Mr. O. R. GOULD (Assiniboia):
It may seem rather strange to the House that the Progressive party should persist in continuing the debate in this manner. However, we have a story to tell and possibly, even if we do not take up so much time individually as some other hon. members, we may be excused for not remaining silent. I believe we have all arrived at the conclusion that one day more or less here at the present time does not matter materially, seeing that we who are engaged in agriculture are now unable to get home to take part in the very important occupation of earning a livelihood-that is to say, putting in the crops in the western country; that time has passed.
Now in my earlier remarks, and I do not propose to take up any great amount
The Budget-Mr. Gould
of time-I must associate myself-and I do so with great pleasure and earnestness -with all that has been said by way of compliment with respect to the Minister of Finance, (Mr. Fielding). I pay that compliment to him almost in the sense of a son to a father-that is, with the respect that a son should have for a father -for I must say, Mr. Speaker, that long years before I had the honour of entering this House I had watched with much interest the endeavours-yea, the accomplishments-of the hon. minister, and, certainly, it had not occurred to me in those days that the privilege would be afforded me of coming here and being a colleague of that hon. gentlemen. Yet, I must confess that I was to a great extent, by precedent, perhaps, by the teachings of my people, taught to be a believer in the principles upon which he stood. But, as time progressed, and I arrived more at years of discretion, I began to see that I would have to reason for myself, and that he, and the party to which he belonged, after having had opportunities afforded them for many years since Confederation, were not seemingly bringing to a fruition those things for which the Liberal party professedly stood. I recollect distinctly, going back to 1893 and 1896, the first platform of his party, and I followed it all through. That is an aside at the present time. I wish, though, to state that, as I have come up to this House, I have watched the keen and sprightly walk of the Minister of Finance, and I have thought to myself that he was a man older in experience than he was in years, and I am sure we are all impressed with that.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the expressions of opinion that have come from this corner of the Chamber have all been initiated, perhaps, by the consciousness of conditions which obtain in the country, particularly affecting the class of people, whom we represent; that is the agricultural class. Many theses and doctrines have been promulgated. The effort has been made
and it has come from many sources in this corner-to persuade the powers that be that we have a real grievance, but while advancing that claim we believe we have a solution for it. This question has been repeatedly before the House. The presentation of the case has been made in like manner, except, perhaps, not in as great volume, ever since 1919. The hon. member from Marquette (Mr. Crerar) led a small party of men in this House, in deference
to expressions of opinion that were coming from sections throughout the country, and those few followers put forth the contention that agriculture in this country had not been receiving its due recognition. In spite of predictions, the fact that we have 66 members in this corner of the House belonging to the Agrarian party is a concrete evidence of the fact that people throughout Canada believe that we have not been receiving a proper deal, or that we have not been receiving justice, and we have been sent here for the distinct and express purpose of again explaining to Parliament, and, by all honourable means, obtaining for our people the things we have been so long denied. That is the reason we are here. And I have wondered, as I have looked over the provisions of the budget speech, whether we should consider that speech and the provisions thereof, as representing love of us, or fear of us, or neither.
Before proceeding to deal with the budget, I wish to ask a favour, (because I desire to digress a little from the budget address, and bring up a question which, perhaps, should have been dealt with when the estimates were considered, and if I had had the information when the estimates were before the House which I have at the present time, I would have mentioned it then. This question has to do with the national expenditure on the briquetting plant in the district of Assiniboia. We all know that the Dominion government has expended certain sums of money for a number of years to erect a briquetting plant at Bienfait and endeavoured to find out the best means-at least that is the professed idea-of preparing lignite coal, Which is there in large quantities, for the people of the country. I have expressed my opinion on this matter previously. The lignite coal exists there in such large quantities that I believe there is sufficient to energize all the electricity required in the southern part of Saskatchewan, yea, perhaps, in the south western part of Manitoba, and, not being a wooded area, we would like to have that coal brought into such a state that the settlers could use it in furnaces, or others could use it commercially. About $820,000 was expended on that briquetting plant, but it seems to me, from information I have received, that we have been working upon wrong lines. It is proposed to extract the moisture from that coal and form it into briquettes by means of a binder. Something is expected from the by-products
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thereof. I find now that the estimates of the price of briquettes far exceeds the first estimate that was given when the project was first undertaken.
This is a national undertaking. Apart from the scientific aspect, it represents moneys that are taken from every district of Canada, it is of great importance in a national way, and that is one reason why I introduce it. I put questions on the Order Paper some time ago and received replies from the minister. He stated that he would have some by-products in the recovery plant, but he did not know to what extent the by-products would be useful. He states that the recovery process is for the extraction of coal tar, and yet on the other hand, we find that coal tar is to be the basis of the binder that is to be used for that lignite. But we also find that $8 per ton is the price, at the head of the Great Lakes, of tar to be used as binder, that has to be imported into the province of Saskatchewan, carried down to Bienfait, and used there to replace the tar which as a by-product is being extracted. The price of the briquettes which contain 11,500 heat units per pound is $12.25 per ton and we at once realize the commercial impossibility of manufacturing lignite into briquettes, and the commercial failure that must result, in competition with other briquette coal that is being brought in at the present time. In the city of Winnipeg briquette coal, with about 16,000 heat units per pound, is being sold at $17 a ton. If you take into consideration the number of heat units supposed to be incorporated in this lignite coal, the price of the tar, and so on, that has to be imported to bind it, you will see that for us to further pursue that as a commercial proposition would be inadvisable.
It is said then that we must have an alternative. On that point I have some information which I wish to submit to the House, and I hope the Government will pay attention to this. We desire to have the coal made commercially available as quickly as possible. We would like to have erected a plant whereby the moisture in the coal, about 30 per cent, could be extracted, before the product is shipped out to us. Experiments have resulted in demonstrating the fact, that whether it be lignite, anthracite, or even peat, it can be used in powder form much more cheaply, and without waste. In the use of lignite coal there is much waste and ash and
clogging of flues or pipes, whether it be used in stoves or furnaces or in a manufacturing way. It can be used in a powdered form, both for stoves and manufacturing purposes, and it can be powdered by the addition of a plant, requiring about one fourth the capitalization necessary for a briquetting plant, such as we have at the present time. I believe this powdered coal can be turned on and burned in that form in a pressure plant, the same as gas or oil. The tars not being used in the binder, there is very little waste, and practically no residue after the coal is burned. We get practically 95 per cent out of our coal, whereas at the present time, I believe, in the case of lignite coal, the available heating element is almost 70 per cent over and above waste.
That is a problem which I think the Dominion government should look into. I do not know whether to condemn the past government because a sufficiently thorough investigation did not take place; but it is certain that we, in the. West, as a people are disappointed because years ago we expected these briquettes to be placed upon the market and, according to information contained in answers to questions which I placed upon the Order Paper, the time seems just as far distant as ever. Nevertheless, $126,000 is being voted again this year for the purpose of this plant. It is quite unusual for a member to protest against expenditures in his own electoral district; usually, hon. members are in the habit of asking for greater expenditures; but I am talking in the interest of economy, and I state that, in my humble opinion, this money might be better employed for some other purpose. I hope, naturally, that it will not be taken away from my constituency, because I should like to see the money expended on a railway which runs right across our coal fields. This would tap four lines of railway running east and west; and if this money were spent in that way, the railway would be a real asset to the people of my constituency which is lacking in wood, so that they must rely on fuel from outside sources to keep themselves warm and comfortable during the winter. As I have said on many occasions, we have reached the point where settlers have actually attacked cars and taken the coal off rather than see their children go cold. Therefore, if the Government will pay heed to this, I hope that next year we in the West will learn that a real solution of the problem has been found. I repeat that I do not believe a
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solution will be found in following out the present plan of briquetting that lignite coal. That is all I wish to say on this matter at the present time.
I want to deal for a few minutes with some statements that have been made by the hon. member for Centre Vancouver, (Mr. Stevens) who, I am sorry to say, is not in his seat. He rather deprecated the fact that the agricultural portions of Canada did not pay their share of the income tax. I almost gathered the impression that he would have the people of Canada believe that this was wilful on the part of the agriculturists. I am sure hon. members will believe the statement that has been repeated so frequently from this corner of the chamber, that the agriculturists are not doing this for any other reason than that they are unable to do so. Is it not a known fact to hon. members-I see the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) ; he will bear me out in this statement-that in Saskatchewan there are many school districts, in which during the past three, four or five years the people have questioned themselves whether they could pay taxes to keep the schools open. Even last winter municipalities took the question up and municipal meetings were held in many parts of that province, the question being asked: Can we extend our credit any longer in order to keep our schools open? The money is often not available to keep these schools open. Fortunately, through the intervention of the provincial government and the co-ordination of the municipal authorities, the schools were kept open until the banks offered credit again whereby the schools could be carried on. Why should hon. members in this House or men throughout the country try to give the impression that the farmers are wilfully escaping or endeavouring to evade or avoid their proper share of income taxation? They are not; they would be only too pleased if an opportunity were afforded them of paying a good round sum in income tax, because that would mean, as it does to those who have to pay tax, their ability to pay.
Again the hon. member, in reply to a question which I asked him concerning watered stock, said that 7 per cent was surely not an excessive profit. No, we say it is not an excessive profit if it is on actual cash that is invested in a company; but the hon. gentleman spoke of "unduly watered stock." To what extent must a man or a corporation go before the term "unduly" is applied? Do they recognize it
as a right that incorporated institutions in this country, through, perhaps, some concession, or through, perhaps, the value of an asset paying a huge dividend, may or shall or should, as they do, go throughout the length and breadth of the country and sell stock which is largely fictitious? They take money from widows, orphans or any one else, and they say: "This is an institution capable of paying 20 per cent and we want your money, why not buy some of this stock?" It does not, however, represent any equi'y or value except the ability of that company to pay interest on watered stock. If a depression should come, or the value go down so that they pay only 2 or 3 per cent, they call that hard times. We maintain still that, in many institutions which have a large amount of watered stock, two per cent on the watered stock would represent a good profit if it were paid on the cash value of the plant. We believe we are justified in calling the attention of the House to the fact that we do not believe in watered stock, whether it is unduly watered or watered to any other extent. We want all interests in Canada to stand on their own feet, on their own base, and this "unduly watered" proposition is something that we agriculturists know nothing about.
I have been listening to conversations concerning the banks. I do not think I am betraying any secret in saying that when I have listened to remarks and discussions in some of the committees and in this House, it has seemed to me that men who talk of corporations and so on have not the proper perspective; they have not the right viewpoint. They seem to look upon the banking institutions of Canada as corporations that possess the credit of the Dominion of Canada, given to them by the Dominion of Canada, so that they can take the deposits of all the people and their own currency, inflated more or less by acts of Parliament, send the money out of the country and invest it in foreign bonds. I deprecate this. When we, having legitimate local interests, appeal to these institutions for legitimate credits to carry on our businesses, we are told that money is not available. For example, some years ago a subsidiary company owned a lighting plant in Rio de Janeiro, and we in the West were unable to get loans of money necessary to capitalize the businesses that we were endeavouring to carry on for that year. That i.i one reason why I consider that the moneyed institutions of Canada should have greater restrictions placed
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upon them. They should not be privileged to .the extent they are taking out of the country funds that rightly belong to the people of Canada, where there is so much need of money for the development of our natural resources. The farmers, who are working under such disadvantages, in the best of circumstances, and on whose activities the prosperity of this country depends, are absolutely handicapped because of the higher rate of interest that is charged them in that respect. An a layman I would urge that point as forcefully as I can upon the Government and upon members of this House, because I nave had some experience in this matter, as I know my neighbours have who are struggling in the West to develop the resources that lie dormant in this great country and are doing their best to convert those resources into national wealth.
At six o'clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at eight o'clock.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF THE DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE