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


William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)


My hon. friend
admits it. Now let me say-because I desire to discuss this matter seriously and earnestly-that we on this side, ever since the Underwood Tariff came into effect in 1913, have viewed this matter of free wheat upon what we regarded as its merits; we have never declined to grant free wheat on the ground that it involved a departure from the traditional fiscal policy of the Conservative party. I proceed now to prove that what I state is correct. In the Budget speech of 1914, which was the first occasion upon which I discussed the Underwood Tariff in the House of Commons, I set forth the arguments pro and con on the subject of free wheat; I set them out fully, I set them out, I submit, judicially; I did not take the ground that the Government would have nothing to do with this because it was a violation of the fiscal policy of the Conservative party. I examined the whole question from a business, economic, and public standpoint. I said:
So much for these opposing arguments and contentions. Speaking generally, it is not advisable that a nation's tariff should be so arranged as to fit into the particular features of that of another nation. This, however, would not be a conclusive reason for not making a change clearly in the national interest.
At that time we came to the conclusion, having regard to the fluctuations of price between Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Chicago, that there was not the advantage to the farmer that was claimed in this matter of free wheat* and, having regard to other considerations-industries in Canada of an important character and the condition of our railways-we thought it was not advisable at that time to grant free wheat. But we did not argue it upon the ground that it would be a departure from the fiscal policy of the Conservative party. On tlie contrary, we said by implication that if it

were in the national interest we were prepared to consider it. I desire to make that perfectly clear. Let us see what I said when this matter was before the House in February, 1916. I spoke on a resolution moved by the hon. member (Mr. Turriff), who now brings forward this amendment. 1 had been giving the matter my most painstaking attention during the whole of the year. If the Government held the view at that time that it was a departure from the fiscal policy to consider this question, what would be the reason for my giving consideration to the matter in my office continuously as I did? This is what I said, as reported in Hansard on page 861, February 16, 1916:-
I have caused a record to he kept of prices of grain both in Canada and in the United States, with a view to thoroughly familiarizing myself with the merits of the question in order to reach a sound and just conclusion in the national interest. When I say in the national interest, I need not say how important a factor in the national interest I consider the interest and material well-being of the three great grain-growing provinces of the West. It is in that spirit that I have approached, from time to time, the consideration of this question.
And I expressed the opinion on that occasion, in February, 1916. that it was unwise in the national interest that free wheat should be granted. It was not clear to me that the advantages that would be gained would outweigh the disadvantages, but I repeat, and the point I am making is that we always considered the question upon its merits and had regard, in dealing with it, only to what we regarded as the national interest. The position of the Government, in its view upon the question of free wheat in 1914, in 1916, and in April of this year, when we took action, has been absolutely sound and consistent throughout. I make that statement without the slightest hesitation ; I say our action has been sound and consistent throughout. How can it be urged that it was a violation of Conservative fiscal policy? Sir John A. Macdonald was a fairly good Conservative; so I have heard. Sir Leonard Tilley was the finance minister of Sir John A. Macdonald. Sir Leonard Tilley introduced the National Policy budget about 1879. The National Policy budget of 1879 has 'been the charter of the fiscal policy of the Conservative party from that day to this. Let us see what Sir Leonard Tilley said in regard to reciprocal provisions in the tariff. Sir Leonard Tilley, in 1879, in introducing the National Policy budget, said:-
The Government, requiring more revenue, have determined to ask this House to impose
[Sir Thomas White.!
upon the products of the United States that have been free, such a duty as may seem consistent with our position. But the Government couple with the proposal, in order to show that we approach this question with no unfriendly spirit, a resolution that will be laid on the table containing a proposition to this effect: That, as to articles named, which are the natural products of the country, including lumber, if the United States take off the duties in part or in whole, we are prepared to meet them with equal concessions. The Government believe in a reciprocity tariff, yet may discuss Free Trade or Protection, but the question of to-day is-Shall we have a reciprocity tariff, or a one-sided tariff? [DOT]
That was the National Policy budget of Sir Leonard Tilley in 1879. Is it contrary to the fiscal policy of the Conservative party either to have a reciprocity provision in the tariff which remains under you control absolutely or to take advantage of a reciprocal provision in the tariff of another country? I submit that the action of Sir Leonard Tilley in 1879 is absolutely conclusive evidence that the attitude we have taken is in no way inconsistent with the fiscal policy of the Conservative party.

Subtopic:   THE BUDGET.
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