Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)
Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Munitions and Supply):
Some days ago the leader of the opposition (Mr. Gray don) asked me to make a statement on gasoline rationing. I will do so now.
Since the early days of the war, the problem of obtaining a sufficient supply of petroleum products to maintain our transportation and other requirements has been perhaps the most serious -with which we have been confronted. Production within Canada accounts for only about 17 per cent of our normal requirements. The balance must be transported long distances from sources of supply in other countries. A large proportion must be transported by ocean tankers.
Before the wTar our consumption of petroleum products was rising rapidly year by year, this being the result of increased use of gasoline for transportation, both commercial and by private automobile and for commercial and domestic heating. To this rapidly rising civilian consumption, the outbreak of war added the requirements of the army, navy and air force. I need not remind you of the vast fleet of motor transport required by the modem army or of the needs of our rapidly expanding navy and air force. You will fully understand that these have added enormously to our already high peace-time consumption.
Our pre-war imports of petroleum came in by a pipeline from the mid-continent fields to Sarnia and by a fleet of some twenty ocean tankers, all Canadian-owned or under Canadian charter. At the outbreak of war, we had large stocks of petroleum in Canada. Since then we have been doing everything possible to maintain these stocks, but I regret to say that they have been steadily depleted, until we are now at the point where we are forced to operate on a "hand to mouth" basis.
Early in 1941, the United States and Canada were called upon to furnish tankers to supplement supplies for the United Kingdom, where stocks had been reduced below the danger point. At that time it became obvious that Canada must curtail unnecessary use of gasoline and fuel oil. A public appeal was made for voluntary curtailment, which resulted in a very substantial saving, particularly in the use of gasoline for motor cars, and plans were laid for a system of coupon rationing.
Early in 1942, it became obvious that rationing by coupon was necessary, and on April 1, the present system of rationing was instituted. We were pioneers in rationing by coupon on this continent, and while the system introduced at that time has proven to have inequalities and has not been free from abuses, it has been successful to the extent that consumption of motor gasoline for 1942 has been brought below the consumption figures for the year 1939.
At the same time a rigid policy of curtailment of the use of petroleum products for heating has been conducted. Before the autumn of 1942 steps had been taken to eliminate the use of oil for heating except for bona fide dwellings containing not more than two family apartments. The use of fuel oil for heating of all commercial and industrial buildings, apartment houses, schools, churches, hospitals and institutions, and production of steam and for certain other process work was prohibited. It is fortunate indeed that these prohibitions were strictly enforced at that time for, as a result of strict enforcements, we have since been able to take care of the requirements of our navy and essential requirements of war industry, and in addition supply home owners with fuel oil without recourse to rationing. It is hoped and expected that we will continue to do so during the balance of this heating season.
I regret to say that we must ration the use of petroleum products more drastically in the future. Submarine sinkings of ocean tankers has taken a terrible toll and the submarine menace has not been brought under control. Ocean tankers are still the favourite target of the enemy. Allied armies in Africa and in the Pacific theatres of war must be supplied with oil and gasoline and long lines of supply require larger numbers of tankers to perform the service.
In planning our rationing for the period beginning April 1, 1943, we must take these factors into account. The needs of the army, navy and air force must be met in full. The barely essential needs of industries and agriculture must be met. The supply situation makes it necessary to cut the allowance of many thousands of automobiles and to tighten the restrictions on commercial vehicles.
I will now state the gasoline rationing plan that will become effective on April 1, 1943. I may say that after the close of business at seven p.m. on March 31, no vendor of gasoline will be permitted to accept a coupon out of a 1942-43 book for a gasoline sale. The new plan has been devised out of the experience of rationing to date and is believed to be sufficiently elastic to meet any con-
tingency that may arise. Under the plan, there will be only two types of coupon books for the non-commercial automobile
the basic "AA book, which will contain 40 coupons, and a "special" book, which will contain 60 coupons or such smaller number as may be authorized in a particular case. The new system will abolish the classification of passenger cars according to weight, thus ending the provision under which a higher- allowance was granted for heavier and more costly automobiles.
Every holder of an automobile licence will be entitled to receive an "AA" ration book, which at the present value of a coupon-three gallons per unit-will provide 120 gallons for the year ending March 31, 1944.
The "special" allowance will be granted on the basis of proven vocational needs. Only those engaged in essential services and necessary cars for companies engaged in war industry will be eligible for a "special" coupon book. The number of coupons in the "special" book will correspond with the proven vocational need during the year ending March 31, 1944. Only one "speical" book or portion, of a book will be issued at one time, thus enabling the case history of each owner of a "special" book to be kept under constant review. Each applicant for a "special" book will be dealt with according to his own vocational needs and the use of a common category for a particular profession or trade will be abolished.
Each owner of a licensed automobile will be entitled to an "AA" coupon book. Those granted one "special" book or part thereof will be in "A" category; those granted two "special" books will be in "B" category; those granted three "special" books will be in "C" category. After April 1, every.truck and every car, whether commercial or otherwise, must carry on its windshield a sticker which is supplied with each ration book and which will indicate the category of the vehicle. Thus a man granted one "AA" book and two "special" books will carry an "AA" sticker and a "B" sticker on his windshield.
For commercial vehicles the new system, unlike that of last year, will provide for strict rationing of all vehicles including farm trucks. These will be divided into two classes -the first, "transit class" will cover ambulances, buses, taxis and "drive-yourself" cars; the second, "service class" -will be subdivided into four categories: "general commercial", "limited commercial", "commercial motorcycle", and "other commercial". Under this rationing of commercial vehicles,. the owner will have his allowance pared down to bare essential needs and will find it necessary to
eliminate unnecessary trips, to drive slowly and to conserve gasoline for his legitimate purposes. Every commercial vehicle must also bear a windshield sticker indicating its category. Cars belonging to A.R.P. workers and employee drivers under the wartime industry transit plan will bear, respectively, either an "A.R.P." or a "W.I.T." sticker. Service station operators will be required to check the category of the ration book presented by the customer against the category of the car as indicated by the windshield sticker. The windshield sticker will also make it easier for enforcement officers to determine whether the car is being used for the purpose for which extra gasoline is issued.
The categoiy for all non-commercial motorcycles will be known simply as "motorcycle", and will allow the owner a fixed ration of 16 units from April 1, 1943, to March 31, 1944. The "commercial motorcycle" category will allow perhaps less than, but no more than, 85 units for the year. Motorcycles will not bear windshield stickers, and the same ruling will apply to cars owned by tourists from outside Canada.
Under the new system, the foreign tourist ration will not be changed. Such a tourist is permitted four coupons for his car per year, or one coupon and a third for his motorcycle. At the present unit value, these allowances represent 12 gallons for a car, four for a motorcycle.
If he applies to a Canadian oil control office, the United States or foreign business man is permitted a gasoline allowance sufficient to cover any trips he finds it necessary to make in this country in connection with the war effort.
Advertisements will shortly be published setting out in detail the basis for rationing commercial vehicles. This form of rationing is too involved for presentation here, but I believe that the allowance for all types of commercial vehicles will be reasonably adequate for the legitimate purposes for which the vehicle is intended.
Regarding the issuance of an "AA" book to every licensed owner of an automobile, a question may be raised as to whether this is justified under present conditions. I believe that provision must be made for the emergent needs of car owners, and after much consideration it has been decided to enable every car owner to have an emergency supply of gasoline, and for this purpose the "AA" category has been established. Those granted an "AA" book only must understand that when the coupons are used, no further gasoline can be obtained until April 1, 1944, if
then. The owner of an "AA" book may use his gasoline as he wishes with that understanding.
In making this statement I am quite aware that owners of motor vehicles must look forward to much more restricted use of their vehicles than in the past. I can assure all hon. members that the new system of rationing represents a realistic view of the supply situation as we see it. We have made and will continue to make every effort to obtain additional supplies of petroleum products. To date we have been able to meet our objectives without undue hardship on any class of our population. I sincerely hope that we will be able to provide in the year 1943-44 sufficient petroleum products to enable us to carry out the rationing system that I have announced to-day. If we can do so, we in Canada should consider ourselves fortunate.
Subtopic: ANNOUNCEMENT OF RATIONING PLAN TO BECOME EFFECTIVE APRIL 1