February 8, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Thomas Henry McConica


Mr. T. H. McCONICA (Battleford):

Mr. Speaker, I did not expect to participate in this debate but circumstainces are such that I deem it my duty to myself, to my associates and to the members of the House to make some pronouncement as to where I stand. I should like to go to some extent into the discussion of the Speech from the Throne, but I have decided under the circumstances to forego that pleasure. I am admonished that it is the desire to conclude this debate to-night and I shall certainly not weary the House I want to congratulate the mover (Mr. Putnam) and the seconder (Mr. Rheaume) of the Address on the excellent speeches they delivered in discharging that duty. I concur in all that has been said in commendation including the speech that I was unable to understand when the seconder delivered it I do not think it is entirely my fault if I could not understand it. I spent long hours in my younger days trying to master the French language, and I failed. The trouble was not that I did not study with sufficient diligence, but that the Almighty did not seem to have ntended me for a Frenchman. But I would say to the hon. member that I have since given myself the pleasure of reading the translation of his able remarks, and I most heartily congratulate him.
I would say a word with regard to those who are not with us. I was well acquainted with but one of our late members, who have crossed the dark river, and I feel that I should say something as to him. I refer to the hon. member who formerly represented Lanark (Mr. Stewart). My acquaintance with him was all too brief. Soon after coming into the House I met him as an inexperienced, green member meets the experienced member who has reaped the reward of occupying a high position among those with whom he is associated, but I found him to be a considerate, kindly, courteous, polished gentleman. A gentleman in all that the term applies. I had the pleasure of being associated with him as a neighbour on this side of the chamber and in committee work for one session, and I came to esteem him as a statesman, careful, industrious, painstaking, honest, efficient and able-a most valuable member of this House. I esteemed him as a citizen worthy in every respect, patriotic, and devoted to

the best interests of his country. In a word, Mr. Speaker, such a gentleman, such a statesman and such a patriot as we may well honour, and therefore I desire to add my tribute to what has been so well expressed concerning him.
I would touch on one or two matters that have arisen in this debate. I am still from the West, Mr. Speaker, and I am still proud of the West. I am proud of her people, and I would admonish you that they are not a whining, complaining set of people out there; they are men with good, strong nerves, they are patriotic, they are intelligent, they are industrious, they are courageous, and they are bound to fight to the bitter end. This they are doing under most adverse circumstances. I can assure you. I am not here to retract anything that has been said as to the arduous conditions existing there Indeed, I am personally in such a position that I dare not attempt anything of the kind. We are not getting enough for our wheat; that is what is the matter with jus. Wheat is the thing we must depend on in that country. My esteemed friend, the right hon. leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) says he can see that there is a relation between 75-cent wheat and an exhausted, bankrupt Europe with exchange demoralized and credit gone. We can all see that. But I want to remind the right hon. gentleman that Europe has bought all the wheat we could send them. There has been no trouble to find a market for our whear, over there. And they have paid for it. But if the papers are to be credited, the spread between what they pay to-day for our wheat and what we get for it is from 40 cents to 50 cents. more per bushel than it was before the war when conditions were normal, when money was plentiful, and when exchange was in their favour rather than otherwise.
Now, where is the trouble? There is a leak, somewhere. That is what is the matter with us. The two parties that are interested in this business, the producer and the consumer, are not receiving proper consideration. They are the real parties in interest, and the gap is too wide. We are informed by my esteemed friend from Saskatoon (Mr. Evans) that bread costs about a third less in London than it does in Saskatoon where we raise the wheat from which the bread is made. There is something wrong. I am not going to emphasize this now, although I should like to discuss it fully, and I may say to my hon. friends that I am still for the Wheat Board. We intend to have a board of that kind some of these days, but I won't weary the House

The Address-Mr. McConica
with that subject to-night. We must have some relief. We are promised in the Speech from the Throne that a committee will be appointed to investigate, with power to make recommendations. I have lived in Canada quite a considerable number of years, for fifteen years I have been trying to raise wheat, and I think I have put in about one-half of my spare time reading reports of investigations by committees, Mr. Speaker, and yet to-day we are still in worse shape , than we ever were in respect to the wheat business. We want investigation, but wo want something more.
But it is to the amendments that I desire to speak. We have offered an amendment through the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey), raising a question which we still think is vital to Canada. We attempted to raise that same question last year, and were ruled out.
I am not disposed to question that ruling. However, we had no opportunity of bringing that question to a discussion. Now it . is objected that we are attempting to embarrass the government by introducing the amendment at this juncture. Nothing of the kind is intended. Here is a proposition upon which the people of this country are divided, upon which the members of this House are divided. Now if we can bring that to a square-toed issue and draw that line, and this government is defeated, then I am willing to accept the consequences, Mr. Speaker. That is where I stand on that proposition. There are two sides to that question, and I am here to maintain the platform upon which I was elected and the principles in which I believe, namely, that the tariff should be reduced. I do not believe that this country can continue to exist and prosper half free trade and half high protection. The farmers must sell their products in the markets of the world in competition with the cheapest labour imaginable, they must encounter everything that tends to pull down their prices, including an exorbitant spread between them, the producers, and the consumers, and they, the producers, must buy what they require at high protective tariff prices. As I say, we are selling our wheat cheaper than we did before the war. And what are we getting? We are getting a dollar which is worth sixty cents,as compared with the dollar we got before the war. The reason for that to my mind is not that Europe cannot buy, for she is buying our wheat. I say we are here to support the amendment offered by the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey). and we are ready to accept the consequences, even if the government should decide in the event of the amendment carrying, that it was
ready to retire from office. We do not want that, I will admit. Personally I do not want it. It would interfere with my plans to some extent, and I do not believe the country wants it. But I believe the country does want a pronouncement on this question, and if the majority of members in this parliament are in favour of a radical reduction in the tariff, and say so, I do not know but what we could form a government out of that element and run this country in pretty good shape. Therefore, I am going to support that amendment, ar.d I hope everyone here will.
We have another amendment, offered by the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Shaw). Ii presenting his amendment to the House, he was good enough to relieve the Progressives from all responsibility in connection with it. He defined his position in the House, which we have well understood, and with his definition and attitude we fully agree. It is perfectly proper that he should take the position he did; he was so elected. We would like to co-operate with him fully in such legislation as we think should be enacted, and in that respect we would like to co-operate with every member in this House. But we would like it understood that when he says it is not our amendment he is proposing, that that is the position exactly. We have a notion on our side that we will vote as we please on a thing of that kind. What is the amendment of the hon. gentleman? He 3ays:
The House views with alarm the substantial increase in the national debt.
In that sentiment I fully agree. I apprehend we are all of one mind upon that. We must view with alarm the fact that the national debt has been materially increased. It has been fashionable with me to view with alarm any increase in my own indebtedness or any indebtedness of the country, so I think we are all a unit on that. But is it the office of the Speech from the Throne to catalogue al! the things we view with alarm? If that is its function, I submit that the list is far too short. The hon. gentleman seems rather to insist on limiting it to one thing. If he would submit the list to my good friend for St. John (Mr. Baxter), who delivered that Jeremiad this afternoon, I am sure he would view with alarm conditions with regard to the potato growers, lumbermen, and everything else in that part of the country, and my hon. friend from Hants (Mr. Martell) could also add a lot of things that he views with alarm. My hon. friend from King's (Mr. Hughes) could also furnish him with a list. When the cars on his line, are hot they are too hot, and when they are cold they are too cold. If the hon.
The Address-Mr. McConica

gentleman really wants a substantial list of woes, let him consult his own associates from the province of Alberta. Why, they could furnish him with an unvarnished tale of woes that would make each individual hair stand up like the quills upon the fretful porcupine, and the pity of it is they would all be true. That is the tragedy of it. They would all be more real than the rather academic and thumb-worn general proposition which he has seen fit to include in his pronouncement. I think he would have been well advised to have left out that part of his amendment, because it is a proposition with which we all agree, and the list is not in any way complete when he limits it to the one thing. He says:
This House views with alarm the increase in the national debt and urges Your Excellency's advisers to exert every possible effort to economize in the expenditure and administration of government.
I agree with that. It is proper that we should have economy in the expenditure and administration of government; I think they mean about the same thing. But I want more economy than that. I want to see economy in the management of our railways, that great enterprise that has passed out of the hands of the government and in which the people of Canada are vitally interested. I want to see economy in the management of our harbour commissions and terminal elevators, and in all our great quasi-public institutions. I go further, I want to see economy in all the railways and among all the people of Canada. We must have economy everywhere. The trouble with that part of the amendment is that it does not go far enough. It is limited to the expenditure and administration of government. My friends to my right seem to think that is all we should eponomize on in this country, but I do not agree with that at all.
The amendment goes on to say that the purpose of this economy is "to lessen the burden of federal taxation." That is a very commendable thing to do, and I am in favour of it. I think we would be very wise indeed if we were to practise economy everywhere and lessen the burden of taxation. But I would go further than that. I would say that we should conserve our resources to such an extent that we can not only cut out this deficit but pay something on the national debt and carry on all the great public improvements that are needed. We might improve the harbour at St. John, for instance, and at Quebec and Montreal. We should complete the Hudson Bay railway. Let us economize to that end. We should send out feeders to our railroad lines on the prairies-

build branch lines. My good friend the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) some little time after the new Board of Railway Directors was appointed, and before they had had their first meeting, I think, certainly long before Sir Henry Thornton came from England, is reported to have said out in the West that they were going to build a lot of lines on the prairies. I do not know how he got his information. I thought Sir Henry Thornton was the man to make a statement of that kind. It embarrassed me a good deal, because I could not back it up. I did not know, and I did not know whether he knew or not. If he did, I would like to know how he found out, because I do not think Sir Henry Thornton knew as he had not then seen the railways. .
But I want to see economy. It will assist us in that respect, it will assist us in the building of the terminal facilities out at Vancouver. I do not want to limit our economy to merely relieving the burdens of taxation. The qualifications that the hon. gentleman has put in here are words of limitation. They cut down the scope of our aims. If I had drawn that amendment I should have said, " I am in favour of economy," that is all. Economy is what we want-economy in administration and expenditure, economy in the operation of every public enterprise, and in our own private lives, and to the end that we may not only reduce the burdens of taxation but that we may build up this country to the future that certainly lies before us. When that is done we shall have the results which are spoken of here, and many more blessings will follow in its train. So I say this amendment does not commend itself very much to me.
Now what is the pronouncement of His Excellency? He says that the public accounts will be down soon, and declares that a strict economy in all public expenditures continues to be a necessity. Now, does not that cover the matter pretty thoroughly? Is not that just about as broad as you can make it? I ask the hon. gentlemen on my left, does that not mean a lot more than the statement of the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Shaw)? I think it does, and I submit, Mr, Speaker, that in the first place this amendment is not germane to' the amendment of the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey) ; it does not touch a single thing that is contained in that amendment; it is not relevant in the most remote degree; and I do not quite understand how it was held to be in order. It is also a contraction of the declaration of His Excellency. The Governor General de-

The Address-Mr. Stewart {Leeds)
dares that economy in all public expenditures continues to be a necessity. That course we are admonished to follow, that rule is set up for us to adhere to. What more do we want? I apprehend it would hardly do for His Excellency to intrude into our private lives and tell us what we should do there; he was instructing parliament. My platform is a litle broader than his. I want economy to begin right in my own household, and then to permeate this whole great country of ours, permeate public and private bodies, permeate every enterprise and every interest; and when that time comes I believe that the. clouds that lower upon our horizon will be buried in the deep bosom of the ocean.
That is all I care to say, but I think I have made myself clear as to the position some of us occupy upon this matter. But we are not going to be unanimous-some voting one way and some voting another. I do not propose to cast a vote that will dissolve this House unless I mean it. Suppose a vote on the second amendment had the effect of dissolving parliament, as I infer it would from the excellent speech of the Minister of Finance, what does it mean? What would we be going to the country on? On something as to which we are all agreed-that- is that we want economy-and what good could result? I think the hon. gentleman would be well advised to withdraw his amendment.

Topic:   S, 1923
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