Mr W. F. MACLEAN (South York):
It is my intention to occupy the House only a few minutes, as I understand that a vote is to be taken at six o'clock. Our greatest poet has said that "nice customs curtsey to great kings." Among the nice customs may be included the tariff custom, and the great king to which the tariff custom must curtsy is democracy. The democracy of the Canadian West to-day is demanding free wheat. I have followed the discussion of this subject closely for many years; I have read the papers of the West; I have heard speeches; I have read the proceedings of all the farmers' conventions. The demand in the West now, as I see it, is that the people there shall have a wider market for their wheat. Surely if they have not now a market sufficiently wide this Parliament, representing the Canadian people, should not prevent the accruing of that benefit to the agricultural population of the country, especially the West. They simply ask for an opportunity to sell their surplus wheat in every possible market. Their doing this would not be against the interests of Canada; it would make these people richer and increase their ability to buy Canada's products, because they would sell their wheat at better prices than they get now. I believe in a national policy for Canada; I have in my time made some sacrifices in the matter of national policy. The argument that was made by the Minister of Public Works this afternoon was a first class argument in many respects. The hon. gentleman said tnat he wanted to maintain the National Policy. But do we go to the United States to maintain our National Policy? The United States could
destroy the whole structure of that policy as it was outlined this afternoon if they saw fit to withdraw the duty which they now impose upon our wheat. The probability is that the Democratic party, soon to go to the country in a presidential election, will have in their party platform a proposal to abolish the duty on wheat. If they do this where will our national policy go then? We have got to have a national policy that will preserve traffic for our Canadian railways, if possible; we have got to have a national policy for our millers. But if we are consistent national policy men we ought to work that policy out by depending not upon the temporary or incidental legislation of the United States, but upon our own legislation. The British market, which we now have, is a good market. If we want to help the millers why not adopt the principle of the National Policy in regard to, say, a bounty on production, or, better still, by nationalizing our railways, transportation lines, ocean steamship services? Then we should be able to keep the British market, and hold it against any competition. The United States for the time being has put a tariff on wheat coming from Canada. They may take that duty off, and we can do nothing to keep that market for ourselves. After studying this question as well as I , could, I have come to the conclusion that we should not resist the voice of the people of the West when they ask for the right to sell their wheat in every possible market. We will make them better farmers, and we will make them better consumers of Canadian goods if we keep them in good temper, and give them an opportunity of making more money than they are making to-day The impression that I gained after a comparison of prices was that, on the whole, the price of wheat in the United States has been better than the price in Canada, and that the millers of Canada have at times not given as much as they could have given for Canadian wheat if the Canadian farmers had been able to sell in other markets. I have no prejudices in this matter; I have tried to consider it carefully, and that is the impression that has been made upon me. If we wish to make the West prosperous and contented, we ought to give the farmers of that country the benefit of free wheat. The West must be made to stand on its own feet, and you will never get it to do that if you restrict its freedom in the matter of selling a great product of which it has a large surplus. If there were any national reason why we
should prevent our own people from getting the largest possible returns from the sale of their wheat, I should not be prepared to support the motion. But I can see no national reason why we should restrict the Canadian farmer in the marketing of his great surplus of wheat.
As to the millers, I have this to say-the Minister of Finance is now proposing a tax on the profits of the business community of Canada in order to help pay for this great war, and the millers will have to pay a large share of that tax. The millers have been most successful in their industry. As between the miller and the farmer, it cannot be said that the miller has not had the best of it. As between the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian West, it cannot be said that the farmer has had the best of it. The railways and the millers have had the best of it so far, and the Canadian farmers in the West are seeking some relief, some betterment of their condition. We may not even now be able to give them that relief, because, no matter what we may do, the United States may put up the duty against us. Of a certainty I see no relief in that direction. But' there is an opportunity to improve the conditions by taking advantage of legislation that already exists on the statute book of the United States. Looking at the matter in the calmest possible way, after having studied all the circumstances connected with it, I have reached the conclusion that it is not along the lines of national policy that we should restrict the farmers of our West in their -getting the best possible price for their grain. On the contrary, we ought to help them get the best possible price for their grain, and try to make the West not only a great grain growing country, but a great mixed farming country as well. Give the West an opportunity to work out its own salvation, and do not encourage it in nursing grievances. If we wish to improve the condition of our railways and our millers, we should do as I thought this House intended to do; as I thought the Conservative party intended to do two or three years ago-remove these grievances, the expression of which has been found in the House, in the press, on platforms in every direction. The sooner we get rid of the grievances, and give the farmers of the West what they ask for, the better it will be for the progress and development of the country.