Mr. Paul E. Gagnon (Chicoutimi):
Mr. Speaker, the eloquence of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) and the learned report he submitted to the attention of the hon. members last Thursday have not met with as enthusiastic a reception among the Canadian people as he might rightfully have wished on the eve of an election. I would like to spend a few moments to give the house my impression of certain figures quoted by my hon. friend.
For instance, early in the new fiscal year the government will pay over to the Canada Council $100,000,000 to be used in further widening the existing breach in our national constitution. This amount of $100,000,000 is meant to further enthrall and enslave the provinces. It will be handed over to a chosen few who will be able to rule the roost in the field of Culture (with a capital C) and whose dictates will set the standards of thought and of science in this country.
To be up to date in matters artistic we will henceforth have to bow to the rulings of these gentlemen designated by the gov-
The Budget-Mr. Gagnon ernment as beacons on the course of higher learning. They will point the way and steer us clear of the rocks. This is what caused the newspaper Le Soleil, a Liberal party organ, to write as follows on November the 22nd 1956:
It is therefore proposed to set up a new commission, with a chairman, a vice-chairman, a secretary and a host of civil servants, yet another administrative bureau which, each year, will eat up a goodly portion of the budget placed at its disposal. It will be readily understood how things cannot be otherwise since we must needs have somebody who will control the administration of the funds set aside for the enrichment of our cultural life. Inevitably-
Mind you I am quoting from Le Soleil- -a few friends of those in power, a few obscure persons will thus be provided with the fairest of havens. This is the inevitable consequence of each new step taken by our governments, with this result that even the most praiseworthy of these cannot always be unreservedly accepted by public opinion.
And so it is that each year sees the growth of its privileged castes, its jobholders-or plain civil servants.
Today, alongside the legislative executive and judicial powers, the civil service constitutes the administrative power, often more important than the others. Civil servants represent the element of stability in government. Ministers come and go but civil servants remain. They exert a daily influence on the destinies of the nation and the mentality of our people. They are all the stronger for their being constantly behind the scenes, reaping no glory for the good that they do, nor shame for the wrongs laid at their door. Their work, always done on behalf of someone else, is seldom known to the public. If they are stupid their errors vanish under mountains of papers and, if they are brilliant, the details of an anonymous, complicated and elusive administration allow them to achieve only partial usefulness.
Fifty million dollars will go into the superannuation fund of these gentlemen, and a like amount into the reserve. And so a hundred million dollars are being camouflaged so as not to display an exorbitant surplus of nearly 400 million dollars. The tax is off on bubble gum but not on children's shoes. Crumbs are handed out to the small fry, in a would-be Santa Claus gesture, while on the q.t., a slice is taken off the parents' pay cheque.
The government, while appearing to fight inflation is actually favouring it by its mania of accumulating surpluses, of forcing the Canadian citizen to tighten his belt and of extracting from the worker taxes which allow the government to indulge in expenditures and gifts which are often extravagant.
Whether it is the people who have too much money or the federal treasury which
The Budget-Mr. Gagnon collects so much that it does not know what use to make of it, the result is the same. There is danger of inflation one way or the other.
But in the mind of our administrators as in the opinion of our centralizing experts, money must be drained away from the taxpayer so that he will be left without anything, if possible. Especially must the income tax never, on any account, be reduced. Everything must be retained, everything must be set aside so that our leaders may be considered cautious and able, be looked upon as philantropists, munificent dispensers of grants and subsidies.
The state has confidence in no one but itself to "develop" the national economy and to direct it along proper channels. We are all aware of the success it has obtained in the field of international trade. We know what markets it has lost and how our export trade deficit is growing constantly.
In spite of promises of financial assistance extended to the Maritime provinces, promises which are meant to correct the unfortunate impression left by the Gordon commission report, in spite of subsidies to fishermen and farmers, and expressions of friendship for everybody, the budget introduced on the 14th of this month is not even a good election budget.
It is the budget of an administration forever surprised by events, whether in the national field or in the international field, as is evidenced by inflation and the Middle East crisis at this time.
Having lacked foresight, having failed in its primary duty, having been unable to foresee the effects which its shortsighted policy was sure to bring about in due course, the government at this time seems utterly at sea.
It is largely responsible for our financial troubles, and the credit restrictions it has seen fit to impose are the result of its record in the past.
What prosperity this country has enjoyed since the war is far more attributable to the vast natural resources of our country and to the work of our people than to the party which governs our destinies. The bounties of Providence must not be ascribed to our present leaders.
The fact that the old age pension has been raised from $40 to a mere $46 shows with what parsimony public monies are being used to relieve public hardship. Millions have been spent for the Colombo plan, for the police operation in Egypt, for the purchase of paintings for the gallery, for television programs, but mere pennies are set aside for the poor, for those who are suffering.
The average increase of $1.40 per month in the family allowance is also quite inadequate. It answers neither the demands of the people nor their needs. It corresponds neither to the unceasing rise in the cost of living nor to the social ends towards which it was originally instituted.
With a surplus of $282 million and a prospective surplus of more than $300 million for the next fiscal year, the government should have been more generous to the mothers of this country, fairer in its estimation of the means and the rightful demands of the people.
The small cuts in indirect taxes announced by the Minister of Finance will be of no benefit to most of our people. These cuts will be absorbed by the wholesaler or lost en route between the manufacturer and consumer.
We are told that each year Canadians spend more than 2 billion dollars on superfluous goods or amusements such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco, horse races, etc.
It would be closer to the truth to say that Canadians are spending part of their revenue on these luxuries and are paying a tremendous amount in taxes for the privilege of doing so. Everybody knows, for instance, that the extremely high cost of any bottle of alcoholic beverage is explained by the fact that on each drink absorbed by the customer, the federal government levies a profit which puts it in a position to be the main beneficiary of this highly dangerous business. The same holds true for the cigarette smoker who pays 17.7 cents tax on each pack of 20 cigarettes, that is 54 per cent of the usual retail price, 117 percent of the retail price minus taxes, and 192 per cent of the manufacturer's price. In the United States the tax is only 8 cents per pack of 20. The smoker is better treated south of the border, and there is no cigarettesmuggling there.
On the other hand I am not convinced that, as stated by the Minister of Finance in his speech, the farmer has benefited from the general rise in national revenue. His bank account, if we are to go by the reports of agricultural groups, has not appreciably increased in 1956, at least not in eastern Canada.
The government is now proposing nothing tangible to put the eastern farmer on a par, financially, with his western counterpart.
One word in passing on a subject which is of particular interest to my constituents.
The dairy industry is the very basis of our agriculture. It represents more than one third of the revenue of the farms of the province of Quebec. It is the main occupation of more than 100,000 farmers. The government should
therefore be most mindful of the security of this industry which is vital to the future of our country.
Millions of Canadians are dependent on its prosperity for their own. Everybody uses its products in one way or another.
In order to protect it adequately and to allow farmers and breeders to make ends meet, the federal government should have appreciably increased the tariff on powdered milk and cheese from Australia and New Zealand.
A revision of the 1931 and 1932 agreement and a substantial increase of tariffs would be helpful to the agricultural class which today, because of the high cost of feed, labour and equipment, is in a deplorable position.
The average income of farmers is not on a par with that of other groups of workers. Their loss of buying power is one of the weak spots of the Canadian economy. A sustained attention and a wise and far-sighted agricultural policy should maintain the existence of our farmers on the same level as that of city workers, tradesmen and professional men.
Apart from measures taken in fields of provincial jurisdiction, the St. Lawrence seaway project and some more or less fortunate contributions in international affairs, it is regrettable that the government should have revealed itself so much of an opportunist, so unmindful of the welfare of the working classes, particularly with regard to the unemployment prevailing to an alarming degree every winter.
Jobs must be found for seasonal workers who are idle during off seasons.
Unemployment means the loss of considerable production which impoverishes the victims and upsets our economic system. I urge greater respect and more consideration for workers, farmers and taxpayers, a good will expressed not merely in words but also in concrete deeds.
When it is suggested to the Minister of Finance bilingual cheques should be mandatory, he protests and talks of the expense which such procedure would involve. Does he not think that with the surpluses he boasts about this year he could have agreed to that justified claim? Does he not think that he should have announced a reduction of the income tax, which heavily burdens so many people?
I hope that the next time the Minister of Finance will remember the needs of the people and that he will evidence more generosity towards the Canadian taxpayers.
The Budget-Miss Aitken
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE