May 14, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Walter Davy Cowan


Mr. W. D. COWAN (Regina) :

Mr. Speaker, on Monday last I was exceedingly surprised and very much pleased. I was surprised because when I left Ottawa a year ago, I was in grave doubt whether or not it would be possible for the Dominion of Canada to provide the money necessary to meet the expenditures that we had provided for in the Estimates. On Monday,^ therefore, when the Minister of Finance (Sir Henry Drayton) made his statement showing that we had a very substantial surplus over ordinary expenditure, that came to me as a very pleasing surprise. Next to that, what pleased me most as regards his statement and the subsequent statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Meighen), was the definiteness with which they laid their policy before the people of Canada. I am always pleased with public men who are clear-cut and definite. That is one reason why I have always admired the manner in which the Prime Minister has submitted his case to the Canadian people. I also notice that those of the official Opposition who have so far spoken in this debate, were definite in that they definitely showed that they had deliberately decided upon continuing their policy of indefiniteness. The manner in which they threw their two wings into the debate proves to me conclusively that they have entered upon this policy which has been all along a policy of duplicity and deception, for the purpose of continuing it as part of the game. First, they threw the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) , leader of the protectionist wing, into the debate, and he led it exceedingly well. Immediately following him, they threw in the hon member for Brome (Mr. Mc-Master) leader of the free trade platoon. The part, however, about the leader of the protectionist wing that caught my eye the quickest, that appealed to me the most, was the manner in which he began to flirt with the Agrarian party. It was quite evident to me and, I think, to the whole House, that he was laying his plans to form a union as between the Agrarian party and his own, and in doing so he was simply following up the line of policy laid down by the leader of the official Opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) especially on his trip into Western Canada, where, day after day and week after week, he laboured to try to lead the

people to believe that the two parties should be united. . I came to the conclusion, I think very properly, that the leader of the Opposition had commissioned the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's to proceed immediately to Marquette and there negotiate another reciprocity pact. The hon. gentleman is well qualified to fill that role. He, as we all knew, in 1911 was commissioned by the party to which he belongs to proceed to Washington and there to negotiate such a pact, and to conclude the treaty which would make Canada an adjunct of the United States. I fancy that the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's, when hp reaches Marquette, will try also to complete a treaty which will make the Agrarian party an adjunct of the present Liberal Opposition. The question is whether he will succeed or not. I know of no man better qualified to do that work than he. I will say, without any hesitancy, that no man in the Liberal party stands higher in the .estimation of the Western Canadian people than does the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's. He is held in the highest respect, notwithstanding on some things many of them differ from him. A year or so ago, when the Liberal convention was held and it was found that he had not been chosen as leader of the party, I will say that about ninety per cent or more of the Liberals in Western Canada were disappointed, because they believed that he would be a very proper person to undertake such a task.
What are the chances of such a treaty being consummated? We know that our friends of the Agrarian party have always been free traders, and those who to-day are trying to make out that free trade is not a policy of any party in Canada, really do not know what the West thinks. I have lived amongst the grain growers out in the West long before such a thing as the Grain Growers' organization was started, and I know whereof I speak when I say that, after all those years amongst them, I know that they talk free trade, morning, noon and night. It is the only thing they talk about; it is the centre of their whole political platform. The hon. member for Qu'Appelle (Mr. Thomson) said, the other night, quite distinctly that while they might for a short time graciously permit protection to continue, yet free trade was their goal and at that goal they were aiming. In 1911, this same party existed and at that time their policy was to permit truck and trade with anybody, free from all hindrances whatsoever. I fancy my hon.
(Mr. Cowan.]
friend would not have any trouble in forming such an alliance with them on that basis at the present time. He must remember that he can not wrap up his negotiations in any way with the Union Jack. He must not permit sentiment in any shape or form to enter into them. He must not permit good Canadianism to be of any consideration at all. It is simply a question with them of truck and trade, with profit as the only principle upon which the arrangement can be consummated. Has he any other ground for thinking that such an arrangement could be made, that such an alliance could be formed? Let us look at what has happened in the last three weeks. My hon. friend who preceded me in this debate last night, the hon. member for Maple Creek (Mr. Maharg), has for many, many years been the president of the grain growers' organization of our province, and during the whole of that time he has talked of independence, and of nothing but independence. That was the only thing he believed in. Everywhere he went, and everywhere that the members of the party he belongs to went, they insisted that both political parties have been a failure. Independence was what he always advocated. He has consistently and persistently denounced everybody who in any way favoured party government. Party government, in his view, was a thing that must be abolished, but strange to say, some two or three weeks ago a peculiar thing happened. As I sat here one day and looked up into the gallery, I saw a very familiar face, that of a gentleman for whom I have the highest respect and admiration, the Minister of Agriculture for the province of Saskatchewan. I chatted with him up there for a while, and was very pleased to have the opportunity of doing so. A few days afterwards the hon. member for Maple Creek took the train for Regina, and strange to say a conversion must have taken place on that train, because when he landed there he evidently had forgotten that all along he had been denouncing party government, for he there and then immediately agreed to become a member of a party government -of the Liberal government of the province of Saskatchewan. These several conversions are indeed strange. The Prime Minister yesterday made reference to a gentleman named Lambert, who had written some very strong articles denunciatory of the policy of the present Agrarian party. He too was converted on call. As soon as another salary was obtainable in a different

sphere, he immediately became converted. My hon. friend from Maple Creek also was evidently converted on the train that took him to Regina. Shortly afterwards, he boarded the train back to Ottawa, and on that train he evidently got converted back to his old condition, for he now appears in this House in the role of a first-class Independent. Last night he got quite indignant over the fact that somebody, to use his own word, had talked about an amalgamation between the Liberal party and the Agrarian party. As I watched him, however, I observed that his words were not half so bitter as the expression on his face; you had to see him to realize how bitter ihe felt over that suggested amalgamation between the Liberal and Agrarian parties. It seemed very strange to me how this gentleman could at one and the same time become a member of a Liberal government in one part of Canada, and then here in this House wax indignant at the very suggestion that he and his party should become allied with the Liberal party in this House of Commons. I fully expect that as soon as this House prorogues and we go back home, the hon. gentleman will - again board the train for Regina, and if he travels on that same car he will get converted again; when he gets to Regina he will be as thorough-paced a Liberal as one could possibly be, he will assist a party government in carrying on the affairs of the province; there is no doubt at all that that is what will happen.
What does all this mean? It means that a basis is there laid for the work which evidently has been assigned to the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding). The hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's will certainly now be able to say: Here is one member of this Agrarian party, a very prominent member of it-and certainly of all its members he has been the most aggressive in the province of Saskatchewan-who is susceptible to those influences which led him into the Liberal fold and into a party government, so why not all the rest of them? That is what I say,-why not all the rest of them. If the hon. member for Maple Creek will go, they will all go; there is no question about that. They will follow him, because since he came back I have not seen any sign of his colleagues in the Agrarian party ignoring him, or slighting or snubbing him, or in any way indicating that they resent the course which he has pursued. Therefore, I think it would be just as well for my hon. friend from Shelburne and Queen's to continue his
adjunctivism-to call it so-and'probably in time he will succeed in forming the alliance he desires.
Yesterday I was rather surprised, in fact, shocked, at statements made in the House by the hon. member for Megantic (Mr. Pacaud). I had never heard him speak in the House before, and I was rather pleased with the style of his address, but a letter which he read to the House came as, a very distinct surprise to me. It was a letter signed by Mr. Poot-mans, who lives in the city of Regina, where I live, and whom I have always regarded and who has always been known there as the Vice-Consul for Belgium. The statements which the hon. member made in that connection last night were quite contrary to the facts, and did not convey to the House a true impression of the actual conditions. Before I read what he said, let me say that I thoroughly approve of that $25,000,000 loan to Belgium. We had been associated with Belgium in the war; we knew what the courage of the Belgian people was; we saw them stand four-square against the German hordes at a time when their stand meant everything to the British Empire and the Canadian people. We saw that, and if for no other reason than that the loan would be of assistance to Belgium in rehabilitating that country to something like the state it was in formerly, I would have been exceedingly pleased to have had that loan made; hut apart from that, of course, there was the consideration of the trade which might come to the Dominion of Canada as a result of the loan. Well, the loan was made, and the hon. member for Megantic, speaking of it last night, used this extraordinary language:
They made an agreement dated March 21, 1919, hy which only one-fourth of this loan to Belgium could be available for the purchase of food stuffs, thus forcing the Belgian Government against their will to purchase manufactured goods and raw materials of manufacture to the extent of four-fifths of the entire loan. What was the result? Just what was to be expected.
Force the Belgian Government against their will to purchase manufactured goods? I would like to know if there is any power in Canada that could force Belgium to enter into an arrangement that it did not want to enter into-Belgium, which opposed her little army against sixty or seventy million men, the finest trained military force in the world. Would Belgium yield to a demand at the hands of the Canadian people? Could Belgium be forced to do something against her will by the Canadian Government? There is absolutely

no truth in the suggestion,-you could not force Belgium; I 'have never yet seen the power in this would that could force Belgium to do anything she did not want to do. She preferred annihiliation to being forced to do something against her Will. ' The Canadian Government had no such intention as forcing the Belgian Government. The Belgian Government is quite capable of taking care of itself. The agreement was, made between the Prime Minister of Belgium, representing that country, and the Minister of Trade and Commerce of Canada (Sir George Foster), on behalf of this country. At that time Belgium was in such a position that she was in dire need of a great many things, one of her greatest needs being foodstuffs. We all know that while the war was on and for a short time afterwards, the people of Canada were constantly told that the people of Belgium had no shoes to wear, that they were going about barefooted, that they lacked proper clothing, and so forth; and I can quite understand that the Belgian representatives, in the face of these conditions, would be anxious to buy food, clothing and other necessaries as rapidly as they could be procured. Consequently they entered into this agreement of their own free will. Let me read further from the hon. member's speech:
What was the result? Just what was to be expected. With the exception of $1,500,000- $277,000 in foodstuffs, $185,000 of which was for bacon, an article of food which made a name for itself during the war, and the balance for manufactured goods and raw materials-the credit was cancelled and the Belgian Government had to go to American bankers to secure our Canadian wheat.
This statement is wrong; it is untrue. The facts are that the Belgian Government entered into the agreement with the . full understanding that it was good for a certain period, and a date was fixed in the agreement by which it. was automatically cancelled. The Dominion Government did not have to cancel the agreement at all. The Government of Canada, had the Belgian Government so requested, could have renewed the agreement and extended it for a further period, but the undoubted fact is that the agreement automatically cancelled itself; and if during the whole time that it was in force the Belgian Government did not see fit to use the credit that was given them, then it was their own affair. As a matter of fact, they did use a certain portion of it, as follows:

Foodstuffs $ 277,744 47
Steel r^ils 561,601 99
General manufactures:
Boots $385,466 50Underwear
184,096 00Sweaters 112,716 00Socks 213,851 50
896,130 00
Total $1,735,476 46
There is not a single article in that list of which the Belgian people were not in absolute need at the close of the war and for a considerable time afterward; but that left a substantial balance to the credit of that country. For foodstuffs there was used only $277,000 odd, and Belgium required for all her purposes, out of this credit of $25,000,000, only $1,735,476. So that the actual facts are a startling contrast to the statements submitted to the House. The fact is that the balance lay unused. It could have been used by the Government of Belgium had they seen fit so to do; but they did not, because- as I am pleased to state, and I know the House is equally pleased to know the fact -that country picked herself up with remarkable rapidity. The conditions that obtained at the close of the war were quickly overcome, and it is pleasing to reflect that the Belgian people and their Government were so active and energetic that they could soon recover from the effects of the war. Of course, we should have been pleased to supply them with goods, extending the credit, but the fact is that they did not need those supplies, and there is no reason whatever why anyone should denounce this Government because the Belgian authorities did not see fit to make use of the credit Canada gave them. The letter to which I have referred is one which, I must confess, I do not like. The concluding paragraph is rather significant, coming as it does from the Belgian Vice-Consul. That gentleman states:
I hold this information from high authorities in Belgium, and would appreciate it if you kept me posted by wire upon any development In this line, to enable me to inform my friends in Belgium.
Now, there may not be any collusion to which my hon. friend from Megantic (Mr. Pacaud), is a party, but there is certainly a suggestion of collusion on the part of men in high authority, and it does not look well for a member of the Canadian Parliament to be asked to keep this gentleman posted by wire-
-upon any development in this line, to enable me to inform my friends in Belgium.

What does it mean? I think the hon. member for Megantic should demand an explanation from the writer in order that he may be freed from the suspicion which the letter naturally casts upon him.

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