August 13, 1958

PC

George Stanley White (Government Whip in the Senate)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. White:

Yes.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS TARIFF
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Would the hon. member tell us which were those industries?

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PC

George Stanley White (Government Whip in the Senate)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. White:

No, I am not going to.

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LIB
PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

Mr. Chairman, the debate on the proposed amendment to tariff item 554b has been very interesting and useful contributions have been made by a number of hon. members who have come to this house from constituencies in which the textile industry is a very important factor in the economy of the local area and who have spoken with great authority as to the conditions in that industry.

Speeches were also made by the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. member for Assini-boia and the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate. I suppose if we were thinking in terms of sport we could say that the Leader of the Opposition had undertaken to demonstrate his dexterity at skating because if ever a member skated around a question, the Leader of the Opposition this morning skated around this one. He talked about various sides of the problem but he did not linger on any one of them; he talked about the industry and said it was not inefficient but he did say, or he seemed to say, that it was in need of some assistance. He did not, however, stop there. He kept on going until he went right around in a circle and to this moment I do not suppose any member of this house knows what are the views of the Leader of the Opposition on this subject.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

Our view is that it is a bad resolution.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

He accused this government of making the worst of both worlds but certainly the Leader of the Opposition did his best to make for himself and

his party the best of both worlds, because he did not come down on any side of the real issue.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

We are going to vote against the resolution.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinlon):

He still has not touched the ground on this subject, but it was left to the right arm of the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, to remove all doubts as to the position of the Liberal party on this subject. And that eminent authority on questions economic and fiscal and almost everything else has been very definite today in his remarks. I suppose all members of the committee will be very grateful to the hon. member for Bon-avista-Twillingate for having eked out the very evasive speech of his leader and clarified for the understanding of us all the position of the Liberal party.

Mr. Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition did not attempt to deny that there is a very serious problem confronting the textile industry in Canada today. The question would naturally arise in the mind of any intelligent and responsible person: what is to be done about that problem? But that question, though posed by the Leader of the Opposition, was then carefully dropped, and not an inkling did he give as to what ought to be done about it.

Let one thing be clearly understood in this committee: this problem grew up under the former government. I was so rash as to ask the Leader of the Opposition at one point in his remarks what he would do about it. But he turned his back on that question, and we know just as much now as we knew before he started this morning with regard to what he would do about it. Nevertheless, we can find readily at hand an answer to an associated question which may help us to know what answer the Leader of the Opposition would give had he the temerity to reply to the question I put to him this morning. This is the other question: what did you do about it when you were in power? And the answer is that they did nothing at all about this problem, though it was growing up right under their eyes.

This problem did not burst suddenly upon the Canadian economy; these difficulties did not suddenly overtake the textile industry in Canada. The difficulties which the textile industry faces today have been developing for years in this postwar period and they have been growing acute for some years past. And, Mr. Chairman, there is not one thing that hon. members opposite-the four of them who were members of the previous government-can point to as having been

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Customs Tariff

done by them to help to solve this problem or even to turn a helping hand to assist the textile industry. They simply ignored the problem.

I make one qualification. My predecessor, the former minister of finance, did something about this. I will not do him an injustice. He did something. But it was to take the pressure off himself and off the government. He directed a reference to the tariff board. And what a reference! He asked the board to inquire into the conditions of the woollen industry in Canada and, by no accident, he did not instruct it to make any recommendations. The tariff board, in accordance with his instructions, conducted this review and reported to the minister in February 1955 and, again, true to their instructions, did not attach to that report one single recommendation.

Why was not the tariff board instructed to make recommendations? That is a question which hon. members opposite have never answered yet, and one which they will not be able to answer. The fact is that that reference was initiated by the former government simply to take pressure off their own shoulders, and the textile industry was misled into thinking that the government was really serious in inquiring into the problems of the woollen industry. Let us clearly understand then the contrast between the irresponsible, do-nothing attitude of the former government and the steps which this government took soon after coming into office.

What member of this House of Commons who has any claim to knowing anything about conditions in Canada could fail to realize that the textile industry was in serious difficulties? The Canadian producers' share of the Canadian market had been falling, and indeed if you will look at the report of the tariff board on woollen fabrics, this recent report, No. 125, you will see it is pointed out that in 1954 domestic manufacturers supplied 62 per cent of the woollen goods sold on the Canadian market. But by 1956 and the first half of 1957 a very different situation existed. By that time Canadian producers were supplying only 48 per cent of the requirements of the Canadian market and, in contrast, imported supplies rose, as is shown on page 18 of the report, by more than four million yards in 1956 and by nearly two million yards in the first half of 1957.

Thus it is not hard to understand why the textile industry felt that their difficulties were associated with the very serious decline in the share of the Canadian market enjoyed by Canadian textile producers. What did

Customs Tariff

we do? We immediately directed the tariff board to conduct an inquiry into the whole textile industry-woollens, cottons, silks, synthetics, everything in the tariff pertaining to textiles. We asked the tariff board to make its report phase by phase as the studies were completed. And we did that which the former government chose not to do: we asked the tariff board to make recommendations. How can a report of the tariff board following an inquiry be really serious, or really effective, if it is not accompanied by recommendations based upon the board's review?

The tariff board began its work with the woollen items in the customs tariffs which was the section they had studied three years earlier. They brought their study of conditions up to date, and made their recommendations and, in the resolution now under debate, the committee has before it the amendments proposed to item 554b which have been recommended by the tariff board.

I have stressed that this problem was not of our creation. This was one more of the problems to which we fell heir when our predecessors-our do-nothing predecessors- went out of office. Surely the textile industry and the tens of thousands of Canadian workers in that industry are entitled to receive some intelligent understanding of their problems and some sympathy in the light of their difficulties. But, Mr. Chairman, if the Leader of the Opposition did not commit himself on anything today, the effective spokesman for the opposition, the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, made the position of the official opposition abundantly clear. One does not need to search the speech of the Leader of the Opposition with a fine tooth comb to find out what he might have meant. All we need do now is turn to the very clear statement by the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, and it is abundantly clear from his remarks that the textile industry so far as the Liberal party is concerned will be permitted to die.

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LIB
PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

The speech of the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate was a pronouncement of a sentence of doom upon the textile industry of Canada.

I have something to say about this textile industry. The hon. member for Waterloo South was good enough to recall today that I have had some occasion as a native of South Waterloo, a native of the city of Galt, to know something about the textile industry and what it has meant in the Canadian economy.

[Mr. Fleming (Eglinton) .1

Mr. Chairman, the textile industry has been a very important employer of Canadian workmen. The textile industry has shown in these recent years in the midst of its difficulties that it is prepared to meet the test of efficiency, for no finger has yet been successfully pointed in the course of any inquiry at the textile industry on the grounds of inefficiency. The textile industry has striven to keep ahead in a technological way of the developing needs of that industry.

I should like to tell the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate that the textile industry has rendered notable service to Canada in times past in days of national stress.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

So have the farmers and fishermen.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

I do not ask the

hon. member to take my word for it. I have here the recent report of the tariff board, and let me remind hon. members that every one of the members of the tariff board that prepared this report was a member appointed by the former government. Not one of the members of the board that wrote the report was appointed by the present government. Here is what we find at page 42 of that report:

In this connection, it should be stated that the record of this industry during world war II was outstanding; its contribution to the equipping, not only of the Canadian services but also those of various allies, was in every respect a splendid achievement.

Mr. Chairman, I need say no more about the notable contribution of this industry to the service of this country and its cause in days of stress.

But another important feature of the textile industry in the Canadian economy is that it has been largely a decentralized industry. It is true there are some very large textile mills in Canada, but it has been a feature of this industry that it has been largely decentralized. It has grown up as a localized industry and in that way it has contributed strength and stability to the economy of many a local area throughout this country. Let me quote again from page 43 of the report:

The industry is, by and large, a small town industry. Very often, even today, it is the industrial back-bone of semi-rural communities. It is currently giving employment to several thousand Canadians and affording the means of sustenance to their families. Partly because of its long association with scores of localities, it is part of the warp and woof of Canadian life. Often, in its own area, it provides the only openings for skilled or semi-skilled labour.

That is the industry which the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, speaking for the Liberal party, would condemn to doom and extinction. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is a poor way to serve the admitted needs of this industry to offer words.

This industry deserves something more than words and it will require more than words to meet its needs of that industry. It will take more than the type of attitude the Leader of the Opposition exhibited here this morning. The hon. member made no contribution whatsoever to the solution of the problem.

Let me now deal with the recommendation of the tariff board and the action the government is inviting the house to take to carry into effect the recommendation of this board. No one pretends for one minute that this modest recommendation is the solution of all the problems of the textile industry.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

Of course, it is not the whole solution to the problem. We are accompanying the proposal with a very important ingredient in the program of the government, namely the revision of section 35 of the Customs Act to meet the problem of dumping which has been at the heart of the problem.

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L L

William Moore Benidickson

Liberal Labour

Mr. Benidickson:

Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, surely the minister is anticipating a debate which he expects next week.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

Mr. Chairman, I am not launching into that subject at all.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

You are.

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?

Some hon. Members:

You are out of order.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

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August 13, 1958