February 28, 1911

LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

Well, we will see about that in a moment or two. I have been invited to give a little later history of the Conservative party and I shall do so now. During this debate my hon. friends opposite have frequently said: Let well enough alone.

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?

An hon. MEMBER.

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

' Hear, hear,' says the hon. gentleman opposite, but I have a word to say in regard to that. Was it well enough to have an edict of non-intercourse with the great nation to the south hanging over our heads? Was it well enough to possibly have a maximum tariff face us which would have shut out all the products of Canada from the markets of the United States? I say again, Sir, we were in a situation identical with that which Sir Charles Tupper described, and we took the same course as he did, with the one difference that he went to Washington, whereas Washington came to us. Sir, it is easy enough for people who are not responsible for the affairs of the country to say that they would lightly and recklessly reject the hand of fellowship and friendship from a great nation of nearly a hundred millions of people whose lands border ours for 4,000 miles and who, notwithstanding high tariffs on both sides of the line, constitute with us the greatest intertrading people on the whole earth. It is all very well for those not responsible for the government of the country to declare that the Canadian government should have said to the representatives of this great nation: We will have none of you; go back to Washington; we refuse your overtures; we reject you lock, stock, and barrel. It- is easy enough for irresponsible men who have not the destinies of the country on their shoulders to advise in that way, but I venture to say that had the Conservatives been in power to-day they would have tried to follow in the footsteps of their great former leaders, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Charles (Tupper. It was said by somebody in the course of debate the other day: we cannot stand still, we have either to go forward or backward. And, Sir, when we had the offer, was it not infinitely the better and more sensible and more reasonable course to grasp the hand of fellowship than to reject it. Now, an hon. gentleman opposite asked me what was the condition of affairs in 1891, with respect to the policy of reciprocity. When the Postmaster General was speaking the other day he said that in 1891 the government of Sir John Macdonald went to the country to get a mandate from the people on the question of reciprocity, and my hon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) interrupted: We needed it then; we don't need it now.

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?

An hon. MEMBER.

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

' Hear, hear,' says my hon. friend, and he endorses the sentiment that we needed it then and do not need it now. What is the meaning of that? It means that at that time, when Canada was in a depression and comparatively weak and struggling, and when the bonds of em-iMr. FISHER.

pire, which hon. gentlemen opposite are so fond of talking about, were not so strong as they are to-day

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

Much stronger.

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LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS

No.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

Hon. gentlemen say no I know that they are appealing to that 'bogey, to that prejudice, but there is absolutely no foundation in fact for their appeals on that point as there is no foundation for most of their appeals ,on this question.

. -Sir, what is the third? ,

Not to discriminate against Great Britain -our mother land and the great market for our products.

' Sir, I read that with a great deal of *gusto. I am very muc'h pleased, indeed, to -find that at that time that was the policy *of that party, but I cannot help remembering that in 1897 when we brought down *our tariff of preference the gentlemen on the other side of the House, headed by Sir *Charles Tupper, then their leader, followed by the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) then and for a while afterwards, until that county and that province rejected him, member for Kings, N.B., *threw the burden of reproach on us, saying that we had given a preference to the *mother land .without demanding a quid pro quo, without bargaining, without forcing our mother land to do something which *she did not want to do as the price of getting our preference in our market. Sir, we *gave the preference without price, we gave *the preference without bargaining.

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

To every country in the world as well as to (Great Britain.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

To Great Britain and other countries as we chose.

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

You could not [DOT]help it.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

My hon. friend talks about the German and Belgian treaties, He has forgotten that although for a moment the arrangement gave the benefits of the prefer-

ence to Germany and Belgium we were influential enough in the councils .of the empire to denounce the German and Belgian treaties, and we gave the preference to Great Britain alone or to such other countries as we chose to give it. We have chosen to give it to British countries.

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

The Argentine Republic.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

My hon. friend does not know what he is talking about, the British preference does not go to the Argentine Republic. i

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

It goes to some twelve countries.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

No, it does not.

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CON

George Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR (Leeds).

Yes, it does.

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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

The British preference goes nowhere except where we tell it to go, in British countries.

I go on to the next item in Mr. Foster's appeal:

To raise our revenue by indirect taxation, on customs and excise and not by direct taxation.

That was brought in because they thought that with unrestricted reciprocity they would be obliged to have direct taxation. We have never proposed to have direct taxation and do not propose to do so to-day. The fifth item is the gist of it:

To meet the United States in a friendly way, and negotiate with them for a reciprocity arrangement on lines that shall be just and equitable, and in accord with the honour and best interests of Canada, so far as it can be done without infringing upon the lines above laid down.

Again, I must plead guilty to my hon. friend, that I am not able myself to put the description of our reciprocity arrangement into as concise and complete a definition as was done at that time by the present member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster). That is an absolutely true description. We have made an arrangement which will

Be just and equitable, and in accord with the honour and best interests of Canada, so far as it can be done without infringing upon the lines above laid down.

The Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) when he brought down the arrangement declared distinctly that if in any way it interfered with the preference to Great Britain, we not only would not discriminate against Great Britain, but would see to it that there was still a substantial preference for Great Britain on every item where there was a customs duty.

To keep in our own hands the power of framing our own tariff.

That is done by this arrangement absolutely, and if hon. gentlemen opposite un-Mr. FISHBR.

dertake to maintain that it does not, they are simply undertaking to say that the people of Canada do not know how to manage their own affairs, at a time when Canada is prosperous, rich, progressive, at a time when Canada is receiving an influx of people from all over the world who think so much of Canada that they are eagerly rushing to her shores and are bound to become citizens of this country. It is true that Canada with 8,000,000 of a population is face to face with a population of 90,000,000 or 100,000,000 south of the boundary, but that population of 90,000,000 or 100,000,000 to-day recognize and acknowledge the power, the strength, and the influence of Canada on this North American continent. Their views are voiced in the words of Mr. ,Taft in explaining the reason for this arrangement in Washington; he pointed out the advantages of friendship, amity and trade arrangements with Canada and gave us the best compliment our rising young nation has ever received in its history. My hon. friends opposite would not like to be asked what was their policy in 1891. What was their policy in 1891? It is well known that they went to the electors in 1891 and won, and parenthetically, I am very glad they did. But they went down to Washington, they opened negotiations with Washington in 1891 and tried to negotiate a treaty on the lines laid down by Mr. Foster. They failed again, they are envious because where they failed we have succeeded; that is the only difference.

I shall only add that the other day I was talking to a gentleman who was a friend of Sir John Macdonald in his lifetime. He made this remark to me: You have made the best trade arrangement that could possibly be conceived in the interests of Canada; I would like to see my old friend, Sir John Macdonald jump with both hands outspread at such an arrangement if he had ever got the chance. I believe that that gentleman, who was an intimate friend of Sir John in his lifetime, gauged him pretty correctly. To-day if Germany or France could make an arrangement of this kind with the United States, either of these great commercial nations would jump at it.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Hear, hear.

, Mr. FISHER. We know that Germany was trying to secure better commercial relations with the United States. She has, ,to a certain limited extent, succeeded, but ,she has not succeeded half so well as we have, and we know that the disappointment at not having been able to go further in improving her trade relations with the United States is very acutely and keenly felt.

One word with regard to a matter brought up by the hon. member for Brandon (Mr. Sifton). It may be a taking argument, and I dare say some people in the country have

been captivated by it. It is that we have no mandate to do this.

My hon. friend described the general mandate of the party and government in power. My hon. friend was a party to and endorsed the British preference of 1897. That legislation followed the election of 1897. I fail to remember a single statement on the part of the present leader of the government (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), or any member of the party placing before the people of Canada the principle and details of the British preference brought down to this House in 1897. Did anybody at that time say that we had no mandate for that policy? I can remember well that when my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) announced his British preference in this House, it was like a thunderclap to the House and to the people; nobody expected it; nobody dreamed of it. The secret was well kept, so that, with the exception of the men who sat at the council board of that day there was not a single individual in Canada who knew that we were going to bring down a proposal for a British preference on the lines that were announced. My hon. friend from Brandon was one who knew it, and he accepted the responsibility of that step without a mandate from the people, just as we to-day have brought down this arrangement, which he criticises on the ground that we have not the mandate from the people for it. I think we may fairly say that we have some mandate from the people for this arrangement. Reciprocity with the United States has been a demand of the people of Canada for years. Everybody in Canada has said: Give us reciprocity in natural products if you can get it. But people thought we could not get reciprocity in natural products without sacrificing our industry, because the United States would not give us reciprocity in natural products unless we included also a large list of manufactured articles. But in this arrangement we have secured reciprocity in natural products without sacrificing a single interest of our manufacturing industry. (I will speak, a little later, of the packing houses and some other matters to which my hon. friend (Mr. Sifton) refers. I say again, we have accomplished what the people of Canada have been asking for, but had almost given up hopes of. The propitious time arose in the conditions of the United States, and we should have been derelict in out duty if we had lost the opportunity to gain that for which the people of Canada have been seeking and hoping for for years. Again, we have a mandate in this: reciprocity has seemed to many people difficult, or impossible because it was said the Americans must come down to our range of duties before we can discuss things with them. The American tariff

has been high; our tariff has been lower but everybody in Canada was ready to trade with the Americans if they would come down to our range of duties. Under the present arrangement there is not an item in which the duties on the American side of the line are not made the same, or lower, than on the Canadian side. The Americans have come down to the Canadian range of duties, and we have taken the opportunity to fix them there and make an arrangement which is so favourable to us. There are two items in which we have not even come down to their duties. The first is the item of cement. The duty on the American side is 8 cents and on the Canadian side 12i cents. We reduced to 11 cents, but the American duty is still three cents lower than ours. In regard to coal, there is a slight discrimination-so slight that it is hardly worth going into. But the Americans have come down to our scale of duties, and we have clinched the bargain.

The hon. member for Brandon said we had no mandate, and that we had committed the country. Why, Mr. Chairman, the present debate, the hon. gentleman's own stand on the question-everything goes to prove that we have not committed the country. We have committed the country if the representatives of the people ratify our bargain, and only in that case.

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February 28, 1911