January 27, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Karl Kenneth Homuth

Conservative (1867-1942)


The government has a
chance to do something. It has a chance to do something to make up for the disastrous three years through which the people of Canada have just passed, in spite of the promises made in 1935. If the government had had a proper approach to the provincial governments, if it had gone out in a spirit of compromise, we would have in Canada to-day national health laws, national hospitalization and national labour laws, all of which are badly needed. All these improvements could have been law to-day if the government had been willing to compromise with the provinces, as it ought to have done.
And so I say that when one reads of the promises of 1935 he has cause to wonder. I well remember the morning of October 15, 1935, when I thought the sky had fallen and there was no longer any chance for Canada. I picked up a paper and read a statement made by the Prime Minister, to which my leader referred in the course of his observations. I read that speech of dedication, and I read it carefully. Who could help being impressed by those beautiful words, those wonderful phrases? They were music to the ears of everyone in Canada who had hoped that something good would come from the election of the Liberal party. I read that
dedication speech-and then, of course, I realized who had made it. I recalled the flowery speeches he had made in the past and I began to understand that perhaps after all the sky actually had fallen. Three years later we find that it has; the people of Canada are absolutely crushed under the burden which has been placed upon them.
Not only do I like the wording and phrasing of this speech, but I think hon. members of the house and the people of Canada generally should be impressed with the significance of the wonderful dedication speech made by the right hon. gentleman; we may then realize how little he has lived up to it. The Prime Minister said:
In the new era which dawns to-day the struggle for the rights of the people will, in the realm of economic liberty and security, he carried on as never before. Poverty and adversity, want and misery, are the enemies rvhieh Liberalism will seek to banish from the land. They have lain in wait at the gate of every Canadian home during the past five years, and their menacing mien has served to destroy the souls as well as the minds and bodies of an ever-increasing number of men, women and children in our land. We take up at once, as our supreme task, the endeavour to end poverty in the midst of plenty, starvation and unnecessary suffering in a land of abundance, discontent and distress in a country more blessed by Providence than any other on the face of the globe, and to gain for individual lives, and for the nation as a whole, that "health and peace and sweet content" which is the rightful heritage of all.
And then they tell the hungry, ill clad, ill housed people of Canada that we are hunting for some place to get rid of our meats, our butter, our eggs, our milk and other things that our own Canadian people have not the money to buy.
At least in that dedication speech the right hon. gentleman admitted that the Conservative government had kept these terrible enemies of the people at the gate. We were slowly but surely driving them from the country. But this government has opened the gate. Those enemies have opened the door and entered the homes of our Canadian people, and out of them they have driven peace, happiness and security. The words of the Prime Minister's statement were brave words, but what use are they without deeds?
I say that unless this government makes some definite move to do something it will stand indicted before the highest tribunal in the land, the Canadian people, as a government which has absolutely forgotten those who put them into power. When the opportunity comes, as it must come, and the people hope it will be soon, they will be in a position to undo the wrong that they did themselves
The Address-Miss Macphail

in 1935. After all there is no hope for the government that is in power. No blood transfusion or dope or anything elseh can revive the little spark of life that once was there. They are on their way out. Politically they are dead. All that is necessary now is an election so that the people of Canada can give them a proper burial under an avalanche of ballots. When we come into power we will once more make effective the policies which in the past brought security to Canada.
Miss AGNES C. MACPHAIL (Grey-Bruce): Mr. Speaker, I intend to lump my congratulations. I offer them to the mover (Mr. Matthews) and the seconder (Mr. Chevrier) of the address in reply, to the new leader of the Conservative party (Mr. Manion) and to the new members, although I think perhaps I should offer condolences rather than congratulations. I offer them to the new cabinet ministers. Their appointment particularly interested me. This choosing of cabinet ministers is a strange business. There must be some rules by which the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) decides who is to be appointed. I do not know what they are and I was wondering if some time he would not take the house into his confidence. We would then have some idea as to who were to be our future cabinet ministers.
I do not intend to follow the very eloquent speech of the hon. member who has just spoken (Mr. Homuth). He is new to this house, but has had legislative experience. There are only two things I would say to him. First, we did not have a riot in British Columbia when the Conservatives were in power, but there was one in Regina. I get no enjoyment out of saying this, but I think it is well for us to remember it. The other thing I want to say is that much as I would like to become enthusiastic over the trade treaties, my honest opinion is that if we heard nothing of them one way or another for six months we would never know they had been signed. I have waited so long for Canada to be relieved of its difficulties by means of trade treaties that I do not intend to be fooled by this one.
I do not intend to follow the speech from the throne paragraph by paragraph. I shall refer to only one subject in it. I intend to confine myself entirely to a few questions which seem important to me.
In these days of confusion and tragedy abroad one's mind turns to things at home, to things that one can understand. All over the world we are seeing liberty, freedom and personal security being swept away for thousands, yes even millions of people. We
JMr. Homuth.]
see democracy backing away before the onslaught of fascism. What surprises me more than anything else is the fact that the conscience of the world has been seared to such an extent that we can endure the tragedy of China, the betrayal of Czechoslovakia and the unparalleled agony of Spain without doing anything about it. We even see Great Britain and France, countries which we thought were great democracies, aiding the fascists to overthrow the Spanish government by means of the non-intervention pact. Quite apart from what was in our innermost hearts, we listened to the Prime Minister of Great Britain being lauded the world over in the name of peace, or this new word "appeasement", for having delivered democracy into the hands of the fascists in response to a gigantic bluff on the part of the greatest dictator of them all. In many countries we see thousands of people who are striving to get away from fascism, who want to be allowed to enter the free democracies. An Austrian woman who was my guest yesterday told me that the actions of the leaders in the fascist countries did not break the spirits of the people as much as did the indifference of the democratic peoples like ourselves.
I feel that something has happened to the spirit of mankind when we can go about our daily tasks, even earnestly about the business of government, in days like this, unmoved by others' misery. As I said before, in despair we turn to things at home. I think it can be said that every hon. member of this house wants democracy in Canada. We want to save and perfect the democratic system, but I think we all realize that that cannot be done unless we solve the economic problems of the people. We must pass from a liberal democracy to a social democracy. In the last analysis a desperately driven people will be ready to give up liberty and freedom in search of economic security. As a matter of fact, there is no liberty and there is no freedom for a person who is absolutely destitute. We as members of the parliament of Canada must set ourselves resolutely to the task of solving the economic problems which face the Canadian people. I say in all seriousness that if we do not do this a harassed and bewildered and disillusioned people will turn from the democratic form of government to anything else that they think will give them economic security. In my opinion that other form of government will never be communism, but I think they are ready to consider some form of fascism unless we who are the guardians and trustees of democracy discharge well our duties.

The Address-Miss Macphail
If we really want to preserve democracy, and I believe we all do, we must be willing to forsake all artificial differences. We must be ready to acknowledge that up until now there have been artificial differences between members and parties in this house. We must be willing to get rid of them. It is true that in a democracy there must be free expression of opinion. The beauty of democracy is the fact that we are free to advocate different solutions to a problem. But surely we have reached the time when we should be willing to vote in support of that in which we believe. Surely we have reached the time when we should not be looking for either personal or party glorification in what we do. We should be willing to support the things in which we believe, no matter by whom they are suggested or by whom they are supported.
As I listened to the speeches delivered in the opening days of this session by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Manion), whom we all welcome again to this house, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), I felt that there was danger in the fact that the people of Canada will believe the unkind things they said about each other and about each other's policies. That is exactly what has happened. When the terrible row between the Prime Minister and Mr. Hepburn was on -in my opinion it is still on-I heard many people in my constituency say, "Well, at least we are hearing some truth now"; that is, they thought each was telling the truth about the other. I say in all seriousness it is time we stopped political scrapping and settled down as honest people to find solutions for the problems which are besetting and wearing down the spirit of our Canadian people, because I think in Canada we cannot afford to lessen the confidence of the people in our members of parliament and public men and in our parliamentary institutions. In simpler days-and one can look back to seventeen years ago and regard them now as simpler days, when there were not the pressing problems we have to-day-there was an interest taken in the rough-and-tumble of political strife between the leaders and members of different [DOT] political parties. Nobody minded that very much then. I think perhaps the country even took an interest in it, but I again say in all seriousness that that day is done.
When I heard the speeches of the first day or two at the opening of the session I thought: Can it be tiue that we must all session hear this drivel again? When you come from places where you see people who do not know what they are going to do to live, who have not
houses, who have not clothes, who cannot educate their children, who do not know where the next meal is coming from, and then come here and see people with fine abilities- because I am not one of those who think that members of parliament have not ability; I think they have-use those fine abilities in a verbal battle over non-essentials, it seems to me nothing but a complete waste of time. If we are to save democracy the only kind of partisans we can afford from now on are partisans in favour of democracy, both political and economic.
There are only two subjects on which I shall speak, and the first is agriculture. I feel that we can do more towards solving unemployment and a great many of our other problems in Canada by restoring the purchasing power of the farmer than we can do by any other method. In Canada we have some 728,623 farms, and it is true of almost every farm family that they cannot buy the goods they need; and we have idle machines, unemployed workers, and a drift of rural youth to the cities and into white-collared jobs and into the professions, if that is possible.
Agriculture until now has been asked to buy in a protected market, and not only a protected market but a market restricted in many ways, and to sell in a non-protected market. Farmers have been asked to pay exorbitant prices for farm machinery. I am sure no other industry passing through such times as agriculture is experiencing would have been asked to pay such high prices and to stand such a high tariff on their implements of production. Farmers have been asked to pay high prices for the goods and services which they require, and the high prices which they had to pay were very largely the result of the regulating of supply to meet effective demand. And yet the farmer, because he had this mounting overhead, went on produeir-more and more goods without any consideration for the effective demand for his goods.
Farmers have been asked to pay high interest rates. Even the farm loan board-I am grateful to have it as it is, but it could be so much better-charges the farmers five per cent. That is too much, because agriculture cannot pay five per cent. Since I have been in this house the farmers in western Canada have been charged, by various discounting methods, rates as high as twelve per cent. Farmers have suffered very much from a tight money policy. During the last administration, when we could have benefited as Australia and New Zealand and the Argentine did by valuing the British pound at close to six dollars, it was quoted here at only $3.75, and that did very much to impoverish agriculture in Canada.
The Address-Miss Macphail

What immigrants we took in, and I think we ought now to consider very carefully taking in people from countries from which all sense of humanity has gone, agriculture in the last few years has been asked to absorb- not labour, not the professions, not business, but agriculture. The result is, and it need hardly be mentioned, that we have had such an overplus of agricultural products that prices have dropped lower and lower and for a period of years now our farmers have been selling their products below the cost of production. I notice that Mr. Robert Gardiner, at the convention of the United Farmers of Alberta, a few days ago, had this to say, and I am quoting from the Western Farm Leader of January 20, at page 2:
It is time that the government and the people of Canada realize that they cannot forever expect that the primary producer will be content to continue to produce new wealth at a loss a loss which means economic insecurity, hardship and debt for the farmer and his family.
All this, of course, has resulted in certain things. It has resulted in farm mortgages being a drug on the market; nobody wants to invest his money in a farm mortgage. Even farm buildings show the decadent agriculture we have to-day. You do not need to be able to read to know the present condition of agriculture. All you need to do is to drive along country roads and see the farm dwellings in need of repair, old buildings falling down, unpainted houses, houses where just the trim needs painting and even that not done; farm homes, the great majority of them, without the comforts and conveniences which even people of small means in the city think are essential. We see farmers working very hard and getting very little pay. We see farmers suffering for lack of medical and dental care. We see a vastly increasing number of cases of high blood pressure and heart disease among our agriculturists. This, Mr. Speaker, cannot go on forever. The farmers are rousing themselves again. They go into long sleeps, and they are now just emerging from one.
The farmer in Canada knows that there were thirty-three acts passed by the British parliament, during the last seven or eight years, having to do with agriculture and tending to raise the price of agricultural products, so that the British farmer did not have to sell below the cost of production. Our farmers see that the farmer in Britain gets $1.30 a bushel for his wheat, in France $1,50, in Italy $2, and in Germany $2.50; and the farmer in Canada, and certainly the farmer of Ontario, feels that something must be done about it.

The first thing that must be done, and the only thing that the farmer can do for himself, is to organize farmers so completely that there will be one body that can speak for agriculture.
I hear farmers talking for the first time m favour of producing for a known market. They see that other countries which used to buy our farm products do not do so any longer. They regret that there are people in Canada who would like to buy cream and eggs, steaks, cereals, chickens-all the things that go to make up a good table-but who cannot afford them. I saw in the Journal of, 1^ think, last night, that a man living at North Bay died of voluntary starvation in order that his wife and children might eat. That happened in this country, where we have such surpluses that we do not know what to do with them. But the farmer is coming to recognize the meaning of these great surpluses, and although he would like to see them consumed by needy people in urban places and the needy who are to be found sometimes in country places, he cannot afford to produce for nothing. He cannot afford to give the goods to the people who need them. So for the first time in his life the Ontario farmer, and I think I can say the Canadian farmer, is coming to the conclusion that what he must do is to produce goods for a known market; that is, to estimate how much the market will absorb and produce that much and no -more.

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