May 1, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Hon. S@

By Order in Council, under authority of the War Measures Act, the Government, on 16th April, placed upon the free list three commodities, wheat, wheat flour and semolina, and by that action brought into operation the provision of the Underwood Tariff under which wheat and wheat products from the coun-' try taking such action become entitled to free entry to the markets of the United States. The matter was not referred to in the Budget but my hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) has moved an amendment, and it is to that amendment and to the subject of free wheat that I purpose for a short time to give consideration. It seems to me that the position taken by hon. gentlemen opposite with reference to this action of the Government in placing wheat, wheat flour and semolina on the free list is a most extraordinary one. These hon. gentlemen have asserted for the last three years-the Underwood Tariff having come into effect in October, 1913-that they were in favour of free wheat. One would have thought that when the Government took the action which has been taken these hon. gentlemen would rejoice. One would have thought that the hon. member for Assiniboia, and the hon. member for St. John (Mr. Pugsley) when speaking on the question, would at least have looked pleased. The impression goes out from the House that hon. gentlemen opposite who have spoken on this question are glad that the Government has taken this action, but to us in the House they do not look glad, they appear to be sorry. I wonder if the real explanation is not that these hon. gentlemen prefer to have the cry rather than the wool, that they would rather have free wheat ,as a political issue rather than free wheat as an actuality. At all events, that seems like a reasonable explanation of their attitude on the action of the Government in placing these three commodities on the free list and calling into operation the provision in the Underwood Tariff that I have mentioned.
The criticism of the Opposition upon the action of the Government in this regard proceeds upon several grounds. First, they say it was a departure from the fiscal policy of the Government and of the Conservative
party. Second, they say: You have granted it now; why did you not grant it before the war? Third, they say: You grant it now during the war, why did you not grant it earlier in the war? Fourth, they say: The measure is temporary, and with the end of the war the duties are automatically restored. And fifth, they have the temerity to say that the Government was actuated by political consideration in view of an approaching election. I am sure my ears did not fail me and that I distinctly heard my hon. friend from Assiniboia make that last statement.

Subtopic:   THE BUDGET.
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