March 8, 1928


On the orders of the day:


LIB-PRO

John Millar

Liberal Progressive

Mr. JOHN MILLAR (Qu'Appelle):

I would like to ask the government if they would be willing to give consideration to the matter of rewarding in some form or other the Eskimo guide who, through his great knowledge of the north country and great skill as a pathfinder, was able to save the lives of two intrepid airmen in the employ of the government.

Topic:   HUDSON STRAITS AERIAL SURVEY
Subtopic:   RECOGNITION OF HEROISM AND SKILL OF ESKIMO GUIDE
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence):

We have not yet had a full report regarding the parts taken by the various members of the party who were lost; we have only reports of efforts which were made by various individuals to assist in finding them. When the report is received I shall be glad to give consideration to the suggestion of my hon. friend.

Topic:   HUDSON STRAITS AERIAL SURVEY
Subtopic:   RECOGNITION OF HEROISM AND SKILL OF ESKIMO GUIDE
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THE BUDGET

DEBATE ON ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF FINANCE


The house resumed from Wednesday, March 7, consideration of the motion of Hon. J. A. Robb (Minister of Finance), that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the house to go into committee of ways and means, the proposed amendment thereto of Mr. Cahan and the amendment to the amendment of Mr. Fansher (East Lambton).


PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. T. W. BIRD (Nelson):

Mr. Speaker,

as a western Progressive I was very much inerested in the speech of the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Glen). It was a good speech but peculiar in some respects. In my reply to it I wish to avoid anything that could be interpreted as a personal attack. I have great respect for the hon. gentleman and, I may say, respect for the position he occupies. I quite realize that he and his colleagues are in the position they now occupy as much by the will of their constituents as by their own choice, and it would ill become me, or anyone else for that matter, to cast any slurs upon their motives. I think, however, I may well be pardoned if I reply to some points in his speech, especially as his remarks related to the subamendment

The Budget-Mr. Bird moved from this comer of the house. I noticed that my hon. friend did not criticize the substance of the amendment. As one who has been sent here by Progressive votes he knows only too well that that subamendment is a correct, precise expression of Progressive principles. It was these principles that created the Progressive party. It was these principles that sent sixty-five Progressive members to this house in 1921. It was these principles for which the Progressives fought over a period of four years on the floor of this house, first under the leadership of my hon. friend's predecessor in Marquette and later on under the leadership of the present Minister of Immigration (Mr. Forke). So we can well understand that my hon. friend has no objections to make to the subamendment in itself. If he objects to our moving it; if he thinks it is inopportune for us to move it, that may be attributed largely to his present hyphenated state of mind and not to any Progressive principles he may hold.

Let me turn to the reasons he gave for supporting the budget. Did he support it because of the policy of the government in respect to the income tax? Assuredly not. He knows that the policy of the government as expressed in the budget on the income tax is an unsound and un-Progressive policy. One needs only to turn to his speech of last year to find one of the best expressions of Progressive principles on that subject that one can find on any page of Hansard. No, he is not supporting the budget for its policy on the income tax. He knows that policy is wrong; that it is unjust; that it is diametrically opposed to all the Progressive? have ever stood for. Is he supporting the budget because of its tariff schedule? Why, no. My hon. friend characterized the tariff schedule in the budget more severely than any other member I have heard speaking in this house. He called it unintelligible. That is an ugly epithet to apply to a budget of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb). We in this comer of the house agree with him, but we cannot see in that fact any reason why we should support the budget. On an examination of my hon. friend's speech it would almost seem that there is no very sound reason why he is supporting the budget.

There is however one ray of light. He tells us that he is supporting the budget because the manufacturers and their representatives on the left of the Speaker have been raising a "owl about it. He has been in this house long enough to know that the manufacturers and their representatives in the house are in the habit of raising a howl about nothing at all.

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

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I rise to a point of order. As one of the members to your left, Mr. Speaker, I object to being dubbed a representative in this house of manufacturers and I think the hon. gentleman should be compelled to withdraw that statement.

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

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I shall be pleased to withdraw the statement, and I hope the announcement of my hon. friend will not hurt the funds of the Conservative party at the next election.

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

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I think the hon. gentleman should withdraw that expression and not aggravate it. I must say that to characterize an hon. member of this house as being a representative of the manufacturers is rather a stigma. Such a charge, if proved, makes any member liable to a very heavy fine and even suspension. I would ask the hon. member who has unwittingly made the remark, kindly withdraw it.

Mr. BIRD. My remark was laden with no animus whatsoever. There is a well-known animal-

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

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I take it that the remark is withdrawn.

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

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

The remark is withdrawn and I was about to say that there is a well known animal that is in the habit of biting the hand that feeds it.

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

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I rise to a point of order. I object to this hon. gentleman referring to me as an animal that bites the hand that feeds it. The manufacturers do not feed me and I resent that remark. It is worse than the previous one.

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

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I thought the hon. gentleman had withdrawn the remark. He should withdraw it.

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

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I was about to say, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. friend is not that kind of animal.

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

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Biologically a man is an animal; but this is an assembly of gentlemen, and hon. members should not be characterized as animals.

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

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

I feel a very real regret, Mr. Speaker, for having made that accidental remark. I was dealing with the remarks of my hon. friend from Marquette with regard to the attitude of my hon. friends to my right who are in close association with the manufacturers of Canada and are in the habit of expressing or re-echoing the opinions of those manufacturers on the floor of this house. I would say to my hon. friend that that is not a safe guide to follow in supporting the budget. The

The Budget-Mr. Bird

other day I clipped from the Financial Post an article headed "Tariff Change Not Bothering the Cotton People." That article is a complete answer to the only reason my hon. friend gave for supporting the budget. I think this would be a good time for me to read an extract from his speech of last session. I will give only a brief excerpt, but it is a very significant one:

If we may assume with confidence that the omissions from the budget are temporary and accidental, and that future budgets will both reduce the tariff and maintain the income tax as a permanent fiscal instrument, we shall feel fully justified in voting with the government. If, on the contrary, we must assume that the government is inaugurating a new policy looking to the abolition of the income tax and making only such changes in the tariff as are dictated by expediency and not by low tariff principles, we should be compelled to vote for the amendment. Which of these courses we are to pursue can be decided in only one way-we must have from the government a categorical and incontestable statement of its position in regard to future tariff reductions. Refusal to give such a statement must inevitably be construed as an admission by the government of a desire to depart from the policy of tariff reduction.

As a commentary on that speech let me quote from the speech of the hon. Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning) delivered in the same debate. The member for Marquette interrupted the hon. minister by saying:

I take it from what the minister said, in reply to my address of yesterday asking for some assurance from the government in the matter, that the policy of the government is in the direction of lower tariffs, and that it is not the intention to abolish the income tax as a permanent fiscal instrument. Am I right in assuming that ?

This is what the Minister of Railways said in reply:

My hon. friend must not put words in my mouth. The words I used were explicit and they were words behind which every member of the government will stand. I may remind the hon. gentleman of what my hon. friend the Minister of Finance has himself said. Some people tried to hold a pistol at the head of the Minister of Finance last year, we all know with what success: and those who try the same thing again, whether friend or foe. will find the same result.

That lesson must have had its effect upon my hon. friend within the ensuing twelve months. Last year he came down with a wild west demeanour, flourishing his pistol in the face of the, government; but after twelve months, having been talked to by the Minister of Railways, he comes down in a very different spirit. He has found out that it is a very naughty thing indeed for a Liberal-Progressive to be toting a pistol around and flourishing it in the face of the government which he is supporting; and it is more than naughty,

it is a very silly thing indeed, because the government has got a bigger pistol than he has, and when the Minister of Railways was speaking to him last year he had that pistol in his belt, and my hon. friend knew it.

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

An hon. MEMBER:

A cannon.

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

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Yes, a cannon. So much for

the extraordinary defence of the budget made by my friend from Marquette.

In the time that is left for me, Mr. Speaker, I may be allowed to make a few remarks upon the subject of group representation in this house. My hon. friend from Wetaskiwin (Mr. Irvine) made a very able defence of the group system the other day, and I do not want to cover the same ground. Fortunately group representation is more than a theory to be defended. It is a fact to be explained and to be understood, a fact that may be put to varying concrete tests, and I shall for a short time invite the house to join me in putting the idea of economic group representation to certain practical tests. First of all, let us look back and ask ourselves whether the economic idea in politics is not consistent with the development of parliamentary practice under the British system of constitutional government. I want to say emphatically that for the past hundred years the economic conception in politics has dominated and moulded British political life. Before that time undoubtedly there were political, parties in existence, but those parties had. no relation to parties as we understand them now; they represented a purely caste system in which the people had neither part nor lot. That was the age in which the party spirit dominated English public life. We go back to the time when, after the revolution, roundhead and cavalier-blessings upon their heads! because the warfare they carried on was real-gave way to Whig and Tory. From that moment the British people were committed to three generations of stagnation, not only in their political life, but in every phase of their existence with perhaps the one exception of material progress. But so far as material progress in the eighteenth century is concerned, it was associated with such practices as most of us of British birth blush to remember. I do not need to mention the horrible slave trade. Even the material advance of England at that time was a thing to be mentioned in a hushed breath. That was the age in which party politics blighted almost everything it touched. It contaminated the very springs of British life; it did not leave even

The Budget-Mr. Bird

religion, art or literature untouched. Very fortunately that period came to a sudden and inglorious end in the French revolution and in the Napoleonic wars which followed'. When the smoke of battle had rolled away the young giant of democracy was discovered stretching its mighty limbs and rubbing its drowsy eyes; and the most surprising thing of all was that out of its awakening heart there gushed forth a song more entrancing than anything that had been heard since Milton sang so gloriously the song of liberty. Those were the days when not only the political life and the economic life of England witnessed a rejuvenation, but when the very heart of England revived. I say that wherever an insincere party system is clamped upon a people it contaminates everything in the national life; nor can it help doing so. If you play upon the sincerity of the people and present to them alternatives that mean, nothing, sooner or later you dry up the very springs of national life. That period was the heyday of the party system, and the opinions of the Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning) are therefore coeval with Queen Anne and her queer skirts and funny furniture. Those were the days when the party system triumphed, when party shrivelled up the soul of England. But even in those days there were people who penetrated the insincerity of parties. Dean Swift, another Irishman who believed in group government, in his story of Gulliver, pours his vitriolic scorn upon the party system of that day. Gulliver went to Lilliput where he discovered that there were two parties of the old stamp: there were the Big Endians and the Little Endiams, and the only difference between them consisted in the way they broke their breakfast eggs. The Big Endians broke their eggs at the big end and the Little Endians at the little end. It is the same to-day, only the egg of contention is the tariff. Now while those two parties in Lilliput waged their silly warfare there was a neighbouring prince from Blefuscu who took advantage of the strife and bled the people white, and I have no doubt he actually contributed to the party funds on both sides. This prince represented the big interests of the day, the only interests that ever profited by an insincere party system. Well, this sort of thing went on as long as it could until one day a prophet arose who discovered in the Lilliputian bible a certain passage which ran thus: "All members of the faithful shall in future break their eggs at the convenient end." Which was the convenient end? The

convenient end was the end best suited to the varying sizes of mouths in Lilliput- because in those days they sucked their eggs. In other words, the common people in those days, like the common people of to-day, were suckers. But the time had come when they would be suckers no longer. They said, "This business of breaking eggs is ours; we are the ones concerned in it and in future we will break our eggs as we like." As I say, this state of things came suddenly to an end and democracy, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, abruptly confronted the old landed aristocracy with their childish and meaningless political wrangles. Whig and Tory gave way to Liberal and Conservative early in the last century.

I am by birth and early training a Conservative, and in my younger days I was taught to revere the teachings of Burke. At the beginning of that century Burke had laid deep the true principles of Conservatism and later on in the century, in various ways, from sources which the present Liberals would not own if they knew what they were, Liberalism also took its roots. And these two parties for a generation stood for something actual and real. But the generous spirit which begot them soon evaporated and once more England was filled with the meaningless din of party shibboleths. Anyone who wants to find out what politics meant to England in the early and middle Victorian periods should take a course of reading in Carlyle and Ruskin and Matthew Arnold. The party system in England created in that country in that age nothing but a sink of misery and ugliness; there was nothing in the industrial life of England of that time for which any Christian Englishman could find any defence. This condition of things could be traced directly to the' unreal party system of the age. Fortunately, however, that period had its terminus, and after the 'sixties and 'eighties, after the enfranchisement acts of those periods, the farm labourer and the industrial worker began to realize their position; and before the end of the century there arose a party on strictly economic lines, a party which stood unexpectedly on the threshold of power and peremptorily demanded entrance. England at the end of the century was therefore committed to economic politics. The advent of the Labour party into the public life of England meant the re-orientation of British political life. One of the most significant things in British experience in recent times has been the investigation set on foot by the Liberal party into the industrial and economic problems of England. The English Liberal party, wishing to rejuvenate itself and to recover something

The Budget-Mr. Bird

of its old glory, wondered onee more how it might capture the imagination of the British people. It found that the old party platforms had no longer any hold on the popular intelligence and therefore, at its own expense, it initiated one of the most thoroughgoing industrial inquisitions that England has ever known, with the object of placing the Liberal party squarely upon an economic basis. The "condition of England question" has at last become an economic question.

My time is going. I have dipped rather insufficiently into the past, and I should like to take a quick survey of contemporaneous political life. When we examine the countries of Europe we find that in all that continent, wherever political enlightenment really prevails, every country is a multi-party country with a strongly economic flavour. Let us consider Denmark, that wonderful little country. The other day a prominent Canadian said that "whenever he addressed an audience on agricultural topics he became obsessed with Denmark, that wonderful little country which sets an example to the rest of the world in agricultural co-operation and intensive production. That is the country to which the Canadian National Railways recently sent a delegation of five hundred farmers to see how farming should be carried on, and Denmark is a typical multi-group country. In the election of 1924 there were four groups; the Social Democrats, who came to power; the Agrarians, next in strength; the Conservatives and the Radicals. Where are the Liberals in Denmark? They do not exist, because in that country politics rest securely upon economic questions, and a curious fact is that after the election in 1921 the strength of the parties was such that the Agrarians joined hands with the Conservatives in order to form a government. That proves that some of these speakers across the way were wrong when they discounted any possible co-operation we might give the Conservative party. In Denmark the Conservatives form the citizen class in the small towns, and unlike the dwellers in the small towns of Canada they know on which side their bread is buttered; they know they derive their living from the farmers, and when it comes to economic and political questions they join hands with the farmers.

The Minister of Railways dragged in Italy and Spain, but discreetly overlooked those northern countries. Italy and Spain are the most backward countries in Europe, and the minister said the present regrettable political conditions existing in those countries was due to the group system. Mr. Speaker, the present conditions in those countries are not due to the group system but to the per-

sistence of a party system which has outgrown its day. In 1870, when Italy adopted union, the people divided up into parties consisting of the Right, the Left and the Centre. Those parties meant something at that time, but they quickly lost touch with the people, and for generations kept the people with their noses to the grindstone. They oppressed them; they kept them illiterate and ignorant. Forty per cent of the people are illiterate, and they were kept poor beyond all imagination. That was the condition against which the people revolted, and it is to the eternal honour of those Italians that they did rebel; it shows that they have something of the old spirit in them. They went to extremes, of course, but you cannot expect a people 40 per cent of whom are illiterate and with no political experience to do things wisely. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that those blundering failures of Italy and Spain-because Spain is in exactly the same condition-are only temporary. Surely the people who inherit the political genius of a Machiavelli and the patriotic passion of a Mazzini will win through.

I will leave consideration of the United States, although I think that country presents the greatest object lesson of what a two-party system can do to a long-suffering people. I need go no further than the speech of the Minister of Railways to prove that the country to our south, with its two parties, is not exactly a happy country in which to live. The lower classes in the United States, the working men and the farmers on the prairies, have been suffering under an intolerable oppression under that insincere two-party system. President Wilson once said of his own country, "An invisible government has erected itself above the forms of democracy." That is what special privilege is doing all the time, and in the party system it finds its easiest tool. A few generations ago, when the privileged classes found that they could no longer use the gibbet and the quartering knife, they turned to the party system and have found it even more successful in oppressing the people, because so far as the British people are concerned it is always easier to fool them than to frighten them.

I desire now to come down to the parties as we have them in this house. We do not need to go to Europe to prove that the group system has a logical and inevitable place in public life in Canada; I need only point to the Labour party, whose existence in this house for several years is sufficient proof that labour has its own point of view. What about the farmers? In 1921 and earlier the farmers felt the pinch of economic pressure;

The Budget-Mr. Guthrie

they turned to the old parties, Conservatives and Liberals, for a way out. They were something like Alice, who became lost in the woods and who wanted to find a way out. She went to ask Tweedledee and Tweedledum -Dum and Dee. I think you know what Dee stands for; Lewis Carroll was, I think, a clergyman like myself, and did not like to say. As she went along the path she found that the sign boards pointing to their houses lead in the same direction, and at last she exclaimed "Why, I do believe they both live in the same house." When she discovered them, one had a very irritating way of answering questions by saying "Nohow" while the other said "Contrariwise." So when the farmers went to the old parties and asked them to lower the tariff, the Liberals said "Nohow" and the Conservatives said "Contrariwise." In 1921 the farmers of the west were lost in the woods of economic difficulties, but when they turned to the old parties they could get no help.

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   DEBATE ON ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF FINANCE
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March 8, 1928