June 2, 1925 (14th Parliament, 4th Session)


Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to
move an amendment:
That the Speaker do not now leave the chair, but that it be resolved:
That, in the opinion of this House, to meet the situation which has resulted from a strengthening in late years of the protective system the world over particularly in the United States; to give new life to industry and productive enterprise; to preserve and enlarge the Canadian market for Canadian farm products; to stimulate the development of Canadian resources by the Canadian people and thus create employment for our workers; to increase the traffic of our railways by which alone an all-round reduction of freight rates can be secured; and, as well, to provide added revenue and thus bring about a reduction of internal taxation, this Dominion requires an immediate revision of the Canadian tariff on a definitely and consistently protective basis.
That such revision should apply to natural products such as farm products, fish, and coal with no less thoroughness than to manufactured goods.
That to the same ends steps should be taken to conserve for Canadian development our essential and irreplaceable resources in material and power.
That while every effort should be directed toward the establishment of a system of preference for preference within the empire no preference should be given at the expense of the Canadian worker and all preference should be conditional on the use of Canadian ports.
That a tariff commission should be appointed representative of the three great classes of Canadian industry, agriculture, manufacturing and labour and be entrusted with the duty of studying Canadian tariff problems in their every bearing and of making from time to time such recommendations to the government as it deems in the general public interest with the reasons therefor, and with power also, where it finds unfair advantage is being taken of protective duties, of making recommendations to be given effect by the government for removing or reducing tariff schedules or imposing special excise taxes upon products in respect of which such advantage is taken, and that its reports, findings, recommendations and reasons therefor be given to the public.
That to enable the products of the western and Maritime provinces to reach more readily the markets so developed the special transportation burdens borne by those provinces should be shared by the whole Dominion either by contribution to long haul freight costs or by assistance in some other form.
It is a matter of regret to me, Mr. Speaker, that I am compelled to move this resolution, which has stood upon the order paper since the opening of the session, in the form of an amendment instead of as a substantive mo-
Supply-Tariff Revision

tion. On private members' days, which, under the rules, were alone open to me for this purpose, the order never was reached excep' at so late an hour of night as to render it impracticable to have it moved and discussed, and the government saw fit to decline to give any special preference to the motion or to fix a day for its discussion. That it now becomes an amendment to supply and on that account is open to the government to be accepted as a motion of want of confidence, is no choice of mine; it is the only alternative left. I avail myself of that alternative and shall present the reasons why I think the motion should be adopted, why at all events, if it cannot appeal to this House, it should appeal to the people of Canada.
In the Dominion the principle underlying this resolution, that of a protective tariff, has been recognized as basic and essential from almost our earliest times. It was first recognized as such in 1878 and was put in effect by the parliament chosen in the election of that year.
I have never been able to understand how any fair-minded Canadian can spurn the protective principle as applicable to this Dominion and can adlopt a contrary one, namely, that which calls for the free admission or free export of any product in which Canada is interested as a producer. Two or three sentences include, to my mind, pretty nearly the law and the prophets on this question. The other plan might do if in the first place the world were prepared to abandon all its efforts to spread occupations throughout the universe; if all the nations were to gather together and agree that natural laws should operate and that the consequent concentration of industries in special countries should ensue. There are those who feel this would be a great boon to humanity. Whether it would or not interests us not a whit; the consummation of it is impossible. For myself, however, I do not think it would; I think it much better- that each nation should see to it that there is diversification, variety of industry within its borders, and that the world is far better for this diversity, for this scattering of human occupations over the face of the globe. But as I intimated, the subject is not here for discussion; the nations of the world have followed a different course, and especially have those whose conduct, whether we like it or not, determine in great degree our own. If we had a system of free labour the world over; if labour were in this day to be regarded as a commodity purchasable in the open market under the unimpeded laws of demand and supply; if every em-
[Mr Meighen.]
ployer in Canada were free to put his hand on any portion of the globe and take labour of any colour or any quality or any race, and if we could keep them here at low wages then there -would be little to prevent the free competition of the industries of one land with those of another. That this is impossible is obvious to all, and to none more obvious than to those who have the interests of labour in the advanced countries of the world at heart. How anyone can imagine that with the price of labour determined by other considerations, not to any appreciable extent by the law of supply and demand but 'by laws brought about by the organization of labour itself- by laws restricting immigration; in a word, by protective laws applicable to humanity -how it can be imagined that under these conditions a country which is not free to buy its labour -must be open to the competition of the countries where labour is plentiful and wages low, passes my comprehension.
But Canada in particular is situate beside a country which has determined on the other course, a country which for one hundred and twenty years has decided that the labour of that country, the- great republic, shall be paid on a high level of remuneration, that consequently living standards there shall be better than the average of the world; and when that country lies along side us, with an unprotected border between, how anyone then can conceive that we can choose a policy looking to low wages, even if we would like to, is hard indeed to comprehend. We have learned by experience, and we should have been able to learn by the power of reason, that labour in Canada must be paid a wage comparable, and closely comparable, with that paid in the great republic to the south, and that, we cannot consistently with our existence adopt any course which keeps our wage level substantially lower than theirs. When wages in Canada in any class or compartment fall below the general level of the same class or compartment in the country to the south, the tendency and the ultimate end is that that class of labour drifts where the higher wages are paid. The Canadian producer without a protective tariff is under this necessity, that he cannot procure the labour of countries where it is cheap, that he must compete with the product of that labour. He must pay the level of his competitor to the south; and still there are those who say that he must sell his product at a price at which countries of cheap labour can sell that product here.
We have additionally to remember this-we do not need to, for already the considerations

Supply-Tariff Revision
which I have advanced are not only air-tight in argument, but have proven irrefragible in practice-so long as the United States of one hundred and ten millions of people is a closed market, if we are to adopt a policy which makes ours relative to theirs an open market, there is no inducement for industry to locate in this country at all with the alternative of location to the south open to that industry. For who, having regard to the prospects of his enterprise, would commence his business in a country where his one single open market would be invaded by his competitor when he could with equal ease launch it in a country where he would have the whole market closed against competitors and have his share of this market as well? How we can conceive that any considerable number would take such a course seems to me beyond the reach of reason or even of immagination.
All reasons which apply to every country apply to Canada, and apply with particular force to Canada. But Canada labours under conditions which make the adoption of this course with us imperative, conditions comparable to which no other country of the world confronts. Our course is mapped out for us, and we must follow it so long at least as the United States pursues a protective policy.
There are those who have been disappointed with the progress of Canada through the early decades of her development, but having in mind the conditions under which Canadian progress must be made, that disappointment in my judgment has not been well founded. I wish to place upon Hansard certain details illustrative of the development of our country under the protective system; because I ask hon. gentlemen to assume with me that the system prevailed for the most part undisturbed until three years ago. I am not arguing. when I make this statement, that it prevailed always at the level that would have been best for our country, but that the principle was recognized, implemented in practice, there is no dispute.
Until 1894 a substantially protective tariff was in effect. Reductions were made that year and with succeeding years slight reductions followed, but there was no material invasion of the protective principle until of very late years. Under the system which we fo'lowed and which has always appealed to me as obviously applicable to Canada, we developed from a very small country to one of proud proportions, and in every branch of our industry we multiplied our production and multiplied our wealth.
There are those who say it has weighed down hard on agriculture. The statistics of
Canada do not contribute to establish that asumption. We have not our agricultural production data as far back as 1878, but I give the figures as far back as record goes.
Our field crops increased in value from $194,953,420 in 1901 to $891,755,200 in 1923; our live stock totals went from $268,651,026 in 1901 to $613,260,000 in 1923; our dairy products from $29,731,922 in 1901 to $104,972,046 in 1922; our mineral production from $10,221,255 in 1881 to $214,102,000 in 1923. Our manufactures went from $221,617,773 in 1871 to $2,747,926,675 in 1921.

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