Mr. STEWART (Humboldt):
A tax of 2i mills on $16,000,000,000 would be about
Mr. C. W. Stewart
$40,000,000. On the average farm in western Canada, with the values of which I am well acquainted, that would mean a tax of about $7.50. As I make it, on an average the sales tax will mean a tax of about $20 to each farmer in the West. It makes then to the farmer the difference between $7.50 and $20. Now, it cannot be claimed that that difference would have been thrown upon the working man, because, as a rule, he is not a holder of land at all, and therefore would not have had any land tax to pay. It would have thrown that difference on to certain companies, perhaps speculators, who are holding valuable lands, some in rural districts, and large areas in the cities.
Now, Sir, in conclusion, what I have said with regard to taxes, the revision of the customs tariff, the lessening of the sales tax, and the adoption of direct methods of taxation is not offered by me as a panacea to cure all the ills that afflict this country at the present time. I come from western Canada where the agriculturists are labouring under very serious handicaps, and they are not simply clamouring that conditions shall be changed in order that they may try something new, hoping that that will be better than the old, but they have given mature thought to the disadvantages under which they labour, and I am sent here, together with a number of my colleagues, as the expression of that mature thought. They have sent us here to place certain definite proposals before this House. They think that wider markets would improve their condition. I may say that for the last twenty years I have been watching the efforts of the agriculturists in western Canada, and although I have not during the whole of that period been directly interested in agriculture, because I am going back to my school days, yet during the years that I have been directly interested I have noticed that the western farmers have overcome the very serious handicaps they laboured under by attacking small points and gaining one at a time. They believe if they could obtain wider markets it would materially help them. In fact, I think the proposals they suggest could be put under three heads of relief.
First, they believe there should be increased returns for the products of the farm. Wider markets would help to bring that about. I have already commended the Minister of Finance for his efforts to that end both in regard to the past and the very near future, for undoubtedly he has made real efforts to obtain reciprocity.
We from the West have asked for better marketing conditions as we believe they could be obtained under a wheat board. I am not going to pursue that further for the moment because I believe very shortly we shall have an opportunity to debate the advisability of some such scheme of control for marketing our crop. We will also perhaps have the opportunity to debate the manner of lessening the cost of transportation not only of grain but also of commodities that enter into the necessities of agriculturists.
Speaking of transportation brings to my mind the completion of the Hudson Bay railroad, which a very large number of agriculturists in the prairie provinces are convinced would materially lessen their costs of transportation. They believe, Sir, that ten or twelve years ago they made out a case before this House. They had the definite promise of the Prime Minister at that time, the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, that that road would be built. They saw its construction undertaken and carried on to a very large extent by the last government, and they lived in hopes that the road would be completed. Now, I come to this House pledged to my constituents to work for that completion. I find numbers of hon. members, perhaps new to this House, are dubious of the wisdom of continuing this work. The people whom I represent feel that the case is made out, and that if the completion of the road is considered a dubious undertaking, it is the duty of those in doubt and opposed to the work to make out their case in opposition. I place that before you, Sir, as a means, not of greatly increasing the returns of agriculturists, but as a means to some extent of increasing the returns that would be received for agricultural products, particularly grain.
Then, too, I must mention the necessity for the construction of certain branch lines of railway. The cost of production to the farmer is materially enhanced when he is a great distance away from a railroad. For fifteen years I hauled my grain thirty miles to a railway, and so I think I speak with authority in that regard. I paid as high as 25 cents a bushel for a number of years to get my wheat to the railroad car, and I know if that expense could be saved sometimes a considerable loss could be turned into a considerable gain.
These matters, then, this Parliament has more or less direct control over and could attend to if it thought fit, and if carried out they would all help to increase the returns on the farmers' products. But the
The Budget-Mr. C. W. Stewart
people of the West have taken the stand that if the returns for their products cannot be greatly increased, at least we should increase the purchasing power of the dollars that they do receive. I want to make that point perfectly clear to the House. Not so very long ago, in fact in my time as a farmer-and I have been farming only about sixteen or seventeen years- I sold my grain at no greater price than is being obtained at the present time, and yet in those days I considered myself fairly prosperous. But for the past two or three years I know 1 have been farming at a loss. The difference is simply this, that in the years gone by my dollar purchased something, whereas at the present time a dollar by itself is not worth very much. I think it would be only repetition of my argument if I were to go back and state that that is one reason why I claim the customs tariff on agricultural implements and on clothing and the other necessaries of life should be reduced to the minimum, so that the man engaged in developing not only our farms but all our natural resources should be enabled to obtain the maximum return for his expenditure.
I said there were three methods that the people I represent believe would lighten their burdens. The third is, by readjusting taxation. I am not asking for any special concession for the people of the West. They are perfectly willing to pay taxes according to their incomes, but they do ask that they should be taxed according to their incomes. If this Parliament has it in its power, and should see fit, to readjust these matters I have brought to their attention to such an extent that the farmer -and when I use- the term farmer for the people in the West, in my constituency at least, I do not think I exempt any person, because all there are either directly engaged in tilling the soil or are very directly dependent upon the farmer for their living -if it can be so worked out that they will be prosperous, that their incomes will be augmented, that the value of their land holdings will he increased, then they are willing to pay in due proportion of their increased incomes and the added value of their property.
I would like to have mentioned the effect this would have had upon our immigration policy. I am firmly convinced, Sir, that the salvation of this country lies in increasing our population; that we need an immigration policy. But I have in mind an ideal immigration policy, that is, to make all the deserving people of this country so
prosperous that they will be anxious to have their friends come to them and settle beside them. When that day comes then we shall have indeed a real immigration.
During the campaign last fall when I had the privilege of speaking to a very large number of my constituents, I made it a point at every meeting that I addressed, about sixty in all, to ask the people there if they would feel justified under present circumstances in inviting their friends to come to this country and become citizens alongside of them, and in all those occasions I did not find one man who felt he would be justified in inviting his friends to come and share with him his prosperity or lack of prosperity. But if these people were prosperous they would be glad to have their friends come here. They are not selfish; they do not wish to enjoy prosperity alone. Nor are they crowded in that country. I want to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that as I travelled through my constituency last fall I was struck as I never had been before with the room there was for more people. I do not know whether my constituency differs in that respect from that of any other hon. member from the West, but I found that section after section of good arable land was vacant, right in some of our best settlements and very close to railroads. I had heard it stated a number of times that we had in this country thirty million acres within fifteen miles of railroads, but I never realized the proof of it until I saw with my own eyes, when [DOT]travelling through my constituency in a car, these areas of the very best land lying idle.
Subtopic: THE BUDGET