Henry Herbert STEVENS

STEVENS, The Hon. Henry Herbert, P.C.

Personal Data

Conservative (1867-1942)
Kootenay East (British Columbia)
Birth Date
December 8, 1878
Deceased Date
June 14, 1973
accountant, broker, grocer

Parliamentary Career

September 21, 1911 - October 6, 1917
  Vancouver City (British Columbia)
December 17, 1917 - October 4, 1921
  Vancouver Centre (British Columbia)
  • Minister of Trade and Commerce (September 21, 1921 - December 28, 1921)
December 6, 1921 - September 5, 1925
  Vancouver Centre (British Columbia)
  • Minister of Trade and Commerce (September 21, 1921 - December 28, 1921)
October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
  Vancouver Centre (British Columbia)
  • Minister of Agriculture (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
  • Minister of Customs and Excise (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
  • Minister of Mines (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
  • Minister of Trade and Commerce (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
  • Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
  • Minister of the Interior (June 29, 1926 - July 12, 1926)
September 14, 1926 - May 30, 1930
  Vancouver Centre (British Columbia)
  • Minister of Customs and Excise (July 13, 1926 - September 24, 1926)
August 25, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Kootenay East (British Columbia)
  • Minister of Trade and Commerce (August 7, 1930 - October 26, 1934)
October 14, 1935 - January 1, 1938
  Kootenay East (British Columbia)
January 1, 1938 - January 25, 1940
  Kootenay East (British Columbia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 2601)

September 11, 1939

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Kootenay East):

I hesitate to introduce a note of discord into this session, but I confess that when I read this bill I was amazed that a bill of its nature should have been introduced in a session assembled under present conditions, and one which we had hoped might be marked by a degree of unanimity and concord not usually found in sessions of parliament.

In the absence of some special explanation I fail to see any need for amendment of the Combines Investigation Act or anything that could not have been- dealt with better, as the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan) has so ably pointed out, under the War Measures Act. I have been debating in my mind whether I should say anything or should express myself at some length. But I have studied for a number of years the matters dealt with by the Combines Investigation Act. When the last amendments were made, I think in 1937, I declared that in 1923 when considerable time was devoted to the subject I took exception to the whole structure of the act. I think it is wrongly based; I have taken that position throughout the years.

I would point out that during the past fifteen or twenty or twenty-five years there has been a gradual change in our industrial and economic structure. When the idea of controlling trusts and mergers was originally conceived on this continent by the late Theodore Roosevelt in the United States in the early days of this century, conditions were entirely different from what they are to-day. The object of the Sherman Act, upon which this legislation is really patterned, was to deal with a group of individuals who might get together and conspire to bring about a condition inimical to the public interest. The idea of a trust at that time was not an institution that might be laudable in its objects, but rather a sinister institution the purposes of which were against the public interest. Legislation designed to deal with a condition of that kind is not applicable to-day because of the complete change that has come about in our economic structure. In the last few decades there has been a growing tendency to merge smaller businesses into larger ones;

we have great corporations, known as quasi monopolies, that have grown up in the economic realm. These are legitimate. I am not saying they are good or bad in themselves; that is not the point. The point really is that they do not come under this legislation; yet in some instances they may have upon the industrial and social life of the country an effect quite as injurious as a conspiracy of individuals might have. On the other side it may be said that many of these corporations or quasi monopolies are desirable because of their regulatory nature.

In this legislation we have been building up round an individual, the commissioner, as he is now called, a body of what the lawyers call case law. That is, he is clothed with powers-I am speaking of him not as an individual, but as an institution-that no individual should exercise. In this bill we are going still farther, I am sorry to see. I think the existing legislation goes farther than it should. Rather I will put it in this way: The existing legislation is not properly

adapted to the present economic structure.

But this particular bill bestows on the commissioner more and more arbitrary powers which in my opinion are not in any sense connected with war conditions. Let me illustrate. It has not hitherto been possible for the commissioner to retain beyond a reasonable time, while he is carrying on his preliminary investigation, which is generally speaking a secret one, control of all the books and records of the company or companies under investigation. But under this bill the commissioner would be empowered to order the production of books of account, documents, minute books and all the records of a company and to retain those books and documents for a period of four months. The object of the original legislation, and, indeed, of the legislation amended, was that the commissioner should make a preliminary investigation to ascertain whether or not the complainants had a real case. It was designed to protect rather than to persecute, to protect those charged from being exposed to public calumny without just cause.

Under this bill the government are now asking parliament to give the commissioner the right to hold those records. Of course I know the answer will be that it has been found that when they come to prosecute, after the commissioner has made his report, records may have disappeared. But under the statute as it now stands, the commissioner may take any portion of the records, have them copied and attest the copies as being true copies, and such copies are accepted in courts of law as of equal validity

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to the original documents. There is no difficulty there, but I am- pointing out to the minister that in this respect the government are going too far.

Before I sit down I must refer to the two sections that are being repealed. The repeal of section 28, passed in 1935, is a serious matter. It provides:

No person shall be charged with, tried for or convicted of an offence under this act, by the same information, upon the same evidence or at the same time as he is charged with, tried for or convicted of an offence against section four hundred and ninety-eight of the criminal code.

I am not prepared, nor do I wish, to enter upon a lengthy argument, but I recall very well that this matter was thoroughly discussed and examined when this section was passed, and 1 believe it ought to be thoroughly discussed before this change is made. It is proposed to repeal this section without, I submit, proper time and consideration being given to it; yet it deals with charges under the criminal code. At the moment I am not prepared to go back over the old argument in an extensive way, but we ought to remember one thing. There are offences which may be considered such in a civil sense; we will say bad practice in business, and so on, but in themselves they are not criminal acts. There was some protection for the citizen in the section now to be repealed, so I say this is a serious matter. I am not debating the point; I am merely calling attention to the seriousness of it. The other section to be repealed also has considerable importance and should not be disturbed without careful consideration.

The point I wish to emphasize is that raised by the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George, which I think is well taken, that the proposals contained in this bill are not proposals which ought to have been obtruded upon this parliament during this session. They should come before parliament at an ordinary session, if at all, when we would have all the necessary time at our disposal to deal with them. We should have ample time to read and consider a bill of this kind, and it should stand until those who may be affected by it have an opportunity to present their views. It is serious legislation. On the other hand I point out, as the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George also indicated, that to the extent to which we wish to deal with peculiar circumstances arising under war conditions, that can be done much more effectively as war measures under the War Measures Act. The government may, as I expect it 87134-9

will, find it necessary, during the period of the war, to take certain positions which it would not consider it advisable to take in times of peace. I am quite sure the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) will agree that this is likely to be the case. Therefore it is inadvisable to amend a bill for war purposes, if that is the object of this amendment. Let us deal with such matters under the War Measures Act, and let this bill stand for the present and come before parliament at an ordinary session when we shall have ample time and opportunity to debate it.

I want to conclude my remarks by saying that I feel very strongly on this matter. For years I have taken a definite position. Personally I am not prepared to-night to discuss the matter at length, nor do I wish to fight the measure. I can tell the minister and the Prime Minister, however, that if this were an ordinary session I would feel myself in duty bound to offer the most persistent opposition to this legislation. As I indicated this afternoon, however, we have come here in a spirit of accord. We desire to cooperate with the government, but we see no reason why this bill should obtrude itself at this time, and I earnestly suggest to the government that the bill be dropped until the next regular session.

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September 11, 1939

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Kootenay East):

Mr. Chairman, the procedure at this moment seems somewhat different from that of the special session on the last occasion on which an emergency of this kind arose, but I presume that remarks made now need not be repeated later, at another stage of the proceedings. I should like to address myself briefly and in a very broad and general way to the situation now confronting parliament. By the adoption of the address in reply to the speech from the throne parliament has placed itself clearly on record and has outlined the course that it proposes to take. That course is one of effective cooperation with Great Britain and France in the prosanition of the war. The exact form and defails of that cooperation of course cannot possibly now be disclosed in their entirety. This we recognize fully. As my leader (Mr. Manion) indicated in his remarks the other day, we desire at this time genuinely to cooperate with the government in the discharge of its grave and onerous duties.

I submit that this is not the time for captious criticism or for hypothetical dissertations upon methods or theories of procedure or upon systems of government. In other words, I think we should forget the differences of the past as far as that is possible and genuinely unite and cooperate to face the tragic conditions with which we are confronted at this hour. I wish once again to assure the government, as. my leader has done already, that by constructive cooperation we desire to assist the government in their most difficult task. Perhaps the committee will bear with me while I quote a few words which I recall vividly as being uttered by that great leader of the Liberal party, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a little over twenty-five years ago. I recall the occasion as if it were yesterday. He stood in his place with that grace and dignity which

War Appropriation Bill

won for him the respect and indeed the veneration of his political friends and political opponents alike. Beloved and respected as he was by those who knew him, I can think of no better sentiment to inspire us in this period through which we are now passing than the words he uttered on that occasion, particularly as they apply to the matter immediately before the house at the moment. Sir Wilfrid said:

Speaking for those who sit around me, speaking for the wide constituencies which we represent in this house, I hasten to say that to all these measures we are prepared to give immediate assent. If in what has been done or in what remains to be done there may be anything which in our judgment should not be done or should be differently done, we raise no question, we take no exception, we offer no criticism, and we shall offer no criticism so long as there is danger at the front.

I shall never forget the tense moments when those words were uttered. I am conscious at this time that conditions at the front are extremely serious. I do not know that this is the time to say much along that line, but I cannot forbear from making one brief reference. Why has Hitler attacked Poland? Here was a little country already in possession of a non-aggression pact with Germany. Poland had no desire or intention of interfering with the affairs of others. It was a country brought once again to life-it is an ancient nation-by the unanimous opinion, other than perhaps that of the Germans, of those who attended the peace conference. Why should Germany want to violate its nonaggression pact? Poland had resisted any contact with the soviet government because it could not sanction the attitude of the soviet authorities. It was a country which was largely agricultural and which sowed its crops under, shall I say, the shadow of religious shrines. Believing as they did very deeply in the efficacy of the Christian religion, it seems to me that there is only one answer to this question-the antipathy and bitterness which existed against the manner of life of these people, against their beliefs, their ideas and their religious conceptions. There seems to be no other reason, which could be offered. As far as Danzig was concerned, the Germans had it. They were in the majority and they were directing its affairs. It is true that Danzig was under the control of a commission of the League of Nations, but the Germans were in as full physical control as they possibly can be at any time in the future. This thought has pressed itself upon my mind. I cannot for the life of me get away from the idea that we here in Canada, just as were the Poles, are faced with the necessity of defending the things which we hold dear, whether they be religious or social or economic.

Turning more directly to the resolution before us, I give utterance again to the sentiments expressed in 1914 by Sir Wilfrid Laurier. To the measures proposed by the government, to the suggestions contained in this resolution, we take no exception and we offer no criticism at this time. We desire to give to the government a perfectly free hand. We desire to offer constructive cooperation in the serious task they have before them. I trust that it will not be considered out of order should any hon. member, whether he sits on the other side of the house or on this, deem it necessary or desirable or advisable during this session, or during the months to come at future sessions, to offer suggestions to the government. Indeed, the other day the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) invited such suggestions. Anything that I shall say to-day is not by way of criticism, but merely by way of suggestion. I know I am expressing the views of my leader and of my colleagues generally when I say that we have no desire to criticize or to prolong the discussion.

The resolution does two things. First, it authorizes the government to make considerable expenditures for certain things that they deem to be necessary and essential for the defence of Canada and the prosecution of that degree of cooperation which we have already sanctioned. Of course it is quite useless, indeed not desirable, to ask for details of these matters now, and we shall not do so. We simply say to the government that we will gladly cooperate, and grant the request for this sanction and trust the government, in fact suggest to the government, that they exercise every reasonable care to see to it that nothing other than the first duty to the country at this time, namely, the public safety, shall be the motive directing them in the expenditure of these funds.

I have one suggestion to make regarding the last paragraph of the resolution, which authorizes the government to raise by way of loan the sum of $100,000,000. In the first place, this loan should be raised at a low rate of interest-a very low rate indeed. I am confident from remarks that have been made to me by responsible financial men that it is possible at this time to raise the funds at a low rate of interest, and I am assured that if the government will ask for the funds it requires on a very low interest basis they will meet with a generous response from the public as well as from financial institutions throughout the country.

Another thought that occurs to me is this. Sometimes when a loan is issued there is a provision that no sums above the amount asked for will be accepted. I suggest to the

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minister (Mr. Ilsley) and through him to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ralston), not in any dogmatic way, that they should accept any amount that is offered, but that they should very carefully consider accepting as much as may be offered. That is my opinion. In other words, leave the loan open, so that if it is oversubscribed the full amount subscribed may be accepted; because I am convinced that the country will need all the financial resources it is able to make available.

The government is asking for $100,000,000, which is to include $16,000,000 already expended, thus reducing the amount made available by the loan to about $84,000,000. Obviously it is not my duty to suggest to the government that that is not enough; but I do express this private opinion, that more may be needed in the next few months. Parliament may not meet until January or February; we do not know, and I personally would not object if the amount to be raised were made larger, because $84,000,000 is only some $30,000,000 more than was asked for in 1914, when circumstances were vastly different from those of to-day. It must be remembered that mechanization, which is the keynote of all present military and naval forces, is very expensive. The government have the right, of course, under governor general's warrants, to supplement the sum now proposed to be raised, if it proves to be insufficient. But it is likely that subscriptions can be obtained at a lower rate of interest now than will be possible later on, and I suggest that that point be kept in mind.

Another suggestion I would make to the minister and the government is this: Do not overlook the gold resources of Canada. It has been demonstrated in the last few years that Canada is capable of producing a tremendous quantity of gold. Not so many years ago when someone suggested that Canada's gold production might reach $100,000,000 he was laughed at, but during the last few years we have produced gold to a value of over $150,000,000, taking into account its increased value; and I think production during the current year will exceed that figure. That is a very substantial amount, and there is no reason why we should not make a maximum use of our gold production in Canada by adding to our reserves and utilizing the advantages which accrue from that method of financing. We often talk about the gold reserve as something so sacred that it must not be touched, a reserve in excess of our minimum requirements which may be used in times of stress or necessity. That is something we should keep in mind. These are times of stress and necessity, and while I would not for one moment

suggest that we should lower the standard of reserves which has been set up, I do think we should add to those reserves from our production, instead of simply shipping the gold out of the country as an export commodity. We should exercise our rights under the law and in accordance with the practice, and use those reserves to the limit to which we are capable of using them.

Another thought that might be expressed at this time, and I offer it largely, if I may so, to encourage the government to follow the path of reasonableness and caution, is this. We hear a lot of talk about the conscription of wealth, but I have not yet heard anyone define in specific terms what he means by the conscription of wealth. The term is used very loosely; I submit there are as many definitions of "conscription of wealth" as there are people who use the phrase. I very much prefer the term "mobilization of wealth." If the conscription of wealth means, for instance, the nationalization of industry, I warn the government against any such step; it would mean national confusion and chaos, and, I believe, collapse, if we were to attempt to change from the present organization of our industrial and financial life to a system of nationalization or government operation of industry. I suggest to the government, therefore, that they approach this question with great care.

But I do hold very strongly-and I gathered from the Prime Minister's utterances the other day that he has some such view in mind- for the coordinating of the wealth resources of the economic structure of Canada in a united effort to prosecute this war; in other words, for the mobilization of the industrial, financial and other resources of Canada for the common purpose. With that I am agreed, and I think it is the objective we should have in mind. In this mobilization, particularly of industrial resources, I suggest that the government keep in mind the splendid compilation of information made by the census bureau of Canada regarding the industrial life of this country. I do not think it is used either by the scholastic fraternity in their economic instruction in the universities, or by financial or industrial men in Canada, or even by the government, to the extent to which it might be. The government should make full use of this compilation of information-which is completely analysed and tabulated by a competent staff of experts who understand their business thoroughly-and of the census bureau and the trained staff in its industrial branch.

I should like to utter a word of encouragement to all as to the attitude of the people

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of this country. I shall give only two or three illustrations which have come to my attention. We hear a great deal about profiteering and the dangers of profiteering, and with all that I agree. We should be extremely careful about profiteering, but on the other hand let us realize the goodwill and the good faith of the people. Only a comparatively small number of the people of this country would selfishly and in a spirit of greed seek to profit from the war. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of industrialists, merchants, business men and financiers are just as anxious to serve the country without profit as any who can be found in other walks of life. The other day in Ottawa a group of business men met, representing the whole clothing industry. They have offered voluntarily, without any suggestion or influence on the part of the government or any other group, to stabilize wages, to arrange an equitable distribution of orders-that is, to do away with pulling for orders, with one seeking to get an advantage over another, or using political or other influences to get orders-and to place all the resources of the industry at the service of the government virtually at cost, that is, the cost of operation together with overhead. This is a generous offer. It is made by the industry as a group. I suggest that we do everything we possibly can to encourage an attitude of this kind; and I suggest to the government that through the agencies they have set up the same idea might be passed on to other industries. Under our economic system there is the possibility of controlling an industry from within, whereas when we seek to control it from without we often experience difficulty and disappointment. In any case I point to that offer of the clothing industry as one that should be commended.

I received also an offer from the Masters' and Mates' guild, a splendid class of men whom I believe we all honour-men connected with coastwise and deep sea fishing. This communication is from the Pacific coast, but I have no doubt that it will apply also to the other coast. They suggest-as do the marine engineers, another splendid body of men-that they will place their whole guild as a body at the service of the government. Conscription vanishes into thin air when you have suggestions of this kind. I repeat, they suggest they will place the whole body of their membership without reserve at the disposal of the government, and they offer to cooperate with the government in allocating the work that their members are best suited to perform. This is a fine offer, a splendid example which may be and I think will be followed, if it is made known, by many other unions, groups and guilds throughout the country. I say again

that I think public notice of these things ought to be taken and some encouragement and commendation given in regard to them.

I indicated when I rose that my purpose was to be brief and not to delay business. I have offered these few remarks to indicate a course which we as a parliament and also as private members may usefully promote, and also to demonstrate to the government that we wish to render them reasonable cooperation and assistance, to be constructive in our criticisms, and, as far as we possibly can, to make the pathway as smooth as it can be made for them.

I offer, as the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, no criticism of this method of financing. In whatever respect it may be different from what we might think would be best, we do not interject objections at this time. We simply suggest that the greatest care be taken as to the manner in which these large sums-not only those now proposed but others which undoubtedly will follow-will be used and expended, and urge that they be expended solely and wholly with regard to the public interest, the prosecution of this great war, the defence of Canada, and our cooperation with the motherland. These are extremely critical times, and we cannot take too seriously the duties which rest upon us at this hour.

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June 3, 1939



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June 3, 1939


The 5i per cent is only the ceiling; it is not a fixed amount.

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June 3, 1939

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Kootenay East):

The other day I drew attention-I am addressing my remarks chiefly to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe)-to what I considered to be a weakness in the procedure of the house in introducing amendments subsequently incorporated in bills which by constitutional practice are based upon resolutions, and having particular reference to the bills based upon the resolutions which were part of this year's budget. I should like to ask the Minister of Justice whether the justice department has given any consideration to the validity in law of the amendments which were made to these bills during the committee stage and which constituted definite alterations in fact and in substance to the bills based upon the original resolutions; for example the case of matches, and there were one or two similar amendments.

Salt Fish Board

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