March 9, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


James Shaver Woodsworth


Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

"Are we in danger of
Fascism in Canada?" is a question sometimes asked among the workers. Thinking in terms of brown shirts, parades and salutes I would say no, but when I come to a measure of this kind I am rather doubtful. In the days of the Romans we are told it was their practice to erect two upright spears, then place one transversely upon them and force their conquered enemies to pass under the spears, sub jugum-under the yoke-and usually a heavy tribute was exacted from the conquered enemies. It would seem to me that in the bill now before us we are arranging for the people of Canada to pass under the yoke, and if the bill is passed they must expect to pay a heavy tribute in the years to come.
For years we have had in this country a financial dictatorship but it has been somewhat concealed. By this legislation, instead of challenging that dictatorship, we are in reality legalizing and stabilizing it. The Finance minister warns us against any possible delay in giving the people the benefits of a central bank. I would say that the people have waited for some years for a central bank, and I think they can afford to wait a little longer rather than that we should saddle this country with what I regard as a private tyranny.
The bill provides for the creation of a private central bank. The amendment which we moved from this corner would seek to alter that so as to make the bank a public bank, but that amendment has been ruled out of order. Under those circumstances I think I must join with my hon. friend from Bow River (Mr. Garland) and take the position that the only course for us is to vote against

Bank of Canada-Mr. Woodsworth
this bill. I cannot see how we can possibly separate the bill from its contents. The main principle of the bill is that the bank shall be a privately owned institution. That is the proposal which comes before us. Could we have altered that to a publicy owned bank I would gladly have voted for the bill.
Let me point out that we do not object to a commission or board with wide powers, but we do object to the setting up of a body independent of and superior to the authority of parliament. I must quote again the statement of the Finance minister in reply to a question by my colleague from Wetaskiwin (Mr. Irvine) because I do not think it can be broadcast too widely. He asked:
Supposing the central bank was endeavouring to regulate the control of credit in Canada, and supposing the policy it adopted in order to do so was contrary to the policy of the government of the day and they clashed, which official would make the decision?
The answer of the Finance minister was: Unquestionably the authority of the governor and the board of directors of the bank would prevail.
Here we have the unequivocal statement that we are at the moment being asked to erect a body whose decision would be superior to that of the government, It is an abdication of the powers of parliament. The Finance minister in order to try to justify his position is driven to the most specious reasoning. He refers to the board of railway commissioners. I submit that there is no such sovereign power given to the board of railway commissioners. It is true that they are free from everyday interference in the carrying on of their work, as undoubtedly this bank should be,, but still the great railway policies of this country are decided, not by the board of railway commissioners, but by this parliament. I recall that a few years ago, even with regard to a specific matter, that of the Crowsnest pass agreement, this parliament overrode the decision of the railway commission, and last year the special railway legislation which was passed surely indicated the supreme power of this parliament.
The Finance minister also referred to the tariff board, but again I point out that there is no sovereign authority in the tariff board. The tariff board does not override the decisions of this house. It may perform a valuable function, but still its reports go to the government. The government assumes responsibility, and we ratify or reject the measures that are in consequence brought down.

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