April 12, 1921

UNION

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Unionist

Mr. LALOR:

We will give you a chance and show you fellows a trick or two before we get through.

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L LIB

Pierre-François Casgrain

Laurier Liberal

Mr. CASGRAIN:

You will not come back.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

We have given the

Government many opportunities during the session to consult the people. We first of all asked the Government to accept an amendment to go to the country but it was refused by hon. members opposite.

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

Mr. Chairman, I rise to

a point of order. .

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

Then we offered an

amendment on another occasion

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L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Order.

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

I rise to a point of order.

The hour is late and I think the hon. member should speak to the question before the committee.

Mr. DUFF; I wish to speak for a few minutes on that point of order, Mr. Chairman If I understand the point raised by the hon. member for North 2 a.m. Winnipeg correctly, it is that the hon. member for St. James Division of Montreal was not speaking to the question before the committee. It seems to me that the point of order is not well taken, for although the hon. member did

not keep perhaps as close to the subject under discussion as he should have, it was because of the fact that the hon. Minister of Marine in his usual manner interjected a remark with regard to Yamaska.

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UNION

Cyrus Wesley Peck

Unionist

Mr. PECK:

(from the seat of the leader

of the Opposition) : Mr. Chairman, speaking to the point of order-

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L LIB

Pierre-François Casgrain

Laurier Liberal

Mr. CASGRAIN:

The official leader of

the Opposition!

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UNION

Cyrus Wesley Peck

Unionist

Mr. PECK:

No. Speaking to the point

of order raised by my hon. friend from North Winnipeg, although the House is in very good humour I think we would get along with these items much better if parties on both sides of the House would cease interruptions. I am one of those who cannot agree with my very good friend from Shelburne and Queen's-for whom I have the very highest regard-as to shortening the hours; I think we should lengthen them. I am going to see this debate finished and the item passed. Good humour is all right, but speaking unofficially for the leader of the Opposition, I think we should get along very well if we did not interrupt.

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L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Before giving any ruling upon the point of order, I must direct attention to the fact that the remarks of the hon. member for Lunenburg (Mr. Duff) and of the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Peck) were not relevant to the point of order raised by the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Blake). Coming to the point of order itself, the Chair regrets that it was not paying sufficient attention to the remarks of the hon. member for St. James (Mr. Rinfret) to declare whether the rule should be applied in the present instance. But in theory the point raised by the hon. member for North Winnipeg is certainly well taken, and I am sure that the hon. member for St. James will adhere strictly to the question under consideration.

Mr. RINFRJjCT: Mr. Chairman

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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Guysborough) :

Mr. Chairman, I would like to know by what authority the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Peck) is professing to act as leader of the Opposition?

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L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Mr. Rinfret.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I have so much to say about the question under consideration that I am perfectly willing to bow to your ruling. I would express the wish that the Chair would pay a little attention to what

I say; I think that would be very proper even at this late hour.

Now, the Minister of Marine has said that this policy has been endorsed by the people. I was endeavouring to show that the Government had given the people no chance whatever to endorse this policy, when I was called to order. I do not regret the incident, because this discussion has brought to this side of the House a member who usually sits on the other side, the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Peck) -and he seems to enjoy it. While it is two o'clock in Ottawa it is only around ten o'clock in Prince Rupert and probably that is why- the hon. gentleman is so cheerful.

Coming hack to this item, I share the view of the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) that this was not altogether a war measure. The minister made that very plain to-night when he said that while he laid down his policy as to building steel ships as if the war was going to last forever, he was more cautious when it came to wooden ships. In another part of his speech he said that at the conclusion of the war we would not have known what to do with the wooden ships and he boasted that he had been clever enough to prevent this country from spending any money on this class of ships. I would say that if he had been a little more cautious, possibly he would also have refrained from engaging this country in such an extensive steel shipbuilding programme. It will be seen that although my hon. friend was at that time under the impression that the war might last quite long and that it was imperative that shipbuilding must go on, he was exercising some discretion as to the quality and character of the ships. I repeat that had he been as cautious with regard to steel as he was with regard to wood, we would be better off to-day.

I may add that I do not share the minister's optimism as to the outcome of this venture. Possibly it is because we on this side have been unsuccessful in obtaining information, although we have made a great effort to obtain it. The minister himself has said to-night that he does not know much about this venture, and that he does not care to know anything about it. He said he was not going to inquire from the management where they bought their coal, butter, milk and so on. I do not feel that way at all, Mr. Chairman. I think we should know from the management not only where they get their coal, but where they get the deficit which we have to face to-day.

120i

My hon. friend admits that other countries have a surplus of ships, and he says that is an excuse for our being in the same position. But the trouble is that other countries have been engaged in shipbuilding for some time while this country seems to have chosen as the time to build the very time when it was imperative not to do so. That is an altogether different situation. As to the surplus which my hon. friend claims, I think he should give his secret to the hon. Minister of Railways. But if we get back to good book-keeping I do not think the hon. minsiter can claim any surplus. It has been shown that the best claim he can make is a return of some two per cent on the capital investment. We know that the Government borrowed money from the Canadian people at the rate of five and one-half per cent and that the securities for these loans are exempt from taxation to the extent of one billion three hundred and some millions. The Government, therefore, in investing a portion of that money in their shipbuilding programme and obtaining a return of some two per cent-which is much disputed, but that is their own figure-are not only using money on which they are paying five and one-half per cent interest, but are using the amount of the income tax return as well. So that the claiming of a surplus under these circumstances indicates a very great degree of optimism. I am inclined to repeat something I heard my good friend from Waterloo say the other day in Montreal: that if the minister can claim a surplus in the face of all the facts relating to his shipbuilding programme, he is entitled to open a sunshine factory with cucumbers as his raw material.

The member for Brantford (Mr. Coek-shutt) has endeavoured to give us some opinions of the press which, he says, show that the people are very appreciative indeed of this policy of the Government. When he started out he gave us the impression that he was going to quote Liberal newspapers which were emphatically in support of this policy, but he confined himself to a few Tory newspapers which were trying very hard indeed to find the least bit of common-sense in it. He started out with the Sydney Post, which could not say anything better in support of my hon. friend's policy than that it was less disastrous than the railway policy. It did not say the policy was a good one, but expressed the view that it was not as bad as another policy which was worse. Then he quoted the Winnipeg Tribune, which simply said that the policy was not

too bad when compared with that of other countries. Again the policy itself was not endorsed; the view was expressed that the condition here was no worse than somewhere else. He then went to the Vancouver Province, another Tory paper, which said not that the policy was right, but that it had a redeeming feature; it gave employment to returned soldiers. So with the Hamilton Spectator, which never dreamed of being a Liberal journal, and so with the Mail and Empire, which has just absorbed another Toronto paper and is also a good, strong Tory journal. So that the Liberal press opinions put forward by the hon. member for Brantford amount to the views of a few Tory papers, not endorsing the policy, but stating in one case that it is not as bad as something else, and in another that it is less disastrous than the railway policy.

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UNION

Charles Colquhoun Ballantyne (Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Minister of the Naval Service)

Unionist

Mr. BALLANTYNE:

The hon. member knows that La Presse is the largest newspaper in Canada, having a circulation like 140,000 copies a day. Would he mind quoting what La Presse has to say editorially on this subject?

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I have read recently the editorial columns of La Presse, and its expressions of opinion with regard to the railway and shipping problems indicate to me that it is perplexed as to what attitude to take.

Now, I wish to quote the words of the president of the Royal bank, Sir Herbert Holt, with regard to this matter. He says:

Government control has practically disappeared during- the year just past-wheat, paper and sugar being the commodities to be treed from regulation. Government ownership of transportation systems has developed. Without any advantage to the public in efficiency or rates, the operation of our national railways during the last twelve months has resulted in a loss which will probably more than absorb the amounts collected on Excess Profits and Income Taxes for the year 1919. Unless Government methods of operation are more efficient in this country than they have been in others tax payers in Canada may find the maintenance of their railroads and fleet more expensive than pension charges and other legacies of the war combined.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Order.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

If the hon. gentleman

wishes to rise to a point of order. I will listen to him with great pleasure. I see there is nothing of the kind.

Mention has been made of the Montreal Gazette during this debate; but for some reason or another, perhaps because the House was not in a listening mood, no

quotation from the Montreal Gazette has been placed on Hansard, so far as I know. I have in my hand an editorial which is not very long and which is interesting, and I will crave the indulgence of the House and that of the minister in particular while I read it.

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UNION

Charles Colquhoun Ballantyne (Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Minister of the Naval Service)

Unionist

Mr. BALLANTYNE:

I am in no hurry, and I may say that we on this side of the House are in no hurry at all, so that the hon. member can take just as long as he likes.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I am very glad to hear that. I think we cannot be accused of delaying the debate. What we would like to do would be to delay the shipbuilding, but it is unfortunately too late to do that. This article is headed: "The Canadian

Marine," and it is from the Montreal Gazette of December 9, 1920:

The building and operating of ships is precarious business for governments to engage in,

more so than the construction and management of railways, because in the case of the latter there can at least be some permanence of rates. The war gave immense impetus to the shipbuilding industry, both from the urgent demand for ships to transport men and supplies and by reason of the large losses caused by submarines. Cost of construction doubled and trebled, and more than one government felt it necessary to supplement private yards with public plants. Now, the inevitable has happened.

As we predicted.

There is a glut of ships. The tonnage of the world at nearly 60,000,000 tons is much the largest of record, and this at a time when the foreign commerce of many countries has been checked by depreciation of currency and the contraction of credit. Freight rates are falling. So expeditiously and easily can ships be sent over every sea to every port that water transportation costs conform quickly to the law of supply and demand, and there seems bound to be considerable loss in the future in the in-rentory value and operating results of vessels built at the peak of prices.

Canada had developed a considerable shipbuilding industry, the principal customer of which h-a,s been the Government The Government will in a few months possess a mercantile navy of 63 vessels, quite a formidable fleet, constructed in Canada, and having an aggregate tonnage of 386,140 tons.

I would commend this to the attention of the minister, but I am sorry that he is not in his place.

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April 12, 1921