A year before, if you like, and the boys were still coming home from overseas. We were still in a chaotic state and no one knew precisely what was going to happen. It was still a period of hush-hush; we were not being told a great deal, there were secrets as to the troops coming home, and so on. At that time we felt that perhaps it might be just as well, the office of price administration in the United States having
expired on July 1, 1946, that some action be taken. We were not in possession of sufficient information at the time to criticize, even if we had desired to criticize.
I should like to point out that one projects these difficult and technical questions with a certain amount of humility, which indeed is becoming I think when one questions policies on foreign exchange or matters having to do with international finance. They are not easy even for those who are privileged to devote all their time to them. In fact, as was pointed out by the hon. member for Muskoka-Ontario (Mr. Macdonnell), we find great differences of opinion among the so-called experts. Our economic and financial system is like Topsy-it just grew. It has grown sufficiently to give the United States and Canada the highest standard of living of any two countries in the world. All countries in which there are great financial centres have a higher standard of living than other countries. These natural economic laws functioned, and it was under them that we achieved a high standard of living. To get away from this natural working and to put ourselves in the hands of helmsmen who are economic experts but who cannot possibly foresee all the reactions to their policies, and all the repercussions which may arise from any particular line of action, is something which we on this side of the house do not favour. It has often happened in the past that a policy, which was a part of a plan that was designed to do good, has had in it the seeds of a much worse condition than existed before. In other words, the cure was worse than the disease. That is the general philosophic reason, if you like, founded on facts in great number, why we do not favour controls unless it can be shown that the controls are getting us somewhere.
In my opinion the minister made not a bad defence of the operations of the foreign exchange control board during the last few years, but it was entirely one-sided. That is something which I regret should come into a discussion of this highly technical subject. I believe that the house is entitled to all the information on both sides. The minister has the advantage of his economic advisers, who, as I say, spend all their time on these matters. They have a great many relevant facts on both sides of the question which might well be put before the house. I cannot help but say, when I recall the cries about filibustering in the house, that if we on this side, and in the Progressive Conservative party in particular, were not eager to see these measures carried through and debated as well as possible and as quickly as possible, we certainly would have asked that this bill go before the banking and commerce 29087-107
Foreign Exchange Control committee as it did a few years ago. There we could have called expert witnesses and businessmen; we could have found out exactly what the pros and cons are, and what would be the best solution to this very pressing problem. As it is we are doing the best we can, within the confines of the formalities of the house and the committee of the house which will follow; but it does not take the place of the banking and commerce committee. The only reason we have not asked for that is that time is fast slipping by, and the end of the month will soon be here when the regulation will expire if not given a further lease of life. Therefore I hope that the house will appreciate that we have done everything we could to expedite the matter, and that if we had wished to filibuster we certainly might have filibustered, to use the word in a very proper sense, and have obtained the information we rightly require.
The minister, with all the eloquence he could command, pointed out what he thought would happen if the value of the Canadian dollar were lowered in relation to other world currencies-which, by the way, is not necessarily a policy that we would advocate. What we want to see is a dollar which is influenced by natural and normal economic trends as they exist today, and not one which is subject to the ukase of the government itself. If the Canadian dollar were cheapened in relation to other world currencies, it is true, as the minister said, that it would be more difficult for the United Kingdom, which no doubt would like to get more Canadian dollars, to sell in this market; but then we must always look at the other side of the shield. By having a cheaper dollar, if that resulted from natural laws, it would be that much easier for the United Kingdom to buy our products, to buy our wheat, our bacon, and whatever else was required.
As I have pointed out, one must always consider both sides of the question, and it is by no means a simple one, to find what the right answer is. As every businessman, farmer, and storekeeper in the house knows, in our economic system there are certain natural laws that operate when one thing gets out of adjustment with another. Certain influences are set in motion which tend to right that condition. Now that we have fixed controls and regulations those natural laws are offset. We go along in definite, arbitrary channels and often end up in the situations where we are much worse off than we were at the beginning. We have cultivated the sore spots rather than allowing them to be cured rapidly through the natural working of economic laws.
At one o'clock the house took recess.
Foreign Exchange Control
The house resumed at three o'clock.
Subtopic: CONTINUANCE IN FORCE UNTIL SIXTY DAYS AFTER OPENING OF FIRST SESSION OF PARLIAMENT IN 1951