Mr. J. A. LORTIE (Soulanges).
(Translation.) Mr. Speaker, before this debate is closed, I deem it my duty to express
an opinion on this burning issue, on this intricate question which is now before us, the creation of a marine, an issue which, for several months past, has agitated all minds, either in this House or outside of it. The note I am going to strike is likely to sound harshly and to grate upon the ears of many people, while it will be in accord and in tally with the feelings of all true patriots who endeavour to preserve in their integrity the rights and privileges guaranteed by our constitution; rights and privileges secured to us by the indefatigable and incessant efforts of our great statesmen and faithfully adhered to by Sir George Etienne Cartier, Sir John Macdonald, Tupper, Angers and Monk.
As remarked by the hon. member for Berthier (Mr. Ecrement) in his speech, in seconding the address: 'We are at the
parting of the ways in our history; we are entering upon one of those history-makers, one of those epoch-making periods in the history of Canada.' Are not such words, Sir, calculated to cause us to ponder, and do they not warn us to deeply think over the responsibilities we are going to assume and the action we are about to take?
The Bill providing for the establishment of a navy is, to my mind, the most important piece of legislation the Canadian government has been called upon to deal with since confederation. The creation of a fleet, the control of which passes automatically into the hands of the British admiralty in time of war, destroys our autonomy and effects our constitution, of which all Canadians are justly proud.
I notice that in the report of the imperial conference (page 24), there are three conditions mentioned as means of assisting in imperial defence.
The first form in which to assist in imperial government from expenses which bution of money or material.
A second form would be to provide local naval forces and place them at the disposal of the Crown, in the event of war.
A third one would be in undertaking certain local services not directly of a naval character, but which may relieve the imperial government from expenses which would otherwise fall on the British exchequer.
Tihs last condition is the one that has been so far carried out, it is the one, I say, that this country should stick to, while putting forth greater efforts for the development of our territory.
Look at the thousands of miles of railway we have built so far! We shall soon have three transcontinental railways which will cross the country in every direction. Besides, we have improved our waterways, by dredging our rivers, by making canals and providing better accommodation and facili-
ties at our ports. There are so many efficacious means of abridging distances from ocean to ocean and facilitating, in the event of war, the transportation of British troops and goods. Besides, are we not responsible for the protection and defence of our territory? Have we not undertaken to protect our coasts, our ports and our fisheries, so many ways of relieving the British government from expenses they would have to face otherwise?
We are a colony, but a colony with a territory as vast and as immense as that of Russia. When we assumed the responsibility of developing, protecting and defending .a territory which is five or six times larger than the British isles, with a population of six or seven millions, did we not give an extraordinary proof of our gratitude and loyalty towards England? Could she now require anything more from us, for the present. Therefore we are wrongly charged with disloyalty when we ask to remain in the statu quo.
I want to remain in the staru quo: first, because the creation of a navy which will be part of the imperial fleet, involves too large and expenditure of public money, which will-result in considerably retarding the development and progress of the country.
Secondly, because it completely changes our relations with the empire.
Thirdly, because the people have never been consulted on that point.
Are we now in such a financial position as to be able to build a navy? If I open the blue-books and examine our financial position, I find that the country is saddled with a debt of 472 millions. In his budget speech, did not the Finance Minister tell us that the public expenditure had exceeded the revenue by 45 millions? What will happen, when we are fairly embarked upon this scheme of militarism? Is not the example of all countries launched into militarism a sufficient warning to make us shudder with fear. With tne construction of that navy, I have no hesitation in saying, without fear of misleading public opinion, that as early as next year, the deficit of our budget will be considerably increased and even doubled.
That debt of 472 millions snows that we are poor; we are a mere population of seven millions to meet such a large debt and provide for the new expenditures we shall have to incur for the development of the resources of Canada. Would it not be far better to devote * our money, our revenue, our energies and our labours to the development of the country, instead of building a navy which will probably prove a source of danger for Canada in the future?
We have duties to discharge towards the empire under the British flag; we have Mr. LORTIE.
faithfully fulfilled those duties in the past, and we are quite ready to continue so doing in the future. But, on the other hand, we cling to our flag; and we think that to impoverish Canada in order to indulge in sentimentalism and pseudo-marine, is far from being a practical and patriotic policy.
If we now turn our attention towards the great public works which are an absolute necessity, in order that our country may keep pace with its development and the increase of population, we find that we shall need fabulous sums of money. What will be the cost of the Grand Trunk Pacific? Two hundred million dollars will hardly be sufficient to complete the work; an amount quite different from the estimated cost given by the Prime Minister and his followers. I still remember the pompous and emphatic tone assumed by the speakers when haranguing the people on the pubic platforms, when they exclaimed: ' We are going to build, a transcontinental railway, from ocean to ocean, at the cost of $13,000,000. The public domain will not be sacrificed, as under the Conservative rule, in the building of the Canadian Pacific railway. We won't see a repetition of the famous plunders of the boodlers of those days. If our public lands have not been sacrificed so far, I may say that the public exchequer has been looted. So far, the cost of that undertaking exceeds 160 million dollars.
After such contradictions on the part of the hon. gentlemen opposite, could I not say, without fear of leading public opinion astray, that the government is going to spend three times more than is necessary for the building of the navy, which would increase that exenditure to 45 millions.
Here is the proof of my assertions. In January last, when introducing the Naval Service Bill, the right hon. the Prime Minister said: ' The estimated annual cost of maintenance is $3,000,000.' Now, upon the occasion of the second reading of the Bill, three weeks later, he stated that the cost of maintenance would reach $4,150,000. Oil January 10, the prime minister's right arm, the Minister of Militia, said that the estimated cost of maintenance would be $4,680,000; and he continued; ' I have here a paper prepared by Admiral Kingsmill. It reads as follows: Estimated annual cost by Adm|iral Kingsmill for maintenance?, interest on the cost of the navy, $468,000; of the cost of the navy to provide for replacement, $1,560,000; maintenance of college, barracks, &c., $1,030,000; maintenance of training ships, $1,244,000; maintenance of Bristols, and torpedo boats, $1,885,000; total of annual cost, $7,157,000.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we are all agreed that the construction of the Georgian bay canal is a necessity. According to the reports of
experts, the cost of that undertaking will be $100,000,000. The consensus of opinion in this country is that this is a matter of urgency. Should the building of that canal be delayed a few years longer, the western trade will be diverted from Canada to the United States. Why have we not started building that waterway? I leave the answer to the hon. Minister of Marine, who, at a banquet tendered by the Reform Club to the Secretary of State, said: ' The causes are want of money and the insufficiency of our resources.'
If our resources are insufficient for urgent works of paramount Importance, if we find it impossible, for lack of "means, to construct works which would yield us enormous revenues, is it not ridiculous, not to say absurd, to build a navy the pressing necessity of which for the country has not yet been shown, and which may, in the future, prove adverse to our interests?
Would it not be preferable and more logical, Sir, to devote those millions to the building of the Georgian bay canal, which would be an important step taken in the right direction for the development of our commerce and the progress of the country?
Besides those great works, those undertakings of first magnitude, are these not works of secondary importance which are more pressing than the building of a navy?
Are not the harbours of Quebec and Montreal in need of better accommodation and of more modern equipment, in order that they should be on a footing of equality with the neighbouring harbours? Halifax and St. John are far from having the requisite equipment to become national ports. The needs of the harbours on the Pacific ocean should not be ignored either. I am quite satisfied that the majority of the inhabitants of this country realize that there is a more urgent need of undertaking, improving and completing those works than building a navy? I do not think I am very far from the mark in estimating at 400 millions the cost of those works. In my opinion, therefore, from the financial standpoint alone, irrespective of other considerations, it is impossible for Canada to undertake the building of a navy.
What will be the cost of that navy? We have, it is true, the statements made by the Prime Minister, who says that it will not exceed $15,000,000. If the right hon. gentleman had never led public opinion into error, I would most willingly accept his word. But the history of the past is calculated to cast some doubt in our minds. I need no other proof than tne history of the building of the transcontinental, in regard to which the people of Canada were led into error and completelv deceived.
The creation of a navy involves other expenditures besides the building of the warships. There are many necessary ex-161
penditures. Besides the cost of the dockyards, equipment, uniforms, stores, ammunition and coal, have we not also to provide for fortified revictualling harbours, offering an armed refuge in case of damage suffered by ships. Those ports will be for repair of ships, with dry docks and floating docks. Moreover, in the memorandum of the admiralty, is not a pension for seamen mentioned? [DOT]
What is the life or term of service of those warships going to be? Their lease of life is very short, according to the statistics in connection with such navy. Owing to the fact of keeping those ships on the open sea, as stated by shipbuilders, their life is about twenty years. On the other hand, owing to the rapid development of the naval science and of mechanics, the existence of these ships becomes still shorter. After ten or twelve years' service, they become obsolete, out-of-date, and ships of a more modern type and more up-to-date are required.
The creation of a navy, according to the scheme subm'tted by the Prime Minister, changes for the future our relations with the mother country. Our autonomous constitution, the Militia Act, and particularly section 69, militate against such a scheme. Section 69 reads: .
The Governor in Council may place the militia, or any part thereof, on active service anywhere in Canada and also beyond Canada, for the defence thereof, at any time when it appears advisable so to do by reason of emergency.
Emergency means war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended!
It is clearly enacted in the above section that the militia may be called out on active service only for the defence of our territory. Therefore by that section we are not bound to take part in the wars of the empire.
Therefore, our soldiers, our militia men are trained and maintained only for the protection of Canada, wherever those interests mav be.
Did not the Minister of Militia collaborate in the framing of the Act of 1904, and did he not approve of it?
Listen to what he said then:
The very fundamental idea of a militia force has always been and is now home defence. In every portion of the British empire, without any exception, the same principle is laid down which is found in the Bill before the House-that the militia of that part of the British empire shall be limited in their service to the particular part of the empire in which they live. I have taken the trouble to examine the old militia laws of the different provinces which made Up the Dominion of Canada, and in every one of those provinces, we find the same limitations.
them is the part of despotism or bureaucracy?
The plebiscite is not a new departure in our country; it is not even a new departure for this government. Has not the right hon. Prime Minister and his colleagues had recourse to a consultation of the people on the question of prohibition, a matter of very little importance in comparison with this.
This Naval Defence Bill is really a turning point in Canadian politics. In my humble opinion, Mr. Speaker, that 221 members should take on themselves to bind the country to militarism, that scourge which has brought about financial embarrassments in all countries affected by it, and that without obtaining the approval of the people who are the supreme judges in the>
matter, such action, I say, cannot be justified.
We representatives of the people hold from our constituents no mandate either! direct or indirect authorizing us to add to our obligations, which are already burdensome, contributions in money and men tors ards forwarding the ambitious aims of the mother country. And since no recourse is had to a plebiscite, is not the inference that the people have nothing to do with settlement of such questions? Must it then be admitted that the people's part consists in meekly bearing as best they can the burden of imperialism which the government is about to lay on their shoulders. Of course, hon. gentlemen on the other side are opposed to the plebiscite idea lest, impelled by legitimate indignation, the people should condemn that imperialistic measure and forever prevent its adoption.
Mr. Speaker, in closing I wish to state that I cannot vote for the Bill, because it will lead us to imperialism. Neither can I vote for the amendment of the hon. leader of the opposition, because it has not yet been clearly proven that Great Britain is actually and urgently in danger of losing her supremacy on the seas. Accordingly, I shall vote for the sub-amendment proposed by the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk), because I take it to be in harmony with our principles of selfgovernment and likely to safeguard us against imperialistic tendencies.
Topic: AN EARLIER CONTRIBUTION.