Mr. ALFRED SPEARMAN (Red Deer) :
Mr. Speaker, it is with a good deal of trepidation that I rise to take part in this debate, because, like the hon. gentleman who preceded me, I am inexperienced in public speaking and lack of knowledge of the forms, the procedure, and the traditions of the House. I therefore request your indulgence, Sir, if I err in any way, as I intend-we all intend, no doubt,-to bring myself in harmony with the rules of the House and in harmony with the spirit and ancient traditions of Parliament, while still holding to my own principles and my own ideas.
We have come here, a great many of us, as new members, in the hope of being able to impart some of the ideas which have been growing in our minds through the past years, and also in the hope that we may be able to assist in bringing about better conditions in this country. We have not come here in any spirit of hostility or of antagonism, but rather with the desire to co-operate as fully as possible in the endeavour to secure needed reforms and such legislation as is necessary for the country as a whole, and, perhaps, for the West in particular, if we are to emerge from the morass in which we are struggling at the present time and to set our feet on dry ground again. I believe that the task will require the intelligent co-operation of every thinking man and woman in Canada, no matter in what part of the country they may live, and irrespective of racial extraction, occupation, or any other consideration. I believe that the task before us will demand their intelligent co-operation if Canada is to be the country we all think it should be. That is the spirit in which we have come here.
I have read with a good deal of interest the Speech from the Throne, and have heard with equal interest the debate which has been held upon it and which has to some extent explained and amplified it; and I find myself very much in accord with the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. McMurray), because, in spite of the somewhat gloomy pessimism of the right hon. gentleman who leads the official Opposition (Mr. Meighen), I, like my hon. friend frorp North Winnipeg, intend to retain my optimism until the Government itself, by any future action, shall destroy it. We come into Parliament believing that the Government intend to carry out legislation along the lines of their old platform and their pre-election promises. We are taking that for granted until the Government itself shall do something to deprive our minds of that confidence in them. We intend to do the Government justice to that extent, and to afford all the assistance possible in the carrying out of their programme.
In looking over the Speech from the Throne I was particularly pleased with one paragraph, referred to by every hon. member who has spoken, and that, the reference to agriculture. There is one respect, in this connection, in which I must congratulate the Government. For a good many years we farmers have suffered from a superfluity of advice from bankers,
lawyers, manufacturers, politicians, and a good many other people, as to what we should do and what we should best produce, what class . of farming we should follow, whether we should grow wheat or go in for mixed farming, or raise cattle, and so forth. We have had an abundance of that sort of advice, and while we recognize that these things may be important, I am very glad indeed to see that the Government, in the Speech from the Throne, has realized that the foundation of agricultural prosperity lies not so much in them, but in proper marketing and transportation, and in lower production costs. It seems to me that this, to a large extent, covers all the ground; it covers the tariff, the railway situation and marketing; and if these three things are settled, and settled so that farmers may work under them to advantage, I do not think we have any great kick coming; we have, I think, very little left to ask for. I am not going to speak at any length on the question of marketing. That has been dealt with before, and no doubt it will be spoken of by others. I will only mention that we have come to this conclusion, after a great deal of thought and experience-that if we are to succeed in business we must have some method of controlling the marketing of products. By that I mean some method by which the producer controls the marketing and flow of his own products until they arrive at their ultimate destination. We are not particularly desirous of controlling the price. We recognize that it is impossible for the farmers of one nation to control prices, but we believe that by controlling the flow, so that the products arrive at the markets of the world, throughout the year, as those markets can absorb them, we can stabilize the prices and receive the highest average world price throughout the year. As to the form that this control should take, I am not prepared to say; that will have to be settled later on. I believe that the ultimate solution will be some form of cooperative organization by the farmers themselves; but I also believe that, for the present, some form of Government board will have to be adopted. That, however, I will leave to the future; it will be discussed in Committee, and I shall not go further in detail in that respect just now. There is also the other point, of lower costs of production, which links itself most intimately with the tariff, because the one thing that causes our costs of production to be higher than it should be is the increased
price of farm machinery and farm equipment due to the protective tariff. I am not going to say much about the protective tariff. Protection has been a political football for so many years that 1 cannot say anything new on the subject. That is a remarkable thing, too. Election after election, and session after session, this football has been kicked about from one party to another, and yet it remains about the same size, and is about the same colour and texture as it was a good many years ago. I think it is a remarkable instance of endurance. I do want to point out one thing, and that is our attitude on the subject of protection at large; -I am not referring to tariff for revenue; that should properly come under the taxation and not under protection, I am referring to the principle of protection. That principle we believe to be morally wrong and economically unsound. We believe it is morally wrong, because anything is wrong morally which gives to one class of individuals in a community the power to exploit .other classes to their own personal advantage. And I am including farmers in that; I do not believe that farmers or any other class should have any form of special privilege which will enable them to exploit other classes. We believe protection is unsound economically because it delays and hampers the development of our natural resources of all kinds-farming, mining, timber and other resources-by increasing the cost of the machinery used in that development. We believe that in the development of the natural resources which God has placed within our country in such plenitude lies the future of this Dominion. There is another point in this connection: adopted as a principle protection becomes futile as a form of taxation, because the more perfect it becomes for the purposes of protection, the more adequate protection is, the smaller your revenue becomes; protection carried to the extreme degree would completely shut out all imports, and then, of course, no revenue could be produced. We say, therefore, that the protective tariff is an illogical form of revenue. We believe, furthermore, that taxation of this kind proceeds altogether in the wrong direction because it is a consumption tax, and in principle the consumption tax is less desirable than any form of direct taxation because it bears most heavily upon those who are least able to bear it. You can easily see that the poorer a man is the larger the proportion of his income that
goes for the necessities of life, and if he is taxed on the necessities of life, the larger the proportion of taxation he has to pay. But, leaving that out of the question, we believe that it is an illogical form of taxation in the present condition of the country. Most people in this country- and strange as it may seem, this question becomes linked up with that of immigration as well-most people, no matter what their party affiliation may be, regard the great need of this country as population; they believe we should encourage an increase of population by any means in our power. Logically speaking, a bachelor tax might be all right for the purpose of encouraging population,-and mind you, I am not attempting to embarrass the Government by advocating a tax on bachelors. I simply wish to point out that taxation through protection is a baby tax, and a baby tax, where population is our greatest necessity and where native-born population is the best population, is, I contend, Mr. Speaker, not a logical tax. And what else can you call it? You who have children know that for every additional child in your family you must buy additional shoes and garments of various kinds; and many other things, and you are taxed on every one of those things you buy. It simply means that under a protective tariff, for every child you have in your family, you are subjected to additional taxation; and if that is not a baby tax, what is it?
Now, I am going to leave that subject for better men than I am to tackle later on. But I want to say a word, just in passing, on the subject of immigration as connected with conditions pertaining to agriculture. We wish to bring in a great number of immigrants who. shall go on the farms; as I understand it, that is the object of any immigration policy we may adopt- to bring in men and women more or less experienced in farming, who will go upon the land, open up undeveloped areas, particularly in the West and through parts of Ontario, and thus increase production. Mr. Speaker, the foundation of any form of immigration which can possibly be successful in attaining that object must be the prosperity of those already on the land. That, I believe, is the only policy of immigration which is worth the paper it is written on. When you have made the condition of the farmers already here prosperous, tolerable and decent as far as possible, others will come in to share their prosperity. But until you have done that, what is the use of trying to induce others
to come here only to share our poverty and distress. Now, that sounds like strong language; yet is it too strong? I say poverty and distress. After I came to Ottawa I was speaking to a gentleman who was fairly well acquainted, with city conditions and he remarked that we were very fortunate in Western Canada in that whatever our conditions were, however hard the times might be, no man, woman or child in that part of the country was suffering for want of food; all were farmers and all would have plenty of food in their cupboards. I told that gentleman, as I can tell the House now and as some hon. members must know, that even among farmers whose occupation is the production of food there are hundreds-I believe I am within the mark in saying thousands-who are dependent upon the municipalities and upon the Government for their daily bread at the present time. This statement is not exaggerated; the conditions are such as I have described. While it is true that these conditions are confined to a few areas the fact remains that in. a great portion of Western Canada at least-I cannot speak for the farmers of the East-the farmers are simply living on their reserves; they are farming at a loss, holding on, hoping for a better day to come when prices for what they have to sell, prices for what they have to buy, and transportation rates, will come to such a point as will make a living possible. We have been told-and there is a great deal of logic in it-that a decrease of freight rates can only follow an increase in population. I can see the force of that argument, but at the same time I believe that increase of population must be preceded by a decrease in the freight rates; otherwise the population will simply not come in.
There is just one other point to which I wish to refer briefly. It is a point without political significance and with respect to Which all members of the House will, I believe, be in accord. It is in connection with the re-establishment of the former members of the Canadian expeditionary forces. I would like to call the attention of this House to the condition that at present prevails among the greater number, I believe, in the West at least, of the returned men who have been placed upon the land through the work of the Soldier Settlement Board. I believe that board has done its duty faithfully and carried out its work sympathetically, so far as I have seen, and I have no desire to criticise it. But it is time, in my opinion, that the policy of that
board should be amplified-indeed, that a different policy should be pursued. Most of these men went on the land in good faith, When the price of everything was at its peak. They went there at a time when prices were abnormal, when prices had reached a stage which they may not reach again for many years. The cost of machinery was at the peak; prices of stock and everything else that was needed for their farming activities were at the peak, and they bought at those prices. They bought land when land was selling on the basis of two-dollar wheat and cattle were bringing profitable prices. They bought machinery at the highest prices which have been known. They bought cattle when milch cows were bringing from $100 to $140. And now where are they? They went into debt for these things-for that land and that stock and' the equipment purchased at these high prices, and at present their indebtedness to the Government on that stock and equipment exceeds the total value of the property which they possess. This, Mr. Speaker, is a serious condition and one which this House will have to take into account. These men went overseas; they fought and suffered both physically and financially in order that this country and the world might be free. They were put upon the land, in good faith, as a kind of mark of appreciation-as a method of assisting them to regain their places in civil life. The idea was right, and I believe the expectations were well founded. But what has happened? All these men, or a very large proportion of them, at all events, were called upon to pay about ten per cent of the value of the land when they got it. If they leave their farms now they lose not only the government land, not only all the work they have put in upon it, but every cent they possessed before they went on the land as well. Is that fair, is it just? It is absolutely impossible-and I speak from experience because, though inexperienced in this House, I am experienced in farming-conditions in that part of the country- for any one of these men to make good under that burden of debt. Even old experienced farmers with their holdings free from debt cannot possibly make interest on their holdings under present conditions. How then can we expect these newcomers to make principal and interest on an overcapitalized farm? It is absolutely impossible. To a large extent they are foredoomed to failure under present conditions, and will leave the land. That sounds like
a very gloomy prospect. What suggestions have we to make? My suggestion is simply this, and it is one which has been endorsed pretty generally by the farmers who would have to help to pay the bill, that the land, the stock, and the machinery, bought in that way should be re-valued and brought down to a value comparable to the values prevailing at the present time, and that the difference between the debt which these men assumed and the present value be taken over by the country, as an addition to our public debt. I know that sounds unpopular, but that loss is more apparent than real, because every time one of these men goes under, and they are doing it every day, a salvage sale is necessary and the stuff is sold at present prices, or at less than present prices at a forced sale, and the country has to take the loss. Sooner or later,-and I make a very'conservative estimate because, although I am Progressive in my principles, I am very conservative in my statements in most ways-I believe at least seventy per cent of these men are doomed to failure and to leave the land, and when they leave the land the country will have to stand the loss of the difference between the value of their stock when they leave the land and the value of their stock when they bought it. But the country will lose far more than that. While these men are on the land they are producing citizens, self-respecting men supporting themselves; they are an asset to their country, because production is necessary; they are working. But if they are forced to leave the land, what happens? They become a liability. Under present conditions they will simply have to join the ranks of the unemployed and in one way or another they and their families will have to be kept by this country. I do not say that every one who leaves his farm will have to join the unemployed, but with tens of thousands of unemployed in this country to-day, every one of these men who has to leave the land will either remain unemployed himself or force someone else into the ranks of the unemployed; the ranks of the unemployed will be swelled in either event, and these men will no longer be an asset but a liability to their country. More than that, in their own character, in their own purposefulness, in their own power to make good citizens, they will have been lost. They will have lost heart, they will have lost courage, they will have lost belief in the righteousness, the fairness and justness of their fellow-men, in the country they live in.
While I am not attempting to embarrass the Government in any way at the present time, I hope that this matter will receive the most serious consideration of the department concerned and of the Government as a whole. I can assure the Government that any action along the line I have suggested will receive the hearty co-operation and support of my friends here.
There is another question, and though it is a small one, it is still most important. For the next year or two it will be practically impossible for any one of these men to make payments on his land, and I think it would be good policy-I simply throw that out as a suggestion-to extend the time of payment; for two years. Give them two years free of principal and free of interest during which they might be able to get on their feet financially, and in that way help them to make good.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken long enough for the first time, but before taking my seat I want to make just one brief statement. Being, as I am, quite inexperienced in this House, it will probably take me some time to thoroughly imbibe its atmosphere. We were all treated to a very fine exhibition of oratory yesterday and part of the time to-day, and if that is a sample of the eloquence of the statesmen in Parliament, if the courtesy and the absence of all personalities displayed was a fair sample of what commonly goes on in Parliament, I am afraid it will be a very long time before I and some of my associates can hope to climb to such heights.
In conclusion, I would simply repeat what I have said before and what others have said before me, that we are here to work, not for the good of any one part of Canada, but we are here as Canadians to do all in our power to assist others to work for the common good of our country.
Topic: THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH. ADDRESS IN REPLY