June 9, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)



The discussion is a very Interesting one, and I am sure will prove advantageous to the Minister of Trade and Commerce in considering the action to be taken. I may say that some portion of the information which the member for North Toronto suggests is already in the possession of the government, and we could, if necessary, furnish statistics showing the volume of business annually done by these particular vessels. But if it is thought well to have that branch of the departmental work made broader and fuller in the future, I have no doubt we will be able to get somewhat fuller statistics and interesting information. There is one other thought worth remembering, not as a reason for doing nothing, but to enable us to realize the difficulties, and that is that the West Indies are not large customers for the class of products which Canada is most anxious to make. Canada is making a high grade of goods, but the West Indies, after all, can only be a limited market for that class of goods, because, as is well known, the bulk of the population of the West Indies are coloured people who are not very wealthy, and they are not seeking for Manitoba hard wheat and the finest bacon and cheese which Canada makes. There is a limited demand for these things, but if we are to have a very extended trade in the West Indies for these goods, I am afraid we will have to work down instead of up and be prei>ared to sell goods cheaper. That is a difficulty in the way ; the bulk of the people there are poor. There is a smaller number of wdiite people who desire a better class of goods, but the merchant who sends goods to the West Indies is made aware of the fact that the people are generally poor. Many shippers will tell you that it is not profitable to send goods to the West Indies, because the people will not pay the prices they want. I suppose we are only human ; and if they desire cheaper goods, we will find some one in Canada to make them.

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