I wish to say, in reference to the observations of the hon. member who has just spoken, that he takes upon himself a very serious responsibility in criticising the support that the Government is trying to give to the establishment in Canada of an industry that has such immense possibilities. I am sorry that world conditions so far have prevented manufacturers from Ireland, and I may say even manufacturers from Belgium, who are experts in the cultivation and manufacture of flax, establishing mills here and taking advantage of this bounty to encourage the spinning industry in Canada. It must be patent to any one that it is the height of folly for us to continue to be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for the countries of Europe-for us to produce our raw material and send it over there to be manufactured and re-sold to us in the finished state.
There seems to be a desire not only in the House but in the press to discount the ability of Canadian growers to produce flax
of high quality. A prominent Belgian who was in this country a short time ago, in the course of an interview given to a representative of the Montreal Star, stated that Canada grew as fine a quality of fibre flax as could be produced in the civilized world; but that Canadians so far had not been able to handle their flax as scientifically as growers in Belgium, Ireland and other countries. Why, Sir, the very object of establishing a department of fibre in connection with the Experimental Farm was not to show farmers how to grow flax-[DOT] that is easy enough-but how to handle it after it is grown. You may produce a crop of flax the acre value of which might not represent twenty-five dollars after it is harvested, and yet that very same flax handled under expert direction and properly retted and scutched might represent a value of from $300 to $350 an acre. It is for that very purpose that we want expert direction through our Department of Agriculture. Then, having produced a quality of flax equal to the best that can be produced in Europe, the Department of Trade and Commerce, through this bounty, can encourage the spinning of the fibre into yarns. This means spinning it into threads from which the linen is woven. As a result of that encouragement a mill was established in Guelph by Dominion Spinners, Limited, the purpose of which was to use Canadian flax fibre for the making of yarns, and then in their adjoining mill to weave the yarns into linen. The quality of their goods is attested by the fact that the Canadian National Railways, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the King Edward Hotel and other leading institutions which demand a high quality of linen for their tables are buying their supplies from Dominion Spinners, Limited; in other words, they are buying linen which has been woven in a Canadian mill from yarn spun from Canadian-grown fibre. The Brooklyn Linen Mills of Belfast, Ireland, have already been looking into the possibilities of growing fibre in this country with a view to the establishment of linen mills here. I hold, Sir, in view of the fact that we have such a tremendous potential water power in this country, and that we can grow fibre here of such excellent quality, there is no earthly reason why with proper encouragement we should not have the flax spinning and weaving industries developed here to their highest possibilities. I submit that if several spinning mills were established here-as I hope they will be-
the $25,000 or $26,000 appropriated for bounties on the production of these yarns would be too small, and it is my cherished hope that the industry may so develop and such a large amount of yarn will be spun as to require even a large appropriation for this bounty.
This afternoon, while this discussion was proceeding, I was engaged in my room dictating a long letter of protest to the Montreal Star in answer to an article which appeared there a week ago to-night. A Mr. Ireland, of Ireland Bros., large linen manufacturers of Belfast, allowed himself to be interviewed by an ignorant reporter of the Montreal Star-ignorant on this subject; I will qualify it to that extent; absolutely ignorant of the subject about which he was seeking information. Mr. Ireland, in expressing his optimism and hope for the future of the industry, made the statement, that with the present condition of the industry throughout the world there is a total visible supply of not one-third enough fibre to operate the mills in Ireland alone for a single year. Yet notwithstanding that condition, and the impossibility of the Baltic and other flax-growing districts getting back to normal conditions within a reasonable time, the price of this commodity has been depressed to a point where it is now below the cost of production in this country. That is a very unfortunate circumstance, but it is not one to discourage us, because production costs last year were abnormal by reason of the very high rate of wages. Mr. Ireland expressed the opinion that these conditions impelled the conclusion that in the very near future there must be a large increase in the consumption of fibre, and that as soon as the retailer commenced buying linens there would be a demand on the manufacturers for their goods, and having eased themselves of their stocks, a demand would spring up very quickly from the manufacturers for the limited supply of fibre that was now available. Therefore there is every possibility that our growers will come through with a very fair profit if they will have patience. But the point in this article that I object to, and the point which I drew to the- attention of the chief of the fibre department of the Experimental Farm, is this. The interviewer asked Mr. Ireland what did people in Ireland and the rest of Europe think of Canadian flax. He said: Oh, Canadian flax does not meet with very much success. He could not say anything against
its quality, for it was good, but the flax in this country was grown mostly for linseed. Now, that was an absurd statement for him to make. It is true that in the West flax is grown for linseed, but in Ontario and Quebec we grow flax for fibre exclusively, and we have developed a quality equal to the best fibre grown in any part of the world.
I urge, Sir, that it is the duty of the Government at this critical time not to get discouraged. Our growers are not discouraged. They will grow more flax next year, but not so much as in former years; they are going to feel their way. I have expressed the opinion in this House time and again that the duty of our growers is to develop quality rather than quantity, that a hundred acres of good flax from which good fibre can be produced is better than five hundred acres of mediocre flax, the fibre from which you cannot find a market for, against the competition of Russia, Japan and other flax-growing countries. I hope the Government will stand to its guns and will follow up its good work by establishing a demonstration plant in the district where fibre is mostly grown, and will by research work encourage the adoption of better methods and better mechanical appliances. There is no reason why we should not have by this means, a flax industry developed to the limits of its possibilities, and an industry which will add enormous potential wealth to this country.
Topic: THE AUDITOR GENERAL'S REPORT