November 30, 1909 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)



(Translation.) Mr. Speaker,- allow me to explain briefly my personal views on the question which is now under consideration before this House. Two years ago the Canadian parliament ratified the main convention respecting the commercial relations between France and Canada. Since then, general elections were held in this country, and I do not think that a single one of the members who then voted in favour of the ratification of that treaty has been subjected, to the least blame at the hands of the electorate.
Now, as this treaty is already ratified, there only remains to ratify the supplementary convention. I would he curious to know in what position we should find ourselves were we to refuse ratifying this convention. Is it not true that it would result in bringing again into question everything done so far by parliament and in putting an end to the treaty itself? I have come to this conclusion that it is our duty to ratify the measure voted upon by the House two years ago, a measure which the people did approve of at the general elections, and which the French Chambers themselves did sanction at the beginning of this year. Otherwise, we would have to fall back on the convention of 1893.
The question now under discussion is whether the supplementary convention which is before us is so detrimental to our interests that we should undo or abrogate what we have done so far in connection with the main convention.
It is true that the supplementary convention involves a change in the commercial convention of September 19. 1907, but should such a modification prevent us from ratifying the treaty? I do not think so. That modification is the consequence of the -general policy of the French government. Their policy is one of strenuous protection, while we are living under a regime of mitigated protection. It is easily understood that when it was proposed to give a preference to the products of the farm, as for example, in the case of animals in fat condition for butchery; the French agricultural interests were alarmed

by those concessions to Canada and they made representations to the members of the French Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate against that provision of the treaty which was threatening their interests. Such was the capital objection raised against the treaty. It was. held, on good ground, that such a preference which was being granted to the Canadian agriculturists would result in creating a most detrimental competition to the French peasant. Undoubtedly, the shipping to the French market of cattle fattened on our farms would have dealt a very severe blow to similar products of the agricultural French industry. I see here a compliment paid to our Canadian farmer, to his enterprise and his activitv.
The alarm felt was well grounded and justifiable. The granting of a preferential tariff to the Canadian farmer was withheld, in order not to trouble the economy of French agricultural interests. I believe that such a policy, considered from the standpoint of protection, such as it is being applied in France, is warranted. I am one of those who approve of the position taken by the hon. Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) and by the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Brodeur), who both represented us in France, as concerns their agreeing to that supplementary convention.
As the withholding of assent to that convention would have resulted in bringing us back to the convention of 1893, our plenipotentiaries, as the hon. member for Terrebonne (Mr. Nantel) has well said, have acted with wisdom in following the footsteps of their predecessors, and endeavouring to enlarge our commercial relations with France, in proportion to the immense development taken by our trade, our manufacturing and agricultural industries, during the last fifteen years. Our government have so well grasped the situation that they were the first to open negotiations and to take such necessary steps as were calculated to meet the needs of our trade.
On the other hand, we could hardly expect to reap all the benefits accruing from that convention, without giving anything in return. What we have received is some compensation for what we did give. I agree that we do not gain any new advantage as concerns the export of our cattle in fat condition for the butchery, but neither did we lose anything, seeing that we remain under the regime created by the treaty of 1893, with the hope, as expressed by the minister, of bettering our position in a more or less remote future.
Meanwhile, we ought to benefit by the lesson which our French cousins have been teaching to such of us who represent here rural constituencies. Let no opportunity pass without our endeavouring to promote the interests of our constituents, of that 24i .
agricultural class which constitute the sinews and backbone of the country and to whom are entrusted the primordial rights of our social and political economy.
Further, let us Temember that this treaty confers upon us advantages which largely make up for the apparent loss of benefits as respects our farm products. If it be true that the failure to ratify this supplementary convention would result in placing us again under the regime of the treaty of 1893, it is altogether out of the question that we would lose at once the benefits accruing to us from the main treaty as regards French literature, whether under that name come in sciences, law or political economy, whether it relates to works of fiction, &e. Thanks to our plenipotentiaries, under the new treaty we enjoy that advantage which Great Britain alone so far had been enjoying under the preferential tariff. Henceforward, the duty on literature of a lighter character, such as works of fiction printed in France are to pay 15 per cent, instead of the former rate of 25 per cent. As to works of a more serious character, books f science and political economy, the duty of 10 per cent is reduced to 5 per cent. It is then a foregone conclusion that henceforth French literature and English literature are to be placed at our disposal under identical conditions, and so we shall receive light from the two most powerful centres of intellectual activity in this twentieth century. .
This provision is of an immense value to us from the standpoint of the intellectual development of our youth, the more so as nowadays those literary works of first necessity are out of our reach in this country. We have had so far to. go to the fountain-heads of science, art and literature to supply our wants. Thanks to the lowered duties, all that wealth shall henceforth be within our r.each.
I may be allowed to say further, in this connection, that outside of France itself, Canada is tne only country in the world where those treasures of the French genius can be thoroughly appreciated. Therefore, in addition to such material advantages, we shall enjoy invaluable benefits in the intellectual sphere.
It behooves-us therefore to ratify the supplementary convention to the French Canadian treaty, within the shortest time, so as to fully benefit- by this treaty.

Topic:   W. S. FIELDING.
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