February 25, 1925

CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

Can the minister give

us approximately the percentage cost of the collection of customs during the last three or four years?

Topic:   CUSTOMS AND EXCISE
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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

The best years are after

the consolidation took place; that would give us only 1922-23 and 1923-24. In 1922-23 it cost 2.58 per cent; in 1923-24 it cost 249 per cent. The total collected in 1922-23 was $279,229,466.71, and in 1923-24 $298,721,419.55.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

How will those figures

compare in the minister's opinion with those for the present year?

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

It is very 'hard to tell my hon. friend as the year in not concluded yet. I would have to get the percentage for the ten months that have expired.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

Is the minister fortunate or unfortunate when he has the excise attached to the customs?

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

It is rather debatable. I

think it is the minister's misfortune and the country's good fortune.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

I think a more useful

comparison would be a statement of the percentage cost of collection now as against that of the time prior to the amalgamation of the two departments.

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

I could give my hon. friend the figures for the Customs department, but not separately for Inland Revenue, which now takes the name of Excise.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

I thought it would be useful to know whether the amalgamation of these two services had cheapened the cost of operation.

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

I think I can show my

hon. friend that it has. In 1914-15 the percentage of cost for Customs alone was 4.76, and in succeeding years the percentages were as follows: 1915-16, 3.55; 1916-17, 2.54; 191718, 2.51; 1918-19, 3.13; 1919-20, 2.48; 1920-21, 3.36; 1921-22, 3.22. That was the last year the two departments were separate.

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PRO

John Wilfred Kennedy

Progressive

Mr. KENNEDY (Glengarry and Stormont):

The minister has not the figures of the percentages for inland revenue?

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

No, they have not been

tabulated. This table of percentage of cost of collection in the Customs department has been prepared annually for years.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

I simply wanted to

know' whether the amalgamation had cheapened the cost of collection. If the minister is willing to make the statement that he believes it has, I should regard that as sufficient.

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

I honestly believe it has,

and the figures show it. In 1914-15 the customs dues collected amounted to $107,179,-

Supply-Customs

360.33, and the cost percentage was 3:59. In 1924-25 we collected $298,721,419.55-more than double-at a cost of 2.49 per cent.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

Has the minister been

able to reduce the staff as compared with the staff of the two departments before amalgamation?

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LIB
PRO
LIB
CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHURCH:

In the first paragraph of

this item No. 349, there is provision for temporary buildings and rentals, and in that connection I would like to call attention to the conditions in the city of Toronto. There are several buildings devoted to Customs purposes in Toronto. These include the express offices at the Toronto depot, an office at the Union station, and an old warehouse building on Wellington street, formerly a baking powder factory. The people of Toronto have for many years been complaining about the utter lack of, and inadequate, accommodation in connection with customs services and it is the general belief that the revenues would be greater if the facilities provided for the transaction of business were adequate. The administration of the income tax, transferred to the Customs department also comes under this item. The income tax branch in Toronto has been located in the old post office on Lombard street but it is proposed to be transferred down to Wellington street. With this in view two extra flats adjoining the customs house were rented at $3,600 per year; they were fitted up for the purposes of the income tax staff and they have been vacant ever since.

When I brought this matter up last year the minister referred me to the Minister of Public Works. The present Minister of Customs admitted the lack of accommodation but said the government could not find the money. The Minister of Public Works was in Toronto recently looking over some buildings with the idea of providing additional accommodation. I understand that the old Union station on Front street was visited in this connection, as well as some other buildings. Business men are complaining of the dilapidated condition of the rented buildings now in use; the plant is thoroughly inadequate to handle the $60,000,000 of customs collections in Toronto each year. The old customs building at Front and Yonge streets which was one of the finest buildings in the city from an architectural point of view, was torn down-I

do not know why-and a lot at the comer of Bay and Front streets was purchased for $110,000 from the city who gave it to the government at less than commercial rates. I must say that the minister has been doing what he can to give an efficient service to the business men of the city with crippled facilities. Many organizations have been asking the Toronto members to bring this matter up including the city board of trade and other public bodies.

The Liberal Association of the city of Toronto passed a resolution dealing with it. The resolution reads, in part, as follows:

The present customs house is not only wholly inadequate to care for the business that passes through it, but it is also an eyesore to the people of Toronto, and a liability that is as a millstone around the neck of the Liberal party in Toronto.

And be it further resolved, that not only in the interests of good government, but in the interests of common decency, the Right Hon. Mr. King and his cabinet associates be asked to delay no longer in according to the people of Toronto what in simple justice is their right, a new and adequate customs house.

The resolution was accompanied by a letter from the Liberal excutive from which I quote

as follows:

Toronto does not expect favours. If it ever expected them it has long since passed that stage. Rut Toronto does expect that its necessities will be cared for at least in same measure. And a new customs house or federal office building is an absolute necessity. Let me point out to you that the customs receipts of Toronto amount to $60,000,000 a year, or more than a million dollars a week, out of a total for the Dominion of $133,000,000 a year, and that the headquarters for the customs house there is a ramshackle old shed of a building with two warehouses half a mile distant from it that cannot and should not be called upon in the matter of accommodation to house the millions of dollars worth of merchandise yearly passing through them, and none of these buildings are suited to the requirements of a town of 50,000, much less a city of half a million people.

I am at a loss to know why the old building at Front and Yonge streets was torn down. The late government tore it down intending to build but a war came on and the financial situation of the country was such that they could not go ahead and put up another building. A great mistake was made in tearing it down; it was a shame. I know that business men, irrespective of party politics, have expressed their appreciation of the work that has been done by the Minister of Customs and Excise and his officials in the department. He has at Toronto a courteous collector and staff; they are doing good work, and the department is being, run efficiently. The collection of the income tax has now been added to his department and where are you going to house all these officials? You have the old post office building, and the customs officers are housed

Supply-Customs

in a lot of old dilapidated, rented buildings, and you have to walk blocks and blocks to find the one you want. The department is well administered and I contend that for a public service and utility of this kind proper accommodation to efficiently transact business ought to be provided. I think the time has passed for any further discussion, and that adequate accommodation ought to be provided now. It will be good business for the department; it will increase the revenue, and do away with the amount that is now being spent in rentals. The department is deriving a revenue from Toronto of $60,000,000, out of a total revenue for the country of about $135,000,000, and I think the quantity of business done in the city justifies the putting up of an up-to-date building not as a luxury but as a necessity. No business concern receiving a revenue of $60,000,000 would do business in such a ramshackle and dilapidated building in a port the size of Toronto. Our business men have been complaining. The minister has been looking into the situation and I hope he will try and induce the Minister of Public Works or the government to give us some degree of satisfaction in the matter of accommodation. The Minister of Customs will find it of benefit to his department to do so, because a lot of revenue is being lost through not having a proper building and people having to run around from one office to another to transact business. It also involves delay for the business men in getting their goods out; they have to go from unit A to unit B, along Wellington street and uphill and down dale before they finally get their goods out.

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LIB

Jacques Bureau (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

If my hon. friend will

allow me first to answer my hon. friend from Victoria and Carleton (Mr. Caldwell), who asked me the total amount paid on account of retirements and superannuation from the department during last year, one of the officers of the department has made a rough calculation, which is, of course, subject to correction, which shows that the total superannuation allowance of officers at ports retired under the Calder Act during the last year was $49,551.57. This is, of course, subject to correction. I do not want to bind the officers to a hasty calculation made on the floor of the House.

Replying to my hon. friend from North Toronto (Mr. Church): He has put three questions. First, what was the revenue derived from the port of Toronto during the last fiscal year; secondly, what is going to be done to the building on Wellington street; and thirdly, what

is going to be done about new office accommodation in Toronto. I may say that a more important question than either of the ones I have enumerated, and one that I was going to ask him to answer, and this goes really to the root of the whole trouble, is why was the old customs house in Toronto tom down? Part of it is left standing, and as my hon. friend has said, it has been my privilege to visit Toronto and examine the offices to see if there was any way of improving conditions and facilitating the service, with a view to securing greater efficiency from proper accommodation. From what I have seen df the exterior of the old custom house, the part that is left, I deplore that the building was ever tom down, because the part that is left, which is now used by the express, is one of the best buildings for the custom house officers in the whole city of Toronto. I do not see how you could justify the tearing down of that building, and am I to assume the burden of the difficulties which have followed from tearing it down? I do not think it would be fair to blame me for that. I admit that the conditions in Toronto are bad, but I must say that it is due to the fact that the old building, which was a good and substantial building, was tom down. My artistic taste may not be as good as that of others, but judging by the carvings and stonework on the part that is left, it struck me that the old building must have been a very fine one, and I do not see how you can justify tearing it down.

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February 25, 1925