February 22, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. I. D. COTNAM (North Renfrew):

With considerable diffidence as a new member, I rise to address the House on this occasion, but before proceeding to a discussion of the subject under consideration I desire, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate you on your elevation to the exalted position you hold in parliament. The members here, I am sure, all appreciate the grace and dignity you bring to your high and exalted position, the fairness of your decisions and your impartiality in disposing of all questions that come before you for review. I desire also to congratulate some of the hon. members on the Liberal side who have taken part in the various debates which we have so far had in this House, particularly during the earlier part of the session.
I refer especially to hon. members from the province of Quebec who have astonished me by the extent of their knowledge of the English language and their proficiency in its use. It has been indeed a great pleasure to listen to those hon. gentlemen speaking in a language other than their mother tongue, and giving expression to their ideas in such well-chosen terms. I listened particularly with a great deal of interest to the address delivered some time ago by an ex-Speaker of this House in the person of the hon. member for Bonaven-ture (Mr. Marcil) who, I thought, was uncommonly fair and open minded and who couched his observations in faultless language.
We have a rather peculiar situation in this House at tire present time. We came into parliament following a general election on October 29. We know that on that occasion the government of the day appealed to the country after propounding certain principles, certain doctrines and certain policies which they thought should be inaugurated in this country if they were to carry on the business of this Dominion successfully. In the Prime Minister's manifesto delivered on September 6 last, he propounded those questions of policy which he thought Should take precedence, and with which he thought this parliament should deal. After the election we find that the remnants of that government came back to this House with a following much depleted. They had been storm-tossed and shipwrecked. The government was decapitated on election day, and although they have since recovered their head, I think the people of this country realize, as do the members of this House as they look across to the other side to-night, that they are indeed a very dilapidated remnant of a government.
Those of us who took part in the election of 1921 will remember that the Liberal party on that occasion appealed to the electors of this country on a very definite platform from that which had been laid down in the convention held in this city of Ottawa in the year 1919. At that convention the Liberal party selected a new leader, the Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, and we all know that he was selected as the leader of the party pledged to support a certain platform, certain policies which were enunciated and laid down upon that occasion. The Liberal party appealed to the country in 1921, but I am here to-night to say that they did not * appeal to the country on the policies enunciated in the platform of 1919. In my own constituency, the Liberal platform as laid down in 1919 was never once mentioned during the campaign of 1921. During that whole

The Address-Mr. Cotnam
campaign the Liberal party carried on under the name of the late revered leader of the party, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whose name was continually conjured up in order to carry the party through. Mr. Mackenzie King, the leader of the Liberal party, was in1 my own constituency during the 1921 campaign, and wthile there he failed to discuss the platform or enunciate the policies of the Liberal party; in fact, the Liberal candidate, who afterwards became the Liberal member in this House from 1921 to 1925, although he had been an avowed free trader all his life, when the election of 1921 took place declared that he had changed his policies and that he was now an out-and-out protectionist. The leader of the Liberal party, I say, when he was in my constituency did not discuss the Liberal platform of 1919; in fact, I do not think the Liberals in this House or in the country want to see that platform of 1919 carried into effect at all. Mr. Mackenzie King, when he came to my constituency in 1921-he was then leader of the opposition-spoke of other problems, problems which were more or less local, and which perhaps appealed more or less to the people of that constituency. Following Mr. King during the whole progress of his 1921 campaign, I believe that he conducted it entirely as he did the last campaign, on geographical principles, enunciating, not the policies or principles of the Liberal party, if it has any, but rather the policies which he thought would suit the particular constituency in which he happened to be speaking.
When Mr. Mackenzie King spoke in mv constituency in 1921 he took up such problems as these: As hon. members know, he claims
to be a very strong opponent of trusts, mergers and combines, although as a matter of fact he was a member of the Laurier administration during a period when there were more trusts, mergers and combines formed in the Dominion of Canada than, there had ever been before or since. I notice that in his manifesto at Richmond Hill Mr. King again took up the subject of monopolies, declaring that he was unalterably opposed to monopolies, trusts, mergers and combines in any shape or form. That is all very fine as grandstand play, but what actually has taken place during Mr. King's regime, even within the last year? In my constituency in 1921 he declared that if he became Prime Minister of this country there would be no more bank mergers in the Dominion. He was opposed to mergers then because it happened that at that particular time a merger was being negotiated between the Bank of Montreal and the Merchants Bank, yet we find that in 1924, 14011-79
just last year, there were four bank mergers consummated in the Dominion of Canada without a word of protest from Mr. King or any member of his government. There were amalgamated last year the Bank of Commerce and the Bank of Hamilton; La Banque Nationale and La Banque dTIochelaga; the Standard Bank and the Sterling Bank; Molson's Bank and the Bank of Montreal; and yet Mr. King says that he is opposed to trusts, mergers and combines in any shape or form.
During that same campaign of 1921 Mr. King declared that if he became Prime Minister of this country he would have an investigation into the affairs of the Riordon Company of Canada. That was a company in which a great many people in eastern Canada were interested at that time, particularly the people of Ontario and Quebec, who had put their money into that corporation expecting that it was an organization which was being fairly and equitably handled, and one in which the shareholders would have a fair chance. The government that went out of office in 1921 found it necessary to take I.O.U's from the Riordon Company in payment of certain business taxes, because the company, owing to the financial position in which they found themselves, were unable to pay those taxes at the time. When Mr. King spoke in my constituency in 1921 he tried by innuendo to make it appear that the Conservative government was in some way allied with the big interests and with the Riordon Company, that there was some secret underhand dealing between them whereby the Riordon Company was exempted from taxation, yet subsequent events proved that the Riordon Company was in a serious financial position at that time, and that it was impossible for them to pay their business profits taxes. Mr. King became Prime Minister in 1921, and from that day to this no one has ever heard anything further from him about the Riordon Company or of any investigation which would disclose the real cause of the failure of that company.
Mr. King went further than that. He said that the government of Mr. Meighen was a government by order in council, that parliament was not consulted, that practically the whole business of the country was carried on by order in council. Of course, he knew perfectly well as every hon. member knows, that no government can carry on in this country without orders in council. I venture to say to-night that the present government; during the last four years, have passed not five hundred, or a thousand, or fifteen hun-

The Address-Mr. Cotnam
dred, or two thousand orders in council, but probably three thousand such orders. And yet Mr. Mackenzie King said at that time that he was the great protagonist of responsible government in this country, that the people through parliament must be consulted in regard to everything. What do we find to-day? We find that this government-this responsible government of which Right Hon. Mackenzie King is the head-guarantee the bonds of the Canadian National railways for the building of a line of railway costing the people of this country a sum probably in the neighbourhood of three to five million dollars, for which we are directly responsible. They do this by order in council, although Mr. King insisted when in opposition that government by order in council was altogether unfair and should not be permitted under our British constitution.
I wonder if any of the Liberal members of this House have ever read over the platform of the Liberal party as enunciated in 1919 under the caption of "financial conditions and taxation." I should just like to read a little from that platform to-night for their enlightenment, to see if it conjures up any memories of the past when that platform was framed. It reads as follows:
Whereas the national safety demands that the serious financial position of the country should be known and appreciated in order that steps may be taken to cope with the same; and
Whereas on the 31st March last, according to the statement of the Minister of Finance, the net public debt was $1,584,000,000 or roughly, $220 for every man, woman and child in the Dominion, involving an annual interest charge of about $115,000,000 and thus imposing an annual burden for interest on debt alone of $15 per head of the population; and
Whereas the estimated expenditure of the Dominion government for the present fiscal year is over $800,000,000 or roughly $100 per head of the population; and
Whereas the estimated revenue is only $280,000,000, thus creating an estimated deficit of over $500,000,000- a sum equivalent to $62.50 per head of the population- which sum the Finance Minister proposes to obtain by borrowing; and-
Just listen to what they say here:
Whereas national disaster will overtake this country should the present method of financing the country's affairs be continued-
National disaster, they say, is to follow. These were the gentlemen opposite who are telling us to-night that we are the people who are preaching blue ruin in this Dominion; and yet that is what they were saying in 1919-that national disaster will overtake this country. I continue quoting:
Whereas both Great Britain and the United States at present raise more than 80 per cent of their revenue by direct taxation, while Canada raises not more tian 20 per cent;

Be it and it is hereby resolved:
That the serious nature of the country's financial situation calls for the profoundest consideration of all patriotic citizens and the exercise of severest economy by the government;
That increase of revenue must be sought from an equitable and effective imposition and collection of graduated taxes, on business profits and income, applicable to all incomes above reasonable exemptions;
Taxes on luxuries.
That the best interests of Canada demand that substantial reductions of the burdens of customs taxation be made with a view to the accomplishing of two purposes of the highest importance. First: diminishing the. very high cost of living which presses so severely on the masses of the people,-
And by the way, the cost of living is five per cent higher than it was when that platform was framed, yet nothing is said about the high cost of living to-day.
Second: reducing the cost of the instruments of production in the industries based on the natural resources of the Dominion, the vigorous development of which is essential to the progress and prosperity of our country.
That, to these ends, wheat, wheat flour and all products of wheat; the principal articles of food; farm implements and machinery; farm tractors, mining, flour and sawmill machinery and repair parts thereof; rough and partly dressed lumber; gasoline, illuminating, lubricating and fuel oils; net twines and fishermen's equipments; cements and fertilizers, should be free from customs duties, as well as the raw material entering into the same.
That a revision downwards of the tariff should be made whereby substantial reductions should be effected in the duties on wearing apparel and footwear, and on other articles of general consumption (other than luxuries), as well as on the raw material entering into the manufacture of the same.
That the British preference be increased to 50 per cent of the general tariff.
And the Liberal party hereby pledges itself to implement by legislation the provisions of this resolution when returned to power.
I am sure it must be refreshing for hon. gentlemen opposite to listen once more to these words, which they surely must have heard in 1919. That suits hon. members from Saskatchewan all right-So impressive is the statement: " The Liberal party hereby pledges itself to implement these provisions by legislation." You would think the proceedings were as solemn as a funeral. And yet to-day when we draw the attention of these gentlemen to their platform of 1919 and the explicit planks they laid down therein, in which they said that national disaster would overtake the then government if they continued on this course, and that we had a national debt of $1,584,000,000, or $220 per capita; to-day when we draw their attention to the fact that the national debt of this country has risen until it is over $2,500,000,000, or $300 per capita, they say that we are crying blue ruin.

The Address-Mr. Cotnarn
Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the debate.
Motion agreed to and debate adjourned. On motion of Mr. Lapointe the House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Tuesday, February 23, 1926

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