February 2, 1933

CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

By the depreciated currency on the other side. All countries that are primary producers are naturally in the same position. My hon. friends from the west who grow wheat instance this fact very cogently by stating that for the pound sterling they get so many fewer dollars then they used to, and they cannot buy upon the same basis. I think there is a great deal to be said for that contention, not in trading within the country but rather in the payment of debts. When we come to the resolution sponsored by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) we shall have an opportunity of discussing this matter in detail.

To my mind there is no sense in inflation qua inflation, but there is a great deal to be said both for and against the present situation with regard to debts. If there be a sound method of dealing with the question of debts, we should seek it, but we should not seek to remedy that situation by unsound methods.

What I am really getting at in my cursory discussion of these principles of finance and currency is that this question is largely international. From the other side of the house we hear again and again of the interdependence of this country, that we cannot be an economic unit, that we cannot trade within our own borders, that we must seek for greater opportunities for trade, both within the empire and in other directions. Trade must be increased, but if you are going to trade with any country you must be able to conduct that trade on a system of exchange which is somewhat stable. The whole question of the stability of money is wrapped up with the question of the stability of exchange, which in turn is wrapped up with the question of international trade. We are to have a conference to discuss these very matters, and it seems to me that we would be most ill advised to make a drastic change in our currency at the present moment and to go to that economic conference with some system at which we had jumped or guessed.

It is all so easy to say that we can pay our debts by printing so much money, that we can build this work or that by printing so much money, that we can obtain advantages by depreciating our currency-if we can do it so can other countries. If it is so easy I wonder that it has not been done all over the world. Does anyone think that the Prime Minister of this country, the cabinet or the legislators in this house have any desire to do anything but what is best for the country? Surely that must not be suggested; it should not be suggested that proposals are rejected only out of some spirit of stubbornness.

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LIB
CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

Anything you like. Men of sense, men of discrimination and men of experience in business are doing their very best, and if they cannot agree with hon. members in the far corner, they should at least be given the credit of doing their best according to their lights and ability. They are seeking to remedy the situation.

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PRO

Agnes Campbell Macphail

Progressive

Miss MACPHAIL:

I have always said that it is the light that is wrong.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

To give my hon. friend credit, she is shedding just as much light as she knows how, but just how much she knows, I do not know.

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PRO

Agnes Campbell Macphail

Progressive

Miss MACPHAIL:

It is a little better than the Prime Minister's, and that is something.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

If my hon. friend wants

to carry on a personal war, that is none of my

Cooperative Commonwealth-Mr. Geary

business. I am dealing with an international situation. My hon. friends have filled pages of Hansard with quotations, and may I say, again in all kindliness, that I do not think they get anywhere with such methods. To me a quotation is absolutely nothing unless I know the context, the local background, and the reasoning which has led the author to the conclusion cited. I fancy that if I dug into books on economy I could find quotations which would be diametrically opposed to each and every one advanced in this debate by my hon. friends. However, if they will examine the quotations which they have placed on Hansard during this debate I think they will find that without exception they are predicated upon a proper international system having been found and adopted.

I have directed my observations largely to this point; that as far as monetary systems go, we are interdependent. Each country is so tied up with other countries in trade that we are dependent upon the facilities provided for exchange. We can not go on our own, and we would be most ill advised to do anything of the sort. If we are able to get a full, frank and free discussion of this matter at the coming conference, it is more likely that the qeustion will be solved there than by anything adopted by this chamber and having a relation only to the bounds of this country.

Hon. gentlemen say: what is to be done? We have one problem of our own which is costing us an enormous amount of money- the Canadian National Railways. That is a matter immediately to our hand. There is also the one I mentioned a little while ago, the control of those who have plundered by their manipulations of the stock market. As the hon. member for Labelle has said, we have not exercised the forces of the law in that regard as much as they have in England. That is a matter ready to our hand.

There is also another vast problem to be solved, that of war debts and reparations. Reparations would not exist if war debts could be abolished. Reparations would be done away with if creditors would do away with war debts. If war debts were abolished there would be a great effect upon the morale of the people of the world. There would be a restoration of confidence and an abolition of fear which would go a long way towards setting this world once more upon the road to recovery.

These observations are not intended to be a discussion as close as one would like to make it of matters still to come up, but I

say once more that if we approach this question in the spirit eulogized this afternoon by the hon. member for Labelle, that of cooperation, that of getting together, that of putting our shoulders to the wheel and recognizing the difficulties under which we labour, then surely out of the united wisdom of this house will come measures which will react to the benefit of this country and probably lead us out of our difficulties.

Before I resume my seat I should like to say that the discussion in this house of the conditions prevailing throughout the country is not without bad effect. As long as we are moderate, reasonable and accurate in what we say with regard to conditions, I suppose no harm can be done. But it should be remembered that this country is not so badly off as many others. I believe, and I think other hon. members do also, that given a chance Canada will find her way out more quickly than any other country provided she has wise and proper guidance. If this country does not think the guidance it is receiving, the direction it has at the present moment, is right, the remedy lies with the house, with the electorate. Personally I earnestly feel that the government can not succumb at this moment to the temptations that beset it in regard to currency. It could popularize itself to many unthinking people by yielding to the clamour of some groups or members, but it will not do that unless it thinks it is right. I believe the government has a quality which must carry the admiration of the house in that it is strong and courageous, that it believes its principles and its policies are right, and that it will hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may; that it will pursue the course which in its wisdom it deems best for this country, and that in its deliberations and acts it will have regard for one thing only, that which is in the best and highest interests of Canada.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the last speaker (Mr. Geary) upon his well reasoned and moderate speech. I should like to take a few minutes to explain briefly the vote that I propose to give upon this subject. I had thought this matter was going to be treated, as we so often treat these resolutions, in an academic spirit, and that it would be ultimately possibly withdrawn or shelved, affording a very useful opportunity for hon. members to express their views on the situation as it presents itself to them. But I understand that the matter is going to a vote and I am confronted with the necessity of voting yes or no on the resolution before us.

1758 COMMONS

Cooperative Commonwealth-Mr. Neill

This is not a question of condemning the government for their alleged misdeeds or of applauding them for what they have done; it simply stands by itself. But in that connection I must pay some attention to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett), when he spoke as follows:

What the government is trying to do is to hold together this country-to maintain its financial and industrial integrity.

When a man in the position of the Prime Minister of Canada, with the opportunities for information he possesses and must possess, uses language like that, and says further'-[DOT]

We are dangerously near the limit of this country to pay additional taxes.

-we must all pay heed and give credence to the situation as he there outlines it. There are thousands, yes, probably hundreds of thousands of people in Canada today, who, if given an opportunity tomorrow would vote for this resolution. They would vote for it as it is, not because they understand it. If they do understand it, it is not because it has ever been explained to them. They would vote for it merely as an expression of their dissatisfaction, disgust, if you like, with existing conditions, and turning to any port in a storm, they would take the only means presented to them to express that dissatisfaction. The resolution is calculated to create, let us say, a vast political cave of Adullam. We are told in Scripture that David went down into the cave of Adullam, and there resorted unto him every one that was in distress, every one that was in debt and every one that was discontented. Can we get a better epitome of the situation as it is in Canada today?

This resolution is extremely comprehensive, and that is at once its strength and its weakness, its appeal and its danger. It is comprehensive enough to take in anybody and everybody. The prince and the pauper can find a common footing. The millionaire, disgusted because he has lost one-third of his millions, and the man in the breadline who has lost his all, are equally welcome, and can find common ground for entering this political cave. Conservative and communist are alike welcome. A disillusioned workingman can meet there the millionaire or the disappointed political grafter who is turning against the party that he formerly supported. They can all meet and they will all be welcome in this political cave of Adullam.

But is it wise for us at this time to adopt the attitude of a wounded animal, which, injured by he knows not what, blindly kicks out or bites at the nearest object within his reach? I know, of course we all know, how

wide is the distress in Canada, and that the existing discontent is general and entirely justified. It would be idle to deny that. I shall admit further that the workman and the farmer have too long been the victims of the moneyed and manufacturing interests of Canada, and there is ground for saying that it is about time this condition changed. But will it improve .'the general condition of Canada to create another tyranny, somewhat similar, another class government, of course a somewhat different one from the system under whose sway we have been so long? I hardly think so.

The hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) this afternoon suggested more cooperation. Suppose we try something along that line before we go to the extreme of a cooperative commonwealth. Let us adopt a national government. We have had precedents for that in many countries throughout the world. Let us forget party politics and get together the best men on both sides. There are many things that readily suggest themselves that can be done to improve existing conditions, but I have not time to deal with them all. Last year the Secretary of State (Mr. Cahan) said, I believe-and if I am wrong I apologize-that no law could be framed to prevent the watering of stock. That is nonsense. A system could easily be found that would pass on every issue of stock by every corporation, and if it were found there was watering of stock to an improper extent at the expense of ignorant buyers, we could refuse to allow it to be issued. That evil and a very great one, could be easily checked.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I do not think the

Secretary of State put it in those words. In fairness to him, I think he said that there was no law to prevent people from buying watered stock, because they could buy it if they wanted to do so.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

If I am wrong, I withdraw

the statement, but I certainly had the impression he said there was no way by which it could be prevented. However, if it were not offered for sale, of course people could not buy it. What brought ruin to many a poor and many a rich man in 1929 was the collapse of the stock market. That could largely have been prevented in its most disastrous effects by forbidding gambling on margin, which was the cause of impoverishing many people. I need not go into that, because it would take too long.

We could inaugurate a system of unemployment insurance of far-reaching effect, not

Cooperative Commonwealth-Mr. Neill

attempting to deal with conditions today, because that would be hopeless, but looking toward the future. Let us do the Joseph act reported in Scripture: in the years of plenty he created reserves against years of want. These things could be brought forward and adopted without upsetting our whole fiscal system, and I do not find them in what I have gathered of the program of the cooperative commonwealth. I have to vote either yes or no on this question, and I find that if we pass the resolution, the house and the government will be bound immediately-note that, immediately-to take measures looking to the setting up of a cooperative commonwealth. Are we really prepared to do this, or shall we vote for it only because we think it is popular at the moment?

If I vote for it, I am in all honesty committed to it. I have to go home and explain it to my people, but I do not understand it because it has never been definitely explained to me and I doubt very much whether the leaders of the party could explain it in the language that would cover the whole ground. It is entirely too vague for my purpose and taste. It suffices not to turn aside pertinent questions such as the Prime Minister asked this afternoon when he pointed out that the nationalization of land was a provincial matter. It will not do to pass that off as a detail. These things are part and parcel of what we are asked to vote for and we ought to know them.

I wonder what would be the first six things they would do if they got into power? Or let us ask, even the first two? The hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Spencer) read out a partial program but it was only a suggested proposal he gave and I have a somewhat different program I took from a newspaper. He was the first man in the debate who gave anything tangible to go upon, and he stated even what he suggested might not come within the scope of practical politics for the next fifteen years.

One of the first things suggested is the abolition of money, at least of all such as we must have if we want to trade with foreign nations. Perhaps that is an excessive statement, but that is the spirit of it. The money that would be created, in the sense I understand their proposals, would be of little use outside Canada.

Then there is the nationalization of land. Do we realize what that means? From every man who has a home which he has hewed out of the wilderness or a house built in town, his property is to be taken away. These farms and houses pay heavy taxes at

present to keep up the respective governments; who is going to pay them in future?

I wonder. Let us grasp the idea: this means all land, and in addition we are to have nationalization of industry, because you have to go the whole hog. I have to ask myself do I realize all that that involves? Am I prepared to vote for that?

Then we come to another feature: Production for use and not for profit. I have not time to deal with that, but that means simply Russia and nothing else. I do not agree with the hon. member for West York (Mr. Lawson) when he says that the whole thing is communism; he seeks to damn it for political reasons. There is good in the cooperative commonwealth program, but that particular feature of it is communism pure and simple. There is no question about that; it cannot be explained in any other way. It is not socialism: it is communism, with all that it involves, because you have to take it all, and we are being asked to put it into force today or tomorrow. I know that it would be popular with many people in my constituency if I voted for the resolution, because it has a sort of specious appeal, but I have a responsibility to those people, not to look behind, but to look ahead. These working men trusted me. They gave me the opportunity to come here and educate myself in these matters, to see and learn and observe. They gave me the time and the opportunity, and they would demand foresight on my part and can hold me responsible if I were to catch at the passing fancy of a moment and then go back to them and say: I have landed you in something the end of which I can only guess. I am responsible to them, and I accept my responsibility. I shudder to think of the condemnation that would be my just guerdon if I took a step that I felt might end in disaster and make their condition far worse than it is now, if that be possible, and it is.

I do not think I can be accused of favouring capitalism. My record in this house, I think I can safely say, has been one of radicalism. I have supported and am willing to go to considerable lengths in supporting old age pensions, unemployment insurance, health and other social legislation. I would go further than we have done, but I must have a clear vision of where we are going. I want to know where it is going to land before I start the rock rolling down the mountainside, and I cannot see where we are going under this program. I do not know and I have not been told what benefits it would really confer.

1760 COMMONS

Cooperative Commonwealth-Mr. Neill

The hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland), in his able speech, made, not an argument, but perhaps the very best appeal, although a specious one. His appeal was this, that the two great parties have failed to produce anything better, that their system has failed, so let us now try this. It is a plausible argument; I do not know that it is a sound one. He says in effect: You have made a mess of things, and so now try our policy, which has at least the merit of being new and untried. That is all the merit it has, and newness and untriedness is not always the very best recommendation in these days. When we are in deadly economic peril, in which all of us are involved-for the man in the bread line and the Prime Minister with all his wealth have just the same thing at stake, their all, and if we go down we will all go down in one common catastrophe-it is not the time for rash experiments by wellmeaning theorists, undoubtedly with the best intentions, but lacking experience and cohesion. How long could a combination of farmers who essentially must believe in dear food and cheap labour coalesce with the labour party who must in the very nature of things believe in cheap food and high wages? And when we see the deep anxiety of the Finance minister as to whether he can make ends meet and make his budget balance, is it wise to give out to the financial world that we are contemplating going along this path, this new and untried path, a path on which we cannot even see around the nearest corner, a path whose main recommendation is that it is new and untried? Are these the days and these the times to go into things such as that? I am under no obligation to either great party in this house and could readily give my support to any scheme that seemed to offer a reasonable hope of a workable measure of reform. But like the man from Missouri I must be shown. If I cannot see the distant scene and ultimate benefit, I must surely be shown some benefit in the immediate future, and until I see that, and something more, at least the promise of some permanent benefit, I shall be somewhat reluctantly compelled to vote against the resolution.

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CON

Robert King Anderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ANDERSON (Halton):

I would ask

you to call it eleven o'clock, Mr. Speaker,

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ADJOURNMENT-BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Tomorrow is government day, and we propose to go into supply, on trade and commerce estimates. We were in supply on trade and commerce once this session, and we should be able to take them on Friday,

but if there is any question as to that, we can do so by consent. I do not know whether it was ever contemplated when the rule was made that once being in supply in the session you may go into supply any day with respect to those items. We were in supply this session already on the trade and commerce items in the supplementary estimates.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENIE KING:

Have any other departments besides trade and commerce been in supply this session?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, the right hon. gentleman may remember moving an amendment on going into supply in connection with agriculture, and a point of order was raised whether its subject matter had not been covered by the debate on the address. The debate continued for two days and was concluded on the third, when we went into supply and took four or five departments. Perhaps the right hon. gentleman will remember that we took pensions and national health, trade and commerce, civil government, and there was one other, if my memory serves me.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The proposal

is to go on with trade and commerce estimates tomorrow?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes.

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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned without question put, pursuant to standing order. Friday, February 3, 1933


February 2, 1933