Perhaps both of us have been baffled by the resolution as prepared by the law officers. But what I am trying to establish is this, that whether or not my hon. friend proposes it, the tendency of his resolution will be actually to create a new offence, namely, that of race betting. The fact in itself of staking money on the eventual result,, of a race contains no element of evil; and I think it is going very far to say, as does the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown), that it will sap the very foundations of national life. What may be regarded as bad-and possibly we may agree on this point-is the danger of an individual or an organization abusing the. privilege to deceive or rob a portion of the public. What therefore, the law should seek lo prevent is, not the act itself but merely its abuse. In other words, betting is not an offence; the abuse of betting and the dishonest methods surrounding it are alone to be fought against. It is on that principle that in many countries and in different provinces of our own Dominion, instead of prohibiting race betting altogether, legislators have thought better to regulate it and place it under proper conditions in order to prbtect the public. For me, it is merely a question of control. The pari-mutuel system, well-known to all, and to which my hon. friend himself has alluded, is an instance of such an application.
In my opinion this system of restricted betting is, to the proposal of my hon. friend, what the law of temperance in the matter of alcohol is to the law of absolute prohibition. Instead of curtailing individual liberty because of possible abuses, it stops the abuses by regulating individual liberty. And to my mind that is the proper way to proceed. We must not expect too much from human nature When a man obeys the Ten Commandments and escapes the seven capital sins he is on a fair way to sanctity. I do not believe in creating new sins; I find it hard enough to dodge the old ones. And unless I am shown that race betting in itself, even at the racetracks, is an evil, I will persist in my opinion that those who care to should be allowed to do it. The law will serve its full purpose if it sees to it that such a practice is devoid of fraud and corruption. I grant you that even with the pari-mutuel or any such system
some people will suffer from the races by indulging in too much betting. I do heartily sympathize with the cases that have been brought to the attention of the House by the hon. member for Lisgar. But what is the fact? I say that such people will not be stopped by any regulation. If they are debarred from betting on the races they will bet on anything,-on the number of white horses they will pass on the streets or on the odd figures on the licenses of passing automobiles. That is a well known fact. I believe that most of the men that have been alluded to, if they had not lost money at races, would have put their money on something else. I do not see at all, therefore, how this proposed resolution could do away with such an abuse. I would sooner see these men bet at the race-track under the control of a well-established system than see them go to the poolrooms. As a matter of fact, one of the .young men referred to was, I understand, an habitue of poolrooms, places where men are not prevented from betting.
If you have proper regulation at the racetracks you will provide, for the great majority of those who attend, clean sport and desirable enjoyment. My hon. friend himself has noted an increased attendance at the race-tracks. Of course, he argues that this shows that the evil is growing. But I might argue, on the other hand, that it shows a great increase in the public demand for race-tracks. Race betting and horse-racing have been so closely associated that it is readily conceded on every hand that you cannot have the one if you discard the other. Horse-racing has always been a great sport; it has been called a kingly one, and it is now enjoyed by great numbers of people in many civilized countries. Many arguments can be advanced in favour of it; but my hon. friend does not like the argument in regard to horse-breeding. Well, I am not an expert so far as that is concerned and I will indulge in no argument on that point. I would say this, however. My hon. friend says that he does not believe that race-tracks favour the raising of thoroughbreds; and further, he argues that these animals are not essential to the welfare of the agricultural class. A thoroughbred, I will admit, is an ob-jet de luxe. But if we were to eliminate all such objects for such a reason as my hon. friend advances, does he not realize that the very progress of humanity would be
5 p.m. attacked in every direction? The fact that the raising of thoroughbreds is not essential to fanning is certainly no argument against race betting.
But it might be well for the House to be reminded that race-track betting is a revenue
producer for the public treasury. I could easily submit figures in support of this statement. Everyone knows that where race-tracks are permitted the state or the province, a; the case may be, reaps an important revenue from the proceeds of the enterprise. In the province of Quebec the tax on receipts at the gates and the betting at the race-tracks totals, I understand, close to $700,000 annually; and the province of Ontario derives a still larger benefit from this source. If betting is controlled so as to prevent fraud, and if the public treasury obtains a commensurate proportion of its benefits, I do not see why there should be a demand for its prohibition. Besides, considering the human aspect of the case, as my hon. friend for Lisgar would say, I do not believe in a general way in the spirit of prohibition. In most cases it is not even practicable. We have in this country already too much prohibition and not enough enforcement. And my hon. friend in the end will find it much easier to prevent horse-racing than to prevent betting. If the people do not bet at the race-tracks, under a system of control, they will bet in the poolrooms, and the result therefrom will be much worse. Now, Sir, if we keep jamming the statutes with every shape of proposed reform we shall be so busy enacting that we shall have no time and no energy left to see that these enactments are enforced. It is not the racing but the betting that my hon. friend wishes to stop; and that I say he cannot do.
And after all, why prohibit so much? Life, Mr. Speaker, is not such a wonderful adventure that we should strive in every way and torture and wring and wrest our brains, to add to its difficulties. If we begin prohibiting there will be no end to the practice. A demand for prohibition may be advanced against anything that is not essential to common life. An economist has proclaimed that there are only three such things essential to life,-bread, water, and a blanket; and I believe that man must have lived in a cold country. The first element of luxury and excess appears when you put butter on your bread, when you flavour water, or when you cut a blanket in the shape of clothes. In primitive ages, Mr. Speaker, I fancy some censors must have objected to the flavouring of water or the cutting of blankets for the making of clothes, but the Liberals of the granitic period saved the day. If we were to apply that preventive spirit to every form of social activity which seems frivolous or superfluous, then we would gradually revert to the original state of primeval humanity. Some would prohibit the smoking of cigarettes; some
would stop theatres or motion pictures; some would do aw'ay with dancing or legislate against extravagant modes of dressing. Some vegetarians and Utopians would condemn the eating of flesh and meat and would impose upon others the diet of their own delicate stomachs. But why try to deprive humanity of all that makes life bearable? What right have we to do it? We are endowed, I will admit, with legislative power, but that does not convey the right to play and juggle with every privilege of the common people.
I do not believe in such radical legislation.
I believe in moderate laws that respect individual liberty, that are designed to add to the general comfort and satisfaction, not to impair it; that do not tend to drown one's existence in the dark depths of monotony and tediousness. And I will say in conclusion Mr. Speaker, that if there is one thing that I would like to see prohibited, it is prohibition itself.