May 16, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)


James Steedsman



Mr. Speaker, while I desire to join heartily in the congratulations extended to the hon. Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) upon the presentation of his seventeenth budget, I regret to say that I am unable to extend my congratulations to the members of my constituency and to the residents of the province from which I come, not only because the budget affords us little or no relief from the protective tariff and fails to keep pace with the feeble efforts of last year to take a step in the right direction, but because the government have now decided that efforts in that direction shall cease and we may look for little more reduction from them. Stability, and the assurance to the protected interests that they have nothing to fear in the future with regard to the tariff, will bring rejoicing in some quarters, but, Mr. Speaker, it will bring disappointment and discontent in other sections, especially in the West, where farming conditions are such as to demand immediate relief if we are not to lose many of the valuable settlers we have at the present time. We have been told to have faith, and faith is a fine thing; but it will not pay the taxes; it will not pay the interest on the mortgage, neither will it feed or clothe the children. To be told now by a government representing a party that has always declared in favour of lower tariff that nothing further in that direction need be expected is discouraging, to say the least.
Now, Sir, in regard to the serious condition of agriculture in Canada to-day, we know that the chief cause lies in the fact that the cost of living and the cost of production have not come down in proportion to the decrease in the prices of farm products. Of course that is not the only reason, but it is the only one I shall refer to in the discussion of this budget. That being so, it will be evident to all that the farmers are producing at a loss to-day, consequently they are going behind; their debts and their difficulties are increasing every day. What is more natural, therefore, than that we should look for a remedy or for a means of balancing our budget? In reviewing the situation we realize that the main cause of low prices for what we have to sell is the lack of purchasing power on the part of the nation to whom we sell our surplus, and as the export price usually controls the local market price the only remedy in that direction is to lower the cost of transportation, the cost of handling and distributing, to the lowest possible point consistent with
The Budget-Mr. Steedsman

efficiency, and to eliminate all unfair profittaking in the performance of those operations. In this respect I am free to admit that the government have already done something; the reinstatement of the Crowsnest pass rates and the passing of the wheat board legislation of last year at the urgent request of the people of western Canada was a step in the right direction. But much more remains to be done, and we will watch with great interest.

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