Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)
Sir WILFRID LAURIER:
Yes, six I can see, the friends of each of whom believed
that he was entitled to occupy the position, and each one of whom believed that he was more entitled to it than his neighbour. How is it that they have been left and my hon. friend from Portage la Prairie chosen? That is where the subtle mind of my hon. friend from Portage la Prairie served him. That subtle mind taught him that something more than legal ability must play a part in the choice to be made. He was not satisfied to show only his ability as a member of this House; he showed his teeth also. And when the Prime Minister saw those sharp teeth bared and ready to sink into his quivering flesh, all hesitation was gone.
You will remember that towards the end of last session the Bank Bill came back from the Senate, with some amendments. The Minister of Finance, who was in charge of the Bill, accepted the amendments, and explained them to the House. He said that they were trivial, nominal, and of no consequence; that although they were, perhaps, of some improvement to the measure, they affected in no way the principle of it. Thereupon there was a storm of indignation, or rather of pretended indignation, on the other side of the House. Some hon. gentlemen rose to protest, and the most valiant of these was the hon. member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Meighen). He attacked the amendments most violently; he said that they changed the whole tenor of the Bill; he shot at the Senate, which he could not reach, and over the heads of the Government, whom he wished not to hurt. It was more than an attack; it was a warning. The right hon. gentleman remembered a page in the parliamentary history of England upon which it is recorded that when Sir Robert Walpole was prime minister a young cavalry officer was elected to Parliament, and the moment he had spoken the Prime Minister said to his friends, ' that warhorse must be muzzled.' It is evident that when my hon. friend the Prime Minister heard the hon. member for Portage la Prairie, he said to himself that that hon. gentleman would have to be muzzled. Unfortunately, as my hon. friend has chosen the great William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, as his model, and as the Minister of Finance has gone so far as to approve the action of the Senate, my hon. friend the new Solicitor General will have to use his best ability to approve also, whatever may be his own feelings.
The other circumstance to which attention should be called, and one with which we are unfortunately commencing to be familiar, is the absence of my hon. friend the Minister of
Trade and Commerce (Mr. Foster)., I am aware that that hon. gentleman is absent in England, and that he is attending the sittings of a commission appointed in consequence of a resolution passed by the last Imperial Conference. These duties are important, but. they are in no way connected with the Department of Trade and Commerce; in fact, such duties should never have been entrusted to a Minister of the Crown. The late Government had recommended a man of great commercial ability, and of high standing in the financial world, Mr. P. C. Larkin; but this recommendation was disregarded and the appointment cancelled by the present Government when they came into office. This was, I believe, the first act in their debauchery of dismissals; the last we have not heard. The Minister of Trade and Commerce should never have taken these duties to which I have referred. He should have remembered that, according to Scripture, no man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. This is exactly what has taken place. My hon. friend has adopted his duties as commissioner and he has forgotten his duties as minister. He was absent during the greater part of last session; he may be absent the greater part of this session. It is true that last year he had the excuse, as was hinted a moment ago by the mover of the Address, that he was in search of trade for the growers and producers of Canada-a most laudable ambition. He went to China, and he went to Japan. I speak not by way of condemnation, but I may add that we have it upon good authority that my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce contemplates sending bakers to China and Japan to teach the Chinese and the Japanes the superiority of a wheat diet over a rice diet. Again I say I do not condemn; I entirely approve. Let the Minister of Trade and Commerce send not only bakers, but confectioners, pastry cooks, and culinary missionaries of every description, and let their mission be to wean the celestials from their gastronomical proclivities; from swallows' nests, sharks' fins, bamboo roots and ducks' eggs two years old, and induce them to substitute for these delicacies the modern preparations of wheat flour, and anything and everything in the way of cereals, not forgetting porridge, the food of the strong and the free in this part of the world. If my hon. friend the Minister oi Trade and Commerce, as a result of his pilgrimages to Japan and China, will succeed in obtaining for this country the sale ,
of one more barrel of flour than we have exported hitherto, the Government will have done more than they have so far accomplished during their four years of office.
The Speech from the Throne is remarkable for two things: first, for what it contains, and, second, for what it omits. Before I pass to what it omits, let me refer to-what it contains. It has a paragraph referring to the Hudson Bay railway, about which I do not propose to say anything upon this occasion; we must have more information than is contained in the SDeech from the Throne before we discuss that subject. But let me read this paragraph with regard to the Transcontinental railway:
. The work on the National Transcontinental railway has been rapidly advanced during the
ast year, and, notwithstanding the difficulties attending the construction of the Hudson Bay railway, and the provision of terminals, every possible progress has been made in bringing that important project nearer to completion.
If the National Transcontinental railway /las been rapidly advanced, we have only the word of the Speech for it, and we are not in much of a position to discuss the whole matter. ' At all events, we know enough to say, without any fear of contradiction, that if the work of the Transcontinental railway has been advanced, it has not been on the section between Cochrane and Quebec city. This part of the road should be open to traffic to-day, but it is yet far from completion. On the 19th of Februarv last, in the other branch of the legislature, a question was put by Senator Casgrain with regard to the section of the railway between Cochrane and the city of Quebec, in these words: .
Q. What was the length of the gap, in miles, on the 1st of November, 1912, where the grading has not been made between Cochrane and t he city of Quebec?-A. Thirty-five miles.
Q. What is the distance between both ends of steel of this gap to-day??-A. Eighty-eight miles.
So at the end of the season last year there were thirty-five miles of grading and eighty-eight miles of steel to be laid on that section; not a very heavy task, and one that should have been accomplished during the summer. I believe that the thirty-five miles of grading has been done, and that the section between Cochrane and Quebec has also been graded.
But yet the road is not in operation in any way and cannot be put in operation. For what reason? For the reason that the Government of the day have completely neglected to provide terminals at the citv
of Quebec. What have they done during the two years they have been in office? When we left office, in October, 1911, we had passed contracts to provide provisional terminals. We had a contract amounting to $1,000,000 for a station at the Champlain market. We had contracts ready to be given and I think they had been awarded for the building of wharfs on the front of the St. Lawrence, something like 2,000 feet in length, which were to cost something like $5,000,000. These works were absolutelv necessary for the operation of the road. It is impossible to operate a railroad unless you have a station. It is impossible to connect the road with what we hope to have, an ocean service, unless you have wharfs also. What has been done about these wharfs? Not one foot of them has ever been undertaken up to the present time. What has been done at the station? Nothing at all, my hon. friend the Minister of Railways (Mr. Cochrane) has cancelled that contract. He told us nearly two years ago, in the session of 1911-12, that he would not have the station at the Champlain market, that he was contemplating a union station elsewhere. He told us at the same time that he would have a small station at the Champlain market place. Has this small station been commenced? Not up to the present time. What has been done? The only thing done towards the provision of terminals has been the commencing of shops at St. Romuald. The late commission has laid out the shops at St. Foy ; the ground had been purchased and prepared; but the new commission thought it advisable to change the site of the shops and to place them at St. Malo; that is, to transfer them from the valley of the St. Lawrence to the valley of the St. Charles. As to this I pass no judgment because we have not yet had information on this subject. But I know one thing: even if it be good policy, for engineering reasons, to have the site of those shops changed, you cannot use those shops, as has been stated by the Postmaster General (Mr. Pelletier) himself, unless you have a tunnel from the valley of the St. Lawrence to the valley of the St. Charles. Has this work been commenced? It has not. When will it be commenced? It is impossible to say; we have no information. What time will be required for its construction? We do not know. Have the survevs been prepared? I am not aware that they have. No, nothing has been done up to the present time in order to complete the road and make it available. More than that,
I understand and we shall have to ask the information from the Minister of Railways on this point-that an arrangement has been made to have a joint station between the Canadian Pacific railway and the Transcontinental railway. I would like to know if the Grand Trunk Pacific railway has been a party to such an agreement as that. I have reason to believe, and I think I can assert-and I challenge contradiction on this point-that these changes which I have just mentioned, the removal of the shops to St. Malo and the removal of the station from the Champlain market place, have been made without the approval of-the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, and, under the law passed by this Parliament in 1903, the Grand Trunk Pacific railway must be a party to any such changes as these. If the Grand Trunk Pacific railway had been a party to this arrangement, Parliament, I am sure, would have been made aware of that fact long ago; but up to the present time we have received no information that it is a party. If I am in error in this I would be glad to be informed, and I hope the information will be laid before us at the earliest possible moment; in fact, I mav venture to say to the Minister of Railways that he is bound at the earliest moment to place before us not only the report of the Commission of Inquiry which has been investigating the work performed by the late Administration, but all information respecting all changes that have been made bv the new Transcontinental Railway Commission upon the work of the late commission.
My hon. friend the mover of the Address referred to some things that were not referred to in the Speech. Yes, there are two things not referred to. One is the'' Highways Bill. I was surprised to hear my hon. friend the member for York, N.B., (Mr. McLeod) tell us that the measure which was introduced was a fair measure in every particular. I say to him-and we shall have to debate this more than once in this House-that the Highways Bill which was introduced was not only unfair but was in direct violation of the constitution of Canada. It has been stated more than once that the object of this Bill was to help the provinces. I do not deny it; we never denied it; we have always affirmed the principle of the Bill, but we condemned the manner in which it was proposed to help the provinces in this Bill which was in marked contrast to another Bill introduced by the Minister of Agriculture to help the provinces in the matter of agriculture. One was passed and became law. The other was passed with
an amendment, and if it is not law to-day it is not the fault of the Opposition; it is not even the fault of the Upper Chamber; it is the fault of the Government who could not introduce a Bill in accordance with the terms of the constitution. Here is the Bill which was introduced last year with regard to helping the provinces in regard to agriculture. It became law; no objection having been taken to it. Section 4 of that Bill provides that Parliament shall appropriate a certain sum of money. Subsection 1 of section 4 provides:
The remainder of the appropriation for each year shall be allotted and paid to the governments of the respective provinces in proportion to the populations of the said provinces respectively as determined by the latest decennial census.
Is that fair ? This is fair and this is constitutional ? Every year an appropriation shall be made according to the census then in force and the money shall be paid to the local Government. Are those the terms of the Highways Bill ? They are not. If those had been the terms of the Highways Bill, the Highways Bill would be law to-day as the Agricultural Bill is law to-day. Here are the terms of the Highways Bill; compare them with the terms I have just read from the Agricultural Bill :
The Governor in Council may, in any year, and upon such terms and subject to such conditions as are prescribed by Order in Council, grant to the several provinces of the Dominion in aid of the improvement of existing highways or bridges, or the construction of new highways or bridges, or for all or any such purposes, subsidies not exceeding in the whole such sum as may in such year be voted by parliament for that purpose.
The Government may, at their sweet will, not pay directly to the provinces, as provided for in the Act for aiding agriculture, but pay or not pay to the provinces, or keep for themselves if they want to do so, the money appropriated by Parliament. I ask the hon. member for York, N.B., who was not in the House last year and who perhaps has not given this legislation the attention which we who were in the House have given to it, to compare the Act with the Bill and then to tell us that he can approve of the Highways Bill. Would he not say, on the contrary, in fairness, that the only method which should have been adopted was the one adopted by the Minister of Agriculture of paying the money to the provinces and letting them expend it themselves. This is the constitution. If we admit-and that nobody can deny-that the highways are under the control of the local Legislature,
why was it not done and why was the same principle not adopted in the Highways Bill as in the Agriculture Instruction Bill P Up to the present time we have not received a satisfactory answer on this point, and never shall we, because there is no explanation to be given.
The other thing which is not to be found referred to in the Speech from the Throne is the Naval Aid Bill. It was not more than three weeks ago that the correspondent in the London Times, who is supposed to be deep in the secrets of the Government, wrote to his paper, in a letter which everybody could have read if he had cared to, that the Naval Bill would be introduced again. It is not to be introduced. As to this, I have no comment to make, except that the non-introduction of the Bill to-day is the best possible justification of the attitude of the Liberal party on this question and of the amendment voted by the Senate last session.
The action of the Senate last session, on almost the last day of the last session, just before prorogation, called forth strong animadversions from the other side of the House. The Minister of Finance (Mr. White) on that occasion reviewed the action and attitude of an old friend of his and mine, Sir George Boss, now the leader of the Liberal party in the Senate. He endeavoured to be severe, and very severe to Sir George Boss. He compared him with Daniel Webster, whom he called the great apostate, and applied to him the verses which were applied to Webster:
Walk backwards; with averted gaze And hide the shame.
The passion of my hon. friend has had time to cool. At all events, I tell him-and I hope he is cool enough to understand- that the strictures which he passed upon the dead were the greatest eulogy which he could pass upon the living statesman, because the strictures which were put upon Daniel Webster have not been justified by the impartial'judgment of history. On the contrary, men there are to-day, and men there were in the day of Daniel Webster, to take exception to the strictures passed upon him for the action which was adverted to by my hon. friend last session. In 1850, as my hon. friend knows, the differences between the North and the South in the American Union were becoming very acute. There was a chasm which was every day growing greater, and Henry Clay, who was the greatest apostate of the Union of that time, brought in a resolution which was
destined-no, I will net say destined, because it failed of its object-but which was intended to reconcile the growing dissension between the two branches of the Union. Daniel Webster supported that legislation, and for having taken that action he was censured by some of the abolitionists of the Northern States. Among those abolitionists I must say there were some men of the highest character, such as Theodore Parker, Horace Mann and James Russell Lowell. The issue showed that even the .brightest intellects could be clouded by passion, and that some well-intentioned men never can realize that any stand on a public question different from their own can be
5 p.m. as nobile as their own, and that there are men who will never forgive those whose intellects plunge deeper into the horizon than their own. It was the good fortune of Daniel Webster to live long enough to see many of them recant their opinions, and, as I said a moment ago, the judgment of history has not confirmed the strictures upon Daniel Webster adverted to by my hon. friend. And, if my hon. friend will take the last and the best of all, he will find that the speech which was delivered by Webster, though criticised in parts, is declared by Cecil Rhodes himself [DOT]to have shown statesmanship of the highest order. There is more. The whole matter has been well summed up by one of the greatest minds in the last generation. James G. Blaine, in his work entitled ' Twenty years of Congress/ says:
The thoughtful reconsideration of his severest critics must allow that Mr. Webster saw before him a divided duty, and that he chose the part which in his patriotic judgment was demanded T>y the supreme danger of the hour.
I commend these words to my non. friend. The patriotic judgment of Sir George Ross showed what was the supreme danger of the hour, and it was because he saw the supreme danger of the hour that he acted as he did. Sir George Ross is well known as an intense imperialist, but upon that *occasion there was a question which was uppermost: It was a question of the autonomy of this country, and by that principle he stood. My hon. friend will allow, now that the matter has passed, for the present at all events, that the Bill which '-was brought in last session, was not even a measure of emergency, although it was so called. It was simply a measure of expediency involving a policy of contribution, a policy which had been denounced by the very men themselves who introduced the o
Bill, a policy which was not justified by anything which then existed. They introduced it upon the shallow pretense of emergency. Emergency? Who speaks to-day of emergency? Twelve months have passed since my right hon. friend the Prime Minister introduced his measure. Twelve months and more have passed since that time when 'he saw the German peril. He saw Germany almost ready to jump at the throat of Great Brkain. He saw clouds on the horizon; he saw these clouds rent by lightning; he heard the murmurs arid rumbling of distant thunder. But my right hon. friend to-day may live in peace: The atmosphere is pure, the sky is clear. My right hon. friend, I think, heard the words of the Lord Chancellor, which were pronounced in this country last year, to the effect that the relations between Germany and Great Britain, were cordial and he must have read with the greatest satisfaction that not later than five weeks ago a cause 'of difficulty between the two nations about some territory in Africa had been amicably settled. And from that time to this moment the relations between the two countries which were cordial in the month of September last have been absolutely friendly. The light has been let in on that question, and we know now how much the country and the empire and the civilized world has been deceived upon that question of so-called emergency. We know now, we have the evidence, how the panics of which we have heard in this House more than once, are created and engineered. We have had the evidence that these panics are engineered by the armour-plate builders and by the great ship-building firms who do not hesitate to create false news in order to obtain contracts for their ships. The matter was brought up in the German Reichstag, and the following letter addressed by the firm to one of its agents in Paris was read:
We have just wired to you asking you to await in Paris our to-day's letter. The reason for the telegram was that we should like to obtain the insertion in one of the most widely-read French journals-preferably the ' Figaro'- an article to the effect that the French military authorities have decided to accelerate considerably the re-arming of the troops with new machine guns, and to order double the quantity of the latter as against their original intention. We shall be much obliged if you could succeed in getting such an article published.
That letter was signed by two directors of what was supposed to be a respectable firm. The thing was denounced in the German Reichstag, and it could not rest
there, because it was found that army officers received bribes to promulgate this false news, and they were tried and convicted and are now serving sentences. Now we know why we have so often these recurring panics which are disturbing the peace of the world, and which, if they do not bring war, always bring fat contracts to the armament firms. Not only that, but we have the evidence-no, I will not say evidence-but it has been charged, and so far as I know the charge has not been denied, that the information which was given to us upon the German armament could not be relied upon, but was false and exaggerated. I do not speak of my own knowledge as to that, but I give as my authority an article published by Mr. A. G. Gardiner in the Daily News and Leader of London. I call attention to this paragraph in that article:
How that is done was revealed in the case of Mr. Mulliner of the Coventry Ordnance works. It was Mr. Mulliner who was the true author and begetter of the famous panic of 1908-9. It was he who supplied Parliament and the press with the material for that memorable agitation. It was he who was quoted with such effect by Mr. Arthur Lee, Mr. Duke, Mr. Balfour and others. It was he who was finally solemnly received by the Cabinet
the British Cabinet-to tell them all about the goings-on of Kruppis, the 38,000 new workmen whom Mr. Lee said they were employing-as a matter of fact there was a decline in the number of men employed between 1907 and 1909-the acceleration in shipbuilding and the menace of that fatal year 1912 when the Germans, we were led to suppose, intended to make short work of the British Empire. Fresh from that momentous interview Mr. Asquith and Mr, McKenna told the House of Commons that Germany would have 17 dreadnoughts in 1912 instead of the projected 13 ; Mr. Balfour, not to be outdone, said there would be 21 and possibly 25. When in due time 1912 arrived the Germans had 12 dreadnoughts completed.
This information, which was given by Mr. Mulliner, was repeated by ministers on the floor of the House of Commons in England, and repeated also on the floor of this House by hon. gentlemen opposite. I do not charge any intention of deceit on the part of the Prime Minister in this regard, but I will charge deceit if, in the face of this evidence, we again hear of such a thing as an emergency.
The German peril has disappeared, if indeed there ever was such a thing; but we have another menace and another peril which is far more dangerous; a peril which affects not the fate of the Empire, but which is bound to bring suffering to hundreds of thousands of His Majesty's subjects in Canada. I may say that this peril has found the Government singularly
callous with respect to it. Within the last four weeks the Minister of Finance has reviewed the economic situation in Canada twice; once in Montreal at the commercial travellers' banquet, and again at Gananoque, in his riding. On both occasions he pronounced the financial condition of the country perfectly satisfactory. According to him, it has not always been satisfactory, but at the moment he was speaking it had become satisfactory again; there were no more clouds on the horizon, the storm had passed. That I may not do injustice to the Minister of Finance, I quote his words as reported in the Montreal Gazette, which authority I suppose he will accept. At Montreal, he is reported by the Gazette to have said:
Our country has experienced its time of stress, and will come through it well. I believe the crisis has been reached, and passed in Canada, as in other countries of the world.
*According to these words of the Minister of Finance, the crisis has come and passed, and once more navigation is easy and Canada is in a good position. I am not surprised at these words, in view of the fact that two years ago the gentlemen opposite were exclaiming in times of prosperity: let well enough alone. The
Minister of Finance was satisfied two years ago to let well enough alone; he would not then improve the situation; he would not improve what was good in prosperous times, and now, in bad times, he and his party will, not reform what is bad. We have had it from my young friend from York, N.B. (Mr. McLeod) that we have reached hard times, and the people of Canada have, I believe, come to the conclusion that, as the Government did not improve what was good in prosperous times, we are now not far away from bad times. Well, the bad times are here. When the Minister of Finance stated, as he did that the crisis was over, he had two things staring him in the face. For the first time since 1897 we hear of such a thing as non-employment in Canada. It is well known that at the present time prosperous establishments of long standing are reducing the number of their employees, that others are reducing the hours of work, that others are reducing the number of their employees and the hours of labour as well and that others have closed down. And yet, in the face of that situation, when there are to-day, in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary. Edmonton and Vancouver, not fewer lhan
100,000 men asking for work, the Minister
of Finance says the crisis is over, and that we can be as confident as we were before. And at this very moment, when labour is scarce, and when the purchasing power of the people has been reduced to its lowest point, the cost of all prime necessities of life has risen abnormally. But the Minister of Finance says there is no crisis, and therefore there is nothing for the Government to do. He is not the only one of the ministry who has taken this stand; we have more instances than one to prove that the Government is singularly callous to the present condition of affairs. The Minister of Labour spoke on this subject, giving it as his view that there was absolute prosperity because the prices of commodities were so high. The Minister of Trade and Commerce also gave his opinion on this subject, as published in the Montreal Gazette of the 10th of December last. The reporter says:
Charging that Canadians were extravagant and must correct this weakness as the first step forward in reducing the high cost of living, the Hon. Geo. E. Foster made one of a number of notable speeches here in the Rideau theatre.
Then the reporter puts these words into the mouth of the Hon. George E. Foster:
Referring to the depopulation of the farming districts, Mr. Foster said he would not admit that young men were driven to the cities, but were lured there. He did not favour a commission to investigate the question. 'The Lord knows,' Mr. Foster continued, ' we have had enough commissions. They are as plentiful as blackberries. Commissions are roaming the country wasting good ink and paper preparing reports which are laid on the shelf and nothing done with them. It is not a commission that will right this matter. The action must be taken by the people themselves. Teachers and parents must not only give advice to the young people, but'must instruct them to the fact that the oldest industry of agriculture is also the noblest.'
This is good advice, but it was not followed by those to whom it was given, because hi a week from that day, I understand, the Government appointed a commission to investigate the high cost of living and the cause of the depopulation of the farming districts. That commission is composed of three gentlemen well known in the city of Ottawa. Mr. McDougald, Commissioner of Customs is the chairman, and in regard to him 1 have nothing but good to say. He is a most competent and valuable officer. I would say the same of Mr. Coats, who is the assistant Deputy Minister of Labour. Mr. James I do not know so well, but I have good reports of him also. What I want to say, however, is that if this com-24
mission is to be effective, if it is to accomplish any good, it should not be entrusted to civil servants. It should not be placed in the hands of the Commissioner of Customs, the assistant Deputy Minister of Labour and the other gentleman. It is evident that they must be restricted in their operations. There is one field into which they cannot enter. If, as many of us suppose, if, as the country supposes-I will not say more than that-the high cost of living is due to political causes, and I believe it is partly due to political causes, will these men dare to investigate that part of the subject? They will not dare to do so; they cannot do so; they are estopped from entering into that field. In appointing that commission, the Government have taken a course which will simply end in nothing. If there is to be an investigation of this kind, it should be placed in the hands of some of the members of the Cabinet-for instance, the Minister of Customs (Mr. Reid), the Minister of Labour (Mr. Crothers), the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Foster)-to mention these three alone-who should travel over the country from Halifax to Vancouver, and hear all classes of the community-producers, consumers, farmers, mechanics, professional men, clergymen, housewives-these last especially, because they are the most interested of all in that question. Nothing of the kind, however, has been done. The task has been entrusted to a commission which, as their report will show, can do only half the work.
We come now to the Speech from the Throne. I was not present, of course, when the Speech was prepared, but I can imagine that my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Mr. White) must have had a hard task when it came to preparing this part of the Speech:
Canada has been favoured by a long series of prosperous years, and, although at the present moment business is slightly restricted by the financial stringency which prevails throughout the world, I feel convinced that this condition will be merely temporary, and that the boundless resources of this Dominion, which are so fully and universally known and recognized, give us the fullest assurance of continued material prosperity and progress.
When it came to these words:
Canada has been favoured by a long series of prosperous years-*
That was hard to fathom, because it was paying a pretty good compliment to the late Administration which had been in office for several years. But when it came to the other words:
Although at the present moment business is slightly restricted-
I can imagine my hon. friend, the Minister of Finance (Mr. White), saying: I made a speech a few weeks ago saying that the crisis was over. How can I say that it still exists? He was drawing too long a bow at Montreal. The Speech only says what is in everybody's mind, and puts it very mildly and gently when it says that business is slightly restricted. But when we have the admission from the Government that business is not in a satisfactory condition, what are we to say of the conclusion which is reached by the Government? We have the admission that the economic condition of the country is not satisfactory, and a confession on the part of the Government of its impotence to deal with such a problem. When the Government stated in the Speech -a statement which I am sure they placed very reluctantly in the mouth of His Royal Highness-that the economic condition of the country was not satisfactory, all that they did was to express the highest hope that matters would rectify themselves. They say that the resources of the country are boundless. So they are, but is it the business of the Government simply to rely upon the resources of the country? Are ' they to do nothing themselves? Are they to be simply flies on the wheel? Are they not to take any action at all? It is very true that the resources are boundless, but it has been shown that the resources of the country do not yield their treasures to those who rely simply upon statements; they want to be tapped; they want men to use power and judgment in order to develop them. This is not what is done by my hon. friend the Minister of Finance. The Government thus stands to-day convicted before the people that, while admitting that the economic condition of the country is not satisfactory, they have nothing to suggest in order to make it any better. Is this what we are to expect from the Government? Is this what, the people of the country have reason to expect in view of the fact that two years ago they placed the government of the country in the hands of the gentlemen who now occupy the treasury benches? Are we to be told in this age and at this day that the Government are in power simply to enjoy the sweets of office and to take no responsibility to better such a condition of things as exists to-day? If the Government will not take any responsibility, perhaps it may be well that I should tell them that they must act. They cannot afford to remain silent. They must act in order to carry out the duties which they .
have to perform. What action are they to take? There are several things which they can do, which they ought to do, and which the people expect them to do.
In the first place, they must give to the country, which is a young, expanding country, as stated a moment ago by the hon. member for York, N.B., wider markets than it has at the present time. There is one thing which they can do simply by a stroke of the pen; they can give to the producer of wheat the American market. They have received delegation upon delegation asking for that. I understand that my hon. friend the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Rogers), who told us last year that he knew how to win elections, stated, during the election in Macdonald, that, if it was in the interest of the people to have free wheat, free wheat it would be.
What more evidence does my hon. friend want ? He has received a delegation from the grain growers of the western provinces asking for free wheat. In the very legislature of the province which he represents here a resolution has been passed unanimously, not moved by a Grit but moved by a Conservative, to the effect that wheat ought to be made free. There was a delegation only a few days ago of some twenty members of the Alberta Legislature asking for free wheat. How is it, then, that the Speech from the Throne does not contain the announcement that wheat will be made free ? When this admission was made that the economic condition of the country was not satisfactory, we had reason to expect that some action would be taken. We have been disappointed in this. Is that all they should do ? No, they ought to do that which they have been asked many tjmes to do,-they ought to relieve the farming community of the burden of taxation which the farmers are carrying at the present time. There is one fact that is beyond doubt, a fact on which we must have more explanation before the session passes. Everyone knows that in regard to many commodities of which at one time we produced far more than we consumed we do not now produce enough to meet the home demand. Years ago we produced a surplus of butter and of meat of many kinds; at present we are importing butter, mutton and other commodities. The agricultural classes have found labour so, expensive that they have been unable to carry on their operations as they desired to do. It becomes more and more evident that if you wish to stimulate the farming industries you must provide wider markets than you have provided up to the present time. By a happy circumstance for which the
present Government is not responsible, the American market has been opened to our cattle and the farmers of the western provinces have received for their cattle higher prices than they ever received before. The consequence will be that in two or three years there will be more cattle in the western provinces than there have been for many a long year. It is only by the stimulating of the activity of the farmer that he will develop his industry and lead to the whole of this country producing what it ought to produce.
One thing more we should do. At the present time the farming community of the West is suffering from a combine of the shipping interests of the Great Lakes. They have petitioned for a remedy of that grievance. It is a serious grievance, because it involves a tax upon both the producer and the consumer; and the Government will have to deal with that problem whether they wish to do so or not. The law is there to be executed, and if the law is not sufficient it ought to be amended so as to enable the Government to cope with such problems.
The Government must also take into consideration the problem of the high cost of living. I know I shall be told at once that that is not a question that affects Canada alone. 1 am quite aware that it affects the whole civilized world. The fact that the cost of living has risen in allcivilized countries shows that there are causes which are universal and whichmay perhaps be beyond our control.At the same time, when we reflect that the cost of living has risen in
Great Britain ten per cent and in Canada fifty per cent, it is plain that there are causes operating in Canada which do not exist in Great Britain. Now', I wish to state the question clearly; I do not pretend that the increased price of products is a thing in itself to be deplored. One cause for it I state at once: for the last ten or fifteen years the price of labour has increased all over the world; therefore it was natural that the price of agricultural labour should increase also, and this has had the effect of increasing the price of the product. This increase went on for years normally and gradually, and nobody complained. But at the present moment things are different. We see to-day that between the price paid by the consumer and the price received by the producer, there is a wide margin, and it is that margin especially which it should be the effort of this Government and this Parliament to reach and to cut down. If the
price paid by the consumer w'ere the price received by the farmer, no one could seriously object, and no one would object. But we have the right to object when the prices received by the farmer are not those which are paid by the consumer. I have seen it stated many times that the tariff is not responsible for the high cost of living. I do not pretend that the tariff is responsible for the high cost of living in its entirety, but I say to the Minister of Finance (Mr. White), who, more than any one else, must have this matter in hand, that the restrictions imposed by the tariff are used by the combines in order to promote their interests and charge those abnormal prices. And we are told that nothing is to be done. We are told that everything is satisfactory; we are told that the Government is powerless in this matter. It is not for me to give advice to the Government; if I w'ere to offer it they would not take it from me. But I have to tell them, whether they wish it or not, that they must act: they cannot afford to lie idle. They are not free to remain still like logs; they must move. There has been stringency before in this country. We are told in the speech from the Throne that the resources of the country are boundless. So they are. So they have been at all times. So they were in 1893-4-5 and 6. But, though the resources w'ere boundless in that way, yet the people suffered. It was only when a new Government came in that had the courage to take the matter in hand that there came an era [DOT]of prosperity which terminated only when the present Government came into office.
These are some of the duties which face the Government. Whether they accept what I say or not does not matter. But I tell them frankly-no, I will not tell them, but I tell the country frankly-that if they take up these duties and perform them with courage, with energy and good judgment, the shops will be reopened, trade will revive, prices will reach an equilibrium between consumer and producer, and we shall have another era such as we had after the enactment of the tariff of 1897. But if they will not do so, there are other men who will have to take their places, men who have shown before by actual experience that they have the minds to plan and the courage to execute, men who have proven that when difficulty arose and when the time of stringency came, they were equal to the occasion. This Government may accept it from me or not, but if they do not. the people will have to pronounce between them and us. .
We have been told that in taking the attitude which I have taken and again take here we have been moved only by a desire for a restoration to office. I do not Dretend to be indifferent to office. If I were so to pretend I should not be worthy of my position here. But there are things which to every right-minded man are more precious than the possession of office, and one is the welfare of the country in which we were born and for whose affairs we are responsible. We have made great sacrifices for our convictions, but if our convictions are not accepted we have no fault to find with any one. This is a free country, and every man is welcome to his opinions. But, Sir,
I repeat that no man should be indifferent to the conditions which exist to-day, and therefore in conclusion I beg to move that the following words be added to the Address :
We regret to have to represent to Your Royal Highness that in the gracious Speech with which you have met Parliament, whilst it is admitted that business is in a depressed condition, yet there is no indication of any intention on the part of your advisers to take any steps towards relieving such a situation.
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY.