Mr. Michael Starr (Ontario):
Mr. Speaker, in rising to address you for the first time in this distinguished assembly I do so with a deep sense of personal responsibility to the great traditions represented in your person and office and also in the time-honoured customs of this house. I wish to extend my congratulations to the mover (Mr. Deslieres) and the seconder (Mr. Schneider) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne.
Coming as I do from the one constituency in the great province of Ontario which has the honour to bear the name of the province itself I find many reasons for pride as well as humbleness when I am told that according to the usages of this house I alone of all the members can be referred to as the member for Ontario. There are many other reasons for the mixed feelings of humility and gratitude, yes, of pride which I feel at this moment.
In the short time I have been here I have learned much of the story of the great democratic institutions exemplified in the distinguished office of Mr. Speaker, in the offices of the responsible ministers of the crown, of the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, of the leaders of the other representative groups, of the Clerk of the House of Commons, of the Sergeant-at-Arms and last but not least of the members of the parliamentary press gallery.
My own presence here, by your permission and at your command, I venture to say is to some Canadians a readily understood symbol of the reality of Canadian democracy of which this house is at one and the same time the chief functionary, symbol and guardian.
I refer first of all to my fellow Canadians in Ontario constituency who know me as a plain man working at an everyday job. They knew me so well that they rejected my first three offers to represent them in their municipal affairs, but I am glad to say they later relented and have given me some measure of their confidence in the city of Oshawa for the last nine years. I refer also to an even larger group of my fellow Canadians whom it is the current fashion to call "new Canadians," for I am one of these, though having the honour and good fortune to be born in Canada.
The Address-Mr. Starr
I do not know at what precise point in time one ceases to be a new Canadian and becomes an old Canadian. Nor does it matter. We have Conservative and Liberal Canadians, French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians, rich and poor Canadians, eastern and western Canadians, C.C.F. and Social Credit Canadians; so whether we are old or new Canadians, we are all Canadians. Only the other day I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) say in a public address in Toronto that he disliked the term "new Canadian" when applied only to those who have come here from the continent of Europe. He said that it should apply equally to newcomers from the British Isles and even to the many thousands of future citizens whose daily arrival places are the maternity wards of our hospitals from Corner Brook in Newfoundland to Dawson in the Yukon.
I agree with my hon. leader, and if I may speak for those most closely concerned 1 think it can be said that they care not what the first adjective may be as long as the second word is "Canadian", nor what the temporary designation may be as long as they feel, as they most certainly do, that their welcome here is warm and generous and that the opportunity here is what they themselves make it by their own deportment and the degree to which they learn what it really means to be a loyal Canadian.
Nor will it matter much to them or to any of us what they may be called, seriously or in jest, as long as the son of a poor emigrant from the Ukraine can take his place in this house, as I have done, sir, commended to your favour by a group of Canadians old and new, of many creeds and faiths, of different positions and occupations in life, from the city, towns, villages and farms of Ontario riding including the historic old township of Whitby, East Whitby, Pickering, Reach, Uxbridge, Scott and Scugog. I mention these famous old Ontario municipalities because I am humbly aware of the fact, especially after hearing some of the hon. members these last few days, that my own experience in the many problems that confront governments is limited strictly to the local field of municipal self-government.
Yet as I have sat here during this session and listened to the discussions of our national problems I have become more and more convinced that the very real problems of Canada's 4,000 municipalities cannot be solved at the local level or at the provincial level, but are in a truly national sense a very proper subject for your attention, Mr. Speaker, and for the attention of this house. Particularly, as I hope to show, they are a matter for the consideration of the present
government; for it is my opinion, based on experience in the administration of one representative Canadian city, that the main cause contributing to the financial plight of the municipalities of this country today is the policy of higher and higher federal taxation followed for so long with such undisguised zeal by the present government here in Ottawa. I am aware, sir, that it is the current fashion of the hon. members opposite to dismiss any such statement with the very offhand excuse that municipalities are none of their concern because they are what they call the mere "creatures of the provinces." It is, I believe, a lawyers' phrase, and I have no doubt that it is strictly correct in the legal sense. But I am sure that the many thousands of earnest men and women who have been concerned during the last decade with the pressing problems of municipal government regard it as the poorest possible excuse for the present continuing and expanding federal invasion of the sources of municipal income and livelihood.
I refer to the mythical Canadian tax dollar. It is mythical in name only. In practice it is a grim reality blandly ignored, it seems to me, by the federal government, but ever present in the frantic planning and thinking that goes on every hour of the day in a municipal board or council somewhere in Canada. I think the facts speak for themselves. The Canadian tax dollar is a representation of the total amount of all tax collections on the level of the three authorities which, under our Canadian federal system, have responsibilities in the matter of the expenditure of public funds. As of the last fiscal year for which complete figures are available, 1950, it represents the staggering total of $4,292-7 million as against a mere $1,032-2 million in 1939. That is the total of all taxation in Canada, federal, provincial and municipal. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the tax burden has increased in this short period almost four times.
In the very limited field in which I have had experience our first instinct when we discover a situation like that is to look for the villain. We check over the expenditures of each department and ask, "Who caused this? Who is spending all the money?" These can sometimes be embarrassing questions, but at a level of government as close to the people as we are in the municipalities we have no alternative. We must not only ask the question but we must also find the answers.
If we apply this simple test to the astounding fourfold increase in Canadian taxation since 1939, we discover the answer very quickly. We find that the provincial and
The Address-Mr. Starr
municipal governments have been extraordinarily modest in their demands for a share of the Canadian tax dollar, but not so the federal government. The latest study which has been made covers the years 1930 to 1948.
It was undertaken by the Canadian federation of mayors and municipalities last year. It shows that the dollar value of municipal taxes all across Canada in 1948 was almost the same as in 1930. I -cite that amazing accomplishment as proof positive of the taxconscious, budget-wise, good and careful housekeeping which is the guiding principle of municipal government in Canada today.
I am sure it follows that if all governments had been as tax-careful as the municipalities in these years we would have today an almost ideal tax situation in Canada. But what happened? In 1930 the municipal share of the tax dollar paid by Canadians to all governments was 39-4 per cent but in 1948 it was only 12-7 per cent, and current estimates indicate that it will even be lower in 1952. The share taken by all provincial governments also decreased in this period from 22 per cent to 19-8 per cent. These are what our economists call the lower levels of government, and rightly so. They are not only lower in authority and taxing powers but they are also lower in what they think the taxpaying traffic will bear.
What has happened on the highest level of government, the government of Canada? In the answer to that question we have the whole story of the crushing and unbearable taxation in Canada today. Between 1930 and 1948 the percentage of the Canadian taxpayer's dollar pre-empted by the federal government rose from a mere and reasonable 38-6 per cent in 1930 to 67-5 per cent in 1948, and it is still climbing. As the Leader of the Opposition said in the house a few days ago, the latest estimate of the share of the Canadian tax dollar which is being taken by the federal government is no less than 77 per cent, leaving a mere 12 per cent for provincial governments and only 11 per cent for all the 4,000 municipalities.
I can well imagine hon. members opposite saying that the municipalities can get more if they want to, that all they have to do is raise taxes. That attitude toward the raising of money for government purposes is well known to the people of Canada. It is an attitude which they almost automatically associate with the present federal administration, which has increased the level of the Canadian tax burden more than all other administrations put together since confederation. Fortunately, however, this come and get it viewpoint has not been shared by our so-called lower levels of government, and one does not have to be an economist to
know the reason. It is no mere accident that the level of government that has been the most economical in its operation, and therefore the least demanding on the taxpayers, has been that level which is closest to the people and which accounts to them at all times and most often.
The facts are there for all to see and note. In this period of just over twenty years, while the federal government has been doubling its percentage demands on the taxpayer's dollar, the provincial governments have reduced their demands by about half and the municipal governments by about two-thirds. In other words, local governments are today asking for only one-third the share of the tax dollar which they received in 1930. They have made this remarkable contribution to good housekeeping in spite of steadily increasing demands on their services. That is an important point. I need not detail here the nature and extent of these demands except to say that they include the majority of those facilities and services which determine whether the standard of living of our people is to be high or low. They centre about the school and the home which, next to the church, are the most important and vital institutions in our way of life.
' In the welter of publicity that rolls out from Ottawa every day it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the welfare state is no new creation of the central government but has long existed as an achievement of municipal government. It is the local, not the central or the provincial, government which must provide the hospitals in which young Canadians are born, the day nurseries to relieve working mothers of some of their burdens, and the schools in which our children are fitted for citizenship. It is the local government which provides the community basis of the home, which supplies the water, the electricity, the protection from fire and theft, the roads and streets within the community and the systems of public transportation. It is the local government which still, in spite of some contrary claims, assumes the principal share of responsibility for the welfare of our people in those emergencies of life which come to all sooner or later. I refer, Mr. Speaker, to such things as hospitalization, economic misfortune, and even to the problems which beset so many in the autumn of life requiring the provision of shelter and maintenance.
Our population has increased greatly in the last few years, and this has meant increasing demands upon the municipalities for all their services. Costs of providing these services have more than doubled since 1930. Many
new areas, both residential and industrial, have been opened up. New municipalities have been created.
I cite these facts, sir, because we are so often told about the increased demands upon the federal treasury. I do not wish to minimize those but it is important, I think, that we remember that the proportionate demands upon the municipalities have been just as great and perhaps greater; yet municipal revenue all across Canada is no more than double the 1930 total. In terms of real dollars and measured by the purchasing values in 1930 and 1952 the total municipal income in Canada today is no more than it was 22 years ago. In the last 12 years, on the other hand, the federal tax load on our people has multiplied itself more than four times; [DOT] personal income tax has increased ten times; corporation taxes at the federal level have increased ten times; customs revenue three times; liquor taxes five times; tobacco taxes four times, and so on.
How then, we may ask, have the municipalities managed to achieve this miracle of money management? Not, I hasten to say, Mr. Speaker, by going into debt. To the many glories of the accomplishments of our municipalities must be added, sir, their steady rejection of the principle of taxing unborn generations to pay for the comforts and facilities of the moment. In total dollar volume the combined debts of all 4,000 Canadian municipalities is less today than it was in 1933. When we remember that today's dollars mean much less than the dollars of 1933, the real burden of municipal debt is much lower than at that time.
If our municipalities are in a sound financial condition today, Mr. Speaker, it is not because of any high level of income, nor has it been achieved by borrowing. They have balanced their budgets, sir, by the old-fashioned family virtue of not spending money which their taxpayers cannot afford to pay. It is a principle which I may well recommend to hon. members opposite as a sound basis of public as well as private finance.
However, merely not spending does not solve the problems of municipalities. It is well known to every hon. member that the backlog of necessary and long overdue municipal capital expenditure is the most pressing single need in Canada today if we are to maintain and improve the standard of living to which we would appear to be entitled as
The Address-Mr. Starr a result of the great bounty of Providence and the hard work and energy of our people.
We are told that Canada leads the world in industrial expansion. Canada is booming. Our productive capacity, our national income, and our output of goods are rising to dizzy heights undreamed of even a decade ago. For what reason? For what reason, Mr. Speaker, do we work, save and invest, except to raise our family and individual standard of good living? Why sir, they are the very things that we expect our municipalities to provide-hospitals, schools, community services and comfortable, well protected homes, well supplied with power, water and sewage systems in keeping with a progressive civilization.
What is the situation today? The plain fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that we are lagging behind in all these things. We are not getting the benefits of the boom because our municipal governments are being denied a fair share of the Canadian tax dollar. What good is prosperity expressed only in terms of million and billion dollar industrial plants, if it does not reflect on the home and the standard of living of the residential community?
Not far from the borders of my own constituency of Ontario we have the billion dollar mile on the eastern limits of Toronto. It is a magnificent industrial achievement, the credit for which, incidentally, must be given to wise and farsighted municipal government in the township of Scarborough. Here we see the industrial boom at its biggest and best. Huge new plants by the dozen have been rushed to completion along both sides of what was a farm road a few years ago. Already a billion dollars has been invested in plant and equipment in that fabulous mile, and more is being added every week.
Only a few miles away-15 at the most- there is a thriving village in my constituency. It is no backwoods hamlet. It is an old community settled 150 years ago by United Empire Loyalists and situated on Ontario's main street, the great east to west thoroughfare linking Toronto and Montreal. On a clear day you can see the smoke rising from the factories along the billion dollar mile; and yet, Mr. Speaker, the residents of Pickering village eanot afford a municipal water system, surely one of the earliest
The Address-Mr. Starr evidences of progress in community living in this country. Indeed, sir, when there was severe drought in that area last month, some of the trucks hauling supplies for the billion dollar mile had to be diverted to the town of Whitby to haul water by the tankful for the homes of Pickering.
It may be said, of course, that Pickering could have water if its citizens were willing to pay for it. That is true. But it is also true that they have investigated the matter thoroughly and have reached the conclusion, expressed at the polls last December, that they could not afford to pay the additional taxes which would be required to finance it. Why? Because, sir, they are already so overburdened with federal taxes that they have reached the breaking point. This is the situation in most of our municipalities today. Regardless of what the opinion of the federal government may be, these local governments, which are close to the people, and which must account to them every year, know there is a limit to the bearable taxation load. They hesitate to add to that burden when they see the federal government reaching into the taxpayers' pockets with an increasingly heavy and greedy hand every year.
I say, Mr. Speaker, that a serious and indeed dangerous state of affairs has been reached in this matter. A few months ago the annual meeting of the Canadian federation of mayors and municipalities was held at Calgary and those present heard the results of "An Analysis and Study of Urban Growth and Municipal Finance"-that is the official title-prepared by Mr. D. C. Corbett, a lecturer in public administration at McGill university. In that report I read the following summary of the present plight of our municipalities:
Everywhere one goes, on the outskirts of growing cities and towns and in the new suburbs, one sees streets unpaved, and sidewalks not laid. Water, sewerage and street lighting, far from preceding the new developments, have not yet caught up with them in many areas. We hear of new districts where residents buy their water by the pail and where the spring thaw mires the roads.
The same is true, of course, of the older municipal areas. On this I think I can quote no better authority than the premier of the province of Ontario. In a recent speech in the Ontario legislature he had this to say:
The municipalities of Ontario face an acute problem in their efforts to restrict or curtail the construction of many projects which are essential to their operation. Facilities such as water supply
systems, street car and bus lines, streets, schools and disposal plants which may have been adequate a decade ago are now breaking down under the wear and tear of trying to provide services for their populations which in many instances have increased by 50 per cent.
The municipalities of all our provinces face the same problems. We may call these organizations of local government by different names-counties, parishes, townships, cities, towns or villages-but in the long run they are all part of a level of government which is just as essential to the federal principle as are the provinces or the government of Canada. It will be, indeed, a catastrophe if the time should ever come when they are forced into obscurity or insignificance by the taxation grab of any other level of government. This, to my way of thinking, is the real danger of the centralization of so many of the functions and powers of government here in Ottawa.
On the other hand it will be just as much a calamity if the municipalities are forced, by the sheer necessity of everyday problems, to so increase the taxation load that home owning becomes in Canada a mark either of great wealth or economic folly. I need not remind hon. members that no less than 80 per cent of all municipal taxation is borne by real estate. There are other sources of income but our municipalities, far from reaching out to impose more and more taxes, have deliberately restricted their own sources of income in the public interest. It is true that we have a municipal sales tax in a few cities, and taxes on gas and electric bills in another. We hope these are temporary expedients only, and that in time they will be made unnecessary by wiser taxation policies of the federal government. It is not so long ago, Mr. Speaker, that we had a general levy of municipal income taxes in this country. We shall all hope that their return will never be forced upon our local governments.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I may be asked what the federal government should do, in an immediate and constructive way, to help this critical situation. I do not have to go far afield to find the answer. In the first place there must be a re-balancing of the taxation books between the federal government on the one hand and the provinces and municipalities on the other. In other words the central government must learn-as we have all to learn in our private lives-to get along with less. Taxation must be reduced.
Particularly the federal share of the Canadian tax dollar must be brought within reason to allow the municipalities to levy taxes which are at least close to being within keeping with the increased demands on their resources. After all, this relationship between federal, provincial and municipal governments is a family affair. There is only so much money in the family budget, and if one member of the family takes more than he needs, the others must suffer. We do not say that all should share equally, but it does seem to make sense that each should participate in the family finances, not according to his strength, size or power, but according to his needs as agreed upon in family council.
And that is my second suggestion, Mr. Speaker; the calling of a friendly family council to discuss these matters. Specifically I suggest the reconvening of the economic committee that was set up with such high hopes a few years ago during the federal-provincial discussions of the immediate postwar years. It met, I believe, in December 1945 and in January 1946. Then it faded somehow out of existence. The municipalities of Canada have asked that it be reconvened on a very wide basis of representation, and I urge the government to give this immediate consideration.
There are many things which could be worked out to the mutual satisfaction and advantage of all of us in such a setting. To mention only two, there is the taxation of crown property and crown companies; the exemption of municipal purchases from the federal sales tax to the same extent and for the same good reasons that provincial purchases are now exempt.
These very questions, f am informed, will be brought to the attention of the federal government this week when a delegation from the Canadian federation of mayors and municipalities calls upon the government here in Ottawa. That meeting, Mr. Speaker, could be a momentous one for the whole future of this country if the government will look upon the delegation in the spirit in which we would expect the senior members of any family to listen to a plea from its junior members for assistance in a financial matter whose seriousness is no fault of their own and whose solution is beyond their income and allowance. I hope they will not receive, instead, long and learned lectures on the British North
The Address-Mr. Sinnott America Act or the usual unreal excuses that the head of family is too hard-pressed financially to help. Most of us know better.
Above all, sir, the government will render a great service to all the people of Canada if they will admit their share of responsibility for the plight of the municipalities. For it is the weight of federal taxes that embarrasses every one of the 4,000 municipalities of this country. It is a weight so burdensome and unbearable that it threatens their future, and thereby endangers our whole democratic system. For taxes, Mr. Speaker, may not only cripple; they can also destroy.
The wise words of the great Chief Justice Marshall in the supreme court of the United States as long ago as the year 1819 are as valid in this municipal problem as they proved to be in those problems which confronted our neighbours to the south many years ago. None of us, sir, has any doubt about the power of this present administration to tax us, but we do ask that in these things which so closely touch our daily lives they heed John Marshall's warning to all who have great taxing powers:
The power to tax, is the power to destroy.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY