Mr. J. ALFRED LEDUC (Westmount-St. Henry):
I deem it my duty on rising to congratulate the hon. gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Morphy) on the thoroughly efficient manner in which he extolled the Government's action and policy. I am not at all surprised at the hon. gentlemen's eulogy; I think he still hopes to enter the Cabinet in which there are yet " rooms to let." I imagine his object in making so lengthly a speech must have been to qualify himself for a portfolio.
The hon. member for North Perth dwelt on the importance of having Canada represented by trade agents in the United States. This policy was first advocated by a former member for St. James, Montreal, the late Honore Gervais, who for many years favoured such a course in this House. What Canada needs at the present time is not an ambassador at Washington for ceremonial purposes but a real business man to develop trade with our great neighbour' to the south.
I am certain that nobody in this chamber will refuse the Minister of Finance the admiration which he deserves for his courage in the presentation of such a poor Budget. For my part, I do not deny him my warmest sympathy in the thankless task which he had in explaining to the country the lamentable state of affairs for which the present Government is responsible.
Lamentable, it is in reality, Mr. Speaker, for to the enormous debt under which the tax-payer is already overburdened, one must add the trifle of over one hundred million dollars for this year, despite the promises made last year by the Minister of Finance that the national debt would be reduced.
I doubt very much if, when he made this consoling promise, the Minister of Finance had taken the time to measure the incompetance of the Government into which he was invited to enter. Had he done so he would have maintained a prudent silence, instead of blaming inwardly those who drew him into this chaos where now hs finds himself with his unfortunate though honourable colleagues.
How far are we, Mr. Speaker, from those blessed times when, after twelve months of fruitful administration, the honourable member for Shelburne' and Queen's (Mr. Fielding), then Minister of Finance of the Liberal Government, unrolled before the amazed eyes of the country the spectacle of the prosperity existing from one end of the country to the other, the spectacle of peace and concord reigning among employers and employees. How far we are, Mr. Speaker, from that happy time when we saw every factory in the country smoking night and day and where we saw our dear Canada advancing by giant strides towards her destiny, under the vigorous impulsion of our ever to be regretted chief, the right hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
To destroy this magnificent work ten years have sufficed, Mr. Speaker, of a government born in 1911 of the alliance, justly called immoral, of the Tories with a handful of political adventurers disguised as Nationalists, wrecks of the two parties who were thrown on the reefs of the indignation of their compatriots.
I can quite understand, Mr. Speaker, that the right honourable predecessor of the present Prime Minister, oppressed with a sense of discouragement and fright at the sight of the ruins of his party, might have wished to throw on the shoulders of the right honourable member for Portage-la-Prairie the weight of the universal repror
bation under which the Canadian electorate proposes to smother the present Government at the next general elections; for, it would be just that -the right hon. Prime Minister, principal author of these fatal politics, should- behold their disastrous consequences.
If now, Mr. Speaker, we cast a glance at the state of our finances, we are amazed to find that not only has our debt not diminished, but it has increased, as I indicated a moment ago, to the truly colossal sum of two billion three hundred and fifty millions; and if we seek the cause of this increase, we find it in the foolish policies of the Government, which, since 1911, has clung to power iby means of all possible concessions;-policies, foolish and disastrous, I repeat, chiefly in three cases: An imprudently immoderate participation in the European war, costing us the loss of millions and millions of dollars, which otherwise would be available now; absurd railway policies which have this year absorbed one hundred and thirteen millions of dollars; and, finally, unlimited waste, added to the improvidence of a Government which has done nothing to guard us against the labour crisis at present raging throughout the country, the reverberations of which are shaking the economical structure of the nation.
J was in favour, Mr. Speaker, of reason-ab.e and limited participation in the European war, but I absolutely disapprove of the manner in which the Government conducted it. Instead of enriching certain of their favourites with millions through large war contracts, why did they not take over, for instance, the control of the manufacture of munitions, even if it were necessary, as in the case of the erection of this Parliament building, for example, to allow a percentage of reasonable profit to the different firms having charge of the manufacture of munitions for the account of the Canadian Government, thus saving to the state 'millions which were scandalously wasted to gorge the pockets of a few personages in the good graces of the Government.
The right hon. the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, has a right to be pleased with his work-he, who, in 1915, swore to spend up to the last cent of the treasury, even if it was necessary to bring the country into bankruptcy. I spoke a little while ago of the railway policy of the Government.
It is not surprising to us on this side of the House that the country is facing disaster; from the moment, when, by a turn [Mr. L,educ.J
of the hand, the right hon. chief of the Government, instead of asking the administrators of the private railways the secret of good direction, bought the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk, it was to be foreseen that the same disorder, the same contempt for the safeguard of the money of the Canadian people, the same wild dance of dollars would bring us rapidly to the regrettable'situation in ,which we find ourselves to-day, by the accumulation of annual deficits. But, how to get out of this mix-up, Mr. Speaker? I would suggest to the right hon. the Prime Minister that this should be put before the committee appointed to consider these questions, and the suggestions made by that capable business man, Lord Sh-aughnessy, should be taken into serious consideration.
I may quote, Mr. Speaker, an article from the Financial Times of January 29 last on a speech delivered by Sir Herbert Holt at the annual meeting of the Royal Bank of Canada, which reads as follows:
"Government control has practically disappeared during the year just past-wheat, papei and sugar being the commodities to be freed from regulation. Government ownership of transportation systems has developed. Without any advantage to the public in efficiency or rates, the operation of our national railways during the past twelve months has resulted in a loss which will probably more than absorb the amounts collected on excess profits and income taxes for the year 1919. Unless Government methods of operation are more efficient in this country than they have been in others, tax payers in Canada may find the maintenance of their railroads and fleet more expensive than pension charges and other legacies of the war combined."
These few sentences constitute one of the most graphic denunciations of the evils of government ownership it has been our privilege to read in a long time. Time was when the mention of millions almost took our breath away. A millionaire was as well worth seeing as a crowned head. It was not necessary to gfl beyond millions to express the superlative of all things. The war ruined our perspective. We began to talk of millions as though they were merely thousands. It is no longer -possible to waken the Canadian public to a realization of what government operation of railways may cost by expressing it in figures. What if it does cost $50,000,000 or $75,000,000 per annum? The Finance Minister will borrow it or dig it up in some manner. The cost does not seem to come home to us. We will pay it along with other costs and grouch about our heavy taxation and let the government continue to extend it field of operations. We will ask it to loan us more money to bulid houses witih and to finance other operations or interfere in other matters of business which we should be attending to ourselves and which will only result in further deficits and increased taxation.
President Holt of the Royal Bank, however, avoids much reference to figures. Instead, he tells us that government operation of our railways will probably result in a loss which will
exceed the governmental revenue from excess profits and income taxes. Could anything bring this matter home to us in more vivid manner? The whole business world denounces the excess profits tax and practically everyone who pays an Income tax does so with rage in his heart against the German junker who is supposed to have laid him under the levy.
But, here, in Canada, and altogether independent of the war, is a levy which we, as good democrats and as electors with the freedom of the ballot, have placed upon ourselves. The excess profits tax and the income tax go to wipe out the annual defiicit of our governmental system of railways. Nay, the situation is yet worse. This whole burden of increased tatxation which we laJbor under promises to go finally but to wipe out the annual loss incurred in the operation of our railways We are not paying the interest on our war bill with it at all, we are not even paying pensions
we are just breaking even-on governmental operation of our railways. Presumably this means we will have to tax ourselves all over againt to pay for the war. Truly it is a condition of affairs of which we have little reason to feel proud.
As long as the Government persists in its nefarious policy of helping certain gangs of financiers-if I may use the expression, Mr. Speaker-interested in the maladministration of the railways, by administering them in the worst possible manner, the Canadian people must hold themselves ready to meet the growing deficits from year to year. '
I have been asking myself, Mr. Speaker, how the Minister of Finance could make up his Budget this year without borrowing. There remains to him, it is true, the imposition of new taxes. As to that, the Canadian people would have little to say if the Government would divide the burden equitably and proportionately to the re sources of each class and of each individual. I understand that again this year the Government is following the detestable custom it followed during the war, wheu it placed its rapacious hand on the shoulder of the small contributor, the man who had brought up a large family only to make food for cannon, while it exempted those who rested comfortably at the fireside and amassed exorbitant profits. Following this policy, the Government has lifted the tax on luxuries, which, to my mind, was a just tax. It has also abolished the tax on profits, thus lightening the burden of the rich, very often with few if any children, and shifting it to the poor, frequently the supporters of large families. Further, the only capital which should have been spared -the human capital furnished by these numerous families and which in the end, constitutes the wealth of the nation-was again this year particularly hit for the benefit of capial held in the hands of a minority which compromises by its monopoly the equilibrium of the country.
I cannot, Mr. Speaker, let this occasion pass without saying a few words about the high cost of living, which has regularly increased every year under the placid eyes of the Government-a Government more occupied in conducting throughout the country a campaign of racial hate to ensure its return to power than in giving attention to matters of this kind. While the humble labourer was asking himself how he was going to meet the needs of his family, the profiteers and monopolists of all kinds were occupying themselves in artificially raising the cost of living and hastening to protect their fortunes by buying up nearly a billion and a half of Victory bonds-free from taxes through the imprudence of the Government-and openly defying the Board of Commerce, the institution supposed to be designed to regulate their profits. Mr. Speaker, if I were to enumerate all the errors accumulated by the incompetence of the Government during the time it has had charge of the country's affairs it would be necessary for me to retain the attention of this chamber for a much longer time than I intend to occupy.
May I be allowed, Mr. Speaker, to protest in advance in the most vehement manner possible against any attempt to change anything which touches the actual state of our foreign relations or to involve us in new military or naval expenses outside of our country without the unanimous consent of this House? I allude to the next Imperial Conference, in which the Government has given itself carte blanche to take part. Too often our autonomy has been sacrificed at these Imperial conferences and heavy burdens imposed upon us under the pretext of our being admitted to the rank of sister nation. Too long the Imperial statesmen have tired our ears and fascinated our eyes with the words "equality" and "sister nation", while they sacrificed our children, exploited our finances and endangered our liberty. Before we become embroiled to our great detriment in Imperial affairs, let us remember that our country is Canada and that no others than Canadians can ensure her prosperity and future.
I see the hon. Minister of Finance in his seat, although I know he is there not specially to listen to me, but to fulfil his duty. I would like to ask him if he has ever considered the advisability of reducing the income tax upon the heads of large families. Has he ever put to himself this question : Suppose I were the father of a
family of seven or eight children, my income is $3,000, and I am exempted on $2,000.
Subtopic: REVISED EDITION. COMMONS