March 26, 1930 (16th Parliament, 4th Session)


Alan Webster Neill



The point of order is closed I understand. I have received the apology that one gentleman makes to another. I agree somewhat with one remark of my hon. friend from Red1 Deer (Mr. Speakman) when he said he saw no principle, in the real sense of the word, involved in a discussion of the tariff. Yesterday the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) dealt with that aspect of it. He referred repeatedly to principles connected with tariff matters, and he endeavoured to prove, possibly to his own satisfaction, that my hon. friends opposite in that corner of the house had, by their present or recent attitude, deviated in some way from tariff principles to which they had pledged adherence in years past. Then, we find my hon. friend from Nelson (Mr. Bird) saying this afternoon that a belief in tariff is not a principle, but a vice. So, you see, we have at least two points of view in the house. One is to the effect that belief in some particular form of tariff is a moral obligation not to be lightly disregarded, and not to be disregarded without incurring a moral obloquy; on the other hand we have the hon. member for Nelson boldy claiming his conviction that belief in any form of tariff is base, and to be deprecated as much as possible.
I agree to this extent with the hon. member for Nelson that I believe there is no principle involved in tariff matters. I would suggest that instead of invoking the word "principle" the tariff is to be regarded more as a matter of personal viewpoint or personal
policy, modified by three important factors. In the first place, it is modified by the man's occupation or business or the means by which he earns a livelihood, and by the opportunities which that occupation or business affords for personal aggrandisement by means of the introduction or operation of a tariff in some form. The second factor which, I would suggest, modifies the man's viewpoint is what might be called geographical location. One can imagine a farmer in British Columbia- and I know many of them-who are firm believers in tariff protection. If that same man lived on the prairies, as my hon. friends opposite do, and to some extent my hon. friends behind me, he would probably change his views. He would not change by any weakening of moral principle or obligation, or disregard of his duty to his God, his country or his fellow man, but merely by the pressure of economic conditions. He might in time become a free trader-like my friends opposite, if they will not be offended when I use that term. In view of their action in connection with this resolution, perhaps one should be a little careful.
The third factor which influences the point of view of a man in formulating his tariff belief is the exigencies of party politics. A man will adhere to tariff policies in connection with a political party; he will swallow policies that he does not believe in and which he does not like, sometimes with results prejudicial to himself, because they are policies adopted in the long forgotten past by the political party to which he owes allegiance. He will adhere to them, no matter what his personal convictions may be. It is for those reasons, sir, that we have found in the past and will no doubt find in the future that the Liberal party when in opposition professes a wide and extreme adherence to the policies of free trade. They pledge themselves to a great extent to carry out those policies should they come into office. Then when they do assume power they do not carry out the pledges they have made to the extent one would expect, judging from their utterances while in opposition.
In the same way we find the great Conservative party, when in opposition, continually harping on tariff, tariff, and more tariff, and holding it out as the one thing under heaven and above hell to cure every ill that the body politic could be heir to. When they assume power, however, what do we find? As in the case of the Liberals, they do not live up to the extremes of tariff policies they have been advocating, and I do not blame them in the least. Neither do I blame the Liberals, because the reason that applies is the same in both cases, and it is a twofold
Australian Treaty-Mr. Neill

reason. In the first place, it could not be done on economic grounds. As a general rule we find able men occupying the treasury benches, and they see that it would be impossible to carry out the extreme measures of protection, as a strict application of their policy would effect prohibition or embargo. On the other hand, in the case of the Liberals, absolute free trade would be unworkable.
The other reason that operates to prevent the carrying out of those principles is a very simple one. It is obvious that they could not do so, because in this Canada of ours, with its immense area and its divergent interests, it would be absolutely impossible for any party to get the support of enough members to carry out a policy consisting of either extreme free trade or total prohibition.
I was struck some time ago with some remarks made by the hon. member for Victoria, B.C. He was attacking some action of the government, and alleging that the Liberals had not lived up to the principles of free trade. In his argument he produced some figures to show that the amount of free trade reduction they had made during the years they had retained power was negligible. As a matter of fact, he reduced it to a fraction of one or two per cent, and the effect of his statement was that the Liberals had been recreant to the promises they had made while in opposition. I thought his remarks were a wonderful commentary on many of the speeches we hear in this house when we are told that the country is going to the-I do not know if I should say, the devil, although that word was used this afternoon-but at any rate the country is going to certain destruction because of the lack of a high tariff policy. Thus we find the hon. member from my own province frankly admitting that, after all, the Liberals have made very slight reduction in the tariff.
I propose, sir, not to take a partisan view of the questions involved in the subject under discussion. I propose, as I have done before, and not without censure, to deal with an open mind with the issues before me as they would affect the destiny of Canada and, in the second place, the province of British Columbia, to which I profess second allegiance. I propose also to deal with the benefits, or loss of benefits, which might accrue to the district which I directly represent if the amendments were adopted.
With these few preliminary observations I would respectfully suggest, sir, that it is practically six o'clock.
On motion of Mr. Neill the debate was adjourned.

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