Mr. F. S. Zaplitny (Dauphin):
Mr. Speaker, on the assumption that what the hon. member for Algoma East (Mr. Pearson) was talking about was chiefly trade, I should like to make a few brief observations in connection with what he had to say. He started by referring to the lack of information with regard to the proposal made by the British government to the Canadian government for a free trade area and also to the proposal made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) during the course of the election campaign for a diversion of 15 per cent of our trade with the United States to Great Britain. I think he scored at least one point when he pointed out quite effectively with respect to the question of diversion of trade from the United States to Great Britain that about all the government has been able to accomplish so far is to lose some trade with the United States without gaining any from Great Britain.
I fully expected to see the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Churchill), the Prime Minister or some other responsible minister rise immediately to make a comprehensive statement on behalf of the government as to what, if anything, has transpired with relation to the proposal of Great Britain for a free trade area. That matter has become even more important since the original proposal was made due to the fact that a European common market is now in the process of being set up in which the United Kingdom apparently is going to play a part. We know that if we sit back and do not show any interest whatsoever in the proposal made by Great Britain to Canada the chances are that we will be the loser if that common market expands and absorbs a larger number of nations, as seems to be the prospect. I think the government certainly shpuld go so
far at this time as to make some statement of policy with regard to the British proposal.
The hon. member for Algoma East has gone quite a distance today in showing his sympathy for the proposal. At one point I almost expected that he was going to come out in favour of it. However, he very skilfully stopped short of that and did not really lay the policy of his own party before the house. But I think the time has come when parliament and the country deserve to be told exactly what the plans of the government are with regard to trade with Great Britain. A Canadian trade mission went to Great Britain at considerable expense to the Canadian taxpayer. No doubt the members of the mission were very interested in what they saw and the discussions they had, but we are still waiting to hear of any practical results from that mission. We are still waiting to hear from the Minister of Trade and Commerce or any other member of the government as to what field of endeavour they covered and as to what the intentions of Canadian business people are so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned. We are waiting to hear what if any actual discussions were held with the government of Great Britain with regard to a trade agreement between our two countries. We are being left entirely in the dark.
Before this discussion is over I think that parliament and the people of Canada deserve a statement from the Prime Minister speaking on behalf of the government in order to clear up some of the doubts and misunderstandings which are developing over this question. I am not going to repeat at this time what I have had to say before on the subject of a free trade area. My views have been expressed in the house and I am prepared to stand by them. I think there are some very distinct advantages to be gained by Canada in accepting that proposal and if there have been any misunderstandings about the matter in my opinion it is due entirely to the fact that the government has failed to make its policies known and to place its views before parliament.
I think one misunderstanding has been created by the impression that has been left in the country that the acceptance of such a proposal would mean the complete wiping out immediately of all tariffs between the two countries, and from that point of view there are certain industries and certain groups which, of course, are apprehensive. As a matter of fact, that was not the proposal at all. The proposal was a most reasonable one. It was that we begin now to sit down around the table and try to find out how to extend the free list already in effect between the two countries. The proposal
was that this should be done step by step over a period of years and that we should try to see how we could reduce trade barriers so as to make the exchange of goods between the United Kingdom and Canada flow more freely with the objective or the ideal, if you wish to call it that, that in the end over a period of 10, 15 or more years we will arrive at a position where the two nations can trade freely, which is the only natural state of affairs that should exist between such countries within the commonwealth as Great Britain and Canada.
In my opinion, what the government has been doing so far in that respect has been very disappointing. The Minister of Finance (Mr. Fleming), since he became the head of that department has been busily referring certain tariff items to the tariff board. Almost every second or third day we receive in the mail a new list of items which have been referred to the tariff board.
Many of these items are items which have to do with tariffs against British-made goods. We know from experience what that means. Any time the Minister of Finance refers a tariff item to the tariff board it is for but one purpose and that is to get a recommendation to justify increase in certain tariffs. The minister will argue that it could, in some instances, mean decreasing certain tariffs also. Theoretically he would be right. However, we know that over the period of the last 10 or 15 years any time the Minister of Finance has referred certain tariff items to the tariff board it has been for the purpose of getting a recommendation in order to justify an increase in these tariff items.
As a matter of fact it seems to me quite clear now that this government instead of moving in the direction of freer trade between Great Britain and Canada is actually moving in the direction of a more restricted trade policy. In other words, we have the very opposite of what the Prime Minister advocated during the election campaign. From that point of view, this whole question of the trade mission looks a little bit ridiculous. Here we are going to the trouble and expense of sending a group of people over to the United Kingdom to induce the producers of manufactured articles in that country to find a market for their goods in Canada, creating the impression that we are willing and anxious to have their goods brought to Canada and exhibited to the Canadian consumer. On the other hand, the Minister of Finance is busily finding ways and means by which he can further restrict that trade, by which he can place higher trade barriers against the trade between the two countries. In other words, he is trying
to find the means by which he can stop British-made goods from being sold in Canada.
Surely it is time that the government made its policy known. If they are going to follow restrictive trade practices, if they feel they do not want British-made goods sold in Canada because they constitute competition for certain industries in which the government is interested or which they feel require protection, let them say so. Let them stop kidding the people of Canada. Let them stop kidding the people of the United Kingdom. If, on the other hand, they really mean business when they talk about freer trade between this country and the United Kingdom, let them take some practical steps to indicate that they really mean business. The first practical step could have been taken as early as last September or October, and that would have been to indicate they were interested in the British proposal for a free trade area; that they were prepared to sit down with representatives of the British government to try to find ways and means by which some tariff barriers between the two countries could be removed and in that way improve trade between the two countries. They could also make it quite clear that they are not going to do anything from now on to increase tariff barriers against British goods.
Until we see some indication of action on these questions, or at least get a statement of policy from the Prime Minister, then the only thing we can conclude is that the government is quite happy to continue tossing the ball back and forth with the official opposition while leaving the matter as it was before. I listened with great interest to the foreshadowed leader of the Liberal party, but I could not help but recall having heard those words before from former Liberal leaders in this country. We have heard exactly the same phraseology in the period between 1930 and 1935 when we had a Conservative administration in this country and which adopted the same trade restrictive psychology as seems to be evident now. When the Liberals came back into power they fiddled around with the tariff structure but left it pretty much in the same condition as they found it. In some cases they increased trade barriers instead of reducing them.
It is for these reasons we say, so far as this group is concerned, we believe that until the government is prepared to carry on our trade in a logical manner, until the government is prepared to set up export-import boards which would be for the purpose of exchanging goods and not for the purpose of making profits for private corporations; until
we are prepared to approach the whole question of trade from the point of view of the Canadian people rather than the welfare of a few individuals or a few corporations, we will never have a satisfactory system of trade relations with other countries. I think that eventually we will have to get away from this idea of competition. We will have to realize that today we are living in a world where we have to co-operate and improve our position in that fashion. If we continue to compete in the same way as each individual tries to exploit the other or one nation tries to exploit the other, if we follow that line then we will be getting deeper and deeper into trade barriers, trade restrictions and eventually into a world depression again.
Until the government of Canada is prepared to accept a rational and sensible system of trade relations through import-export boards then the least the people of Canada should expect from this government is some statement of policy on trade. I hope that before this debate is concluded we will hear from either the Minister of Trade and Commerce or the Prime Minister as to what their attitude is with regard to this proposal of Great Britain for a free trade area; what their attitude is generally on the question of tariffs in so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, and as to what practical results have already been achieved or that they expect may be achieved as a result of this rather expensive trade mission that was sent to Great Britain and about which they have not given any detailed report whatever. In the absence of such a statement we shall have to assume the government has no policy or has the kind of policy they are anxious to hide until the next election is over.
Topic: RELATIONSHIPS WITH UNITED STATES AND UNITED KINGDOM