October 21, 1932 (17th Parliament, 4th Session)

CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

I do not know what my hon. friend is saying, but -if he will put his question after my forty minutes are up, I shall be glad to answer him.
Another criticism levelled against the treaty is this: it has not enough British preference in it. It may be that that will improve with age; it may be that more British preference will be given. I sincerely hope so. But when the leader of the opposition was giving the figures dealing with that matter he was hardly fair. He said in his speech that in 139 items, which were general items, the result was brought about by increases in the duty. That is not quite accurate; brought about in part, yes. But what will go out to the country-because the newspapers will not give and the people will not. get the schedules, and will not be able to check up the right hon. gentleman's statements for themselves

what will go out to the country, I say, is the 'bare bald statement that in 139 out of 223 items the result is brought about solely by the raising of the intermediate and general duties. In point of fact, the British rate is reduced in 133 general items, and in 89 items while the rate itself remains unchanged the British preference is increased by increases in the other rates. So
that in 222 out of the 223 there is a considerable advantage for -the British producer and exporter.
Let me deal rapidly with another criticism. The right 'lion, gentleman decries and disparages the benefits that will accrue to this country by reason of the suspension of the Import Duties Act; -and what does he say? Two things. First, he asks, can anyone suppose for a moment that Great Britain will impose these taxes? And his second statement is that for -her to impose these taxes would be .to proclaim an economic war. That is truculent language to come from the right hon. gentleman. It might come from this side without causing any .particular surprise; but from the leader of the opposition it is rather surprising. She won't impose these taxes? The answer to that is that unfortunately she has imposed them. The tax is there; it is only suspended. The Import Duties Act is there, the tax being suspended until November 15, and there is no need for her to do anything. Effluxion of time will do it, and at the end of the period of suspension the tax will descend. What would the right hon. gentleman have done if, filing in the days of Damocles, he had seen him sitting with the sword suspended over his head by a hair, and had been told that the hair could last only ten minutes? The right hon. gentleman would have patted him on the shoulder and said, " Don't be at all uneasy, Damocles; who can suppose tor a moment that this sword will be .allowed to fall?" Damocles might very well have replied, " But it is going to fall in ten minutes' time. It is easy for you to be confident, blit you would not be so confident if cur places were reversed and I were tapping you on t.he shoulder, reassuring you." Well, that is exactly the position here. The tax is suspended over the heads of the Canadian producers, suspended until November 15, and the British government and parliament need not do one single thing except let time flow, when the tax will become operative. Yet the right lion, gentleman tall^s about the necessity for the British parliament imposing taxes. They are imposed, with suspension. Is not a man who is sentenced to a term of imprisonment. equally sentenced though the sentence is suspended? Is it not still a sentence?
Now I come to another criticism. The right hon. gentleman finds that we have absolutely nothing to congratulate ourselves upon; but before I go on to that there is one word more I should like to add on the question of these taxes. He says it is impossible to suppose that the British government will impose taxes. Did they not impose taxes in
460 COMMONS
Imperial Conference-Trade Agreements
1902? And have they not imposed this tax? Have I not heard the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Mullins) speak sometime, somewhere, about a thing called the cattle embargo? It is perfectly true that it was not a tax, but it was the expression of the power and desire and intention of the British government to protect the industries of their own country first. What is the meaning of the three-year reservation in respect of eggs and other farm products? That brings me to what I want to say in that regard. The right hon. gentleman declares that while there is absolutely no danger from the position we are in in relation to the Import Duties Act, there is very grave danger in relation to that three-year reservation clause. But the fact is that there is no tax imposed there at all; it is purely hypothetical, purely supposititious, a figment of the right hon. gentleman's imagination, a possibility not yet brought to birth, and one that cannot be brought to birth for three years; yet even now he can hear the gates of the British market closing against Canadian trade three years hence. According to his own predictions, however, the right hon. gentleman will no doubt be in power before the three years are up, and he can stop the gates from closing; he may therefore rest in peace so far as the possibility of those purely hypothetical taxes coming into being is concerned. He tells us that there is no significance in a tax that has been actually imposed, though suspended; that has an actual existence. But there is a monumental, a terrible significance in a tax that may be imposed three years hence should the British government choose to impose it. We are endorsing a tax on food if we pass the treaty with that clause in, he says. We are doing no such thing, and the right hon. gentleman knows it. What we are endorsing is the right of Great Britain to say, "We will give you an exemption for one or two or three or four or five or ten years, just according to our own wish and determination." We are endorsing the right of Great Britain to manage her own affairs; and if she says she will give us a guarantee against the imposition of the tax for three years, we say that is good. But to say that we are endorsing the taxation of food because we admit the right of Great Britain at the end of three years to do what she can do now, tax food-that is absolutely absurd.
May I now refer briefly to one or two other matters that have been criticized? I will take the question of "first sale" of wheat. I will not deal with that extensively; the Minister of Railways dealt with it. Accord-

ing to the right hon. gentleman the effect of the "first sale" provision is this: that the markets of the world are going to be flooded w'ith the wheat from countries other than Canada and with the surplus wheat from Canada. They will find it very difficult to answer the question of the hon. member for Long Lake (Mr. Cowan)-What markets? But leaving that aside, it is claimed that the markets of the world are to be flooded, the world price is to be depressed and, therefore, the price which the Canadian farmer will obtain in the British market will also be depressed and the farmer will be ruined. That is the first trouble. But before these words have died on our ears, another argument is presented which absolutely destroys them. It is that the result of these measures will be that food prices in Great Britain will be taxed, the price of food will go up and the poor labouring man will not be able to support himself. One fly is thrown out to the farmer and another to the labouring man in the hope that two fish may be caught. Unfortunately for those who make it, that argument is self-destructive.
The right hon. gentleman also disparaged the benefits expected to accrue from the preference on tobacco. He claimed that the duty on tobacco might be lowered to the vanishing point, and then he asked: Where does your preference go? Of course, it goes nowhere; I admit that.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   IMPERIAL ECONOMIC CONFERENCE
Full View