Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)
I am sorry if I misunderstood my right hon. friend; I did really understand him to say what I have just stated. If it is merely a thirst for information which led the right hon. gentleman to allude to this subject, I may give him the information now, that the Grank Trunk Pacific Railway have assented to the changes. I trust that declaration will do much to relieve the inquietude from which my right hon. friend seems to be suffering in that regard. The terminals at Quebec will be ready, I am assured by my hon. friend the
Minister of Railways and Canals, by the time the road is completed, and the road is being advanced with all possible expedition. Unfortunately, certain delays arose out of incidents connected with the Quebec bridge under the administration of my right hon. friend which I shall not pause to consider to-night. These have put the enterprise back to a certain extent. The station at Champlain market, and the joint station to be used by the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, which will be a station worthy of the city in which it is situated, and of the great railway companies which it will serve, will shortly be under construction, I am assured. The shops at St. Malo are already commenced and will be proceeded writh as rapidly as possible. Further than that, we have taken a step at Quebec, which my right hon. friend might well have taken long ago, that is, we have undertaken the construction of as fine and commodious a dry-dock, for the use of the great ships using the St. Lawrence waterway, as can be found anywhere in the world. The contract has been let for that work and the work will be proceeded with as soon as the spring opens, in fact my hon. friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Pelletier) informs me that it has already been begun.
My right hon. friend has summoned to his aid the cry of hard times, and he considers that the Speech from the Throne is absolutely insufficient inasmuch as it does not point out any direct or immediate remedy for hard times and for the high cost of living to which he also alludes. He confused these two subjects in the course of his remarks, as it seemed to me, and I was not sure from time to time, whether he was dealing with one or with the other. However, it may be that they are properly dealt with together. I would like to refresh the memory of my right hon. friend in one respect. He seems to think that the reference in the Speech from the Throne calls for the expression of some declaration of policy which will provide an immediate and effective remedy. He has forgotten the words which he put into the mouth of the then Governor General in 1908, words which were much more calamitous, if I may use that expression, than anything to be discovered in the Speech from the Throne on the present occasion:-
The Dominion has been blessed by a long series of prosperous years, and though at the present moment its business is being restricted by the financial stringency which prevails throughout the world, I feel assured that this
unfavourable condition will be temporary and that the illimitable resources of Canada and the world-wide recognition of them give us ample guarantee of continued material progress.
I have examined this speech-it is very lengthy-and up to the present time I have not discovered in it a statement of any immediate or effective remedy. Perhaps, if I yielded the floor my right hon. friend would explain to the House why that omission occurred. We did not put the word ' unfavourable ' into our speech on. this occasion. The Government of that day seemed to take a very gloomy view of the situation. We do not take a gloomy view of .the situation. We do really believe that the resources of this country are so great and so widely recognized that any slight restriction in business is not to be seriously regarded and that this country in 1914, as in 1908, will make it manifest to the world that the check, if any there be, is only for the moment.
My right hon. friend has alluded to the inquiry which the Government has directed into the increase in the cost of living. We have thought it wise to follow the British example in this regard, and to select civil servants of ability and experience to make an examination into this question. We have selected them without regard to what may be supposed to have been their political views, knowing that they are all men not only of ability and experience, but of integrity as well, and that they will bring to this important task the best that is in them, and give to the country the very best of their services in coming to a conclusion.
My right hon. friend has moved a resolu-iton on this subject. He desires that the Address to His Royal Highness shall not pass in the words proposed, but that the following shall be added thereto:
We regret to have to represent to your Royal Highness that in the gracious speech with Which you have met Parliament, whilst it is admitted that business is in a depressed condition, yet there is no indication of any intention on the part of your advisers to take any steps towards relieving such a situation.
When I said that my right hon. friend had forgotten the speech which he put into the mouth of His Excellency the Governor General in 1908, I evidently made a mistake; he was thinking of that speech when he drafted this resolution. His Royal Highness has not stated in the Speech from the Throne that business is in a depressed condition. I would like to observe in regard to this amendment that it does not quite come up to some of the speeches which the right hon. gentleman has been making in the
provinces of Ontario and Quebec; there is a remarkable difference. When my right hon. friend spoke at Hamilton on the 26th of November last he was ready with a policy. Why is it that the policy which he announced at Hamilton is not embodied in the terms of his resolution? Have some of his friends expressed the opinion that he was a little hasty? What is the reason for the marked difference? In the one case he shouted loudly; in the other case he whispers softly. My right hon. friend did not wait until the opening of Parliament to change his policy. His policy as expressed at Hamilton was this:
The policy I give you at this moment; the policy 1 believe every patriotic man in Canada ought now to support, and the policy I believe it to be the duty of the Government immediately to inaugurate, is a policy of absolutely freed food-food free from customs duty.
That was on the 26th of November, and on the 9th of December he reached Montreal. But in the meantime, he seemed to have received a new light and wisdom. His proposal when he reached Montreal was to have a few perambulating commissions of ministers such as he had in 1897, and in 1907, if I mistake not. That was a remarkable change, but he has not suggested either one or the other of these policies in the resolution which he has introduced to-night -a resolution of the vaguest character, which permits my right hon. friend to retire within the lines of Torres Vedras whenever he finds it convenient to do so. Let me point out to the right hon. gentleman-because he has insisted, outside of this Parliament, if not within, that the high cost of living is due to the customs tariff- that a perfectly impartial observer and writer, and one whose opinion would not be influenced by any lack of sympathy for him, has made a rather remarkable pronouncement on the tariff of 1897, which was not materially altered in 1907. In his recent work published in the latter part of 1913, Professor O. A. Skelton, in dealing with the general economic history of the Dominion, says at page 201, with regard to my right hon. friend's tariff of 1897:
Yet, with all this tinkering, the tariff remained substantially the National Policy tariff of the old regime.
I do not intend to-night, especially having regard to the fact that a commission is investigating this question at the present time, to deal at any length with the causes that have brought about the increase in the cost of living. My right hon. friend himself has admitted that the increase in the cost of
living is world-wide. In the same work from which I have just quoted, a General Economic History of the Dominion, 1867-1912, by Professor Skelton, I observe at page 272 the following:
After 1896 the rise was rapid and almost unbroken ; the index numbers prepared by the Dominion Department of Labour showed that by 1912 the average wholesale prices of the most important commodities had risen nearly thirty per cent above the average from 1890 to 1900, and the retail prices and rents had soared to still higher levels. This rise, as English railway strikes, French food riots, German Socialist victories and United States urban discontent revealed, was not peculiar to Canada; under the price-equalizing influences of international exchange, all the leading countries shared in the increase, in fairly proportionate degree.
That is the opinion of a disinterested writer who has made the study of economics his lifework. Many considerations have been put forward by economic writers as reasons for the increase in the cost of living. It has been asserted that a higher standard of living has been established throughout the world during a period of great prosperity. According to the opinions of others, it has been based, to a certain extent, upon the increase of urban population and the relative decrease of rural population. It has been urged that the large immigration to Canada of persons, many of whom locate in cities, and none of whom became producers of food within a year or eighteen months, has also had its effeet. The increased cost of labour, resulting in an increase in the cost of producing and distributing food products, including the cost of delivery in cities and towns, has been put forward by others as a contributing cause. Then it has been urged that the increase is to some extent dependent upon the lack of organization among producers and consumers, and part of it has been laid at the door of waste and extravagance. Great losses occur in all civilized- countries through unnecessary fires; Professor Skelton says that in the United States there is a yearly loss by fire of buildings which placed side by side would constitute a block extending from New York to Chicago. Waste, loss and extravagance of this character are' urged as causes. Then other economic writers put forward the decrease in the purchasing power of money owing to the remarkable increase in gold production in the last two decades.
I do not intend to pass upon any 9 p.m. of these causes. It may be that all of them have contributed in one way or another. But when my right hon. friend urges, as he has urged, that
this increase in the cost of living is due to the tariff, I would like to point out to him that the increase has not been restricted to recent years. Taking the number 100 as representing the average prices from 1890 to 1899, the index numbers, so-called, were as follows: in 1890 it was 110.3. In 1897 it had decreased to 92.2. My right hon. friend will observe that that was under the National Policy which he had undertaken to destroy. In 1907 it had risen to 12d. In 1908, during a period of financial stringency and business restriction, it fell to 120.8. In 1911 it had risen to 127.4. In 1912 it had risen to 134.4. In 1913 there was a trifling increase to 135. It is a remarkable fact that from 1890 to 1896 the cost of living in this country decreased, and an equally remarkable fact that from 18% until the right hon. gentleman went out of power, the cost of living increased in every year except one, 1907. By 1901 the cost of living in this country had reached the figure at which it stood in 18%, far above the figure of 1897. If my right hon. friend believes what he seems to believe, if one may judge by his speeches throughout the country, that this is all due to the tariff, why was it that during the fourteen years between 1897 and 1911 he took no step whatever to apply a remedy? But, if I mistake not, in the United States it is almost universally admitted that the reduction or abolition of the duties on food has had little or no effect upon prices in that country. My right hon. friend makes a comparison between the cost of living in this country and the cost of living in Great Britain. I have here a quotation, but I shall not take up the time of the House by reading it, from Mr. uoats, the statistician in the Department of Labour, who points out that although the cost of living is higher in Canada than in Great Britain, it is not by any means so much in excess as is indicated by the figures which the right hon. gentleman gave to the House this afternoon.
The abolition of duties as against the United States could hardly have the effect which the right hon. gentleman has claimed for it in his speeches outside of this House. He has declared, as I have understood his speeches, that the cost of living had been increased in Canada by the fact that the markets of the United States were taking our food products, and then, in connection with that, he suggested that the people of this country could obtain relief by abolishing the duties on food as
against the United States. If the prices in the United States are so much higher than they are in Canada as to cause a flow of food products from this Dominion into the United States, how in the name of common sense are you to get relief by going to the United States and buying food products there at the high prices prevailing in that country? But, my right hon. friend may say: Let us throw down the bars altogether and open up our home market to all the nations of the world. Does he not realize the truth of what was expressed by Prof. Skelton, and what is expressed in more homely phrase in one of the United States journals which was attracted by certain utterances of my right hon. friend, that if we are going into the markets of the world to buy food products for the people of Canada, we shall meet Uncle Sam there, and the prices in the United States will, to a certain extent at least, control the situation? The markets of the world are governed by international conditions and demands.
Further, it has been pointed out by one of the foremost journals in the province of Ontario that the most obvious deduction from the speech of my right hon. friend in Hamilton would be this, that the only relief that could be brought to the people of Canada, if his theory is correct, would be to place an export duty on cattle, sheep, hogs and meats. I do not think my right hon. friend will be prepared to maintain a proposal of that kind.
He has also alleged that the high cost of living is due to trusts and combines. Well, if it is due to trusts and combines now, was it not due to trusts and combines during the fourteen years in which he saw it increase? If it was due to the
causes which he suggests, why did he not apply some of those remedies which he has been putting forward to the people of this country but as to which he was absolutely silent when he rose to speak in this House? And, further, does he not think that the trusts and combines in the United States are more numerous and highly developed than in Canada, and does he not believe that if we threw down our tariff bars and exposed the home markets of every province in Canada to competition from the United States, the trusts and combines of the United States would be just as powerful in Canada and just as detrimental in Canada as they could be in the United States?
Just one thing more in that connection. I would like to point out to my right hon.
friend that the difficulty is not wholly due to decreased production in Canada. Between 1901 and 1911 the population of Canada increased 34 per cent. The total production of milk increased 44 per cent. The export of dairy products decreased 11 per cent. The importation of dairy products increased 14 per cent and the total consumption increased 74 per cent. The per capita consumption in Canada during that period increased 30 per cent. Between 1900 and 1910 the production of eggs increased from 84,000,000 dozen to 143,000,000 dozen and their value increased from ten and a quarter million to twenty three and a half million dollars. During the same period the export of eggs decreased from 11,000,000 dozen to 92,000 dozen and the imports increased from 950,000 dozen to nearly two and a half million dozen. This indicates that the standard of living in Canada has increased, and the consumption in Canada, not only the actual but the per capita consumption, of a great many articles of food has very greatly increased in the meantime. What is the remedy? I say that the remedy is properly to be considered in this country and in this House, and the Government is giving it consideration. I say, in the first place, give every reasonable assistance and encouragement to maintain and increase the number of people on the land. I say, in the second place, assist the farmer with good roads, as we proposed in the Highways Bill against which the Opposition voted, and which was defeated by their friends in the Senate. Aid him with instruction in improved methods of production, as is proposed by the Agricultural Instruction Act. Thus increase the ratio of production to the labour and capital employed. Promote co-operation among the producers and the consumers and find more effective and cheaper methods of marketing. I do not say these are the only remedies that can be devised, but they are remedies that commend themselves strongly to me, and so far as is possible this Government will be prepared to act along those lines and to assist in every possible way in keeping the people upon the land, and in promoting co-operation between the producers and the consumers throughout Canada.
My right hon. friend's remedy is to abolish the protection now afforded the farmer in the home market and at the same time to subject him to a tariff protecting other industries. That seems to be a remarkable proposition. If my right hon. friend makes that proposal to
the urban population of Canada, I venture to say it will be no more effective among them than it is among the farmers of Canada. If we are to protect our industries, that of agriculture is at least entitled to the same consideration as any other. I say, however, to the labouring and urban population of Canada that if the farmers' home market is not protected, then the labouring population of the cities cannot expect that the industries which afford them employment can be protected. We believe that under present conditions in this country, Canadian industries ought to enjoy reasonable protection in order that our natural resources and raw materials can be worked up into the finished product by our own population instead of being exported to foreign countries to be employed in the support and development of their industries.
My right hon. friend has had many fiscal policies. He has had, in the first place, the policy of protection with which he started out in public life. He has had the policy of commercial union. He has advocated the policy of unrestricted reciprocity, and, among other policies, Continental free trade, free trade as it is in England, revenue tariff, restricted reciprocity, and now free food. My. right hon. friend has not stood by these policies very thoroughly. He has asserted them in very energetic terms, but when it came to the final conclusion of the matter he has not lived up to the mark. I have a great many quotations from my right hon. friend's speeches, but I shall use only one or two of them. In 1894 my right hon. friend was very strong upon the theory of free trade as it is in England. He said in Winnipeg in 1894:
*When the Liberal party are in power they will at once give a measure of freedom of trade and step by step they will follow it up, and if God spares our lives we shall progress steadily until we have it as full as Great Britain has it. I come before you to-night to preach to you this new gospel of free trade. I denounce to you the policy of protection as bondage, yes bondage and X refer to it as bondage in the same way as American slavery was bondage. Sir, our policy is freedom of trade such as exists in England, such as is practiced in Great Britain.
There are many similar references. In a letter written by Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Mr. Bertram less than two years afterwards, my right hon. friend did not stand very closely to that policy. He said:
Whether a policy of absolute freedom of trade would or would not be injurious to the manufacturing industries of this country, is a question which X will not stop to discuss here. There is no occasion for such a discussion as the 3
intention of the Liberal party is not and never was to establish [DOT]free trade in this country.
Under these circumstances, it would seem to me that the people could not have a great deal of confidence that my right hon. friend will persevere in the policy of free food which he advocated at Hamilton, which he partially abandoned at Montreal, and which he seems to have altogether abandoned now that he has reached this House.
My right hon. friend has also referred to unemployment. He has stated that there are 100,000 people in Canada at the present time- out of employment. Has my right hon. friend any authority for that statement?
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY.