Thomas Osborne Davis
Mr. T. O. DAVIS (Saskatchewan).
Mr. Speaker, when the House adjourned last night, I was alluding to the resolution which the hon. leader of the opposition has placed in your hands, in which he professes to outline the policy of the Conservative party on the question of the tariff. I said that as far as I was concerned, I might be very dense, but I would like a little more information from the hon. gentleman as to what he meant by adequate protection to the industries of this country. I pointed out that adequate protection might mean almost anything- that while the hon. member for Centre Toronto (Mr. Brock), who represents the woollen industries in this House, might consider 50 per cent adequate protection to the woollen industry, the farmers who sit on, the opposition side of the House might think 15 per cent adequate protection. The people in the North-west are as much if not more interested in the tariff question than the people of any other section of this country, and what we would like is a definite statement from the leader of the opposition as to what he would do if his party got into power. We would like to know whether he would repeal the preferential tariff. That is one thing we in the west are interested in. It has enabled us to get woollen goods at a much lower price than before on account of the 33} per cent preference, which has been a great relief so far. I would like to know also from the hon. leader of the opposition whether he proposes to increase the duty on agricultural implements, on which this government materially reduced the duty. We would be glad to know what the hon. gentleman would do in regard to these and a number of other prime necessaries of life ? The hon. gentleman's followers would then be in a position to go round and tell the people exactly what the hon. gentleman's resolution meant. The hon. gentleman has pointed out that if the duty were increased on certain commodities, the result world be to build up certain manufacturing industries, which would be a benefit to the agriculturists in the older provinces, inasmuch as they would provide a home market for their products. But we in the west have to export everything we produce beyond what we consume ourselves, and find a market for it outside of the shores of this Dominion. We have to send our wheat, our butter, our cattle, and everything else to the English market; whereas we have to pay a duty on everything we consume, whether under a
protective tariff or under a revenue tariff. We have a revenue tariff to-day, and we do not complain of that, because we know that we have obligations to the nation and we have to bear our share of the taxation. We are willing to do that, and do it cheerfully; but we think the line should be drawn somewhere. When the present tariff was brought down in 1897, a great many of our people in the west were a little dissatisfied, because they thought it should have gone a little further in the direction bf tariff reform; but when the matter was pointed out to them, and they realized the advantage they got from the preference, our people were satisfied with the tariff as a revenue tariff. But we are told that there are rumours in the air that there is likely to be an increase in the tariff in the near future. I have heard nothing that would lead me to believe that there will be anything of the kind. My hon. friend from Alberta (Mr. Oliver), in addressing the House a few nights ago, read from the speech of the Minister of Finance a passage which led him to believe that the government did intend in the near future to increase the duties on certain commodities. Here is what the Finance Minister said, and I do not see anything in it to cause any alarm lest he should raise the tariff :
We do not propose to make any changes in the tariff this session. I do not for a moment claim that the tariff is perfect. I think, that, on the whole, it has proved a very good tariff. Indeed, when we recall the circumstances, under which our tariff revision took place, when we remember the very complicated and difficult problem with which we had to deal,'.ve may well congratulate ourselves upon our t uecess in devising a tariff so well adapted to the requirements of the country, a tariff under which Canada has prospered in a greater degree thau in any period in her history. I have occasionally pointed out the desirability of a reasonable measure of tariff stability. Nothing would be more likely to unsettle business than a practice of 'ntroducing frequent tariff changes. Hence, we have resisted applications for many small changes and we think it well to do so to-day. But I would not have it understood that this view can always he held.
I suppose that last phrase is what agitated my hon. friend from Alberta (Mr. Oliver) : 'I would not have it understood that this view can always be held.' Then the Finance Minister proceeded to say :
As time passes, conditions change in our own country and it will be well for us to take note of this, so that we may adjust the tariff accordingly. Nor is that the only reason that might require some change. Conditions arise in other countries of which we are obliged to take account. We do not propose that we shall stand still and that this tariff shill remain unchanged, but we think the time is not opportune for making changes at present.
That is all the Finance Minister said with regard to the revision of the tariff. And there are no doubt many things in the tariff that could be improved. For instance, some of our manufacturers are