March 24, 1919

UNI L

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Agriculture)

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. QRERAR:

The Acting Prime

Minister, this afternoon, made the position quite clear as to what the real significance of the resolution is, and there is no difference of opinion, on this side of the House at any rate, as to what is involved. I say that 'it would mean the plunging of this country into a general election, and that

is not desirable at this stage. It is wholly undesirable for several reasons, which I do not need to enumerate. I propose to vote against this resolution because it should not have been introduced at the present time. If the hon. gentleman wishes to press the principles contained in it, the proper time to do so is when the Budget has been brought dowm and when we are considering the future fiscal policy of the country.

Mr. McMlAlS'TER: If I withdraw this

motion will the Minister of Agriculture pledge himself to vote for a similar resolution later?

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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UNI L

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Agriculture)

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. CRERAR:

The hon. gentleman isvery ingenious; at any rate he thinks he is. As far as my position is concerned, I am quite willing to leave it until the Budget is under discussion. The fiscal policy of the Government will be disclosed when that Budget is brought down, and that will be the proper time, in my judgment, to discuss the question which the' hon. gentleman has raised this afternoon.. Nevertheless, this question is an important one. There is no disguising the fact that in Western Canada there is a very strong feeling that substantial reduction of the tariff should be made, and I think I may say that there are good arguments to support that contention. |I do not desire to twit hon. gentlemen opposite with their past record on the fiscal policy. I think I can say, however, that they will have to go a long way before they convince the farmers of Western Canada that they are absolutely sincere in the position they take. If I understand the temper of the Western farmers-and I mention this because free allusion has been made to it this afternoon-he is looking with a very critical eye indeed upon this whole matter. I frankly say that I do not think that a resolution such as the hon. member for Brome has introduced this afternoon-introduced for no other purpose that I can conceive of than to embarrass the Government in carrying on the business of the country at the present time-will find very much favour with the Western farmers at this moment. If the hon. gentleman had introduced the resolution later in the session, and if he had been able to convince the people of Canada as to his bona fides -I do not question that for a moment, because II think the hon. gentleman is entirely sincere-he

might have had a better chance of carrying conviction to their minds. Whatever

the future may have in store if in the turn of the wheel of political fortune hon. gentlemen now sitting opposite should be entrusted with the reins of office in this country, I only wish to express the hope that they will then be as sincere in their position on this question as they purport to be at the present time. For the reasons I have given, Mr. Speaker, and particularly because this is not the proper time to introduce or discuss this resolution, I intend to vote against it; and I have no doubt whatever in that my action in so doing will be understood by the country.

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L LIB

Joseph Read

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JOSEPH READ (Prince, P.E.I.):

Mr. Speaker, my name has been brought into this debate by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. M. Clark) who made the assertion that during my speech on the Address I declared we could not have an election just now, and that I was going to support the present Government by giving them good advice, and helping them in every way I could, as long as I thought they were right. Another hon. gentleman (Mr. Mclsaac) in his criticism of my speech stated that I had at one time been a follower of the late Sir John A. Macdonald.

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UNION
L LIB

Joseph Read

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JOSEPH READ:

It was true, and I am proud of it, because at that time Sir John A. Macdonald was the strongest advocate of Reciprocity in Canada. However, it does not make any difference; if I get sufficient new facts at any time to justify me in changing my mind I am going to do so. I believe that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." The wise man may change his mind several times, but the fool never. My mind has been changed since I made the appeal referred to. What do hon. gentlemen suppose caused me to change my mind? I almost gave my Western friends the assurance-I am sure I gave them the assurance-that the interests of my province down by the seas were identical with theirs. We are a farming population, purely and simply, in Prince Edward Island, and our interests are identical with those of Western Canada; and I told my friends to-day, when they were talking about bringing in this motion: [DOT] "Bring it in and let those Western people have a chance to save themselves."

I hold in my hand a little paper, the only Liberal paper published in the city of Charlottetown. It is called The Patriot, a paper once owned and established by the late |Hon. David Laird, the great Liberal that hon. gentlemen from the Northwest at one

time had out there taking care of their interests. Here is an advertisement which takes up practically the whole front page of this paper, and it reminds me of the anti-reciprocity dodgers of 1911. Those people went down there and bought up the space in every paper they could get in the Maritime Provinces in order to debauch public opinion. Listen to this extract from the advertisement:

At the very moment when Canada is struggling; with this problem-

That is, the problem of raising the revenue.

-the Western Grain Growers come forward with insistent demands for:

An immediate and substantial all-round reduction of the customs tariff.

Free Trade with Great Britain inside of five years.

Reciprocity now, and Free Trade later with the United States.

Then the advertisement goes on to say-

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An hon. MEMBER:

Who signs it?

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L LIB

Joseph Read

Laurier Liberal

Mr. READ:

The Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the particular and especial friends of the hon. gentlemen who occupy the Government benches.

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Charles Ramsay Devlin

Mr. DEVDIN:

What does the advertisement say further?

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L LIB

Joseph Read

Laurier Liberal

Mr. READ:

This is what is says:

These demands are apparently made in the hope and belief that, if they are granted, those making them will be relieved of a large part of what they call the " Burden of Taxation," which the tariff imposes upon them.

They may argue that under a lower tariff the volume of goods imported win increase, and consequently there will be no decrease in the revenue. But mark this: they want the duty removed entirely from implements, lumber, cement, oil and other articles of which they are large consumers. If the revenue Is to he maintained under such a rearrangement of the tariff schedules, other classes of the people must pay what the Grain Growers will escape.

It is pretty nearly time that the Grain Growers begin to do something. My province, as I said before, has identical interests with the great provinces of the west, particularly the three prairie provinces. What has happened in our province through this tariff, the brightest province in the Dominion-that province which nature has done more for to the square mile than any other province in the Dominion of Canada; the jewel of the Dominion? This is what has happened: That province has become absolutely depopulated through forty years of this tariff-forty years of protection. When we were an autonomous province doing our own business, and doing it well, the whole revenue was raised by a ten per

cent ad valorem tax on imported goods, and we did not have to pay one per cent of direct taxes. That ten per cent has been raised up to 35 per cent to forty per cent to-day, and they expect the province to live under a burden like that. Why, the agricultural interests of this country are hewers of wood and drawers of water for these Big Interests. Here is another paper -not a Charlottetown paper, but

9 p.m. no less than one of the greatest financial and trade papers in the Dominion of Canada, the Montreal Gazette. This advertisement is headed "Dangerous to Production, to Labour, and to Industry." Then it goes on and gives the whole story, just the same story only in other words, and below are "The proxies of the fifteen thieves,"-Madam Smith the other day in the British Columbia Legislature, drew attention to. She said that the soul of Canada was held in leash by fifteen of the Big Interests of the Dominion of Canada-fifteen men own the whole shooting match. If their names are not signed, well, their representatives are there- Shaughnessy, George, Godfrey, Beatty, Black, Drummond, Ellis, Nanton, Nicholls, Williso-n, Bulman, Rolland, Russell, ficully, Worthington-just fifteen they total up.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why I have changed my mind, because I see the danger that the Western people are standing in. As I told you the other day, we will send you four members from Prince Edward Island-I am as sure of that as that I am alive-if we get a fair show, but if they come down with that stuff, if they buy the press and debauch the people, as they do whenever they have a chance, where are you going to get off at? I may as well tell you Western farmers that you are not going to get this thing if you work alone, you have to get assistance from the Eastern Provinces, and if you do not look out for yourselves you will be in the soup.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

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L LIB

Joseph Read

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JOSEPH READ:

The Acting Prime Minister told you that the appeal we were making to you would be in vain. Very well, if it is in vain, then the burden is on your political souls, and when you go back we will see what the Western people will say about you for losing this cause. There is the danger of delaying for the Budget. If my hon. friend, the Acting Prime Minister, could be entirely depended upon, and we could have the assurance of \fhat he told you people in caucus, it might be all right, but you remember the trick he served us in 1911, when he went in with Sir Edmund

Walker and that gang in Toronto. I have not too much confidence in him in that respect. .

All the Government has got to do now, if they do not want defeat-as I said before, I do not want to see them defeated at this juncture-is to come out flat-footed and accept this motion. I dare say a few of the Ginger Group would vote against them, but I am pretty well satisfied that if they accept the motion they will get the bulk of the men on this side. That is the proper thing to do, accept this motion and avoid defeat or stultify itself. Let the Government show its hand.

If you defeat this resolution, what is going to happen to the reciprocity agreement? You cannot, you know, according to the rules of this House, bring up this motion again this session; do not make any mistake about that, unless you get the unanimous consent of the House, which you are not likely to get. My hon. friend, the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Crerar) said that it should not be moved now. Let me tell him in the words of the good old Methodist preacher: " Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON (Qu'Appelle):

Mr. Speaker, the sentiments contained in the [DOT] amendment before us have a somewhat familiar ring to me. I had an idea when I heard them first that my hon. friend had been " cabbaging " some of the work of others. I have a very distinct recollection of being on the committee that framed the original resolution from which this present one is drawn, and I may say that I fully agree with the principle contained therein.

I remember that while my duty was to assist in the framing of that resolution, the duty of some other members was to canvass support for it, and my recollection is that the men who were sent out to canvass said they had harder work than we, that we had taken the easy part.

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L LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. E. LAPOINTE (Kamouraska):

Where are those members you were speaking about? They are not on this side; they all crossed to your side.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

I think some of the members we canvassed are with you still. However, that is not the point. I thoroughly agree with the principle laid down in the amendment. There is no man in this House who is more thoroughly earnest in support of a low tariff and even free trade.

I have no use whatever for the principle of protection; it is vicious in principle and

the sooner we do away with it the better. Perhaps, however, that is beside the question, because the resolution before us does not propose free trade. As the member for Brome has said, our present tariff system is the most expensive way of collecting a revenue. Last year we collected, I believe, about $160,000,000 under the customs tariff. I am satisfied that we paid on account of that tariff at least $500,000,000; that leaves $340,000,000 that does not go into the treasury. I agree that there are many other less expensive ways of raising revenue, and if the question before us were simply whether or not we were in favour of the principle laid down in this amendment, I should be quite willing to vote for it. There is no excuse for our present tariff, and it is up to this Government to see that it is materially reduced. Former Conservative and Liberal Governments had an excuse for not reducing the tariff, which does not exist now. When they were in power the American customs tariff was higher than ours and its existence was the main excuse for protection in Canada. At present, however, we pay practically double the average tariff rate paid by the people of the United States; therefore it is the duty , of the present Government to see that there is a material reduction in the customs tariff. I have some hope, notwithstanding what the member for Prince, P.E.I., (Mr. Read) says, that the Acting Prime Minister and the Government will give that some consideration. I do not see how they can avoid giving it consideration. The fact that agricultural implements, cement, boots and shoes, harness and saddlery, and other things mentioned by the member for Brome-I mention only some of the more important ones-are on the free list in the United States is a good reason why a material reduction in the duty on those articles should be made here. The Canadian manufacturers have the American market open to them; they have as good a chance in that market as American manufacturers have, and I see no good reason why Canadian manufacturers should have preference over American manufacturers while American farmers have a preference over Canadian farmers. I am confident that the Government will take this into consideration when they come to deal with the matter of the customs tariff in the Budget.

While saying this, I agree with most of what has been said by the member for Red Deer (Mr. Michael Clark) and the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. T. A. Crerar). I

think they have placed the position of the Western members on this side fairly well before the House. The member for Red Deer says that in bringing forward this resolution the Opposition had no desire to defeat the Government; in other words, that it was not their desire to stand by the natural consequence of their action if this resolution should carry. Is the leader of the Opposition prepared to form a Government to carry on the business of the country if this resolution is adopted?

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L LIB
UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

I do not think he will say that he is; I think it is thoroughly understood that there is no desire of that kind. In what he said the other night, the member for Prince, P.E.I., was voicing his own sentiments and the sentiments generally of the members opposite.

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L LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

If the hon. gentleman did me the honour of listening to my remarks this afternoon, he must have heard me say that the Liberal party was prepared to assume any responsibility which this country chose to cast upon it.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

He did not say that he thought this country or the House were prepared at this time to cast that responsibility on the Opposition. What would the consequences of carrying this resolution be? If all the members from the Prairie Provinces, who are deeply interested in the carrying out of some such policy as that suggested by the resolution -very much more deeply interested in it than most of these hon. gentlemen are- should vote for the resolution, the Government would be obliged to resign. A great many of those western members would not be prepared to support a Government formed by the present Opposition. And even if every man of us was prepared to support it, we would not have a working majority in the House, and a general election would have to follow. Who wants a general election? Does the leader of the Opposition want a general election now?

I have too much respect for him to suppose that he does. I certainly do not want one.. Some hon. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON:

The member for West

Middlesex (Mr. Ross) laughs at that. It is implied, I suppose, that I do not want to go back to my constituency for election.

I do not care a straw how soon I go back for election; I do not care a straw whether I ever go back for election or not. I am not hankering for it; I do not know whether I shall run again or not. But if the Oppo-

sition are not prepared to abide by the consequences of their action-and I do not think they are-their object cannot be altogether to defeat the Government. When I saw this resolution brought up at this stage, it occurred to me that its main object was not to defeat the Government, but to place members from the western provinces on this side of the House in a false position. And if I had not thought that before this debate commenced, I would be quite sure of it now, because member after member on the other side has held out a threat to western members on this side of the House. What hon. gentlemen have said in that regard bears out the idea I had at first. Of course, it is quite open to my hon. friends to do whatever they see fit. I am not worrying about the false position;

I am not worrying about my electors. I addressed only one meeting in my constituency before I was elected, and that meeting was attended by intelligent men who had been strong supporters of the different parties-good red-hot Grits and Tories, pretty equally divided. I explained to them as fully as I could what my position was and would be. I foresaw just the position that we are in to-day. I told them that it was quite possible that a resolution of this kind would be brought up in the principle of which I would concur, but that I reserved to myself the right to use my discretion if I felt that the Government in power should be sustained. I said: " If you are not prepared to send me to Parliament on those grounds, send some one else; I positively will not go as your representative otherwise." I say that those who attended this meeting had been strong party men, but not one of them raised the slightest objection; all approved of the position I took.

And I think the position of the western members generally is the same. I want to make it clear that I am thoroughly in sympathy with the principle laid down in the amendment, and were it a question of voting yea or nay on that without its having any other effect, I certainly would vote for it, but I cannot agree with my hon. friend from Victoria, Alberta (Mr. W. H. White), when he says that the position is the same now as it was when we introduced a resolution some two years ago, because my hon. friend must remember that at the time we introduced that resolution the Budget debate was over. I think my hon. friend knows that very well.

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CON

Richard Smeaton White

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. H. WHITE:

Some hon. member near me, when the question was asked, stated that the Budget had not been brought down. I accepted that statement. I am not

altogether sure that such was the case. If the Budget had been brought down I apologize to the hon. member for Red Deer.

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March 24, 1919