February 23, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Levi Thomson



My hon. friend cla .ms to be an expert in winning elections, but apparently he is not ah expert in winning his colleagues over. He has been a dead failure, so far as free wheat is concerned. We were told that when he went out West he had an open -mind on the subject, but he came back to Ottawa and apparently read an old speech of the Minister of Trade and Commerce which closed his mind, and then he heard the speech of the Minister of Finance the other day, and that put the locks and bars on it. He has no opinion of his own. He may win'elections, but he cannot carry his colleagues with him. They make a perfect tool of him-perhaps I should not say perfect, because I think he is a very imperfect one. I am always disposed, however, to take the Minister of Finance seriously, and I think most members of the House are. I read his argument very carefully, and I desire to make some brief references to it. I understand it is desired to take the vote to-night, and therefore I shall be as brief as possible, though I shall have to leave out some of the matters to which I intended to refer. The Minister of Finance acknowledged that the corresponding prices in the United States market are, on an average, better than our own. I gather that he is willing to admit that there might be some slight advantage to us in the matter of prices, but apparently he thinks that the disadvantages would be so great that it would not be wise to accede to our request. Before I leave the Minister of Public Works I should like to call attention to this remark in his speech:
I am sure that no hon. member in this House would say that the provision in the Underwood tariff giving us free access to the American market, on certain conditions, was made for the purpose of giving the Canadian producer of western Canada any special advantage.
I quite 'agree with that, but my hon. friend falls into the error which many people fall into, who think that if there is
any advantage to the other man there must be a disadvantage to them, and that if somebody else loses they must gain. If I want to buy anything I want to buy in such a way that both the buyer and the seller will gain, and if I want to sril I try to sell in such a way that both the seller and the purchaser will gain. I would not regard myself as a good citizen if I did otherwise. The same thing is true in regard to nations. He goes on to say:
It, therefore, becomes our special duty to give this question most earnest and careful consideration, in order to ascertain whether there is justification for the statement that the acceptance of this proposal would carry with it advantages to the farming community and to the people of Canada generally.
That is very grand, but I am very Sony that my hon. friend departed entirely from that high plane which he had set up for himself during his speech. He did not follow the principle that he was laying down.
I do not think that he, himself, imagines that he did. While the Minister of Finance was disposed to admit that there will be some gain to the Canadian farmer in the matter of price, he wanted to ease off that admission as far as he could and he carefully hand-picked some quotations as to the relative prices of grain and, after handpicking them, he carefully avoided any reference to cash prices. All his references were to futures. I am glad to see that the Minister of Finance is now in his place because I want to bring this matter to his attention. I say that after hand-picking quotations he goes on to try and ease off bis admission as to the difference in price between Canada and the United States and confines himself entirely to futures. The .farmers of the West are not dealing in futures. I have grown and sold quite a number of bushels of wheat in my life but I have never sold or bought one future, and what I say of myself is true of almost all farmers of the West. A few of them deal in futures and in May delivery for speculation just the same as my hon. friend might speculate if he felt like it, but when he confined himself entirely to futures and ignores cash sales, he shows, what is true of the whole ministry, that he is not thinking of the farmers, but of the speculators. The speculators are the men whose interests they are looking after and not ours.
I am quite prepared to agree with my hon. friend on some things and one is that you cannot absolutely say what the effect of any special legislation will be. You cannot tell absolutely what the effect of

this proposed legislation will be. You cannot tell precisely and mathematically what the effect of any legislation will be. Let me offer you one illustration of that. This is for the purpose of stating a general principle although we cannot say that it is on all fours with the present case. Supposing my hon. friend had a water trough, a foot deep, a foot wide and perfectly level. He places sufficient water in one end to fill half of the trough one foot high; he places sufficient water in the other end to fill that half of the trough six inches high. You then get an argument in regard to the matter which would lead one to believe that in the opinion of these gentleman the water throughout the entire length of the trough would rise to 12 inches or drop to six. My hon. friend knows' that neither of these things occur as a matter of fact. But he says that in trade matters this is the case and he chooses whichever side suits him; that is the trouble. While ' you can mathematically ascertain where the water will rise you cannot, as a matter of mathematics, tell exactly what the price of wheat will be if this legisla-5 p.m. tion is passed, or what the absolute effect will be, but you can conform to general principles.

Topic:   FREE WHEAT.
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