear to have been other leaks from the budget. I quote from a news item in the London Free Press of January 19 of this year:
Petrolla, January 19. A "sunshine" budget for Canadians in 1949, and in particular for the rural communities was forecast here today by Robert McCubbin, M.P. for Middlesex West and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture.
Further on in the report in the Free Press of January 19 Mr. McCubbin said:
I realize there have been some hard feelings about income tax, but there is no need to fear.
I am sure that that is reassuring news. The report continues:
There is going to be some redress given to those in the lower income brackets. I am bothered by the high rate of taxation and the high cost of living and feel these are matters the government must take in hand. Officials at Ottawa admitted in 1945 that a $2,000 exemption was not too much.
Coming from a parliamentary assistant, a man whose position must be considered an official one, this statement of the hon. member for Middlesex West is almost as amazing as the paragraph in the throne speech. If this is not a budget leak, how else can it be interpreted? At least it is a major concession to have the member for Middlesex West confess that he is bothered by the high rate of taxation and the high cost of living. But for him to say that these are matters which the government must take in hand must strike the people of western Ontario as a belated recognition of "twin" responsibilties of the government, of which the government should have been aware, and with which the government should have dealt in years gone by. It is a little too late now for this government to make any pretence at seeking to come to grips with the problem of the high cost of living.
The fact that the high cost of living was causing all the people of Canada concern was recognized by the government itself a year ago when it set up a committee of this house to investigate what was then described as the recent increase in the cost of living. This committee sat all through the last session of parliament, and this work was furthered by a
The Address-Mr. Daniel royal commission on prices. Now in March of 1949 the government still has not received its report on what caused the recent high rise in the cost of living-"recent" in terms of 1947 and 1948.
As far as the government was concerned, I do believe this prices inquiry achieved its purpose. It removed from the floor of the house discussion of the high cost of living. It permitted the government to sidestep the greatest issue of the day. It is a little too late now for the hon. member for Middlesex West, or any other member of the government, to rise in the commons chamber, or to appear on the hustings, and say that the government now is aware that there is such a thing as a high cost of living, and that it intends to do something about it. The budget of 1949 is a little too late to attempt to salve the wounds inflicted on Canadian taxpayers during the past three or four years. Too little and too late. That summarizes the record of this government.
Incidentally, while I am discussing the subject of income tax concessions generally, I would like to make reference in particular to the latest income tax form. In looking over this form I see the same old questions as were on the form of years gone by, but the printing has become much smaller. They have finally come up with what they call a simplified form. There would appear to be some confusion however in the income tax branch as to what is meant by simplification. After looking over the latest form it would appear to me that simplification, in the hands of the income tax branch, means condensation. The form is condensed and contains tiny type which a chartered accountant friend of mine told me the other day he defied any man over thirty years of age to read. He does a great deal of work on these forms, and it is his prediction that by next year he will probably be next thing to blind. Would I be too inquisitive if I were to ask the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) if he intends to supply Canadian taxpayers with bifocals, or glasses of some kind, so that they might at least be able to read what is on these forms?
While the radio tax is not a heavy one in itself, I believe it is the one which more than any other causes concern to the people of Canada. They are not so much interested in the amount of the tax as in the way it is collected. I know that around Christmas time some radio inspectors came to my home town. They did not even play fair with the people because, first of all, when they came to town they called upon radio salesmen and at the post office to find out whether John Jones or Dick Smith had bought his licence, or whether he had bought one last year. Then
all they had to do was to go around and knock on doors, scaring the poor housewife half out of her wits. She would think she was going to be arrested, because probably she had told her husband to get one, and he had told her to get one, with the result that neither of them got one. They find themselves in trouble, and a few days later it all comes out in the local paper, stating that John Smith has been charged with a breach of the law.
These people are no respecters of persons, because the millionaires are treated the same as other people, including widows and old people. I know that in about two days in Ingersoll about 120 were picked up. They had to pay fines, and then had to go out and buy a new radio licence.
Another tax to which I should like to refer briefly is the luxury tax on jewelry, one which has been brought forcibly to our attention within the last few days. Many jewelers have complained to me about the hardship it worked on them. They have pointed out how it has reduced sales in their particular line of business. For instance, a jeweler may have an article classed as a luxury by the department. However, one may walk up the street to a dealer who handles a cheaper range of goods, but one which is perhaps along the same line, generally. This man would handle cutlery, dishes, and all kinds of jewelry. At the second store one could purchase almost the facsimile of the article but at a ridiculously low price. But there is no tax on the article in the second store. Therefore I say the luxury tax on jewelry should be abolished immediately.
I should like to come back to the hon. member for Middlesex West (Mr. McCubbin). I hope he does not think I am picking on him particularly. However, he seems to have been doing a good deal of talking around western Ontario in the last few weeks, so I cannot help quoting him.
Again I might cite the words of the hon. member for Middlesex West by way of proof that what this government has done to alleviate the situation for the Canadian taxpayers has been too little and too late. In an article which appeared in the London Free Press, he is quoted as telling the western Ontario agricultural institute that some families in Canada may be just as badly in need of clothes as those families in Britain receiving clothing parcels from this country. If families in Canada are in as sorry a plight as all that, then the member's own words constitute an indictment of this government's policies. It is true the hon. member was attempting to paint a glowing picture of the economic conditions in Britain, conditions
which he saw at first hand on a recent visit to that country. What the hon. member lor Middlesex West had to say on the subject has caused a great deal of consternation and controversy in this country and in Britain. The member's observations, as given to the western Ontario Jersey cattle club, were to the effect that Britain was well along the road to economic recovery, that everybody in Britain was working, was happy and was prosperous, that everybody had money and lots of it.
In another part of his speech the parliamentary assistant said that while in London he was unchaperoned. After reading what he has said, as reported in the Free Press, I am inclined to the belief that not only was he unchaperoned but that he was traveling incognito, and probably wearing rose-coloured glasses as well. Perhaps, after all, what he saw through those rose-coloured glasses was not really caviar, frogs' legs, quail on toast and all that kind of rich food he has spoken about, but rather just some more of the minister's applesauce. It will be recalled that the minister told us he was served applesauce during the two weeks he visited in Great Britain.
I know of no statement which has caused a greater injury to the harmony of Canadian-British relations than that of the hon. member for Middlesex West. It might be well to remind the hon. member that Britain today is getting major Marshall-plan assistance. Without this ERP, and other credits, Britain would be in a more difficult position than she is today. We all hope that she will be able to pull through in her battle of the dollar, as grim a fight as she staged during the war; but her battle has not yet been won. As far as we in this country are concerned, we cannot help wondering what will happen to Britain if and when ERP ceases; and, incidentally, we cannot help wondering what will happen to the level of our export trade to the United Kingdom if these funds suddenly should dry up.
Letters coming to private Canadians would indicate that the British people, rigidly rationed in the purchase of clothes and food, are having anything but a happy time. The rosy picture painted by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture left, I believe, an entirely false impression in the minds of many people. It was a disturbing impression, one which cannot but cause misunderstanding.
Another matter I should like to discuss is that of bovine tuberculosis. In 1939 a petition was circulated among the farmers of Oxford county asking the federal government to make the county an accredited area for the purpose of having our dairy herds
The Address-Mr. Daniel declared free of bovine tuberculosis. This petition evidently had the required number of signatures, but before a start was made on the test the war intervened and naturally the project was dropped for the time being.
At that time the amount paid to the owners of these T.B. reactors was set at $60 for a grade animal and $150 for a purebred, but for some unknown reason the government paid only two-thirds of this valuation, or $40 maximum for a grade animal and $100 for a purebred.
I believe that in the house this week the Minister of Agriculture, answering a question of the hon. member for Bruce (Mr. Robinson), stated that the price of a purebred reactor was $100. I believe there must have been some mistake in that, because I am informed it is $150.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY