Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Shelburne-Yar-mouth):
I am glad, Mr. Speaker, that at least my first word to-day can be a word of congratulation to my right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Bennett) upon the address which he delivered on Monday last. I fear, sir, that sentiments of this character will be but few in the course of the remarks I shall address to the house to-day, and therefore I hasten now to assure the right hon. gentleman that both the house and the country appreciate the care which he took and the thoroughness which he manifested in putting on Hansard a very complete record of the business affairs of the Dominion of Canada for some time back. I am sure that the house, and particularly those members who have been here but a short time, welcome statements from those in authority as to the affairs of this country, and I have no doubt that the information which the Prime Minister has given will be of assistance not only in this debate but in the future as well.
We all realize, I think, that the Prime Minister is a busy man, and if I had any complaint to make touching his mode of procedure on Monday last it would be this: I feel that if there had to be any curtailment of information or any abbreviation of discussion, such abbreviation might perhaps have been more advisable so far as the first portion of the right hon. gentleman's address was concerned. And I, for one, regret, particularly in the position in which I find myself to-day, that the right hon. gentleman saw fit to deal so briefly with matters which to my mind, if I may humbly suggest it, were of transcendent importance as compared with the matters of the past to which he referred in the first part of his speech. In view of the fact that he did refer to the past, and placed on Hansard a good many figures with respect to the last few years, I may be pardoned if I take the same privilege, at least to a limited extent. I do wish, however, in what I have to say, to deal with the more immediate past and with the present and future.
Let me say first of all that, in my opinion, it is a matter of regret to the country that the Prime Minister has found it necessary to introduce his budget at so late a date in the year. He realizes, I have no doubt, perhaps
better than any other man in thi3 house, how necessary it is that business men should have some definite idea of the conditions under which business transactions are to be carried on. He understands that constantly forecasts are made with respect to what the tariff will be. He knows that these forecasts are unsettling. He knows that they are likely to lead to far-reaching results so far as our business men, those engaged in commerce and, as well, the primary producers of the country are concerned. They enter into or refrain from transactions in the light of the information they receive on the budget, and action or inaction may prove to their advantage or to their detriment as the case may be. Obviously, therefore, it is a matter for extreme regret that the right hon. member should have waited until practically summer before bringing down his budget. I am giving him full credit for having kept his pledge to bring down the budget in May: I am regarding the budget as having been virtually brought down on May 31, inasmuch as that date fell on Sunday. But even so, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. friend's budget is considerably later than any budget that has been introduced by any of his predecessors. There is one exception to this statement. It is true, there was one late budget in 1922; in that year the annual financial statement was brought down within the last ten days of May. I mention this fact now because I feel that the reason for the lateness of the Prime Minister's budget on this occasion is a matter which is germane to the discussion. And as a very junior member of the house, compared to my right hon. friend, I feel it my duty to refer to something which I am sure is in the minds of the business community of the country, of the members of this house, and generally of the people of this dominion. It is this.
I submit that the reason for lateness of the budget this year must be attributed to the Prime Minister himself. With the capacity he has for work and the ability which he possesses to put through matters that engage his attention, the right hon. member has seen fit to insist upon retaining two important positions in the government of the country. Nothing can be done in relation to the budget until the Minister of Finance gives his approval. And the Minister of Finance cannot give his approval so long as he is engaged in some other direction as Prime Minister. The consequence is that the business people of the country has been kept in a state of uncertainty day after day, week after week and month after month, pending the completion of the budget. It is unfair to my right hon. friend; it is unfair to his government;
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and it is unfair to those who are interested in the matters which are being dealt with that this delay should take place and this unsatisfactory state of affairs continue.
I know what my right hon. friend has in mind in this regard. He believes that under the constitution taxation and the tariff come within the Department of Finance. He believes, and properly, that he cannot delegate to his Minister of National Revenue the duties with which he is charged and the responsibilities which are his in this respect. Tariff and taxation are properly matters that come within the Finance department, and that is all the more reason why the Finance department should be administered by a minister who has the fullest time and every opportunity to devote to that single task and responsibility, and who is not obliged to deal with multitudinous affairs, as my right hon. friend is bound to do as Prime Minister. It is for this reason that I say that the blame, if blame there be-and I submit that there is-for the lateness of the budget this year rests upon the shoulders of the right hon gentleman himself. And if he will permit me once more, humbly, respectfully but very earnestly, to make the suggestion, I submit to him that in my opinion the 'time has come in the affairs of this country, when, for his own sake and for the sake of the country as well, he ought to hand over the responsibilities of the portfolio of Finance to someone else in order that those responsibilities may be promptly and properly discharged.
Let me point out to my right hon. friend that the condition of things with respect to the administration of the Finance department has resulted in something more than a late budget. Under the system which my hon. friends opposite have adopted, of dealing with tariff matters, the public can no longer appear before a tariff board. They must wait around the doors of the Finance department and must be heard when they can; and more often than not they are not heard at all The result is that the consideration of budget and tariff matters, from the point of view of the public at large, is extremely unsatisfactory. I have no desire whatever to make invidious distinctions, but those who have special briefs to present are enabled to present them, while the public, who ordinarily might attend tariff board hearings, have no opportunity at all to be heard, especially in view of the fact that the Prime Minister is so busy in connection with other matters arising outside the Department of Finance.
My right hon. friend, at the close of his address-and, I repeat, it was a very com-
plete and thorough address saving the criticism which I have made with regard to the latter part of it, which in my opinion deserved more attention and explanation-and after an eloquent peroration, appealed for the cooperation and the united interest, as he put it, of all members of this house in consideration of the affairs of the country. May I suggest to him that appeal would have come with greater force had he, in the discharge of the duty which fell upon him, not seen fit to go out of his way, not in one instance only but in several, to make rather partisan comparisons and somewhat severe attacks with reference to gentlemen on this side of the house, and to indulge in a good deal of recrimination in the course of an address which has come to be regarded in this house and in the country at large as probably the most momentous and dignified deliverance during the entire session of parliament.
Before I deal with other matters I want to mention one or two of these because I do believe they should not be allowed to go unanswered. For some reason or other my right hon. friend seemed for a moment to get out of line with the address he was delivering. In the course of his remarks he made tihe statement that the Liberals had made every effort to bring about the failure of the Imperial economic conference. The right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) asked him whether he had not been given a free hand, and he replied that an effort had been made to belittle and if possible to destroy the adjourned conference at Ottawa. I want to say to my right hon. friend if he does not know it already, and I think he does, that such a suggestion is as false as it is absurd. If that adjourned conference does not come off, the man most responsible is the right hon. gentleman himself, who left England, after some remarks had been made, with the statement that " if her proposal is to be thus contemptuously rejected Canada could only accept the rejection and act accordingly by embracing other means at hand of further strengthening her economic position in the world." That attitude did more damage to the Imperial economic conference than anything which the Liberal party could have done. We took care during the course of a debate earlier in the session to put on record our attitude and our opinion with regard to that .conference, and we did it in order that Great Britain, the sister dominions and the world at large generally might know that notwithstanding the attitude and methods which the right hon. gentleman
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and his friends had pursued, there was a large body of opinion in this country and in this house which was strongly in favour of, and would welcome and support, negotiations to be conducted in a broader spirit of tolerance than the spirit shown by the right hon. gentleman. We hoped as a result of that debate, and we still hope, notwithstanding the suggestion of the right hon. gentleman that the adjourned Imperial economic conference may not come off, that he and his advisers will even yet reform their attitude and change their methods and reconstruct their proposals so that the place which Canada occupied in Great Britain before the last Imperial conference will be restored to her, and that in the light of that altered attitude and that improved atmosphere the purpose may be accomplished for which the Imperial economic conference was called.
In speaking of the New Zealand treaty the right Ihon. gentleman shook his finger at this side of the house and said that we over here were the ones responsible for New Zealand withdrawing from Canada the privileges of the British preference. I want to point out to him and to the house, that it was his party that moved an amendment to the effect that the New Zealand treaty should be abrogated.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL
Sub-subtopic: FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE