Mr. H. A. FORTIER (Labelle) (Translation) :
Mr. Speaker, those years of the Great War were the cause of a deep disturbance both in the economic and national life of our country. As we gradually emerge from the gloom of this never to be forgotten period of our history, we more vividly realize the extent of the spontaneous sacrifices made, resulting from the participation of this young country in the greatest world war of all times.
The Liberal party became heir, in December 1921, to a rather burdensome estate. Called upon to take charge of the administration of affairs in this country, the present government found itself facing an enormous public debt which the years following the war had but increased through considerable yearly loans so as to meet the ever increasing deficits. Moreover, our predecessors had further added to our obligations, the burden of state management of the National Railways which yearly showed large deficits. Ail the taxes that a country may be burdened with, our predecessors had imposed.
Yet, all the sources of revenue and all the heaviest levies bearing upon the Canadian subject, henceforth, taxed to the utmost limit,
could not balance our budget. Briefly, this was the situation of our finances when the present government took hold of power in December, 1921.
Two things were absolutely necessary to the good administration of affairs in this country: a strict economy and moderation, that is to say a gradual return to pre-war conditions. I think the present government has practised economy and this accounts for the success of this administration which has already begun to greatly improve our financial situation by solving the problem by which we shall soon see the end of our deficits. We now fully hope, in the near future, to see the return of those prosperous years of the Laurier government.
The late government, during the years that followed armistice, up to the end of their term in office, had borrowed nearly $1,000,000,000. The interest alone of these war loans amounted to about $50,000,000. We cannot take into account the fiscal year of 1921-1922, as being the first fiscal year of the Liberal administration for the greater part of it was under the administration of our predecessors. The first fiscal term which could be attributed to the present government would therefore be that of 1922-1923. It is true that during that period the Minister of Finance admitted that he had been constrained to borrow the sum of $49,000,000, however, we have grounds to console ourselves to some extent, in the fact that this loan was not any greater, for it only makes up the amount required to pay off the interest on the loans made by our predecessors, from armistice day up to the time they were driven out of power. The present estimates attest a considerable decrease in expenditures and the management of our railways which are on the mend, allows us to hope that the patriotic efforts of those at the helm of the country will succeed in restoring our financial equilibrium. I have faith in the comforting forecasts of the Minister of Finance and I again state it is only through these principles of economy and cautiousness that the government may overcome the financial difficulties which have, up to date, seemed to us insurmountable Guided by these wise principles, the government has already made an effort to reduce the irksome burden of taxation. True to its programme, it has already brought on tariff changes in a downward revision of duties. I especially rejoice in seeing that, at this stage of the session, offers are made by the Liberal government to the United States toward a resumption of the negotiations for a trade convention such as we were intent on
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securing in 1911. I think that had we not rejected the offer of our powerful neighbours, in 1911; had we ratified this advantageous trade convention for the exchange of agricultural products with the United States; Canada would certainly be more prosperous and would even be more united than it is, to-day. This exchange of agricultural products with our neighbours would be to the advantage of both countries. Had we carried out this trade convention of 1911, I again state that we would now be better off than we are at present, however, since the Minister of Finance, in the eloquent speech he made the other day, declared that the wish of Canada was to carry out this trade convention with the United States, we do hope that our neighbours will not lend a deaf ear to our offer. If we, to-day, read the newspapers which reach us from across the 45th parallel, if we listen to those in authority in the United States who have expressed their views, we can say that the appeal made by the Minister of Finance will not be a vain one, and that to-morrow perhaps, we may, for the exchange of certain products, carry out this trade convention which will certainly be to the advantage of both countries, but especially to that of Canada, the pre-eminently agricultural country, which feels the want, in consequence of the development of its great natural resources, of engrossing the friendship of our neighbours and bringing about a trade treaty with them.
Canada has not its equal so far as its natural resources are concerned. Its farms, mines, forests, fisheries and industrial products forever increasing, place her henceforth in a position to seek advantageously trade relations with American countries, Europe and all the dominions of Great Britain. It is to the Liberal party's credit to have granted this British preference which increases the exchange of our products with those of the Mother Country, and which has been a great aelp in maintaining and developing, especially in our old provinces, one of our important agricultural industries: the dairy industry, destined to bring wealth to our farms in this part of Canada. It is again to our party's credit to have further increased this British preference and thus anticipated the wishes of the Canadian people. It is with the object of furthering our trade and industries, so necessary to the work of reconstruction, that our government is negotiating a trade convention with Australia. This government, moreover, has happily negotiated a new trade convention with both France and Italy. France of late years has been looking to our country; we are
continuously present in her mind, and as the ancestor, she comes to us with the tender feeling evoked by long separation. Should not we, her descendants, united to her people by the ties of kinship, respond to such overtures from the old Motherland, and proclaim that we have sought her in the course of our national existence, with the sincerity which springs from true hearts and inspired by our historical motto "Je me souviens." France came to us in those never-to-be-forgotten days of June, 1921, when the Fayolle mission, composed of the most illustrious Frenchmen, landed on our soil to officially present to the government of Canada the venerated statue of France, by Rodin. This statue now rests here, in the capital of Canada, under the roof of this parliamentary building, and one may say that the image of the old Motherland shines brightly from the promontory of Ottawa, on all the horizons of the Dominion of Canada. Has she not since made, to the Canadian nation, the highly apreciated gift of 250 acres of land on Vimy ridge? This patch of French soil, made illustrious through the heroism of the sons of Canada during the Great War, now encloses the glorious remains of those who have fallen on the battlefields. The government will erect there a monument commemorative of the great deeds of its children. In the centuries to come, this sacred spot across the seas will for ever remind the sons of New France grown old of the grateful feelings of the older Motherland. After this event the souvenir of which is very dear to us, France still remembered us and we remembered her through this trade convention which Parliament has just ratified. This treaty would give new life to business and would help us to bear up with fortitude through this period of after-war by relieving the financial situation and helping us to carry over the enormous deficits of our National Railways.
One of the most important tasks to which the present members of the government must give their entire attention, is certainly the management of our National Railways. A gigantic enterprise which, last year, showed a deficit of $67,000,000, a deficit borne by the tax-payers of this country. However, by devoting their energies to the great task of managing a railway system which is the largest in the world, the government must rely on the public's good-will, their united effort and on the sympathy of all the citizens of this country. [DOT]
I congratulate the Government for having appointed very able men to fill the important posts of directors of the National Railway Board. I especially congratulate them for
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having placed at the head of the board, Sir Henry Thornton, a man of wide experience, an able man, one who possesses to a high degree the genius of administration, and who, I feel confident, will make a success of the important work in connection with the National Railways. With such men, backed by a public-spirited administration-which should give us the assurance of a fair trial being given to public ownership,-I am certain that our railways will become one of the most important items in the assets of the State and will constitute one of the most reliable means of contributing to the development of our country.
In a young country like Canada, with an unlimited stretch of land, natural resources of incomparable wealth, it is necessary that the railway should closely accompany and sometimes precede the important work of colonization. Take for example the prairie provinces. The immense plains of La Verendrye remained unsettled as long as the railway had not encircled with its steel ribbon the matchless wheat fields. From the valleys of the Red liver and the Assiniboine, the settler found his way to those rich lands that now grace the prosperous cities of Portage-la-Prairie, Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Calgary and Edmonton. Saskatchewan and Alberta rose in the middle West as if by enchantment, two provinces which sprang up some fifteen years ago, the happy result of agricultural settlement made possible by the railway. Further away, on the shores of the Pacific ocean, there exists a province, famous for the incomparable beauty of its scenery and the mildness of its climate, rich through its unrivalled national resources. "Splendor sine occasu" appears on its blazon. She finds this splendor in the development of agriculture through the colonization of her fertile valleys. The three transcontinental railways which cross the Rocky mountains are admirably adapted to the opening up of settlements and to the building of towns. Already wheat is begining to flow from Alberta to the port of Vancouver. In the East as in the West the transportation facilities are always the most powerful means of developing the economic resources of our country. In the eastern provinces, in our old province of Quebec, it is through the railways and the work accomplished by Laurier, namely the construction of his transcontinental that we have been able to witness the opening up of this beautiful and immense region of Abitibi. That territory would still be covered with virgin forests if we had not built this railway which was the means of spreading French civilization beyond the Laurentian mountains. It
may be said in certain quarters that this is very unwise expenditure. I, however, think that it is absolutely necessary for a young country, and we, the political heirs of those who accomplished this so important task of the construction of the transcontinental, which permitted the rapid development of the Abitibi region, one of the best of the province of Quebec, we should the more appreciate the National Railways. Indeed, is it not the work of railways which has contributed the most to the extension of settlements? Is it not the railways which have contributed the most in settling and enlarging the magnificent county of Labelle? We may, perhaps, have more deficits for a few years, but we should not weaken in the task. So far as I am concerned, deficits do not frighten me, because I am convinced that later on we shall be proud of the great achievement accomplished by the railways. Thanks to them, Canada made progress and I again state, I do not fear the deficits, providing that our railways contribute to the expansion and prospertity of our country.
I therefore state that all the provinces of the Dominion must lend their most generous co-operation and most effective help to the government so that this important work of the management of our railways may become a financial success and at the same time a powerful lever to the development of the country through colonization. One cannot broach the subject of colonization without awakening in our mind the problem of the day, the recruiting of settlers, or in other words, immigration. Let me, Mr. Speaker, dwell for a few moments on two other necessary elements of colonization, namely, the lands fit for colonization and the assistance to be extended to the settler. The immigration problem comprises three distinct features. The first is to find land fit for cultivation; the second is to provide for the settler; and, the third is to find that settler who will make his home on such lands and will later become a good Canadian citizen. As regards settlers' lands, they are almost inexhaustible in this country, from ocean to ocean, and through all the nine provinces of the Dominion, one can find, for settling purposes, unlimited areas. ,
Speaking before the Canadian Club, at Winnipeg, on the importance of immigration in this country, Lord Shaw, last summer said: "Your incommensurable prairie provinces contain 200 million acres of arable land and up to the* present time you have but one-tenth under cultivation." Could we not say as much for our eastern provinces? In the
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old province of Quebec we are not lacking in arable lands since at present in all the valleys, right into the heart of the Laurentide mountains, we have any extent of lands fit for cultivation. At present, in our province, the area of arable land being farmed is but 3J per cent. There are, according to statistics supplied to me, over 400,000 farms of 100 acres each surveyed and reported upon which await the pioneer. I do not intend to show by means of statistics the acreage of land fit for cultivation in the nine provinces. These two distinct divisions of our national soil, the East and West, are sufficient to bear out my contention.
The provincial governments come generously to the rescue of the settler when it is a question of land grants in the old eastern provinces, where the settler's hardihood is put to test by the difficulties encountered at the outset. He must cut an opening in the virgin forests and build his shanty. Nothing equals the self-willed tenacity of the pioneer, toiling heroically to extend civilization in the far-off territories where everything breathes of the forest. However, in the midst of his toils he may depend upon the good services of a government which makes of colonization its main work. The surveying of districts, the building of roads and bridges, the help given to school and agricultural matters, are the many sides of protection shown by a government friendly to the settler.
The Quebec government in granting large subsidies, have shown themselves to be the true patron of the settler. The work of the Dominion government is still being performed on a large scale to facilitate the settlement of the immigrant on their lands.
The recruiting of the settler which is the third feature in question, is certainly one of the most important parts of the problem and the one which offers the most difficulties. The various opinions expressed on the subject since the beginning of the session only tend to show that there is a considerable exodus of settlers in the West and especially in Alberta, which is continuously on the increase. To what can this emigration be attributed? To the economic crisis of the country, a crisis accentuated by two poor consecutive crops? To the readiness with which the settler hailing from the United States at the first setback encountered, returns to his native land? To the too extensive immigration of the first decade of this century? Whatever be the causes, the consequences are but transient and everything seems to point to a return to normal conditions, especially after the abundant crop of last year. If we are to place
faith in the words of experienced western men, conditions have much improved and the farmer, to-day, may look with confidence to the future.
In Quebec our national increase, each year, exceeds the number of deaths by 45,000. Yet men well informed have contended that for the Last eighty years, emigration has carried away yearly from 15,000 to 20,000 people The buoyant spirit of our young men and the narrow circumstances of a portion of the people both make for the desertion which has been bleeding the country for nearly a century.
How should the recruiting be carried out? Shall it be by an appeal to the European nations so that they may cast on our shores the surplus of their population, thrust in our midst at the expense of the Canadian government? Are we to erect at the entrance of the ports of St. John, Halifax and Quebec, another statue of Liberty holding out a large mantle to receive in its folds all the wandering children of the earth? I do not think so. Let us first keep those who are with us, let us make our own people happy; we shall have but to select those who come from the outside.
One of the unquestionable advantages of the government's immigration policy is the settlement of immigrants in all the provinces of Canada. We were, up to the present time, in the habit of thinking that the prairie provinces were the only ones entitled to receive immigrants and settle them on western wheat lands. Now, the immigrant arriving among us through his initiative and that of the government, slatall be able to settle in any part of Canada. Each province has its own advantages and disadvantages. A settler who comes to reside in Canada may have a certain temperament, special aptitudes, certain peculiarities which fit him for one province rather than for another. For instance, one coming from Belgium, France or Scandinavia might, perhaps, prefer to settle in some eastern province rather than the West, while others coming from western United States would naturally settle in the prairies. Nevertheless, all would become Canadian citizens and, hence, they would be equally entitled to the help and protection of the Immigration department. The Immigration Act, which affords an equal measure of protection to the immigrant in whatever province he settles, is fair and equitable. However, since in Quebec, the true evil is to be found not in the small number of settlers coming in, but rather in a regrettable exodus of our citizens across the 45th
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parallel, I wish to say a few words in regard to the enactment relative to repatriation agencies which are helpful to the province of Quebec, and I would ask the government to make the repatriation regulations more effective, first of all for the purpose of retaining our people who have not yet become the prey of family troubles, and secondly, with a view to bringing back those who have already emigrated. I should like to see the government take all the steps necessary so that our peasant, this courageous and abstemious farmer, should feel himself sufficiently backed up by pecuniary help to hope not only to maintain himself in comfort, but become even more prosperous. Indeed, we must not lose sight of the fact that the large families which constitute a truly national wealth, demand of the head of the family greater resources. The establishment of repatriation agencies in regard to immigration is therefore another good feature of the government's new policy. Our people who at one time went across the 45th parallel never forgot their native country; many of them are awaiting a favourable opportunity to return to live and die among us. Let them know that their brothers in Canada are desirous of seeing them again and extending a warm welcome. The old province awaits them and has paved the way for their reestablishment. The government agents should be among them to let them know on our part that there is room for them in the old eastern provinces, as well as those in the West, and that everywhere their old fellow-citizens await them with open arms.
Mr. Speaker, the session is drawing to a close; I have followed the debates with attention mingled with some anxiety. My country, I had a glimpse of it, thanks to ail those beautiful speeches of eminent men but of very contradictory opinions. As I saw it, it was going through a crisis wherein its future was at stake. The glorious hour has struck for us; we who form the party in power, if we know how to respond to the hopes of the people, the propitious moment to ensure the permanent welfare of this country of ours. It is in a period of such great upheavals that a nation, filled with apprehensions for the future, needs great men, wise statesmen who find the means of ensuring the safety of the nation's future. I feel confident that Providence who guides nations and has entrusted into our hands the government of the country, in this hour of national anxiety, will bestow on our leaders that wisdom which distinguishes great statesmen. I have faith, consequently, that this perilous hour for our country will, in our annals, redound to the
honour of our party, and command the admiration of posterity.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE