March 6, 1928 (16th Parliament, 2nd Session)


David Spence

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DAVID SPENCE (Parkdale):

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a great many speeches in this house and I must confess that many of them have been of a high standard and a constructive nature. I am sorry that my lack of ability will not enable me to preserve that high standard, I not having had much experience in speech making. I congratulate the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Raymond). He will be happy now -I wish I were in his shoes.

I congratulate also the hon Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe). We all recognize his wonderful ability and appreciate his power in this house. I love indeed his sense of humour, and maybe his sarcasm at times. However, notwithstanding his contention that the government 'has not ruined Canadian industry, may I say that it has. And when you ruin industry you ruin the business world, of which I have some knowledge. Why, the government has tried to control operations both domestic and foreign, by land and by sea. A few years ago you will remember, sir, the government attempted to put a fleet of boats on the ocean to compete with the merchant marine of the world, and so cut down freight rates for cattle and wheat, in order to make our honourable farmers believe it was doing something for them. Well, sir, you might as well try to fight a battleship with a canoe as put into commission the class of boats the government intended to subsidize in its attempt to cut down ocean freight rates, and had it not been for the members on this side of the house putting up a strong and vigorous objection, the country to-day would be losing thousands of dollars in that hopeless enterprise. Undoubtedly every time you attempt to change the old channels through which business has been done successfully for many years, you are interfering with business and upsetting the business world.
Now, Mr. Speaker, hon. members on the government side argue that we of the official opposition are the cause of the people leaving Canada. May I say, sir, there is nothing to it. Canadians who to-day are on the American side have every confidence in the Conservative party. During the election of 1925 in my own riding I read many letters from parents of young boys and young girls who were working in the States praying me to do everything possible to defeat the King administration. I said a moment ago that the Canadian people have demonstrated their faith in the Conservative party. As proof of my statement I point to the fact that during the month of the general election in 1925 and for the eleven months following more of- our people returned to the Dominion than in any similar period since, and of those more than 40 per cent came in the eleven months after the election, from November to the September following. That shows whether or not the people have absolute faith in the Conservative party. So why should we not stand up here and tell the truth to the people? Why should the people be humbugged and camouflaged?
I do not intend to worry the house with figures or statistics. Figures sometimes lie, and statistics are not always correct. My

The Budget[DOT]-Mr. Spence
intention is to make some observations regarding the present administration, observations which may be considered in the nature of criticism. First, I wish to congratulate the government on having in the party a minister so capable of manipulating the budget that it is said to be supported by all classes of people. -But the present budget, just like its predecessors, is gotten up for the express purpose of keeping the party in power, regardless of conditions throughout the Dominion. What we need to-day is a business administration, instead of a government that seizes every opportunity to evade responsibility. Since 1921 we have been getting government by special commissions and special committees too numerous to mention, at considerable cost to the country. Of course the administration has always seen to it that a majority of its supporters were placed on each special commission and special committee so that they would report as directed, that majority being in sympathy with the government's proposals. It is simply humbugging parliament and the Canadian people. Barnum once said that you might fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you could not fool all the people all the time. Well, that is the only thing this government has succeeded in doing. Instead of wasting so much time concocting and manipulating schemes in connection with the budget purely for the purpose of keeping themselves in power, why do the government not submit a program of constructive ideas, some satisfactory agenda for the consideration of parliament? This may be considered radical coming from the Tory side, but let me say right here that I am no politician; my interest is Canada first. I do not believe in playing politics too much, and there is altogether too much politics played, particularly on the other side of the house. What we need is something that would enable us to make the best of our opportunities and not to throw away all our chances of promoting the prosperity of this country. I am confident that if the government took the members of this parliament into their confidence and asked for suggestions and advice as to the best means of promoting the welfare of Canada, the members on this side of the house would offer such advice in all sincerity, and the government would benefit more by that advice than they do from that of ministers in charge of departments. If the government are not directly asked for information they will scarcely volunteer it. That is the way politics has been played in the past at any rate.
The budget presented by the government this year seems to have acted as an opiate on hon. members on the other side of the house; most of them have been lulled to sleep and have slept until yesterday and to-day. The first evidence of any real pep that we have so far seen on the other side was injected into the debate to-day by the Minister of Justice. Are hon. members opposite afraid to offer suggestions or make demands of their party leaders? Hon. gentlemen on the other side apparently are satisfied simply because the Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb) has made certain statements which are supported by the Minister of Justice, the ablest representative of the government. I am not at all decrying the ability of the Minister of Finance, but the budget contains no suggestions that will make for the development of the country. It seems to be altogether of a destructive character.
I am going to offer some suggestions by way of a new system of obtaining information and of ensuring our rights as representatives of the people, and I hope the government will consider these suggestions. Why should not members of this house have an opportunity this year to express their views regarding the development of the St. Lawrence waterway? Why, and what is the reason? Where is the hidden hand that has prevented us from discussing that question? I have an idea myself as to what we* may expect, if not in the near future, certainly at some time, and hon. members may well wonder what will happen. Again, what is to prevent the government giving some assistance in the building of good roads through a contribution each year? And for purposes of exploring and developing the natural resources of this country a stated amount should be included in the estimates annually. That is the sort of system which would be followed in the conduct of business anywhere, and some business tactics should be adopted in government as well as in business administration. We should have also some sound system of immigration and colonization whereby we might retain our own Canadians and provide them with employment at home. If the government would only seek information and advice on this side of the house they would benefit considerably more than by indulging in criticism of the opposition. We have a serious problem to face in our endeavour to keep our Canadians in Canada. I say to hon. gentlemen opposite, "You are the government and you should do something. You are in power; we are not." If I were on the other side I * ould make the same criticism for the con-
The Budget-Mr. Spence

sideration of our own party. These are all matters that call for earnest consideration.
This government has tinkered with tariffs and meddled with the business world to such an extent that people in business have no pleasure being there; they would sooner get out. The government have made treaties with foreign countries altogether to the detriment of this Dominion. Our negotiators have not been capable in holding their own. If I were on a -committee negotiating a treaty with any country and I did not get the best of it, or at least a square deal, there would be no treaty. But in nearly every case our treaties have been to the disadvantage of this country. A treaty is a business proposition and we have a right to get the best deal possible. But we are not building up our trade under the treaties negotiated by this government.
Let me discuss for a moment or two the French treaty-and I will touch only those phases of it of which I know something. That treaty came into effect a few years ago; I will not bother the house with figures because they sometimes lie and I might make a mistake. Well, what have we got from it? The French treaty, generally speaking, has been a bad thing for Canada. I am connected with the fruit business and am therefore in a position to make the statement that this particular industry has been considerably injured by the treaty. Take our cherry business, for example. Since the French treaty came into force the great wholesale extract manufacturers and retail ice cream people have been bringing cherries from Italy and France by the carload and in casks at a cheaper rate than our people can grow this fruit. Many years ago we had a splendid cherry business in Canada, and I know what I am talking about because I have been in the industry for thirty-seven or thirty-eight years. We had a very good market for cherries but since the treaty has been in operation it has practically ruined the trade and the growers can scarcely meet cost of production. A few years ago there were magnificent orchards of Montmorency cherries; to-day they are being cut down with the axe. This is one industry that has been destroyed by the French treaty.
Then there is the silverskin onion business. Silverskin onions used to be a high class commodity for pickling purposes, used extensively by such people as Heinz; but under the French treaty these onions ready dressed for packing in bottles have been coming into the country from Holland at the rate of four cents per pound, while no grower in Canada can produce them at that figure; it takes at least five or five and a half cents a pound to grow this vegetable here. This is the effect

which the French treaty has had upon the fruit and vegetable growers of Canada. Is it not clear, Mr. Speaker, that this is too young a country to be making treaties with the older lands? In the last ten years we have developed the silverskin onion business and the requirements of the industry are considerable. It needs great care and attention to dry them if the right colour is to be obtained, and there must be suitable buildings in case of wet weather outside. Obviously, therefore, a great deal of bother is involved, so that the man producing them deserves the best consideration that can be shown him. But owing to the French treaty the business has gone to pieces.
The Australian treaty, too, has been very injurious to this country; we all know what the effect has been on our dairy industry. This industry has undoubtedly been seriously discouraged since the treaty has been in force and eventually it will be wiped out unless something is done and done in the very near future. The sheep industry also is practically ruined.

Full View