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


Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta


Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether it is altogether incumbent upon me or any other member of the House to speak now on the budget as the subject has been so thoroughly covered, and viewed from almost every angle; yet there is always some point which may have escaped notice, perhaps always some slightly different slant which may be taken at some of the proposals presented.
I come here, as you all know, a man from the prairies. I am not ashamed of that fact. In fact, I am rather proud to say that I come from the province known as Sunny Alberta. It is natural that I should
to a large extent express the sentiments of the people of that province and of the people living in the constituency which sent me here, but, Sir, since coming here , I have endeavoured to learn a little more of the country in which I live. I have endeavoured to take as broad a view as possible of the country, so that I may not only serve the interests of my own constituents, those whose interests I know, but that I may as far as I can take part in the government of a great and united Canada. I have endeavoured in my own mind to understand the problems of other sections of the country, so that I might take a comprehensive view of the country as a whole and speak or work, or both, for the interests of the country as a whole.
For some time, from different sides of the House, we have heard the accusation hurled at us that the prairies are somewhat selfish. I am frank to admit that perhaps that accusation has some foundation in truth. I am less ashamed of that fact because I have not found an absolutely unselfish feeling pervading the rest of the House from other parts of Canada. I have not noticed when matters relating, say, to the maritime provinces, are under discussion, that members from that part of the country are inclined to take an absolutely unprejudiced view of those things, and so with British Columbia and the other provinces. As a matter of right, hon. members think in the terms of the country which they understand. Why, on hearing from the city of Toronto, you might almost say that the atmosphere was slightly Torontonian. So I am beginning to think it is not a matter to be ashamed of, not a matter for regret, that any one should express first, and perhaps most firmly, the opinions and the attitude of the people whom he represents. He can, besides, I think, speak with more authority, with more knowledge, and with more intelligence, when he confines himself to some extent to the interests of the country in which he lives and the pursuit which he follows.
I must, of course, discuss this budget somewhat from the point of view of how it affects the prairie provinces. I shall try, however, not to confine my ideas entirely to the prairie provinces, and shall do my best to be fair in my own mind to the interests of other parts of Canada. In the prairie provinces we feel that any budget which is based upon the principle of protection, or which largely involves that principle, is bad for us. Perhaps that is a selfish view, but it is an absolute fact.

The Budget-Mr. Speakman
More than that, I think this House recognizes that it is a fact which should be taken into consideration, because I believe that on the development and prosperity of those prairie provinces depends to quite an extent the future of this fair Dominion. I think that is a fact which will bear repetition. It is a fact which has not been contradicted. It is a fact which has been stated from all parts of the House that at some time in the future the majority of the population of this country will lie in the West, and that the future of this country will lie in the hands of the West. That being the case, there are two aspects which must be considered in dealing with the West.
The first is that, compatible with the interests of Canada as a whole, the prairie provinces should be given the opportunity of the fullest possible development. They should be given the opportunity of becoming prosperous, of attracting the best class of population, and of securing so far as possible the success and prosperity of that population when it gets there. Secondly, I believe that in the interests of Canada it would be a fatal mistake in any way to antagonize that western country by unthinking, unfair treatment.
How does the protective tariff affect the province in which I live? In the first place -I am not going into this argument at any length, but shall only give a resume-the protective tariff does without a doubt, even in the opinion of those who most favour that policy, increase to some extent the cost of living. It increases, also, to a large extent the cost of production. Now, that is an undoubted fact. The only question is whether that is balanced by benefits accruing to the country from that system. Why does it increase the cost of living? Simply because, whenever a tariff is put on any article entering into any country, it is put on for the purpose of allowing the manufacturers of the same article within that country to increase their price. It seems to me that is the object of protection. I was somewhat interested by a statement made by an hon. member on the opposite side of the House, that in one branch of the textile industry, I think it was, the manufacturers of the particular article did not take advantage of the tariff: that is, they sold on an average, due to internal competition, at about the same level of prices as obtained in the great country to the south of us. That statement interested me very much. I am not going to challenge the truth of it, because, no doubt, he is in a position to

know much better than I whether it is true or not, and, in all likelihood, he made the statement in good faith. But, if the manufacturers of those articles at the present time are not taking advantage of the tariff, are not raising their prices to the level of the tariff, and are not depending upon that protection, why, in the name of common sense, do they raise this cry that the removal of a part of the protection which they are not using, according to their statement, would ruin their industry? I cannot understand that. Looking at it from the point of view of common sense and ordinary logic, if the one statement is correct, the other cannot he; and if the statement that it would ruin their industry is correct, then they must be taking advantage of it, in order to get high prices. As a matter of fact, I believe that great apostle of protection, that fine man and eminent public statesman-although I do not agree with all his opinions-Sir George Foster, made that statement in the House. When the statement that the manufacturers raised the prices of their goods because the tariff was discussed, he said "Why, of course, they do. The protective tariff is for the purpose of raising the price, and that is what they have it there for." It goes without saying that that protection raises the cost of living.
What corresponding benefit accrues to us, to offset these disadvantages? It is well known the price of everything we sell is set by the export market. It is not assisted, or altered in any form whatever, by that tariff. Therefore it follows-and I think it has been admitted by some of the previous speakers-that, in the prairie provinces, at least, protection is practically an unmixed evil-that we suffer under the disadvantages of protection, and also under the disadvantages of free trade. That, Mr. Speaker, is our point of view. But since coming here-and I will say to some extent before coming here-I have recognized that, in a country of this great extent, containing as it does, such a diversity of interests and such a diversity of opinions, any government must be a government of compromise. I do not mean a compromise of principle. I do not suggest that any individual must compromise his principles, or his feelings of what is right or wrong, but I say if people come together from all parts, with different opinions, the only way they can get on any common ground, and the only way they can arrive at any sane method of government, is by

The Budget-Mr. Speakman
softie policy of give and take-some compromise. I intend to go into that a little further a little later on.
I want to speak, for a moment, upon the principle of the tariff, as a means of taxation. I have begun to think that 1 must be one of those cranks who believe that a tariff, as a means of raising taxes any further than is necessary-for instance, the sales tax as a means of raising revenue, if you carry it further than absolutely necessary,-is a wrong system. T believe a commodity taxation of any kind is founded essentially and fundamentally upon a wrong conception of taxation altogether. I know that that is a very broad statement to be made by a man as inexperienced as I am, but I have looked upon it from, perhaps, only one point of view,-the point of view of the poor man in this country. I have looked upon it, not only from the point of view of the struggling farmer, but, since coming east, I have been in some of the great factories of the country, and have seen the women and girls working steadily in the factories on a very uninteresting job-for what? The means of a poor living. That is what it amounts to, and it is because of having seen those people, and the fact that the protection of, the commodity means that they are compelled to pay more for the means of subsistence, more for their clothing and boots and shoes to keep the wet from their feet, that I have come to the conclusion it is wrong. I believe I touched once before upon the commodity tax, as it affected the population of this country-the immigration to this country, if you like to call it that. I believe I said that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of most people in the House, the most desirable class of population in this country, or in any country, was the native born population; that, in fact, we should follow, as far as we could, our friends of the fair province of Quebec, and build up a vigorous and numerous population by our own efforts, and any fiscal policy to my mind should be framed with the idea of encouraging the creation of such population.
But does a commodity tax do that? Why, Mr. Speaker, the commodity tax acts as a great deterrent against such increase of population. It places an absolute
premium upon bachelors and old maids, for the very obvious reason that people are taxed as a penalty for having children. That sounds like a strong statement, but I believe it is absolutely true. I
do not think it is intentional, but it is absolutely incidental to any commodity tax. As I said before, the father and mother of a family know that from the moment the baby is born they have to buy boots and shoes, clothes and everything else for it. Under our system of commodity taxation they are taxed on those articles, and that, simply, means that, for every additional child in the family, they have to pay an additional tax, and, if that is not a baby tax, what is it? I am not a protectionist, and, I think, perhaps hon. members have gathered that fact already; but there is one industry in this country that deserves protection and should receive it, and that is our own infant industry. I shall stand-and I hope I always shall-for the protection of that industry, and for the encouragement of large families.
There is another point of view from which the farmers at least look upon the tariff as possibly an unmixed evil. The hon. member from Halifax (Mr. Maclean) made one of the finest and most statesmanlike speeches for three quarters of the time during which he spoke that has been heard since the House met, and in the course of his remarks he made the absolutely true statement that, in regard to international commerce between countries, goods must be paid for with goods; in other words, we must import in order that we can export. We, in our market, depend absolutely upon our export market. We know that a protective tariff, by restricting the importation of goods from the countries to which we would sell our produce, restricts our possibility of selling. So, not only does a protective tariff increase the cost of our production, but it restricts our market and reduces our price for what we have produced. That is another reason why we object to it from the point of view of the prairie. I have noticed with some interest, a disposition from different parts of this House to look upon the West as a market placed there by Divine Providence for their goods. We are willing to buy their goods; we need their goods; the mutual trade and commerce between provinces is just as beneficial as that between nations; but we cannot see that that is the only reason Why we were placed in the world. We cannot see that our only object in life is to provide a carefully conserved market for any of our friends, however pleasant gentlemen they may be and however unselfish may be their views,

The Budget-Mr. Speakman
and we rather protest against being looked upon from that point of view.

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