Alfred SPEAKMAN

SPEAKMAN, Alfred

Personal Data

Party
United Farmers of Alberta
Constituency
Red Deer (Alberta)
Birth Date
August 24, 1880
Deceased Date
November 4, 1943
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Speakman
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=3cd49ad9-d55c-4fbe-b68e-e250641d1448&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
farmer

Parliamentary Career

December 6, 1921 - September 5, 1925
UFA
  Red Deer (Alberta)
October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
UFA
  Red Deer (Alberta)
September 14, 1926 - May 30, 1930
UFA
  Red Deer (Alberta)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
UFA
  Red Deer (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 3 of 237)


March 18, 1935

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

Oh, quite; I have no intention of suggesting that the acting Prime Minister limit the inquiry into the problem to that somewhat superficial aspect. I suggest that a study of that question must embrace most of the economic troubles that beset this nation, because you have to find out not only some way of distributing the surplus population from the city, but why there is this trend. The cause will be found to embrace the relative standards of living and the entire question of our industrial and distributive system, and to involve the whole subject of education and the varied opportunities which are afforded people in the rural and urban areas. I was disappointed-perhaps not disappointed but to say the least, surprised-rto hear the suggestion that that trend might be stopped were a change of government to take place. Any such suggestion shows a very shallow knowledge of the situation, because that trend has prevailed under every government and in every country. It was taking place with just as great acceleration in the nine years preceding 1930 as in the four or five years since; it is dependent on no special government being in power, and is far beyond any question of party politics. Its causes go far deeper than that; they go

Economic Council

to the very roots of our modem civilization, our industry and our agricultural system. I venture to suggest that in connection with that very problem the economic council would be obliged to investigate a subject which I think above all others should be investigated, the distribution in a proper way of that which we can produce and the relationship of finance and other factors to that distribution. This opens up a very wide field, and that is why I have in mind something perhaps a good deal more permanent and a good deal more important in the future than is visualized by the acting Prime Minister in this beginning. I quite realize the fact that the last session of parliament prior to an election is no time to set up wide and extensive machinery of any kind which might take over functions hitherto either unperformed or considered governmental. May I say at once that I only welcome this as the acorn from which a much larger tree may grow. I should like to see- and I hope this will be the germ-not a body composed mainly of departmental officials but a body truly representative of the problem itself, a body as permanent in its nature as the national council on technical and scientific research.

I am not going to compare those two problems. The acting Prime Minister has well said that economic and social research and all the problems related to that question are far more important and deserving of far more attention on the part of any government than are the problems of scientific research. The acting Prime Minister did not go quite that far, but that was the suggestion. I have said before, and perhaps it will do no harm to repeat it, that while technical and scientific research is carried on in many branches and in many places under private enterprise and initiative, because the results of that research may be reflected in increased profits, increased dividends or increased comforts to those engaged in the research, in the case of the corporations or firms carrying it on, properly speaking this question with which we are now dealing is one which affects primarily the state itself, society as a whole, not one individual particularly or primarily, not one firm or corporation, but the state as such. The solution of these problems would be reflected not necessarily in increased profits or dividends but in higher standards of living and better living conditions for the people as a whole. That means that there is only one body which should become primarily responsible for making that research possible; that body is the state, which represents all the people and society as a whole.

fMr. Speakman.]

I must confess, though I speak always with deference because of my more limited experience, that I cannot agree with the suggestion of the right hon. leader of the opposition that this council should be made a branch, as it were, of the present national council on scientific research. I agree entirely with the suggestion of the hon. member for Bow River; indeed I think I have made that suggestion myself, that while in one sense the problems are similar, there is a vast difference between the two. It is a question of knowledge and research and of the application of knowledge which 'has been obtained, but the methods are different, the subjects are different, the very bases are different. I agree at once that somewhat the same type of mind is required, that type of mind which, regardless of whose toes are trodden upon and regardless of how many existing prejudices may be upset, will search and delve until it reaches the truth and will bring in conclusions based upon that truth. I agree that the true scientific mind is required in both cases, yet I do suggest that the training of the mind and the objective are wholly different. More than that, the very basis is different. When you are dealing with scientific and technical research you are dealing with factors which may or may not be known but which, when found out, are tangible, immovable and certain; they are exact. In the realm of economic and social science you are dealing with something intangible, in regard to which differences of opinion will exist; you are dealing with questions on which at present few men agree. We have different schools of economic and social thought, and I may suggest that some of those schools of economic thought, some of those who are seeking a remedy for our present ills, hate each other worse than they hate the common enemy. So long as you have that frame of mind you cannot have the exact, scientific attitude brought to bear upon the problem which is essential.

Moreover I believe that the nature of the problem itself is so important and its scope so tremendous that it well deserves a separate establishment known and honoured as the national council of economic research, with its attention diverted to no other matters and with full power to carry on its activities. Further may I express the hope that we will see in this country not a body which will usurp the authority of parliament-I have never suggested that such an economic council should have the executive authority to put its findings into effect-but a body speaking with authority based upon knowledge, and after all upon knowledge alone can true authority be based. I hope this will grow

Economic Council

out of the present proposed legislation. I hope we shall have a body speaking with authority and taking the responsibility of advising the government as tj what policies would be most beneficial. Naturally any government and any parliament must take the responsibility of putting into effect and enforcing those policies. I am not suggesting in any way that the rights and responsibilities of parliament and of the government should be upset or usurped by any such body, but I am suggesting that governments and parliaments to-day are functioning, passing laws and taking action often on a basis of either ignorance or inexact and inaccurate information, and I believe this would do something to remedy that condition. I am not worrying just now about the welfare of any party, because I think after all that is a very trivial matter. I am hoping that out of this legislation as time goes on and as the idea develops, takes root and is accepted, as I believe it will be accepted, with acclamation-and the wider its spread and the deeper its roots the greater the acclamation-we may reach that point which we must reach or our problems will not be solved, that point when in parliament and out of parliament we can discuss these social and economic problems, which are of such overwhelming importance, on their merits, on a basis of knowledge and without the interjection of partisanship and political feeling. Perhaps that is too much to hope for, but at least it would take away some of the stigma and some of the stain of partisan politics if that information were at the disposal of the house and the government which must take the responsibility for introducing the legislation.

Perhaps I need say no more just now; after all this is only the resolution stage and I cannot tell, nor is it right for me to anticipate, to what degree and in what measure the legislation itself will bear out what I have said. In closing, however, may I say that I welcome this move because I see in it the adoption of a principle, the germ of an idea, which although it will be small this session, for good reason, perhaps may grow until it will form one of the most dominant and important factors in our modern civilization. The scope of the work to be done is enormous and the number of subjects to be investigated is legion. As I close I would suggest also that this is not merely a matter of searching out statistics and facts, important and all essential though those may be. I yield to none in my admiration of our bureau of statistics, which I believe to be one of the most efficient in the world to-day, much of its information

being useless because no use is being made of it. But if this were only a matter of delving into statistics and stating and correlating known facts, it would be but a barren move. Eventually we have to place on such a body the responsibility for the drawing of deductions and the correlating not only of facts but of opinions, and the responsibility for at least trying to think out something we have never thought out before, namely, what is going to be the final effect on the public weal of those different lines of isolated action. We have in Canada a number of outstanding illustrations indicating the need for a body such as I have described. I am not going to refer to that bete noir of the house, the transportation problem, nor shall I refer to many other matters. I should however like to mention one basic problem which may have caused more trouble for Canada than any other: I refer to the two divergent and conflicting policies which have been followed in Canada ever since western Canada was opened up. One policy encouraged by governments and by all who were interested in development was to make of western Canada a huge wheat exporting country. The western country was developed on that basis, and apparently every political party-and I am not now blaming the parties-parliament itself forgot that when accepting this as a paramount and foundation policy they were making of the west an agricultural country dependent upon huge exports for its existence. Side by side with that we attempted to build up within Canada the conflicting policy of a self-supporting industrial system. I submit that these two policies are mutually destructive; you cannot have both. Perhaps the source of some of our greatest troubles in making trade agreements and trade pacts and in getting reasonable tariffs, find their root in the fact that parliament went in two different directions, attempted to establish two different lines of policy, one of which was subversive of the other. You cannot have a country producing huge quantities of agricultural products, quantities normally in excess of its domestic needs, and at the same time have a self-contained industrial country which is not prepared to import the goods which must be accepted in exchange for the farm produce exported.

Again I am not suggesting that such a council should assume the responsibilities of parliament or of governments, but I do suggest that had a council been established many years ago and been given authority to make effective recommendations, the power to go into the facts and point out what would be

Economic Council

the results, the power to give guidance to parliament in what I consider was at that time a foolish and mutually destructive course of action, it might have prevented much of the disturbance and trouble we now find in Canada. One party in this chamber I am afraid cannot shake the finger of scorn at another, because the same policies have been followed by each and by parliament as a whole. Further than that, those policies have been supported by the people as a whole who thought they could visualize the ideal of a huge exporting country on the one hand and a self-contained industrial country on the other.

I suggest that is the kind of work which an economic council properly constituted and properly functioning might well perform. It could make suggestions to parliament and to government as to real lines of governmental and state policy which would result in reasonable balance and reasonably happy functioning. To-day one of the problems has been suggested by the acting Prime Minister, but the basic problem, that of making use of the abundance we can produce, to my mind lies at the root of our difficulties. This problem should be studied and examined impartially and free from partisanship or prejudice, so as to ascertain whether or not we may solve what has become not only a problem but a menace to ourselves and to civilization.

Topic:   IS, 1935
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March 18, 1935

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

Anything which will

take some of that load from the shoulders of any prime minister will be all to the good.

But as I conceive it the principal purpose in the formation of such a body as is proposed goes much further than that, unless indeed the function of advising the Prime Minister be interpreted in its widest possible sense. The Prime Minister is of course the head of the government, and advising the Prime Minister is in effect advising the government itself as to matters of major policy, placing before the government through the Prime Minister information necessary to enable that government to come to wise conclusions. Viewing the matter in that wider sense I assume that the function of advising the Prime Minister does include almost the entire functions of an economic council. It would be difficult for me to divide those functions into the two classes suggested, advisory and research. Advisory, certainly, but based upon what? Based upon the most intensive research into the problems, upon the widest possible knowledge and the most comprehensive study of the entire situation. I can conceive of no advice which would be worthy of the name unless it was preceded by and based upon that intensive research into the social and economic questions which I understand would be the first and primary duty of such a body. I shall not comment on the suggestion that has been made that to a large extent the body proposed by the present resolution will simply be an interdepartmental body to correlate the activities of various departments and coordinate the information which will be found therein. That would be a most useful function, but far from meeting the necessities of the case. However as that will come up in considering the bill itself, when the machinery will be discussed in more detail, and the method of appointment and principle of representation upon that council may be understood more clearly, I shall reserve comment upon that phase until that time.

I should like however to indicate very briefly some considerations which were before me and those who agreed with me when this matter was brought .before the house on former occasions, because as the acting Prime Minister has said this is a matter to which I have given some consideration. Indeed I think I have had the honour of introducing the suggestion in concrete form inito the house on

several occasions. I am glad to see those suggestions are bearing fruit. I may say at once that I am not so vainglorious as to believe that this bill is being introduced because I made the suggestion; at the same time there is a satisfaction in seeing that at that time I was interpreting public opinion and outlining a need, and that that need is now recognized in the house as well as throughout the country.

As to the work which might be doDe by such a body, the subject is so vast as to be approached with some trepidation, and touched upon only superficially in any address; and I have no intention of making an address at this time. I have on other occasions stated most of my general opinions on the subject. I listened with much interest when the acting Prime Minister mentioned one of the problems which might be referred to such a body, that of the trend towards the cities and the relative depopulation of our rural areas. While I agreed with him fully as he proceeded to indicate that the question of moving men into small self-supporting holdings in the country might be one subject of research, I thought if this were as far as the economic council would go in studying that problem it would fail utterly in its function.

Topic:   IS, 1935
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March 18, 1935

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

At this stage and without knowledge of the bill itself I shall speak very briefly; I shall not attempt to deal with what might be termed the machinery or the details. The suggestion itself I welcome in principle; that is, I welcome first the recognition by the government of the principle that economic and social problems are worthy of much greater and more concentrated study than has been given them up to the present, and second the principle that this can best be done by giving at least a degree of responsibility to a body of men to carry on that work. From the discussion so far I am not sure what will be the real form or functions or purpose of this body. It has been suggested that one of its chief functions will be to assist the Prime Minister. Well, I am in the fortunate position that I have had no experience as prime minister, and never shall have any-

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March 15, 1935

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

There are three or four aspects of the matter about which I should like to speak, but as it is almost eleven o'clock I should not like to begin to-night. Possibly we could continue at another time.

Topic:   IMMIGRATION AND COLONIZATION
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March 15, 1935

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

I would like to say

one further word on this matter, because what I had in mind has been pretty fully expressed by other hon. members who have spoken, particularly by the hon. member for Kingston City.

In common with, I suppose, every other hon. member, and especially with those who like myself have been associated with this

Supply-Pensions-European War

work for a number of years, I have had brought to my attention a great many individual cases in which pensions have been refused or reduced and the applicants have felt themselves aggrieved. I shall not bring any of these cases before the committee at this time, for I believe no good purpose could be served by my doing so, but I must say that in a number of these cases I found myself utterly at a loss to understand the action which brought about this situation. It seems to me that ordinary common sense, let alone ordinary humanity, would have dictated a different and more generous policy.

As I conceive the matter, the great problem lies in this, that perhaps above all other laws the success of this one depends upon its administration. You cannot legislate to meet individual cases, and in almost every instance the plight of a particular applicant will depend almost wholly upon the discretion of the pension commission or those who serve imder and act for it. That is inevitable, because it is a law which above all others deals with humanity and naturally suffering humanity, varying in kind, in degree, and every case must be dealt with on its merits. This is what makes it so peculiarly important that the administration should be carried on by those who not only are intelligent and fully conversant with the subject, but have a really sympathetic and understanding attitude. That becomes more and more imperative as the years go by, because more and more it is becoming impossible for any new applicant to bring forward definite and convincing evidence, and the common sense of the commission must be exercised in deciding whether, in view of all the circumstances, the overwhelming probability must be that the application is worthy of consideration. It seems to me that we are faced again with the fact, that the most deserving cases are always the most difficult to prove. The man who from the beginning has made application or has camped on the doorstep of the department every time he has had an ache, is the one who can be taken care of; but the man who above all others deserves consideration, the man who without making application has done his best to carry on under his own steam despite disability, until the crushing weight of that disability and of increasing years makes it impossible for him to do so, finds through his own meritorious action that there is a gap of evidence which makes the proof of continuity almost impossible. I believe in those cases above all others the administrative bodies, the commission and those

serving it, should temper their justice with a good deal of discretional humanity.

There is just one other point I would like to make, and it is by way of support of a suggestion made by the hon. member for Kingston City, who knows whereof he speaks, namely that the medical officers at the various points should be changed around from time to time. In common with many others I have had cases come before me from time to time where men applied for a reboarding, and I must say that usually a reboarding has been granted. But when the reboarding takes place before the same medical examiners who made the former examination, human nature as it has been exemplified in many of these cases is such that there is almost an overwhelming disinclination on the part of the examiners to admit that they might possibly have been mistaken the last time. It seems to me that it would be all to the good from the standpoint of justice and of getting a fresh viewpoint, a fresh angle, a fresh application of medical skill, if the reboarding could take place under some medical officer who had had no former connection with the case, who would consider it without bias and have no former decision to hamper his present consideration. I believe such a move would go far towards bringing about justice in some cases and removing dissatisfaction in many more. Where I have had cases reboarded perhaps three or four times, the third or fourth time the men appeared before the medical examiner the first remark made was this: "Oh, you are back here again, are you? What do you want now?" Well, it is impossible for any man to get a satisfactory examination when that is the attitude of the examining officers even before the examination begins; the man might just as well stay at home. I shall not go so far as to suggest, as was mentioned by someone, that we should scrap the whole examining body and put in fresh men on the ground that although they may have benefited by years of experience, there has occurred a hardening of the mental arteries which later renders them useless. But I would suggest, from my experience as a result of any obesrvations I have been able to make, that in the case of reboarding, in the case of a second or third or fourth examination of the same man, he should have the benefit of at least a change of physician, a change of attitude, an examination by a medical officer who, coming fresh to the consideration of that particular case, would be

Supply-Pensions-European War

unhampered by any previous decision on the same man or any preconceived opinion arising therefrom.

Before I close, I must in justice 6ay this- and it has been one of the most pleasurable parts of pension work during the last months -that the men appreciate the changing attitude of the administration during the past months and under the present chairman. I received just the other day a letter from the legion bodies in my part of the country, with whom I have had a certain amount of contact for a good many years, and for the first time they did not ask for anything and made no complaints. They wrote to inform me that the situation and the feeling had materially improved, almost to paraphrase the words of the hon. member for Kingston City -and they used almost the same expression- not so much that there had been many increases in pension, not so much that a few of the applications formerly refused are now receiving consideration, but because of the manner in which the applications are being received. Instead of simply a curt note, "application refused," they receive a courteous notice informing them not only that it has been refused but why it has been refused, in many cases convincing them that the application had not the merit which they thought it had, and in others giving the reason and the meaning behind the evidence which had made proper consideration impossible, thus giving them a reasonable chance to strengthen their case and bring forward the evidence necessary to making it complete. I wish to pay that tribute to a gentleman whom I have never met, the present chairman, but with whose work I have had some contact, as well as having some knowledge of the attitude of the returned men in my part of the country at least in relation to the present administration. They do not think it is perfect, but they do believe it is steadily improving. With increasing experience and its application in new administrative methods- and possibly with some amendments that may be necessary, although at the moment I know of none; I think administration is the important thing now-with that experience sympathetically applied I believe we shall be able finally to close for all time what has been a rankling grievance on the part of a section of our citizenship who I think above all others should be considered. I certainly hope so. I can say this perhaps with the greater freedom and force because I am not a returned man, but have had contact with the returned men and have to some extent had their confidence. I believe that should be our attitude not merely on sentimental

grounds but on the grounds stated so forcibly by the hon. member for Kingston City, having regard to the fact that the experience through which they have gone in many cases must have burnt out their power of resistance and left them a prey to disease and premature old age. We hope that with this sympathetic and understanding administration we shall be able to meet the situation more fully than ever before to the end that that rankling sense of injustice may be removed.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OP PENSIONS
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