Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Minister of Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, the motion
before the house, which was presented so ably the other day by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) and supported by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), is one of those motions which perhaps result in a great deal of good, in that they bring to the attention of the house matters of importance for consideration, but which at the same time present difficulties in the way of giving immediate effect to the suggestions contained therein. I should like to compliment the hon. member who presented the resolution on the moderation of his language and on the thoughtfulness of the major portion of the suggestions presented by him. In one or two respects I find myself not quite able to follow him. I should like to suggest to the seconder of the motion that I think by the speech he delivered he must have aroused in the minds of hon. members a consciousness of sufficient reasons for not accepting the motion, and it will be my duty briefly to discuss the matter from this standpoint.
May I first, however, address a few remarks the resolution itself. The resolution con. 'is of several statements, in some measure purporting to be statements of fact, and then it invites the house to resolve in a certain way. I desire to point out to the introducer of the resolution that I cannot agree with the statement made in the first paragraph, which reads as follows:
The problem of production has been largely solved, assisted greatly by the application of scientific methods and the results of organized technical research.
I cannot follow my hon. friend in that because, while great progress has undoubtedly been made in recent years, and particularly in the years during and subsequent to the great war, in the way of scientific research and in the speeding up of production by the introduction of modern methods, mechanical and otherwise, it would be folly, I think, on the part of the house or of any body of industrialists or of any commercial community or of any country, to rest upon its oars and say
that the question of production had been solved. The question of production has undoubtedly been greatly advanced. It might be profitable for a moment for me to digress and to draw attention to what this country has been doing in common, I think, with nearly every other civilized country in the world, along the lines of scientific industrial research.
Some years ago the Research Council Act was passed. This was based upon an examination by a committee o-f the house, in 191" or 1918, of the question of scientific industrial research, and by this act a research council was set up for the purpose of advising the government on scientific and technological methods affecting the expansion of Canadian industries and the utilization of the natural resources of Canada. Those are the broad general principles upon which the legislation is based. It particularizes by conferring on the council power:
To promote the utilization of the natural resources of Canada.
Well, I would hesitate to say that that particular part of the research council's effort had been completely, or even measurably achieved. I believe that in this respect great progress has been made and an excellent foundation has been laid, and that we can look for some very excellent results in the future. I recall a number of researches which have been carried out successfully by the research council and with great benefit to the industry of Canada. I have particulars of these researches under my hand, but I do not wish to weary the house with a recital of them at this time; I may do so later when the estimates dealing wfith that department are before us. But I desire to emphasize this point, that it would be folly on our part to say that in this respect the question had been disposed of or solved. The research council is also to direct its efforts to-
-improving the technical processes and methods used in the industries of Canada, and of discovering processes and methods which may promote the expansion of existing or the development of new industries.
This matter is in its very early stages, I might say its initial stages. A general effort is being made and considerable progress has been achieved in formulatng schemes of cooperation with industry, private corporations, and so forth, and it is hoped that ultimately substantial results will follow. Then there are the questions of utilizing waste products and the determination of standards. I wish to direct attention for a moment to the determination of standards and methods of
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measurement, including length, volume, weight, mass, capacity, time, heat, light and so on. In this direction we have not gone very far. For instance, with respect to all our electrical standards we depend upon standards fixed in the city of Chicago. It is hoped and expected that as time goes on the bureau to whom has been committed this task will set up standards that are purely Canadian and that, while coordinated with the well-known and established standards of other countries, will at least be Canadian standards established by and for Canadian interests. But there again it is a work that is under way and still far from having reached ultimate achievement. There is also the great question of determination of standards of materials used in construction, such as cement, plaster, reinforcing steel, and all that sort of thing. Here again the work is in its infancy, but it is being carried forward step by step. There is a long list of other powers conferred upon the research council, but I shall not weary the house by detailing them. I desire simply to emphasize this point: we must not for a moment think that by the establishment of this research council we have, as the resolution intimates, largely solved the question of production. Y hat we are doing and what we [DOT]have done is to establish a foundation upon which we hope to rear a superstructure that will compare favourably with what has been achieved by the most progressive countries of the world in this important field of scientific research. The resolution proceeds:
Tire problem of distribution, with the kindred questions of purchasing power and the exchange values of agricultural and other commodities, together with their relation to the growing problem of unemployment, are still unsolved.
Well, I confess-and my hon. friend will take this observation kindly, I know-I confess that sometimes I get a little weary of the mere statement of great economic problems. It is so simple and easy to throw into the arena of parliament or 'before the public a statement of a problem, but it is a vastly different thing to come forward with definite, clear-cut suggestions for its solution. We have here such problems as this, "the kindred questions of purchasing power." This problem has been before parliament, brought particularly by some of my hon. friends opposite, every session for the last ten years. It does not follow that we should not strive to solve it, but it is one that involves world conditions. It is a problem that involves the inter-activities of nations the world over, and while undoubtedly study must be given to these things, I question whether any advantage will
be derived from setting up now, in addition to the powers that already exist, a new body for the study of that question.
Then we come to another clause which states:
That is, these things that I have intimated.
1-can best be done at the instance of the state and by men of scientific training.
To the latter part I am offering no objection. I think we are all agreed that men of scientific training are undoubtedly best able to cope with any great economic problem; but to say that this should be done at the instance of the state is one of those utterances which, to my mind, merely tend to shelve the question. I think my hon. friend quoted scripture the other day, and while I hesitate to embark upon that field, I recall an utterance by a prophet statesman of old who used these words:
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.
In my estimation the progress of the world, the steps forward in science, industry and art, have all been on a basis of "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little." There is not the short cut that is so often claimed in the solution of these problems by merely shuffling them off on the state. Hot long ago I saw a telegram from a certain interest in which they propounded some very difficult problems, and then they suggested that the federal government should take it upon their shoulders and by some unknown method the whole thing would be solved. Suggestions of that kind are constantly being made. I would say to my hon. friend in all kindness that I do not think it is much of a contribution to the solution of a problem merely to say that this can best be done at the instance of the state. Neither, of course, would I wish to leave the impression that I think the state has no responsibility at all; before I am through I shall demonstrate this point more clearly. I do, however, challenge the practice of merely, stating the problem, and saying it is the duty of the state now to solve it.
The part of the resolution which is active is now reached:
In the opinion of this house, the government should give immediate consideration to the establishment and maintenance of some organized body for this purpose which body might be known as the National Council of Social and Economic Research.
In the first place, as regards the matter of "immediate consideration," we could agree to
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that at once; we could say we shall consider it, but that is a play upon words. But if what is meant is the immediate appointment, establishment and maintenance of an organized body, what force is there in the suggestion? Let me point this out: in the service of the state to-day, in the department over which I happen to preside, the Department of Trade and Commerce; in the Department of Public Works, in the Department of External Affairs, over which the leader of the opposition presided until a few months ago, and in several other departments, are officers of the state probably as well qualified to study and deal with these questions as any man you could get outside of the employment of the state. So far as the government is concerned, at the present time we feel that we are bringing to bear upon these problems, to quote my hon. friend's words, the trained minds, economists, that are at present in the employ of the state. May I say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the splendid qualifications manifested by many of those men when you place before them the different problems which from day to day confront a government. They are highly trained, highly competent. We are disposed as a government to approach these questions with the assistance of those trained officers of the state.
It may be permissible for me to pause for a moment to say this: I believe in Canada there is growing up within the ambit of the civil service a body of trained officials who will take their place beside the best officials of any other country with which I am acquainted. I am not at the moment claiming credit for this government, the previous government, or other governments, but since I came into parliament twenty years ago, I have seen tremendous progress in the stabilization and standardization, if I may so use that term, of the efficiency of officers of the government. It would, I think, be wise economy on the part of the state to utilize the services of those men, within the ambit of the powers we already have and without the establishment of any special body.
I want now to deal briefly with a few of the arguments that have been advanced. My hon. friend, dealing with the question who should tackle this great problem, said it should be the government, or, through the government, some organized body appointed by them. I have already referred to that, and I shall not labour the point; but I should like to draw attention to the fact that there is a difference between the duties of the government as applied to industrial and scientific
research and the sociological problem of equitable distribution. There is quite a difference between the functions that are called into play with respect to these problems.
Mr. 'GARLAND (Bow River): That is the trouble.
Subtopic: SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH
Sub-subtopic: MOTION BY MR. SPEAKMAN PROPOSING ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL COUNCIL TO STUDY SUBJECT