Mr. T. A. FONTAINE (St. Hyacinthe-Rouville) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, I do
not wish to waste the time of the house, especially at this late hour; neither would I like to unduly prolong the present debate which has been going on for two full weeks. But, since we are not under high pressure as we were at the special session of last September, I believe that it behooves us all to properly fulfil our duties as representatives of the people by serving, to the best of our ability, and in all good faith, free from any narrow party spirit as also from all animosity, the interests of our constituents and of our Canadian people as a whole.
I must acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that never before have I realized to the same degree the very deep truth contained in the words of the Gospel: "Tarde venientibus ossa," which I would translate under the circumstances: When he follows so many
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brilliant speakers, so many eminent parliamentarians, so many distinguished debaters as we have listened to since the beginning oif the discussion on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, the young member finds his task no easy one, indeed, and he feels that there is very little left for him to say.
In my turn, as a French Canadian member of parliament representing the province of Quebec, I deem it my duty, as my good friend the distinguished member for Hull (Mr. Fournier) pointed out the other day, to speak in my native tongue when I rise to-day for the first time as a member of this house. I believe that it is the duty of every French Canadian who is elected to this house to use the French language when he addresses the assembly for the first time.
Mr. Speaker, I trust you will allow me in all humility and with all due modesty to join with all my colleagues on both sides of the house in expressing to you my heartfelt and truly sincere congratulations on your elevation to the exalted position you occupy as Speaker of the House of Commons. This tribute seems to me all the more fitting since I have been given the privilege of occupying the same room in this building which formerly served Your Honour.
I wish also to offer my very cordial congratulations, as did all the hon. gentlemen who preceded me, to the hon. members for Restigouche-Madawaska (Mr. Cormier) and for North Grey (Mr. Porteous) for the very meritorious fashion in which they carried out the arduous task assigned them of moving and seconding, respectively, (the address in reply to the speech from the throne.
If time were not wanting, we should like to offer our congratulations also to the French Canadian members, and to the representatives of the other provinces, on both sides of the house, ^ for the very excellent speeches we have listened to during the past two weeks.
If I were a member of acquired standing, I should very likely not be forgiven for singing the praises of the constituency which does me the honour of selecting me as its representative in this house. But since all new members are sure of your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, and of the kindly feelings of all our hon. colleagues, I hope you will allow me to say that I represent, not the finest county in our whole Dominion-the hon. friends beside me would smother me with their protests-but I shall use the expression which can displease nobody-one of the finest counties of the province of Quebec. My constituency is partly agricultural and partly
industrial. On the agricultural side we have general farming, the dairy industry, cattle raising, market gardening; we also produce quantities of hay and a very large yield of tobacco, particularly around St. Cesaire. The county abounds in magnificent orchards; and the country around Rougemont, St.-Hilaire and Abbotsford is aptly described as the most beautiful garden in the provinoe. We are also given over to the maple industry, to canning activities, to poultry raising and bee culture, etc. From the industrial viewpoint we have silk factories, knitting mills, shoe factories, tanneries and organ factories. We also have distilleries, we manufacture headgear, etc. In my riding during the last election, as was done in all the other counties in Quebec province, in fact in all the constituencies throughout the country, a special appeal was made to the farming community: In an effort to obtain their votes they were led to believe that if they elected the Conservative party to office they would receive much higher prices for their produce. The working people of the cities were promised more work. None of these promises have been fulfilled. But everywhere and always our opponents have fallen back on their well known slogan: "Canada First". Mr. Speaker, whenever the Conservative party is striving hard for victory it always has recourse to some stirring battle cry that resounds like a bugle call. We had an illustration of this in the 1911 campaign when the Conservative party triumphed to the tune of: "No truck nor trade with the Yankees".
And in 1911, since we are on the subject, the Conservatives, just as in 1930, played a twofaced game. In one part of the country the fight was waged by feeding the people all sorts of fantastic notions concerning reciprocity; elsewhere the same bugaboos were called into service, but this time the butt was the proposed Canadian Navy. In the 1930 campaign the motto inspired by the Conservative chieftain himself was not quite so blatant: "Canada First".
A fine motto, Mr. Speaker, no doubt about it; perhaps the finest that could be inscribed at the head of a political program on the eve of a general election. "Canada First!", how well it looks in a proclamation, how it stands out in a speech. Every single one of us approves of this magic formula; but we wish to give it its real meaning, its precise and accurate significance.
If it is meant to convey that every effort should be made to find new markets for our products, or even to keep those markets we already have, we are for it. If it means striving to ensure national union, harmony
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and concord between provinces, between classes, between races, between creeds, we are for it. If this program means protecting the consumer and the middle classes, and not looking solely to the interests of the big capitalists of the country, we are for it. If it means protecting the farmer and the workingman to the same degree as the magnates of industry and finance, we are for it, absolutely and completely; for such, thank God, has always been the program of the Liberal party. But, Mr. Speaker, if by that magic formula it is sought, first and foremost, to support the might of wealth and power, and in the doing to ride roughshod over any and all obstacles; if, as a consequence of the reckless increase of our tariff, all other countries, one after another, close their doors against us; if, instead of a tariff for revenue, we find our custom receipts dwindling rapidly from day to day; if our country must relinquish the enviable position it had acquired in the world of trade among the first nations of the globe; if, instead of piling up a surplus and thus reducing our national debt, the public treasury is constantly losing ground; if, as a consequence, the government, instead of easing or even abolishing certain taxes which weigh heavily on the nation, finds itself under the necessity of increasing them and of creating new imposts; if instead of the peace, the mutual confidence, the respect, the harmony and unity, which must flourish in this Canada of ours if we wish to ensure the survival of confederation; if, I repeat, instead of all that, we find distrust, suspicion, animosity, constant bickerings among the provinces, between different parts of the country, between the classes of our population; if we even find in certain cases, sad to relate, the rights of minorities despised; ah then, Mr. Speaker, are we not justified in asking ourselves if this fine motto was not used to mask the sole object of gaining power through the application of the supremely false and evil principle: "The end justifies the means."
During the campaign of last July, Mr. Speaker, our good friends to your right saw nothing but unrest, depression, unemployment, hardship and untold suffering. For our part we are quite willing to admit the existence of an economic crisis; but we have always maintained that it had its general causes in overproduction, the weakening of the wheat market, the inroads of mechanization, the slock exchange crash, etc. Our opponents absolutely refused to look beyond our own borders, to the countries of Europe of the neighbouring republic; they refused to study
the economic situation in other countries. After the election, they soon changed. Several of the hon. members who preceded me brought to the attention of the house statements made, after the election, by the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens), for instance, by the hon. Minister of Labour (Senator Robertson), by the hon. member for Argenteuil (Sir George Perley). The right hon. Prime Minister himself (Mr. Bennett), in the speech he delivered at the opening of the Imperial conference in London, on October 1st, duly stressed the fact that the conference was beginning its labours at a time when the entire world was going through a period of industrial depression. Let me quote his own words, which I find, Mr. Speaker, in the official report of the conference published by order of parliament:
We meet at a time of industrial depression, falling prices, slackening trade, diminishing revenues and rising unemployment. This situation is world-wide, and while some countries know it only in a modified degree, all are equally concerned in finding a cure for it. Those factors which once controlled the course of international trade and commerce have given place to others. The old order of things has passed. How far the present unhappy state may be regarded as the manifestation of change into a new condition of world affairs, it is perhaps profitless at the moment to enquire.
But whoever had listened to the speeches of the right hon. Prime Minister during the campaign, would have believed that if Canada were suffering from any such economic depression it was due entirely to the neglect and the incompetence of the Liberal administration. But hardly was the election over, when he unhesitatingly accepted the Liberal viewpoint. What a fitting occasion to quote the poet's words: "Quantum mutatis ab illo!"
Whenever anything goes wrong our Conservative friends always have the same explanation to offer, whether before or after an election: Blame the Liberals. As people used to say at one time: Blame Papineau. The hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) recalled this in one of his speeches during the campaign: "I know this refrain only too well," he said; "it was heard everywhere in the days of my great-grandfather: if the weather were bad, blame Papineau; if it rained, blame Papineau; if the roads were bad, blame Papineau; if the cows were barren, blame Papineau."
But if I remember aright, Mr. Speaker, our friends opposite boasted during the campaign that they had a wonderful cure-all that would immediately rid us of all the. evils that beset our country. They told the voters: "Give us a chance, and we'll change all this; our pro-
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tective tariff will put everything back on its feet again." The right hon. Prime Minister himself, stated in Nova Scotia,-his words will be found in the Halifax Herald of July 3rd and 4th; besides, I believe they are quoted on page 37 of the French version of Hansard:
If the Conservative party is victorious on July 28th I will see to it that old age pensions are paid in every province out of the federal treasury.
Let me, in passing, congratulate the hon member for Jacques-Cartier (Mr. Laurin) on the splendid speech he made last night, particularly on his eloquent treatment of this question of old age pensions. As I listened to him I thought: "If he delivered this speech in all the parishes of his county there is nothing surprising about his large majority.'' Mr. Speaker, who can say how many votes this promise of old age pensions rallied to the Conservative banner in the province of Quebec, and in the other provinces?
The Prime Minister went on-and this is important:
I ask the Conservative candidates who are elected to parliament from this province to vote against me and against my government if these promises are not kept.
Alas, like Sister Anne, we see nothing on the horizon. In the speech from the throne we are told: "Have patience; it will come in time: we have been in office only eight months. But these hon. gentlemen sang another tune during the campaign: there was to be no delay; everything was to be straightened out immediately. It was on the strength of these explicit pledges that they gained so many votes in Quebec and in the other provinces. Does anyone, for a single moment, think that the result of the election would have been the same if our opponents, instead of promising an immediate solution of all our difficulties, had said to the electorate: "We believe we can do better than the Liberals; but we do not know how much time we will need. One thing is certain: no improvement will be possible for a long time". That is what they are saying to-day; so much so that even after being in office for over eight months our Conservative friends are still not able to tell us when their marvellous remedies will begin to show some results.
If the situation is not one whit improved, say our opponents, if our income has decreased to the tune of $72,000,000 during the first ten months of the fiscal year which will end in a few days; if, in the same period our expenses have increased by $20,000,000 and the public debt by $44,000,000; if the government must face a deficit of $100,000,000, as the right
hon. Prime Minister himself has acknowledged, there is nothing strange about that: it is the fault of the Dunning tariff. But here again our Conservative friends are caught in their own trap; for if I am not mistaken the Dunning tariff only came into effect on May 1; and the government hastily repealed it at the special session of last September. Is anyone ready to believe that this tariff, in effect only a few months, could have such disastrous results? No, the Dunning tariff which sought to open up new foreign markets for our goods, had as its necessary object the increase of our revenue. The best proof of this is found in the fact that immediately after its repeal our revenue began to fall.
Frequent mention has been made of the Prime Minister's promises during the campaign. Several of our friends opposite have sought to show-without any satisfactory proof it seems to me,-that their pledges had been fulfilled. As a matter of fact I believe that only one was kept, and that only in part; I am speaking of the special session. What were the principal pledges made by the Prime Minister and the Conservative party to curry favour with the electorate? The first was that unemployment would be banished immediately through a special session called for that purpose. The second was an increase in the prices of farm produce, especially butter. That promise has not been kept. The third was to establish a system of old age pensions in all the provinces at federal expense. We have still to see its fulfilment. Fourth promise: A national highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Cape Breton to Vancouver. What has become of that pledge, Mr. Speaker? Another promise unfulfilled.
Fifth promise: a bridge over the St. Lawrence at Laehine; and a bridge, if you please, without any toll-gate whatever. This is being implemented by the provincial government of Quebec province, and not by the federal government.
Sixth promise: The St. Lawrence waterway. Mr. Speaker, can anybody sincerely and in good faith claim to-day in this house that these promises have been kept, or are about to be fulfilled by the party now in power?
I do not intend,-time is flying-to recall most of the important declarations made by the Prime Minister on the eve of last election day, July 28th. But I shall quote a few, as briefly as possible.
When I have become prime minister, on the 28th, I will see to it that all my promises are kept or my government will go down to defeat in the effort to fulfill them.
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Here is what he said at- Halifax:
I ask the Conservative candidates in this province (Nova Scotia) who are elected to parliament to vote against me and against my government if these pledges are not kept.
Mr. King promises to study the unemployment problem. I promise to put an end to unemployment. Which plan do you prefer?
What a fine ring there was to such statements made in the course of a political speech. He also said:
What you want is not conferences, but work; and it is work you will get.
And the right hon. Prime Minister added, speaking this time in Quebec city-and this is important for our conservative friends; I have not yet the pleasure of knowing personally and intimately the Conservative representatives of our province, but they seem well-intentioned; those I have met in this house appear to be men of good-will and I feel sure that at the first opportunity they will dutifully follow the recommendation made to them by their leader in Quebec city-the right hon. Prime Minister stated that he wanted the Quebec members and the other members of his party to throw him out of office if, after his victory at the polls, he should be unfaithful to the pledges he had made to the Canadian people.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON THE ADDRESS IN REPLY