Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) :
Mr. Speaker, despite
all the criticism to which we have been obliged to listen during the last hour and a half, and what has been said against the proposals contained in the budget of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding), if evidence were needed to show that the proposals that have been brought down to the House are, everything considered, the wisest and best, having regard to the conditions of the country at the present time and the circumstances under which this Parliament deals with the budget, that evidence will be found in the conflicting character of the two amendments which have been proposed, the one which has been rejected, the other which remains; and the speeches which have been made in support of those amendments. If we take a broad view of the budget proposals, what do they disclose? They show that the Government has made an effort to relieve the burdens of taxation where they bear upon the great body of the people, and that the Government has recognized the superior obligation of the well-to-do to bear a larger measure of the taxation which is necessary in order to raise the required revenues of the country. It is impossible, in any budget proposals, to attempt to satisfy the different shades of opinion in a country as large as this is. It would be folly to assume that even in the same political party, men, no matter to which degree their views inclined in one direction, would all necessarily see eye to eye as to what is best in the way of tariff revision, coming, as they necessarily
The Budget-Mr. Mackenzie King
must, from different parts of the country, representing different needs and different requirements. I submit as I have already intimated, that, in the proposals which the Minister of Finance has brought down, he has succeeded in relieving taxation, as it bears upon the great mass of the people, t and shifting the burden of taxation to a more considerable extent upon the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it. He has done this in a manner which avoids the raising of any sectional consideration in this country. That, above all others, is the most important objective in dealing with financial, fiscal and, indeed, all other problems in Canada. If, in our budget debate or in any other debate, we are to put forward a distinctly sectional point of view, or any class point of view, in arguing from that point of view, instead of binding the nation together as one in a strong and united way, we will be helping to make separations and divisions, which it should be our supreme aim to avert. That, the Minister of Finance has succeeded in avoiding; he has brought in a budget, which helps to reconcile (differences, not to exaggerate them. Indeed, as I have already said, the conflicting character of the two amendments would seem to show that the Minister of Finance has succeeded in avoiding extremes.
If you compare the speech of the leader of the Progressive group (Mr. Crerar) with the speech of the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen), they indicate two extreme points of view. The hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) places his emphasis in one direction; the leader of the Opposition places his emphasis in another direction. The Minister of Finance seems to have succeeded in discovering the happy mean and in avoiding the extremes which these two hon. gentlemen are advocating at this particular time. It would be unreasonable to expect that the Government, in dealing with a question of this proportion at the first session of this Parliament, would go far in any direction; it is only reasonable to expect that the Government should be guided by caution, taking only those steps which are most in the interest of the country as a whole, and avoiding anything which would tend to have a disturbing influence on the country's affairs during this period of reconstruction.
May I touch first of all upon the amendment of the hon. member for Marquette which was ruled out of order only a few minutes ago by yourself, Mr. Speaker? As I understand the matter, the abjection
which the hon. member for Marquette has raised to the budget proposals is that they constitute, to use his own words, a protectionist budget. I fail altogether to discover where my hon. friend finds grounds for such a contention. There is not a single protectionist feature in what the Minister of Finance has proposed to this House. The budget proposals, if you divide them, fall into two groups. The first are in the nature of a repeal of certain pieces of legislation that were enacted by the recent administration. The hon. member for Marquette admitted that that legislation was all of the nature of disguised protection, and he himself congratulated the Minister of Finance on wiping out this disguised protection. What is the nature of the rest of the proposed legislation? All the rest of it is in the nature of a reduction of existing duties; there is not an increase anywhere. Under those circumstances, how can it be contended that fault should be found with the Government because its budget is a protectionist budget? Actions speak louder than words. The only way in which it is possible to judge a budget is by the direction taken in the proposals which it contains. Every proposal that has been made by the Minister of Finance is in the direction of freer trade, not at all in the direction of protection, and my hon. friend cannot point to a single instance to the contrary.
Let me pursue this in another way. Assume that the Minister of Finance had adopted an opposite course; that instead of repealing legislation which he said, and rightly said, was in the nature of disguised protection, he had supplemented that legislation by further legislation of the same kind, and that instead of reducing the duties on some fifty different commodities he had increased the duties by the same amount on the same number of articles; would the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) have been jutified in saying that this was a free-trade budget, because it was heading in the direction of additional protective regulations and increased duties? The logic of the facts is the answer to the amendment which my hon. friend from Marquette has moved. The budget proposals are a sincere effort to carry out the purport, purpose and spirit of the Liberal policy in tariff matters, as it has always been understood and officially stated. The question is not one between protection and free trade; that is not the issue at the present time in dealing with the fiscal proposals that are be-
The Budget-Mr. Mackenzie King
fore the House. The question is one of revision of the tariff; how the existing tariff can best be revised in the interest of all classes in this country, having regard to the conditions of Canada at the present time, having regard to our relations with our neighbours to the south and to all other countries. In that regard, I think it will be found that the most careful, thoughtful and moderate judgment has been exercised, and exercised in a manner which will be entirely to the good of this country.
May I take up the amendment of the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton), to which the leader of the Opposition has spoken for the most part? I shall not try to follow my right hon. friend into any theoretical discussion of the merits of protection, or of free trade, nor into any discussion of reciprocal agreements and their advantages or the reverse. That is not the question before the House at the present time. The question is whether the budget proposals, as made, all circumstances being considered, are the wisest and best for this Parliament to adopt in its first session, the session which we are holding at the present time.
Let me point out that both the amendment, and the amendment to the amendment which has been rejected, have this in common-and it is something to be considered owing to the nature of the criticisms that have been made of the budget proposals-that neither of them has anything constructive about it. Neither the hon. member for Marquette nor the leader of the Opposition, in the amendments which they have placed or sought to place before the House, offers a single suggestion in the nature of an amendment affecting the existing proposals. That surely constitutes one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the Minister of Finance has succeeded in bringing down proposals which, on the whole, and considered altogether apart from party politics, are the wisest, the most prudent and the best, all circumstances being considered.
The burden of the amendment moved by the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) and supported by the leader of the Opposition is in the nature of a condemnation of the Government on the alleged score of having disregarded political honour. Well, my hon. friends had a try at that a little earlier in the session, and if the House will compare the two amendments, it will see that not only were they drawn by the same hand, but that the one so far as it goes is a copy from the other. The amendment might as well have been moved on going into supply at any time as by way of an amendment to the motion concerning the budget. It offers nothing in particular that bears especially one way or the other on the budget. But let me suggest to the hon. member who has moved the amendment, and to his associates, that people living in glass houses should not throw stones. They will do well to remember the Scriptural injunction: "Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete it shall he meted to you again." My right hon. friend, in seeking for the mote in his brother's eye, has forgotten entirely the beam in his own.