that each time the hon. member speaks he makes confusion worse confounded. We ask him for the deficit of this year, a very simple question. Now he is giving it to us in three-year periods. In other words any hon. member who wishes to know the financial position of the country must take the budget back for years. Why should he stop at three years, four years or five? Why not go back to ten? This is the position in which we ordinary members are placed to-day. We cannot get the deficit for this year. Unfortunately my hon. friend has left the chamber, and I will ask him on some other occasion what the deficit or surplus, whatever he calls it really is, and I will reserve further remarks on this particular point until he is in the chamber.
The budget debate, despised as it is in the press and in the country, brings to us a flood of valuable information from different parts of Canada which we appreciate and which we derive not so much from listening to the speeches as from reading in Hansard the opinions of the different members of the House. It has a peculiar influence on some members. In the case of some members it produces a spirit of prophecy. This mantle was thrown over the shoulders of the hon. member for Victoria, Ont. (Mr. Thurston) the other night. Under the influence of this debate he predicted the absolute dissolution of the party in this section of the House known as the Conservative party. According to his prediction in twenty-five years this party was to
The Budget-Mr. Ross (Kingston)
be absolutely dissolved. I do not know his reason for such a prediction, but it looks to me more like the whistling of a boy going through the woods, or some dark place, to keep up his courage, or perhaps a funeral had just passed by a short time before and he had to make a noise to divert his thoughts. The hon. member for Victoria had heard of a funeral which had passed some time before. That funeral was the passing of a party to which he claims allegiance in Ontario, known as the Farmers' party. The funeral was a big surprise and occurred in spite of predictions which had been made in regard to the party concerned. In 1920 that party in the Ontario legislature numbered some 45 members, and the Conservative party numbered 25. Predictions were very plentiful in the legislature,-[DOT] and I heard them at the time, being a member of the legislature,-that the old .political parties had now come to the point where they were going to be dissolved and disappear. But unfortunately for those predictions, when the local election of 1923 came about, the party making those predictions was reduced to a baker's dozen, whereas the Conservative party now numbers some seventy-seven members. The hon. gentleman was likely whistling to keep up his courage, because he had, I suppose, looked up the figures in regard to his constituency. For the legislature that constituency is divided into north and south ridings and I would like to show the dissolution which took place after the election of 1923. In 1920 in North Victoria the Rev. Edgar Watson, Progressive member, received 3,348 votes; Robert Mercer Mason, Conservative, 2,430 votes, a majority for the former of 918. In 1923 the Rev. Edgar Watson received 2,353 votes and James Raglan Mark, Conservative, 2,711 votes, or a majority changed over in these two elections in favour of the Conservatives of some 1,270 votes. If we look at the southern part of his constituency, we find that in 1920 Fred George Sandy received 2,542 votes. John W. Wood, Conservative, received 1,103 votes, or a Progressive majority of 1,349. In 1923 Robert J. Patterson, Conservative polled 3,880 votes, Frederick G. Sandy, 3,354 votes and L. V. O'Connor, Liberal, 1,865 votes, leaving a Conservative majority of 526. This was the way in which the Conservative party dissolved, died, disappeared, following predictions such as we have heard here by local members in the legislature. The Conservative party will enjoy a dissolution of that kind, and if the predictions and prophecies continue and produce the 150
same results, we have no complaint with regard to the future.
The budget debate in addition produces some gymnasts. In the last three years we have been amused at the speed with which some members of this House can jump from one part of the House to the other according as the budget pleases them. It has also produced courage in some members. The leader of t'he party to the left (Mr. Forke) has become very courageous thir year. In fact, he says that he has now nailed his colours to the mast. Unfortunately, we who have watched the different budget debates are amused by this great display of courage. One has only to read the statements made by the hon. gentleman in the past, and there are a number to which I would like to draw the attention of hon. members and ask where these colours will be hoisted. It looks to me as though he was sailing in a vessel in which he could change the colours quite' often. In fact, it is very often a vessel with a camouflaged colour, so that one does not know what kind of a vessel it really is. He said:
As regards reduction of taxation we are ready to say amen to it. We will not in any way quarrel with the carrying out of such reductions. Now we are patiently waiting to see what they have done to cut down the expenses of carrying on the business of the country.
Having nailed his colours there, he immediately proceeded to support the government which put upon the people of this country an increase of 100 per cent in the sales tax. Again, speaking of the growing cost of government, he said:
The country demands economy, but I do hope that the economy effected will be a wise economy.
Having hoisted the colours again, he immediately proceeded to support the government in an increase in the cost of civil government of $265,000, an increase in the Immigration department of this country of $680,000, an increase in the Public Works capital expenditure of $1,100,000. Again he nailed his colours to the mast in saying:
We expected the estimates would be cut down very considerably.
I think it is a mistake that so many supplementary estimates Should be brought down in the dying days of the session.
On each of those occasions the hon. member voted for the government on the very policy for which he condemned them. Therefore, this year when he announces that he has nailed his colours to the mast, we are patiently waiting to see how soon this colour
The Budget-Mr. Ross (Kingston)
will be taken down and transferred to some other part.
Coming to the financial report as submitted by the minister, like many members of this House, I have for weeks and weeks studied this report in order to get some idea where we stand. I do not wish to go any further than to get an idea of our actual condition year by year. It is not a matter of importance to me what they did ten, twenty, or even six years ago. It is of great importance if we can understand what we, as members, are doing in this House from year to year. It is important if we can grasp just the ordinary figures as given,' to us. While we are not greatly interested whether we have a great or a small surplus, every hon. member is anxious to know whether ordinary expenditure from year to year does at any time equal or surpass ordinary-revenue. As an ordinary member of this House I took the figures as given by the Acting Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb). He gives us the statement that we have derived revenue amounting to $244,000,000; that we have expended $342,177,000, leaving what he calls his actual surplus of $1,823,000.
This is the point where we enter into discussion and we try to ask questions as to whether or not we have this surplus. We have listened to the hon. member who has just concluded and I must say that even now he has not made clear to me whether there is a surplus or whether there is a deficit of some $16,000,000. And why do I say $16,000,000? I give that figure for this reason: having adopted their new policy of giving cash out of the fund, the government gave to the National Railways some $18,000,000, and if that is a cash grant out of our revenues, what other conclusion can we come to than that we have a deficit of $16,000,000? If it is not regarded in that way, then, according to the acting minister, it should go into our debt. But if it is derived from the revenues and taken out of the fund, the minister should explain what the actual cash is; and we as ordinary members cannot figure it in any other way than to apply that to the expenditure of $342,000,000, which would leave a deficit of $16,204,000. The hon. member has laboured all afternoon and has not made that one point clear; and the bone of contention is as to how we shall account for that $18,000,000 given to the railways. If it i3 taken out of the fund it should surely go as ordinary expenditure and so make a deficit of $16,000,000. The next point in the statement refers to the public debt.
At six o'clock the House adjourned, without question being put, pursuant to rule.
Thursday, April 23, 1925
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE ACTING MINISTER OF FINANCE