February 25, 1936 (18th Parliament, 1st Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

I do not suppose that
my hon. friends opposite would be prepared to concede to me the same degree of sincerity as they claim for themselves. If I say that I greatly regret that I cannot support this resolution, and that I regret this very sincerely, I state but the simple truth, and I shall give the reasons that have induced me to arrive at that conclusion.
I might point out, at the outset of my observations, which I shall endeavour to make brief, that the resolution is in terms of the exact one that was moved by myself in dealing with the United Kingdom agreement. The words are exactly the same, and those who are concerned, if they will look at Hansard of that day, will find that the then 12739-33i
Minister of Finance, at the conclusion of my remarks, moved the house into committee of ways and means in order that the details of the changes in the schedules might be considered. I do not know that any discussion of the procedure adopted will serve any useful purpose, but those who may be interested will find the record in Hansard of that day; and the opportunity thus afforded by the then Minister of Finance, in moving the house into committee of ways and means, of discussing the various schedules was quite as clear as the procedure that is now being followed. But surely the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Mackenzie King) is in error when he assumes that the adoption of this resolution does not in every detail mean the approval of the agreement; for all one has to do is to look at the language employed in the resolution itself, and there cannot then be the slightest doubt that those who approve that resolution accept, sanction and approve the agreement itself in every detail.
I should not like in any acrimonious sense to comment upon the observation of the right hon. gentleman as to the contrast between the action taken by myself now and that which he took in 1932. Will any of us ever forget his denunciation of that agreement as the work of a Tory conspiracy-a Tory conspiracy headed by the Right Hon. Stanley Baldwin, now Prime Minister of England, and aided and abetted by the Prime Ministers of all the overseas dominions? Those who care to read Hansard of that day and see the record of the long delays that ensued by reason of the discussion will readily realize the sense of irony which apparently the right hon. gentleman was aware of when he spoke of the assistance he gave in the passing of those agreements.
I am sorry, sir, that I must also deal, somewhat differently from the way in which the right hon. gentleman dealt with it, with the history of the parties in connection with reciprocity. Those who are familiar with the reciprocity agreement of 1854, which expired by notice in 1866, will possibly recall that when the 1878-79 budget was delivered by the Conservative party, through Sir Leonard Tilley, a provision was inserted in that budget that afforded the opportunity at all times to enter into an agreement with the United States for reciprocal treatment of natural products. In 1874 the Hon. George Brown negotiated an agreement, which by the way was never signed, but which in draft form was sent to the United States and never heard of again.
From that time on there was a constant effort to renew a reciprocity agreement. In

Canadri-U.S. Trade Agreement
the early nineties the United States embarked upon a policy of reciprocity and entered into reciprocity agreements with many countries. The Liberal party in 1887 declared for a form of commercial union which in 1891 culminated in an election on unrestricted reciprocity and brought forward the letter of the Hon. Edward Blake, in which he protested so strongly against the policy of his party that the matter is perhaps in the memories of most members of the house. In 1892, after the election, there went to Washington three Canadian delegates or plenipotentiaries to discuss and deal with the problem of reciprocity. They failed, because the United States was not prepared to grant to the government of that day or to any other government reciprocity in regard to natural products unless a substantial list of manufactured goods was also included in the agreement. So from 1S92 on the negotiations resulted in nothing. In 1896 a Liberal government came into office. A Democratic government was in power in the United States, and as I shall presently show, the Democratic party has been the enemy of reciprocity and not its supporter in days gone by. I shall read from an authoritative source on that point. When in 1S96 the Liberal government came into power and the Democratic government was in office there w'as not, for reasons given by the right hon. the Prime Minister, any opportunity afforded to Sir Wilfrid Laurier to negotiate or discuss reciprocity on any reasonable basis. With the advent to power, however, of a Republican administration the appointment of a commission headed by Lord Herschell was secured, and as members of that commission we had Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Louis Davies, and many other illustrious Canadians. Our old friend the former member for Labelle, Mr. Bourassa, was one of the joint secretaries of that commission. They sat for months and held meetings at Quebec, but in the end they failed- and I shall give the language of the historian in that regard-and when it was all over, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier had finally concluded that failure was the only result that could follow from his efforts, he used these words:
There will be no more pilgrimages to Washington. We are turning our hopes to the _old motherland.
Those are the words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier when failure resulted from the operations of the joint high commission. He then turned his attention to the motherland, and in 1907, as those who are familiar with the proceedings of the imperial conference of that day will remember, he made strong, increasingly strong *
efforts to secure a preference for Canadian goods in the British market. Mr. Dealcin of Australia was foremost in his advocacy of that policy. But Mr. Asquith, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that it was impossible of realization, and so after that conference Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the government of that day once more turned their attention to the United States of America.
Therefore it is fair to say that from confederation down to 1911 there had been a constant effort on the part of all parties in Canada to secure a measure of reciprocal trade with the United States of America. So far had that effort gone that the Liberal party in 1887 and in 1891 had actually urged unrestricted reciprocity or commercial union. Many letters and communications have been published since from Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Goldwin Smith, and letters from Goldwin Smith reciting the views held by Sir Richard Cartwright and Sir Wilfrid at that time. The acute differences within the Liberal party showed that there were at that time many people in public life who shared the views of the Hon. Edward Blake.
In 1911, under circumstances that need not now be gone into fully, instead of Canada seeking an agreement with the United States, the United States in truth sought one with Canada. That agreement included some natural products. It also included a substantial number of manufactured products. In addition to that it provided, not that these matters should be carried into effect by agreement, but rather that this should be done by joint action, that is by the congress of the United States enacting its tariff act and the Dominion of Canada enacting an exactly similar act. A number of items were dealt with favourably or preferentially by both countries, but it must not be overlooked that that agreement could be terminated by a change in tariff incidence of a single item. That was one of the reasons strongly urged against the agreement. Further, as the right hon. gentleman has said, many of us objected to it because of its uncertainty, its instability, and the direct effect it had upon the development of north and south, as against east and west routes upon which we had expended such vast sums of money and created so many lines of transportation.
At any rate the Conservative party opposed that agreement. But it was not alone in that regard. Distinguished Liberals throughout Canada-many of them, thousands of them- joined with the Conservative party of that day. Unless they had done so, undoubtedly the agreement would not have been defeated.

Railway Act-Rates on Grain
As I pointed out then, the uncertainty was such that a change in a single item wrecked the whole, and it was competent for either parliament on the one hand or congress on the other, by changing a single item in that list, thus to terminate the agreement. I need hardly point out that the war followed in 1914, and it would have been impossible during the war to maintain that arrangement in the terms in which it stood. Therefore, so far as we are concerned there was a period of time, 1912 and 1913, when the agreement might have remained in force; but whatever party was in power in Canada could not possibly have maintained the agreement during the period of the war. I think that is common ground, admitted by every fair and impartial observer or student of our political history.

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