Ross Wilfred GRAY

GRAY, Ross Wilfred

Personal Data

Lambton West (Ontario)
Birth Date
January 5, 1897
Deceased Date
December 11, 1968

Parliamentary Career

January 14, 1929 - May 30, 1930
  Lambton West (Ontario)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Lambton West (Ontario)
October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Lambton West (Ontario)
  • Whip of the Liberal Party (January 1, 1937 - January 1, 1940)
  • Chief Government Whip (January 1, 1937 - January 1, 1940)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Lambton West (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 144 of 147)

April 29, 1931

1. Has Mr. A. Conroy, formerly official soldiers' adviser for the district of Toronto, been dismissed from his position in the Department of Pensions and National Health?

2. Is the government aware that Mr. Conroy was employed for over thirteen years by the departments of Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment and of Pensions and National Health?

3. Is the department aware that Mr. Conroy himself and two of his sons served in the late war?

4. In view of his war record and services will the government take steps to reinstate this official?

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April 14, 1931

Mr. R. W. GRAY (West Lambton):

Mr. Speaker, it had not been my intention to take part in this debate, but having in mind that one-half of the constituency which I have the honour to represent is rural, and having in mind also the fact that Ontario produces 29 per cent of the agricultural wealth of the Dominion, I feel I would be remiss in my duty did I not rise in my place to protest against the silence and the apparent refusal of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) to participate in the debate. His silence is the more surprising when he must realize that the whole country awaits some pronouncement on his part. Instead of that, what do we find? Silence in the House of Commons, and a so-called exclusive article on agriculture in MacLean's magazine.

I feel also that I would fail in my duty did I not protest as vigorously as possible against the fact that, although this government came into office on a promise to end unemployment, no statement on labour conditions or on the remedy proposed to relieve unemployment can be made by a responsible minister in the house. This is not fair, and it does not speak volumes for the opinion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) of his elected followers, whose sole duty appears to be to applaud loudly his every move and action.

Some six months have passed since the special session of parliament, and as one sits on this side of the house he is struck by the changed appearance of the ministry opposite. They have now been guiding the destinies of the country for something over eight months. In September last we saw them smiling, happy, confident. Their modern Moses had led them into the promised land, and I think we could go one step further and say that they must have found it a land full of promises. To-day we see them silent and unsmiling, all except the Solicitor General (Mr. Dupre) whose smile lights up an otherwise drab picture of the cabinet as we see it from this side, and one might be pardoned for suspecting that that smile is in anticipation of the three thousand dollars extra salary which according to a resolution which appears on the order paper, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) has promised him.

I have referred to the silence of the Minister of Agriculture and to the absence from the house of the Minister of Labour. Where are our Ontario ministers in this debate? The Prime Minister has honoured my native province by appointing to his cabinet six men from that province. Not one of them has participated in this debate. What about the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr.

Manion) ? Here may I say to him we are grateful at least for the interest he has taken in this debate by listening with an attentive ear to practically every speech. But should we not have expected more from this red-blooded Canadian who is now clothed in all the might and strength of a cabinet minister? In view of his campaign utterances I would think he would have risen in his place and struck old man hard-times a blow in the jaw and with a few strokes of his mighty pen have restored prosperity. *What about the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe)? The hon. gentleman went up and down the province of Ontario telling the farmers that their sole trouble could be attributed to the fact that there was a Liberal administration in power. Where is he in this debate? And what about the member for South Essex (Mr. Gott) who on July 8 last issued a manifesto consisting of three pages? On the first page there is a full page cut of the illustrious gentleman himself, and he is quoted as follows:

None realized my position in the opposition better than I did as I fought for the farmers alone.

Is he doing that to-day? And a little further on he is quoted as follows:

Canada is facing an economic crisis to-day, second only to the Great War. Under proper administration the unemployment problem that we are facing should be impossible in a country such as ours so rich in agricultural possibilities and undeveloped natural resources, the greatest in the world.

May we take it that from his point of view the proper administration is now in office? Yet the unemployment situation grows steadily worse. Then follow further modest statements by the hon. gentleman, and when we come to the third page we find this paragraph :

People cannot live on budgets

no matter what they promise. Whoever lived on promises?

Well, Mr. Speaker, if there ever was a time when the hon. gentleman's question might be put to the test it is under the present administration. Speaking of promises, someone has dedicated a few lines of poetry to the right hon. the Prime Minister. The poem is called "I Promise You," and the text is as follows:

I promise all things, great and small, East, west, north, south, to each and all- Or perish in the attempt.

I promise proofs to make it plain That all old shibboleths are vain-

I promise my full strength shall bend All unemployment quick to end-

Or perish in the attempt.

The Address-Mr. Gray

I promise that a seaway wide At once be built to ocean tide-*

I promise quickly and engage To pensions pay for all old age-

I promise that, without delay,

I'll build trans-Canada highway-

Or perish in the attempt.

I promise that each mill and loom And factory will forthwith resume-

I promise that all ills endured By farmers will at once be cured-

I promise, too, when overseas To bring opponents to their knees-[DOT]

I promise that I'll make the grade,

And blast a way for world-wide trade-

Or perish in the attempt.

I promise that I'll show the cause Of Britain's failing trade and laws

Or perish in the attempt.

I promise-but why specify?

Just mention what you want-and why; For all you ask I will comply (A superman indeed am I) -

Or perish in the attempt.

The hon. member for South Essex closed his remarkable manifesto with these words:

Thanking you for your forbearance in me and in my shortcomings.

To which I think this whole house might rise and say, "Amen." When the right hon. the Prime Minister is displeased about something we hear him making use of the expression "what a spectacle; what a spectacle." Mr. Speaker, I ask if there could be any greater spectacle than the sight of a cabinet unable to speak on the two great questions of agriculture and labour. I say that this statement applies equally to the two excellent speeches which we have already heard from cabinet ministers who have failed to touch on either of these great problems.

Various western members have already brought to the attention of parliament the very serious condition of agriculture in the western provinces. I feel sure they have succeeded in convincing those of us from the eastern constituencies that there must be complete cooperation between the east and the west if we are to find a way out of the difficulty. I have already referred to the fact that Ontario produces 29 per cent of the agricultural wealth of the Dominion. This fact must not be disregarded. Sometimes I feel that we Ontario members do not sufficiently emphasize that important fact. Farming conditions in Ontario, and I speak particularly of western Ontario, are not good. Farmers are in a serious plight to-day. Mortgages are being foreclosed not because of a failure to pay the principal but because the farmer has been unable to meet his interest payments. It is not simply a question of low prices;

prices have been low in the past. To-day we find that the increased cost of production, increased taxes, increased interest rates both to chartered banks and to mortgage companies, make conditions such that unless something is done to relieve the situation there will this fall be more assignments in bankruptcy, more mortgages foreclosed against farmers, than ever before in the history of the [province of Ontario. Take for instance the question of taxes alone. During the Easter recess I was told by one farmer that he had been through a similar period of depression when iprices were about the same. While at that time it took only four pigs to pay his taxes, now it requires twelve. I cannot speak as a practical farmer, but I was born and raised on the farm and I think I know something of the problems of the farmer. I do not believe the suggestions I have read and which have purported to come from the lips of the Minister of Agriculture will solve the problem. Many of them are not new. For instance, the suggestion that the farmers should allow a more general introduction of high grade live stock is by no means new. It has been advocated for years. I say to hon. gentlemen opposite, however, that it would indeed require a brave man to accept the suggestion at this time without more encouragement than he has been receiving, realizing it would take four or five years before his stock could possibly be developed. What is required is immediate relief. We hear men say that prosperity is just around the corner, but may I say to them that when the manufacturers, the bankers, the railway corporations, the professional men- yes, in many cases even the wage earners themselves-are prepared to make the same relative sacrifice that the farmer is making to-day, we will have reached a basis upon which reconstruction can start. Then an truth will we be in a position where we may say prosperity is just around the corner.

I would like to say a few words in connection with the Canadian National Railways. During the past few months there have been rumours of political interference with the management of this railroad. If there is any way in which these rumours can be stopped, if by speeches of hon. members or by a statement from the hon. the Minister of Railways these rumours can be nailed, now is the time to do it. Coming as I do fi'om a city where there is a large Canadian National terminal I may say that there is a feeling of uneasiness among employees that has not been noticed in many years past. During the years when the railway company was able to announce


if he had made such comment upon the Canadian industrial and political situation before sailing from England to assume his duties here as British High Commissioner.

How did the press view the speech of the High Commissioner? I quote but one comment which is typical of the majority. The Ottawa Citizen of December 9 described it as follows:

The comical little man capped the performance by describing himself as an imperial missionary, sacrificing himself on the altar of patriotism. He is laying down the cares of state in Ontario to save the British Empire, and particularly to remould the spirit of the British people.

How did the right hon. Prime Minister handle the situation? The new Albany club was opened in Toronto on January 19, 1931. The great and near great of the Conservative party were present. The Mail and Empire, reporting the meeting in its issue of the following day, said:

Bennett and Ferguson engaged in witty repartee as new Albany club is dedicated

Premier provokes laughter with threat to recall new High Commissioner

Reference by Mr. Bennett to some of exPremier Ferguson's recent speeches started the fun. Mr. Bennett jocularly reminded the new High Commissioner of the recall suffered by Sackville-West. Saskville-West was British ambassador at Washington from 1881 to 1888, in which year he retired after what history records as "an unfortunate interference in American domestic politics."

Sackville-West was recalled. Hon. G. Howard Ferguson never should have been allowed to start until he had been rebuked to a much greater extent by the leader of this government.

His arrival in England was marked by another outburst. Speaking before the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in London, England, Mr. Ferguson said:

When I see in England such slogans as "Buy British goods made in England by British labour" it seems to me to be forgotten that goods of Canada and other parts of the empire are equally British. Imperial consolidation cannot be effected on the lines of discrimination.

Does he forget that the policy of the government he represents is "Buy Canadian goods made in Canada by Canadian labour?" Does he forget entirely the part played by the Empire Marketing Board, which costs thousands of pounds annually, which amount is largely paid by the British taxpayer, and which is used in advertising in that country and throughout the whole empire Canadian apples, Canadian cheese and other products? Why should he complain of a slogan of that

kind when the policy of the government he represents is to bar from Canada British goods by the erection of high tariffs?

What are the results of the speeches which have been made by these two hon. gentlemen? Through the methods adopted by Hon. G. Howard Ferguson and by the right hon. Prime Minister, who made an offer to Britain supposedly based upon mutual advantage but which asked for much and gave nothing in return; by the tenor and method of that offer, I say they have weakened our position and placed a wholly unnecessary and unwarranted stigma on Canadians in the eyes of the British people.

In spite of all that has been said and done, however, I am firmly of the conviction that if the Prime Minister of Canada will approach the conference which is to be held in Ottawa in a different spirit, much good will result. I do not mean the spirit in which he proceeded to the Imperial conference at London, where he said in effect, "Here is my plan. Make up your minds once and for all." I do not mean the spirit in which he rose to reply to the right hon. leader of the opposition, after his speech, in which he declared frankly that he had nothing to withdraw, " not a word, not a syllable, not a line," but rather in the spirit in which he announced the policy of Canada, speaking at Regina on December 30 last. I wish to read from the report which appeared in the Manitoba Free Press of the following day:

On the day after the session of parliament ended, I sailed for England to attend the Imperial conference. I left Canada determined to do my best to foster and support a plan for greater empire trade based on mutual advantages. With that purpose in mind I made a proposal to the conference for closer empire economic association based on mutually advantageous tariff preferences. I frankly stated my position. I said that the motive which governed my proposal tvas the interest of Canada first, and I said our primary concern at that time was to secure a more stable market in the United Kingdom for our wheat. How that market is to be secured to us as against the foreigner is naturally a matter to be determined by the government of the United Kingdom. For my part I expressed my entire willingness, having regard particularly to the Russian menace, to accept in lieu of a price preference a quantity preference, called the quota, which would guarantee us a minimum export of wheat to the United Kingdom. To say that this offer has been definitely declined is to unjustifiably anticipate the outcome of the continuing deliberations of the government of the United Kingdom. [DOT]

Does that speech indicate a change of heart? Is the Prime Minister now willing to approach the conference which is to be held in Ottawa prepared to give to Great Britain something which will be really of mutual ad-

The Address-Mr. Hall

vantage, whether it is decided that the best plan is a quota, an import board or bulk purchases? There are those on the opposite side of the house who ask, "Why do you not suggest something? Why do you not cooperate? Has the Prime Minister, through his actions in this debate, shown any desire to cooperate? Even though he has not done so, I say to him now that if he will assure this house that he meant what he said in Regina; if he is prepared to retreat from his "once and for alb attitude and trade with the mother country on some basis of mutual advantage; if he will realize when he uses the word preference that the greatest preference we can have for the mother of the empire is the preference which we hold in our hearts, then 1 for one am willing to do my share in cooperating to bring about the success of that conference, and thus restore in some part at least that measure of prosperity which the Canadian people so richly deserve.

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March 31, 1931


This is not a laughing matter. For the benefit of some who may be ignoiant of exactly what this pension meant, may I say that the relief allowance was granted only to pensioned soldiers. These soldiers whose pensions were not adequate to meet their needs were granted something extra in order to carry them through the winter. Single men were granted $30 per month and the allowance was graded from that amount up to

some $67, but whatever pension they were receiving was deducted from that amount, so you will see that these men were receiving barely enough to allow them to exist. This is what the Minister of Pensions cut, and I want the country to know that that is exactly what was done by this cabinet in order to effect an economy. That is where they began.

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March 31, 1931


Mr. Chairman, I take serious


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March 31, 1931


I rise not to object to item

51 but rather to ask the Minister of Pensions and National Health-if he may be allowed to answer, because he has borne the brunt of the attack in connection with this matter- for an explanation as to why this relief to pensioned soldiers, from an emergency relief fund granted by this parliament, was cut off without a word of warning, and restored only when such a strong protest of public opinion swept the country, the pressure of which not even this government could withstand. Why were the soldier organizations throughout the country not consulted before this step was taken? It has been stated-and I should like an explanation as to this-that the cut was made in order to effect economy in the administration.

We have heard a good deal to-day with respect to the unemployment question. We know that for the ordinary unemployed the emergency relief measure did not expire until to-day, and it does seem to be due to the returned men of the country, and to the people of Canada as a whole, that some explanation should be given as to why, without a word of warning, the pensions of these men, whose very existence was dependent upon this relief, were cut by the Minister of Pensions and National Health.

I would also ask the returned veterans in the cabinet to give an explanation, because there are some veterans here in the cabinet before me. The hon. the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Sutherland), the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir), the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Manion), and the Minister of Pensions and National Health


(Mr. MacLaren) are all returned veterans. 1 have here a statement given out to the press by the Mail and Empire as follows:

In justice to the other war veterans in the cabinet it can be said they were not aware of Dr. MacLaren's proposal and it is doubtful if any of the other ministers were consulted.

I am going to ask the Minister of Agriculture whether he was consulted in this matter. Did he consent to the pensions of these returned men being cut? If he, was consulted what did he do in the matter? I pause now for an answer. His silence apparently would imply that he was consulted and is not going to say what he said. I will ask the Minister of National Defence: was he consulted by the Minister of Pensions and National Health, and if so, what did he say with respect to the cutting off of these pensions to returned men? Is he not going to be allowed to answer either? I would ask the Minister of Railways, who apparently is the only one in the cabinet who has been allowed so far to speak: was he consulted by the Minister of Pensions in the matter of having these pensions cut at the time they were? Was he consulted? If so, what opinion did he give in that regard? AH I can say, then, is that it does seem strange to me that parliament should be witnessing the spectacle of members of this government, three or four of them returned veterans, remaining in their places and not offering any explanation to the house with respect to this matter. I have nothing but the kindliest feelings towards the Minister of Pensions and National Health. I believe he has the interest of the returned veterans at heart, and I believe it was his desire, to do justice to them. I should like also to have an explanation as to why; although that minister-bore the brunt of the attack, when it came to restoring the order, the right hon. the Prime Minister attempted to take all the glory, boldly announcing the pension would be restored. In fact there was no glory about it; he was merely performing a duty which should have rested upon the Minister of Pensions. I say, Mr. Chairman, that the country awaits some explanation-*

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