Mr. JAMES ARTHURS (Parry Sound):
Mr. Speaker, I am sure all hon. members of the house listened with great interest and satisfaction to the budget presented by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes). It was a clear-cut business statement, without political bias, made for the evident purpose of showing the people the true state of our finances at this time.
I am sure people of this country will be glad to learn that we have had a steady improvement in almost every line of business since the beginning of 1933. Our public finances have improved; there has been a steady improvement in both export and import trade; we have more men at work in our factories and there are fewer people on relief.
Our Liberal friends have been strangely dumb during this debate. They had of course their chief financial critic, and one or two others, the hon. member for Medicine Hat (Mr. Gershaw) and that usually very silent man so seldom heard in debate, the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot). I presume these hon. members were set up by the Liberal party as the chief exponents of the prevalent opinion on that side. But in fact our Liberal friends were silent for a very different reason. For the last couple of years or more they have depended entirely not on any policy which they have enunciated but upon old man depression. They believed, and perhaps believe yet, that this depression and unrest, which did prevail in the past in Canada, was about to lead their party into power. Consequently they cannot speak enthusiastically about a budget which announces to the people of Canada better conditions and better times, for they know that every further step in improvement means fewer votes for the Liberal party in the coming election, every additional man employed means further loss of votes for that party, and every effort put forth by this government to make times better makes the prospects worse for that party under present conditions.
I have said that the depression is passing, that conditions are better. In support of that I wish to quote a few figures. These are taken from Business of September, 1934, and give a comparison showing Canada's progress towards prosperity. Compared with the low period our exports have increased 50-5 per cent; our exports to empire countries have increased 53-2 per cent; our imports generally have increased 36-8 per cent; and our imports from empire countries 53-2 per cent. The physical volume of business in
Canada has increased 64 per cent. Here let me point out that in making comparisons our hon. friends opposite are always anxious to compare trade in recent years and at the present time with the peak prices of 1928 or 1929, the fact being that prices on the average are veiy much lower, so that the resulting picture is not a true one. Our manufacturing production has increased 75-6 per cent, iron and steel production 53 per cent, and textile production 141 per cent, being at the present time very much above the average of 1926 to 1929. The same is true of the production of electrical power and of our mineral production, which has increased 184-8 per cent, and is now very much above the average of 1926- to 1929. Employment has increased 62-6 per cent. I could give many more figures but do not think it necessary to take the time. I have in my hand a comparison made I think by the Canadian Bank of Commerce as to the real purchasing power of the farmers of Canada. It shows that the low period was in 1931 immediately after the change of government, and that since then it has steadily risen. I have the figures for 1931 to 1934. In 1931 it was 58-36 per cent of normal, in 1932 it rose to 62-77, in 1933 it was down slightly to 61-03, and in 1934 had increased to 67-51. That is the latest available.
There is no question that the principal problem in this country, as in every civilized land to-day, is that of unemployment, and perhaps that of relief. This situation is common to all civilized countries. In this country the depression commenced in the early part of 1929, trade was paralyzed by the great slump in stocks of the autumn of that year. Things went from bad to worse not only in this country but in almost every other. Naturally with the collapse in stocks the purchasing power of our people was greatly reduced. This resulted in unemployment and the closing of factories. Conditions were further aggravated by the fact that farming was in a very deplorable condition owing to the action not only of the United States, as instanced by a previous speaker, but of other countries, which all closed their markets to the agricultural products of Canada. For many years the United States had been our nearest and best market, and while hon. members opposite have always preached, as they do even yet, that we should buy where we sell and that unless we buy we cannot sell, our American friends were not of that opinion at that time. In spite of the fact that we were then and probably are yet their best customers, they proceeded to shut the door absolutely on our agricultural products.
The Budget-Mr. Arthurs
The result was that the buying power of our farmers fell to almost nothing, and our factories were closed.
That was the situation which confronted this government when they came into power in 1930. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister found the situation much worse than he had anticipated. But he immediately took steps to do what he could to remedy the condition, and parliament was called in September of that year for the purpose of voting such moneys as were necessary and passing such legislation as was deemed advisable. It is true that when parliament was called in 1930, manufactured goods from almost every country of the world were being poured into Canada practically regardless of cost of production. Consequently our factories had to close. At that time we took steps, which I believe and have always believed were right, to protect this country against that condition. We raised tariffs, there is no doubt about it. I remember hon. gentlemen opposite getting up one by one and protesting that when we increased the duty on silk for instance by practically 100 per cent that increase would be passed on to the consumer. They said the same thing about textiles, upon which the duty was also materially increased. But what are the facts? Continuously since that time prices of silks and textiles have gone steadily down, and people are able to buy them at lower prices to-day than before the duty was changed. But it had another result. Millions of dollars were spent in this country for the building and enlargement of textile factories. In one town that I have in mind one company I think spent $2,000,000 on new buildings. Many of them are working twenty-four hours a day, and are doing a great deal to strengthen the Canadian situation. These mills not only provide work for our people but in doing so furnish a market for the farmers of the vicinity. Hon. members have stated that the greater part of our agricultural production outside of wheat is consumed in Canada. I may later have time to read a few figures in this connection. May I point out that this government took the proper action in 1930. I believe it is better to build a fence at the top of a precipice than to maintain an ambulance at the bottom. 1 believe, further, that if the Liberal government between the years 1921 and 1930 had taken the proper steps or made proper protests to the various countries concerned Canada would be in better circumstances to-day. It is better to have a lighthouse on the shore than to maintain life boats to save the mariners after the vessel has been wrecked.
During the last four or five years this government has been doing everything within its power to utilize the ambulance for the purpose of saving those wrecked by the disaster of 1929. They have built a fence at the top, too, to prevent a similar disaster occurring in the future. They have put up their lighthouses along the shore so thi-there may be no more wrecks. Meantime they have had to use their life boats to save those already suffering.
In the short time at my disposal I do not believe it is necessary to refer to the extent of the expenditures made by the government for relief but I should like to make one or two observations in connection therewith. In all the provinces relief is in the hands of the provinces or the municipalities. For many years however, and especially in centres where the people are not well acquainted with the facts, a whispering campaign has been in progress, and the assertion has been made that only the federal government is to blame. As a matter of fact in the province of Ontario, from which I come, the relief is in the hands of the municipal authorities, and grants are made according to their wishes or whims. I have in my hand an interesting statement produced at the meeting of the mayors held only a few days ago in this city. This statement is prepared by the department of social research of McGill university for the use of the organization committee of the mayors. Although I do not intend to read it in detail I should like to indicate the vast difference in methods obtaining in the different provinces. Whether this difference is brought about because of local circumstances, or whether some provinces are more generous than others in their treatment of the unemployed and those requiring relief I do not know. This statement indicates however that in the year 1934 the amount of money distributed in the maritime provinces cost each elector in each city $2.20. That is to say each inhabitant of a city was charged $2.20. Then we find that each person on relief in the maritimes received $17.25 in the year. Of course I am speaking only of the grant given by the cities, and would point out that the amount should be multiplied by three, so as to allow for provincial and dominion contributions. Therefore instead of $17.25 the figure should be about $51.75. The amount I have given is that paid by the city according to population and the number of people on relief.
In the city of Saint John relief cost $1 per head of population, while in Amherst the cost was more than 85. In other words, that was the assessment on each inhabitant of those
The Budget-Mr. Arthurs
people of Ontario believe that it is rendering a good service. I believe it will be more appreciated when it is better known. This legislation was based upon the British act, and cooperative purchasing and selling has been a success in Great Britain for many years. If this scheme is not complete in every detail there is no reason why it cannot be changed so as to be applicable to the conditions in Canada.
The next legislation to which I wish to refer is the farm loan act. I have very little knowledge of this legislation so far as Ontario is concerned, as it has not been in operation in that province. The loans which had been made in that province by the former government were cut off when the present government came into power, and many farmers suffered considerably. This reacted against the application of the Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act which was passed at the last session. I believe this act is one of the most beneficial pieces of social legislation which has ever been passed by this parliament. I know that many settlements have been made in my county and throughout the adjoining counties. In most cases the matter has never reached the crown official and in all cases there has been a marked anxiety on the part of both the creditor and the debtor to get together. After the farm loan act has been put into effect in Ontario I am certain that great benefits will result from the operation of this act and the Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act.
This government has also passed the Unemployment Insurance Act. This legislation is more or less of an experiment in Canada. It will have no immediate effect upon unemployment. If similar legislation had been passed in 192S or 1929 when things were booming and the workmen could have easily made their payments, it would have obviated much of the unemployment relief being granted at the present time. We are following the example set by Great Britain where a similar act has been in force for about twenty-five years. About thirty-seven amendments have been made to the British act during that time, and undoubtedly it will be found necessary to amend ours.
The legislation to provide for an eight hour day has passed so far as this house is concerned. This legislation should have a very beneficial effect upon the country as undoubtedly it will give employment to more men. I am not sure but that it would have been better to provide for even shorter hours, but I am quite satisfied that this legislation will provide more employment. The weekly
day of rest is observed practically all over Canada and there was no opposition to the passing of the legislation in that regard.
I believe the provision for the establishment of an economic council will have splendid results. I am glad to know that the government has decided to vote an additional $200,000 for the encouragement of the tourist trade. Other legislation is to be introduced; we are all looking forward to the presentation of the report of the price spreads commission. There is no doubt that legislation will be required in that connection. I hope some kind of works program will be presented to take the place of unemployment relief. Personally I have never been in favour of direct relief. I think the municipalities, the provinces and the dominion, either separately or in combination, should supply employment and then the municipalities could take care of any cases of illness.
Hon. gentlemen opposite seem to have entered into a conspiracy of silence so far as the budget is concerned. I should like to ask them what they have done during the last few years in the way of social legislation. As I have pointed out. they were in power from 1921 to 1930 and during that period conditions were favourable to the introduction of social legislation. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King), then Prime Minister, said that he had these things thoroughly in mind. He had even placed them in a book which had been published a year or two before.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: DEBATE ON THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE