the approval of the treasury board, for miscellaneous and unforeseen expenses, $10,000,000. Then item 611 is to provide recoverable advances for working capital, et cetera, $10,000,000. It might be necessary to use more than one-sixth of those items in the early part of the year.
Finance item which will be found on page 67 of the. estimates. It will be understood that we are moving from one system to another. The system prevailing for the present fiscal year was to have main estimates for non-war purposes, plus a large vote for war demobilization and reconversion purposes. That system was completely flexible. But we have taken, away all flexibility, with the exception of this item of $10,000,000. I am afraid that other contingencies we could not foresee will arise and it may be found that this item is too small. At any rate it is certainly small enough. This item is for only $10,000,000 and hon. members will remember that previously these items amounted to something like $3 billion and they could be applied to any purpose. This is the only item that could be applied to any purpose. The item reads:
To provide, subject to the approval of the treasury board, for miscellaneous and unforeseen expenses; for supplementing any of the appropriations in the demobilization and reconversion estimates; and for the temporary provision of recoverable advances for working capital purposes and for the re-advancing of any such advances repaid.
We cannot say that this item will be spent evenly over the next twelve months of the fiscal year. It may not be spent until the end, and it may be necessary to spend it nearly all at the beginning, but we must have a little more leeway than one-sixth.
asking the house to go farther than the house is prepared to go. We are giving the government two months supply, or one-sixth. If at the end of that two months' period it is found that the $10,000,000 has been spent or that the proportion which we are now voting, that is one-sixth, has been spent, then the government can come back to the house and seek further interim supply, and parliament can decide whether or not the request should be granted.
Interim Supply Bill
It does seem to me that this is the thin end of the wedge. The government is asking for something that I have never seen in my ten years of parliament. I have never seen interim supply of one-third granted to any government. I suggest to the minister that he leave the matter as we originally agreed, which is the agreement normally made by the parties in the house to facilitate government business, that is, allow one-sixth of the estimates. I may point out to the minister that there has been a good deal of argument and a great deal of debate as to whether we should allow to the government even one-sixth, having fegard to the circumstances. I have argued on many occasions that even in war time perhaps only one-twelfth should be granted. We have been asked to agree to one-sixth, but in connection with one or two items the government seeks to increase that to a third. If it were a question of holding up the government on their expenditures it would be a different thing, but that is not involved. All it means is that it may be a little more inconvenient for the government, and that it provides perhaps another opportunity for the opposition to raise some questions on matters of public importance when these items are brought in again because the house is now in session.
The house will be in session for the next two months. If the government find that this appropriation is not enough to cover the exigencies of the circumstances, they can then come back and ask for more. I think on reflection the minister will not wish to change what has been a regularized -practice, the voting of one-sixth to cover all items. Personally I am not satisfied that we should go any further, because the next time-I am not suggesting that this is the sin of any government in particular-they may want more. When you give a government an inch, they want a mile. In this case we do not want to give them that inch.
There are some oppositions that look like governments and I take that compliment as being well meant. I think on reflection the minister will understand that I am not attempting to place a stumbling block in his way. But I do not want to set a precedent which in the days to come we might have to overcome. The time to stop it is before it begins.
I agree with what the acting leader of the opposition has said. Unless the Minister of Finance can advance some better reason than that which he has
given, I do not think the vote should be increased. If the house were not sitting I could understand that we might be justified in doing what he suggests. The minister may have in his mind some very urgent reasons why we should do it, but unless he can give some reasons more urgent than the ones we have heard already I shall be in agreement with the acting leader of the opposition in saying that we should stick to the one-sixth.
I do not want to spend too much time over this, f spoke to the leader of the opposition and told him that I would want more than one-sixth of two items, and I understood it would be all right. I made the mistake in not speaking to my hon. friend who has made such a powerful speech. I want to assure him that this is not something extraordinary. Nearly every year there are some items on which we ask for more than we are asking for generally. I have been held up several times just on that point. I have sought a twelfth or a sixth, as the case may be, and then there were certain supply items on which I would want more. It is all right, though. I may have to come back in a month's time-
It is to save time that I am asking for one-sixth instead of one-twelfth. As I said before, we have two $10,000,000 items here that are elastic. Last year the whole three billion dollars was elastic. But now we are moving from one system to another, which the house wanted us to do, and it would make it safer if we could have a little more than one-sixth of these two items to work on. It wo-uld obviate the necessity of coming back earlier than we otherwise would have to do. But it is just as the committee says.
It would perhaps remove the minister's difficulties and ours if these two particular items were taken up early in c<^n-mittee of supply and adopted after due debate. This would obviate the necessity of asking for interim supply again so far as these particular items are concerned.
I am particularly interested in the second item No. 611.
Interim Supply Bill
May I point out that its purpose is to provide recoverable advances for working capital purposes. There are several enterprises that would be without sufficient working capital if we do not provide these recoverable advances. I suppose we could go to the chartered banks and make arrangements, but certainly we cannot operate without working capital.
If that is so, these estimates have been wrongly compiled. Here are two ministers who say that they expect to use all this money now. Surely this is a twelvemonths year, and surely the minister has some idea of what he requires. If he is asking for only one-third of this particular item, how does he know that that will be enough? There is no guarantee in connection with it that I can see. If he wants to come back in two or three months' time and submits that he has used the money, parliament will grant him more, but I do not think we should give him a blank cheque.
I take it that this is a case of using money in a revolving fund, and if that is so tlie minister has put an entirely different complexion upon the item. If what the Minister of Reconstruction says is correct and I believe it is, I think the Minister of Finance is making a mistake in asking for only one-third. I think we should deal with these two particular items on an entirely different basis from the ordinary estimates, and, instead of authorizing only a relatively small proportion, vote the whole ten million dollars.
The other item, No. 505, also provides, for recoverable advances, but it is not limited to that. It provides also for miscellaneous and unforeseen expenses. We think it reasonable to ask for a little more latitude on these two items because we are moving from one system to another and we do not want these arguments too often. I do not think the house wants to see us back within two months asking for interim supply. I doubt if this will last for two months. We would have asked for more of these recoverable advances if we had dared, but we are asking for only one-third, which will give us more latitude than one-sixth. No precedent is being set here. Let me make myself clear. Very often parliament is asked to grant one-twelfth or one-sixth, and sometimes a greater proportion is asked because of the seasonal character of the demands under certain items.
Money may have to be spent early in the summer for some purpose, and so you pick out two or three items and in that way get quite a proportion of your expenditure by way of interim supply. But here we are asking for one-sixth of everything except of these two items, where we want more leeway.