George Carlyle MARLER

MARLER, The Hon. George Carlyle, P.C., B.C.L.

Personal Data

Saint-Antoine--Westmount (Quebec)
Birth Date
September 14, 1901
Deceased Date
April 10, 1981

Parliamentary Career

November 8, 1954 - April 12, 1957
  Saint-Antoine--Westmount (Quebec)
  • Minister of Transport (July 1, 1954 - June 20, 1957)
June 10, 1957 - February 1, 1958
  Saint-Antoine--Westmount (Quebec)
  • Minister of Transport (July 1, 1954 - June 20, 1957)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 433)

January 27, 1958

Mr. Marler:

Perhaps this will be my last word on the subject. It does not often happen that the reality of Conservative promises is greater than the promises themselves.

The next point with which I want to deal is the fact that throughout the election campaign the Prime Minister was making promises of one kind or another. I am only going to touch on two or three. One was to increase old age security and other social allowances; the second was the reduction in taxes, and the third quite positively was an increase in the benefits of tax sharing with the various provincial governments. I am not going into the numerous statements that the Prime Minister made on the subject of the increased revenues to the provinces. All I want to do is stress the fact that as the campaign went on many Canadians began to wonder how all this was going to be accomplished within the limits of the available resources.

When the present Prime Minister reached Saskatoon on May 27 he held a press conference. He was asked specifically how all of these promises fitted in with the available revenues. I am quoting from a Canadian Press report in the Montreal Gazette, May 28, 1957, and I will just quote two paragraphs from it:


That is of course the Prime Minister.

-was asked how his party's policy involving increased expenditures squares with the promise to reduce unnecessary taxation.

Mr. Diefenbaker replied that both could be done without a budget deficit. His estimate had been made on the basis of steadily increasing budget surplus.

He went on to say:

The surplus last year was $500 million and if economic forecast of trade minister Howe was correct the surplus in the current fiscal year would be 50 per cent greater.

The significant phrase, Mr. Chairman, is that all this was to be done on the basis of a balanced budget. We have not had any kind of national accounting that would enable us to determine in complete detail to what extent there has been departure from the so-called balanced budget. We have had some figures that the Minister of Finance himself has given us after some rather limited observations of his own on the subject. From time to time, as various additional measures involving increased expenditures have come before us, we have been told what the overall


Dominion-Provincial Relations cost would be. I want, in the few minutes that remain, just to put on Hansard the overall picture that results from what the present government has done since it has been in office, and the effects on next year's revenue of what was done at the earlier session in

1957. Because of the limitation of time, I shall have to try to put it in very compressed form.

So far as expenditures are concerned, the first item will be an increase in the year 1958-59, the next fiscal year, over the expenditure of 1957-58 for social security payments and veterans' benefits. In respect of the increases made by the Liberal government, the additional cost next year will be $40 million and in respect of those made by the present government, $65.9 million, making a total of $115.9 million.

Then, as the Minister of National Health and Welfare has told us, the increased cost for 1958-59 over the current year of unemployment assistance to the provinces will be $11.9 million. Perhaps I should say that is the inference to be drawn from these figures. Then we shall have next year to pay 12 months of pay and allowances at the present increased level instead of 11 months. That will amount to another $8.3 million.

The Minister of National Health and Welfare has told us that the national hospital plan will come into effect on July 1 of this year for three or four or perhaps even more provinces. I take it that we may infer that, as far as Ontario is concerned, it will come into effect on January 1, 1959. So far as I can make out from the available information, that will add $60 million to the expenditures for next year.

Then the other day-I think it was Saturday-the same minister announced increases in the grants to be made under the national health plan. I find it difficult to estimate the cost but I think it is probably a conservative estimate to say that the additional cost next year would probably be at least $3.5 million. Then this resolution that we are discussing at the moment will add $87.2 million to the expenditures. That makes a total addition to the expenditures of $285.8 million.

At the earlier session of 1957 reductions in taxes were made, the full effect of which will only be felt next year; but it was estimated that the additional cost next year was $73 million. So far as the reductions recommended by the present Minister of Finance are concerned, that is another $152 million. In addition to that, he has referred to the legislation to replace the Dominion Succession Duty Act which will further reduce revenues by $8 million. Hence we have reductions in revenue in prospect for 1958-59

of $233 million. If we add that amount to the additional expenditures to which I referred a moment ago we find that the change in the balance of the budget for next year is $518.8 million.

From that figure we must obviously deduct the amount paid in the current year to the Canada Council, namely $100 million, thus bringing the prospective difference between this year's budget and last year's budget to an amount of $418.8 million. The minister told us that he expected to have a surplus for the current year of $80 million. Let us take that amount into account also and deduct it. Thus we see that with the arrangement which we are discussing at the moment we have a deficit in prospect for next year of $338.8 million. That does not take account of the fact that through the natural increase in number, both of persons drawing old age security and those drawing family allowances, there will be a further addition to the social security bill next year of some $33.8 million.

Assuming that the payments that are provided for in this resolution are made, we therefore see in prospect for next year a deficit of $375 million in round figures whereas the Prime Minister told us and told the electors of Canada all across the country in the spring of 1957 that all of this was to be done on a balanced budget. We have the opportunity today of seeing just how unbalanced the budget is. Of course, to encourage the Minister of Finance, perhaps, we have the statement which his colleague the Minister of Justice made in 1956 in which, as reported at page 6336 of Hansard, he said:

It is true that that suggestion was made and is still made by the Conservative opposition, that if this government really put its mind to it, it could save upward of $500 million without reducing essential expenditures.

No doubt the Minister of Finance will consult with his colleague the Minister of Justice to discover the secret of where this $500 million can be lopped off the national budget without affecting essential expenditures. But I have an idea that even the idea of the Minister of Justice with respect to those reductions has undergone a transformation since he moved from this side of the house to the other side.

The Minister of Finance himself this afternoon said that no increase in taxes was involved in this operation. If he really believes that, I think he is deluding himself. However, I am sure he is not deluding the taxpayers of Canada because the fact remains that it is impossible to pay out $87.2 million to the provinces, no matter how worthy are the purposes, without affecting the taxpayers' tax bill. I must admit to a feeling of some

disquiet when I see the additions to expenditures and the subtractions from revenue that I just mentioned a moment ago. It seems to me that it puts the government in a rather unhappy position. I take it that next year it will want to increase the volume of capital expenditures. It certainly ought to be thinking in those terms.

The minister himself has led the taxpayers to believe-and he did so after presenting his budget, if it can be so called, earlier in December-that his party was not satisfied that it had given all the tax reductions which it had hoped to give. I hope the taxpayers will not be expecting too much of my hon. friends opposite. With the unbalance that he and his government have brought about already I think he is going to be hard put to do much more in the way of tax reduction than he has already done. I note that the newspapers are already referring to the reduction as insignificant. I am sure that he does not feel that they are insignificant but it will give him an idea of how the taxpayers are already feeling about something he did last December. I feel perfectly sure that, with the beginning of the year-of course nothing would be further from his mind than to make reductions in taxes on the eve of an election, because he criticized that procedure so frequently in the past and I know he would not want to do something now that he criticized in the past-he will have his work cut out for him. I may tell him that I am going to watch with real interest the measures he takes to bring this budget back out of the unbalance which this government has put it into.

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January 27, 1958

Mr. Marler:

Perhaps he does not work on Sunday.

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January 27, 1958

Mr. Marler:

It is not changed at all.

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January 27, 1958

Mr. Marler:

I do not think the date is material but I am sure the Minister of Finance will find that the page number is correct. The then leader of the opposition said:

The subject now before us is whether we really believe in the federal system sufficiently to do our utmost at this time to find real agreement with the provincial governments and with the municipalities which are very real entities indeed as to the allocation of taxes which will make it possible for them to carry out the heavy responsibilities which they cannot ignore and cannot shirk.

In other words, Mr. Chairman, this was the lead for the other members of the party to insist upon a re-allocation of the powers of taxation. The present Minister of National Revenue followed the same line of argument

[Mr. Regier.l

and I should like to quote three phrases from his remarks, the first as recorded at page 6015 of Hansard:

We in this party believe and have said time and again that there should be a re-allocation of responsibilities, that there should be a re-allocation of taxation powers-

That is only part of the phrase but what I have omitted does not change its sense. On the following page of Hansard, page 6016, he is reported as saying:

There certainly is something wrong with the principle suggested by the government in this resolution.

This is the very principle which the Minister of National Revenue is supporting today in the resolution which is now before the committee because if he did not support the resolution which we are now considering it would not be before the committee. On page 6017 he is reported as having said:

But a formula should be worked out that would recognize the capacity to pay of the individual as well as the number of heads in a province.

At least so far as that part of his remarks is concerned it seems now to be translated into something more than mere words which I am afraid is the assessment that one should place upon his other remarks.

The present Solicitor General also took part in the discussion and I am quoting from the translation of his remarks to be found at page 6031 of Hansard:

What is in fact required is a federal-provincial conference in which the federal government and the provinces will consider the steps to be taken for a fair distribution of taxation fields, so that the provinces may play their part in their own sphere.

The present Minister of Trade and Commerce also entered the debate and as recorded at page 6064 said:

But the rest of the matter has not been attacked, and that is the division of responsibility between the dominion government and the provincial jurisdictions.

Apparently he felt it was not enough to say it once for he said it again as recorded at page 6065:

-surely the present approach should be toward an investigation of the division of responsibility as between the dominion and provincial authorities.

Twice was not enough; we had it a third time as recorded at page 6066 when he said:

I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that a dominion-provincial conference be called devoted to the task of solving the division of responsibilities as between the dominion and provincial governments.

The present Minister of Justice entered the debate, too, and as recorded at page 6335 said:

I am putting this forward as a serious proposal, that what is needed, rather than trying to force our relationships into this pre-tailored fiscal garment, is a meeting of all the governments with a view to assessing their needs and what if any

exchange of constitutional responsibilities can be arranged by mutual consent. Then having reached agreement on this point, arrange a federal-provincial fiscal program which will enable the various governments to discharge their agreed responsibilities.

The interesting fact is that so many members of the present cabinet were strong advocates of this idea of a re-allocation of taxation powers between the dominion government and the provincial governments and yet at the very first opportunity they had of following up these ideas which they had preached so assiduously in the past when they were sitting in the opposition benches they backed away from the step entirely. I think it has been the general experience of people who have been interested in this field of dominion-provincial relations in the matter of taxes that there has been a large body of criticism emanating from members of the Conservative party both provincial and federal advocating not an extension of the present scheme of tax sharing but a formal redistribution of taxation powers. However, their arguments are of the hit and run type. They enunciate the principle and then back away from spelling out how they would propose to carry it out.

I notice that in the present instance the government convened a conference with the provinces in November and yet nowhere on the record of the public deliberations does one find anything which suggests that this proposal was put forward by the present government as a matter for discussion with the provinces. Surely no one would suggest that there was anything to prevent the government from carrying out the idea which it advocated so extensively in the past.

I would now like to quote some comments made by the Solicitor General as recently as the present session. They are indeed interesting when one realizes what the Minister of Finance is now asking this committee to do, to extend further the principle of the present tax-sharing agreements. Note the words of the Solicitor General in answer to a question put to him as found on page 129 of Hansard of October 18, 1957:


Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my honourable friend that I am still opposed to subsidies such as were proposed by the former government. As to his question, it seems to be a hypothetical one, but I am ...

At this point there was an interruption; then he went on:

. .. and a political one, yes. I want to tell him that the proposals of the federal government are not yet known, but I am convinced that they will be made on a very different basis than those of the former government.

Dominion-Provincial Relations


I cannot resist the temptation to translate this for the benefit of members sitting on the government benches. The Solicitor General said in effect, "I want to tell you that the proposals of the federal government are not yet known. I am convinced they were made on a very different basis from those of the former government." Therefore, we see that although the very proposals which are being implemented in this resolution are very different in the mind of the Solicitor General from those which served as a basis of the present fiscal agreements, here we find the Solicitor General, as a member of the government, supporting the very proposals which he criticized in no uncertain terms on the day that I referred to a moment ago.

Then, Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a word about the conference which was held in November. I could not help feeling some amusement when I read the words of the present Prime Minister as reported at page 6369 of Hansard for 1956, and I do not doubt but hon. gentlemen opposite will take certain amusement also from hearing them. He said:

I wonder often why this government has not taken the provinces into its confidence.

Is that not a strange statement when we consider the action taken by the Prime Minister himself last Friday night in acquainting the provinces for the first time of a purely unilateral decision of this government as to what it was going to do as to the payments of 1958-59? The Prime Minister went on:

Why these short-term meetings: why these

gatherings of a day or two?

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January 27, 1958

Mr. Marler:

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.

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