November 7, 1919 (13th Parliament, 3rd Session)


George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER (Acting Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I desire to say a few words at this juncture in respect to the matter before the House, and my difficulty is in collecting my thoughts so as to avoid vain repetitions. The subject has been so well put before the House by the committee, with such clearness and in such detail, that really almost all that is necessary to arrive at a proper conclusion is that a member should study that report. But in addition to the report itself, the exhaustive and lucid exposition which was made by the chairman of the committee (Hon. Mr. Calder) renders any remarks thereafter all the less necessary. And when you put on top of that the suggestions that have been made by the various speakers, one comes to the conclusion that pretty nearly all has been said that can be said on this particular phase of the question.
There are one or two general observations I should like to make. Every one finds it a difficult matter in approaching any subject, and particularly a large and important subject, to disassociate himself from his previous point of view and to take as far as possible an all-round view - of the subject. We think along certain lines and our mental attitudes are fairly well set, and we approach the study and discussion of almost any question from that settled angle; and the one who can almost entirely disassociate himself from pre-conceived notions is, other things being equal, apt to get at the broadest conception of the question and come

to the best-based conclusions. There is one point that might be mentioned and that is acceded to by almost every speaker, but yet the principle underlying which is clung very closely to by many hon. gentlemen and probably by many of those outside of the House who are interested. No nation in the world has ever undertaken, and I do not suppose that any nation in the world ever will or ever can undertake, to make compensation for the losses incurred in war, it would be an impossible task. There is no measure of worldly compensation for life that is lost in the service of the nation but partial compensation to the dependents of the dead may be given, nor do I believe that any nation can compensate for even the material losses which accrue to individuals in the course of a long and cruel war. We are all at one on that principle. I can see in the statements made by those who discuss the question, I can see in the claims made by the returned soldiers themselves, that they hold the belief that, having engaged in the splendid achievement of defending the country, somehow or other the country ought to see that they start life again on as favourable a basis and with as favourable surroundings as when they left their civil employment plus if possible compensation for the time that they lost in military life. We will, I think, all agree that it will be impossible practically for us to undertake to put every man in 'the material position in which he was at the time he went to war. Complete restitution and compensation are impossible.
Then there comes this question as to how far we can or will go and that perhaps may be said to be measured by two things: first, the will to do and, second, the ability to perform what the will would impel one to do.
Just here let me remark that, whether inside or outside of this House, the man who would try to create the impression that Canada has not been and is not now sympathetic towards her soldiers is not doing justice and is not helping to the final solution of this question. In proportion as outside or inside grows the impression that sympathy is lacking and that the accordant action that follows sympathy is not present, it is a hindrance to the future amicable and fair solution of the problem.
In coming to the consideration of this subject all our predispositions are in favour of doing everything possible for the men who have defended our country. That is absolutely true. That was shown to be

true during the whole period of enlistment and service. In no country in the world did the people follow with more earnest sympathy, interest, and love the men who went to battle than did the people of Canada. They were their own fathers, 'brothers, husbands, sons; there was a drawing of the heart strings of the men and women who were left behind. All through the war that sympathy showed itself in the prayers of the people, in the comforts that the people contributed, in the great Red Cross movement, in the Patriotic Fund, in those innumerable smaller congregations of women, children and men all through, our country who laboured for, and followed with their prayers the men who went to the front. Can that be denied? There was a great national foundation not only for doing for the soldiers everything that could he done during service in the field, for the wounded, for the fallen, for the disabled, to solace the relatives of those who had fallen and to fittingly honour the memory of the dead.
The man who accuses Canada-leave the Government out entirely-of a lack of sympathy and good-will towards our soldiers, their own flesh and blood, is either arguing from ignorance, or from malice.
Translated into this Parliament were the sympathy and good-will that followed the soldiers during the time of war. And where do the members of the House come from? They come out of the societies and homes of this country, from amongst those who have offered sacrifice in this war. Coming out of that atmosphere they brought with them to this House their sympathy for the Canadian soldier. The committee that was appointed was a selected portion of the men of this House from both sides. It was not necessary to engraft sympathy and good-will into the hearts and minds of that committee. They inherently bore it in them when they approached that investigation, and they came to consider the subject with all that sympathy of heart and mind.
Some one said that the human element does not appear sufficiently in the report. The human element is so interwoven in, and so overwhelms the mind, the sympathy and the feeling of the members of [DOT] this House, of the select committee, and of the people, that it is not necessary to make asseverations of it every hour of the day. That is beyond cavil and doubt, and in that committee all the predispositions were in favour of doing the best that could be done for the soldiers.

I make these preliminary remarks because I think it is well that I should. I come to another point and very briefly I will touch it-and that is as to what Canada has done. I eliminate entirely party names and governmental considerations; I am not saying what the Government has done, I am not saying what the Unionists have done, I am not saying what the Liberals have done; I am saying what Canada has done. And the 'Government, and the members of this Parliament, are presumably the interpreters of Canada's wishes and efforts. What has Canada done? Not in any spirit of vaunting do I speak of it; I speak of it to meet this impression which it has been attempted to create; that Canada has forgotten her soldiers and her duty towards them, and that she is not treating them with the sympathy and with the accordant action that they expect and that they ought to expect.
When a member gets up in this House and says that the requests of the returned soldiers have been greeted with coldness here, not to mention statements stronger than that, he is not, to my mind, stating what is the fact. Every member of this House ought to remember, when he gets upon his feet and speaks here, that he has been translated from the mass, he has been placed in a representative capacity, he stands towards the people outside, more than the man who is not so selected, as one who speaks with authority. His responsibility therefore is all the greater, and his care should be all the greater that he utters no word which creates a false impression,' and especially an impression which hazards and complicates the adjustment and makes the ultimate solution more difficult.
So, for a moment, bear with me while I state very briefly what Canada has done. In the first place, she has stood at the back of her men when they were in service. I just state that-I do not* argue it, I do not labour for evidence to prove it. We have followed the course of our soldiers and we know, and we have followed what the armies of other countries have done. The representatives of other countries, have followed our armies in the field; they know and they have expressed their opinion; and it goes without saying, I do not think it is subject to the least cavil, that in all that long period of warfare no soldiers in the field were better supported by the countries which were responsible for them-as regards equipment, as regards medical care, as regards nursing care, and as regards material comforts of every kind- than was the Canadian army supported by the Canadian people. So much for that. That is the duty of the country, and that duty Canada performed.
The second duty of a country when her men fight and fall-fall without life left or fall wounded and disabled-is to care tenderly for these men, Has Canada done her duty in that respect? Follow the splendid work of our medical, scientific and nursing staffs through that war. Contrast it, if you like, with the similar work performed for the soldier by other combatant nations, and without detracting from what others have done, we are proudly conscious of the fact that our wounded, our suffering, and our disabled did not lack for medical and nursing comforts and care to the fullest possible extent.
Then come two lines in which action may be taken. Your disabled men come
back. One has lost a leg, another has lost an arm, another has had his brain power impaired-his nerve centres are shocked, and confused, and disturbed. These men are the wrecks of war; they are the survivors who are to put in tnc span.of life that remains to them reaping sorrows and sufferings which the fallen have escaped by a sudden and a speedy death. These disabled, these shocked in nerve and in mind, the country must take care df to the fullest measure within its power. Has Canada done her fair duty in that respect? That is not a subject of controversy; it is a matter in regard to which we have all made up our minds. Granted that you never get the perfection of service and the perfection of aid, no blush should mantle Canada's cheek for the way in which she has treated the disabled who have been put into their different courses of vocational training, and other modes of treatment. We have not done all that Canada means to do. We know that Canadians support any government or any parliament that does for the soldier all that can be done to the very limit of the resources of the country. There is no doubt upon that score.
You now come to the other and the only remaining class: The men who left their homes and fought in service, and1 who were fortunate enough to come out of that service undisabled. Should Canada do nothing for them? I do not say so. Should Canada do as much as she possibly can for them?. I do say so. But I say there is a dividing line, clean, clear, and distinct between the one hundred per cent capa-

bility that is left and the handicapped condition of the wounded1 and the maimed. We make no mistake when we father and mother and nurse those who are impaired in mind and body. It comes to be a matter of utility, of expediency, maybe, to some extent-although I do not like that word-but in the end it comes to be a matter of the reasonable capability of the country as to how far the country shall put itself behind those that have fought in the war and made sacrifices? Why, of course they have made sacrifices and borne the strain of a terrible struggle, the result of which to a greater or lesser degree they will bear the result of so long as they live. But they are so fortunate, as compared with others, that they are in a class distinct by themselves. What has Canada done with reference to that class becomes apparent as one reads the report of this committee and as one follows the work that has been carried on. I am not going to take up your time describing what the country has done, but I do say that Canada has not been unmindful even of those. Let me state one fact by way of suming it up: $490,500,000 has already been disbursed, or committed for disbursement, by Canada along the lines that I have very briefly traced. That is to isay for the treatment of the first three classes-their vocational training and their care in assuming the cost of transport for dependents and otherwise, and in the payment of gratuities which no other country in the world has surpassed, and which I do not think any other country in the world has equalled. All this stands to the credit of Canada in her treatment of her returned men.
Canada works through her Parliament, Parliament works through its executive, and Parliament and its executive disbursed for Canada this great sum of $491,500,000 which the Canadian people put into their hands. My friend beside me does not dig down in his own pocket and necessarily contribute voluntarily to the $491,500,000, neither does any other man; it is raised from the people of Canada. And, further, the people of Canada voluntarily themselves have raised around $100,000,000 outside of what has been disbursed by their representatives here and by the executive of those representatives1-$100,000,000 for Bed Cross work, for the Patriotic Fund, to help soldiers in the innumerable ways in which they have been helped. You may add that amount, if you please, to the preceding figure, and Canada has then dis-

bursed practically $591,500,000 along those lines. I do not throw that into the teeth of the soldier who returns with his claim, but I simply put that point of view before him and before ourselves, and as widely as possible before the country, in order that well-balanced opinions, and conclusions from those opinions, may be had. All that is a rebuff to the statement so foolishly and sometimes so recklessly made that Canada has done comparatively nothing for her soldiers. She has not done one tithe of what she would have liked to do, she has not done one tithe of what the sacrifice, if we could undertake to make full compensation, has called for; but she has done what she has done with a willing and a sympathetic and a loving spirit, and I want the people of Canada who do not think deeply about these things to bear these points in mind'when we are discussing this question.
Now, that committee has made its report; and its report, I may say right here, in so far as the Government is concerned, is a report with which the Government is entirely in accord and purposes to adopt and to carry out. Do not run away with the idea that the Government of Canada-for the time being this Government, at other times it may be another Government belonging to another party-spends its days and its nights in times like these in riotous living and in an entire disregard of the general or the special interests of the country. Men who have formed governments and have laboured in them and have wrecked themselves in the labour, and have died for the reason that they have so- wrecked themselves, know what I mean when I make that statement. Long before you memJbers of Parliament set your special attention to this particular problem the Government lived with it in the daytime and slept with it in the night-time. It was ever present before them, and present before them with the endeavour to find that solution which should be just on the one hand and reasonably possible to give effect to on the other hand. Our soldiers form-I had almost made the mistake of saying one class of our people, 'but there are other classes and so I would like to modify that-our soldiers, by the .emergency and temporary work which they are called upon to do become to a certain extent specialized, but they are still citizens of Canada. They aTe now civilian citizens of Canada; they have never divorced themselves: from the country and its activities, its energies and its aspirations; they are not so separated now. They

come hack from their temporary work of splendid achievement, and the desire-of all of them I should hope, of most of them I believe-is to incorporate themselves as soon as possible in the activities and energies of the surroundings that they belonged to before they went to the war. The sooner that is accomplished the better. The time taken in keeping the specialized contingents still specialized and distinct in any degree is time lost in the best fulfilment of the ultimate pacifying and readjustment and reconstruction of our country. The sooner we all become civilian citizens, the better it will be and the more successful will be our progress towards the future which we face with confidence.
That committee brings in its report. It does not go 'as far as some people would like. Why did I make the remark that the Government had thought about this matter long and seriously? For this reason, and I will explain that part of the allusion just now: because, in the first place, the Government was forced by its duties and obligations to cheerfully undertake to look into this matter of finance to the very foundation and guide its policy from two considerations: the magnitude of the wants and the reasonable possibilities of what the country could bear. Looking along these lines, face to face with the facts on one side, with the claims on the other, some months ago, the Government came to the conclusion that in so far as the gratuity granting system was .concerned, they could not proceed further along those lines. And they made public, that view- a view oome to not on the spur of the moment, but after the most careful and the most assiduous attention had been given to all sides of the question. They stated their policy openly, and the country knows it. Then we formed a committee, of the House and that committee took up the investigation of these subjects. I am not in the habit of complimenting fulsomely, but I must say that I have seldom if ever in my political career had cognizance of the work of a committee which has been done more carefully and more attentively, and which has been more effectively presented to those who gave the committee the authority to make the investigation. That committee had access to evidence and which is still more important evidence had access to the committee. No doors were closed, no gates were shut, the whole Dominion had its access to that committee. That committee deliberated, got its information, collaborated its work, set down its conclusions, and made its findings.
We may send this report hack if the majority decide so to do, but I cannot see that you can get more out of that committee than you have already got. I cannot see that that committee missed any opportunities for getting at the bottom of this subject during the time that they were considering and cogitating upon the matter. So that it seems to me that it is time lost to send this report back to that committee and ask them, partly by instruction and partly by inference, to give us another and a different report.
My friend and colleague, the chairman of this committee (Hon. Mr. Calder), very pointedly and very effectively stated what would be the result of adopting the proposed amendment. My friend from, the head of the lakes (Mr. Manion), in an address that he made yesterday, very clearly stated the crowning disability involved in carrying out that recommendation and starting the committee off on an entirely new quest, or in an entirely new direction. Time is the essence of the contract in this case; what is wanted is wanted now, before the snow falls, at a time when the need is felt. It is not sufficient that whatever is ground out shall come from the mill six months or more from now.. So that on these two ground's I cannot see that anything is to be gained by sending this report hack to the committee.
Now, during the progress of this debate we have looked for suggestions. The committee, I am sure, has been interested in learning what alternative plans are offered which axe practical and reasonable, if their findings do not coincide with the convictions of hon. members. I am sure that every member of the committee has had that thought in his mind, and it must be a thought which is in the minds of all hon. members of this House of Commons. I have listened to the suggestions and 1 have tried to weigh them, but I cannot find very much of comfort or assistance in them. That is not depreciatory of the gentleman who made the suggestions. But I have noticed two things: That the suggestions have been, in the main, the expression of the wishes and sympathies of those who offered them rather than a venturing upon concrete methods of adding to or substituting for the financial side of the report of the committee in order to raise the amounts suggested, lit surely is not necessary for me to take up the time of the House in going over these. But, with your pencil sharply pointed, just note down what you can get in cold dollar comfort out of these suggestions-what you can get now or within

a reasonably short period, and I am sure that your total at the end will be a mighty small amount. Some have tried to extract sunbeams from cucumbers by saying that it makes the problem easier of solution when a commitment of, say, $700,000,000 is to be expended on capital account. But the trouble is not the expending; the trouble is to get the money to spend. It does not make a pin's difference whether it is expended on capital account or on any other account; you must have the money before you can expend it. So that that suggestion, if it is intended to solve or to clarify, does' not have that effect upon me. Does it have that effect upon any member of this House? You are quite as sensible as I am, and I am sure that my experience is your experience.
Hon. gentlemen say, establish lotteries; but you cannot do that in this country. Tax your bachelors, and you would soon have no bachelors to tax if your tax was heavy enough; even my distinguished friend (Mr. Mackenzie King) would be among the missing. Clap a little additional tax on your theatre seats, and still where are you? Run through all these suggestions, and when you have totalled them all up and subtracted the expense of collection, what a mighty small amount you would have to go against a $400,000,000 expenditure.
Well, then, come to the more ambitious schemes, the land tax and the unearned increment. There is a nice bridge built on the Plaza. You can get on one end of that bridge and in two minutes you can cross over to the other side. Where is your bridge that will take yon to-day, this month or next month, when you want the money, to the place where you can find a settlement of the questions involved in this suggestion: First, whether the unearned increment or land tax is a proper tax; second, the institution of investigations to provide that no one shall escape you; third, the getting of a proper line of agreement and co-operation with municipal and provincial authorities, which also have that power of taxation; fourth, the institution of the necessary machinery, and fifth, the gathering of the amount. You have all these processes -before you; set them going and you then have no bridge built that will carry you over for one year, two years, may be three years. That is the first class of suggestion, there is comparatively nothing in it.
The second class of suggestion calls for the discussion of methods and of principles

and the adoption by a majority of the House of one or of the other; then come the valuations, the providing of machinery and the collection of the tax. Why, your disabled or other soldiers, in dire need today, would die and pass away before you could build that bridge or cross it to the other side. So that there is not much help for us in that respect.
" Oh, well," another friend says, " Canada is a rich country. She has billions of tons of coal; she has untold resources in nickel; she has mighty forests, great fisheries, and -mines which have not yet been plumbed. True, she has great resources. These resources give us hope, inspire in us confidence that we can bear our burdens and come out on top, confidence that in future years we shall, by the proper development of these resources, be able to meet our obligations, pay -off our liabilities and come out on the high road to unobstructed -progress, but you cannot commute those billions of lignite ore in the West and in the mountains into ready cash for present payment-. These are our resources, but they cannot be converted immediately into money. Processes extending over years have to be carefully thought out and carefully applied before you get the beginning of returns. So we do- -not get much help from the fact that our natural resources are very great, except the hope and confidence it gives that we have a well assured future before us if we use ourselves and onr resources properly.
To make a long story short, we come right down against the actualities oif the -case. We have had two Victory Loans in this country, splendidly launched and more splendidly sustained. We are now in the midst of a third loan, which is going beautifully and will bring us our objective -and more, I am well assured. Now a loan of $500,000,000 or $600,000,000 takes just that much of the moneys of the people out of -certain lines in which it was active before, and applies it to a different purpose; your second- loan adds another $500,000,000, $600,000,000, or $700,000,000 to that, and your third loan, now on, will make another large draft upon the resources of the country. All we need to keep in mind is that within eighteen months we have to raise in round figures between $800,000,000 and $900,000,000 of hard cash to pay our bills and meet obligations already contracted, not a single -item of which the House, after scrutiny, has so far said should be eliminated or -even materially reduced. Our present loan will raise $400,000,000, perhaps $500,000,000,

but t-ha't still leaves another $400,000,000 or $500,000,000 that must be raised within a very short time. These are the if acts that *confront us, and what the Government had to consider when it went into this matter, and what the committee, too, I have no doubt, considered, was the ability of the country to raise and sustain these loans which are absolutely necessary to meet our already undertaken obligations, and follow them by others equally necessary within a few months. Could we fairly with reference to those needs and the capabilities all round incur the further responsibility involved in the propositions placed before the committee and before the Government? Some may -say-I have heard it myself from these benches: You can spend money on the railways; what is the reason you -cannot give 'this to the -soldiers; you can spend money for shipbuilding and transport; what is the reason you cannot give this to the soldiers? Well, as I said before the soldiers are a part of the -Canadian nome and Canadian country, and if the Canadian home and the Canadian country is to be kept functioning, the expenditures I have mentioned are absolutely necessary. I hey are the hands and the fingers, the legs and the feet of the body politic of the nation, and unless you sustain them and put strength and power into them you cannot develop, you cannot produce, you cannot earn, and consequently you cannot continue to function, and the first man who would feel that disability would be the returned soldier himself. All of us would feel it. -So you cannc^J, say that if you are able to spend money to keep the railways going you might surely give $200,000,000 or $300,000,000 to this cause. We must remember that these expenditures are absolutely necessary to our arteries carrying the lifeblood of our country.
The chairman of the committee has been criticised in the House and outside because of his frankness. His frankness went this far: If we were up against little questions, the Government might hide behind the general issues and say nothing, and let people go ahead, but when you are up against what is vital to the country no Government is worth its salt which does not formulate its policy and formulate it upon the very best considerations and the very best investigation it is capable of giving. The Government was up against the problem before the House or the committee was, and it went into it thoroughly, and came to the conclusion that it could not embark on the venture of more cash grants. Was it better
or otherwise, was it dignified or undignified, was it proper or improper, was it constitutional or unconstitutional, that the Government, having come to that conclusion, and feeling its conclusion a conviction, should say to the members on both sides of the House: That is- the conclusion we have
come to, so when you are discussing this matter, you are discussing it with all the cards on the table. Is not that better for you, for the Government, and for the country? M stand behind my colleague (Hon. Mr. -Calder) in the fair disclosure he made of what is the Government's mind with reference to this matter. Now the House has the whole matter before it, and I do not think there is need for labouring it further. I have stated the position of the Government with reference to this report. I have stated the difficulties confronting us. I could go more into detail, but you are masters of detail yourselves.
I have only one thing more to say. This report of the committee is not one of the most hide-bound, wrapped up, and enveloped reports that I have seen come down to the House. There is an elasticity about it. Read the recommendations and findings of that committee and you will see that in many cases they did not tie themselves down to an absolute fixed minimum. There is an elasticity under the rules and regulations which may be adopted which allows more maybe than is brought down in the estimate that we have put before you, and which does not shut the door, especially to needy and necessitous cases. Neither does it shut the door on the undisabled man who for reasons that we do not know now, but which may become apparent, and may be thoroughly valid, finds himself with his family without employment, notwithstanding all he could do and has honestly done to get employment. The door is open to that case. It is not open to the man. who has settled himself and is getting along in settled civil life as he got along before, but it is open to the man who, unfortunate it may be, or from whatever cause is abso-. lutely in a position of necessity. The committee's report does not shut- the door upon aid of that kind.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I think I have said all that I need to S-ay, and I am very much obliged to the House for the kind and careful attention with which i-t has listened to me.

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