June 13, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)

LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

As I have stated, we have, in my judgment, pretty nearly reached the limit of taxation in this country, and if so, what is to be our relief in the future? I think, as has already been stated by many hon. gentlemen, it should come from a reduction of public expenditure. I know that the ideal of economy is popular, but the practice of it is not so popular. The Minister of Finance intimated this when delivering his budget on the 23rd day of May. I think it is a fact that the people of this country are naturally extravagant; and we might naturally expect that of the people of a new country as compared with the people of older countries. At any rate, I believe that this charge may be fairly levelled against us. But a very radical change must come over us all in that respect. As the Minister of Finance said, we are willing to be economical in so far as the constituency of any other hon. gentleman is concerned, but each of us is not so particular in regard to the constituency we represent. I very modestly suggested the other night that we might suspend the operation of the Rideau canal, particularly what looks to me like the business operation at this end. At the moment I did not know that the town of Perth was situated on the Rideau canal; I was not aware that there were those beautiful Rideau lakes beyond us here. But I never intended to destroy the town of Perth nor to impair the beauties of the Rideau lakes. I merely suggested that certain sections of that canal, which were apparently or outwardly, conducted

The Budget-Mr. A. K. Maclean
as a commercial operation might well be done away with. However, my suggestion, which was well intended, was not very well received. The hon. gentleman who sits immediately to my left, the member for Cumberland (Mr. Logan), offered the suggestion the other night that the salaries of civil servants, members of Parliament and judges, and all that class of people generally, should be reduced by 15 per cent.
I do not know that the Minister of Finance has received any cheque, implementing this suggestion, from the class of people designated by the member for Cumberland; nor am I sure whether he himself has tendered a cheque on his own account.
The Minister of Finance expressed doubt as to the permanence of his popularity if he endeavoured to curtail public expenditure. I wish to assure him that, in my judgment, the members of this Parliament, irrespective of their party allegiance or alignment, and the people of the country, regardless of party considerations, will be behind him in his efforts to reduce the public expenditures. And it is my judgment, further, that the supporters of the Government would rather go down upholding the Government in a genuine effort towards the reduction of those expenditures than upon any other public issue which might remove them from office.
Now, the economic conditions in this country are not very agreeable to our people. We have our problems here just as they have them in every other country in the world; and those problems are many and serious. The idea, however, too commonly prevails that we can rehabilitate ourselves economically by restoratives and palliatives that we ourselves suggest individually and sectionally. Formulas are proposed by hon. gentlemen in the House and by people outside of the House based upon local or class considerations, by which they hope to rid the country of the tremendous problems that confront us. Being in economic distress, it is only natural that we should seek the nearest harbour, and we find all forms of suggestions as to the causes of the conditions that obtain to-day, many of which suggestions are erroneous and should never ibe presented, but which nevertheless must be considered. . For our economic conditions to-day it is very common to hear charges made against organized capital, against banks, against railways, against public policy, against farmers, against wage-earners; and in the end hardly any organized human activity escapes the accusation of being responsible for the commercial and economic state of the country. A gentleman residing in one of the western provinces suggested during the last campaign that all classes of the community should be organized independently; that is to say, that all sections of human activity engaged in any particular line of work should be politically organized -and I have not in mind the Progressive party. It is quite clear to me, from my observation of their work in the House this session, that they are not an occupational group. It is true they may very largely belong to the agricultural classes; it is true that they represent to a large extent the agricultural sections of the country, and when they speak they must speak largely for the interests of their people, which are agricultural interests. But I do not think that in any respect they can be termed an occupational party, or a farmers' class party. It is another thing, however, to have it suggested that the whole of this country should be organized into classes politically, in the hope, thereby, of solving the problems that face the nation to-day. That would simply accentuate the differences that exist between the various peoples of our country, differences which we should always seek to minimize if not to obliterate. Such a system of organization would compose no differences. Economically, I should regard it as the purest nonsence-a system which should receive no support from any section of the country, or any individual thereof. It would prevent clear thinking and would make impossible a correct visualization of our own situation, or of the problems of the world at large.
Again, we find it suggested that there should be restricted output on the part of industries in order to ensure more employment and better wages. This has been put forward on more than one occasion in this country, and possibly in this Parliament, although I cannot recall any instances of the kind in the House. But at least it is suggested as a means of correcting the economic condition of the country to-day. Well, it is unsound economically, for you cannot have output restricted without first hurting the man who is a party to that restriction. It means, in the first instance, lessened production, and, in the second place, higher prices and consequently lessened consumption; and this would react quickly and surely upon those very people who believe in the false economic theory that restriction of output is a good thing
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The Budget-Mr. A. K. Maclean
for them or their country. All these proposals are tendered as cures for the economic diseases of the world to-day.
Now, there is a tendency to forget one of the great events of human history, namely, the fact that a great world war prevailed from the years 1914 to 1918.
We are apt to forget that that war shook the world to its very foundation and that it still trembles, and will, for years to come, and that probably a century will pass be-' fore its effects will have wholly passed away. We know further, the effect of that war upon Europe. We cannot understand cur own economic position or that of the world to-day if we forget the consequences of that war. Canada cannot return to normal business conditions until Europe has recovered her normal economic position. We may of course, do some things to improve our position, but we should always keep in mind that many of the problems confronting us to-day are due to the fact that the war has left Europe in the position which she to-day occupies. And that should bring home to all of us-it does to me at least- something which I never understood in the past as clearly as I do to-day, namely, that continents are dependent upon continents, countries upon countries, nations upon nations, for a sound trading and commercial position. The world to-day is very small; modern transportation has made intercommunication convenient and rapid. As a result the social and commercial conditions of the world are more complex today than they ever were in our history, and we are so inter-dependent, countries upon countries, and peoples upon peoples, that we cannot recover our lost position until the world as a whole has recovered from the disturbing effects of the war. And our own commercial position will not be normal so long as the commercial position of other important countries is abnormal.
This brings me to the idea-and it is merely a restatement of that which I have already expressed-that we are interested in international trade. The opinion has been expressed very frequently during this debate that we in Canada can get along very well without international trade, and that our commercial position can be improved by our trading wholly within ourselves. That, I think, is an economic fallacy. The war again has shown in many practical ways of late how dependent we are one nation upon another. Take the position of Russia, where is being enacted to-day the greatest tragedy of all the ages. Russia was a great cotton consuming coun-

try, and when she collapsed financially and economically the United States lost a great market for its cotton goods; that loss immediately reacted upon the production of raw cotton in the southern States; which in turn reacted upon the whole of the United States, and finally we became affected.
Take another instance. Russia consumed about twenty-five per cent of the tea production of India. When Russia collapsed India lost that market, and her purchasing power to that extent was lessened. India was a great consumer of cotton goods manufactured in England. So the loss of her tea trade with Russia and her resultant restricted purchasing power meant that she bought less cotton goods from England, and that consequently less of these goods were manufactured; which in turn reacted upon Canada, because it lessened the purchasing power of the British people and they bought less of our products.
A further illustration of how utterly dependent one country is upon another is afforded by what occurred in England quite recently. Large importations of a certain kind of gloves were made from Germany into a certain town in the northern part of England. That town sent representatives to the British Board of Trade asking that these importations be prohibited or restricted. Immediately the workingmen of another town close by met together and protested against any such prohibition, pointing out that these gloves were made from wool which they themselves produced, and that consequently their work would be taken away if the manufactured gloves were not allowed to be imported. So after all, Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult in these days to follow cause and effect in trading transactions, but everything clearly indicates, if I may be permitted to repeat, that we are very much dependent upon and easily affected by the condition which prevails in the other countries of the world.
While I am talking about these matters which are outside Canada, and which perhaps are not interesting, may I refer to another matter? I have already said that we in this country are interested in international politics and international trade and have tried to give a few facts in support of that statement. We are interested in every country of the world, and we can never revert to a purely Canadian viewpoint of trade, except to our own disadvantage and detriment.

The Budget-Mr. A. K. Maclean

Topic:   THE BUDGET
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF THE DEBATE OP THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
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