If the house will
just keep quiet I think I can get up steam soon enough. Mr. Speaker, I should like to begin over again, but as what I have said would come out of my forty minutes I do
not think I shall. However, before the interruption I was congratulating the Minister of Finance upon the very acceptable manner in which he performed his somewhat difficult duty. We realize he had not a very rosy picture to present, but he did it well enough. Then, the hon. member for SheUburne-Yar-mouth (Mr. Ralston) certainly displayed an ability to criticize the shortcomings of the budget. He levelled a devastating and withering criticism against the government, which the hon. member who has just taken his seat has not been able to break down.
My good friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) is recognized as one of the best parliamentary debaters, and for that reason he need not apologize for his inability to do anything. We never dreamed of casting any reflection upon his ability. When the whip of the Liberal party asked concerning the book from which he was reading, we were not casting any reflection.
I shall spend only a very few moments discussing some of the matters with which he has dealt. I shall not cover all of them because were I to do so my whole forty minutes would have expired. He indicated, first, that he hoped we were all wiser than we were last year at this time. There is not much evidence of increased wisdom as a result of experience either in the wide-world without or in the government of Canada, within. Certainly, that is so if we are to judge the government by its present policies. My good friend compares tiwo years of trade-both of them Tory years. That is not a very effective comparison. Because one Tory year happens to be better or worse than another Tory year does not assist us in arriving at any intelligent conclusion. In order to make a somewhat better showing my good friend, the minister, adopts a new system of comparison altogether. Apparently, now, when values are down, comparison of values is not the right way. How does the business man value his returns at the end of the year? How does the farmer value his returns? Does he figure out the number of carloads of wheat he grows, or the number of dollars he handles? We heard so much of that kind of comparison last year that we are simply fed up on it. There is not one word by Tory writers about the small amount we are getting in return. In order to make it look better he transfers our trade figures from values to volume, and in that transfer shows evidence that, on that basis, we import more castor oil, more bologna and more nuts, than formerly. Then he complains that as the values are low, inevitably our revenues must be low.
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He is trying to do the impossible when he attempts to convince this house and country that prohibitive duties produce revenue. At every convenient opportunity the government used the services of the Minister of National Revenue to jack up the pound to the necessary level for the purpose of making a higher price for duty purposes. They pegged the pound, increased values for duty purposes and then complain that they had not enough revenue or had not enough opportunities to impose higher duties and then wonder why our revenues are down. Their memories are very short indeed, Mr. Speaker. I would not have much trouble with even all the lesser points raised by the hon. member who has just resumed his seat as his futile efforts were quite laboured, but I shall have to turn to a discussion of other matters.
I shall speak first about the five or six good provisions in the budget. There are not many such, but there are a few. If I may, I shall also make one or two recommendations. Although my good friend does not speak in complimentary terms of our former recommendations, at all events I shall take my chance. In my view the appointment of a commission to investigate the monetary situation is good business. I have always taken the ground that the public have no right to expect any government to be a body of experts capable of dealing with every question arising. I am willing to concede all due credit to the minister, but I am suggesting that surely the government must have realized years ago that they did not know much about practical monetary problems and should have appointed this monetary commission two years ago. They may have had the theoretical knowledge, but they did not apparently know how to apply it. Yesterday the Prime Minister delivered a stirring address on currency, exchange, and so on, but how much of what he said does he carry out in the government of Canada, except what he should not, such as making the Canadian dollar hug the American dollar rather than the British pound.
Then there is the permanent elimination of the everlasting doubt about the duty on repairs to farm implements which is all to the good. The government jiggled that around, through the same Minister of National Revenue, to a point where the duty was as high as 25 per cent. However, it is now down to the old Liberal level of six per cent. If the repairs to an implement are only charged six per cent, what about the implement itself being reduced that low
tariff rate? Some day this government perhaps will attain sanity and not be taxing the farmers to the hilt on the implements of production and losing much needed revenue at the same time. I venture that hope, but I am afraid their term of office will not be long enough to get around to it.
Then we have certain bearer bonds being taxed very properly under this budget. I am surprised that was not done long ago. And Canadian bonds bearing interest that is payable in New York funds has also been made to contribute five per cent to the treasury which is also looking for needed revenue where it can be found. You cannot take blood out of a stone or take the breeks off a Hielan'man. Then again we have in this budget the reduction of the pound from 14.40 to $4.25 for dumping duty purposes. I cannot enumerate all the little tariff changes. We will do that in the resolution stage. There are four or five little items concerning which I will say the government did fairly well, but they are eclipsed by the bad things in this budget As to the very thing that is apparently intended to be the best, the stabilization fund, when I come to that there will be a question mark, how it is going to work out, and why it was not extended to all the exports to Britain. We have no opportunity at this stage of discussing as we would like to this question of adjusting adverse exchange with the old country by means of a stabilization fund, or of bringing witnesses to find out who inspired this happy thought. If it came from the regular source, the advisers of the government, why did they not think of it long years ago instead of waiting until farmers and others were bled white by the adverse exchange, and at this late moment dealing with it through the questionable medium of the exporter. I think we should have the matter referred to the committee on agriculture and colonization, where we can call witnesses and find out why the list of articles is so circumscribed, and why the provisions are not extended to other commodities of much greater national importance than honey or maple products, although they are both delightful foods. Then if it cannot be shown before the committee that the government is justified in circumscribing the number of articles that come within the intended benefits of this fund, it should apply to all our exportable commodities. Although it is the same pound, the same reduced pound, that is used in every case, and consequently all suffer adverse exchange alike, all are not treated alike in having it adjusted. Of course it goes without saying that we will support any reduced duties,
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-I do not think they are very important or they would have been read. But the bad things are so overwhelmingly greater than the goods things that when the vote comes we will certainly know which way to vote.
In order to get the proper setting for this blundering budget I will have to take the house back for a year or two. It is admitted that the government has made many heroic if futile attempts to aid agriculture. They have been both persistent and heroic but in large measure quite unsuccessful. I am going to recite some of these major blunders that have been made from time to time. I am not going to commend the government because they merely made the attempt to assist agriculture; the attempt to be any good must be successful and most of these heroics were foredoomed to failure from the very outset.
In the budget of June, 1931, the Prime Minister outlined some assistance that was going to be given to the wheat farmers by the railways absorbing five cents per bushel of the freight charges on Canadian wheat. That proposal was temporarily abandoned in favour of payment of this five-cent bonus to the exporter on all exported wheat. For two solid months less two days this Liberal opposition from early morning until dewy eve asked that this sum be given direct to the farmer rather than through the questionable medium of the exporter. It took us that length of time to convert, the government to our view of the little likelihood of it never finding its way back to the producer, but finally the Prime Minister became converted and adopted our suggestion. Yet in the face of that conversion he now establishes a new fund all of which goes through the same exporter avenue that they themselves virtually condemned and departed from two years ago. And they ask us now to throw up our sweaty caps and cheer for an institution of that kind-Last year's caps too, by the way, because we cannot afford a new one this year. But even after adopting the giving the five-oents bonus direct to the farmer, the government gave it to the farmer who needs it least, a Christmas box sometimes running up to $1,000 per grower and aggregating over $12,000,000, and then open a loan and collection department to deal with the poor fellow who had no crop; an order given and a note signed before they get enough to put in thedr eye and see any the worse for it. That is the kind of treatment the no-crop or little-crop farmers of Saskatchewan get, with respect to which the Prime Minister spoke with such eloquence on the first of July, 1931. A national calamity had struck western Canada, he declared. We were enthralled by his eloquence
and humanity and what he was going to do for this calamity-stricken portion of Saskatchewan. But the Prime Minister is frequently great oh profession and light on performance. He gave generously, to those who needed it least, and those who needed it most he treated in the way I have described and absolutely refused to distribute any bonus on an acreage basis so that it would reach those who had the misfortune to have no crop.
So we condemn the government on these counts; first, that the payment was first to be through the exporter; second, that when they did adopt the proper method they gave the money to those who needed it least and withheld it from those who needed it most, but gave them a loan and then within six months insisted on having half of it paid, although it was only contracted the previous six months. To-day those farmers, or many of them, are stripped barer than the day they were born because they were pressed to pay through the Saskatchewan relief commission on behalf of this federal government those loans and seed grain advances that they needed themselves to live on through this hard winter. The next blunder was the Stamp commission. I am in favour of commissions, but there are commissions and commissions. This was a good commission too, but before the report got through this house word went out that there was an appendix that should be taken out. Instead of using the proper surgical appliances to do it, instead of having a clever surgical operation, they asked us to tear it out ruthlessly with our bare fists. And it was torn out. Mine is in yet, because I want it to use before my audiences-I mean the appendix in my copy of the report, not in myself. Then we had the inquiry before the agriculture committee with respect to Garnet wheat. I do not know what possessed the government to take the attitude they did against one of the best wheats we ever developed. Our export trade shows to-day, and our customers on the other side say that there never was a time in the history of Canada when our wheat was more acceptable than it is at this moment. Yet we have 35,000,000 bushels of Garnet wheat, most of which goes to the Pacific as two Northern and No. 2 Pacific is one of the best selling wheats both in Europe and Great Britain to-day. However, I can congratulate my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce upon having seemingly receded from that untenable position, and having regard to that I will not press the point further.
Then as to the world grain conference and exhibition. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) appeared rather to disadvantage in con-
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nection with this matter, but I do not blame him. No doubt he was speaking for the Minister of Finance; that was easy to see, but in spite of their fumbling and backing and filling with this great enterprise I believe it is yet going to be one of the greatest events of its kind ever staged in the world.
Now we come to the Mr. John I. McFarland episode. IVe have been lectured on more than one occasion by the Minister of Trade and Commerce as to the proprieties we should observe in the house; we have been told that we should have more consideration and less curiosity as to Mr. McFarland's activities on the grain exchange. Well, Mr. Speaker, when the government appoints a gentleman who has the backing of the banks and of this dominion I think we have a right to know what is being done. Did you ever hear of the federal farm board in the United States doing business by the surreptitious, hole in the corner, star chamber methods which have been adopted by this government with regard to this wheat transaction originally taken over on behalf of the wheat Producers, Limited, the pool? In the United States, where a federal board was set up, everything was done in the light of day; everyone knew what was going on and everyone was glad when it was all over. The speculative wheat activities of the American farm board and the stabilization committees appointed under it, contributed I believe very materially to the defeat of the Hoover government. But we have been censured on more than one occasion because we wanted to know a little about what was being done by this autocratic government under the unemployment relief measure which was financed with money raised by Canadian taxpayers and we surely should know. Last April, almost a year ago, one or two lion, members from the west suspected for over a year and were pretty sure that Mr. McFarland was in the wheat future business with a line of credit and government guarantees, yet it was not until a year had elapsed that the hon. member for Willow Bunch (Mr. Donnelly), the hon. member for South Battleford (Mr. Vallance) and the hon. member for Weyburn (Mr. Young) made certain inquiries as to just how the matter stood. I have not time to quote many of these inquiries, but I will read the question asked by the hon. member for Wey-burn and the reply given by the Minister of Trade and Commerce, and I need only refer to the admission later made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett). I quote from page 2084 of Hansard for last year:
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, I have not the reference before me, but speaking from memory, and of course subject to correction, 53719-220
may I say that in the Financial Post of last week the statement appeared that when Mr. McFarland undertook to sell the 1930-31 crop he at the same time bought futures against it, and that as a result of his activities the government to-day is holding millions of bushels of future wheat which it cannot get rid of, except iat a loss, until the price goes up.
This was not a direct statement; it was simply an interrogation in order that the Minister of Trade and Commerce might say what he thought of that rumour. Here is what he said:
Mr. Stevens: I do not know of a bushel of wheat held by the government, either directly or indirectly.
That was a year ago, yet last November the Prime Minister admitted from his place in this house that the government through Mr. McFarland had been in the wheat business for more than two years. I do not know how to reconcile these two diametrically opposite statements, nor am I going to attempt to do so; these two hon. gentlemen, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Commerce can settle it between themselves. They cannot both be true, however, and we believe we know which is the correct statement and that it is the Prime Minister's. We know that the government is not only in the wheat business to the extent of the wheat taken from the pool but that they have bought practically the same amount of wheat in order to stabilize the market and protect their own investment. Why conceal it longer? These facts are known. I was disposed to be lenient with the Minister of Trade and Commerce when I dealt with this question last fall; I took the ground that possibly he thought it better not to admit publicly what had been done for state reasons. In other words it was a little diplomatic tarrydiddler rather than a straight out and out whopper. Now we want to know when they are telling whoppers and when they are telling tarrydiddilers. From now on we will not know, so I think it would be well if the two ministers should settle it between them, so that we may know which is telling the facts and which the fancies.
What has been the reason for this secrecy? The government will get nowhere by trying to do a wheat future business in a backdoor fashion. No wonder wheat went down. People in other countries, sensing what was going on in Winnipeg, threw their wheat on that market and jammed down the price. That is why the wheat-marketing policy of the government only succeeded in driving the little fellow off the market and forcing wheat to the lowest point it has reached in three hundred years. Great is Diana of the
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Ephesians; great are our political Dianas over there in the matter of holding up the price of wheat, not only in Canada but evidently all over the world. If this later stabilization proposition in this budget works out in the same way the minister will wish he had never introduced the proposal as the government is now heartsick of their wheat stunt. However, I will come to that in a moment. I will hurry along with this recital; it is not very pleasant but it is necessary in order to get the setting for the last step in the present budget in this ghastly array of blunders.
The next major blunder I have is the Ottawa economic conference. I think we heard of that in the early part of this session; there was some discussion of the so-called but delusive six per cent preference on wheat and the preferences on butter, apples, and other commodities. Why are these things passed up and disregarded, and excluded from the intended benefits of this stabilization fund? Is it because the government thinks some good has been done by Mr. McFarland, who tried to hold up the market but failed? Is it because they think the preference of six cents has put any lining in our pockets? They have not said so but they must think so or they would not dare pass by such important commodities as lumber, apples and all cereals. That is one reason why I want this matter referred to the agricultural committee. I think this is more important than the piffling milk investigation in which we are now engaged. We are getting a good deal of interesting information but we have no power to act, in my estimation; this is largely if not entirely a municipal matter, and in dealing with it federally we are just meddling in other people's business. So I hope the agricultural committee will try to redeem itself by considering a prdposition like the proposed stabilization fund that is worthy of the ability that can be found among its members.
We had a number of other proposals to assist agriculture among them the Serkau proposition, that famous 'cattle deal with Russia. The government tried to put the opposition in the position of being in favour of Mr. Serkau's proposal. Certainly we were in favour of trying to sell cattle or anything else to any country under the sun that would pay proper prices. Of course many of Serkau's proposals were absurd, though I suppose they were made as feelers, just as dickerers often make propositions to feel out the prospective customer. I think the Minister of Agriculture came out at the big end of the horn; so far as he was concerned as he showed that he wanted to make a bargain and trade our
cattle for Russian oil and other products, and for that he is to be commended. But his lord and master came along from mid ocean on his way home and snuffed out that proposition like a candle, after which the minister had to get into line. Why is it that we cannot deal or barter with Russia? When the Liberal government was in power we were jeered at for selling five or six thousand horses which were running about our prairies eating up good grass, and which had no particular economic value to us. That was a much more difficult time to deal with Russia. Why cannot hon. gentlemen opposite with all their financial ability do the same? So far they have failed to do so when our western and eastern farmers have large herds of cattle, both dairy and beef, ready to be sold. Russia is hungry for these cattle but the government will not permit the two parties to get together to make a bargain. Is it any wonder the government is going down in public estimation? Every day the sun rises and sets this government is going lower in the estimation of a vast body of the people of this country. It has got to such a point that the electors are rearin' to go and get at the ballot boxes. Nothing in the world will save their political necks, not even their confreres in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation corner to my left.
The estimates also for agriculture, the first industry in Canada, were slaughtered this session in a manner which seemed to give some hon. members opposite a great deal of delight. The preceding government had pulled them up-it took some pulling-to where they totalled ten or eleven million dollars, but down they went with a slam to three and a quarter millions less. Public sentiment was so enraged that the government restored about three quarters of a million, leaving a net loss of two and a half million. This vote has been banged down again this year by another $400,000 drop. We are told further that $14,000,000 is going to be cut off all the estimates in order to make the budget not balance next year and doubtless this will mean a further pro rata cut for agriculture.
Having got over that phase, we come now to this precious budget itself. This country has seen a succession of blunders which cannot be paralleled in any other country having responsible government. As I have often pointed out, the Minister of Agriculture has no chance to make good. If he was the angel Gabriel and had all the agricultural knowledge in the world, without more support than he is getting from his colleagues he could not make
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a showing for agriculture in Canada. I do not mean to say that he has no shortcomings himself, but I make that statement in justice to him.
I come now to the preferred products in the matter of exchange adjustments. I do not want anyone to think that I have anything against the tiny bee. I did a whole lot of work in my time to develop the bee industry. There is no more healthful and profitable way in which anyone can take the necessary saccharine requirements than through honey. This is more especially so since the price of sugar has been raised so greatly by this budget.
The next preferred item to which I shall refer is maple products. I think hon. members from Quebec will agree that the last government was the first one to give an official status to these products. About the last thing I had the privilege of doing when I was a minister in times gone by was to put these products upon an official graded basis. This action was met with the jeers of hon. gentlemen opposite. This statement will be confirmed by a reference to Hansard of 1929. The present government now seems to consider that these products should be put in the preferred list and others much more important left off. I intend to show the inconsistencies and the unaccountable way in which this government selected the list of thirteen preferred commodities. According to the official statistics, the average total export of honey to Great Britain during the last two years was about $1SO,000 and the average total export of maple products was $16,000. It must not *be forgotten that these items are exported elsewhere than to Great Britain. Yet wheat and lumber, the exports of which are valued in millions and tens of millions, do not appear in this list. How are we to account for that? Our good friends on the other side have been scratching their heads and bringing themselves near to a nervous breakdown in an effort to find something agriculturally which will be acceptable to the people of this country and which will "show us the way out." Apparently someone came along to the government at the last moment with the bright idea of this stabilization fund. Such a scheme is not new. I have before me an article by Doctor C. J. Robertson of the international institute at Rome which appeared in Saturday Night, of March 25. This article shows that all the ventures including this stabilization fund scheme have been tried before and in other countries but have failed in their purpose. I have not the time to read this article, but that is its purport.
Why is butter excluded from the intended benefits of this stabilization scheme? I asked this question of the Prime Minister but all the answer I received was that we were not upon an export basis and our butter was selling at a higher price than it was in Great Britain. He stated that as none was being exported, there would be no exchange charges to pay. Does he mean that this government intends to keep our butter upon a domestic basis all summer? Is that the hopeless program which the government has for the dairying industry? I do not think there have been more than three and at the most no more than five years during the first half century when we were not upon an export basis in the summer. If we are to attach any value to the Prime Minister's excuse- that is all it was-as to why butter was not included in this preferred list, it must be that he does not expect that we will be exporting butter this coming year. That is a damaging admission; that is the way this government is going to develop dairying.
There are some novices in this country who believe that we should produce only enough butter and other commodities to meet the needs of our own country. Let us carry that contention to its logical conclusion. It is contended by some that we should produce only enough butter for our own needs and never go upon the export market, because of the fact that when we do we have to take about six cents per pound less than the present prices. Of course a few boatloads of butter would be permitted to come in from New Zealand in order to make sure of having sufficient. If that is sound reasoning why not apply the same kind of foolish reasoning to eggs, to bacon, to wheat, to lumber, to apples, and to everything else that we produce? If we grew just enough wheat for ourselves thenv we would not be bothered by this pestiferous-exchange question. That would not be a very ambitious program for a young producing country like Canada, but the statement of the Prime Minister leaves no other conclusion to be drawn. Last year we went upon the export butter market about July 1 and I cannot understand why provision has not been made for similar action this year, the same as it was made m connection with cheese. That is my question and there is no answer. I will sit down and take the time out of my forty minutes if any hon. gentleman opposite has any reasonable answer to make. No, they have not an answer, because there is none.
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Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE