March 16, 1931

CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I think the right hon.

gentleman will admit that correspondence such as that to which he refers should not be quoted unless the intention is to produce it. If it is a public letter it should be produced. If it is a private letter, it should not; but I think the right hon. gentleman will agree in principle that quotations should not be made from letters unless they are to be produced.

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I was giving

the house my reasons for saying that my right hon. friend has a way of taking the whole load upon his own shoulders, of telling people that the load is all on his shoulders. He never refers to any of his colleagues; you never hear any mention of the cabinet; it is all of the burden that has fallen upon the one individual who for the time being has a more difficult task than has fallen to the lot of any other citizen of Canada. If he would take less of the burden on himself and distribute more amongst his colleagues and the government generally, he would be better playing the part that is expected of him as leader of the administration; because after all, it is government by cabinet and not government by an individual that we are expected to have in this country.

I shall not pursue that point further at the moment, but may I come back to what I was about to say as to this supposed burden, this legacy that my right hon. friend is so fond of telling the country is upon his shoulders and that he has to carry? He seeks to have it appear that this comes as an inheritance of the years during which the administration which immediately preceded his was in office. How are we to judge of the success of a government in the administration of a country's affairs? If matters have been so conducted that the country has not been prosperous, that will be made fully apparent by certain well-known indices. For example, there are the figures with respect to trade; there are the statistics with reference to the public debt; there are the figures with regard to surpluses and deficits; there is the record with regard to taxation. There is all that pertains to unity, harmony and progress to which reference can be made in seeking to discover whether any assumed legacy is what some hon. gentleman would have it believed to be. Just in case my right hon. friend should, when he follows me, or during the course of the session, say that his difficulties are due to what has happened in the past, may I put on record a few figures that will illustrate the position of Canada under the previous administration?

First of all, let me take the figures relating to trade, because the great question in the course of this session and this parliament is going to be whether the policies of hon. gentlemen opposite will serve to promote or to cripple the trade of the country. I believe it can be shown that the most serious of all the results of the policies of hon. gentlemen opposite will be the very certain contraction in trade that we shall find on all sides, a contraction that will affect all classes; whether they be em-

(Mr. Speaker.J

ploj^ers of labour or employees, whether they be the heads of large industries, transportation companies, financiers, wholesale merchants, retail merchants or others, all are going to feel the effects of the contracted trade of this country as a result of the policies hon. gentlemen opposite are putting into force. Let me give the figures in regard to trade. When the Liberal administration, of which I had the honour to be the head, came into office in 1921, we found the country facing a position very similar to that which at present exists. Trade was in a state of stagnation; the industries of the country were running parttime, there was general unemployment and a very serious business depression. Then gradually came a marked improvement. The total aggregate trade of Canada for the fiscal years ending March 31, is as follows:

Fiscal year ending

March 31 Aggregate Trade

1922 $1,502,000,000

1923 1,748.000,000

1924 1,952,000,000

1925 1,878.000,000

1926 2,256,000,000

1927 2,298,000,000

1928 2,360,000,000

1929 2,655,000,000

1930 2,393.000,000

Hon. members will notice how greatly the aggregate trade of the Dominion increased while we were in office.

The most important part of these statistics is that which refers to export trade. Let me examine the figures with regard to that phase of the matter. I shall give in a moment the figures dealing with that portion of the export trade which was purely domestic. Export trade in Canada for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1922, amounted to $754,000,000; in 1923 it was $945,000,000; by 1924 it had jumped to $1,059,000,000, and so on. The table is as follows:

Fiscal year ending

March 31 Total Exports

1922 $ 754,000,000

1923 945,000,000

1924 1,059,000,000

1925 1,081,000,000

1926 1,329,000,000

1927 1,268,000,000

1928 1,251,000,000

1929 1,389,000,000

1930 1,145,000,000

Let us now consider the domestic exports which relate to our surplus production. Here, Mr. Speaker, may I emphasize the importance which is to be attached to the export of surplus products from Canada? That is a business on which about

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

2,000,000 of our population are dependent. W hatever adversely affects surplus exports adversely affects all classes in our country. The domestic exports are as follows:

Fiscal year ending

March 31 Domestic Exports

1922 $ 740,000,000

1923 931,000,000

1924 1,045,000,000

1925 1,009.000,000

1926 1,315,000,000

1927 1,252,000,000

1928 1.228,000,000

1929 1.364,000,000

1930 1,120,000,000

Hon. members will notice that there is an increase from $740,000,000 in 1922 to $1,120,000,000 in 1930, and higher even than that in the four years preceding. That is one indication of the prosperity in Canada in the period immediately preceding the present one.

May I refer to another phase of the matter which illustrates whether or not there was satisfactory administration of public affairs during that period. I refer to the public debt of the country. Public debt increases where there are deficits and decreases where there are surpluses. For years preceding the regime of the previous administration Canada had deficit after deficit. The public debt had enormously increased. There was the most serious problem with which we had to grapple, but what was the result? The result was that in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1924, instead of a deficit there was a surplus of $35,993,594, and from then on till our last year of office there were surpluses each year. The surpluses which I shall now read indicate the extent to which the public debt of the country was reduced from 1923 to 1930:

Fiscal year ending

March 31 Decreases in Debt

1924 $35,993,594

1925 345,589

1926 27,706,587

1927 41,896,729

1928 50,984,137

1929 71,345,528

1930 47,740,746

These figures go to show that in seven successive years out of the eight and a half years during which the Liberal administration held office we had surpluses instead of deficits. These surpluses moreover total the enormous sum of over $275,000,000 I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether or not that is a favourable legacy to leave a succeeding administration? May I further draw the attention of the house to the fact that these surpluses were effected not 22110-2

by any system of borrowing; during the entire period the Liberal administration held office the capital as well as the ordinary expenditures were met out of current revenues. These surpluses were over and above all that had been spent on capital and current account.

Another indication of our success is shown by the reduction in taxation imposed.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

(York-Sunbury): Six per

cent.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I think my hon. friend will find that the six per cent will return before very long. In order to place the finances of the country in a position that would make it possible to meet the obligations that had arisen from the administration preceding ours and to balance the budget we were obliged for a time to levy additional taxes. I ask hon. gentlemen opposite to remember however that we faced the situation squarely and that we met our obligations by taxation and not by borrowing. The country will expect the present administration to do likewise. It will expect that the obligations incurred so readily to serve the ends of a general election will be met out of taxation and not from additional borrowings which will entail a further baneful legacy upon the country.

When we found that it was possible out of existing revenues to balance our budget we began immediately to reduce taxation. Hon. members will remember that we reduced the indirect taxation in connection with customs duties. I shall not refer to that particular reduction in the figures I am about to quote at this time. It is estimated that the revenue remitted by the reduction of (taxation in other forms amounted in the year 1026 to $25,000,000; in 1927 that the reduction amounted to $27,000,000; in 1928, to $19,000,000; in 1929, to $25,000,000 and last year, 1930, to $22,000,000. A conservative estimate of reductions of taxation in the last five years shows that there has been a remission of taxation which now 'amounts to the vast total of $116,000,000 a year, because the reduction which was made each year was a reduction which continued for and applied to each successive year.

The figures in tabular form are as follows:

Estimated Taxation Reduction (other

Fiscal Year than Customs)

1926- 27

$25,000,0001927- 28

27,000,0001928- 29

19,000,0001929- 30

25,000,0001930- 31

22,000,000

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

Those, Mr. Speaker, are figures which speak for themselves. Those are the indices by which the country will find it possible to estimate whether or not the business of the country was being satisfactorily administered under the government which preceded the present one. These are the indices which tell whether the policies which were being applied were wise, right and helpful. Under the policies of the Liberal administration we had this vast increases in trade and this decrease of public debt. In seven out of eight and a half years we had a surplus. There was a steady decrease of taxation, and all was accompanied by a spirit of harmony, unity and good will between the governments of the provinces and the government of the Dominion, a spirit such as had not prevailed for many years previously. Unquestionably we have not that spirit at the present time. In addition, Mr. Speaker, we had a spirit of unity and good will between this country and other parts of the British Empire and particularly between Great Britain and Canada. That also is something which cannot be said to exist at the present time.

Let me come now, Mr. Speaker, to the references in the Speech from the throne to the legislation passed at the special session. I shall not go into that at any length at the moment except to direct attention to the fact that even the government itself has not ventured to assert that it has in any way redeemed the pledges and the promises which it gave to the electors at the last general election. My right hon. friend opposite came into power in virtue of certain definite and distinct promises which he then made to the electorate. He said he would end unemployment, he said he would end rural distress; he said he would do all of these things, or perish in the attempt. He has not ended rural distress; he has not ended unemployment; and he has not yet perished in the attempt. He has not ever fulfilled that promise, but I tell him he will perish in the attempt before the other promises are ever fulfilled, because he will never be able to fulfil them.

The address says:

Although in the interval world conditions have changed but little for the better, this tariff legislation has resulted in a marked improvement in the domestic situation.

Market improvement ! Where is the market improvement! I am not going to take up the time of this house by endeavouring to tell hon. members and the country what they all know. It is not necessary for

any one to assert that conditions have not improved, that they are worse than they were, because every man, woman and child knows that to be the case. The mere putting of these words into the lips of His Excellency the Administrator will give little in the way of comfort and satisfaction to those men and women in all parts of Canada who to-day are still seeking employment, who are still trying to meet the obligations on their farms, who are still trying to avoid placing mortgages on their homes, who are seeking a bare livelihood and trying to get free of being obliged to resort to the good offices of the Red Cross society and other charitable organizations for whatever sustenance they have. I say, Mr. Speaker, that conditions are apparent and well known by the country generally. Everyone who has studied conditions in Canada at all to-day knows that unfortunately it is only too true that so far as certain parts of our country are concerned-and I refer more particularly now to the middle west- matters are in a desperate plight, that many people there are on the verge of destitution. In short, a condition exists in this country at the moment the like of which, fortunately, it has not witnessed at any time heretofore in our history.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

When did you notice it first?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Notice it? It has been noticed by everyone since this administration came into office. Now, Mr. Speaker, may I say-and I wish to make this point very clear, for it helps to answer the interruption of my hon. friend-the government can in no way say that they have been impeded in any of the policies that they have put forward, that they have been in any way obstructed in the carrying out of the pledges or promises which they made to the electorate. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that with the exception of what it became necessary for me to say publicly in the short period of two weeks during which we had the special session of parliament, I have not raised my voice publicly in criticism, or with one or two exceptions, by way of comment, from the day the present administration took office until this afternoon. What I am saying with respect to myself is equally true with respect to the great body of members of this house who belong to the party which I have the honour to lead. We have given to hon. gentlemen opposite the freest possible hand. We have done that in order that they might demonstrate, if they could, what their policies were capable of doing. May I say this also, Mr. MARCH 16, 1931

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

Speaker, that we have recognized the seriousness of conditions in Canada. We recognized them throughout the campaign, we spoke of them and of their causes, world and domestic causes, in the course of that campaign, and we indicated policies that we believed would help to relieve the situation. When the electorate decided that it preferred to accept the promises and pledges of hon. gentlemen opposite, we said, "All right, it is for the electorate to make its choice; we will not interfere in the least with the putting into force of any policies which hon. gentlemen opposite wish to put into force; we will give them a fair chance to show what they can do." They have had now nearly eight months; they have had a special session of parliament where they were free to bring down whatever legislation they pleased, and no restriction was placed upon them whatever in voting the money they asked for, or in amending the customs tariff in the way in which they desired to amend it, or the Customs Act so far as they desired to amend it. They wTere free to bring in whatever legislation they wished. They were given a free hand at the Imperial conference. They have had everything their own way, and if today conditions in Canada are worse instead of better the fault lies on the shoulders of my right hon. friend and his colleagues and followers. From this time on, I think he can no longer claim exemption from criticism by the opposition.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

He has never claimed it.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My right hon. friend says he has never claimed any exemption from criticism. What was the substance of the speech he made at Regina when he began to talk about the extent to which those who ought to know better were putting obstacles and _ difficulties in his way?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon. friend is very quick to say he never claimed exemption from criticism, but there is not a man living who is so sensitive to criticism as my right hon. friend. If, Mr. Speaker, you want evidence of that fact you have only to notice the way in which my right hon. friend has risen to the bait two or three times already.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I rise as a. matter of

common decency.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

There my right hon. friend is biting again.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I rise as a matter of

common decency.

22110-2J

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I do not wonder at hon. members laughing at my right hon. friend's sensitiveness.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

As a matter of common

decency personal letters should not be published.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Is my right

hon. friend still biting?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No. He is hurt to think that an ex-Prime Minister is capable of such a thing.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

What is the

matter?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Nothing in the world. I

simply said, and I repeat it now, there is nothing I have seen in the history of parliament that quite equals an ex-Prime Minister giving the purport of a letter marked "personal." [DOT]

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Speaker,

that shot must have gone pretty deep. It wounded my right hon. friend twenty minutes ago and he is still licking the wound. May I come now to the next clause of the speech from the throne which refers to the Unemployment Relief Act. Here we are told that this also has proved "equally beneficial." Well, I think "equally beneficial" is probably accurate when you compare the beneficial results of that enactment with the beneficial results that came .from the other legislation then passed, but it does not say much for the extent of the benefit in either case. But, curiously enough, in that very paragraph the administration admits the extent of unemployment to be greater than it has ever been at any time in Canada. Take the last half of the paragraph:

-yet its careful administration by my ministers, ably aided by the provincial and municipal governments and the two great railway systems, has resulted in the institution of a nation wide program of public undertakings, each one a unit in a scheme of national development, which have collectively provided work for the greatest number of men rvho have ever been employed through the direct efforts of the federal government.

In other words, there never was a time in the history of Canada when the federal government had to come to the relief of so many men. This appears in the speech from the throne itself, confirming the veiy view which, we have all along contended was the correct one.

May I now refer to the third subdivision, which has to do with the Imperial conference. I intend to speak at perhaps a little greater length with regard to the Imperial conferenco

20 COMMONS

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

than with regard to any other subject this afternoon, so I shall pass over that for the moment except to draw attention to the fact that there were two conferences, the so-called Imperial conference and the Imperial economic conference. It is of the Imperial economic conference I intend to speak this afternoon, because I assume that with regard to the other conference, and in fact with regard to both, we will have an opportunity for discussion in this house at a later day. One feature with regard to the Imperial conference to which I wish to refer, however, is the fact that in the speech from the throne the government states that it has approved in principle all that was done at the conference of 1926. The speech reads:

Several constitutional questions, arising largely out of the resolutions of the Imperial conference of 1926, were fully discussed, and, in principle, approved.

Hon. members who were in this house after the conference of 1926 will recall that the present Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) and others on the opposite side denounced my colleague the then Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) and myself because we ventured to contend that the conference of 1926 had asserted a certain status for Canada and that as a result certain changes would have to be made to get rid of some anachronisms in existing statutes. They ridiculed and helittled the whole business; they said it was an outrageous boast that we should come back and contend that anything of a substantial nature had been accomplished. Now we have the present Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party saying, in a speech from the throne that will be of record for all time to come, that in principle his government has endorsed all that was done at the 1926 conference.

The fourth division, Mr. Speaker, refers to certain administrative actions of the government since the last session. The first is a reference to an order in council which was passed prohibiting the importation of certain goods from Russia, I imagine we will hear a good deal of discussion with regard to that matter during the course of the present session. I may refer to it a little later on in my remarks this afternoon, but if I do not do so at that time I will do so later on.

The next reference is to organization having been completed under the Pension Act. That is true, but in the speech from the throne my hon. friends have not told us that although the amendments to the Pension Act were drafted and supported by representatives of all political parties in this house, in the

appointments which have been made the government have appointed virtually only members of their own party.

Let me come to the next reference, which has to do with the situation in the west. The speech from the throne contains the following words:

My ministers have had under anxious consideration the means by which an orderly marketing of the wheat crop of western Canada may be assured, and have already taken such effective action towards that end as the circumstances appear to justify.

I hope that when the Prime Minister gets up to speak he will tell us w'hat the effective actions were, whether he means the instructions that were given in writing by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) to all the trade commissioners in different parts of the world to do what they could towards helping Canadian trade; whether it is the trade with Bolivia upon which we are to enter shortly; whether it is the credits that are to be given to China for the purchase of Canadian wheat. I hope the Prime Minister will tell us whether those are the effective measures. If not, perhaps he will tell us what they are, because I believe up to the present time the country has been looking and searching in vain for anything which indicates a measure that will be at all helpful to agriculture and western agriculture in particular. The other day I believe the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) did undertake on certain conditions to pay the transportation charges on cattle from one part of Canada to another, out of the public revenues derived (from taxation. I suppose that is all right so far as it goes, but if that is the extent of the effective legislation looking to wider markets I am afraid the farmers of Canada will be far from satisfied with the record of the government.

Now I come to the legislative program. In the speech from the throne my right hon. friend says:

The broad outline of the general scheme of national development undertaken by my government, including provision for old age pensions, aid to agriculture, technical education and highway construction, has already been made known.

That is true; heaven knows it was made known often enough, but what was not made known was what appears in the next paragraph, that these things will only be proceeded with, when?

Careful consideration has therefore been given to the progressive stages by which it will be carried out, and you will be asked to consider measures sanctioning such action as the current economic situation warrants. . . .

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

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March 16, 1931