March 8, 1911 (11th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Lloyd Harris


Mr. LLOYD HARRIS (Brantford).

Mr. Chairman., I think that the question before the House and the country is perhaps the most important question that we have had to consider in Canada since confederation. I have one of the hardest tasks of my life allotted to me to-night, for the simple reason that I find I am not able to support the government on this important proposal. I have reached this conclusion with very considerable regret. It is not easy, I think every one will admit, to cast off party ties on an important issue of any kind, and I deeply regret the fact that I have been forced to the conclusion that I cannot support the government in this proposal, because I do not think the proposal is in the best interests of Canada. Ever since the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) made his announcement in this House, I have been endeavouring to get a sane and safe view from a Canadian standpoint as to the effect of this proposal on our present national life and on the future development of the national life of Canada. When the announcement was first made, I had a very strong impression that it wa3,.a departure from a policy which I had thought had been the policy of the Liberal party, but I also thought that it was a departure which would lead us into ways and in directions which _ would not he for the. future best welfare of Canada. At that time I was apparently alone on this side of the House because the announcement was greeted, I thought, with considerable enthusiasm on the part of members on this side, but since I find that the views I formed at that time are shared very largely by very many people throughout the country. I do not consider that all the brains of Canada are confined within the four walls of this room. I think there are men engaged in large undertakings who are just as good Canadians, who have just as good, and perhaps a great deal better opportunities of sizing up the real conditions in Canada and the real facts of an issue of this kind as we have in this House.
I have purposely refrained from making any public utterance on the question until I had an opportunity of listening to the right hon. the Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). I listened to him yesterday with a very great deal of interest and with a very great deal of pleasure. I think I might say that I have always been an admirer of the right hon. the Prime Minister. I have been very glad indeed to serve under him, because I think that he has done as much for Canada as any man whom we 154
have ever had here, and I listened yesterday with perhaps more admiration than I have ever had for him before for the simple reason that he made certainly a magnificent speech; he aroused the enthusiasm of our friends on this side of the House. He covered every aspect of the subject, excepting the one important one. I was glad to see the right hon. the Prime Minister very frank about this, because he frankly admitted that he was not a business man. I must confess that the only training I have eveT had has been along business lines and perhaps I look at things from too practical a standpoint, there may not ibe enough sentiment in my makeup. However, I think what we need in this country is a good practical business consideration and discussion of a measure of this kind before we allow it to become law. I had intended saying a few words on the amendment, which was introduced by the hion. the leader of the opposition (Mr. Borden) before the recess; I thought an opportunity would have been given for the members to speak on that after dinner.
Apart entirely from the economic features of this case, I have four good and sufficient reasons, at least they are sufficient for me, for opposing this measure. First of all I do not think that this government has any mandate from the people. The main arguments that have been advanced in favour of this measure have been the fact that this is an historic policy, a policy of both parties in Canada for the last 50 or 60 years. The Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) in making his announcement reviewed the history of the different negotiations which have taken place between Canada and the United States with reference to reciprocity between the two countries. Other speakers have done the same thing. I am not going to weary the House by going into the details of these different negotiations, but all the speakers who have touched upon the subject, have brought down the history of these negotiations from 1854, the time of the first treaty, to 1896. Since 1896 I do not think that any case has been made out. For my own part, I can only say that unfortunately I was. absent from Canada from 1889 to 1900 and have only been familiar with Canadian conditions and politics in the last 11 years, and I know positively that in that 11 years reciprocity has not been an issue with either party in this country. I have no mandate from the people of my own constituency to support this measure. If I go back to my own constituency and tell the people exactly what I think of the effect this is going to have on that particular constituency, and say that I have supported it, I do not think they will have any use for me in future.

Subtopic:   P. C. KNOX,
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