March 16, 1931

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I say without a word of criticism for this reason, that in the campaign over and over again I said that the

money if necessity demanded it could be taken by governor general's warrant for that purpose pending the assembling of parliament immediately after the conference. What criticism could I have directed at the administration after having made that perfectly clear? But in my heart I knew very well that my right hon. friend was not thinking of the unemployed primarily in connection with that session. He was thinking of the special interests that came to his rescue towards the end of the campaign and helped to put him where he is at the present time. It was not until the very last days of the campaign that he uttered any expression which gave the country the slightest idea that he intended to put up the tariff against Britain. The campaign had then about run its course and this phase passed unnoticed by the public at large; it was not unnoticed by those who expected to profit by it. But he did make this representation in the very last days of the campaign, and I drew attention to it in the speech to which I have just referred. It was necessary to wait until almost the last night of the campaign to draw attention to this statement, because my right hon. friend had gone up and down the country appealing to the necessities of the people, making their needs the excuse for the promises and pledges that he then made, and it was not until the very last days of the campaign that he told the petople what in his own mind he was determined to do, namely, to raise the tariff at the first opportunity in a way that would serve to their great advantage certain special interests in this country. So he called the special session to force those measures through. Supposing we of the opposition at the special session, had said, "We do not intend to allow this arbitrary and high-handed method of procedure. We are going to stay here and see that every item in this tariff program is discussed as it should be and its bearings properly considered." Supposing we had taken that position-a position which many think the opposition ought to have taken-what wlould have been the result? My right hon. friend made it plain the first day of the session when he said, "I will not go to any Imperial conference unless I get every bit of this program through." But in Toronto only a few days before he had said that the question of the solution of unemployment and the wheat situation hinged largely on the Imperial conference. Well, if we had taken a step of that kind, and my right hon. friend had not gone to the Imperial conference, we would have been told to-day that wheat was not going from Canada into Great Britain on any im-

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

proved basis because we had prevented the leader of the government from being present at the Imperial conference. We let him go. The point I wish to bring out very clearly is this, that his whole attitude was one of coercing this parliament into passing those particular measures. Usually when large sums of money are bo be spent a supply bill is brought down and is discussed in committee of supply. No supply bill was brought down at the special session, but in orded to limit discussion, a special bill appropriating this $20,000,000 was introduced. Usually when the tariff is being changed the Minister of Finance brings down a budget and shows the bearing of the changes upon the revenues of the country and the taxes of the people. There was no budget brought down 'at the special session, but my right hon. friend brought down special measures, which he drove through in a certain time by his threat not to go to the Imperial conference until he had witnessed their enactment. Under that form of closure, by those coercive methods he put through his legislation.

And what was the nature of it? There were three bills, one relating to the relief of unemployment, one to amend the Customs Act, and another to amend the customs tariff. The most extraordinary thing of all is that on the eve of going to an Imperial conference my right hon. friend should have put up fhe tariff against Britain herself. I wish he would give us his explanation of that particular action when he gets up to speak. Let me come back to what I said at the outset. We were agreed that the selling of Canadian wheat in the British market was the most important of all objectives, as it is still the most important. How can he possibly reconcile with that objective his action at the special session in putting up the duties against Britain, wiping out the preferences that were granted under the Dunning budget? Not only that, but raising the duties to a point that in many cases prevented any inflow of goods from Great Britain into this country. I hope my right hon. friend will give some explanation of his action in that regard. I should not like to think it was simply because he had made promises to certain interests that if he were returned that was what he would do. We all know that there are certain selfish interests in this country that would like to shut out all competition from Great Britain. We know that they are afraaid, from the point of view of their monopoly, of British competition even more than of competition from the United States. I hope it was not from motives of that kind that my right hon. friend made the changes he did make. And

I hope that it was not from a belief in his power to coerce the British government. Did he think when he raised the tariff against Britain that he was going to find it possible to coerce the government of the United Kingdom by such a step? Was that what he had in mind? If he thought anything of the kind he should have been fair to this parliament and told us.

I want to say to my right hon. friend that he did not treat parliament fairly with respect to the Imperial conference. I asked him politely at the beginning of the special session to give us a statement of what he intended to do at the Imperial conference, to make known his policies. He was also asked by the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland) to advise parliament. He spoke on the Imperial conference two or three times, but he never told this house what he had in mind. I say that was not fair to parliament and it was not fair to the country. I think we all assumed that my right hon. friend was busy and that he had little time to think of these matters, and naturally we did not- press him. But if he had in mind going to Britain to coerce that country; if he had in mind going to Britain to put up bo the British government a proposal which he knew could not be accepted by any government in that country he should have told us.

I say he should have made known to parliament what his intentions were, and here again may I say I think it is worth considering whether it is consonant with procedure under British parliamentary institutions for any individual or for that matter any cabinet to promote policies with respect to great imperial matters, policies that affect the whole future and development of the British empire and to launch those policies publicly before the world without any discussion in the first instance either in parliament or throughout the country. After all, public opinion is a factor in government quite as much as anything else, and it is part of the system of government under British institutions that there should be the fullest discussion of policies on the platform, in parliament and certainly also in the cabinet. I do not know what has transpired in the cabinet, but I have very grave doubts in my mind as to whether my right hon. friend ever told his cabinet what he intended to do when he got to London. If he did so, I am amazed to see certain hon. gentlemen sitting beside him to-day. I believe, with respect to one or two of them at least that if they had known in advance that this was the approach that was to be made to Britain, they would have

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The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

been manly enough to say, "I will resign before I will remain in this cabinet and be a party to that procedure." If that is not the case, then they were all parties to it as indeed, they are under our theory of the collective responsibility of the cabinet. It is my belief that the policies of my right hon. friend were not revealed to his own government. Certainly they were not revealed to this parliament; certainly they were not disclosed to the country, and in all those things I think he has offended against the best traditions of parliamentary procedure and government.

But the serious part is this, and I come back again to the question of the selling of Canadian wheat in Britain. We do not need to go to the conference in London to find out why the Prime Minister failed; we do not need to discuss what took place in London to see why there has been no enlargement of the market for Canadian wheat in Britain as a consequence of what took place at the conference. The Prime Minister was doomed to failure before he left this country, if he had in mind the particular policies which he subsequently proposed; he was doomed to failure when in this parliament, on the eve of going to England, he forced through those increases in the tariff which changed the whole feeling and view of the British public mind in relation to this country. I repeat that I am at a loss to understand his action or the motive behind it. I have asked myself this question: Can it be that promises were made which he had not expected would have to be redeemed and that, being a man of his word, he felt bound regardless of consequences to see they were carried out? I have asked myself this question : Is it because he believes in coercion and because he thinks he will be strong enough to carry that policy even against the government of Great Britain? I have come back to this thought, and perhaps he will tell me if I am wrong. I believe that what he had in mind was a desire to further his conception of a Canadian economic unit, as he calls it; to make out of this country a self-sufficing economic unit, non-trading, beyond its borders, a country that will work exclusively within itself and confine its trade to itself; that in his heart of hearts he believes that this is going to be in the interests of Canada, though how he can believe it surpasses human comprehension. How this country, made into an isolated economic unit, is to prosper and develop along with the other nations of the world, is something indeed very difficult to understand, but the more I follow

his actions here and at the Imperial conference the more I come to believe that this has been the actuating motive, that the proposals he made were made with a view to their being rejected so that it would be a little easier for him to put up the tariff again against Great Britain, if need be, in order to avoid trade from that source and so further to secure monopoly to those special interests already protected behind the highest of tariff walls. If that is not the case, I hope my right hon. friend will so inform the house when he gets up to speak.

I will give to the house one or two references which bear out what I have just said. The change in front with respect to the British preference is remarkable in view of what my hon. friend said during the last session when the Dunning budget was introduced. At that time the preferences were there; they were known to my right hon. friend; we were discussing the Imperial conference, and at that time in this House of Commons, standing where I am standing at this moment, my right hon. friend told this parliament that as an expression of affection and goodwill towards the mother country he approved of these preferences. What transpired between that moment and the time when my right hon. friend went to England to rid him entirely of that feeling of affection and goodwill towards the mother country? Perhaps he will answer that question. Let me read his words, which will be found in Hansard of May 6, 1930, at page 1833. They are as follows:

In order that there may be no misunderstanding as to our position with respect to British preference, I wish to say the following: As an earnest of our affection and good-will, as an expression of the hope we all have that some day a closer economic alliance of empire states may find being, I commend the measures for British preference which the minister proposes.

That speech was made here; it was made to do duty for the Conservative party throughout the campaign. When my hon. friends were speaking in parts of the country where there were those who were known to be favourable to the British preference the words of the present Prime Minister were read as favouring the preference as an expression of goodwill and affection towards the mother country.

I ask my right hon. friend, when he gets up to speak, to tell this house and the country what transpired during the course of that campaign which caused him to alter his whole view in that particular and, at a special session of parliament, to wipe out these very preferences which he said should stand as an earnest of affection and good-will in connection with our relations *with the mother country.

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

I need not remind hon. members of what I said during the course of the Short session as to what would be the effect of my hon. friend's action at the Imperial conference. Inasmuch however as some of his remarks and the comments of others have been capable of being taken as meaning that it was due to some action or lack of action of the present British government, the Labour government which is at present in office, that my right hon. friend was unable to get anything done at the Imperial conference, I feel I ought to read to the house exactly what I said to him before he left for England as to the fate of any course such as the one he in fact adopted. The Prime Minister I repeat was doomed to failure as far as the Imperial conference was concerned, before he left Canada at all, having in mind his proposals and the methods which he intended to adopt. The quotation which I am about to give will be found in revised Hansard for September 9, at page 37, and in the unrevised Hansard at pages 41 and 42, where I am reported as having spoken as follows:

My hon. friend seems to have very little faith in voluntary agreements. Let me say to him that when he goes to London I think he will find that the only things he will be able to accomplish or that any government will be able to accomplish in the matter of trade as between the different countries of the British Empire will be by voluntary agreement, bycooperation. He will find it very difficult to get very far along on any other path.

Does my hon. friend believe he has a mandate from the Canadian people to-day to blast his way into the British market? Is that the mandate he has? What is the position? Is he, in the measures he is about to bring down, to increase the tariff against Britain as well as against other countries? That was the statement he made, that he was going to put up the tariff against Britain as well as against other countries. Is that the step he proposes to take in advance of proceeding to an Imperial economic conference? Does he believe he is going to strengthen his hand in that fashion?

After making his speech about blasting his way into the markets of the world, my hon. friend when taken to task said that after all it was not blasting he meant so much as it was blazing, that it was not the warrior attitude so much as the crusader attitude which he was adopting, that all he was claiming was to be first in the long line of great men who have helped to blaze the path of Canada and of the empire. Then when he went on to explain what he meant by "blazing," he came to the term "bargaining," and said that soma bargaining process was the only way he was going to trade, whether with other parts of the world or with other parts of the British Empire.

What does that mean? According to his own statements it means putting up the tariff in this country, to begin with; that is to be the first part of it. And then on the other hand, so far as the other countries of tire British Empire are concerned, it means that

they are to be obliged to change their fiscal policies in order to make them accord with_ the fiscal policies of this country. My hon. friend knows very well that the British Empire is founded on self-government, and that as far as self-government is concerned, it means autonomy in everything and in nothing more than in the matter of fiscal policy. If he is proceeding to England with any idea of trying to influence the parties in Great Britain in the matter of their fiscal policy, his time would be very much better spent at home. If he expects to make a bargain counter out of the council table at Downing street, he will not get very far in serving the interest either of Canada or of the British Empire. I say he should tell us very plainly what his particular policies are going to be, and his attitude with respect to the questions which may come up at the Imperial conference.

When that statement was made to my hon. friend, when, as leader of the opposition speaking to the leader of the government, I indicated that we at least believed that if he were going to make a demand which involved a change of fiscal policy in Britain, if he were going to try coercive methods, he would get nowhere, I say that if those were the things he intended to do, he should have taken parliament into his confidence and given the house and his own followers an opportunity to express their views on a procedure of that kind.

On September 17 I again referred to the futility of hoping to extend trade within the empire by tactics such as the raising of the tariff against Britain on the eve of the conference, or of extending the market for Canadian wheat by any process of bargaining or "blasting." I think what was prophesied at the time has turned out to be true, pretty much to the letter. These were the remarks I made to my right hon. friend; they will be found in the unrevised Hansard for September 17, 1930, at page 340, and in the revised Hansard at page 315:

I have only one further word, and that is to repeat with emphasis What I said a moment ago about this legislation being introduced on the eve of the Imperial conference. The Prime Minister well knows that there is no problem quite so serious for Canada at the present time as that of the marketing of our western gram and of surplus farm products generally. He knows that the purchasing power of the middle west, in the last analysis, will determine the extent to which other branches of industry will thrive, and that this depends in very large part on the degree to which we can secure a market overseas for the grain of western Canacla. He knows that many of the markets which we formerly had are closed or are being closed against us to-day, for instance, the markets of France, of Germany and of Italy. He knows also that protection is no cure for unemployment. He has only to look across the border in the United States, the most highly protected country in the world and see how extensive unemployment is there, to know that protection

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The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

is no cure for unemployment. One would have felt my hon. friend, at least on the eve of a great economic conference which is to consider matters of trade within the empire, would have thought it desirable on the part of his government, and on the part of this parliament as representing the people of Canada, to have maintained toward Great Britain an attitude of a character calculated to meet a hearty response from the people of the British Isles tc such demands as he might reasonably make for the improvement in trade between the two countries. How can he expect to get from the British government or the British people any response in the way of opportunities for increasing our markets in Great Britain when his last step before he leaves Canada is to raise the duties against British goods coming into this country, and his first word when he reaches the British Isles is to announce the extent of the increases which he has made? This is a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of my hon. friend. It may be he has in mind blasting or blazing or bargaining as a result of the steps he has taken, but I would like to repeat to ham what I said before that I think he will find those particular methods are of very little avail as within the British Empire itself, and that only through voluntary cooperation and an attitude of friendship and good-will are we likely to achieve much in the way of permanent development of interimperial trade.

May I say this. We heard in a previous election a good deal with respect to "the parting of the ways." We heard something of it in the last election. It was my hope that, as a result of the attitude which the government previously in office took, we would so far as the different parts of the British Empire are concerned discover ourselves at the meeting of the ways, in the matter of interimperial trade, when the Imperial conference is held in London, and that Canada's example would be an example which would be followed by all other parts of the British Empire. But I am afraid that the stand which my hon. friend has taken to-day has put us, so 'far as inter-imperial trade is concerned, not at the meeting of the ways, but I greatly regret to say very much at the parting of the ways so far as the further development of trade within the empire is concerned.

I have covered the situation up to the time when my right hon. friend left for the Imperial conference. I hope I have made clear the line of difference between us-the method which my right hon. friend proposes to take and has taken, the method of blasting, of economic coercion and the method which we would have taken, one of conciliatory approach; an endeavour to create an atmosphere of friendliness with a view to discovering common ground. I believe I have made it clear that my right hon. friend was not fair with the country when he spoke of having a special session for the purpose of relieving unemployment and, on the plea of relieving the necessities of the poor, came to this parliament and enacted legislation which makes wider than ever the gulf between the rich and the poor; the IMr. Mackenzie King.]

gulf between those who have plenty and those who lack many of the necessities of life. I hope I have made it clear that he was equally unfair to this parliament, holding as he did views of the character here described not to have told us of his intentions; also, that by talking of blasting a way into the markets of Britain and by contemplating proposals which could not be entertained, he was taking, before leaving for England, and before the conference was under way, an attitude which he must have known was bound to change the feeling in Britain towards Canada. I believe I have made it clear that before he left Canada at all he had made impossible any success for himself or his party, or for our country, at the Imperial conference.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

After Recess

The house resumed at eight o'clock.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Speaker,

before I refer to the Imperial conference and to the attitude taken by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister at the conference, may I say to him what I have heard him say at different times speaking from the position I now occupy, as leader of the opposition, that nothing could be more embarrassing than the duty which is sometimes placed upon the one who holds this office of saying things which, while unpleasant, must, in the public interest be stated. To me personally it would be much more satisfactory and agreeable to be able to compliment my right hon. friend on the part he had played at the Imperial conference. Indeed when he left I hope I manifested the desire I sought to evince at the time, namely that he might succeed, and I hope that by withholding any comments while he was at the Imperial conference I had made it clear that I wished in no way to embarrass him. Indeed it was my desire to save him from all embarrassment in the matter of attaining what was, according to his own statement, the great and main object that of maintaining and enlarging the market for Canadian wheat in Great Britain.

The Prime Minister must be judged with respect to his action at the Imperial conference by his attitude of approach, by his utterances and by his policies. For a short time this evening I intend to review these three features of his presentation of Canada's case at the Imperial conference. We will judge the outcome of his mission by its results. It is fair to ask: are conditions better

____ Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

to-day in this country than they were when my right hon. friend went to the conference and are they better as a result of his having participated in it? Are the relations between the government of Canada and the government of Great Britain better to-day than they were in the past? These are fair questions and we are entitled to judge of the results ot his visit to London by the answers to be given to them.

The house is well aware that there is a well-known method of procedure followed at all Imperial conferences. This was not the first Imperial conference, nor was it the first Imperial economic conference. If I am not mistaken there have been altogether some twelve or fourteen different conferences during the last thirty or forty years. In that period of time public men belonging to different political parties have met and discussed the affairs which they went into conference for the purpose of considering. In that period of time there have grown up certain methods of procedure, certain practices and certain precedents, all of which have a bearing upon the work of Imperial conferences. These practices and precedents are well known, and the business of conferences is so arranged as to meet the difficult and perplexing situations that arise, particularly inasmuch as the business of conferences has to be conducted in relation to the possible opinion which foreign countries may get of the empire from the discussions which take place in the attempted solution of the different problems. In order to facilitate the work of the conference considerable preparation is made in advance. The different governments to be represented make known to each other what subjects they wish to have taken up; and the order in which the subjects are to be taken up is set forth in an agenda. The conference opens in a manner intended to help to create a favourable atmosphere for discussion. The first meetings are intended for informal discussion and for the making of such statements as can be given immediately to the public expressive o! the attitude towards each other of the different governments represented at the conference. It is important to keep in mind that conferences are exactly what they are termed to be-they are conferences. They are neither cabinets laying down Imperial policies, nor are they parliaments in which members meet to discuss in public matters of mutual concern. Unless it were understood there was to be a certain method of approach and a certain amount of privacy thrown around 22110-3

the proceedings at the outset, it would be impossible to get governments to go into conference with each other. If my right hon. friend says that all that is to be discussed at a conference ought to be proclaimed from the rooftops right from the outset, that all should be made known, I would say that if that is to be the known procedure, governments will refuse to go into conferences with each other. They must be secured to a certain extent, at least until all positions are known, against having their positions pub-lif'Iy criticized. Let me make myself plain by snv ing that I am the last one who would s.vmpathize with any proposal that whatever is done must be done wholly in camera, or that policies should be made is secret. A conference has no power to lay down a policy. The different representatives at a conference may present to one another their own points ol view; they may present views which in their opinion will be of the greatest service, but they are expected to do so in a manner which will not embarrass the governments to which they are speaking or which are there represented.

It has always been understood at Imperial conferences that any member of the conference is free to state to his own parliament when he returns the position that he took and the objections, if any, which were offered to his attitude and proposals. He is perfectly free to make to his own parliament whatever statement he pleases, so that every phase of the situation may be well known; but he i>. not expected to embarrass all proceedings by talking publicly at the very outset an attitude which makes ail conference impossible.

So obvious are these things that it is extraordinary that one has to mention them. In an Imperial conference, just as in all conferences between governments, each government must of necessity respect what it knows to be the known policies and domestic affairs ol another government. No government has any right in a conference to criticize the domestic affairs of another, to take up matters of domestic policy, or to find fault with the policies of the governments with which it is conferring. It may seek to bring about a change but not to force a change. When in conference governments have to respect the position of the other, they have to respect the point of view of the other. If a Conservative government is in office in Great Britain and a Liberal government goes there to represent Canada, as was the case in 1923 and 1926, it would be highly improper for the

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

head of the Liberal administration to find fault at the outset with the Conservative government for having certain Conservative policies with respect to taxation, tariffs, and the like. It would have 'been extremely resented by this parliament if, when my colleague the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) and I were at the last conference. we had at the outset stated that we were not in sympathy with the policies of Mr. Baldwin and his government and that unless those policies were changed there was possible a dismemberment of the empire or something of the kind. I say it does not matter what the particular political complexion of the government of the day is, that government has a right to have its policies respected.

Moreover, the government in office represents the people of the country. It may in some instances be unfortunate that such is so- I think it is very unfortunate that such is the case as respects hon. gentlemen opposite -but they do represent the -country. When my right hon. friend went to England to speak at the conference he expected that he would be regarded as speaking in the name of the country. Unfortunately, his party feeling got a little the better of him. He told the conference at the outset that he represented the Conservative party, rather an extraordinary statement to make to any conference of governments; but if we set that aside, the point that will be clear and self-evident is this, that each government must respect the governments of the day represented at the conference and have respect for their policies. The position, so far as the recent Imperial conference is concerned, was the more critical in that Great Britain was the hostess, so to speak, on this occasion. She had invited to the conference the governments of the different dominions and she was in a position where the whole procedure had to be shaped accordingly. In the same Canada will be the hostess at the conference that is to take place later in the year when the procedure no doubt will be arranged not to have Canada the first to speak and to lay down her proposals but to hear the others first. Great Britain's position was, as I say, that of the hostess of the conference and matters were so arranged as to give to the Prime Minister of Ganda, as representing the oldest dominion, the first right to speak. Under those circumstances the Prime Minister owed it especially to the country he was representing to proceed in the proper way, in a courteous way, in a way that would have regard to the precedents that had

been laid down and for the procedure that had been adopted at previous conferences. He was at fault many times, but one of the worst mistakes he made was in ignoring altogether the precedents and procedure of preceding conferences. In his rough-and-ready fashion he simply swept to one side the whole accepted method of procedure, went into the conference and laid down the law to everyone present before anyone else had had a chance to be heard. He made no reference to the governments which he was addressing, no reference to the British government, no reference to the governments of the other dominions, no reference to the Prime Minister or the other prime ministers present. The first and only reference was to himself as the Prime Minister of Canada and the policies which he stood for and was going to stand for at the conference.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, -hear.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

Childish.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is not childish. They are the exact words used by the Prime Minister. I intend to quote them in a moment.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

The right hon. member will be sorry for this.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Speaker, I ask you to note the remarks of my hon. friend who says I will be sorry for this. He is following his usual practice of making threats across the floor of the house. Everyone knows the arrogant tongue that my hon.

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friend has. He may until doomsday tell me that I will be sorry, but I am going to stand here and say what I believe the people of Canada desire to have said at this time. Let me quote the words of the Prime Minister, his pleasing words of introduction. This is taken from the text and if in any particular I err, I hope my right hon. friend will correct me.

Before offering to this conference the plan which, once effective, will in my opinion make for greater prosperity in all parts of the empire, I shall briefly state the fiscal policy of the Canadian administration, of which I am the head.

There are the words "I am." He then proceeds in the name, not of Canada, or of the people of Canada, or even of the government of Canada, but of the Conservative party of Canada:

The Conservative party-

This is in England at the conference.

-9f Canada believes in, and employe the principle of protection of the home producer ol agricultural and fabricated products from harmful interference by foreign competitors.

Note these words:

Ihis policy of the Conservative party has come, to be known as the policy of "Canada first. In approaching the economic problems of our empire, I stand four-square behind that policy.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I shall ask the house to watch the applause of my hon. friends opposite when for sake of illustration a little later on I use similar words and language coming supposedly from the lips of the British Prime Minister, The quotation continues:

The primary concern of Canada to-day is profitably to sell its wheat. We believe that we shall be reaching towards a solution of that problem if we can establish a better market in Great Britain. This market we want, and for it we are willing to pay by giving in tile Canadian market a preference for British goods. . . .

And so, I propose that we of the British Empire, in our joint and several interests, do subscribe to the principle of an empire preference, and that we take, without delay, the steps necessary to put it into effective operation.

Note those words, "the principle of an empire preference."

First, we must approve or reject the principle. I put the question definitely to you, and definitely it should be answered. There is here no room for compromise, and there is no possibility of avoiding the issue. This is a time for plain speaking, and I speak plainly when I say the day is now at hand when the peoples of the empire must decide, once and for all, whether our welfare lies in closer

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economic union, or whether it does not. Delay is hazardous; further discussion of the principle is surely unnecessary. The time for action has come.

Projects other than the one I propose have been placed before you. They have been carefully canvassed by our delegation, and, while we would avoid any thing which might savour of premature condemnation, we are constrained to state that none of them can be accepted by Canada as alternatives at all likely to achieve the purpose we have in mind.

Until this principle is accepted it would be profitless to discuss the application of it in any great detail. . . .

Then follows 'the so-called "offer" to "the mother country and to all other parts of the empire"-"based upon a 10 per .cent increase in prevailing general tariffs or upon tariffs yet to be created," and the Prime Minister's conception of the manner in which the principle may be employed, and the method of its application. Emphasis is laid upon the fact that "the basis of the proposal is the adequate protection to industries now existent, or yet to be established," and this is further emphasized by the statement;

It follows, therefore, that this proposed preference should not be considered as a step towards empire free trade. In our opinion empire free trade is neither desirable nor possible, for it would defeat the very purpose we are striving to achieve.

Of the "offer" I shall speak in a moment. Then follows:

But whatever modifications may be found necessary, these will not adversely affect- nay, they cannot but make more beneficial and lasting-the broad principle of empire protection. . . .

Consistent with the fullest inquiry into the application of the principle of an empire preference, our deliberations must be governedby the time factor. If this change in our

economic relationship is to be made, it must be made without undue delay. . . .

Here the suggestion is made to the conference, "if it approve the principle, to constitute such committees as may, with thegreatest expedition and thoroughness, consider the various questions incident to its operation." The Prime Minister adds:

I am satisfied that whatever modifications in the general plan Canada may have to suggest will be ready for submission within a period of six months. I assume that you are all capable of a like measure of expedition.

Then follows an invitation to the conference to meet at Ottawa early this year, and the following as a final word of warning:

1 have said that the time is now at hand when the doctrine of closer empire economic association must be embraced, if we would not have it slip forever beyond our powers of recall. Once again it were vain to suppose that lesser existing empire agreements will long outlive it, and, that being so, the day will come when we must fight in the markets of

the empire the countries of the world shorn of that advantage which it should be in our individual interest to secure and maintain.

To me that is unthinkable, and I appeal to the national representatives here assembled in conference to forget, each one, those prejudices which forbid the realization of that empirebuilding plan by which we all may advance to greater prosperity.

I await your decision with confidence.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what possibly could be 'the result of approaching the British government in tha/t manner? There is no reference whatever to any policy of that government; there is no reference to their views and no reference to the views of the other dominions. It refers only to the Dominion of Canada and to the Conservative party of this country. With that policy the entire conference must be content. The conference was told it could not proceed with its deliberations until it had approved of the principle set out by my night hon. friend.

What reception would Mr. Ramsay MacDonald have received from my right hon. friend if the conference had been held in Ottawa instead of in England as it was originally hoped it might be, and if Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when first called upon to address the conference had proceeded in the manner adopted by my right hon. friend? Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has as much right to his views as has my right hon. friend as to what will bring about empire unity and prosperity. Let us suppose Mr. MacDonald had said that the government in office in Great Britain, the Labour government, believed in the policy of free trade, and that he thought the British Empire had become great by virtue of the policy of free trade which has existed for a hundred years in the British Isles; that the policy of free trade had led to an extension of the empire. Supposing Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had gone on to say: "That is the policy of the Labour party in England; I stand four square 'behind that policy and I am not prepared to consider anything until this conference endorses the principle of free trade, the principle our government has adopted. This is the time for action; this is not the time for words. Time is slipping from us. There will be no use discussing the situation unless you will agree to the policy I have laid before you." What kind of reception would my right hon. friend have given Mr. Ramsay MacDonald? Supposing Mr. MacDonald had then gone on to present certain proposals to the government of which my right hon. friend is the head; supposing he had suggested proposals in accordance with his views to reduce or abolish tariffs. Supposing Mr. MacDonald had said: "We want to sell

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

our goods to Canada. W.e are prepared to pay the price for it. We are prepared to give you a chance to trade in the British market but we tell you that before you consider the matter we want you to subscribe to the principle of free trade. We want you to agree to reduce your tariff or to abolish it altogether. Unless you will do so immediately there is no use of our discussing the matter any further."

That was the attitude taken by my right hon. friend. I do not hear very much applause from the other side of the house.

What kind of reception would Mr. MacDonald have received in Canada if he had made statements such as those which were made by the Prime Minister of Canada in Great Britain? I ask my hon. friends what kind of reception would representatives from Australia, New Zealand or South Africa have received in this dominion if they had spoken in the manner adopted by my right hon. friend? I wonder what would have happened to the object of their respective missions? In case I have done the Prime Minister the slightest injustice may I read as if it had come from the lips of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald a statement as nearly identical as it can be made with the statement which was made by my right hon. friend to the British government. I have substituted of course the policy of free trade which has been adopted by the MacDonald government for the policy of high protection adopted by the government of my right hon. friend. Let us suppose for the moment that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald is speaking. We will have to assume the fact because nothing could be more remote than the possibility of any other person on earth but my right hon. friend using such language. Let us use as if used by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald words as nearly as possible identical. He would then have said:

Before offering to this conference the plan which, once effective, will in my opinion make for greater prosperity in all parts of the empire, I shall briefly state the fiscal policy of the administration of Great Britain, of which I am the head.

The Labour party of Great Britain believes in, and employs, the principle of free trade as of most advantage to the home producer of agricultural and fabricated products in world competition.

This policy of the Labour party has come to be known as the policy of "Great Britain First." In approaching the economic problems of our Empire, I stand four square behind that policy. . . .

Where is the applause from my hon. friends opposite? This is the kind of utterance of the Prime Minister which they applauded a few minutes ago. Why do they not now applaud?

The primary concern of Great Britain to-day is profitably to sell her manufactures. We believe that we shall be reaching towards a solution of that problem if we can establish a better market in Canada. This market we want, and for it we are willing to pay by giving in the British market a preference for Canadian goods. . . .

And so, I propose that we of the British Empire, in our joint and several interests, do subscribe to the principle of empire free trade, and that we take, without delay, the steps necessary to put it into effective operation.

First we must approve or reject the principle. 1 put the question definitely to you, and definitely it should be answered. There is here no room for compromise, and there is no possibility of avoiding the issue. This is a time for plain speaking, and I speak plainly when I say the day is now at hand when the peoples of the empire must decide, once and for all. whether our welfare lies in closer economic union, thus secured, or whether it does not. Delay is hazardous; further discussion of the principle is surely unnecessary. The time for action has come.

No wonder the Prime Minister himself will not applaud even his own sentiments 1

Projects other than the one I propose have been placed before you. They have been carefully canvassed by our delegation, and, while we would avoid anything which might savour of premature condemnation, rve are constrained to state that none of them can be accepted by Great Britain as an alternative at all likely to achieve the purpose we have in mind.

Until this principle is accepted it would be profitless to discuss the application of it in any great detail.

Then would follow the so-called "offer" to "Canada and to all the other parts of empire" -"based upon a 10 per cent reduction in prevailing general tariffs or upon tariffs yet to be created," and the Prime Minister of Britain's conception of the manner in which the principle may be employed, and the method of its application. Emphasis would be laid on the fact that he proposed free trade, and that it followed that what was proposed could not be considered as a step towards empire protection, that in the opinion oi Great Britain empire protection was neither desirable nor possible, for it would defeat the very purpose they were trying to achieve. Mr. MacDonald would then have proceeded:

But whatever modifications may be found necessary these will not adversely affect-nay, they cannot but make more beneficial and lasting-the broad principle of empire free trade. . . .

Consistent with the fullest inquiry into the application of the principle of empire free trade, our deliberations must be governed by the time factor. If this change in our economic relationship is to be made it must be made without undue delay.

Here the suggestion would be made, "ii we approve the principle," to constitute such committees as may, with the greatest ex-

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pedition and thoroughness, consider the various questions incident to its operation. The Prime Minister of Britain would then have added:

I am satisfied that whatever modifications in the general plan Britain may have to suggest will be ready for submission within a period of six months. I assume that you are all capable of a like measure of expedition.

There would follow an invitation to the conference to meet at London early this year, and the following as a final word of warning:

I have said that the time is now at hand when the doctrine of closer empire economic association, based on free trade within the empire, must, be embraced, if we would not have it slip forever beyond our powers of recall. Once gone it were vain to suppose that lesser existing empire agreements will long outlive it, and, that being so, the day will come when we must fight in the markets of the empire the countries of the world shorn of that advantage which it should be in our individual interest to secure and maintain.

To me that is unthinkable, and I appeal to the national representatives here assembled in conference to forget, each one, those prejudices which forbid the realization of that empirebuilding plan by which we all may advance to greater prosperity.

I await your decision with confidence. . . .

I ask, Mr. Speaker-and I take the silence of hon. gentlemen opposite to be more eloquent than all their words and all their applause-I ask you, Sir, what would have happened had Mr. Ramsay MacDonald come to this country and addressed the right hon. Prime Minister and his government in that fashion? I venture to say there would have been an explosion the like of which we have not experienced in our time. My right hon. friend would never have stood for anything of the kind, and the people of this country would have backed him up in his resentment. But when we consider that this was done for the alleged reason of securing the market in Great Britain for Canadian wheat, it becomes impossible to conceive of how my right hon. friend thought he was going to succeed in that way. Supposing I had gone to the conference and had made a statement of that kind?

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I do not wonder at my hon. friends opposite saying, "Oh, oh." If I had spoken as the right hon. Prime Minister spoke at that conference, every hon. gentleman opposite would have been down at the seaside to prevent me from landing on the shores of Canada. We certainly would have had a full chorus.

In all seriousness I ask the house if human nature is any different in Great Britain from what it is here; whether the people of Great Britain are any less sensitive to the manner in

which they are approached than are the people of Canada. They have shown very fine restraint in the old land in the way in which they have accepted this attitude on the part of my right hon. friend-a restraint, I am obliged to say, very different from what he would have exercised had anything similar taken place here. But we must not be deceived by the measure of restraint which has been exercised by the people of Great Britain, That has been done out of courtesy, out of a just regard for the relation of the different parts of the empire, one to the other and in an endeavour to help preserve their right relation. It has not been done out of any acquiescence in the particular kind of thing which the Prime Minister has proposed, or in the way in which he went about it.

Again I come back to what I said this afternoon: I cannot attribute my right hon. friend's action as related at all to the sale of the wheat of Canada in Great Britain. The only explanation that satisfies me, having knowledge to some extent of the working of my right hon. friend's mind, is that he wanted this offer refused for reasons best known to himself. Whether it was he thought he was thereby going to help along the idea of an empire economic unit I do not know. Bu't we all know that there is a strong suspicion that my right hon. friend does not find the Labour government of Britain congenial, that he would much rather see the Conservative party in office there; and there are some who have had in mind that my right hon. friend's action was due to the fact that he was becoming, secretly or openly, as you dare to put it, an ally of the political party in Great Britain that holds views somewhat similar to his own, that he was anxious to create a prejudice against the Labour government and put .them in a position where they would appear to have refused the offer of Canada, to have been unwilling to accept such a simple principle as that of preference and the like. That opinion has become very general. Personally I do not entertain it.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

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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 does not.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That is the proposal, whether he admits it or not.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, no.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes it is; that is the proposal. I shall be glad to have my right hon. friend make a statement when the time comes, but I want to get the position of the matter correctly stated. I wish to repeat, because I think it is all important that it should be understood, that the proposal which my right hon. friend made with regard to the preference, so far as Canada was concerned, was not for a preference by the reducing of duties as they are at the present time, but that it was a preference to be created by the addition in relation to other countries of duties to the duties that already exist. It was that feature of it that made the principle so objectionable to the British government. More than that, my right hon friend uses the term "empire preference," and by "empire preference" he means a certain kind of two sided or reciprocal preference. He has stated over and over again- all his discussions are along these lines-that a preference of the kind to which I have just referred, the reducing mf the tariff in any country, is a one-sided preference. He says that is no kind of preference-failing to ap-precite that the purpose of a preference is to help to encourage trade, that all exchange is valuable to both sides, that consumers may benefit on one side and producers on the other, or vice versa, that trade begets trade,

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and that anything that helps trade in one direction helps it in another. My right hon. friend will not admit that the reduction of duties to afford a preference is in any way a thing of advantage. He says it must be what he calls mutual, failing to realize -that there would be no trade at all, whether there were preference or no preference unless the benefit were mutual. It takes two to -trade. He is not satisfied even with a preference on both sides, a mutual preference professedly such. And here again I will ask him to correct me if I am wrong. The preference has to be a preference created over and above existing tariffs on both sides. Take for example Lord Beaverbrook's crusade in Britain at the present time. What is it? It is a crusade based on the idea of tariffs raised for the purpose of giving a preference by doing away with the tariff, or lowering it, as within the empire itself. My right hon. friend ex-pressedly said, "That is not a preference at all within my meaning of the word. That is impossible. So far as my offer is concerned, it defeats the very end I have in view, because my offer is not to encourage free trade or greater freedom of trade within the empire; it is -the very opposite; it is to make a self-contained unit of the Dominion."

I think it is very important that this should be clearly understood, because it must affect the whole discussion and our views in -regard to the question; and -I venture to say that there are many hon. gentlemen on both sides of the house who have never clearly seen the position -taken by my right hon. friend in this respect.

In -order to -make -ilt perfectly clear that such was -the view the British government took of the matter, let me read what was said by Lord Passfield in the House of Lords in stating the position of the British government. And in passing may I remark that it is very Little wonder that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, when addressing his own parliament, felt obliged to say, in reference to the proposed offer, "tax wheat-* we cannot d-o it." That was the terse reply which the Prime Minister of Great Britain gave to his house. Tax wheat? Put up a tariff wall first of all? That was the condition. To get the reciprocal nature of it, the empire aspect of the preference as my right hon. friend desired it, Britain had to put on a tariff againdt food and raw materials in the first instance. Mr. MacDonald saw that; they all saw it. He said, "Bow can we do it? Tax wheat? We cannot do it." That was his answer, and anyone who knows the position of Britain must know that that was

the answer that would be made by any prime minister of Great Britain to any such proposal. Lord Passfield spoke in the House of Lords on December 2. Lord Passfield, it will be remembered, was for a time Secretary of State for the Dominions and is now Secretary of State for the colonies. He was present at all the meetings of the conference-

Let me give what Lord Passfield said in the House of Lords on December 2. Lord Pass-field, it will be remembered, was for a time Secretary of State for the Dominions and is now Secretary of State for the colonies. He was present at all the meetings of the conference-

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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.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Well, some of them. He was present long enough to understand the offers and the nature of them, and he has given an admirable summing up of the whole subject. The record of the House of Lords of December 2, records Lord Pass-field as saying:

The main proposal, which is summed up in the proposal that Mr. Bennett made, at what is called the second plenary session, was the principle of preference, which he then and there asked the conference, including the United Kingdom representatives, to subscribe to -in principle. It has always been treated as if it was a question of preference, but we quickly found it was not a question of preference as ordinarily understood. It was a question, not of this country or the dominions allowing a preference off customs duties which were in existence, or put on for their own sake, or to meet the needs of the government, but we were asked to subscribe to putting a duty on foodstuffs coming into this country, and especially wheat coming into this country, not because a customs duty was required, or there was any reason for a customs duty in this country, but deliberately in order that we might allow a substantial preference off that duty to empire wheat. . . . That was a proposition to which, mind you. His Majesty's government were invited to subscribe before it was examined in its details. . . .

The Ottawa conference was a proposal of Mr. Bennett himself made at the very outset, and accepted at the very outset for the obvious reason that there was not adequate time to go into this question now. Mr. Bennett's statement, which appears in to-day's newspapers (December 2nd)

That was the broadside he issued over the "humbug" incident.

-has been quoted, that during the whole period of the conference neither the principle of tariff preferences, nor his plans to make them operative, was seriously discussed

Nothing v'as referred to any committee during that Imperial conference except by the unanimous consent of the delegations. And if what Mr. Bennett called the principle of preferences. including a duty on foodstuffs, especially wheat, was not referred to the economic

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

committee, I will go so far as to say that it was not at the dictation of His Majesty's government that it was not so referred; it was because it was impossible to get the unanimous assent of the delegations to its being bo referred. ... In the result Mr. Bennett is able to say that they were not discussed, and,

I think, seriously discussed, in the meetings of the heads of delegations. . . . Your lordships will find in the press reports day by day a good deal of evidence that it was discussed at the meetings of heads of delegations. And I myself was present day after day when these things were discussed. But it is quite true they were only discussed as a sort of second reading discussion because, as Mr. Bennett has said in his speech at the second plenary meeting, he wanted the conference to subscribe to the principle before any more minute examination took place. We never did manage to subscribe to the principle. . . . Because, remember what Mr. Bennett's principle was. It was not the principle of preference that many guileless people have supposed. It was not even the principle of extending that preference to every customs duty that was in existence, or might be brought into existence. It was that a new customs duty should be put upon foodstuffs imported into this country, and this country only, or that this country only should be required to put a substantial customs duty upon foodstuffs, and especially upon wheat in order to give a substantial preference to the dominions in respect of all those things. All that was included in Mr. Bennett's principle, and will be found as a part of his speech which has been reported verbatim.

After listening to a statement of that kind can one wonder that a proposal of the bind was characterized as "humbug." How could the British people consider it as anything else? They were asked to put a tax upon food and raw materials coming into their country and in return there was not to be any lowering in Canada of higher duties which had been placed upon their commodities at the last session, but still higher duties were to be placed upon similar goods coming into this country from other lands. That is the proposal which was made. Again I go back to the question: how did the Prime Minister of Canada think that under a proposal of that kind he was going to get Canadian wheat into the British market? That is a question which keeps reiterating itself in one's mind. One is forced to the conclusion that some object other than that must have been in his mind, and so I come back to the view that the object he had so far as Canada was concerned was to make this country, as he has stated over and over again, an economic unit, a so-called self-sufficing unit, a country which will produce everything within its own borders and which will not have to import anything from any other part of the world; it will all be done here. He believes that that is a wise policy to pursue, and extending that idea into the realm of

empire, he talks about an empire economic unit wherein, after each part has been made self-sufficing, the empire shall exclude itself from the rest of the world. With such an idea in mind one can understand such a proposal being put up although certain to be rejected, but as a means of selling Canadian wheat in the British market I say it is impossible of interpretation upon any such basis.

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March 16, 1931