Mr. FRANK OLIVER (Alberta).
Mr. Speaker, this question of binder twine is a most important one to the agricultural constituencies of this country. I am very sorry that the motion and the mover of the motion have not been paid a greater compliment by the hon. members who have spoken, supposedly to the motion, but really not to it at all. I think there has seldom been a motion presented to this House which has been less discussed than this motion now before us. We have heard a rehash of certain pages of the Conservative literature of the last election, which most of us have all heard for hour after hour, given with the utmost gravity and good faith, as if it were something original and something that no one had ever heard before. I did not suppose, when I read that literature first, or when I heard it delivered from platform after platform during the election, that the men who used it believed it. I did not suppose that they were so lacking in ordinary knowledge and common sense, but now I am bound to believe that they talked it so long that they not only have come to believe it themselves, but they think they can make other people believe it by continuing to talk it. What is the purpose of all this talk about binder twine ? What was the [DOT] purpose of the literature that was circulated through the country, and what was the purpose of the campaign that was made in regard to binder twine in the late election ? I am at
a loss to understand what the purpose is of the greater part of this debate, but the purpose of the attack upon the policy of the government in regard to binder twine during the election was to blind the eyes of the farming community if possible to the wise action of the government in abolishing the duty on binder twine, and making that product, at any rate, free to the farmers as far as the tariff was concerned. Whatever pledge in regard to the reduction of the tariff the government may have failed in, it did not fail on the article of binder twine. Therefore, as binder twine is an article of the highest importance to that part of the community which forms the largest part of the electorate, it was necessary to deceive, if possible, the farmers as to the value of the action of the government to them. It was for that reason and that alone that the campaign of misrepresentation, of slander and falsehood, which has seldom or never been equalled in any country, was carried on on the basis of binder twine during the late election, and the fact that in that part of the country where binder twine is more important than in any other, the government's policy was sustained by a vote of four to nothing, is a sufficient answer to it. The government abolished the duty upon binder twine ; they fulfilled to the utmost limit their pledge in regard to the tariff on that article, they benefited the farmers by doing so, and then the charge was made that they had used the output of the Kingston penitentiary to unduly increase the price of the article to the farmers. A case was built up in regard to the misuse of the binder twine of the penitentiary which the bon. gentleman (Mr. Sherritt), who preceded me in this debate, declared was the cause of his return to this House and the defeat of his opponent. So successful were the opposition in that campaign of misrepresentation that they made a majority of the electors of North Middlesex believe that the government, by manipulating one-tenth of the binder twine used in this country, bad increased the price by 100 per cent. I will admit that you can manipulate the output of the Kingston penitentiary so as to affect the price of binder twine to a proportionate degree, but that was not the contention that was put up. The contention was exactly what I say, that the government had so manipulated the output of the Kingston penitentiary, being one-tenth of the total consumption of the bidder twine of this country, that they had doubled the price of twine to the farmers, an utterly preposterous proposition. The idea has been held out to the farmers that they depended on the output of the Kingston penitentiary for their binder twine. My opponent said to the farmers in one section of the country, where 1 had the pleasure of meeting him : You do not use American binder twine: ' It
makes no difference to you that the duty has been taken off twine. As long as the government hold up the price of twine manufactured at the Kingston penitentiary, so long will you have to pay that price. That is what interests you.' I made inquiries and I found that there never had been a pound of Kingston penitentiary twine sold in that part of the country. The point I want to make is this : That the idea has been attempted to be implanted in the minds of the people of this country that something has been done, or attempted to be done with the twine output of the Kingston penitentiary that never was done or attempted to be done by this government or by the late government, and that never could be done by any government. However that is in regard to the last election and having fought through that campaign. Having heard the slanders that were hurled against the policy of the government; it is certainly a pleasure for me now to come to this House and find a member of the Conservative party coming forward with a resolution endorsing the policy of the government in regard to binder twine. That disposes effectually of all the slanders uttered during that campaign and puts them exactly where they belong. We need not consider them any more. As the Solicitor General said : The government did during the past year offer the twine direct to the farmers at a fixed price. The charge was that the government had sold the twine to a combine, whereas as a matter of fact they had offered the twine to the farmers and part of it they were unsuccessful in selling to any one. The motion of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Blain) endorses the principle pursued by the government last year. I do not know that it is a principle of universal application. I do not know .just how well it will work out in practice. It may be that sometime we shall attempt to sell twine direct to the farmers on the basis of the cost of the raw material. In the meantime the raw material may go down in price and the farmer can buy his twine cheaper from the other manufacturers. Another feature is that if the raw material maintains its price or if it increases in price, it is possible for the government to make a very considerable difference between the price of the penitentiary twine and the market price of twine, and then I am afraid we will have our friends opposite charging that the output of the Kingston penitentiary is being used as a bribe to the farmers of the country, by giving a preference to the friends of the government on this low priced twine. I am perfectly satisfied that so long as the present government is in power there is no danger of that taking place, but I am not at all satisfied that should the opposition come to power they will not carry out the traditions of their Conservative predecessors. These features
are worthy of consideration, hut they are questions of the future. The question of the present is, that for some reason or other, whether on account of the combine or whether it is an accident of the market ; the binder twine of this country has been sold at abnormally high prices during the past year or two. We do know that the government of Canada controls the output of the Kingston penitentiary, and I am entirely in accord with the hon. gentleman's motion -which I distinguish entirely from his remarks-that at the present time it is the duty of the government to use the output of the Kingston penitentiary to check, so far as that output can, any possible combine whereby the price of binder twine is increased to the farmers. That being the case X would have been very glad to accept the motion, but it contains a feature which is a very great weakness and which is not necessary to its principle. That is that in the case of the farmers not purchasing the total output (which occurred this year) no provision is made as to what is to be done with the residue. Is it to be carried over to another year when possibly the price of the raw material having gone down it will be unsaleable except at a loss. The suggestion made by the hon. member for North Middlesex (Mr. Sherritt) was that the twine should be offered to the farmers up to a certain date, and that after that date It should be offered for sale to the highest bidder. That is a fair proposition and I will take the liberty of moving an amendment along that line, I do not exactly agree however that the government should be entitled to a cent a pound over the cost of manufacture. The government having control of the penitentiary and having to find work for the convicts, it is right that they should sell that twine at its fair cost. But then comes the question of the cost of twine manufactured by prison labour, and I do not wish to conflict with our friends in the House who are here in the interests of labour, and who have a very natural deep rooted objection against the competition of prison labour. I would like to have their support for any motion I put before the House, because I believe that the true interests of the labouring men of Canada are exactly the same as the interests of the farmers. I propose to amend the motion by striking out the cent a pound extra over cost, and placing the cost as if the twine were produced by free labour. My amendment is this :
That so long as the government continues to manufacture twine, the same shall be offered for sale directly to farmers up to July the 1st of each year at cost of material and manufacture, calculating wages on the basis of fair wages for free labour ; and that the twine unsold and on hand on July 1st of each year be sold by tender to the highest bidder, after advertisement.
That is entirely in line with the policy pursued by the government during the past Mr. OLIVER.
year, except that ?t carries it a little further and makes it more definite. It is also in line with the motion of the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Blain). As the representative of an agricultural constituency, I would ask the members representing agricultural constituencies in this House to vote for that amendment without respect to politics or arguments in respect to past transactions either by one government or the other.