April 15, 1931

?

An hon. MEMBER:

Just like the Winnipeg strike.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The Winnipeg

strike! We have gotten a long way from that.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You have not got

very far.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Does anyone want

to go into that? He had better not

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Bring it along.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I do not think I

need to go into that to-day. The Winnipeg strike had a good deal to do with putting one government out of power, and if it is necessary to do it again it can be done again. I venture to say that there are no representatives from Manitoba or the other western provinces who dare say a great deal about the Winnipeg strike if they want to be re-

elected in Winnipeg to-day. I do not think it is necessary to go into that matter further. I am pleading for these men on the outside. Let me say, Mr. Chairman, that it seems to me a curious thing that members can come here representing interests other than labour and present the viewpoint of the banks and of the manufacturers' association, that they can come here and say the country is going to ruin unless they get higher tariffs, that they can come here and make all sorts of alarmist statements, but that when we who have been specially elected to represent the labour interests come here to try and state the viewpoint and needs of labour, immediately certain gentlemen are up in arms and would try to prevent us stating such viewpoint and needs.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I am simply putting forward what ought to be known throughout this country, and it ought to be a matter of concern not merely to the labour people themselves, but to every self-respecting citizen in this Dominion. I suppose a good many members do not receive the type of correspondence that I do.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Hear, hear.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Yes, you say, "hear, hear," I have hundreds of letters from poor people on the very verge of starvation.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Any from Russia?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No, I have not any from Russia. How some people delight to bring up the Russian business. But there is no unemployment there, as my hon. friend from Bow River (Mr. Garland) reminds me. According to the press 200 people are leaving Toronto for Russia in order to get jobs. I suggest that if any man does not want to have conditions here as they are in Russia, the best thing he can do is to take some constructive action at this time to prevent the further development of unemployment. It was the carelessness, the callousness, the indifference of the people who were highly placed in Russia that brought about the Russian revolution. That is how revolutions have come about in the past. I am one of those- and I think members who have been in this house for the past decade will admit it-who hope that the great economic changes which are absolutely essential can be brought about in this country without the trouble they have had in Russia and some other countries. I have always pleaded for that-that is the reason I am in this house-that we may use the best means available-parliamentary means, publicity means, educational means- to bring about these changes that are due at

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the present time. And yet when after ten years in this house I call attention to the exceedingly serious situation that prevails across this country from Cape Breton to Victoria there are those who would shout "Russia" and suggest that I was trying to incite to riots.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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PRO

Agnes Campbell Macphail

Progressive

Miss MACPHAIL:

That is all they have to say.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I submit, Mr. Chairman, that any man in this country has a right at least to obtain a decent sort of living, and I submit that any man may very well look to whatever government is in power so to arrange the affairs of this country that he has a chance to work so he can obtain a living. I am not one of those who advocate that men get big salaries or wages without working. What we are asking to-day is that every man be given an opportunity to secure work. If a government cannot provide that opportunity-yes, I will take the responsibility of saying it-that government thereby ceases to have any claim upon the loyalty or the obedience of the people. That is a more serious statement than the other-a good deal more serious. No. Men have a right to live, they have a right to work, and there are thousands of honest, decent, self-respecting citizens today throughout the Dominion who have no opportunity to work, and without that they have not an opportunity of living. I did not intend to blame the government for the present conditions; I do not think they are to blame to any great extent. I differ in some ways from my friends to the right because I do not think the tariff is as important as is sometimes made out; but I do believe that we face a world situation to-day, and a most serious situation. The capitalist system, as we understand it, the system under which there is free competition between rival individuals and rival groups-that system is acknowledged by every thoughtful man to-day to be absolutely on trial. It may possibly survive for a few years; there may be such modifications introduced that it may survive indefinitely; I cannot myself see that this is likely, but it may. I say it is on trial. And the capitalist system, producing as no other system ever did, the necessities of life, if this system fails over all this continent and all over Europe to provide for even the elementary necessities of life, then I say not only is it on trial, but it may not survive for very long. I am not talking of that system to-day; I am talking rather of the parliamentary system, which also is on trial.

We have a group of people out in front of this building to-day. I did not intend to say anything about those people. I am not responsible for their being here; as a matter of fact they have been brought here very largely by a group of communists, I believe, and the communists have no use for me or for my colleagues. They have fought us during the elections again and again; they have called us all the names they can think of, but I do not care who champions the cause of the poor people; I have respect for them if, in sincerity, they are trying to provide for the needs of the people. No matter by whom these men are led to-day, I say they represent a situation which we find in the city of Ottawa, for most of the people out here are Ottawa residents. They represent a situation found not only in Ottawa but in Montreal, in Toronto, down in the steel mills in Cape Breton, in Winnipeg, in Sudbury and in every town right through to the coast. I do not think we are justified, as a House of Commons, representing not one section of the community but all sections- theoretically at least-in passing over one of the biggest questions that has faced our country. ,

I think the Conservatives will do me the justice to agree that last year when my colleague and I brought up this matter on the floor of the house we spoke as strongly as we could, although our speaking was not at all to the liking of the Liberal party. I am inclined to think that had something to do with the difficulties which that party experienced during the election. The Liberal party had no program and we, as Labour members, felt called upon to bring the condition of the unemployed before the country. I said to the then government that I did not think they realized the situation which prevailed, and they did not. The Conservatives took advantage of that situation; they said they would cure this unemployment. I did not think they could do so, but that is what they said. They carried out their promises to a limited extent by doing what was never done before in the history of Canada, calling a special session of parliament to deal with the question of unemployment. I give them all credit for doing so. Whether or not it was done along lines of which I approved, it was a big step in advance, because it was an assumption by the government of the responsibility for dealing with this social problem.

What, however, do we find now! Months later we learn that although the preliminary amount of $20,000,000 for direct relief is

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almost expended, under such arrangements that the unemployed could not really secure the direct advantage of it, nothing whatever is being done to meet the immediate needs of this present year. Last summer, when the election was going on, nearly three thousand people were being fed by the municipality of Winnipeg. Do you think any government could stand up against a situation of that kind? I do not know how many we are going to feed this summer. If I ventured to say we will have another three thousand, probably the Minister of Railways and Canals would get up and say I was trying to make paupers, but I want to predict that we are going to have a great many more unemployed this summer than we had last summer, and as my hon. friend from Labelle says, we will have more unemployed next winter than we have at present or had during the last winter.

We have to face this situation, and we shall need more than $20,000,000, in my judgment, in order to tide us over until next fall if we are going to prevent this trouble of which I spoke, if we are going to feed the people who are unemployed, to say nothing at all about the farihers who are in dire straits. I hope before long they will have a chance to tell something of the serious situation, approaching starvation, which prevails among the farmers at this time. I am speaking of industrial workers at the moment.

Then there is this further question, that even although we have provided for their immediate needs by a hand out, a dole if you like, what about the future? I think, Mr. Chairman, that early in this session we ought to have some declaration from the Prime Minister with regard to unemployment insurance or something equivalent.

Unemployment insurance is recognized as being essential in Great Britain, and all parties there say that although the so called dole has been abused, unemployment insurance in some form is absolutely necessary at the present time. What have we here? We are simply going along on this hand to mouth policy. Speaking a few days ago I said that I did not expect the government to come out with a full-fledged unemployment scheme because the contributory features cannot possibly be entered into at the present time. The people cannot lay up a reserve; they have not the money. So we will have to have a temporary scheme of some kind, and I want to see that we make a beginning. I do not hold up unemployment insurance as a cure for unemployment; what we need is work in order that the people can have in some way,

an opportunity to provide for themselves. I do not want to go into the economic situation at the moment, beyond saying that what we need is not so much work as an equable distribution of the things already being produced, but the outstanding fact is that very large numbers of our people are up against it in a very serious way at the present time.

I did not intend to say more than a few words to-day, but I do urge the government

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No suggestions?

May I add just one word. I say there sits the government across the way, the government which promised to do this thing. They are the people who should make suggestions.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Mr. Chairman, I just want to emphasize if possible the importance of one aspect of the situation which the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) has pointed out. I want to do it as coolly as I can, with the benefit of the experience I gathered with some friends of mine in the midst of the city of Montreal last winter, when we went from house to house and found families of poor men, women and children who had been on the verge of starvation for the whole winter and who, at the present time, have hardly enough to eat. I can tell the Minister of Railways and Canals, for whom as he knows I have much personal esteem, that if he meant what he said a moment ago he utterly fails to realize what is the situation, not only in Montreal but in every large centre of Canada at the present time, and what it will be next winter.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

As a matter of privilege,

Mr. Chairman, and because I do not want and to not intend to be misquoted in this house, may I say that what I pointed out was this: The hon. member for Winnipeg

North Centre made the statement not only to-day but also the other day, when he was speaking, that if we did not relieve all this unemployment-which we appreciate just as much as he does-we were going to have riots

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in this country. He made that statement not once but many times, and I pointed out then-and I still feel as I did at the time- that the repeated statement that if we could not relieve all this unemployment we would have riots in this country was an incitement to riot. And when it comes to sympathy for the unemployed and for the hungry people in this country I take no back seat to either the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) or the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth). Nor does any other hon. member on this side of the house take a back seat to those hon. gentlemen.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

I will not follow the

hon. gentleman in the tone and kind of argument he has been using; I wish to state facts to the house.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

It would be something

new.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

No. If the hon. member would keep his cool senses-perhaps he has some remorse because of old times-he would follow better what I have to say. However, that will not affect my sentiments towards him; I am too old now to be moved in that way. The hon. gentleman twenty years hence will have gained that advantage.

Now, what I wish to say first of all is this. Canadians, whether of French or of any other origin, are human beings, with the same nature as all other human beings on earth. And the history of mankind teaches us that revolutions or riots are caused generally by two things: first is the selfishness of the enjoying classes, whether their enjoyment is political or economic, whether they are kings, aristocrats or plutocrats; and, secondly, the blindness, wilful or unintentional, of weak governments who have no courage or strength of mind to face a situation as it is.

Heaven knows I do not wish for riots either in Montreal or anywhere else, but I know that last winter we had the beginning of riots among people whom the Minister of Marine (Mr. Duranleau) knows as well as I do-I point to him because he is nearest me-good French Canadian fathers of families, the most peaceful people you could imagine, but who saw their wives and children starving all winter and who nearly broke into riot when they saw some people who had come to this country in the last twenty years were getting work while they themselves could not. There was no more reason in them. They said, "We are sons of the soil. Our wives and children are starving, and we don't want these 'Polacks,' or Scotch, or Germans to take our place." Of course the feeling was wrong, but it was a natural one.

Now what is the situation to-day? I repeat, we have gained some experience from last winter. Not having anything to do with the fate of any party, not caring very much for the destiny of either the Liberal party or the Conservative party, in our small local sphere, the humble paper of which I have the honour to be director not only started an inquiry, but began to give help to various voluntary institutions organized in the city of Montreal to come to the rescue of poor people. One of the first things we did was to organize work for the relief of the foreigner, because we realized that the instinctive, may I say the animal, reaction of the French Canadian of Montreal against the foreigner would be such, under the circumstances, that it behooved us to do something in that regard.'For years we have endeavoured to create some degree of national pride among our compatriots; therefore we felt that we should not allow them to go beyond the limit. We did our best to help some Polish and German and Hungarian families, and families of various other extractions starving in Montreal, who had not yet any charitable or parochial organizations such as were serving our people, or the Irish Catholic or Protestant communities in Montreal. We did some little good, and the little we did helped us to realize the depth of the abyss. And had it not been for that special work I should not be in a position to say what I am now saying; perhaps I should fail, as the Minister of Railways fails, to understand my hon. friend to my left, and conclude that he is simply provoking popular upheaval.

When one knows what the situation is, it is one's duty to speak the truth and endeavour to open the eyes of those who hold responsible positions. During the short session last year I did not take much part in the debates, and I do not think I can be accused of having thrown obstacles in the way of the government. Even my good friend here (Mr. Woodsworth) took me to task in a friendly way because he thought I was disarming in the hands of a victorious government, pretty much in the same way as the Liberal party has disarmed in England before either the Labour government or the Conservative party. I was not doing so; but I thought we should give ample liberty to the government, freshly elected, to try its hand. Like my friend here, I believe they have done something. I trust that everyone will believe me when I say that I do not wish to introduce into this unexpected debate any thought of party success or party advantage. This government could

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not, any more than its predecessors, be in a position to solve the problem immediately. The greatest fault of hon. gentlemen opposite is that through their preelection campaign and speeches, they created in the minds of the people hopes and expectations which cannot be realized. Of course we all know that. And far better would it be on their part to confess their impotence, far better would it be on the part of the Liberal party to offer a helping hand to the government in an endeavour to solve this problem, than it is for the party in office to stick to its small, ridiculous position of professing to be able to solve in six months a problem which is baffling the genius of the statesmen of all the most civilized countries on earth, and the findings and experience of the greatest economists and most practical business men. Far better also would it be, so far as the opposition is concerned, not to try to take a small, petty revenge at the expense of the men who defeated them at the polls. Let the ablest men on all sides endeavour rather to demonstrate to the people of Canada that, before looking to the success of one party or the other, we all care for the fate of the suffering masses of the nation.

Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, that in what I am about to say there is no spirit of boasting; I am merely trying to show that personally I am doing the best I can. Since I have learned of the condition of the poor people in my own city I have told my children that we must spare money to help other people. I have ceased travelling in Pullman cars; I travel in the common care either on the Canadian National or on the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the common people are talking I listen to what they have to say and at times I hear things without their knowing that a fairly well dressed bourgeois is overhearing them. And there I can realize the truth of what m3' neighbour said a moment ago-what ferments of hatred are growing in the hearts and minds of Canadians of all races. I am not going to discuss whether farmers or labourers are suffering more. Heaven knows I am rural. My hon. friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Sauve) knows it. Although I have been brought up and have lived most of my life in the city, I have always represented a rural constituency, because I have always believed and still believe that rural Canada is the mainstay of our polity and social organization. Nevertheless, when I visited my rural constituents last summer, I told them that although they might have to suffer somewhat, I did not intend to ask either the Liberal government

!Mr. Bourassa.]

or the Conservative government, if they should happen to be successful, to starve the people in the cities in order to help the fanners in getting better prices for their butter or meat. I told them that they at least had an inch of soil which they could call their own, they had a hovel or house above their heads, and they could obtain from their farm that with whieh to live, but the position of hundreds of thousands of labourers and their families in the cities was such that they did not know from day to day whether or not they had a home, or whether or not they would have something to eat and drink.

I remember reading some forty >'ears ago the report of the commission which revealed to the British public the state of the slums in the great city of London. I can assure this house from personal experience and from that gathered by my associates during this last winter that the situation of the slum dweller in the city of London of sixty years ago was not any worse than is the situation of thousands of families to-day in the city of Montreal. Because of the blindness and carelessness of our municipal authorities, thousands of dwellings have been built, not fit to 'be inhabited by Christian and civilized (families. One room is built in the front, called the parlour, another room is built in the back, called the kitchen, and two other rooms are placed between containing no apertures whatever for light or air, other than the front and back doors. Up until (the present year, one family occupied such a four-roomed apartment, but to-day thousands of these uninhabitable apartments are being used by as many as four families. In ever3' parish of the city of Montreal, every charitable institute, every convent, every school for bo3js and girls, was distributing last winter hundreds of meals. The other da3r I was passing down Bleury street in what might be called the bourgeois and fashionable ward of the city of Montreal, and in front of St. Mary's college -I believe that is the college where the hon. Minister of Marine (Mr. Duranleau) received his education; two of my -boys are receiving their education there to-day-I saw two or three hundred labourers waiting at the door to receive free soup. Upon making inquiries I found that soup was being distributed ttvice a day at -that college by the fathers. The same thing is being done at sixty or eighty institutions in the city. That provides just enough to keep alive those individuals who gather -there, -but the pregnant, woman is unable to go there, the woman who has a suckling babe cannot go, the man crippled by rheumatism cannot go; they -have to rely upon

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charitable people, clerical or lay, who are willing to go to the homes and give food to the suffering peoiple who are not capable of going to obtain their daily ration of soup.

I can assure the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals that a feeling is growing in the hearts and minds of these men and women similar to that which I heard expressed the other day on the train running between Montreal and Ottawa. Three good French-Canadians in expressing themselves said: "All right, we stood it last winter, we were able to keep the woman and the kids alive, but next winter if it does not improve we will see that we get something more." It may be provoking to say so, but I think it is better to know these things than to ignore them. It is better to prepare for them than to go on blindly and say: Oh, well, these things will adjust themselves with the working of the tariff and other measures. No tariff or fiscal policy can do it.

I have one suggestion to offer, that the government adopt a similar measure to that adopted by the government of the colony of Kenya. That government, realizing the state of the people in the cities to be more desperate than the state of the people in the rural district, sent out agents to ask the farmers if they could give food and shelter to one or two people from the cities. They were told that if they could afford to give that, the government would employ its funds in paying such people a small salary. I do not claim that that is the best remedy to be adopted, but I do say this: if urgent and practical means are not taken during this coming summer to prevent, I will not say starving people, but people in difficult circumstances in the small towns of this country where work is practically stopped, from flocking to the cities, the result will be disastrous. The more we advertise our charitable institutions and the means we take to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the large cities, the more we will have individuals from the smaller centres coming to such places as Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg. They figure that because of such organizations there may be a chance for them.

While travelling in a second class smoking car a fortnight ago a man came to me who knew me by sight. He had some connection with the constituency which I represent in this house and he told me of the situation existing in the town of Hawkesbury, not very far from here. This town, like many other towns in Quebec and Ontario, has been built up and sustained by one industry, and that industry is now stagnant and no one has any work to do. [DOT] The hon. member for Prescott (Mr. Bertrand) can correct me if I am wrong.

This man told me that half of the dwellings which had been erected by the small merchants, the professional men and even by some of the labourers were now empty, and these small capitalists found themselves to be paupers because they had no revenue. The town has a debt of $750,000 which it is unable to pay. The labourers are leaving, but where are they going? Going to another small town of the same size? No, they are going to Montreal or to Toronto.

While travelling a short time ago with a professor of Macdonald college, a man possessed of knowledge, he told me about the situation existing in the town of Granby in which he had been a few days previously. He told me of an incident which happened in a factory there. This factory is working only part time, and a girl worker collapsed about ten o'clock in the morning. The other girls gathered around and asked her if she was sick, but she replied: No, but this is my fasting morning. She then went on to explain that in her family consisting of eight children, four fasted each day, alternately, so that the other four could have a cup ol tea and a piece of bread. They were not all employed; what was earned by two or three members of the family was not sufficient to give a crust of bread to all the children. Those are things which have nothing to do with politics, which have nothing to do with theories, but which are hard facts. It seems to me that the duty of parliament is to see first-and that was the only suggestion I made last fall-that some little work is given to all those men who used to work in the small towns or in the lumbering districts so as to keep them at home, and if necessary, to adopt means so that the railway companies and other agencies of transportation will not bring those people next winter to the large centres; because, if the danger pointed out by my hon. friend to my left arises, it will be on account of the rivalry between those people and the old-timers of the cities, the men who have been born and brought up, who have lived many years in the urban centres and who will see the unemployed from the outlying districts coming to the cities and competing with them either in the small amount of work that will be given or in the distribution of charities and alms which will not be sufficient to alleviate all sufferings.

I think I have presented the case without any idea of embarrassing the government or anybody else. This appeal I make as the father of a large family and as one knowing the fate of large families not only in the city of Montreal but even in the good old

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happy city of Quebec. The other day, passing just five minutes' walk from that great, shall I say, monstrous and scandalous castle of wealth and parvenu-ism, the Chateau Fron-tenac, I saw about 150 labourers who had come up from St. Malo and St. Sauveur, hanging around the door of the Salvation Army quarters on St. Louis street, waiting for a crumb of bread while American, English and French millionaires were feasting at the Chateau Frontenac, five minutes' walk away. This is another aspect of the question. I appeal to every man who has wealth or who knows men who have wealth, first, to create in their own minds, and then to endeavour to stimulate in other people's minds, a true spirit of Christian charity; or, if they cannot bring themselves to that standard of humanity, let them at least have the decency to conceal their debauchery of wealth and luxury, because in addition to the two causes that I pointed out as having produced revolutions and riots in every country, whether Teutonic or Latin, the third cause is this cynicism of the wealthy who, not content with throwing thousands of dollars on the streets, are bent on showing, on advertising their wealth and, thanks to the sensational papers, the radio and all the other means of publicity, bringing to the minds of millions of starving people the extravagances of the worldly and the selfish.

Last winter I was spending a few days of rest in the south of France, one of the happiest corners of earth with which God has blessed humanity, where most of the people have a modest but happy life. One evening, talking quietly in the resting room of a modest provincial hostelry with a good southern Frenchman, as far away from any idea of bolshevism or communism as my hon. friend the Minister of Railways and Canals or as myself, maybe, I saw him growing red and with the quickness of a southern Frenchman he took his paper and threw it on the floor, exclaiming: "Do you not think, sir, that is enough to make decent people revolutionary?" I said: "What is it?" It was a piece of news cabled from New York, announcing that a certain magnate there, some vulgar individual, gilt-edged with millions, whether earned or stolen 1 do not know, had just married off his daughter, that the nuptial breakfast had cost, no less than S200,000 and that each invited guest present had received an automobile as a souvenir. I give this advice to wealthy men and wealthy institutions of Canada: If you cannot bring

yourself to the point of partaking with the poor, at least conceal your indecent wealth and the indecent use you are making of it.

fMr. Bourassa.]

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April 15, 1931