This is the Prime Minister speaking, who complained of the shortness of duration of those conferences in past times. He said:
Why these gatherings of a day or two? Why do we not have a meeting of the federal authorities, the provincial authorities and the municipalities?
Yes, Mr. Chairman, the Prime Minister had in mind that the municipalities should be present but now, unfortunately, he has found that there were constitutional difficulties in the way in the year 1957 that did not seem to be present at all in 1956. I continue:
Call it a constitutional convention, if you like, without the power of amendment of the constitution in respect of those fundamental rights which are inherent in the constitution, but why not have a gathering designed to bring about the reconsideration of a problem which for the last 13 years or so has become increasingly complex?
I quote these words, Mr. Chairman, and everybody will realize how apt they are and the extent to which they apply to the conference which was held in November, and the action which the Prime Minister took last
Dominion-Provincial Relations Friday night in informing the provincial governments of the decision taken by the present government. Listen to what the Solicitor General had to say, as reported at page 6028 of Hansard, and this is a translation, Mr. Chairman:
In fact, the resolution moved by the Honourable Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) and upon which we are called upon to pass judgment, is not the result of a conference between the federal government and the provinces; not at all.
And yet this very resolution, Mr. Chairman, which we are being asked to pass is not the result of a conference between the federal government and the provinces. Let us make no mistake about that. This is a purely unilateral action on the part of gentlemen on the treasury benches. I continue with the quotation from the Solicitor General:
We are not being asked to ratify an agreement between the dominion government and the provinces, an agreement reached following long negotiations where every party concerned had previously examined the proposals made. On the contrary, once again the federal government acted in a centralizing and unilateral way.
How aptly these words of the Solicitor General apply to the actions of the government of which he is one of the members. He continued:
It called the provinces together, read its proposal and asked them what they thought about it, made a few minor changes here and there and said: "Do as you wish; this is as far as we can go," knowing full well that the provinces are not in a position to do without them, even though they found the amounts altogether inadequate.
In this particular case the government did not even call the provinces together to acquaint them of this decision with regard to these additional payments; they advised them merely by telephone. Mr. Chairman, I hope the Solicitor General will reread the words which he used when he was sitting on this side of the house. But one cannot avoid the reflection that there are merely 20 feet of green carpet which seems to separate those benches from which I speak and the treasury benches. By merely crossing that carpet the hon. gentlemen who are Minister of National Revenue, Minister of Trade and Commerce and the Solicitor General have all undergone extraordinary transformations in their thinking. They no longer think the way they did when they were on this side of the house. They have a new formula which is different from what they had in 1956. By merely crossing this 20 feet of green carpet they have suddenly attained a virtue that they did not have in 1956. The Minister of National Revenue laughs. He occasionally used to do that when he was on this side of the house, therefore in that respect he has not changed by moving across these 20 feet of green carpet.
I see it is six o'clock, Mr. Chairman.
At six o'clock the committee took recess.
Topic: DOMINION-PROVINCIAL RELATIONS MEASURE TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO ATLANTIC PROVINCES, ETC.