William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)
Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Minister of Finance) :
Mr. Speaker, on the question of nonconfidence to which the hon. gentleman has referred I am reminded of the old lines, "It was all very well to dissemble your love, but why did you kick me downstairs?" I do not want to dwell on the question of non-confidence. I think I have a better reason for asking my hon. friend not to press his motion, or if he is to press it, for asking the House not to accept it.
With what he has said as to the importance of public libraries, the desirability of encouraging them and the hard times they are perhaps having, I am sure I can heartily sympathize, as I am sure most members of the House will, but that is by no means a conclusive reason why we should adopt this motion. I am not at the moment expressing any opinion whether it is or is not desirable that we should exempt public libraries from the sales tax. This is but one of twenty questions which are being presented to the government by hon. members on both sides of the House. I am sure I am probably within my facts when I say that I see before me on the two portions of the opposite benches at least a score of gentlemen who have done me the honour of calling upon me to impress upon me some particular thing in which they would like some reduction of taxation or some exemption from the operation of this or that tax. One gentleman here on this side of the House makes a habit of urging the exemption from the income tax where there are a certain number of children. Another hon. member brings forward some particular thing in which he is sincerely desirous of having a change, and no doubt they could all make a measure of popularity if they would get up in this House and become the champion -of this or that particular thing. But why should we select among these fifty or more things-perhaps I had
better be moderate and say among the twenty or more changes proposed:-why pick out of the basket this particular thing and ask the judgment of the House upon it this afternoon? I fail to see the reason. I had a large deputation the other day urging very strongly that in the matter of income tax any man who contributes to charity or religion or any of the various noble causes which we are all asked to help should not be taxed on what he contributes for that purpose. That is perhaps as strong a case as my hon. friend from Calgary (Mr. Shaw) brings forward, but all who have these things in mind have been content to make their case and await the moving of the waters. I know of no reason why this particular case or fad, if I may dare call it that, and not offensively, for fads are good things at times, should be selected for us to vote upon to-day. If it is good policy to do that, then hon. gentlemen opposite-I am not designating any member-who have come before me and asked that a particular tax be abolished ought to get up and move in the same way and somebody else move for income tax exemption where there are children. Each of these things may be important in itself, but I submit to the House there is no good reason why we should pick out this particular thing and ask the House to pass judgment upon it this afternoon.
The sales tax is not a particular baby of my own. It was a system, and probably a necessary system, established by the forme.-government. I have had the unpleasant duty of increasing the amount of it. That is my crime in the matter. When the late government devised the tax I know that they made many exemptions; some people think too many; I know there is something to be said against exemptions. But the late government did make a very liberal list of exemptions. They considered public libraries I have no doubt, and no doubt thought that taken all in all libraries could stand the tax as well as many other things. I am not declaring against the judgment of the hon. member for Calgary. I am asking him to consider whether it is wise to ask the House to select this particular one out of the many questions, anticipate the budget, and ask for a vote upon it now. I do not think that is fair. I do not think either party in the House should accept the motion.