Mr. H. O. White (Middlesex East):
Mr. Speaker, in rising tonight to take part in this budget debate may I say this. It seems to me that as the years go on the business of the nation becomes more and more involved. The presentation by the Minister of Finance of Canada's budget last Thursday bears out that statement. For a nation of 15 million or 16 million people, we are spreading ourselves fairly well all over the world. I sometimes wonder whether or not it is with good results.
The budget presented by the Minister of Finance was, in my opinion, a budget of contradictions, a budget of pretence. To individuals it said, "Spend less and save more". To the government it said, "Spend more and save less". For the hand-outs that are to be given to the public they will have to wait until next July. There was a little for everyone but practically nothing of consequence for anyone. It was a Suez budget, a retreat. There was $1 million for Nasser to clear his canal, and $6 a month for the aged of Canada.
All kinds of suggestions have been made as to what should be done as far as pensions, pensions for the aged and so on, are concerned. Time after time I have urged that
The Budget-Mr. H. O. White it would not be too difficult for the economists and mathematicians to work out a scheme whereby as the cost of living increased so would the pensions, and we would not have this recurring bid for the people's votes every four years. No consideration was given down through the years until we came to an election year; then all of a sudden a large number of people in the country seemed to become of great importance to the government. I am amazed that the government would have the idea that the people could be influenced by an increase of $6 a month.
I was rather amazed to find on reading the press the other evening that the rank and file of the Liberal party were more or less agreed that $10 was the amount they felt would be about in line with the increased cost of living, and that was the amount by which the pension should be increased; but it did not turn out that way. Surely, Mr. Speaker, in a country like Canada, with the vast resources we possess and the prosperity the government have been boasting about, we can afford more generous treatment of the aged and the needy. The cost of living has certainly gone up for those couples raising families. It has gone up more than has the amount of the allowance. There is an age group between six and eight years who have been forgotten entirely.
Much has been said about inflation. The Gordon report envisages continuing inflation; and if the people get the idea that the dollars they save for pension plans and other schemes for the years when they are not going to be profitably engaged are going to shrink, as they have been doing in the last few years, there will be no incentive for our people to save at all. The continuing inflation, which the government would like us to believe they are trying desperately to stop in a futile way with rather futile results, does rob those on fixed incomes and on pensions. As I said before, it is a very serious threat to those people who are trying to provide for their own future. Yet we could not help but commend the long overdue concession in the budget whereby those who are self-employed can provide for pensions, as can those on salaries.
For agriculture there was lots of consideration but no action. Inflation has priced Canadian farmers out of overseas markets. To give you an idea, Mr. Speaker, of what is going on, I noticed in today's Gazette that
12,000 farmers went out of business in the province of Quebec in the last five years. I think that gives a pretty true picture of what is going on in the other provinces as well. Agriculture was promised at the eleventh hour that there would probably be negotiations with Australia, and also with the United States, regarding imports of products into Canada.
The Budget-Mr. H. O. White
There was no relief whatever in the budget for small enterprises, small businessmen, who are actually the backbone of this country. By reading between the lines one could gather that there seemed to be a certain amount of assurance to big business that they could carry on. They were not affected in any way. Apparently also it is good for the federal government to have surpluses, but for the provinces and the municipalities there is deficit financing.
There is no doubt the day is coming when some arrangements will have to be made whereby the municipalities and the provinces will have a greater share of the tax dollar. Their necessities are still taxed. Some luxuries were excused in the budget. I do not think the rank and file of Canadians can take a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that gold and silver plate, crystal and motorcycles are going to be excused in this budget from the excise tax, but there was no relief for the motorists. Probably the motorist is the most heavily taxed individual in this country, yet an automobile is a necessity in our country of vast distances and for transportation to employment. I would venture to say, without going into exact figures, that probably on an average each new automobile is assessed $500 in taxes, and every time a motorist drives up to the gas tank there is another tax.
While I am dealing with the taxes on motor cars, I notice that Mr. William A. Wecker, president of General Motors of Canada, had something to say regarding the tight money policy. He said:
The curbs are one sure road to depression and unemployment.
Ron W. Todgham, president of Chrysler Corporation of Canada, said:
Certain businesses and industries are being singled out to bear the full brunt of a policy of credit curtailment.
In other words the motor car industry is certainly not convinced that this tight money policy is the way to beat inflation, and this budget policy and the credit restrictions are certainly discouraging housing, especially the high interest rates. At the very same time we are told by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that he hopes this year will see a greater flow of immigrants to Canada than any previous year. As far as I can see from the budget there was no thought for tomorrow as to what would happen as far as housing is concerned. The only thought for tomorrow was for election day, and not beyond that.
I notice also the government feels that it cannot trust the people with their own money, as it has this policy of draining off money that has been saved and put into the banks, by wage-earners and people who earn their
money in other ways. The government is now taking 31 cents of every dollar the wage-earner and worker in Canada receives, yet back in 1929 only 17 cents of every dollar was taken in taxation. Inflation was not going on at that time. So it is not the amount of money that is left in the hands of the workers that is the cause of inflation.
I suppose there is no doubt in the world that this was an election budget. I hear on very good authority that the next election is going to be fought on a constituency basis, and that the government have prepared for every constituency a statement of the amount of money they have put into it. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to fight the next election on that issue if that is what the government wants. For every dime they have put into Middlesex East they have taken out a dollar; and what have we to show for it? Not a great deal.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE