May 13, 1948

INDIAN AFFAIRS

QUESTION AS TO MEETING OP SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE


On the orders of the day:


CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WILLIAM BRYCE (Selkirk):

I should like to direct a question to the Acting Minister of Mines and Resources. As the committee on Indian affairs has had to suspend sittings for lack of a committee room, will the minister intercede on behalf of the committee so that this important work may be completed for presentation to the house this session?

Topic:   INDIAN AFFAIRS
Subtopic:   QUESTION AS TO MEETING OP SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE
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LIB

James Angus MacKinnon (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Hon. J. A. MacKINNON (Acting Minister of Mines and Resources):

The hon. member for Selkirk was good enough to send me notice of his intention to ask this question. I made inquiries and I am informed that there is no problem about space.

Topic:   INDIAN AFFAIRS
Subtopic:   QUESTION AS TO MEETING OP SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE
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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BRYCE:

May I ask the minister if it is the election in Ontario that is hindering the proceedings?

Topic:   INDIAN AFFAIRS
Subtopic:   QUESTION AS TO MEETING OP SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE
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INTERIM SUPPLY


Hon. DOUGLAS ABBOTT (Minister of Finance) moved that the house go into committee of supply. Motion agreed to, and the house went into committee, Mr. Macdonald (Brantford City) in the chair.


LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT moved:

Resolved', that a sum not exceeding $'89,567,384.33, being one-twelfth of the amount of each of the several items to be voted, as set forth in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending 31st March, 1949, laid before the House of Commons at the present session of parliament, and in addition thereto the sum of $17,982,745.67. being one-sixth of the amount of items 43. 151. 154, 155, 447, 541 and 542 of the said estimates be granted to His Majesty on account for the fiscal year ending 31st March, 1949.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

I thought the Minister of Finance would make a brief statement with respect to this matter.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

In the proposed resolution, provision is being made for an additional one-twelfth of the main estimates, and an additional one-sixth of certain special items which provide for services coming up for payment within the early part of this year. These additional items are item 43 in the agriculture estimates covering freight assistance on western feed grains; items 151, 154 and 155, which relate to the Senate and the

Interim Supply

House of Commons, where, as hon. members will appreciate, the greater part of the expense has to be met early in the year; item 447 of the estimates of trade and commerce, which cover exhibitions, and where an additional amount is required at an early day for the expenses of the international trade fair which is being held in Toronto from May 31 to June 12; items 541 and 542, for estimated additional requirements in the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover increases in pensions and war veterans allowances which have either been adopted by the *house or are now under consideration.

The form of the bill which will be founded upon this resolution is exactly the same as the bill which has been presented in previous years. Of course the passage of the bill will not prejudice the rights and privileges of hon. members to discuss any item in the estimates which will come up for consideration from time to time during the remainder of the session. I give the usual undertaking that such rights and privileges will be respected and not curtailed and restricted in any way as a result of the passing of this measure.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

Mr. Chairman, the matter before us is spoken of as interim supply. Interim supply means the granting of huge sums of money to the government for its purposes, practically without debate. The minister is now asking that one-twelfth of the total amount of this year's estimates be voted without debate. Prior to this one-sixth of the total amount was passed under a similar motion. When this measure passes one-quarter of the total supply will have been voted, without debate. The reason why this motion comes before us is that we are now in the early part of a new financial year and the government has financial obligations, salaries to pay and other expenses to meet. The government finds itself without money and has to ask for a measure of this kind, to be passed practically without debate.

There is no question that the house will grant requests of this kind when they are made under similar circumstances. I rose simply to say that this practice, which is not a wise one, arises from the fact that the budget is not brought down early enough.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

It has nothing to do with the budget.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

That is the moral of my remarks. An opportunity is not given, to deal with all these matters and to pass the budget, and so we are asked for these interim amounts. As I said, one-sixth has been voted already, and

another one-twelfth is being asked for, making one-quarter of the whole. The only point I wish to make is that the budget, including the estimates, should be considered earlier in the session.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I think the remarks of my hon. friend call for a brief comment. Obviously, of course, the date on which the budget is brought down has nothing to do with the date on which supply is voted. The budget simply outlines the means by which the taxes will be raised to provide for the expenses of government, and that is a completely separate function from the voting of supply by the committee of supply.

There is nothing new in voting interim supply, as my hon. friend has indicated; but each year when it is asked for I listen to a repetition of this statement, that it is improper to vote large sums like this without debate. I w7ant to point out to the country what is well known, of course, to the house, that the estimates, which indicate the sums of money which parliament will be asked to provide for the public service of the financial year, are prepared early in the year. They were tabled this year in good time-in the month of February, I think-and have been before hon. members ever since that time. They are discussed, it is true, and formally voted in committee of supply; but my experience has been that the discussion in committee of supply rarely relates to the item under discussion and never suggests that an item be reduced. I have been here some little time and I recall no case in which the opposition has suggested that an item of proposed expenditure be reduced. The house and the country have been aware for months of the government's estimates of the amounts required to maintain the services of the country for the year. The practice of voting interim supply-one-sixth or one-twelfth of the estimates, as the case may be-is not for the purposes of the government as a government, but to carry on the essential services of the country.

I am not taking exception to what my hon. friend has said, but the date on which the budget is brought down has nothing whatever to do with the date on which the house may or may not be able to discuss the items of supply. Let me add that consideration of the estimates by the committee of supply has been unavoidably but inevitably delayed by the necessity of considering other measures such as emergency exchange conservation and the like. I must, however, take exception to any suggestion that the government has delayed the consideration of supply by not bringing down the budget.

Ways and Means-Interim Supply

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. CHURCH:

Mr. Chairman, this is the eighty-third day of the session and we have had little or no opportunity yet of discussing the main estimates. While it is true that the minister must have money to run the sendees of the country, I would point out that businessmen and retail merchants and others have been looking for retrenchment in government expenditures. Practically all we are doing now in committee of supply is holding a post mortem after the money is spent. That is no way to conduct the business of the country. The government is spending money like water. I can see no sign of retrenchment in the main estimates or the supplementaries. We are being asked to vote large sums of money for bonuses, subventions and subsidies for the prairie provinces, and the other provinces do not get anything. There are manjr items here for interim supply, one for 880,000,000, another for $17,000,000, and so on. These expenditures, under this method of conducting the business of the country, really mean expenditures and taxation without representation. The house is abdicating its functions to the executive. It is a dangerous principle. The expenditures for civil government in the days of Sir Wilfrid Laurier amounted in 1897 to $36,000,000. and the population of the country has increased by only one-third or one-quarter since; but the civil estimates now are nearly two billions.

There should be some better way of conducting public business. The municipalities would be bankrupt if they did business'in this way. The auditor general should have wider powers to deal with some of these expenditures. The Minister of Finance may take this humorously, but it is no laughing matter for the working classes I represent. Government extravagance and lack of retrenchment, added to the high cost of living, are becoming scandalous, and the public will not stand for it. We should have some redress of grievances before we are asked to vote any further interim supply on this eighty-third day of the session.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I do not rise to object to passing interim supply but rather to take exception to the minister's statement that nobody has ever moved to reduce an item of supply.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I said that I had never heard it done.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

The minister was

sitting in the house in the session of 1946 when we were discussing the administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs and my colleague the hon. member for Lake Centre moved that a certain item be reduced to one dollar. Despite the fact that the minister never explained what the item was for, the government supporters trooped in and we were voted down.

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Did not my hon. friend suggest that the agriculture estimates ought to be $80,000,000 instead of $40,000,000?

Topic:   INTERIM SUPPLY
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May 13, 1948