Mr. Michael Starr (Ontario):
Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the presentation of the budget by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott). I have also listened attentively to the various speeches which have since been made here in this house, both from the government side and from the opposition.
Meanwhile I have looked into the budget thoroughly and find that it is very disappointing to small wage earners, irrespective of what the members on the other side of the house would lead us to believe. It is true that there has been some relief with respect to certain taxes which have been termed and treated as nuisance taxes, and this will benefit in a very small way the taxpayers in the low income brackets.
To my mind the disappointing feature has been the small reduction in income tax, which affects the wage earner directly in his pay envelope. Some relief may have been given in the field of corporation taxes but, when I compare the two, it seems to me that the unfairness is that the corporation tax has been made retroactive to January 1, 1953, whereas the wage earners' income tax reduction is not effective until July 1, 1953.
I do not wish to dwell on this particular point any longer because it has been brought out very forcefully by various members of the opposition. I wish, however, to make reference to the lack of consideration on the part of the Minister of Finance in his failure to grant some relief to the municipalities. I refer particularly to the failure to remove the sales tax on municipal purchases, an exemption now allowed both to provincial and
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The Budget-Mr. Starr federal governments. This consideration has been entirely ignored in spite of the fact that continuous representations have been made by the municipalities individually and through the Canadian Federation of Mayors and Municipalities.
I would urge the Minister of Finance to give consideration to this request of the municipalities and to make provision for the elimination of the sales tax on municipal purchases. To the government the total amount would mean very little, but to the tax-overburdened municipalities it would mean a great deal.
I understand that the municipalities, through their nation-wide association, have also asked for the right to tax federal government and crown corporation property in their respective areas. This, too, has been ignored in the budget, which therefore gives no relief whatsoever to the individual home owner who is so often spoken of as the backbone of the country. I have urged before that these two measures of local taxation relief should be immediately extended by the federal government to our municipalities. I do so again, Mr. Speaker, because they are two definite steps which the government could take to assist our 4,000 municipalities without worrying about the British North America Act which is so often used, it seems to me, merely as an excuse for not getting down to earth on this problem.
I am aware, Mr. Speaker, that the objection has been raised that the municipalities are, on the one hand, asking to be allowed to tax federal property and, on the other hand, to be exempt from the federal sales tax. Some people seem to think this is inconsistent, but I for one do not. The explanation, of course, is that both the provinces and the municipalities have been squeezed out of almost all their revenue sources by the excessive load of federal taxation. They must take every opportunity they can find to raise the funds they need for necessary services without adding new local taxes.
The minister dealt with this matter in his budget speech. As far as I can see all he said was that federal taxes would not be so high if there had not been an invasion of Korea. The fact of the matter is that the federal government was squeezing the provinces and municipalities out of their tax sources long before Korea. It has been a long-term trend for, oddly enough, just about as long as this present government has been in power which is, to put it bluntly, far too long for most people who have had to pay the piper without being allowed to call the tune.
I might say, Mr. Speaker, that all the municipalities are asking for, in this matter of exemption from sales tax on municipal purchases, is that they be given the same treatment as the federal and provincial governments. They are not asking for special treatment. We hear a lot about the three levels of government in Canada working together for the common good. It would seem to be an obvious long step in that direction if they were all treated alike in the matter of taxation.
I also wish to bring to the attention of the Minister of Finance and the members of this house a matter which I think is of some importance as far as the children of school age in this country are concerned. The Minister of Finance, in his budget speech, made reference to the celebration of the coronation of our Queen which will be held in June of this year. This is an event which is of major importance to all Canadians, irrespective of their origin, because of the fact that Queen Elizabeth stands as a symbol of freedom to all peoples in this country.
In order that this event may live long in the minds of our children, the boards of education in this country are contemplating some suitable memento for presentation to children of school age, which would commemorate the coronation of our Queen. This question has been a source of worry to a great many school boards. Trustees of school boards in my own riding have brought this matter to my attention. The situation is that every school board is faced with the problem of making some presentation to the children without too great an expense. Each board will have its own idea as to what type of memento it may present. These will not be uniform throughout the country, and will entail considerable expense to the boards because of the small quantity orders which would be placed.
In the light of that, I would urge the Minister of Finance to immediately consider a suitable memento which would be distributed to all children of school age in the country. May I suggest that a medallion, or something similar to a medallion, be authorized, with the head of our Queen on one side and a suitable inscription on the other side. This could possibly be done at the mint, and could be a direct gift from the government or sold to the school boards at cost price, which would be much below the cost they would pay for similar mementoes produced in small quantities.
Since this is an item of expense I am bringing it up at this time, and would urge that immediate action be taken and an announcement made that the government is willing to do this, so that school boards may be informed
that these mementoes will be available. Otherwise they may assume unnecessary expense. It is, of course, important that an early decision should be made, otherwise boards which might wish to have these mementoes will have committed themselves to some other plan.
There was another glaring omission in the budget, Mr. Speaker, which was, I am sure, a great disappointment to the three million Canadians who on budget day, as on every other working day, went to work by automobile.
I refer to the fact that there was no cut made in the outmoded and completely unrealistic luxury tax on passenger cars. I say that it is outmoded, Mr. Speaker, because it is simply not in step with our day and age in which, according to reliable statistics, no less than 83 per cent of all automobile driving is essential, and 62 per cent of all private cars are used to get people to work.
I say that it is unrealistic, Mr. Speaker, because Canadians just cannot afford to pay these fantastic taxes on a family necessity, in addition to all the other taxes which are demanded of them. The very lowest price car manufactured in Canada-and it happens to be manufactured in the city of Oshawa, which is the largest municipality in the riding which I have the honour to represent-pays a tax of $360. On the same model car the tax in 1946 was well under $200.
Now, I do not say that cars should be given any special treatment in relation to other commodities in the matter of taxation. But I do say, and I think the people of Canada agree with me, that an automobile should not be subject to a luxury tax, in addition to other taxes, when it so obviously is not a luxury.
I suppose there are a few people who might be called luxury drivers, but I can assure the house that they are in a very small minority. I have already the figures which show that 83 per cent of all driving is essential. This means that 8'( of every 10 miles of driving is directly connected with the necessities of life, such as going to work, or to school, to the doctor, or to do the family shopping.
It has been frequently pointed out in this place, Mr. Speaker, in the last few days, that the present government shows a remarkable lack of concern in taxation matters for those in the low income groups. Over 25 per cent of all car owners in Canada earn less than $2,000 a year, and over 60 per cent of car owners earn less than $3,000. I am sure the Minister of Finance must sometimes wonder how his victims in these income groups ever manage to pay these
The Budget-Mr. Starr excessive added luxury taxes on their essential transportation, taxes ranging from $360 up in addition to all the other taxes.
I think I can suggest the answer. They are paying these taxes, Mr. Speaker, by the most unsatisfactory means known, namely by borrowing. People all over Canada today are going into substantial debt to pay their taxes. It might interest the Minister of Finance to know, for example, that the latest figures I have seen-they are the dominion bureau of statistics comparisons for the last two Novembers-show that the rate of passenger car financing in Canada has increased 103 per cent.
As the representative of the constituency most dependent in all Canada on the automobile business, I feel that I have a special responsibility in bringing this matter to the attention of the house. It is not only the city of Oshawa that is vitally concerned with the prosperity of the automobile business. My constituency represents what is happening all over Canada to make the private passenger car the most essential single form of transportation in this country. I refer to what has been called the "explosion" of our great cities.
In Ontario riding we have examples of this at both ends, so to speak. Thousands of our people drive 20 to 30 miles west to Toronto each day to go to work, or the same distance east and south to Oshawa. The great General Motors plant in Oshawa, for example, employs about 10,000 workers. No less than 2,000 of these live throughout Ontario riding, many of them making the round trip of 30, 40 or even 50 miles. In a recent study we made of this matter we were amazed to find that almost every hamlet, village and crossroads in the entire riding was represented daily in the Oshawa work force. In one sense it is a tie that binds us closely together, for we know that the interests of the city and the countryside are one and the same. To paraphrase, if I may, a recent famous statement, "What is good for Ontario is good for Oshawa. What is good for Oshawa is good for Ontario."
On the other hand our distances impose a real hardship on those who are forced to pay not only for gasoline, repairs and general upkeep of their cars, but also for what this government has the astounding effrontery to call the luxury of driving a car to work every day. Surely, Mr. Speaker, the administration must be very, very far out of touch with ordinary people, ordinary realities, and ordinary living in this country when it reduces taxes on corporation dividends and imposes luxury taxes on private automobiles.
The Budget-Mr. Bertrand
When the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) called the budget he presented here a few weeks ago a social dividend it is fair, I think, to wonder what part of our Canadian society he was thinking about. Certainly it was not the part in which I and my friends in Ontario riding live, move and have our being.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE