Mr. J. K. BLAIR (North Wellington):
Mr. Speaker, in taking part in this debate it is my intention to refer to certain ideas which have been advanced during the discussion in this house. I shall first enumerate them:
1. The paying of tribute to our empire by other nations.
2. The effect of this on the British Empire.
3. The increase in high tariffs.
4. The fixation of the time for the application of high tariffs at five years in order that this government will be enabled to enforce its policies even though the country declares otherwise.
5. The placing in the treaty list of certain articles which do not affect Great Britain and therefore should have been taken up under the regular schedules.
6. The lack of parity of our dollar with the English pcund, making the British market
useless at the present time.
I should like to review the history of the British Empire in its relations to other nations, and also the colonial and imperial conferences which led up to the last conference. I shall endeavour to show the effect of this conference upon us as an empire and will discuss this matter from the different angles taken bv former speakers. Our future as an empire can be interpreted only through a knowledge of the past. Whether the British Empire will continue to prosper or fall into ruin can be foretold only after a comprehensive study of past empires which rose and fell.
History' is philosophy teaching from experience, and the cause of the overthrow of such ancient empires as Greece and Rome also applies, in principle, to the downfall of the recent German empire. All the empires of the past have been founded on the idea of assimilation, on the effort to force different human materials through one mould in order to form one na-S3719-36
ticn. These past empires sought to impress their supremacy upon other nations and compelled them to pay tribute. This was the action taken by the German empire, and it is being suggested by this government that we follow a similar practice. Such action created a spirit of hate in the neighbouring nations and inculcated a feeling of vengeance. This spirit of hatred was greatly augmented by the restrictions placed upon trade and commerce. Ancient empires, and recently the German empire, imposed burdens upon neighbouring nations by the adoption of a zollverein system. Naturally, these neighbouring nations were dissatisfied and were constantly on the outlook for an opportunity of retaliation. Shall we as an empire follow this example and antagonize other nations as Germany has done?
Empires and nations are like individuals and the policy they follow determines their fate. Mr. Stanley Baldwin indicated at the conference the fundamental principle which he wished to follow-the lowering of tariffs and the retaining of harmony with other nations. The Prince of Wales has suggested that the great difficulty of the present day is the obstruction to trade and commerce. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett), helped to fashion the spirit of this last conference and assisted in changing the previous British aspect towards other nations. Empires which follow a policy of demanding the last pound of flesh will not and cannot endure. Is Great Britain going to follow this policy, which will lead to destruction, or is she going to adopt better principles which will bring about the expansion and prosperity of the empire? The British Empire is not an empire in a historical sense; it is a commonwealth of nations governed for the great part by the most democratic forms of government known to history. It is a system of states; it is not only a static system but a dynamic system which is revolving at all times toward a new destiny, unfettered by race, time or space. In these days when the light of natural science is penetrating into every department of human thought and knowledge the effect of physical environment upon the character and history of the peoples of the world is becoming more generally recognized. Great Britain believes that a people must have a local government suited to their needs, customs and traditions; she believes in the adjusting of tariffs to suit the times and conditions of trade.
Means should be available to each government whereby political, social and commercial aspirations could be moulded into it by its constitution. Britain wishes every country under her to work out its own destinies
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according to its own desires. The old idea of world power, world empire, has meant the downfall of all who pursued it; it has meant enslavement of conquered and unconquered alike, but the new idea of world democracy, with perfect freedom means the liberation of the world, the adoption of the brotherhood of man and the abolition of war. And, indeed, for Great Britain and her dominions to be anything but democratic would mean her downfall, as has been demonstrated in many past empires. Autocratic empires stand condemned; for any empire in a domineering way to demand tribute as our Prime Minister suggests, would be driving nails in its own coffin. It is a sin against the light of civilization.
The British Empire is bound together by the democratic spirit, and underneath that is friendship, love and truth. These are the forces that bind the British Empire together as one country, one community, one family. Its strength is not based on mailed fist, on fire and sword, on bursting and blasting, but on emotion of heart and soul. It is said by Chamberlain that the British Empire hangs together by a mere thread, yet what may be said to be a mere thread can carry an electric current which will put great machinery into motion. The thread which binds the British Empire carries a force of sympathy and sentiment which could be a potent factor in the history of the world.
Mr. Speaker, we have reviewed the past; we have examined the conditions in the present, and the comparison assures us to a reasonable degree of certainty that the British Empire should not be deviated from her path of independent democracy, good-will and trust in all races and nations of the world. If she be not so deviated, then the future of the British Empire will be prosperous even more than the past has been.
The British Empire, supposedly secure though she may be, must not forget the power of other nations. There are other great nations than Britain and with these she must cooperate, as was indicated in the speech of the Prince of Wales when he said: we wish for preferences; we wish for cooperation with all the great nations. Even if we give a British preference, there must be no animosity between the British lion and the American eagle. The best path of safety for the British Empire is that on which she can walk with the other nations of the world in peace and harmony.
Having given a picture of the empire, let me deal briefly with the preliminaries that ted up to the recent imperial conference. The
evolution of the independence of the dominions took place very gradually. In the first place Alexander Galt attempted to make a treaty through the British ministry with the Spaniards. That was refused. He then went to Spain to make a treaty with the Spanish government and they told him that the only way in which it could be done would be through the British ministry. That expedition failed. Later on Sir John A. Macdonald, in making a treaty with the United States, wished to be called in consultation whenever treaties were being put through. That was refused. Sir John was led into the outer chamber and after the treaty was completed he was allowed to sign his name under that of the British minister. He resented those conditions and tried hard for future freedom for the dominion.
Later on, in 1887, we find the first imperial conference called to deal with defence, and the question of the Pacific cable came up. There we find the vested interests trying hard to get hold of that conference. At this conference and at every conference from then till now we find the cloven hoof of vested interests struggling to acquire economic priviliges whereby they could obtain money without giving proper value. This was done under the name and guise of patriotism. Sir John Pender was the chief leader defending the vested interests against Mackenzie Bowell who fought for the Dominion of Canada to prevent it from paying extortionate prices to British firms. Sir John Pender said that the trust was primarily a public spirited, rather than a private earning corporation. However, the efforts of Mackenzie Bowell, and Sanford Fleming in particular, resulted in success so far as the Pacific cable project was concerned.
The third conference in 1897, was of a little different type. There you find the spirit of Joseph Chamberlain, and the leader of the Dominion of Canada was Sir Wilfrid Laurier wiho joined with the other colonial premiers. They had a great deal of discussion over the different questions that arose. Joseph Chamberlain went throughout the British Empire, proclaiming the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race; Laurier approved British preferences.
In the fourth conference in 1902, the same question arose, Chamberlain maintaining the idea of centralization, Laurier maintaining imperial reciprocity in trade as the surest step towards the unity of the British Empire. At this conference three questions arose which have a considerable bearing on the recent imperial conference. The three ideas which were most ardently discussed at that time were
the first, Chamberlain idea, second the zollverein system, and third, the Hamiltonian idea. Chamberlain believed that we should have an imperial council and be governed, as it were, from a central authority. Under the zollverein system the nations within the British Empire would have free trade among themselves, but could exact tribute from surrounding nations. Alexander Hamilton believed that nations which were most conveniently geographically situated in regard to trade and commerce should band themselves together, each division in that area being allowed to develop its own nationality, language, manners and customs, religion and education; and even if they varied in race, still they could have a coterminous boundary and develop a national pride. The underlying idea of the Hamiltonian theory was that while they could not have homogeneity, better still they could have diversity with harmony and select the best from each. Those three ideas were up for discussion at that conference, and as a consequence a strenuous fight arose. It was at that conference that Joseph Chamberlain realized that the development of the British Empire was not the development of the British nation. Joseph Chamberlain saw that the British nation was being isolated from the British dominions, and that while the dominions remained true to the British crown, yet they were not under the control of the British government. It was a case where the Hamiltonian idea of perfect liberty and freedom to the dominions prevailed. These were colonial conferences.
The first real imperial conference took place in 1911, and there we have a somewhat different aspect. In the first colonial conference you have a dispute arising between a Conservative prime minister on each side. In the next you have a Conservative prime minister in the old land and Laurier and the other prime ministers from the colonies. At the imperial conference of 1911 Mr. Asquith accorded us perfect freedom so far as trade and commerce is concerned, with local autonomy unfettered and complete, loyalty to the crown, and spontaneous and unforced cooperation for common interests and purposes. As Kipling wrote at the time in Our Lady of the Snows, indicating the freedom of Canada and the other dominions:
"Daughter am I in my mother's house,
But mistress in my own.
The gates are mine to open,
As the gates are mine to close,
And I set my house in order,"
Said our Lady of the Snows.
Why should this government surrender control of our own doors, and why should we 53719-36*
seek control of our neighbour's doors? I believe in Mr. Asquith's principle that in greater freedom comes stronger unity. Always true to the British crown, Alexander Galt, Mackenzie Bowell, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King have always fought for Canadian autonomy and for our freedom from entanglements with Great Britain. The present government is the custodian of that liberty which it has taken long years to secure, and which we have maintained against all the schemes of Joseph Chamberlain, who was always trying to tie up Canada under the control of the British government, instead of trusting to its loyalty to the British crown. He almost wept when he learned that the dominions were individual nations instead of simply an expansion of the British nation. Now we have our Prime Minister in association with Mr. Neville Chamberlain entangling this country by a treaty which will not leave us with perfect control of our own trade and commerce. That is very true to the Chamberlain idea, but it is not true to Alexander Galt, Mackenzie Bowell, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King. We are behind the British crown one hundred per cent, but we do not want any Englishmen dictating to our Canadian government; nor do we want to dictate to Great Britain. We want perfect freedom for every dominion and for every parliament. We do not want the policy of this high tariff government, Mr Speaker, to be enforced upon the next government. We are a democratic empire and we want the will of the government to prevail when in power and to cease when out of power.
But that does not satisfy the Prime Minister. He wishes to enact high tariffs for a period of years so that any new government cannot lower the tariff without the consent of other nations of the empire. The strong purpose of the Prime Minister seems to be to hang the tariffs up so high that any new Liberal government cannot reach them. At the same time he removes all the ladders, and has set a time safety-lock of five years and sent the key over to England so that we cannot deal with the tariff during the life of the next Liberal government. We are being entangled with other countries so that we cannot alter our tariffs except by mutual consent. That is the policy that was always sought by Joseph Chamberlain. He wanted Canada and the other dominions to be entangled with the imperial council. He believed in the centralization of power, but the dominion prime ministers took great care to
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retain every vestige of their liberty, assisted by Mr. Asquith's view of local autonomy expressed in 1911, as absolutely unfettered and complete, with loyalty to the common head, and with spontaneous and unforced cooperation for common interests and purposes. The dominion prime ministers carefully guarded the independence which they had won, and gradually they obtained more, but it was not until 1926 that we were free from legislative entanglement. Now it looks to me as though the Prime Minister of this country, this admirer and disciple of Joseph Chamberlain, is trying to revive the spirit of that statesman, and I am afraid it may be some time yet before he realizes that he is beating a dead horse. Canada desires no entanglement with the British nation. We are one hundred per cent true to the British crown, but we will brook no interference by Englishmen in controlling our affairs; nor do we want to control their affairs.
Canada was promised much from the short session of 1930 through the raising of tariffs, and again the tariffs were raised in 1931 under the guise of the British preference. We cannot vote for it. We cannot sacrifice our birthright for a mess of pottage, even if we are anxious to obtain a British preference, because we are more anxious to relieve the poverty of our own people. To-day in this treaty we have preferences entangled with high tariffs. The Prime Minister knows the desire of the Liberals to maintain and carry forward the historic policy of the British preference. We also know the Prime Minister's desire for high tariffs. So in this treaty he has linked up the British preference with high tariffs and says: Here is your pet policy; now support it. While we wish to vote for the preference, how could we explain to the farmers and the people in the rural districts that we voted to raise the tariff higher than it has ever been before?
Surely when wool is so cheap, the Prime Minister could have lowered the price of woollen goods. Before these tariff rates were revealed I bought a farm in Ontario. Now that I have seen these schedules I must say that that farm is for sale at once, because I see nothing in this treaty that will help the farmer. Let me quote a few items from this trade agreement and contrast the duties imposed under the conference agreement with the duties that were previously enforced under the Conservative government and under the Liberal government preceding:
Wool piece goods- Per cent
Conservative.. .. Conference.. .. High grade suitings-
Conservative.. .. Conference. . .. Hosiery, wool-
Conservative.. .. Conference.. .. Blankets, wool-[DOT]
Conservative.. .. Conference.. .. x\xminster carpets-
Conservative. . .. Conference.. ..
Here are a few more items contrasting the present rate of duty with the rate under the Liberal regime:
Cotton printed piece goods-
White cotton flannelette-[DOT]
Wool piece goods-
High grade suitings-*
Per cent 18 50
One hon. gentleman stated in the house to-day that we on this side were trying to tear from the Prime Minister the laurels which he had won at the last imperial conference. That same cry went up in the short session of 1930. Then it was said that we were trying to tear from the Prime Minister the laurels that he was going to win by relieving unemployment. He went over to the imperial conference in Great Britain and again it was said that we were trying to tear his laurels from him. The next session came on and he was going to relieve the economic situation by again raising the tariffs, and still we were told that we were trying to tear his laurels off him. Now we are said to be tearing his laurels from him over his achievements at the last imperial conference. To be candid I never saw any boquets around the Prime Minister, not from the time he assumed office down to the present. Any laurels that he won in the
short session of 1930 by relieving unemployment I am sure he is welcome to, and he is welcome also to any honour he may claim from his visit to the Imperial economic conference of 1930. Certainly in my view he should have nothing but criticism. At this time when he is raising tariffs for the fourth time he is deserving of no credit. Hon. members opposite say we are depriving him of his laurels; we do not think there will be any laurels for him. Certainly we have not torn any from him on previous occasions.
I should like now to say a few words concerning our honoured leader and his attitude toward the Imperial economic conference. Word was whispered around to hon. members on this side of the house instructing us not to hold meetings during the conference, despite the fact that some of us arranged meetings. We were told that our chief was keeping quiet, and that it might be well for us to do so. I know that in my own constituency I was asked on two or three occasions if Mr. King had died. I said no, that he was very much alive, but that in his judgment at that time it would be best to make no comments. He realized fully that he would be blamed for any statements he made during the conference. I am sure he did not make himself conspicuous last summer, and I do not think any difficulties met with during the conference can be attributed to the activities of our chief or those of any Liberal.
Following the last election tariffs were made higher, promises sent out and prosperity proclaimed. Again this year tariffs are maintained high and clothed in the disguise of a British preference so that we may be led to vote for high tariff. There is a desire on the part of the government to appear well before the public. Worse still, Mr. Speaker, the vested interests which are always prowling around in disguise have secured for themselves high tariffs on articles which never came from Great Britain, although they appeared on the free list. Among other commodities in that class I may mention cream separators. The tariff on articles which do not and never will come from Great Britain could have been put on the tariff schedules in the ordinary way, and would have been voted on according to their own merits. Vested interests, however, saw to it that they were placed on the preferential list so that they would pass the house.
The Conservative party have before them an organized plan to form the empire into an economic unit, but such a plan must fail because it works against the laws of nature and of the universe of which we form a part. The commonwealth of nations, this empire of
ours, will be stronger in proportion to the elasticity each part is given. The treaty now before us constitutes an attempt to centralize trade within the British empire. To this policy Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper, Alexander Galt and Sir Wilfrid Laurier took objection when they asserted and effected the complete freedom of Canada in matters of trade and commerce.
I believe there never has been a government which has had so many conferences, so many opportunities to help the poorer classes as has the present one. But we know that at every turn the vested interests got what they wanted, and the farmers have suffered. Even when 3,000 farmers gathered in Ottawa not even the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) would recognize them, and under this agreement they are receiving treatment similar to that which they were accorded when visiting this city. This is the fourth time they have been fooled with wild promises by the government now in office. Appeals have been made to the farming communities to look on the situation with an open mind, and doing that they are promised that matters will turn out all right for them. To be successful is such an effort one would have to be a paranoiac; he would have to be demented.
I do not like to be wailing about hare-times; I am not a Jeremiah. I enjoy life and my liver is perfectly healthy. I want this government, however, to realize the situation and change its ways. I do not think the Prime Minister realizes the distress obtaining in the land or he would take pity on the poor and change his plans concerning high tariff, high interest rates, wages and the price of farm products. When the people of Canada elected a millionaire to the control of our government they made a fatal error. We know that the governor general, not being a commoner, is not allowed to enter the House of Commons. Were he to make an attempt to do so, the guards would prevent it. In like manner our ballots should prevent any one who is not a commoner from entering or controlling the House of Commons.
The unstable method adopted by this government in its tariff changes, so far as investors are concerned has had very disquieting results. Some storekeepers have been buying from the same firms during the time they have been in business, but they have found that owing to tariffs they have been compelled to change their sources of supply. They have had to find new firms from which to make purchases and their old customers
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continue to inquire concerning the lines of goods with which they have been familiar. In that way commercial relations are destroyed, and an attempt is made to build up trade among people estranged from each other. I say this transition will take years, and instead of trade improving it will no doubt suffer.
The price of cotton goods is very high. On linen used by poor people the tariff rate is over 60 per cent, but on the good quality linen used by wealthy people the duty is removed. How could hon. members explain to the farming communities that they had voted to raise the price of barbed wire and separators? Undoubtedly if we were permitted to vote on the different items we would be in a position better to express our views. The government has heard the cry of the world for lower tariffs. We know that the Prince of Wales and the Right Hon. Stanley Balwin have stated that the tariffs should be lowered. Farmers, labourers and all the poorer classes in the community realize that high tariffs are at least partly to blame for much of the poverty now existing. Tariffs act as a strong wedge to drive between the rich and the poor, so that the poor may be made poorer and the rich richer.
The agreement with which we are now dealing will be effective in raising the tariff, and for that reason I should not like to vote
for it. On the other hand, a British preference is offered, and for that reason alone I should like very much to vote for it. We must note however that it is binding for a five year period. Hon. members will see that the tariff on many articles used most frequently is three times as high under this agreement as under Liberal rule. Most emphatically I state that under the guise of a British preference the treaty is intended to raise tariffs. I could not return to my constituency with a knowledge that by my vote I had sanctioned a duty three or four times as high as under the regime of the late government on articles used by farmers' wives. When the Liberals were in power the prices of cottons, woollens, shoes, wire, carpets, blankets and overcoating were too high. We know however that at that time the prices of other commodities were also high. Now the tariff is raised three times as high. Who can afford to buy at such prices? We are not on a parity with the English pound; when we sell a dollar's worth we receive only seventy-five cents. On what can the farmer depend when for a period of five years he has to buy under increased tariffs?
Let us for a moment survey tariff rates: The following table will serve to compare the rates as they obtained in 1930, after the short session of 1931, after the ordinary session of 1931 and the present rate:
Regular Short RegularSession Session Session Present
523a White cotton flannelette.. .. 523b All cotton printed piece goods
523 Cotton pillow cases
523 Cotton sheets [DOT]
523 Cotton towels
554 Wool piece goods (grays).. . Wool fabrics (overcoating) .. Wool hosiery
The articles covered by these items are those most frequently bought by farmers' wives. The hon. member for Compton (Mr. Gobeil) has said that the farmer's wife will in the year 1932 receive 18 or 19 cents for her butter on the English market. I wonder if the increased price will make up the difference she has to pay on the price of a cream separator.
The time stipulated for the operation of the agreement is, in my view, much too long. The intention of the government is that we will have to accept the tariff changes, and that the farmers and villagers will have to pay high prices for their purchases, regardless of the prices they may receive for the products they have for sale. A nation which adheres to
1930 1931 1931 Rate16 31 63 60119 321 631 60116 331 641 62116 341 66 62J15 361 69 6611 331 641 6125J 761 122 10623 581 971 891
this treaty is like a farmer in a community who proclaims that he will not deal with or exchange with his neighbours, but will deal with his brothers who live many miles away. Now this farmer has dealt with his neighbours for many years; is it wise to proclaim to them that if they are going to trade with him or his brothers they will have to pay tribute? Such an attitude provokes war. Would it not be better for the brothers to gather at the father's home at Yuletide and inquire how they can help one another, buy from each other, sell to each other, exchange with each other as much as possible, yet keep a kindly spirit towards all their neighbours? We cannot do without friends nor can we so easily do without neighbours. Let us retain both friends and neighbours.
It is a strange situation, Mr. Speaker, which we have today. When evil days came upon the land in times past it was by reason of famine, pestilence, plague or war. But to-day we have poverty in the midst of plenty. An hon. member on the other side said we could have worse, instead of poverty in the midst of plenty we might have poverty in the midst of scarcity. In that case I would have sympathy with the government in office, but when we have poverty in the midst of abundance surely there is something wrong with the government. The heavens truly are kind to us, but the defects of our government make the goodness of the heavens of no avail.
There are some principles that former conferences have laid down which I think should be mentioned here. They laid it down that no country should impose upon others either opinions or debts or definitely fixed constitutions; that they should not bind coming generations in those respects, nor should they allow governments to float contracts and load their children with debts. But by these agreements we are interlocking our authority with that of the British nation, and contradicting these resolutions. I say that every nation's authority should be limited to its own boundaries. Not only that, but its authority should be limited to the present; they should not hand down to coming generations burdens over which the coming generations have no control. I consider that this government is disobeying every rule laid down by former conferences, destroying the fundamental principles fought for by our former prime ministers. I say that the British nation should have no intermingling of authority with this country, neither should we intermingle our authority with theirs. Each nation should be entirely free to open or close its own doors.
I note, Mr. Speaker, that my time has expired.
Subtopic: IMPERIAL ECONOMIC CONFERENCE