George Henry COWAN

COWAN, George Henry, K.C., B.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

Party
Conservative (1867-1942)
Constituency
Vancouver City (British Columbia)
Birth Date
June 17, 1858
Deceased Date
September 20, 1935
Website
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=b54757e1-29b2-40b5-9fba-ecf6b7879ae0&Language=E&Section=ALL
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=b54757e1-29b2-40b5-9fba-ecf6b7879ae0&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
author, lawyer, solicitor

Parliamentary Career

October 26, 1908 - July 29, 1911
CON
  Vancouver City (British Columbia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 62)


July 24, 1911

Mr. COWAN.

Rip Van Winkle.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-WINNER OF THE KING'S PRIZE AT BISLEY.
Subtopic:   THE RECIPROCITY DEBATE.
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July 24, 1911

Mr. COWAN.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I say that it does not comport with the dignity of debate for a member of this House to state that which he and we believe to be absolutely untrue.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-WINNER OF THE KING'S PRIZE AT BISLEY.
Subtopic:   THE RECIPROCITY DEBATE.
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July 24, 1911

Mr. COWAN.

It may be there is some merit in the contention of the Minister of Finance. Let me put it with a little more clearness than he put it. He says that this resolution was passed while he and the other father in Israel were closeted with President Taft in a room in Washington, and before he had announced the birth of his new born babe. His contention is that I have no proof that the view qf the lumbermen remains the same.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-WINNER OF THE KING'S PRIZE AT BISLEY.
Subtopic:   OSWALD S. CROCKET.
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July 24, 1911

Mr. COWAN.

That is the expression I have used. I wish to say that we believe there is absolutely no evidence, that there is absolutely no word from any member of this House, or in any of the Conservative press in Canada, to indicate that there is one word of accuracy in the statement the minister has made.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-WINNER OF THE KING'S PRIZE AT BISLEY.
Subtopic:   THE RECIPROCITY DEBATE.
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July 24, 1911

Mr. COWAN.

Even at this hour of 11.25 he may be induced to return from his love and his desire to hand over the fiscal independence and the tariff autonomy of Canada to the people of the United States. Mr. Barnet's statement reads as follows:

' The red, white and blue, with its present number of stars, is sufficient for me, and I am not at all anxious to add another star to our neighbour's flag with my vote,' is the opinion on reciprocity forcefully expressed by Mr. J. E. H. Barnett, who arrived here yesterday from Renfrew, when seen at the Hotel Vancouver.

Though Mr. Barnet's timber interests in this and other provinces are figured in the millions, and since timber men on this side of the boundary line are commonly credited with standing to reap considerable benefit from any prospective reciprocity treaty between Canada and the United States, Mr. Barnet is too loyal to the flag of his own country to permit him-

self to be swayed by sordid selfishness when the prosperity of the entire Dominion is at stake.

To my way of looking at it, this question of reciprocity lightly or altogether in the nature of a commercial agreement, for if such were the case I would soon be found on the side of those advocating it, but a step that is likely to create a chilled feeling between Canada and the mother country. Frankly, I believe the whole scheme is just in keeping with the almost imperial commercial policy of the United States. This reciprocity treaty is simply a bait held out to us in the hope that we will be beguiled into such a trap, under the guise of keeping dangling before our eyes an entry for our products into a market estimated at 90,000,000 inhabitants. But let the too-confident Canadian beware of the wily sons of Uncle Sam, who do not care a rap for our prosperity, but for their own. They are not so philanthropicalfy inclined as to throw their doors wide open to us. What they will take from us is just a drop in a bucket compared to what they expect to ship into our markets. It is an absolute fact that American factories have been increased to such an extent for the past five years that if they want to continue to run at full blast they must find an additional market for their surplus products, as they put out nearly one-third more than the market of their own country can handle.'

In other words, unlike the Minister of Finance, the patriotism of the British Columbian is not measured by the price of a sack of potatoes on the Boston market, or the price of a car of lumber at the Chicago market.

The lumbermen of British Columbia are too intelligent to be fooled by a device of that kind. They realize that while $1.25 per thousand is taken off the lumber duty by the United States the effect of this treaty will he to increase the cost of living for the workingmen of Canada. If you increase the cost of living you diminish the return to labour and you diminish the purchasing power of wages. There are advocates of this reciprocity who maintain that the farmer of Alberta and Saskatchewan will get more for his wheat and cattle, but I remind hon. gentlemen that 80 per cent of the animal and agricultural products of the country are consumed in Canada, and if you increase the price of the 20 per cent sent out of the country you increase the price of the 80 per cent consumed within, and you necessarily increase the cost of living in this country. You lessen the purchasing power of wages and salary and capital; you interfere with that almost perfect equilibrium we have established in Canada between the three great industrial elements, agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, by the national policy adopted in 1878 and in force ever since. That policy has brought about a condition of general prosperity in Canada in which the farmer, and the workingman, and every citizen of the country has had full and fair share.

To disturb that equilibrium is to disturb the prosperity of Canada. Under the reciprocity treaty of 1854, the effect was that the railways and steamboats were busy carrying American manufactured goods into Canada, and return cargoes to the United States of Canadian natural products, not to be consumed in the United States but to be carried by American railways to American ports and thence shipped to the markets of the world. The government of the old provinces of Canada realized that that treaty was destroying the manufacturing industry of this country and handing over the carrying trade to the United States, and in 1860 they imposed a tariff on leather goods, wearing apparel, cotton and woollen goods such as we could manufacture in Canada and with the revenue from that tariff they began to develop railway and canal systems so as to retain the carrying trade whch had been diverted by the treaty of 1854. So soon as the American authorities saw that Canada was adopting that policy, there arose a cry that this was an injustice to the industries and trade of the United States, just as if this treaty is adopted it will arise again if we attempt to change our tariff on any of the articles not covered by the treaty. That cry became so persistent that in 1866 the United States abrogated that reciprocity treaty. And they abrogated that treaty in the hope and belief that it would either drive Canada into the American Union or into bankruptcy. It did neither, but it did develop a crop of secessionists like the Minister of Finance, and a crop of commercial unionists like the whole party that constituted the Liberal opposition of Canada in 1891: a crop of unrestricted reciprocity advocates, a small, demoralized crop at the present day, who form the rump and remnant of the growth of 1866.

But, notwithstanding this crop, Canada had men equal to the situation; men who developed a policy of Canada for Canadians, Canadian development for Canadian labour and Canadian capital, a policy inaugurated in 1878 and in force at the present day. Now it is proposed to reverse that policy, which has developed the home market of Canada, a market able to take care of 80 per cent of the production of Canada. And how great is that production? The yearly production of Canada is greater per head of population than the yearly production of any other country of the known world, and the price which is received for Canada's annual production, in her home market at the door of the producer, is such that it makes the average Canadian a richer man than the citizen of any other nation of Canada's population in the known world. But, Sir, this policy would reverse that. This policy would revert to the old quagmire of 1854. It would

ask us to return to that which in 1854 was a necessity, but which in 1911 would be a curse. How foolish, how fatal to the future o+ Canada is this blind indifference to the fact that this is 1911 and not 1854. When I heard the Minister of Finance in January last expound the policy of Canada in 1854, 1 was reminded of my student days, when 1 studied with peculiar interest the works of Washington Irving, and wondered if our Minister of Finance in Canada to-day was but the reincarnation of Rip Van Winkle. Had he forgotten that fifty-seven, years have expired since 1854, that conditions have changed, that Canada has forged ahead to the very forefront of the commercial nations of the world, that Canada no longer is on the verge of bankruptcy, that her exchequers are no longer crippled, that her people are no longer scattered communities spread in sparse settlements from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I wondered if the Minister of Finance had been asleep for the last 57 years. I wondered if, with the prophetic eye of a seer, Washington Irving had predicted the life and work and experience of a Minister of Finance of Canada. And, again, when I remembered that this is a scheme for transferring the tariff jurisdiction of Canada from Canada to the United States, as the hon. member for South York (Mr. Maclean) declared today, I bethought myself that this may be true. I remembered that the effect of this tieaty was to destroy that which the Premier of Canada, with charming lip-loyalty, has declared to be a cardinal principle with him, British preference. I remembered that the mother land sent to us last year $3,500,000 worth of metals of different kinds, and that the effect of this treaty would be to wipe out and destroy fox ever that British preference. I remembered that the mother land last year sent to us $2,000,000 worth of automobiles, clocks, watches and such goods, and that the effect of this treaty, if ratified, would be to reduce that British preference by at least one-half. But, Mr. Speaker, I remembered that the effect of this treaty would be to establish a new precedent in the history of the British Empire. For the first time one of the members of that empire is bargaining with a foreign country to exclude the rest of the British Empire from the preference which by that bargain this country is getting in that foreign country; in other words, by a bargain with a foreign country, we are agreeing with that country to discriminate and differentiate, not only against the mother land, but against the other parts of the British Empire.

In 1892, James G. Blaine, who was at that time a great power in the United States, made a proposal of that kind to ths Canadian government. The government of that day was a Conservative government, Mr. COWAN. [DOT] , ; !

and they rejected that proposal with scorn, on the ground that it involved a differentiation and a discrimination against the mother land. When I remembered that I was unable to understand why the Prime Minister of Canada should allow these things in favour of a foreign power and discriminate 'against the mother land. But, Sir, the explanation of the attitude of this government and of this premieT is to be found in the declaration of the premier in London, in the month of June, when he said in effect, that we, base Canadians, were mere fair weather members of the British Empire, willing to accept the protection and the benefits that pertained to a member of the British Empire, but unwilling not only to share in the common interest and defence of the empire, but even to take counsel with the other members of the British Empire in regard to that common interest and that common defence.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-WINNER OF THE KING'S PRIZE AT BISLEY.
Subtopic:   OSWALD S. CROCKET.
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