November 21, 1940 (19th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Louis-Philippe Picard



I am opposed to that
imperialism which places the empire above Canada. I am for Canada first; I place Canada above all. Canada should play her part in the empire, but we should not lose sight of the interests of Canada.

The Address-Mr. Picard
The hon. member for Souris referred to patronage. I think patronage can be judged by the way the public contracts are awarded and by the way in which employment is given in connection with government contracts and government enterprises. Speaking of that part of the country that I know best, Quebec, I must state that my hon. friend seems to know very little of what has happened there. As a Liberal member of parliament I am rather ashamed, but I must admit that half, if not more government contracts have gone to Conservative firms. This is due to the fact that the government follows a policy of granting contracts to the lowest bidders. I know that some of my friends are far from satisfied with this state of affairs, but I think it answers the objections of the hon. member. If he could be present in the office of a Liberal member in the city of Quebec on Saturday morning he would hear quite a different story. He would hear Liberal supporters complaining that they cannot get work in the arsenal at Quebec or elsewhere. It is easy to make complaints, but I think if we examine closely the way in which these contracts have been dealt with we will find that it is quite different from what the hon. member stated.
Some hon. members have referred to the scarcity of trained men and women for munitions work. I do not want to deal with the matter at any length, but I contend that the blame for this condition might be laid at the door of Canadian industry. They have never bothered to form technicians and never properly planned their work in order to avoid periods of slackness and periods of overtime work in order to make available a continuous supply of skilled and trained people. They have never followed the practice adopted by many large United States corporations to have schools to prepare skilled labourers. We are suffering now from the lack of prevision of the captains of industry. In 1929 we were shown the imprevision of the financiers, but throughout crisis has continued the imprevision of great industrialists. Those who sometimes object to the control which the government is taking over industry would not have rendered it necessary had they seen fit to act differently in the past.
This matter of trained men brings up a point of concern to my own district. The rural electors in the districts around Quebec have been left out when employment has been given at Valeartier and the Quebec arsenal. Many of the rural people have worked in factories and quite often they are more skilled than the unemployed of the cities who have been given work. This may be a good policy in order to deal with unemployment,
but I contend that those who bear an equal burden of the taxation should be given a chance to work. I submit this to the ministers at large of the Department of National Defence and ask them to look into the matter and reconsider their first decision.
Some members have referred to the necessity for economy in the ordinary expenditures of the government. I agree that this should be done, but on the other hand there is a point below which we should not go. For some time I was connected with one of the departments of the government and I can remember how the heads of the different branches used to prepare their estimates. Those estimates were generally cut by ten to fifteen per cent by the treasury board, and yet the original amounts were considered as being necessary to carry on the administration of the department. It is easy to understand that the Department of Justice and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police should have their estimates increased rather than lowered due to the special work that is being carried on. The same thing applies to the Department of Agriculture. I have received many letters from my constituents complaining that demonstration farms have been closed. This has been done because of the policy of retrenchment and economy. I wonder if we are serving the country as it should be served when we do not give our farmers the help they used to get, the help they are entitled to get in bettering their production and their efforts in agriculture. I do not think that the estimates of this department should be lowered.
The same thing applies to the Department of Trade and Commerce. Not all our factories are turning out war supplies. Many of our foreign markets are closed, and they certainly are becoming fewer. Through its intelligence service this department can do much to help us find new markets. I think the estimates should be kept where they are because it is to the advantage of the country to carry on. We should not ruin our national economy by lowering expenditures to a point where it becomes dangerous. This war can be waged successfully if things go well in Canada, if everything is administered to the satisfaction of the majority and in an efficient manner to continue the national well-being.
The hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon) made one suggestion with which I agree absolutely. It was that letters to members of the Canadian army should be sent free of charge. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General (Mr. Mulock) will agree that letters from a man's parents and friends and so on should be sent free of charge,

The Address-Mr. Picard

but I think parcels which bring cheer to a man should be sent without costs to the sender. There are many enlisted men whose families have very little personal means. While it may be fairly easy for them to send a piece of cake or some other small gift, when it comes to paying forty or fifty cents postage on a parcel it cuts into their budget quite deeply and they hesitate to send it. The man overseas wonders if his friends have forgotten him. Perhaps it could be arranged to have parcels of a certain size sent free of charge, either through the different units of the army or otherwise. If the government wants to include letters in this scheme, I am all for it. Many of these men have been away from home a long time and they deserve every encouragement they can get from those of us who are in comparative safety in this land across the sea.
Perhaps I may be permitted to take up a few matters which are of interest to my own constituency. I notice many hon. members have done this. I should like to refer first to the taxation imposed last year which was of particular interest to my people. Although taxes in general were increased, they were accepted with true patriotism by everybody throughout the country. However, I must mention three of them which did not seem to please everybody. The first one, and in this respect I think even my western friends will agree with me, is the tax on flour. In eastern Canada, including my own constituency, many complaints have been received about this tax, which is on a necessity. Against taxes on a great many luxuries we could not have a good argument, but everybody needs flour. Western farmers want to sell their wheat, and we in the east want to eat bread. The minister might consider whether something cannot be done about that.
Another point I should like to bring out in connection with taxation concerns the way in which the tax on electricity is collected. At present it is collected on the cost of the electricity, which is far from being a fair system of collection. I understand that national taxation has as its basis the greatest possible degree of equality and justice. Well, if this tax is to be judged upon that principle we are far from acting with justice, because some provinces, amongst them my own, pay more for electricity than others do. The basis of taxation might be on consumption, on the kilowatt hour, as was mentioned, I think, last year by the hon. member for Champlain (Mr. Brunelle), who did not quite agree with the remark of the then Minister of Finance (Mr. Ralston) that if such a change were made, those who pay less, because the price of electricity was lower
IMr. Picard.]
in their provinces, might object. That is an argument, but it is not an argument of justice, because consumption is the basis upon which a tax should be collected.
Another tax which may not be so strongly objected to by others as it is among my people, is that on raw leaf tobacco. Raw leaf is smoked mostly in the province of Quebec, and before the imposition of the tax that tobacco was sold at about fifteen cents a pound. The tax of ten cents a pound which was imposed on it nearly doubled the price. I do not suppose I shall get so much sympathy from hon. members from other provinces, because they are not interested in the matter, but so far as we are concerned that tax has been quite a burden on the farmer who uses only raw leaf tobacco. When he heard that this tax was being imposed he provided himself with a few months' supply, but that supply is getting lower and lower, and he will soon be coming to us with complaints about the levying of this tax. If we base taxation on broad national lines, this tax on raw tobacco does not quite comply with that principle of taxation, because I am told by statisticians that the greater part of this tobacco is consumed in the province of Quebec.
Another point with which I want to deal briefly at the moment is that of the period of training under the mobilization scheme. Complaints have been voiced that one month is not enough. However, I have met many officers who were more than satisfied with the progress made. Some of my constituents have been called; they have answered willingly, and I am proud to say here that in my own constituency not one man has come to me to ask for any sort of exemption. All of them went Cheerfully, because they knew they were going for Canada and they knew they were going to train for the defence of their country. But the talk has been that one month is not enough. It may be so. I would only suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the scheme should be carried on for a year until the men who are liable to this service-I believe, from twenty-one to thirty-five years-have each undergone one month of training. That would carry the scheme along until, probably, September of 1941. If it should appear to be inadequate, those who were called up first could be recalled for a second period of either two or three months, if necessary; but I share the view of one hon. member who was in the Canadian active service force, the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Chambers), that one and a half months would be sufficient. However, I am not a judge of such matters. But I think the scheme should be carried on as it is until the unmarried man reaches the

The Address-Mr. Picard
age of thirty-five years. If we rely upon what has been stated by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1942-43 is the year when we shall need men for the battle. Our men might have time to be trained by then, and if they are now trained for one month and given a taste for the army, more might enlist than if they were kept there for four months and become tired and fed up with it.
Before I turn to other matters, may I mention something which was said here the other night, which did not quite please me. It was stated by one of my own friends, the hon. member for Rimouski (Mr. d'Anjou). He said:
I listened the other night to the excellent speech given in French by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Chambers). In my opinion, the hon. member thereby gave a lesson to a great many members from the province of Quebec who, either through snobbery or for other reasons unknown to me, rarely speak French in this house. When one wishes to preserve a right, it has always been my belief that he must exercise it.
I do not think I am much of a snob, and I do not believe that speaking either English or French is any kind of snobbery one way or the other. It is just a way of expressing one's thoughts, and when we feel that to speak in one particular language would enable us to reach more persons, it is logical to use it when we are able to do so. If it were a question of right. I would be the first one to fight to the limit to have that right respected and granted to me. But once I have the right, must I use it all the time; may I not use my right to speak in another language? I do not believe that the hon. member for Rimouski understood the lesson to be drawn from the speech of the hon. member for Nanaimo. He should realize that if an English-speaking member makes an effort to speak in this house in French, it indicates that he wants to show his good-will. One peculiar characteristic of English-speaking people is that usually they do not care to show that they are not perfect in anything. I know quite a number of people, friends of mine, who can carry on quite competently in French, but because they cannot speak perfectly in that language they do not care to speak it in public at all. So it seems to me that the hon. member for Nanaimo was quite brave when he went ahead and spoke in French; and rather than blame French-speaking members for speaking in English, my hon. friend from Rimouski should draw a totally different lesson from the excellent speech of my deskmate.
Since my arrival in Ottawa for the present session I have been asked by many people what were the reactions in French Canada
concerning the collapse of France and the incident of Oran. In dealing briefly with this question I shall bear in mind what the. Prime Minister said in his speech on the address:
I do not think we can be too careful in this House of Commons about what any of us say with regard to other countries and their position at this time in the matter of war.
Later in his speech he stated:
I appeal to hon. members in the house and I appeal to my fellow-countrymen in all parts of the dominion to bear always in mind the task which Canada alone can perform in keeping hope alive in the hearts of the grief-stricken people of France. Let no word from Canadian lips add to the agony of her open wounds. Let us inflict no new pain, and let us be ever watchful to exercise the healer's art.
I will do my best, in the few minutes I want to speak on this question, not to forget the advice of the Prime Minister.
The people of Quebec remember with joy the appeal which was made to them a few days after the collapse of France by the Prime Minister, when he asked them to keep alive French love for liberty and for freedom and French culture, and to help prevent the widening of the gap between France and Britain. The way the Prime Minister treated this question in his speech on the address has won for him further admiration in Quebec.
The tragedy of F'rance, as it has been called, can be studied from many angles. But from whatever angle we look at it, it is advisable to avoid extremes. Trying to pin the responsibilities on one political group or another is a silly game that can lead only to bitterness, and I can hardly hide my contempt for those French writers of the right who try to convince us that the leftists led the country to its downfall, and my contempt for the French writers of the left, who explain to us the negotiations of the rightists with the enemies of the state. Many of these writers might be more persuasive if they were less abusive.
It is childish to talk of the unworthiness of French statesmen. Anybody who has been in touch with European politics will vouch for the fact that they were as good, often better, and never any worse than those of other continental countries.
It is naive to talk of deserved punishment for the sins of France. France has always been the land of true proportions and of moderation: "le pays de la mesure," as we say in French. It was the home of highly developed individualism, which was the product of a vast general culture in all fields of intellectual endeavour. An analysis of the French collapse is too complicated a matter
The Address-Mr. Picard

to be made curtly and sharply as it is by some ill-informed people, and moreover it cannot be done within the scope of my remarks.
For us, June 16 was a sad day, when France failed in her word to Britain. We felt badly about it and felt it was a mistake on the part of those who influenced the decisions of Bordeaux. I was of opinion that M. Reynaud, M. Herriot, President Lebrun and all those who shared their views were in the right in -wishing to continue the fight from Africa. Personally I think that those who influenced the decision to abandon the British alliance will have an extremely heavy responsibility thrown upon them when history is written. We must remember, however, that it is difficult to judge of the situation from the comparative safety of our shores. We must remember that on June 16 France was alone in the defence of her soil, and also that she *did not have the English channel between herself and the motorized war machine of Hitler. No matter how severely we may judge that man Laval, we must believe that France's great hero who is now her leader acted with sincerity. He is now a prisoner of his first mistakes, but his patriotism is a guarantee that he cannot be blinded to the true interests of France. We should therefore reserve our judgment on any moves of Vichy as reported in the press until they are confirmed by positive facts and we can know their full meaning. We must rely, sir, on the fact that the sentiment of the majority of France will prevail in the mind of its leader and that ways will be found to prevent a clash with Britain. But even should matters come to the worst, no one need fear anything about the sentiments of French-Canadians. They will be more than ever on the side of democracy and its valiant defender, Britain.
I was told a few days ago that there was in Montreal a self-styled "man of good-will" going round interviewing people with regard to the incident of Oran, and I understand that he expressed the view that French-Canadians had been terribly offended by that incident. I suggest that he did not meet the proper people, because, no matter how much we may dislike the publicity given to this matter, we admit the necessity for it and we would still say, "Go ahead and do it again," if it had to be done again. We consider that it was in the interest of Canada because it was in the interest of Britain. French-Canadian loyalty has been tested many times in the past. If I remember rightly, it was in 1776 when the American revolution was in progress that Lafayette and d'Estaing came over to America and sent emissaries to the French-Canadians with an appeal for help to the colonists in

revolt. It was only seventeen years after the fall of Quebec, and yet French-Canadians turned a deaf ear to that appeal and stood by Britain. They did not participate in the struggle against the crown at that time. In 1812, French-Canadians again proved their loyalty to the crown, and at Chateauguay, there was a battalion of Voltigeurs led by de Salaberry on the side of the English.
Many ill-informed references have been made to the incidents of 1837. That was not a revolt against the crown; it was not a movement in favour of the enemy; it was merely a fight for the recognition of constitutional principles in Canada, in which Upper and Lower Canada participated.
Even in our day, Mr. Speaker, there have been stronger provocations than the necessary incident of Oran which have tested the patience of French-Canadians. They do not have to moan about that African incident when in their own land, in their own province, my compatriots have been hurt. A long and sad story could be written of the lack of fair play shown by certain elements of the majority. Mind you, sir, I am not referring to this house, where the most satisfactory atmosphere exists. I am not referring to the government, who have shown more understanding and good-will than any administration that has preceded them. I am referring to the civil service of Canada, here in Ottawa, and more so in the federal service in the province of Quebec. I am pointing to the great public service companies like the Bell Telephone company, the Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway in relation to their services and their employees in that province. I am pointing to all other agencies or companies of a public nature who derive their revenues from services to the French-speaking population and fail to recognize that population in the allotment of their favours and in the performance of certain of their services. Take the war effort of the country. We call for equality of sacrifice. Do we have equality in the benefits that accrue from war contracts and the direction of the industrial effort of the nation? Some of these daily occurrences are meat for the extremists and a few agitators and are more important than the incident of Oran.
We have a long way to go and there is much to be done to bring about a satisfactory situation. But, Mr. Speaker, never have these just grievances affected French-Canadian loyalty in the past, and happily it is still time to bring about remedies. We are sure that in the end everyone will realize that our country can be made great only by the

The Address-Mr. Nicholson
unity of its component races, and that unity is never reached by one-sided advantages. Unity can be reached, not by coercion but by good-will and understanding, and I have been preaching the necessity for cooperation whenever I have had occasion, in my short public life, to address the people whom I represent. I say to you to-day, sir, let us all work to this end.
It has been a consolation to us, throughout
our history, to have, in the other race which constitutes the majority, friends who understood us and shared in some of our views. It has been a pleasure to see the gradual growth of conciliatory sentiment in the political life of the country and in our universities. There is no more reason for Canadians of pure French descent to have what we call love in the true sense of the word for England than there is for English-speaking Canadians to have a love for France; but there is a common ground on which we can meet, it is our love for Canada our country which our forefathers have built, for which they fought in the past, for which we are ready to fight now. This is the common ground on which we all should meet.
French-Canadians have always respected Britain, and they have been grateful for the political institutions that have been bestowed upon them by Britain, based on freedom, selfgovernment and justice.
In conclusion I wish to state that since the battle of Britain started, the splendid behaviour, the determined and stubborn courage, the heroism of the civilian population of Britain, the magnificent performance of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, have provoked throughout the province of Quebec the deepest and most profound admiration for Britain and the most sincere affection for our sovereigns.

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