Mr. Chairman, much, at least, of the elation felt by members over the increased assistance to provinces which was announced by the Minister of Finance on Saturday, and spoken of again today, has been dulled by the way in which the offer has been made and the arrangements worked out.
My hon. friend the member for Winnipeg North Centre has made an excellent case
Dominion-Provincial Relations against the way in which it has been done and I do not intend to labour what he said by any means but merely say I agree with it. There is indeed much to be said for the fact that under the arrangements for extra grants to the Atlantic provinces some figure was pulled out of the air and was offered to them as a lump sum rather than being laid down as part of a formula. I am sure all hon. members will realize there is a great difference between payments made under a formula which come to be considered as payments as of right and a hand-out which cannot be justified as part of a formula.
I suggest to the Minister of Finance that it would have been far better if he had worked out a formula and then made his payments accordingly-as has already been said-instead of the unilateral basis upon which this has been done, which is going to throw a good many of the provinces into a state of confusion.
The third thing about which I am concerned is that the new series of grants will be considered by the government as something final and that we may not get a dominion-provincial conference now for a long time. Furthermore, that this will be used as an excuse for not calling the conference back for a long time, particularly if the federal government now takes the view that it will have to budget for a deficit when it does bring in a budget, if ever. The excuse will then be given that we are spending much more than we are taking in by way of revenues and therefore we cannot countenance any requests from the provinces for a fairer share of the revenues of this country. That is the position we will get into and so it looks to me as though walls are being built to bolster the excuse that may be made if there are pleas for a fairer share of the revenue dollar of this country.
One of the things we have talked about so long in this house has been that very matter, the necessity for a fairer share of the revenue dollar so that the provinces and the municipalities can discharge the responsibilities placed upon them. They have demonstrated fully that they cannot do it in present circumstances. Along comes the government and says to the provinces, unilaterally: we will give you a 3 per cent increase and whether you like it or not you will have to accept that.
The Minister of Finance has said that he will call a dominion-provincial conference as soon as he can.
On Saturday an exchange took place between the minister and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre to which I should like to refer briefly because it has a bearing on this question. As recorded in Hansard at
Dominion-Provincial Relations page 3796, the minister had just concluded a brief interchange with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre. The passage reads as follows:
Topic: DOMINION-PROVINCIAL RELATIONS MEASURE TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO ATLANTIC PROVINCES, ETC.