LAST MONTH the government raised the pay of some top civil servants by as much as 50%. We have no quarrel with that. But the Minister of National Revenue, Dr. J. J. McCann, took occasion at the same time to warn private industry it had better not do likewise.
Increases on that scale by a private firm, Dr. McCann told the Toronto Star, would be “exorbitant.” He doubted if they’d be allowed as deductible business expenditures. Companies could pay any salaries they liked, but they stood in danger (in the words of the Star’s interview) of “having to pay profits taxes on any margin of pay increase that the Department of National Revenue might decide is unreasonable.”
We suspect the good doctor of having put his foot in his mouth. In the prevailing political weather, we doubt very much if his opinion will turn out to be government policy. But this mitigates our indignation only slightly.
Dr. McCann was expressing, indiscreetly but all too accurately, a concept of state power which Ottawa has come to take for granted, but which we regard as unwarranted, unjust and inconsistent with a free economy.
As we understand it, a free country lets a man get what he can out of life, within the limits of the public interest. If an employer wants to treat his men better than other employers do, that’s his business—more power to him. He may go broke doing it, or he may prove that high wages pay dividends; in either case it’s his own affair.
During the war, this situation was temporarily altered. Everyone agreed that “nobody should he allowed to make money out of the war.” It was an offense against “equality of sacrifice” that some men should go off to fight and die while others stayed home to get rich So the State took away the whole amount of what any company made above its pre-war profit level, and did what it could to prevent concealed profiteering through payment of inflated salaries.
As a war measure that was all right. Half the national income was coming directly, and most of the other half indirectly, from war expenditures; it was a fair inference that any increase of private wealth in that time was a “war profit.” But now the servicemen are home, out of uniform and earning wages and salaries themselves. Production of wealth has again become a private affair. And the wealth so produced belongs primarily to the men who produce it, not to the State.
This is an idea which Dr. McCann does not seem to have grasped. He no longer has any right to the tacit assumption that all income is government property, that the citizen is entitled merely to whatever percentage the State decides to give back to him. The shoe is on the other foot now. It is we, the people, who will decide
what percentage of our money we want to spend on government services.
All through the war, the salaried man took the worst beating. Except for those who got promotions (admittedly a considerable number) hi^ income didn’t go up at all. Instead, rigorous! taxation diminished it while higher prices withered its worth.
Now, if he is lucky, he may get what is coming to him. The Minister of National Revenue has no right to a veto power on this process.
THERE’S something comforting in each new discovery—so frequent in recent years—of an important disease-killing drug or treatment. It’s false comfort.
Far from being ready to make full use of these new medical advances, we are not yet taking advantage of discoveries made many years ago For instance:
We know that pasteurization of milk kills deadly disease bacteria, cuts infant mortality rates, eliminates the hunchback-producing bone tuberculosis. But only one province, Ontario, makes pasteurization compulsory. .
We know that the spread of venereal disease can be cut by isolating diseased persons. But only four provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island—make premarital V.D. tests compulsory.
We know that toxoid prevents diphtheria. But 270 Canadians died of diphtheria last year.
The purpose of Health Week, organized by the Health League of Canada for February 2-8, is to make us realize facts like these. And once realizing them, to act.
WILFRED EGGLESTON has written an excellent book called “The Road to Nationhood,” an account of Dominion-provincial relations from the Confederation debates to the breakdown of the conference last May. It’s a story with which all Canadians ought to be familiar but few are—tells you briefly and clearly what the problems of Confederation were, why the solution hasn’t always worked, and what has been done from decade to decade by way of patchwork.
No more interesting, more lucid report on a vital aspect of Canadian history is likely to be written.
Whenever the present difficulties are cleared up and it becomes possible for Mr. Eggleston to write a final chapter, this book or one very like it, could well become a textbook in Canadian high schools or universities.
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