I did not intend to use any disrespectful language. I was just abiding by Mr. Chairman's ruling. If he took what I said in a different way, then I am very sorry;
I did not mean it at all in that way. It was just a way of expressing myself, to tell him that I was abiding by his decision.
I find this one of the most serious matters which may be brought to the attention of the committee. Of course we have a system of taxation which dates back to confederation. It was only after lengthy argument that the provinces agreed to depart from a certain number of rights of taxation, in favour of the new organization, which was the Dominion of Canada. You know, sir, because I am sure you have read the confederation debates, how difficult the matter was. When I think of the great political ancestors of the present Minister of Finance, and of those who were so strongly in favour of equal rights for all the provinces-and not only that, but equal rights for the provinces and for the dominion -I find that this piece of legislation is very dangerous. I will say why, in a moment.
There is, of course, a belief among people that the order of precedence in Canada replaces the British North America Act. I must explain myself. If any one of us attends a state funeral, or any state occasion where the precedence list is followed, he will see the representatives of the dominion in the first place, and then will follow in turn the representatives of the provinces. The same thing applies to the seating in this house. At the present time, Mr. Chairman, you occupy
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the chair. Therefore you are superior to the Prime Minister; you are superior to any one of his colleagues in this house; you are superior to the leader of the opposition, or the leader of any other group; you are superior to every hon. member. There are treasury benches because the 244 other members cannot all sit in the same seat. The seats must be distributed in order that there may be some order. Therefore, we have the Prime Minister; we have his colleagues; we have the leader of the opposition and the other members. It is the same thing with regard to the provinces. Everybody cannot walk on the same line; everybody must walk in turn. According to the British North America Act which I hold/ in my hand, the premier of each province who came here, the Premier of Prince Edward Island, the smallest in Canada, and the Premier of Ontario, the largest in Canada, were all on an equal footing with the Prime Minister of Canada. They were here to discuss the British North America Act, the constitution of our country.
The reason why that is so is the fact that the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction in certain matters. The legislatures of the provinces are the sovereign masters regarding legislation within the provinces. The dominion parliament is its own boss in matters in which it has exclusive jurisdiction. This is the system to which the people have been accustomed for scores of years. The dominion parliament, by subsection 3 of section 91 of the British North America Act, is given the power to raise money by any method of taxation. In a sense, I may be answered by the Minister of Finance that this legislation of his is intra vires. That may be so. There is another factor to consider. A practice has been in force since confederation, not only in Ottawa but in the provinces, to levy taxation in certain fields.
The provinces are the bosses of their destinies in their own fields. Another most important matter is the fact that certain things have been done for the people of this country by the dominion parliament, many of which were of interest to several of the provinces. On the other hand, however, the provinces have done other things. They have set up their own staffs and have been doing these things since confederation. The organization exists; the wheels have been greased, and this work has been carried on quite well since confederation. This is being done in connection with colonization, agriculture, and especially unemployment. The provinces have been accustomed to doing certain things necessary for the welfare of the people. This was done
by the little communities, the municipalities, and by the larger communities, the provinces. Sometimes the provinces had to come to Ottawa for support.
Take, for instance, unemployment. We all know the large amounts of money that were collected by the provinces through succession duties. I can understand why the Tories of Ontario are mad because of the succession duties they were forced to pay by Mr. Hepburn. They had to pay large sums of money into the exchequer of the province, and they were quite dissatisfied with the way in which that collection was made in the public interest. But it was necessary for the province of Ontario, and much good resulted. The same applies to the province of Quebec and other provinces.
It is pretty hard to think that the dominion government is taking the power of taxation in connection with succession duties from the provinces and is at the same time refusing to contribute to the support of the unemployed. In my province five per cent of the population is unemployed, and yet the province is deprived of assistance from succession duties. They expect to receive some help from Ottawa, but Ottawa says "no." I protest against it. I cannot be in favour of this legislation. It is impossible for me; my conscience objects to it when I think of the poor people who will suffer because of this legislation. I am not considering these matters from the legal point of view; I am looking at them from the practical point of view. I cannot agree with this legislation when I consider what the results will be. My conscience does not permit me to agree with it. I know that the language I use now will receive the support of the people of any constituency in this country.
I cannot conceive how this government can take this power away from the provinces and then not give some help in caring for the unemployed, especially when the unemployed have been cared for partly by means of money received by the provinces from succession duties. I protest most strongly against this legislation. Who was behind the scheme which was forced upon the Minister of Finance? I do not mean this one; I do not mean the other one; I mean the one before that. What is the mystery about that scheme which was suggested- in 1935? These people come again with these schemes. I warn the minister that it is dangerous and that we live in hard times. While the ministers in Ottawa may be good-hearted, they do not come in contact
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with the people in the same way that members of parliament do who go home for the week-end.
When I go home over the week-end, from fifty to eighty people from all walks of life talk to me and tell me their troubles. As I said last year, they honour me by opening up their hearts. They tell me their troubles and I try to help them, but a member of parliament cannot help all the people who need it. There must be some outside help. Unemployment is not cured as yet, and the provinces should be given some help. They cannot pay any more. The financial scissors of Ottawa have passed through their budgets, and the people will have to suffer. There is no reason for this even in war time. People are sick, people are willing to work, but are unable to find it. The reports of the Department of Labour are all wrong if they say that in this total war effort we have total employment. We should have, but we have not. The provinces have to support these poor people and they have not the means to do so.
I hope the minister will reconsider this legislation. This is one of the most serious matters because it affects the health and lives of a large number of our compatriots. They deserve help; they need help, and they should get it, either from Ottawa or from the provinces. If Ottawa takes over the powers which the provinces have in order to sustain them, what will happen? We have this case. I am against centralization. This is a case of centralization. As a Liberal I am against it; it means nothing good to me I am in favour of decentralization, which is one of the main principles of Liberalism, just as much as free speech and so forth. Therefore I appeal to the Minister of Finance and to the government to reconsider this part of their taxation programme. It is not a question of winning. There was a tie here at this table in January, but it is not a question whether the minister shall win. It is not a question of winning or not winning, on the part of the minister, any more than it is on the part of the premiers of the provinces. It is a question of coming to a settlement which will not make people suffer, which will be fair to all and which will enable this government to carry on the pursuit of war without exposing any number of our fellow citizens to death from hunger.