Mr. Speaker, when the recess was called I was dealing with the problem of centralization. I should like now to turn for just a few moments to another important matter which is closely allied with centralization and which is of grave concern to the people of this land; I refer to the matter of taxation. My search in the throne speech failed to disclose any intention of the government to set about a reduction of the tremendous tax burden under which Canadians have been staggering these past years.
Many of us had hopes that, with the cessation of hostilities and with the consequent relaxation of serious war necessities, we might expect at least a start this session in the scaling down of taxation. Our hopes were somewhat encouraged by reports from Australia of a 12J per cent reduction in personal income taxes and in a lowering of sales tax over quite a- wide range of materials. It seems evident now, however, that we cannot expect a similar move by this government, at least at an early date. I am not unmindful at all of the substantial commitments already made by the present administration to meet postwar needs. With many of these commitments I find myself in substantial agreement. But here again I fear that the government have become confirmed victims of an inevitability complex, as if there were no better and other ways of meeting their commitments than by continuing to heap intolerable burdens of taxation upon the people.
If one takes the trouble to study the history of taxation in this country as well as in all other countries operating under the same vicious system of debt financing, he will find that the tax burdens have increased consistently decade after decade, through good times ,and bad, and through peace times as well as war times. I would not be so much concerned
The Address-Mr. Low
about the matter of increasing rates and varieties of itaxation if I did not know that an ever-increasing percentage of the national income is being taken by governments to carry on their business, and particularly to pay the growing tribute to the merchants of debt in the form of interest on our growing obligations.
I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that the only true way of ascertaining the burden of taxation is to measure it as a percentage of the national income. An examination of the figures for the years 1923, 1939 and 1944 will yield a good deal of food for thought. I chose 1923 because it is the earliest year for which figures representing the national income of Canada appear to be available. The year 1939 was chosen, of course, because it is the last pre-war year, and, of course, 1944 as the last fiscal year.
In 1923 the national income was, in round figures, $4,200,000,000, The tax revenues to the federal government for the same year were, in round figures, $154,020,000. Those taxes represented for that year 3-7/10th per cent of the national income. In 1939 what was the picture? The total national income was, in round figures, $4,553,6Q2,000; the tax revenues were $436,000,000, and those figures represented 9-8/10ths per cent of the national income. In 1944, admittedly a war year, and a very heavy war year, the national income was estimated at approximately $9,000 millions; the total tax revenues were $2,283,000,000. Those taxes last year represented 25-3/10ths per cent of the national income. These tables show in twenty-one years an increase in the tax burden from 3-7/10ths per cent of the national income to 25-3/10ths per cent of the national income.
These figures, too, represent only what the federal government is exacting by way of tax toll. When we add to the schedules the aggregate of provincial and municipal taxes, the percentage of the national income taxed from the people in 1944 approaches close to fifty per cent of the national income; that is, fifty cents out of every dollar of income of the Canadian people.
I wonder just where we are heading. The taxation burdens of our Canadian people are intensified tremendously by debt financing; and I suggest that every hon. member acquaint himself with the debt history of Canada. From 1867 onward the total of ail government debts in our country steadily mounted. For a number of years prior to the outbreak of world war II the aggregate of dominion, provincial and municipal debts increased each year by almost exactly the total amount of the interest on those debts, indicating the utter impassibility of paying even the interest on our obligations without resorting to taxation of confiscatory proportions. It is chiefly
this ever-growing interest burden which causes the debt load, as measured in terms of a percentage of the national income, also to grow ever greater and more intolerable. Debt financing has failed.
In his last, report to the United States congress, President Truman announced that an overwhelming portion of allied obligations of $42,000 millions worth of American lendJlease would be cancelled. President Truman further said that to add forty-two billions to the already enormous financial obligations of the allies would disrupt political stability. These debts had to be cancelled because they represent the utter failure of the debit finance system. which if pushed to its logical conclusion would destroy the economic as well as the political stability of the whole world. That debt finance system is basically unsound. Unless and until we make a new approach to public financing in Canada, an approach which relegates debt financing to the limbo of past nightmares, the Canadian people can have little hope for tax relief, especially if we are to keep up the services to anything like the level required for social justice to our people.
I am convinced that there is a better way than debt financing. My experiences of the last twelve years have intensified that conviction. If that better way is applied to our country an immediate downward revision of taxation will be possible. My colleagues and I will continue our fight for the application of that new principle of finance, which is simple, scientific, and easy to administer; for we are convinced that taxation of the punitive intensity we now suffer not only in the end-resullt makes men submissive and tolerant to the nefarious doctrine of the centralization of power, both national and international, but also enslaves mankind.
I turn for just one moment, Mr. Speaker, to another matter which was raised in the speech from the throne and about which I should like to speak briefly. I wish to commend the expressed intention of the government to take over the full cost of olid age pensions and to abolish the means test. That is good so far as it goes, but it does not fill the need at all adequately. The Social Credit group in this house have always felt and do now feel that it will be necessary to lower the pensionable age to sixty years and to bring up the general pension to not less than $50 a month, and that. Mr. Speaker, without the means test.
The absolute necessity of a measure of this kind will become more apparent as the problem of unemployment develops to its full intensity under the discredited system of finance which this government persists in following. It may sound like a big undertaking to pay a pension
The Address-Mr. McMaster
of not less than $50 to every Canadian of sixty and over, but in the light of the colossal gifts which we made' to our enemies during the war, and to our friends in the same period- and in the giving, Mr. Speaker, made ourselves prosperous-the aggregate sum required to carry out the undertaking which we recommend in connection with old age pensions becomes quite commonplace. Some of my colleagues doubtless will deal with this subject more in detail when they take part in this debate. -
There are other matters arising out of the throne speech with which I should like to deal, but I shall follow the example, the good example by the way, of those who have preceded me in this debate and cut my remarks short. Just allow me to say in conclusion that I have faith in this great land of ours, a land which I believe to be choice, above all other lands. I have faith in Canada and I believe that she can take her rightful place in the world community of nations and cam in that world community of nations become a great power for good. I still have faith that Canadians will awaken to the needs of this most fateful hour in world history and apply the accumulated wisdom of the ages to avert the disaster of threatened victory of totalitarianism in the peace.
Some wise man has said:
Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise .
Age after age their tragic empires rise
Built while they dream; and in their dreaming weep,
Would men but wake from out their haunted sleep
Earth might be fair, and all men glad and wise.
I look forward with faith to that day when Canadians will awake.
Topic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY