Mr. F. T. SHAVER (Stormont):
Mr. Speaker, I observe that many hon. gentlemen opposite desire to have the question put, but there yet remain a few of us on this side who, having held our peace for quite a considerable time, desire to express our opinions.
I am sure that while many congratulations have been extended to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes) upon the able and comprehensive way in which he has explained the financial position of Canada and upon the budget which he has presented to the house, we all agree that he well deserves those congratulations, to which I desire to add my own. I think the Minister of Finance not only deserves the congratulations of the members of this house; I believe he deserves the thanks of the Canadian people for the very efficient way in which, during the last few years, he has handled the difficult portfolio which he holds.
I trust that the hon. member for Medicine Hat (Mr. Gershaw), who preceded me, will pardon me if I do not refer to his remarks at any length. It is always a pleasure to listen to the hon. gentleman; he is always fair, moderate and courteous in debate, but there is one point to which I should like to refer. Once again the hon. member brought up the question of the beet sugar industry, which I presume is quite a considerable industry in his constituency. I give my hon. friend credit for being interested in that industry ; I think any member of this house who has in his constituency an industry which employs a number of people should not be ashamed to rise in the house and stand up for those people. But as I mentioned last year it seems rather strange that the hon. member should expect some particular consideration to foe given that industry, aid by way of bonuses, assistance by way of reduced freight rates or something else, while at the same time he finds fault because the textile industry, which gives employment to several thousand people in my constituency, receives protection against the textiles which would be dumped into Canada from every other country in the world if that protection did not exist.
There were a few high lights in the budget speech of the Minister of Finance to which I should like to refer briefly, because to me they seem very important, since they indicate that conditions are improving. There was the fact
The Budget-Mr. Shaver
that the physical volume of business was 48-5 per cent above the low point of the depression; that the League of Nations' comparison of increases in industrial production from January, 1933 to the end of 1934 placed Canada in first position with an increase of 46-2 per cent; that last year our field crops increased in value by $91,000,000 as compared with 1933; that there was a marked increase in mineral and forestry production and an increase of 65,000 in employment over 1933, with an increase of over 340,000 as compared with the low point of the depression. It was gratifying also to note that Canada still occupies fifth place in export trade; that there was an increase in trade during the eleven months period amounting to $169,000,000 and a favourable trade balance for the same period of 8134,000,000. It is also gratifying to note that the good effects of the empire agreements are still making themselves felt, as evidenced by the fact that our export trade with the United Kingdom increased in 1934 by 52 per cent as compared with 1932.
Many hon. gentlemen opposite have urged the necessity of holding a general election as soon as possible, and that point was also mentioned by the hon. gentleman who preceded me; as a -matter of fact it was his first point. It did seem to me that this evening my -hon. friend spoke with a rather greater degree of pessimism than he usually shows when speaking in this house. It appeared to me that the idea of an immediate general election-and no doubt the possible effects of that general election-had saturated his whole consciousness to such an extent that he exhibited an extreme feeling of pessimism. While we are all aware of the fact that this is the last session before a general election, we know that the electors throughout the country from one end of Canada to the other are beginning to consider, and no doubt already have considered, the issues upon which this election will be fought. It seems to me that the electors are asking themselves, perhaps not in express terms -but in their minds, certain oasi-c questions with regard to the government of the country. It is quite natural that the electors should ask themselves about the record of the government appealing to them for support. The budget which has been presented gives answers to many of these questions. The first question the electors will be asking from now until election day-and it is the most important question they will have to answer-is this: "Has the present government administered the affairs of Canada with honesty, efficiency and economy?" To this question I believe any person who has studied
the situation carefully or has reviewed thoroughly and dispassionately the record of the government must give an affirmative answer.
The Minister of Finance was able to point to a reduction in the interest rate on our funded debt, and a civil service reduction amounting to 12,700-which was effected without working any hardship upon civil servants-and a consequent saving in salaries of over 812,000,000. The fact that the per capita basis of controllable expenditure was last year practically the same as in the year 1913-14, before the war, is the best evidence that the government which has been conducting the affairs of Canada since 1930 has administered those affairs with the most rigid economy.
Hon. members opposite have spoken about the increase in the public debt. We admit that; but they did not for a -moment consider the fact that other countries in the world have increased their public debt. They did not consider Canada's public debt from the standpoint of comparison with the debt of other nations. They seem to have forgotten the wealthy nation to the south of us, I suppose the wealthiest nation in the world, which has now before congress a work relief bill amounting to nearly five billion dollars, which will have the effect of increasing the debt of that country to thirty-four billion dollars, or nine billions more than the peak of the war debt. We are informed, from very reliable sources, that there are now 20,000,000 people in the United States supported either in whole or in part by public funds. This is a much greater proportion than that existing in Canada. Compared with our great sister nation we are only small and comparatively undeveloped. Yet, in all these respects, we are in a much better position than is the United States.
The next question the electors will ask, and to which they will deserve a clear and definite answer, is this: "Is the present government responsible for the depression?" To hear the observations of some hon. members opposite, hon. members who utter lurid fulminations against the government, one would be led to believe that the present government was responsible for the depression not only in Canada but in every country of the world. Yet they know and every Canadian citizen knows that the tide of the depression was running across Canada like a flood for almost a year before this government took office. The government of hon. members opposite were to a great degree responsible for that condition. For nine years they had floated along on the tide of -world prosperity. For nine
The Budget-Mr. Shaver
years they had seen the markets of the world closed against the products of Canada, and particularly was that true of the great market to the south of us. However, they did not do anything. They just sat quietly and drifted along. Therefore when the depression came, all those nations which were trying if possible to get rid of their surplus goods began to dump them into Canada. Immediately those nations, the buying power of which was cut off by the depression, stopped buying from Canada, with the result that in one year while hon. members opposite were still in. power there was a drop in Canada's exports amounting to $243,958,005. In arriving at this figure I have compared the figure for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1929, with the figure for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1930. Hon. members opposite were still in power in those days, and even for a few months after that.
The hon. member for Shelburne-Yarmouth (Mr. Ralston) referred to the reduction in exports which had occurred while the present government held office. If there had been a reduction of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars each year this government has held office our exports would have been nearly wiped out. There was not the same reduction in our imports, because with our low tariff barriers the nations which were trying to get rid of their goods found it possible to ship them into Canada at distress prices. The result was that the reduction in imports amounted to only S17,405,509. The total decrease in our foreign trade in that one year, while hon. members opposite were still in power, was $261,363,514. The favourable trade balance of $123,216,984 which we had in 1929 was changed in the fiscal year ending March 31. 1930, to an unfavourable balance of $103,335,512.
The next question the electors throughout the country will have the right to ask is this: ''Has the present government taken the proper action to lighten the effects of the depression, and to help end it?" The first action-and.it is the action for which I highly commend the government-is that when they took office they had the courage sufficiently to protect our industries, a protection to which they were entitled. There was an increase in the tariff on textiles. If one tariff has been attacked more than another by hon. members opposite, I would say it has been the textile tariff. When we consider that the primary textile industry in Canada is the main industry in 160 municipalities, comprising a total of 450 mills, and that in the last year it supported a pay-roll of $40,000,000, we will have some idea of the importance of the industry. Then, there was
protection given against dumping; this is one of the main charges hon. members opposite lodge against the government. They say unfair dumping duties were placed against textiles from other countries. Hon. members will recall the classic example given by the late Minister of National Revenue, Mr. Ryck-man, who told of an importing firm in this country which wanted to bring in 10,000 dozen children's dresses. The cost of production in Canada was one dollar per garment, but they could be imported at thirty-three cents each; therefore it was necessary to threaten a dumping duty of two hundred per cent to keep the dresses out. I am absolutely in favour of that practice because the manufacturing of
10,000 dozen dresses in Canada would give employment to a great many men and women, not only in the primary textile industry where materials are fabricated, but in the factories where the dresses were completed.
May I draw the attention of the house ter the fact that the rayon industry has received-a protection which has assisted it greatly. The woollen industry, which had almost been destroyed by hon. members opposite, has been-restored. Then, the Canadian farmer has been given protection which has meant a great deal to him, a condition with which I shall deal in more detail in a few moments. Wider markets under the empire agreements have been offered. Trade agreements have been completed with France, Germany, Austria, Brazil and Poland.
The manner in which this government has handled unemployment relief, to which reference was made by the hon. member for Medicine Hat has been attacked vigorously by hon. members opposite. If they study the conditions in other countries they will find no government which has had the interests of the suffering, the destitute and the unemployed more at heart than has the government of Canada. Further, they will find no government which has made more practical efforts to relieve conditions. Last night we had an example of the type of attack made against the present government when the mayors from different Canadian cities met with members of parliament. They put forward the proposition that all unemployment relief should be financed by the dominion government, that the municipalities should be relieved entirely from any share in caring for the unemployed. A most unreasonable proposition, unreasonable on the face of it because, as anyone can see, if the dominion government were to advance all the cost of relief, immediately every municipality from the Atlantic to the Pacific
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would be grabbing to see who could get the most out of the dominion government's pocket. I was pleased to see that the mayor of a city located in my own constituency, the town of Cornwall, was one of two mayors who stood up in Montreal and said that they were not in favour of that sort of thing. The mayor of Cornwall said that it was not a fair or businesslike thing to suggest, and that so far as he was concerned he stood for the principle of the municipality paying a portion of the relief. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that if Mayor Parisien of Cornwall, who is a self made business man who has made good on his own initiative and energy, had been selected as one of the men to address us at the meeting last night, it would have made a greater impression on the members there assembled than the addresses of some of the impractical spellbinders who did speak.
The next question, Mr. Speaker, which the factors are asking is this: Has the government adopted adequate safeguards, so far as possible, against another depression? We know that the channels of foreign trade have been opened. We know that progressive measures of social justice have been introduced, and many of them put through, to a greater extent than at any other period in Canada's history, in order to meet the needs of to-day; for instance, the Bank of Canada Act, the marketing act, the Canadian Farm Loan Act, the Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Eight Hour Day Act, the One Day's Rest in Seven Act, the federal Minimum Wage Act, the setting up of an economic council, the price spreads investigation and the legislation which undoubtedly will arise therefrom. All these are measures to assist in securing social justice for all the citizens of our country. I approve of these measures, particularly because they seek to assist the farmers and the working people who are the very backbone of our national existence.
While it is true that the electors will ask questions concerning the government that will demand a clear and definite answer, they will also ask questions about the opposition. Do not let the opposition members any longer think, as they did a few months ago, that the people of Canada are going to accept them holus-bolus, and allow them to slip into office without considering their record at all and without their placing before the people a definite plan. The first question which the electors will ask of the opposition is what action did the government of the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King take to
avert the depression that was rolling over Canada for nearly a year before his government gave up office. As I said before, they took no action at all. They left our country exposed as a dumping ground for every other nation of the world, as the trade figures I have given indicate. For a considerable period of time they even denied that a depression existed, and in the setting up of relief measures the Prime Minister of that day refused aid to provinces which might happen to have a Conservative administration. The Canadian people passed judgment on the government of the right hon. gentleman opposite on July 28, 1930. The people considered their record; they looked at what they had done to assist our country in that crisis, and decided that the government should be turned out of office.
The next question they are going to ask is this: Has the Liberal opposition during
the intervening period done anything to cause the electors to change their minds or alter the verdict they rendered on that occasion? What has the Liberal opposition done to assist Canada during the past four years? I think that every member will agree that the responsibility rests on every citizen to do his share, and from the individual standpoint every member of the opposition has done his share just as much as every member on the government side of the house. We are all interested' as individuals in the welfare of our country, and we all do what we can. But what have hon. gentlemen opposite done as a party? They have had very many opportunities, headed as they are by a leader with long political experience, with a wide economic training, a training which entitled him to write a book on certain social questions which some claim is a masterpiece, and supported by many men sitting behind him of wide business training and long political experience. But what have they done? Those who have been present in the house during the last four years know how they have hampered and delayed the passing of legislation.
When tariff changes were brought in to assist the agricultural industry, they were opposed by hon. gentlemen opposite. When the empire agreements were brought into the house, one of the best measures which was introduced on behalf of the Canadian farmer, for two months hon. gentlemen opposite opposed them. When the marketing act was introduced, one of the most advanced pieces of legislation to assist the 'Canadian farmer ever introduced in the House of Commons, they opposed it. This has been their record all the way through.
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Another question which the electors will ask is this: What constructive suggestions
has the combined genius of the Liberal party to offer? We have heard only two from the right hon. leader of the opposition. One of them was lower tariffs, the old panacea which the Liberal party have always preached, and sometimes they have practised it and sometimes not. I am old enough to remember the time when they were preaching commercial union and free trade as they had it in England, and so forth, but there has always been that question of lower tariffs.
The other suggestion of the leader of the opposition was that the Liberal party want a commission to deal with unemployment. Those are the only two proposals that I have heard the right hon. leader of the opposition propound, although he did surround those two ideas with a great multiplicity of words.
What has been the attitude this session of hon. gentlemen opposite? They profess a belief in reform and then try to destroy the reform measures with constitutional difficulties. They vote with the government in the house, and then go out to their meetings and attack the government. The other evening a great meeting of the Liberal party was held! in the Chateau Laurier, a banquet to their leader, and I opened the newspaper the next morning with a great feeling of anticipation. I expected to find the report of a constructive policy laid down by the leader of the opposition on that occasion, and what was his policy?
Topic: WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic: THE BUDGET