February 23, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)


As the hon. gentleman
opposite comes from Saskatchewan, perhaps he does not realize the present condition of public affairs in this country, and I am afraid some other hon. gentlemen from the west, while they are honest and estimable in every other way, do not appreciate it. They talk about prosperity; they quote statistics to demonstrate that we have great trade balances and they point to our exports and imports. I prefer to go to the man on the street, the business man, and according to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, if you go to the man on the street, you will not have to quote statistics because he will tell you whether the country is prosperous or not. When I go to the business men of my town, as I did last week, and I ask them if business is reviving, improving, I want to get a candid expression of opinion from them. When they tell me, one after another, that business is in a depressed state, I fail to follow the statistics of hon. gentlemen opposite. In my town at the present time-and it is only an index of other towns in this country-people are living on very low rates of wages. Men are glad to procure a job at any wage and they are asked to go to our lumbering camps at $26 to $36 a month. Out of that they are being asked to pay part of the taxes to keep their children in this country, to pay for rent and fuel and schooling for their children. Yet hon. gentlemen tell us that the people of Canada are exceedingly prosperous. Those are not isolated examples; I can take hon. members to my constituency and show them scores and scores of people who are to-day in that unsatisfactory position. I think it was the hon. member for West Hamilton (Mr. Bell) who told us a few days ago about the condition of affairs he found in that city. Four years ago you could not find a vacant house in Pembroke and to-day I believe there are from one hundred to one hundred and fifty vacant houses in that town. Still hon. gentlemen opposite tell us that the country is prosperous and that there is plenty of employment. In my town we had a textile industry, a woollen mill which, a few years ago, was running at full blast. As late as 1922 it was employing 110 mill hands with a monthly wage of $6,500. It was giving employment to many labouring men in that town who were receiving fair wages and were able to support their families in some comfort. The British preference came

into effect and what was the result? Last year that mill was compelled to close its doors, and the operatives who used to work in that mill are to-day very largely to the south of the line working for our United States neighbours. That is true not only of one textile mill, but of scores of them in this country. In Renfrew, you will find the Renfrew Woollen Mills, owned and operated by Senator M. J. O'Brien. The manager said to us during the election campaign: "We are not making one cent in our industry to-day; we are simply marking time and only succeeding in trading an old dollar for a new one." That is a mill with an immense amount of capital and that is the only thing that is keeping it going. The other day that mill brought in a shipment of Australian wool worth about $72,000, whereas if we were protecting that industry as it should be protected, it might just as well have bought that wool from the farmers of this Dominion. Woollen mill after woollen mill has been compelled to close its doors in this Dominion during the last four and five years under the British preferential tariff.

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