May 16, 1923

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

The government proposes to follow the custom of previous years and observe the 24th of May as a holiday, but I think it would be advisable for the House to sit on Friday.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   EMPIRE DAY ADJOURNMENT
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THE BUDGET

CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE


The House resumed from Tuesday, May 15, the debate on the motion of Hon. W. S. Fielding (Minister of Finance) that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee of Ways and Means, and the proposed amendment thereto of Mr. Robert Forke.


LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. CHARLES STEWART (Argenteuil, Minister of the Interior):

Budget pronouncements, Mr. Speaker, are always important in the life of every parliament, and this budget has been no exception. Before proceeding to deal with the budget direct and the matters that I shall refer to briefly this afternoon in connection with it, I desire to say a word or two with respect to the minister (Mr. Fielding) whose duty it has been to prepare the budget and who has just brought down his seventeenth financial statement in the parliament of Canada. It has been my great, pleasure, and indeed my good fortune, to have been associated with this hon. gentleman for a period of over one year. It is scarcely necessary for me to say that the relationship has been most pleasant, that I have acquired a great deal of information that I did not formerly possess as to the management of the affairs of government, and that I have learned to respect the opinions of the hon. gentleman

2796 COMMONS

' The Budget-Mr. Stewart (Argenteuil)

whose duty it is to prepare annually a financial statement for the people of Canada. I hope he will continue to bring down our budgets for a very considerable number of years, and I am sure he will always retain the love and respect of all parties in this parliament.

The science of government, Mr. Speaker, is rather a difficult one. To the uninitiated it always appears to be easy. I have no desire to criticize my hon. friends opposite, indeed I have watched with a great deal of interest their efforts to solve our social and financial problems in both the federal and provincial fields. Undoubtedly in those provinces in which they have the responsibilities of government they are finding much more difficulty in their administration than they anticipated. Let me say that I for one would have no objection in the world to seeing my hon. friends of the Progressive party occupying the treasury benches for a term of four or five years in order that they might have an opportunity to put into practice some of the principles which they advocate so zealously in opposition.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. gentleman

should know what that is like.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

My right

hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) has had a similar experience, and, frankly, I may say that it does not seem to affect me in the same way as it does him. I wish my hon. friends who may displace me all the success in the world.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
Permalink
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Does the hon. gentleman know anything I promised in opposition that I did not redeem in office? If he does I should like him to give it to the House.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

Farm implements, I

should say.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I did that.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

My right

hon. friend has had the advantage of having been a member of this House a great deal longer than I. I have never attempted to criticize his administration because I did not come directly in contact with it. But I am speaking of the things whereof I know, and I may say frankly to my right hon. friend that although perhaps on other matters we were never very far apart, on one fundamental issue, I always disagreed with him. He may say that now I have seen the light I am not prepared to go as far as I advocated in former years; but I may inform him that I am still prepared to go all the distance I was always prepared to go when the occasion offers and [Mr C. A. Stewart.]

the time is opportune. But my right hon. friend and his government have made it exceedingly difficult for any administration succeeding them to offer the measure of tariff reduction that I think this country is entitled to and some day must have. What I started to say was that when we have to tackle the job of government, when we are responsible for the budgets to run the country, we have to view everything not from a sectional standpoint but as it may affect our people throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion. That is no new observation, nor do I offer it as such, but I want to deal with our national affairs from that standpoint.

My hon. friend (Mr. Bird) who preceded me last evening intimated that both parties in dealing with public affairs were not just exactly honest wifh themselves or with the people. Well, if the time ever comes when my hon. friend is entrusted with the responsibilities of office he will find that perhaps he will not be able to be so drastic and so radical in his administration as he expresses himself to be when in opposition. I have no serious criticism to offer my hon. friends except in one or two instances. I know somewhat of the responsibilities of carrying on the war, and therefore I am not finding fault with the tremendous financial burden that has followed from the war. But we have to deal with that burden, it is an everyday problem, and for a population of scarcely nine million people the preparation of a budget to meet the ordinary expenses of administration to the extent of $372,000,000 is rather a serious obligation on any government. Not only that, but if the government is fair to the provinces and to the municipalities it must make that burden as light as possible upon all parties concerned, because we cannot forget that our war obligations entail huge expenditures. I have heard those expenditures criticized on the ground that they were not in every case judicious, that great savings might have been effected. And in reply to my hon. friend (Mr. Forke), the leader of the Progressive party, who cited to us the other day the conditions in England, let me say that during the war there was a vast difference between taxation in Canada and in England, in this way, that in England much heavier taxation was levied to meet war expenditure than was attempted here.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Will the hon. gentleman give figures to show that? I dispute his statement. I say we paid a larger proportion of our debt than England did.

The Bridget-Mr. Stewart (Argenteuil)

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
Permalink
LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

My right

hon. friend will not deny that taxation so far as incomes and profits were concerned was levied to a much greater extent in England than here.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It was on the moderate incomes, not on the higher, and on profits not so high.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

But my right hon. friend levied little or nothing on profits.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Oh, far more than

they did in England.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

Not in

comparison with the profits that were made. Of course, that is a matter of opinion, but on the whole I think that in England, irrespective of whether it be applied on a per capita basis or generally, a greater proportion of taxation for direct war purposes was levied during the period of the war than ever was attempted in Canada. That, in part, answers some of the criticisms of my hon. friend who leads the Progressive party.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

But it is not correct.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I leave my right hon. friend to deal with that if he speaks in this debate. Not only in agriculture, in business and in commercial life, but in every line of activity we had inflation in Canada during the war period. I am not blaming our predecessors in office for that; inflation was prevalent in every country. But some of our problems to-day are resultant from that inflation. My right hon. friends of the Progressive party have laid great stress on the fact that agriculture in this country is in a critical state. I am vitally interested in agriculture, indeed, outside the business of looking after some of the departments of government I have no other interest, and therefore I know something about our agricultural conditions. I do not deny that they are critical, but I do deny that this is the most strenuous period through which our agriculture has passed. In my own experience of less than forty years I have known worse conditions agriculturally than we are going through to-day. The economic condition in Canada is not altogether responsible for all our difficulties; if it were, similar difficulties would not prevail in other countries. I challenge my hon. friends in any part of the House to name any country to-day in which agriculture is in a prosperous condition. It is true that in the United States we have the reverse side of the picture; we cannot say of the United States, as we have to say

of Canada, that as a result of the agricultural depression there is depression in industry as well. While the present conditions are bad, we have had other periods just as bad, and I will name one: the period between 1890 and 1896 was characterized by just as much depression in agriculture as exists to-day and that depression was just as severely felt. We recovered from that, however, and made splendid progress in later days.

Now, what is the main difficulty that we have to face to-day as a government? As a result of the war we have to provide a huge annual budget. We have been extravagant in many directions in Canada, and we have not been alone in that respect. The conditions through which we passed induced it and encouraged it. One of the most difficult things to orevent in any country is a condition of inflation, something we fondly call prosperity, a condition that leads to extravagance, large expenditure, and unfortunate speculations that afterwards we must pay for. The war placed a tremendous burden of taxation upon the people. In addition, our provincial governments through force of circumstances, have been extravagant in their expenditures, ha'e in many cases expended beyond the legitimate bounds in many cases. Perhaps the province of Quebec, from which my good friend the Minister of Justice (Sir Lomer Gouin) comes, is an exception; they have not gone as far in that direction as the other provinces. Our municipalities, too, have expended beyond legitimate bounds. So that to-day we have the problem of paying the accumulated debts and the borrowings that we made against future prosperity. I do not wish to paint a picture that will indicate lack of hope, or the impossibility of improvement, or the impracticability of our emerging from these difficulties with credit to ourselves. I do not think that states the case at all. Nor do I wish to be classed as an optimist who has no good reason for his optimism.

We have, then a public debt, as the member for Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woodsworth) pointed out the other day, amounting to $450 per capita. My hon. triend was more than generous >n his estimate of the earning power of the Canadian family of five, which he placed somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3,000 per annum. He stated that each family must make provision for $100 to meet its share of the public debt. That is a very heavy drain. But we have in Canada vast resources which are yet unt niched, great areas of cultivable land, valuable mineral districts, large timber properties, pulpwood areas, and

2798 COMMONS

The Budget-Mr. Stewart (Argenteuil)

so on, all awaiting development. We have a splendid heritage; let us hope that we shall be able, notwithstanding the tremendous burdens that we have undertaken, to emerge successfully from our difficulties.

The situation becomes a serious one from the point of view of taxation. My hon. friends of the Piogressive party say that we have not gone far enough m the way of reductions. While the depression began, perhaps, with agriculture, it has spread to other lines of business and has made itself felt there. If my hon. friends had to raise money to meet Canada's obligations and to carry on the public service, they would have to exercise due care with respect to the position in which we find ourselves. And what is that position? As the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) enunciated yesterday, for at least thirty years bus'ness and industry have been built up in Canada under a system of protection. The statistics show that the number of businesses operating in Canada have increased in the last ten years from 14,000 to almost 35,000; tha^ the investment has doubled and the number of people employed has more than doubled. Rightly or wrongly, representatives of these various businesses have lepeatedbr stated that they cannot compete with industries across the line and elsewhere unless they are given reasonable protection.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
Permalink
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

May I ask a question?

Mr. MARTEI.L: Will my hon. friend permit a question?

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
Permalink

May 16, 1923