Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):
I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that the members of this house wish to have this question decided, and I am one of them. But I do not think it is desirable to have it voted on without our minds being brought back for a very few moments-and it will be a very few-to just what it is that we are being asked to do. We have had a great many grievances mentioned in this debate, and proper grievances too, most of them relating
to this or that part of the community, to this or the other section. But I want to bring to you, Mr. Speaker, a grievance that I consider to be a grievance of the whole Canadian people at this procedure which we are now being asked to adopt. We are being asked to vote four months' additional supply in addition to the two months' supply which we have already voted.
It is not necessary to remind this house of the importance to this democratic assembly of the right to vote supply. Nevertheless I will quote a brief extract from May's Parliamentary Practice, twelfth edition, at page 56, just so that it will be on the record:
The most important power vested in any branch of the legislature is the right of imposing taxes upon the people and of voting money for the exigencies of the public service. The exercise of this right by the Commons is practically a law for the annual meeting of parliament for redress of grievances; and it may also be said to give to the Commons the chief authority in the state. In all countries the public purse is one of the main instruments of political power; but with the complicated relations of finance and public credit in England, the power of giving or withholding these supplies, at pleasure, is one of absolute supremacy.
This voting of interim supply is of course a usual procedure. We do it, but we do it under the strictest of safeguards; and I will read to you the safeguard which is always given to this house when voting interim supply. I will read to you what the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) said in this house on March 29 last when two months' supply was voted. It was the usual assurance to give; it was an undertaking. The minister said, as reported at page 2148 of Hansard:
As I have said, the form of this bill is exactly the same as in previous years, and the passing of the bill does not prejudice the rights and privileges of members of the House of Commons to criticize any of the individual items in the estimates. And I give the usual undertaking that such rights and privileges will be respected and will not be curtailed or restricted in any way as a result of passing this interim supply measure.
What are we being asked to do today? We are being asked to vote for a measure which is an absolute repudiation of that undertaking.