I say that we have in Canada a nucleus around which could be built a much larger population than we now have, and while it might be undesirable in certain respects that large numbers should be admitted, still I do think we should be developing a plan for bringing into Canada, placing them in areas where they are required, selected immigrants of a class and kind that can be easily assimilated and who will fit into our national development.
I am sure that at the imperial conference the subject of defence was also discussed, but we have no reference to any policy in connection with defence in these troublous times. These are two subjects, Mr. Speaker, upon which I think we might have expected some pronouncement from the government in the speech from the throne.
Reference is made in the speech to the coronation. Those who had the privilege of attending and witnessing that splendid spectacle will never forget it. It had a peculiar significance. It was a magnificent demonstration of the strength, unity, and dignity of the British commonwealth of nations, all coming together and taking part in a solemn dedication. We believe that their majesties are firmly established in the affection and confidence of the vast numbers of their subjects, and we recognize Great Britain today as the greatest single national influence making for peace and security. I am sure that as a member and partner in this great commonwealth of nations, we all agree that it is our privilege and our duty to keep in constant communication and consultation with Great Britain, and to cooperate so far as circumstances will permit in achieving that peace and security which this world so sorely needs, if indeed it is possible to achieve it at this time. The impression made upon the world must indeed have been most favourable, the coronation coming, as it did, just after a great constitutional crisis. The two taken together must have convinced the representatives of the different nations of the world assembled in London of the strength and capacity of the commonwealth to which we belong.
The next subject referred to in the speech from the throne is that of economic recovery and trade expansion. That has been dealt with so thoroughly by many speakers who have preceded me that I do not propose to discuss it at any considerable length. Emphasis is placed upon our expanding revenues. So far as these indicate an increase in the volume of our trade it is a matter for satisfaction, but so far as our expanding revenues are attributable to increased taxation the condition is not so satisfactory, because, as we all know, the revenues of this dominion are derived from taxation, and the people of Canada are groaning today under the weight of taxation that they have to bear in the various fields.
We used to hear a lot about nuisance taxes. But we still have them. We used to hear from our friends opposite that the revenue required for the operation of radio should be obtained from a tax on tubes or by some means other than through a licence fee. It was suggested that the licence fee of one dollar should be abolished. It was raised to two dollars, and that was pointed to as an act of injustice and unnecessary taxation. But a recent proposal was to raise the fee to three dollars, and finally a compromise apparently was reached at $2.50. So that to those who thought the licence fee of one dollar should be wiped out, and that two dollars was an excessive charge, $2.50 now seems to be just about right. And not only is it $2.50 for a radio licence, but $2.50 is to be exacted in respect of every radio which one may have, whether in his house, in his car, or anywhere else.
If one had time to analyze the extent of our trade expansion it would be found that a substantial part of it is due to the negotiation of the empire trade agreements that were completed in 1932. There is no doubt that our increase in percentage is greater on our trade with the empire than in any other direction, and the cumulative effect of the working of these agreements over a period of four or five years is very important in connection with our trade expansion. There will be an opportunity at a later time to go more extensively into details in connection with this matter. Suffice it for me to say at the moment that we have a preference in the best and most extensive market in the world, a preference that was acquired after years of effort by both political parties. Let us see that that preference is preserved, and in our commendable anxiety to expand our trade in other directions let us be careful that nothing
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is done that will detract in any way from the great and permanent advantages secured by that undertaking.
New trade agreements have been negotiated. That is of course satisfactory, but I would suggest to the government that they are inclined to place too much emphasis upon the foreign market. There is an old saying that faraway fields look green, but sometimes when you arrive at those far-away fields they are not as fresh and green as they appear from a distance. In our desire to secure foreign markets let us not overlook or neglect or endanger the great home market. It is a market which is under our control, it is ours, it cannot be taken away from us unless we give it away, and it consumes a very large portion of our natural products. Already there is alarm on the part of primary producers of agricultural products in the dominion that in the negotiation of trade agreements their interests may be adversely affected. I have had representations in this connection from vegetable growers and other primary producers; and I hope that the government, in the negotiation of these treaties, will not open too many doors for entry into our own market, which it may be difficult to close. It is all very well to say that tariffs should be lowered, but it is in times of depression that these tariffs are most needed. Living as we do beside a nation of 130,000,000 people, immediately a depression sets in there is an inevitable tendency to dump on the markets of Canada the products of that country, and it is then that a tariff reduced below a reasonable level fails to protect Canadian producers.
I say again, we have the home market; let us appraise it at its true value-for I fear we do not always appreciate its value. Let us be careful that in our agreements we do not barter it away, that we do not leave it, in the times of depression which will inevitably come, in an exposed and defenceless position.
Reference is made to prairie drought rehabilitation. This is the continuation of a policy which was started some years ago; it is commendable, and I hope that the results will be satisfactory. The same remark applies to youth training. The Department of Agriculture reorganization is hardly worthy of mention in a speech from the throne. Such reorganizations take place from time to time, and I have looked in vain for any new policy or anything different from what has prevailed
in that department in the past with respect either to administration or to the marketing of farm products.
Reference is made to the reports of commissions that have been investigating subjects referred to them from time to time. A great deal has been said, and some of it with force, to the effect that governments are inclined to pass over to commissions responsibilities and the discharge of duties which in the ordinary course they should assume themselves. That is not always true. Commissions are in some cases useful and helpful. But I submit that at least one of these commissions is an expensive and a useless duplication of existing machinery. I refer to the commission appointed to investigate the textile industry. As hon. members know, we have a well-constituted, well-established tariff board set up in an independent position, free from political influence, with all the machinery, staff and equipment required for the investigation of conditions in connection with any industry in the Dominion of Canada, competent to discharge that duty, and from day to day discharging it on references to it in the ordinary course by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) or by the government. We naturally ask ourselves, why was this competent organization not entrusted with the duty of investigating conditions in the textile industry? It would appear to be within the scope of its authority and in the line of its duty; it would appear to be an undertaking for which it has special qualifications.
Another objection which I take to this investigating commission is that at times its proceedings appeared to have a political slant. Of the other commissions I have no similar remarks to make. As to the veterans' assistance commission, we have been expecting a report from it for a long time; we pressed for it last session but for some reason we were not able to get it. The national employment commission is of a different type. It has made a report which will be read with interest by hon. members. From time to time interim reports have been made, and statistics have been gathered and classified; that appears to have been the principal work of the commission. We hope that as a result of its report we shall have some action by the government which will help in the solution of this question.
The facts about unemployment as I gather them are these, that it began its last cycle in 1929, continued in 1930, and has been with us since. The extent of it in 1929 and 1930 was not appreciated or understood by the
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government of the day, and accurate, reliable statistics were not available at that time. I have endeavoured to follow the proceedings of this government and of this commission, and I can find no really effective change in the policies that were adopted from 1930 to 1935 to deal with this very difficult problem. In fact, in what is being done I see a tendency on the part of the government to back-track and to pick up some of the policies which they condemned in the years I have referred to. They condemned, of course, the camps, and having condemned them they abolished them, with the result that we find travelling up and down the country on the trains men who ring doorbells and beg from house to house-men who when these camps were in existence found a comfortable lodging and proper care and attention.
The speech from the throne refers to the appointment of a body of investigation known as the Rowell commission, and in that paragraph it refers to the stresses and strains that have developed in confederation and the need for Canadian unity. We all agree that these conditions exist. Some of them are the results of changed and changing conditions and of misunderstandings in a federal constitution, with a divided authority, the line of demarcation being in some cases difficult to define. Another cause is the temptation, for purely political expediency and advantage, to proclaim conflicting policies in different parts of Canada on fiscal and other questions. There is an old saying that if you sow the wind you will reap the whirlwind. A political party may advocate in some parts of Canada, no tariff, in other parts of Canada, a low tariff, and in still other parts and at other times a tariff for revenue, and free trade, wherever such appeals may be advantageous; and that party may secure power on the strength of such conflicting appeals. But the advantage is temporary. You may for a time criticize and condemn an expenditure of eight or ten million dollars for national defence, and later-not very much later-attempt to justify an expenditure of thirty-five millions for the same purpose. When such a policy is adopted it is easy to understand why there are differences of opinion, why there is misunderstanding, and why there are these stresses and strains that have developed over a period of years.
Unfortunately the present government and some of their supporters have adopted this policy in years gone by; they have sown the wind and we are now reaping the whirlwind of misunderstanding and enmity and. national divisions in Canada. There is a lesson in this for us all, for every party, and
a lesson for the individual. I hope that we shall take it seriously to heart. This should be avoided if the spirit of confederation is to be preserved and if we are to develop harmony and a national outlook. Parochial, provincial and sectional policies, if they ever had any value in Canada, have outlived their usefulness, and through them we cannot deal with and solve the problems that confront us to-day.
A subject that is mentioned in the speech from the throne is the amendment of the British North America Act, our constitution, now seventy years old. This is a subject that must be approached with great care; it is a subject that must be dealt with if we are to go forward, if we are to achieve the objects of confederation, and if we are to discharge our duties and responsibilities at this time. We must go slowly, with patience and tolerance, with good will and a sympathetic desire to understand all the conflicting views and interests. At the outset there should be, in my opinion, unanimous assurance that the rights of minorities as defined and set out in the British North America Act will not be the subject of discussion and will not be a matter for consideration in the revision of the constitution. If this is done and if the amendments are properly considered, I am sure the same courage and faith that were manifested by those who framed our constitution will enable us to solve our present problems.
As regards unemployment insurance, I think it is long overdue. It was, I believe, a plank in the platform of the present government as far back as 1919; and now, almost twenty years after that time, they are proceeding to deal with it. We had a law providing for unemployment insurance. Efforts were made to establish a scheme, but that law was destroyed by premature reference to the courts on material that was by no means exhaustive and definite or concrete. Unemployment insurance will not give any immediate relief *to a very large number who find themselves out of work; it will be limited in its application and there will be a lag between the time of its enactment and the time it comes into effective operation.
Another matter is the export of electrical power, a subject which I submit is of great importance to this dominion. During the years that have passed in this century, from time to time commissions of conservation, governments, and others familiar with the production of hydro-electric power in Canada have emphasized its value, its importance to the development of the country; and from time to time it has been pointed out that the
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interests of Canada demand that as far as possible this valuable resource should be retained for the benefit of the Canadian people. This has been the policy of succeeding governments, and I hope that when the matter comes up for discussion we shall approach it from that standpoint; that we shall deal with the question entirely upon its merits and not be influenced by challenges, threats, propaganda or lobbying, even though these proceed from the premier of a great province in the Dominion of Canada.
There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer briefly, matters more or less of local interest. The Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act was passed in 1934 and was brought into force in different parts of the dominion at different times during that year. Its objects were the very worthy ones of keeping efficient producers on the farm; of enabling them to effect compromises or reductions of their liabilities.; of bringing the best possible results to the creditors at the same time, rather than having the assets liquidated to the disadvantage of both. A large number of proposals have been submitted under the act. The return brought down recently by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) carries the operation of the act up to March 31, 1937, and as of that date 26,543 proposals had been submitted, of which some 19,000 had been disposed of. The average reduction on the secured debt was 28-78 per cent and on the unsecured debt 44-14 per cent. The total average reduction on both was 30-69 per cent. The total debt dealt with in this way was $107,500,000 odd and the total reduction about $33,724,000. A large number of these applications remain to be dealt with yet. During the year preceding March 31, 1937, there were 5,776 applications dealt with, and on that date there remained to be considered some 4,261 applications, while new applications filed during the year numbered 5,407. It would seem that the applications disposed of almost equal the new applications received.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY