Mr. ARTHUR DENIS (St. Denis) (Translation) :
Mr. Speaker, w'ithin the last few days, we note that the government feels the necessity of defending its policy, so numerous and well directed are the attacks of the opposition. No one on the government side, at the outset of this debate, dared to raise his voice, only the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) had spoken. In his pride, he imagined, no doubt, that the opposition would be disarmed after listening to his statement, however, the contrary has happened. His appeal to the patriotism and loyalty of the opposition sounded insincere and he should have known that the opposition guided and lead by such a wise chief as the right hon. Mackenzie King would not be ensnared by these vain appeals, which are always the arguments of those who have a poor cause to defend. But the Prime Minister was bolder, he even went as far as to distort the meaning of the words which our great leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, uttered at the Colonial Conference, in 1902. so as to make them serve his purpose. I would never have thought that a Prime Minister could make use of such unscrupulous means to force upon us a treaty so contrary to the interests of his country.
I read and scrutinized the agreements that the right hon. Prime Minister has submitted to the approval of the house, and, after serious consideration, I wonder how he can rea-
Imperial Conference-Trade Agreements
sonably request us to sanction, these agreements. At all times, we, in the opposition, have always been opposed to high protection, and this pact is founded on that principle which, in the past, was found lacking and is now the cause of the most serious economic and financial crisis existing throughout the world and threatens the peace and security of nations. For the last two years, we have been living, in Canada, under a regime of high protection. In 1930, this government succeeded in getting into power, after touring the country, chanting its favourite hymn "High protection; Canada First." Through this policy, the country was to return to prosperous days; unemployment was to cease; our trade would develop; our Canadian producers would find markets to sell their products; our domestic markets would be exclusively restricted to our products through the medium of a tariff wall shutting out completely all foreign goods.
What was the result? I put the question to you, sir, and to all our hon. friends on the opposite benches. It was nil, absolutely so, and our country is suffering from the most dire distress. The people are downcast and threaten to rebel if a change of regime does not take place.
I would have imagined that the government taking heed of the past, would have understood that its policy was disastrous to the country and that instead of persisting in such a policy, it would have adopted other methods, but no, it wishes to apply this policy to the whole British Empire. These agreements which the government wants us to approve afford us the most convincing proof of this. To attain their aim our opponents charge us with being disloyal to the British Empire. The government must be short of arguments to make such a charge for it knows perfectly well that if there is a party which has given proof of its loyalty to the empire, it is certainly the Liberal party. If England, in the past, has been favoured by a preferential tariff, it is the Liberal party that granted it to her, notwithstanding the protest of hon. gentlemen opposite. Our opponents distort the truth when they charge us with not wanting to trade with the commonwealth; basing our stand on the principle of liberty, while at the same time having due respect for the autonomy of each dominion, we have never favoured a preference which would close all the world markets, to us, and it is this preference that this government grants to the British Empire by raising the intermediary and general tariffs, which would completely close foreign markets to our products. If we desire
a greater expansion in trade with the British Commonwealth, we also desire to trade with our neighbours, the United States, which, whatever may be said to the contrary, is the natural market for our products. The world will one day realize that a tariff war can but produce one result: that of bringing ruin and distress into the country which resorts to it. Our neighbours to the south have begun to realize this fact, and in a nearer future than is expected, we may be able to negotiate with the United States a trade treaty advantageous to Canada.
Let us examine these agreements which are submitted for our approval, and let us weigh the advantages which Canada will derive, in the light of her trade and future development. I wonder whether I am prejudiced, for I find that our country receives very little in comparison with the favours we grant to the commonwealth.
John Bull with his cunning diplomatic ways has succeeded, once again, in fooling our Prime Minister, by grabbing the lion's share. The former had already met our Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference, in 1930; he had sized him up and knew what should be done to secure from him all concessions favourable to England.
I shall not delay the house by examining each item separately. Speakers who preceded me in this debate did so, and I, therefore, do not see the necessity of once more going over the whole matter; moreover the house is sufficiently acquainted with their purport. However, permit me, sir, to draw the attention of the house to certain Canadian products which seem, according to our opponents, to have been favoured by these agreements, and which, on the contrary, are subjected to restrictions which did not exist under the Liberal regime. I refer to eggs, butter, cheese, poultry and all dairy products. It is stipulated in these agreements that so far as these products are concerned, after the lapse of three years the government of the United Kingdom may revise the principle on which rests this preference and regulate the flew of these products, as it may deem proper. I do not know whether one can find any advantage in such restrictions. I think that our government has been over zealous; it should have made the same reservation when it granted to the products of the United Kingdom a preference liable to ruin a number of our small industries which have just started.
Article 4 reads as follows:
It is agreed that the duty on either wheat in grain, copper, zinc or lead as provided in
this agreement may be removed if at any time empire producers of wheat in grain, copper, zinc and lead respectively are unable or unwilling to offer these commodities on first sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding the world prices and in quantities sufficient to supply the requirements of the United Kingdom consumers.
I wonder whether our wheat growers find in this article any great advantages. From my point of view, I do not see any, except that they can sell their wheat on the English market at the price laid down for the world market, and this, in sufficient quantity to fill the requirements of the United Kingdom consumers. It simply means that we shall have to compete with the prices of Russian wheat, where labour is under requisition, and the cost of production is below that of Canadian producers. This applies to the whole pact.
To summarize, the government has obtained no more than what we enjoyed under the Liberal regime, and, if there is any difference it is that we are tied down by certain restrictions which are to our disadvantage. If, on the one hand the government of the United Kingdom displays so little generosity towards us, on the other, we note that our government has shown itself very obliging and generous towards England. We granted a preference on 223 items of British products: on a number of them we increased the preference; on others we increased the intermediary and general tariff. Closing our markets to foreign products, impeding all trade with other countries, except with the nations of the British Commonwealth, and thus forcing Canadian consumers to pay dearer for the goods they require.
Not content with having erected an impassable tariff wall around Canada, our Prime Minister wishes to extend it around the British Empire. The same ills will produce the same effects. Before long, England will discover that high protection has plunged her into great distress, and the responsibility will rest upon cur Prime Minister for having dragged her into this policy of high protection.
Before resuming my seat, I should like to make a suggestion to the right hon. Prime Minister, previous to his departure for the World economic conference, which is to take place in the near future. This conference is called in order to find ways and means to solve the financial and economic crisis which affects the whole world. Apart from the suggestions of activating the flow of trade between the various nations, by pulling down the tariff walls, I would advise a reduction of at least 50 per cent on all debts, either public or private on all liabilities, debentures and
mortgages; to limit the rates of interest to 4 and 5 per cent on all private enterprises, and to a still lower rate for government and municipal undertakings. This would prevent the financiers making loans to the state instead of placing the money in circulation, either by building houses or by establishing a number of industries, thus helping a great many people to earn a livelihood.
I think that if cur Prime Minister succeeded in having these suggestions adopted by all countries, he would be greatly entitled to be called "the saviour of humanity."
I do not think, however, that he will prove himself so courageous, because such an achievement would be contrary to his principles: to always favour large interests to the detriment of the people, the strong as against the weak, wealth as against poverty and finally, to speak frankly, the trusts as against the small trader, which these agreements are driving to ruin, unless we, the opposition, take all means possible to defeat his treacherous plans.
Previous to closing my remarks, I should like to comment briefly on the speech of the hon. member for Compton (Mr. Gobeil). I do not intend to contradict his figures on some of our exports which he quoted.
Mr. GOBEI'L (Translation): Because they are correct.
Subtopic: IMPERIAL ECONOMIC CONFERENCE