February 8, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


John Knox Blair


Mr. J. K. BLAIR (North Wellington):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity of expressing my view's on economic questions in this debate. We feel that we are under a greater obligation than ever to proclaim the gospel of trade and commerce because w'e believe that the nations of the world have been engaged in a tariff war, and that this narrow policy of economic nationalism is principally responsible for the depression through which we are now passing.
We also believe that in many countries of the world the voice of the poorer classes is not heard, but rather the voice of the upper and wealthier classes. Socrates, an ancient Greek, thought that the voice of the people was the voice of the deity and that the voice of the people should be heard; that the people, by a process of trial and error, would rise to a higher level. Socrates was put to death and was followed by Plato. Plato thought that the voice of the people was the voice of ignorance and should not be heard. Later on Plato said, "Why trust the people who crucified their leader?" After Plato's time there arose another great philosopher, Aristotle, w'ho wras a pupil of both Socrates and Plato. He thought that the voice of the people should be heard in government and that it should be regarded in accordance with the intelligence of the people. He was the teacher of Alexander the Great, and when Aristotle taught Alexander the policy of Socrates and of Plato, the king asked him which of the two he should use. The reply was, "If the people are intelligent, both poor and rich, use the policy of Socrates in some of the Greek states; that policy could be applied geographically." But he went on to say that in Persia, where the people were ignorant and only a few of the upper classes were intelligent, the king should be guided entirely by the upper classes and the poorer people should be ignored.
LMr. Fontaine.]
The question to-day is, Mr. Speaker, which policy is this government following? Is it listening to the voice of the masses or to the voice of a few of the upper classes? I think we can test that by an illustration. When the Liberal government was in power, hon. gentlemen will remember that four thousand people marched upon Ottawa from Oshawa wishing to see the Hon. Mr. Robb and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). While they were deliberating in the theatre how they would see them, Mr. Robb and Mr. Mackenzie King walked into the theatre and asked them what they wanted. The Liberal government believed that the voice of the people should be heard, that the people should tell them their needs, and when the representatives of those four thousand people presented their case to the government they said. "We want better pay and more work, and you can secure that for us by raising the tariff. But Hon. Mr. Robb replied, "We will see that you get better pay and more work, but we will not do it by raising the tariff." On the contrary, Mr. Robb and the Liberal government lowered the tariff, for that was their policy, and the result was that these people got better pay and more work.
That illustrates in a simple way that the Liberal party believes that the poorer classes should have the opportunity of making their needs known to the government, but they ought not to try to prescribe for themselves. They should go, as a patient does to the doctor, and tell their complaints, but they should not attempt to prescribe for themselves, for if they should try to do so they might poison themselves. In this instance their needs and wants were taken care of but not in the manner in which they had prescribed for themselves.
What do we find in contrast to that? Last year approximately 4.000 people, mostly farmers of Ontario and Quebec, came to Ottawa with a petition for the government. What was the result? Their voices were not heard. I, along with the hon. member for North Huron (Mr. Spotton), went to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) on behalf of these people. The hon. member for South Huron presented his request in these words: Honourable sir, I know that you are busy and may not be able to come down yourself to see these farmers, but will you delegate someone, perhaps the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir), to act as your representative and speak on your behalf? The Prime Minister refused to do this. He said he had come to a decision and would not delegate anyone else to act on his behalf. He said:

The Address-Mr. Blair
I am busy, I have an appointment with Lord Rotiiermere. I think the Prime Minister's action showed an entire lack of responsibility to the people. He was not in the employ of Lord Rothermere; these four thousand farmers were the ones who were helping to pay his salary. They had travelled many miles to see him and his refusal to see them was a declaration that the voices of the masses are not to be heard in the councils of this government.
Our party stands for the principle of equal rights to all and privileges to none. We stand for the retention of the power of taxation in the hands of parliament. We believe that people should pay taxes according to their ability to pay. We do not believe in a horizontal tax such as we had in the case of sugar where the child at a mother's knee pays the same as the millionaire. We believe that the burden of taxation should be according to the ability of the people to pay, but the sugar tax is not of that nature. Such a tax is a crime. We believe in gradually reducing tariff restrictions upon all necessities consistent with the revenue requirements of the country. We believe in the promotion of a favourable reciprocal trade not only with members of the British commonwealth of nations but with all nations of the world.
We believe that that would be a leading factor towards a permanent and successful agriculture, industry, shipping and international trade. We believe it would place Canada upon the highway which would lead to an outstanding position among the nations of the world.
The Prime Minister gave us somewhat of a promise that reciprocity would receive consideration but we have no reason to expect this. I would not expect a man to put through a policy in which he himself did not believe, and the policy of reciprocity Iras been denounced by the Conservative party. We believe that the nations of the world have swung towards higher- tariffs which work to the advantage of the wealthy at the cost of the poor. They are making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The papers announce that thirty-seven new millioanaires have been created in this country during the last three years. This statement cannot be proved as statistics are not available but we have access to the statistics of the United States. That country recently had a government whose policy resembled that of our own and I should like to quote certain figures to show the increase in incomes which occurred from 1927 to 1928. They are as follows:
Class of income
if 100,000 and under if 150,000
150.000 and under 300,000
300.000 and under 500,000
500.000 and under 750,000
750.000 and under 1.000,000
1.000. 000 and under 1,500,000
1.500,000 and under 2,000.000
2.000. 000 and under 3.000,000
3.000. 000 and under 4.000,000
4.000. 000 and under 5,000,000
5.000. 000 and over
Number of individuals
1927 1928
5.261 7,049
3,873 5,678
1.141 1,756
384 685
173 298
138 284
56 108
55 91
22 40
8 18
11 26
Number Per cent
1,788 33
1.805 46
615 53
301 78
125 72
126 * 90
52 92
36 65
18 80
10 124
15 136
How can any nation exist with such wealth in the hands of the few? Yet the governments seem to be assisting in this process. I believe that the report in our press was correct and that if available our statistics would show a similar condition. These Americans of great wealth are the ones who are advertising what a great depression there is in that country. They claim that this period of great distress is an act of Providence and unavoidable. I believe that depressions are man-made and I do not see why we should have one at this time. My belief is that this class is responsible largely for our present depression. According to the figures I have quoted, it would not appear as though there
is a .depression. It simply means that these people are extorting money from the poorer classes and doing it internationally and in a scientific way, because I think that they work in cooperation with other nations.
This government has granted to the millionaire in Canada many special privileges but perhaps the most cruel has been the sugar tax, which was really a donation to the wholesaler, paid by the poverty stricken consumers. We are told that Canada is rapidly advancing towards greater prosperity, but how can we say that with such assurance when we learn that nearly 190 municipalities in the province of Ontario, for example, are not paying their share of relief, 19 of them declaring

The Address-Mr. Blair
themselves bankrupt and refusing to pay anything,-such places as Windsor and the Yorks and places around Toronto. It would be different in the case of municipalities up in New Ontario where new settlers are trying to get a footing, but I am referring to places near Toronto where there are people living in fine homes. I do not see why the farmers in the county of Wellington should be paying their taxes, when there are people elsewhere living in lovely homes, riding around in large cars and so on. There is something wrong. The strange thing about Toronto and the Yorks is this. Listening over the radio to the messages coming from the Conservative clubs we have been told that there should be a curtailment of everything, that the reason we have a depression is that there is a superabundance of everything. The people in these clubs were praying for scarcity, and at the time of Thanksgiving, while they were praying for scarcity, those churches in Toronto of the same political calibre as that party were praying for abundance to make glad the heart of man. Here were politicians praying for one thing and churches of the same persuasion praying for something else, so that the Almighty himself could not tell what they wanted. What a strange notion, that famine is due to abundance. Suppose we were going along the road and a squirrel came running out of the bush, with tears in his eyes, telling us that there was going to be a famine this winter. One would ask why; and suppose the squirrel said that there would be a famine because there were too many beechnuts. Naturally one would think that there was something wrong with the poor squirrel's head. Yet that is the sort of thing we hear from the government. Hon. gentlemen opposite are great advocates. I believe that our Prime Minister is one of the best solicitors and advocates I have ever heard. He will take an idea that is positively absurd and pro\e it to the satisfaction of the general public prove it to the hilt. And they' will believe him in many instances. He is a great advocate, and if only he had a leg to stand on he could travel through anything. He will try to prove that there is a famine in the land because there is a superabundance of everything. What more absurd idea could be conceived? One would laugh at the poor little squirrel for suggesting that there would be a famine because there were too many beechnuts; one would laugh at the mentality even of a squirrel for suggesting such a thing; yet we give our Prime Minister license to put forward and defend such notions.
All through my territory during the last election the railway men were told that if

the tariff were raised two or three times higher than it was at one end of the road and raised to the same height at the other end, and if a sales tax of 6 per cent were imposed all round, there would be a great improvement in railway traffic. That was an obviously silly idea, of course. While some may not speak too highly of the minds of railway men, I must speak in high terms of the arguments of the Prime Minister; for he put that idea across, so that we could not get it out of the minds of the railway men. He proved to them that if he raised the tariff two or three times as high as it was, and if he put on a high sales tax, the railways would be more flourishing than ever. I do not know how he did it; no doubt it was his capacity for argument and for bringing his ideas to prevail among the poorer classes. But the notion was absolutely absurd to anyone who thought for himself. He carried that argument with the people, although we believed then as we believe now, that the situation is only aggravated by these high tariffs.
The Minister of Trade and Commerce is carrying out the old policy of Joseph Chamberlain, of splendid isolation. Chamberlain argued that the British people were the chosen race of the earth and should isolate themselves from the common herd, and trade among themselves. That is all very well, but we as a party believe that we should trade anywhere and everywhere. We firmly believe in the British preference, but we do not wish to cut off our trade relations with other countries. Our Minister of Trade and Commerce has a splendid appearance: he has the superficial veneer of a high class gentleman, and is, I am sure, a gentleman; but he lacks that discretion and judgment which you find in the Englishman all over the world and which make the Englishman such a splendid trader. When the late government was in power and was about to negotiate with any other country, the keynote of its negotiations was secrecy, and when the minister came out of a cabinet meeting and was approached by correspondents he had no messages to broadcast. The result was that the negotiations were kept secret and the object of the government was not frustrated. When the price of sugar was high and fish and potatoes were cheap in the maritimes, we negotiated a treaty with the West Indies with the result that sugar was reduced in price and we also received a better price for our fish and potatoes. What do we find now? When we go to the moving pictures we find that the Minister of Trade and Commerce

The Address-Mr. Blair
appears on the screen, and there is broadcast a speech prepared by himself or someone else, telling just what he is about to do, what policy he is about to put into force. It seems to me that if any government were about to put into force a particular policy in connection with trade with another nation it would strengthen its position by keeping quiet about the whole thing until the agreement has been executed. But our Minister of Trade and Commerce would seem to be the advance agent for other nations, so that the trade is all gone before this country can benefit. Can you imagine an automobile dealer in Ottawa broadcasting the fact that he is going to Peterborough in ten days' time to sell ten cars to some firm there? Why, his trade would be gone before he got there. But that is precisely the position in which the Minister of Trade and Commerce places himself. He advertises his modus operandi, his method of working and destroys his business before he gets it. And so we have much ado about nothing. We have trips and negotiations, but we find our trade going down steadily. Is that the way in which England wTon the trade of the world? And how much better in trade and commerce has been the work of our Prime Minister? We can well remember when Mr. Forbes was here and the government slammed the door in the face of New Zealand. We lost millions of dollars and did not raise the price of butter one cent.
Our treatment of Russia will be remembered; the Prime Minister was here day after day chasing the Russian bear. He spent his time chasing the Russian bear, and whenever be rose to speak and his followers were applauding him, I was reminded of Arcturus chasing the Great Bear round the polar star every day and returning to the same point in twenty-four hours. Therefore, whenever I listened to the Prime Minister chasing the Russian bear I said: That is Arcturus again chasing the Bear and the Greeks applauding. The Prime Minister would have been much better advised had he put through a trade treaty with Russia. In this way Canada could have obtained millions of dollars; we could have sent our machinery to Russia; we could have traded with her in many ways, but instead of that the Prime Minister seemed to think it was his duty to attend to the social and moral obligations and the domestic affairs of that country. He went beyond the pale of his jurisdiction. The glory of Britain and her sons is that they will trade with any country in the world; the British traders would trade with China where they have loose 74726-25
marriage laws, with Turkey where they have harems, with the cannibals of the South Sea. The British trader did not interfere with the domestic arrangements of other nations; he was out to trade with them. We would appreciate it much more if our Minister of Trade and Commerce, instead of placing himself on the screen in the movies as an advance agent for other nations, would pay more attention to Canada's trade and if our Prime Minister, instead of chasing the bear, because we never elected him as Prime Minister to be Arcturus, would be a real minister of trade and commerce. It will be remembered that the Prince of Wales said:
Failure to recognize trade as interchange and obstacles placed in the way of reciprocal trade are perhaps the main causes for the world's present troubles. The British peoples have the idea of commerce running strong in their blood.
The Prince of Wales believed lack of trade was a great cause of the depression.
As regards the Prime Minister not coming to see the farmers when they were in Ottawa, we wondered what detained him. He was too busy talking to Lord Rothermere. That is rather significant in view of the fact that he has had decorations bestowed and has reintroduced titles in Canada, which is something we do not need here. The idea of bestowing titles never flourishes in a democratic country; aristocracy and democracy are not compatible institutions. As democracy advances, aristocracy recedes and vice versa, so that if we want to maintain Canada as a democratic country, the fewer aristocratic methods we have the better for us. This bestowal of titles is simply an old relic of feudalism and is quite unnecessary in this democratic country. The Prime Minister and his colleagues made a tour of Canada and we thought they were investigating the unemployment situation and the question of trade and commerce. They came back, however, with a long list of ladies' names. When they were out there, they had on their dancing slippers and their long-tailed coats; they were not looking after our labouring people at all. We thought that they would produce a solution for unemployment, but after months of labour they brought forth a list of bouquets to be sent throughout this country. That is the last thing we need here. What we do need is attention to our unemployed, to our trade and commerce; bread and butter are what we want.
Methods of communication have been greatly improved of late; we have the telegraph, the telephone and the radio, but while I may be wrong, I do not believe any labouring man or farmer has any way of communicating with a millionnaire who has always

The Address-*Mr. Blair

been wealthy. There is too much mental static and the message cannot be got across. We have tried for three years to get it across, and have failed. It would have been useless for the Prime Minister to go down to listen to those farmers, because he would not have understood what they were saying. Were a prime minister who is also a millionaire to have been at one time for a week on the end of a crosscut saw or behind the carriers of a threshing machine, he would have something in the nature of a detector bulb in his brain and when a message was being sent to him, the wave length would harmonize, he could tune in and know what was being said. But 3'ou cannot send a message from a labouring man to a millionaire who has always been wealthy. Votes will register, but a message will not. There is too much interference, too much static, too many crossed wires.
The government, instead of handing out bouquets lavishly, should have made some provision for our farmers; it must give them a new deal. Take a farm which three years ago was worth 86,000 and had a 83,000 mortgage on it: to-day the farmer has no equity in it and the mortgage company really owns the farm. In addition, we have to consider. the low prices that are being obtained for farm products and the high rates of interest being charged, and we must not forget that this situation was brought about largely by the actions of the government. They took all the money out of our rural districts and our towns and villages for their national bonds, depleting the whole country. The result is that we cannot get m-ortgage loans upon our farms and those in the towns cannot obtain loans on their houses. I should like to see any person try at this time to secure a farm mortgage. It cannot be done in the rural districts of Ontario and I imagine the situation in the west is worse. The man who holds the mortgage is afraid to seize the farm, because at the present time farms are worth very little. If this government would like to help the farmers let them open the gates of trade so that the farmers' products could get out into the world's markets.
Then there are many little things in which they could help. Take the stockyards such as those in Toronto where S30 a ton is charged for hay when hay is selling for $6. The farmer has to take whatever price is offered for his stock but has to pay these unduly high prices for feed, such as 840 a ton for grain. In every way possible they extort money from the farmer and spoil his sales. Then we have these men stepping around trying to grade pigs on the hoof; it would be

a blessing to Canada to dismiss every one of these hog graders. Hogs should be graded on the rails, they cannot grade hogs on foot anyway. These fellows are simply working in the interests of the abattoirs.
Now I think we should state briefly the policy of our own party. I will mention just a few points before I close. There is the unemployment situation, that is the most important problem. We think that a representative national commission should be formed which would cooperate with the provinces and municipalities. The unemployment situation was the means of this government getting into power and this government has never dealt with it since, not in a reasonable way. They have been giving doles but that is not what the people want.
Then we want the liberation of external trade. The Liberal party believes that trade is the basis of industrial and commercial development, and that Canada needs trade. The Liberal party would promote trade with all nations.
We need the liberation of internal trade. The Liberal party will seek to end artificial price control and agreements in restraint of trade. Price fixing by agreements restricts and hampers trade. The internal trade of our country has become honeycombed with and enmeshed in secret understandings and agreements.
We want to develop the primary industries. The Liberal party by its policies will continue to further the development of agriculture, lumbering, mining and fisheries by effecting reductions in the costs of production of Canada's basic products and by obtaining wider markets.
We want to safeguard our national railways. We want the democratization of industry. The Liberal party believes that industrial reconstruction is the problem of the future. It will seek to give to workers and consumers, as opportunity offers, a larger share in the government of industry.
We stand for the restoration of responsible government and the reassertion of personal liberty, electoral reforms and a balanced budget. We think it is extremely important to have the budget balanced. As the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen said, we cannot borrow ourselves into prosperity.

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