Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, the house has discussed the provisions of this measure at such length on the resolution that preceded it that I shall not take up more than a few minutes in restating our position with respect to the principle involved as we are considering it on the second reading. In a word1, we are opposed to the measure now before us because in our opinion it is the negation of government by parliament. It is that in its two outstanding particulars. In the first place, it gives to the administration a blank cheque, the right to draw out of the consolidated fund of Canada unlimited amounts of money for any purpose whatever so long as the purpose may be said to be that of assisting in the relief of unemployment. As to how widely that power may be used, we
Relief Act, 1933-Mr. Mackenzie King
had evidence yesterday after the speech of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes) in listening to the interpretation placed by the administration upon the provisions of this bill in reference thereto. In introducing his budget, the Minister of Finance stated that there was to be created a stabilization fund in connection with certain agricultural products. It really is in the nature of a provision to subsidize the export of certain commodities from Canada to Great Britain. One would have felt that if such were the policy of the administration, the government, proceeding in the regular manner, would have brought in a bill for that purpose and made provision therefor, but we were told that the provision for that particular purpose was to be found in mone3rs that were being voted for purposes of unemployment relief. That certainly is not in accordance with parliamentary practice, nor is it constitutionally right. I do not see how we can approve the principle of a measure which permits a government to go that length. If a step of that kind can be taken with respect to subsidies, in matters of trade, it can be taken for almost any purpose for which the government may wish to use it. It will be seen that in such cases there is no control by parliament in any way over expenditure.
It has been shown also that when the government had this power before, it placed orders for a million and some odd dollars worth of railway ties which were not required by -the railways, and that this amount was charged up to the relief of the unemployed, although as a matter of fact the unemployed came in for a very small proportion of the money spent in that way. To give to the government that unlimited* power jn the use of public moneys is simply to help create debts which it will take years and years for this country to meet. I think people have discovered by the proposals brought down in yesterday's budget that they are going to have to pay pretty heavily for expenditures being made at this time. The increased taxes are going to hit the average citizen throughout Canada fairly hard. That is something which the people at the moment are feeling very keenly. But they should realize that every time this parliament parts with its control over expenditures and gives the government the right to draw whatever moneys it pleases out of the exchequer on blanket authority, they are only helping to place a greater burden upon themselves with respect to taxation. In our desire to limit taxation as much as possible, we feel that we should very strongly maintain the control which ordinary parliamentary procedure would
demand in these matters, and oppose whatever destroys that control.
In saying what I do may I again make perfectly clear that we on this side are prepared, as we have been all along, to vote for purposes of unemployment relief whatever moneys the ministry may decide to be necessary, so long as those amounts are named, their purposes specified and some substantial reason for what is proposed given to the house. So our objection to the second reading is in no way based on a desire not to do all that may be possible to cooperate with the government in a regular manner in providing what funds may be necessary for unemployment relief.
Our second objection to the measure, and it is one that has arisen since the resolution was originally introduced, comes out of the amendment made when the resolution was before the house in committee, the amendment giving to the government of the day power by order in council to legislate with respect to peace, order and good government. As has been stated over and over again, an authority as broad as that enables the government to legislate simply by act of the governor in council on almost anything at all upon which it may wish to legislate. When the British North America Act was passed, the power to legislate was placed not in the executive nor in the judiciary, but in parliament as represented1 by this House of Commons and the Senate and His Majesty's representative in this country, and we cannot for one minute countenance the transference of that power from parliament to the governor in council as is proposed to be done under this measure.
May I add that, in the light of the discussion that has taken place on the measure, there is a further reason why we should not countenance it. It has been stated from this side, and I think hon. members of the house as a whole believe, that the government has under the statutes as they exist to-day all the power that it needs to deal with any situation that may arise. The provisions in this bill itself are very broad. They give to the government all the power that is needed certainly to deal wuth any questions of unemployment; they give all the power that is necessary to deal with any emergency in the nature of a financial crisis or panic, or even an insurrection, and that being so we see no reason why the government should seek this further authority of the right to enact notwithstanding all existing legislation, whatever measures it pleases by order in council so long as that legislation may be designated
Relief Act, 1933-Division
as coming under the heading of peace, order and good government.
Objecting to the measure on both those scores, the blank cheque, on the one hand, and the blanket authority to legislate, on the other, we feel that this measure, as I have said, is the negation of government by parliament, and as such we are strongly opposed to the second reading of the bill.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION FOR ONE YEAR OF PROVISIONS OF RELIEF ACT, 1932