June 9, 1922

PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I think he was very successful. His wheat board conserved the food of the people for seven years.

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The Budget-Mr. Bird

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LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Liberal

Mr. McMASTER:

He enslaved the people.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Yes, he saved the people.

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LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Liberal

Mr. McMASTER:

No, I said "enslaved."

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Well, that was ancient slavery; you cannot compare the twentieth century with that age when they took slavery as a matter of course. Well, I will add this personal reference: I was

brought up in a school of Conservatism, all my relatives and ancestors having been deep-dyed in the old doctrines of that political faith. When I entered my later 'teeps, however, I fell under the influence of Lloyd George, that splendid idealist in British politics. That was the beginning of my Liberalism, and I feel that I still entertain the ideas of Liberalism that I had at that period. But it is not by any means the Liberalism of my friends opposite, excepting one or two very notable instances. I should like to see a revival of the old Liberal spirit amongst our friends on the opposite side, I should like to see them come back to the true faith, especially the younger men among them; I should like to see them cast aside their superstitious adherence to party tradition and party names. Let hon. gentlemen opposite throw off those shackles and get back to the realities in politics. I do not say that they ought to come over to this side, speaking in a topographical sense; but they should come to our side in the matter of adherence to realities in national politics.

Now, I do not wish to go fully into that part of my speech in which I intended to deal with the tariff. I desire, however, to refer for a short time to the attitude which our hon. friends to the right have taken towards the Progressive party. I am sorry that our Liberal friends have not criticised us throughout this debate. With one or two exceptions they have treated us very kindly, and as a consequence we have to direct all our artillery towards the right. That leaves the impression that we are somewhat biased, which I assure the House is not the case. If hon. gentlemen opposite will give us the opportunity we shall be glad to turn some of our attention in their direction.

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LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

Go on and do your work.

Mr. BIRD. I do not want to put the courage of hon. gentlemen to the test; and the opportunity is not always favourable to the display of courage.

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LIB

Harold Putnam

Liberal

Mr. PUTNAM:

Was the hon. member

satisfied with the attitude which the Liberal party took in 1911 with regard to reciprocity?

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Theoretically I was. But, frankly, at the time of that election I was just a fresh immigrant to this country, and since then I have not entered into the niceties of that contest. In theory, however, I was whole-heartedly on the side of the Liberals then.

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LIB

Harold Putnam

Liberal

Mr. PUTNAM:

That is the last time we had power.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Well, it would be a strange thing if the Liberals were not sometimes true to their principles. Now, in regard to the attitude cf our friends to the right, they have two or three charges to make against our party, and the main one apparently is with reference to our accuracy, or rather ou" want of accuracy. Hon. gentlemen to our right have assumed a very superior position on the necessity for exactitude of statement in this House, and during three and a half months of session they have caught the Progressives twice in this respect. Ever sincej they have tried to disparage this party because of that, which I do not think is either fair or dignified. I hope, therefore, that hon. members will excuse the littleness and meanness of the reference I an: about to make. The other day-and this is in regard to a quotation I have already made-an hon. member quoted the words I had used from the Bigelow papers and attributed them to Sam Weller. Now, this is undoubtedly a small matter to bring up. But suppose we Progressives decided henceforward to despise hon. gentlemen to our right, and always to question their accuracy, simply because one of their party happened to have made a lapse in a literary reference. That would not be nice; and yet we should be perfectly justified in doing so if we were to follow the example that hon. members have set in that regard. They have caught one or two of our members on little trivial points, and some of their first debaters have devoted almost half of their speeches to an endeavour to show that the Progressive party is irresponsible when it comes to a basis of fact. I refer particularly to the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens). We all admire the clearness and the logical character of his thinking, but I think he descended very low in his speech when he bent his efforts to show that we as a party were to be disparaged and despised because one or two of our members had

The Budget-Mr. Bird

made a slip. The member for Kindersley CMr. Carmichael) during this session has been corrected no fewer than three times for a slight slip in statement, and that is the kind of argument which the Progressive party has to c< pe with from our friends to the right. I admit that we Progressives are so inexperienced in parliamentary ways that we have not yet arrived at the point where we can make inaccurate statements and get away with it. No doubt the time is coming when we shall be able to do so. However, we are determined to base our main criticism always upon the facts of the case. The hon. member for Vancouver Centre, charging the Progressives with inaccuracy, quoted some of our figures. He quoted the revenue figures for 1917-18 from a pamphlet I have in my hand, the only pamphlet in this connection the Progressives used in the campaign. This pamphlet deals with taxation and the hon. member, having quoted fairly accurately the figures of the revenue, went on to say:

They say-

That is, the Progressives.

-that $146,000,000 is 94 per cent of $27,000,000 plus $26,000,000.

I contend that there is no such statement nor anything approaching it in the pamphlet. Now, turn to his own figures. This is what he says:

In 1921 we raised 37i per cent by indirect taxation and in 1922, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 27J per cent. Let me give some figures of taxation receipts by way of illustration. Last year we received $105,000,000 from customs; $36,000,000 from excise; $73,000,000 from inland revenue-that would be sale tax.-$78,000,000 from income tax and $22,000,000 from business profits tax.

That makes a total of $314,000,000. Now, out of that there is approximately $100,000,000 that fairly could come under the head of direct taxation, which means that 67 per cent was from indirect taxation. And yet the apostle of rigid righteousness says that 27 i per cent was collected by way of indirect taxation. I am sorry he is not here to correct his own figures. It does not amount to very much; if I had not been making a speech in defence I would not have referred to the matter; it is not worth while. It is not the kind of argument that even a new member ought to condescend to, but it is sufficient to show that hon. members, living as they do in their glass houses, should not throw stones. It would be well if they would be more accurate in the quotation of very simple figures.

Now, I want to detain the House just a little longer with one or two brief arguments in regard to the tariff. First of all,

I want to say that so long as a protective tariff raised the greater proportion of the revenue of this country it was almost impossible to oust it from its strong position. When a system floods the treasury with money from year to year until the conscience and intelligence of the people are pretty much asleep, that is a bad thing for ar.y country and it is a bad thing for any system of taxation that does that. Conditions in Canada, however, have changed; the tariff revenue is no longer the largest proportion of our revenue; in fact, it has a very secondary place in it.

I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that the protectionist tariff has through war conditions, lost the old prestige that it formerly enjoyed-the almost superstitious regard which the people of Canada have accorded to it for so many years. I foresee the time when it will exercise very little influence over the minds of the people of this country -that is, in a superstitious sense, because now that it has sunk to such a secondary position in our revenue the people are more inclined to look at it critically. I am glad that the war has hastened the time for Canada to see that it must supplement its revenue by direct taxation, because when you once introduce that principle it is the beginning of the end for protection. We are told that it was the budget of Peel in 1842 that sounded the death knell of British protection, because it introduced for the first time an income tax into the British fiscal system. I believe that once the people have tasted the economy and the equity and the simplicity of direct taxation they will no more go back to the protective system for getting revenue than an old cow would leave fresh grass to go back to a three-year old straw-stack. I am not one of those who criticise the sales tax unconditionally, because I recognize in it a plain family resemblance to an excise tax. But a tax may be all right or approximately right in principle and yet be very wrong in its application, and I am sorry that the Government have thought fit to add fifty per cent to the sales tax this year. It is well-nigh nefarious for a country like Canada to indulge in that kind of taxation. But sometimes good comes out of evil, and I am pleased'to think that here is another blow at the old protectionist superstition; here is another manifestation to the people

The Budget-Mr. Bird

of Canada that a free trade government could get its revenue if it wanted to. It has been an obsession of the protectionists for a great many years that a free trade government has no channel open to it whereby it can get its revenue. But I believe there was no need for a sales tax. I believe it would have been a splendid thing if the Government had inaugurated an inheritance tax at this time. We all would have been very proud to see the name of Fielding bracketed with such a name as Harcourt in the annals of British taxation as the originator in this country of a taxation which appealed equally to the reason and to our humanity; and I believe that is what the inheritance tax does. I hope to see the day pretty soon when the federal government will introduce that tax. Of course, the cry will be raised that it is a tax on capital, but can anybody in this House point to a tax that is not a tax on capital? It is only a matter of whose capital you are going to tax, whether it is that of the rich man or that of the poor man.

Now, just a word to the protective character of protection. We have been told-

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

May I ask the hon. gentleman a question? Would he also tax land?

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Well, yes, if that is any

satisfaction to my hon. friend.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

That is to say-[DOT]

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I do not wish to enter into the matter, because I want to go on with my argument; time is pressing. I want to say, in regard to the contention that protection protects the farmer, that the advocate of that view is up against a very serious difficulty in the fact that the farmers almost universally do not believe it. I know that certain protectionists believe that that attitude on the part of the farmers throughout Canada is due to some deep-seated weakness of mind. I read a protectionist speech the other day that almost went so far as to say that the farmers' attitude was due not to any understanding on his part of his own interests but to some kind of imbecility. I think I know the western farmer at any rate, and it is pretty plain that he bases his economic convictions upon very simple facts. I do not need to repeat the threadbare argument of the farmer, which is this: that protection can never, under any

circumstances, increase the price of his product but that it does under all circumstances increase his cost. These are nuts that the protectionist can never crack. The farmer is no longer in the a-b-c of economics; I think the presence of these sixty-five members in the House of Commons is proof of that. There was a time when the Scottish laity could discuss points of theology with as much ability as the college man; I believe the time has come when the farmers of Canada can pretty nearly discuss economics with any of the professed politicians of this country. And the more deeply they go into this subject, the more they question the beneficence of protection in this regard, knowing as they do that the countries to which they sell their produce can only pay for it by exporting manufactured goods. The farmers doubt whether the protective tariff can be of any use to them. How can it be? How can protection help the farmer by getting in between him and his ultimate market, by stopping the flow of trade? There is another pretty hard nut for the protectionist to crack.

We have heard a lot about the home market. Well, I think nobody knows more about the home market than the farmer. Every time he drives a load of wheat to the elevator and brings back some trifling piece of machinery or household equipment, he feels like cursing the home market. It is the market that fleeces him; it is the market where his produce sells at a minimum and where everything he buys is at a maximum. So, do not cite the home market to the farmer, please. We have heard a lot about Ontario and Quebec, and we will admit that the Ontario and Quebec farmers sell 85 per cent of their produce in the home market. But are the Ontario farmers and the Quebec farmers any better off than the western farmers? I have yet to see it. I have passed through the country a good deal, and in my opinion the conditions in these respective sections do not differ very much. My contention is this. You can multiply the population of Canada four times, and the farmer would be no better off than he is now. In fact, he would probably be worse off, and instead of being a self-respecting man owning his own farm, he would be a tenant farmer, as sixty per cent of the farmers in the United States are to-day. So it is no use to talk the home market to the average farmer, be-

The Budget-Mr. Bird

cause that is the place where he gets fleeced and skinned.

Just a word about the labouring man. I notice that the protectionists, especially when they talk anti-dumping, are always solicitous for the labouring man. They always wish to see a pile of work for the workingman. I know that a protectionist can point to this industry or that, and argue that free trade would kill it. I know that is possible, and there is a reason for it. But is not that just one of the results of competition everywhere? Is not that one of the fruits of competition, even if that competition is internal? Why, of course it is. It is just one of the ordinary every-day results of free and fair competition. Now and then the man who is incompetent goes to the wall, and that is all that argument amounts to.

Let me refer to the English farmer for a minute. The English farmer at the present time is complaining that the Canadians are dumping their wheat over there, and they are urging that this should be prevented. They want to stop Canada sending wheat to England. The British farmers, there is no doubt about it, are going to get out of the wheat business pretty soon, and thousands of their labourers are going to have to seek employment elsewhere, and thousands of acres will go back to pasture. That is a splendid opportunity for the British protectionist to say: Let us protect the British workingman by putting a tax on Canadian wheat and keeping it out of the country. I wonder how the manufacturers of this country would like it if England adopted their own logic and did that? I think they would go out of business pretty quick if our wheat was excluded from Great Britain to protect the British farmer in growing his high-priced wheat. There are a good many people who would like to go back a hundred years and have a tax imposed on Canadian wheat to protect the farmer. But in England that kind of talk seems immoral to the average person. It sounds almost like plain stealing to the average Englishman, and such a proposal has not much chance in a country where for many, many years every industry, agriculture included, has had to stand on its own bottom.

In this country what have we done? By a system of protection we have built up certain parasitic industries that could not possibly stand on their own feet, and when we begin to talk of free trade in relation to these industries, we are asked to

172i

think of the poor workingman. I want to say this: When we discuss the work of the workingman we want to take a wider view. We do not want to think of the workingman in this or that parasitic industry, but of the workingmen throughout the length and breadth of Canada. What is the position? It is just this: The protectionists propose to give the workingman work by keeping out of this country the manufactured articles that are paid for by the work of the workingmen of this country. Is that giving the workingman work? It is not. It is just transferring the workingman from one kind of work to another kind of work. Let me illustrate that. A short while ago in England the glove fabric people asked for protection against the German glove fabric people. They could not compete with them, although the German people are now producing their glove fabric at about four times the pre-war cost

and that is a strange thing considering the arguments we have heard from the Opposition about the effect of currency on the cost of production in Germany. The glove fabric people in England wanted to give their workingmen work by keeping out the German glove fabric. Do hon. gentlemen to my right' think that is all right? Do they think the British people should keep out the German glove fabric to give the British workingmen work? Is that the position they take? They do not say, because they feel there is something else coming, and it is this: These glove fabric people in England did not think about the cotton spinners in Lancashire, who provide 90 per cent of the yarn that goes into the German product. So this talk about giving the workingmen work by protecting the industry in which he is engaged amounts to this: You take a man from a job where he works to advantage and put him at a job where he works at a disadvantage. What does that mean to the workingman? Any one can figure that out. It means that he has to work longer hours, for less pay, and under conditions that are worse all round. That is the logic of that situation. So, you cannot give the workingman work by keeping out the goods for which he pays with his work; you can only transfer him from a job at which he works to advantage and put him at a job where he is at a serious disadvantage.

Just a word as to the manufacturers themselves. They have preached to us; let us now preach to them a little. What has

The Budget-Mr. Bird

protection done for the manufacturer? We cannot have the small manufacturer here and put him on the witness stand because, poor fellow, he is dead; he died years ago. I know that some speakers in this debate have said that Canada is a country of small manufacturers. I do not believe it. I have been a long way over Canada and I have yet to see the small manufacturers. If Canada was besprinkled from coast to coast with small propietors, it would be very hard to argue against protection, but it is not. The small manufacturer has gone the way of all flesh many years ago. There is a story told of Kipling who made two visits to the United States. On his first visit he met a friend, a manufacturer, who was looking very blue, and who gave as a reason, "I am fighting a losing battle against the trusts, I cannot keep it up much longer." The next time Kipling came over, the man was wreathed in smiles, and fairly exuding contentment. Kipling found out that he had sold out to the trusts. He was lucky to get out from under in that way. But what did it mean? That man had the humiliation of seeing his life's work come to nothing. That is the position we are in. We have no small industries in Canada, and any one who visits the West knows that.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

Will the hon member give his definition of a small manufacturer?

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I would if I thought the House did not perfectly understand what I mean.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

We had the statement made yesterday by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) that there were a great many small manufacturers in this country. Now the hon. gentleman says there are none, that the small manufacturer is dead, and I am simply asking him to give uo his definition of a small manufacturer.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I wonder if the hon. member has ever read a work by Kropotkin. I will refer him to that, and by the time he has read it he will know what I mean by a small manufacturer.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

I am simply asking the question.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

The other day I asked a question, but I was dealt with very rudely, and I felt it. Since then I have determined that I shall always treat questioners with absolute courtesy from now on, because it is not pleasant to be dealt with rudely, even

in the House of Commons, where rudeness is sometimes the rule. The question which my hon. friend has just asked me is quite legitimate. However, I do not desire, at the present time, to enter into a discussion on the point, because the general remark I made will be perfectly understood by the House.

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June 9, 1922