Mr. Mac T. McCutcheon (Lambton-Kent):
Mr. Speaker, first I should like to congratulate the hon. member for Kamouraska (Mr. Dionne) for introducing his worthwhile motion this afternoon. I have no hesitation in supporting the thrust of it. It gives members an opportunity to become involved in a little ideological exercise here this afternoon. As I read the motion, it seemed to me that its fundamental objective is an endeavour to restore initiative to the people of this country. I believe there is nothing more important to a person than having a personal stake in an enterprise. I spent much of my life engaged in personnel work among people involved in sales. I might mention a good old fashioned philosophy. If a salesman does not own a share in or believe in the product of a company, then he is no dashed good as a salesman. He cannot sell automobiles, he cannot sell insurance and he cannot sell anything else unless he is prepared to have some personal participation.
Having that view, I enjoy the opportunity to discuss the motion of the hon. member. There are, of course, in Canada many employee plans. A good example is the Bell Telephone Company whose employees over the years have had an opportunity to purchase stock in that corporation. Unfortunately, in many other industries where there are employee participation plans it is only the top executives who seem to be able to or seem to wish to participate. I wonder what the reason is. I have my own personal view on that. I believe it has been made evident this afternoon by some of the remarks made during the debate. I choose to call it a good old Canadian syndrome in which security, pensions, retirement plans and so on are much more important to the individual, or seemingly so, than any idea of participation, taking a chance and, as the Americans say, getting a piece of the action. We buy pensions out of our savings. We buy life insurance. We represent the largest group per capita of owners of life insurance of any nation in the world. As a nation, we are more tied to the idea of security than of taking a chance and trying to build this nation.
In order to change that syndrome, that conservative- and I use a small "c"-attitude in respect of investment,
June 15, 1972
we must have some leadership from different places to encourage personal initiatives. Our governments must provide a climate which encourages this. In France, tax emptions are used in respect of employee plans as a form of encouragement. The results there, however, have not been too good. Here, our industry has a rather paternalistic attitude. One often notices in the newspaper that Mr. Smith, employed for 40 years with a certain company, was granted a $250 honorarium because he submitted a good idea to the industry which perhaps resulted in a benefit to the industry of $100,000. This is the kind of paternalistic approach we have here. As a society we have failed to actively encourage increased participation by workers in the businesses which employ them.
I was rather surprised at the remarks of my good friend, the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton (Mr. Cullen), who complained about the danger of employees being locked in by participating in an employee investment program. I submit he completely misses the point. If a man wants to move around, I submit he can move pretty dashed freely in this country if he should find a little box full of securities.
The opportunity currently presents itself to adopt measures which, in my opinion, will combine two objectives: first, an increase in the number of individuals who are active participants in the economic system and widespread ownership of the means of production; second, a reduction in the proportion of foreign ownership-this is very important-by an increase in ownership by Canadian workers. A society that is sincere in its desire to promote a truly participatory democracy and greater Canadian participation in the ownership of Canadian industry would surely welcome the opportunity that profit sharing and stock purchase programs could provide for the accomplishment of those goals. Not only would such programs promote greater Canadian ownership and participation in Canadian industry, I submit that this approach would also promote the self-respect of workers, the creation of a property-owning democracy, and a reduction in the intensity of industrial strife.
We could proceed by providing tax advantages for profit sharing and stock purchase programs. Another approach that should certainly be examined is that of requiring all companies or subsidiaries of large foreign-held corporations to make available a percentage of their shares each year to their Canadian workers with a view to establishing the long term possibility of returning the ownership of such companies to Canadians. The use of an imaginative and innovative program of encouraging worker participation in the ownership of Canadian enterprises could go a long way toward resolving many of the difficulties presently confronting the government. These approaches are not ones which may be expected to change the nature of our society overnight or immediately solve our problems. The effects of such programs are gradual and so will bring results in the long run rather than immediately. Gimmick solutions may attract the eye of some of us, but I prefer the results of patience and determination. No better time may be found to start this necessary program than now. My only regret is that so much time has already been lost.
Employee Stock Purchasing
I sincerely believe that the Canadian economic dream is, and always has been, the opportunity to get "a piece of the action". The earliest settlers realized this dream directly through the open frontier. The hope of acquiring their own land was what brought most of our forefathers to this country. This was accomplished by our original Dominion Land Act. It is interesting to note that in the United States Abraham Lincoln based his first campaign on the homestead proposal. The homestead bill itself was the first law he signed. The Dominion Land Act and the homestead laws in the United States were responsible for promoting in North America the philosophy of private property, free enterprise and capitalism. They stabilized our economy for over half a century. Today, when different "isms" mean redistribution from haves to the have-nots, it might be useful to remember the wholesome populism of the last century which gave us the economic foundation of the whole country. That populism was based on making haves out of have-nots without making have-nots out of haves.
When the frontier ran out, to a large extent the possibility of realizing our Canadian dream seemed to run out with it. The current crisis we are experiencing in so many areas of our economy should provide us now with the opportunity to renew our commitment to private property for every family and individual. I submit that it is time for an industrial homestead act, an act for the purpose of broadening capital ownership in the process of financing corporate growth, an act that will enable the man on the street to increase his purchasing power in a non-inflationary manner while simultaneously acquiring "a piece of the action" in the form of stock ownership of our major corporations. I repeat that this has to be a step by step long-term policy to be implemented by labour, business and government. An additional virtue of the plan would be to bring labour and business together in a creative way that would be good for both and good for the country.
The possession of capital gives individuals an independence and a flexibility of independent choice not permitted to those dependent on welfare or wages alone. The encouragement of the self-respect and opportunity provided by the widespread ownership of property must be a fundamental aim of our democracy. For example, in North America today 90 per cent of productive input comes from capital, 10 per cent from the input of labour, but 95 per cent of the North American population has only labour to offer and they are perennially short of purchasing power. What a shot in the arm it would be if we could change that percentage from 95 per cent to 90 per cent and even down to 75 per cent as stockholders purchasing power from their capital holdings would eventually be realized.
May I say with great respect that this afternoon the minister in his remarks, it seemed to me, missed the thrust of this motion. He referred to union agreements, etc. I submit that the ideal of individual motivation has escaped him. I suggest that benefits from this type of participation will be measured more in attitudes and in productivity. The minister said further that all employees would not want to participate. I say to you, so what is new? Not everybody wants to be a Liberal or a Communist or a Conservative. But this is the whole thrust of this motion. Let us create a climate where individualism can once
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Employee Stock Purchasing
again thrive. We have gone too far down the slippery road already to grey anonymity.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY