February 2, 1933 (17th Parliament, 4th Session)


Alan Webster 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.
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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