February 28, 1911 (11th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)



I never found anybody on the other side of the House to follow on the temperance question. Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt of the importance of this -question. There is no doubt that a change in the tariff, embracing a considerable number of items as this does, is a matter of importance, of sufficient importance for anybody to change his party allegiance upon it. But one or two things that my hon. friend said, I would like to refer to at once. Very early in his remarks, he said that there was no general demand in Canada for reciprocity in the last forty years. I venture to take direct issue with him on that point. He acknowledged that the Liberal party had been in favour of reciprocity for many of those years. But he implied, though he did not say it, that the Liberal party, in that respect was alone in the country. But I am within the judgment of the House and the country when I say-and before I sit down I propose to prove-that the Conservative party of Canada has always been in favour of reciprocity with the United States. Therefore, when my hon. friend from Brandon says the Liberal party have been in favour of reciprocity, and I can prove that the Conservative party have been in favour of it, it is idle for him to say that Canada has not been in favour of it.
My hon. friend speaks about comparative prices. I propose, in a' few minutes, to give comparative prices in Canada and in the United States of things which are affected by this arrangement. But I am going at once to express my difference with him in his statement that the government of the day were not informed upon this question, and had not taken the utmost pains to inform themselves in regard to every detail of this arrangement. In the first place, this arrangement was . in the hands of the Finance Minister (Mr. Fielding) and the Minister of Customs (Mr. Paterson) of Canada. It is well known that on two occasions especially, the government of Canada, through a committee of its members, held an exhaustive and careful examination into the tariff affairs of the country. Before the tariff of 1897 was brought down to the House, the government adopted the policy, which had never been adopted by our opponents, of taking the people into counsel, of going through the length and breadth of the country and affording every class and every interest an opportunity to come before them and give their opinions upon the question at issue. In 1905, before the last revision of the tariff took place, the same thing was done. I venture to say that in no way could men obtain a more complete grasp of th'e tariff conditions and tariff interests of Canada than by such means. And the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Customs took a leading part in both those investi-

gations. In addition to that, year by year -I might say week by week-the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Customs receive representations, by delegation and otherwise, of industries which are interested in the tariff. That is a privilege which nobody else to the same extent can possibly enjoy, an advantage which they only possess; and it is infinitely superior to any information which can possibly be obtained by any other men in the Dominion, I care not wno they may be. It is true-my hon. friend (Mr. Sifton) has spoken of it-that certain manufacturing interests may know their own business and may come before the ministers and deal with those particular interests. It is true that the transportation companies know their own particular business as well as the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Customs. But not one of these people can know the whole interests of the country in anything like the degree that these are known bv the ministers who have charge of these interests on behalf of the government and the country. There is this difference between responsible ministers of the Crown and these people who come here and make representations to them ; the latter come, as is the fashion of business men, looking at the subject from their own particular standpoint ; whereas responsible ministers of the Crown have to look at these things from all sides, and make comparisons and institute investigations as to what may be the incidence of each change in the tariff, not only upon a particular item but upon all the items, and all the interests of the country. That is the position of the gentlemen who negotiated this arrangement at Washington, a position which is not only absolutely defensible, but which is altogether unassailable.
The hon. member spoke about a reciprocity policy as having been abandoned by the government for many years back. That is very easily explained. My right hon. friend the leader of the government, after negotiations in Washington in 1898-9, came back having failed to obtain that reciprocity from the American government and people which w'e had hoped for, and my right hon. friend said, wisely, I think, there will be no more pilgrimages to Washington. I think it may be said that the whole Canadian people were at his back in that stand. But that did not mean that the people of Canada would not be ready to accept overtures from Washington. My hon. friend from Brandon was a member of the government and one of the leaders of the Liberal party, when that government declared through its head that there would be no more pilgrimages to Washington, that Washington would have to come to Ottawa. It did not mean, if Washington came to Otta-wa in a reasonable and friendly spirit that Ottawa would Mr. FISHER.
reject the offered hand, that Ottawa would not be glad to enter into an arrangement that would promote friendly sentiments and greater commercial intercourse between us and our great neighbours to the south. Sir, what has led up to this? My hon. friend seemed to say that we were entirely to blame for the initiation of this question. Nothing is further from the case. What was the condition of affairs last session between Canada and the United States? There was no question then of reciprocity. But we had this condition of affairs, that the Payne-Aldrich tariff of the United States contained an article which empowered the president, nay, which commanded the president, in case other <so untries has legislation discriminating against the United States, to proclaim against those countries a maximum tariff, a tariff which meant absolute non-intercourse, in the case of Canada. Now I ' would like to ask my hon. friends opposite,
I would like to ask my hon. friend from Brandon, whether they think that this government, responsible to the people of Canada, would have been justified in allowing that non-intercourse to come into effect if it could be avoided, that they would have been justified in casting back into the teeth of the executive of the United States, the greatest commercial nation in the world, the invitation which was made to us to come to some arrangement which would avoid the necessity of proclaiming non-intercourse? Surely neither the leader of the opposition nor the member for Brandon would dare to take that position. I think they have not studied the effects that were sure to follow from such a course upon the prosperity and progress commercially of the people of Canada.
In this connection I may refer to another incident, in our history, an incident which occurred some years ago at a time when the Conservative party ruled this country, and when a threat of nonintercourse was held over our heads then as there was last year. What was the action of the Conservative government on that occasion? Did they lightly defy the threat of non-intercourse? Did they say to the people of the United States: We
do not care what you do? I allude to the condition of affairs in 1888 when, by reason of the seizures of American fishing vessels on our Atlantic coast a non-intercourse Act having been passed by Congress, the government of Sir John A. Macdonald did not wait for overtures from the United States, but they appealed to the executive of that country to enter into negotiations which would obviate the imposition of a non-intercourse edict. What was that non-intercourse edict? I have it here. After covering a large number of

points in regard to the fisheries, the edict went on to this effect:
And also to deny the entry into any port or place of the United States of fresh fish or salt fish or any other product of the said Dominions or other countries coining from the said Dominions to the United States.
It was absolute prohibition. Now what was the conduct of the then Conservative government? I remember it well, I was in the House at that time, my hon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) was here also, the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) was sitting on the government side of the House, as were also the hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Haggart), and the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Taylor). I remember well when Sir Charles Tupper, then Finance Minister, came back from Washington, and in his speech which I have under my hand, advised the House of Commons to accept what is known as the Chamberlain-Bayard Treaty in regard to the fisheries. They did not ignore the situation, they did not defy the Americans on the contrary they sought to reach a treaty between Canada and her great neighbour. Let me say a word or two about that. Sir Charles Tupper was joined in Washington by Mr. Chamberlain in the negotiation of the treaty. They had some difficulties, and as Sir Charles Tupper said, they had to make concessions, and they did *iake concessions. We have today in existence one of the concessions which they made, it is what is called the modus vivendi.
That was made not as a part of the treaty, but as an adjunct to it; so that, if by chance the treaty itself did not go into effect, the modus vivendi would continue for the purpose of removing friction between the two nations and of preventing a recurrence of the situation with regard to the fisheries. Sir Charles Tupper went to Washington and this is what he says about the condition of affairs:
After the statement of the President of the United States in his message of 1885, asking for a commission, after the letters which passed between Mr. Bayard and myself, you will readily understand that I went there expecting and looking forward to a settlement of this question on very much the same lines as those upon which it had been settled in 1854, and to some extent, in 1871.
You see that Sir Charles Tupper declares his intention of securing a fisheries and reciprocity treaty on the lines of the treaty of 1854.
I am right in saying that the instructions with which I was charged by this government were to obtain, if it was possible, as near an approach to the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 as I could obtain, that is, the policy of carrying out free exchange in the natural products of the two countries. 1*1?)
And yet my hon. friend (Mr. Sifton), a few minutes ago, said that Canada was not in favour, and had not been in favour of reciprocity. Here .is the evidence of Sir Charles Tupper, that in 1888 he went to Washington for the purpose of getting reciprocity.
I was to urge that policy, and I think you will have no doubt as to the course pursued by me after reading the proposition that I made in the conference on the 3rd December, 1887:
Sir Charles Tupper begged leave to submit a note containing the following proposal from the British plenipotentiaries. That with a view of removing all causes of difference in connection with the fisheries, it is proposed by Her Majesty's plenipotentiaries that the fishermen of both countries shall have all the privileges enjoyed during the existence of the fishery articles of the Treaty of Washington, in consideration of mutual arrangement providing for greater freedom of commercial intercourse between the United States and Newfoundland.
I have proven up to the hilt that the condition of affairs in 1888 was just about what it was last winter, with the exception that in 1888 Canada went to Washington, whereas, last winter, Washington came to Canada. Sir Charles Tupper says again:
He turned our attention to the means by which it could he averted

That is non-interconrse.
-and those were the removal of the causes of irritation between the United States and Canada (for it was Canada rather than Great Britain that was referred to) and by removing those causes of irritation, and giving free scope to this policy to which they were committed, we believed that it would at a very early day give us everything that we could desire in the way of greater freedom of commercial intercourse.
Now, Sir, I said a few minutes ago that last winter we were face to face with a situation involving the possibility, in fact, almost the certainty of non-intercourse by reason of the maximum tariff of the Payne-Aldrich Bill being imposed upon Canada, if we did not give some excuse to the President for not proclaiming Canada as a country liable to have that part of the Bill applied to it. What was the condition in 1888 ? I have described it to you; it was practically the same. What did Sir Charles Tupper .say when he came back and recommended the adoption of his treaty to this parliament of Canada ? I do not think that I could as eloquently myself, describe what the results were

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