Robert FORKE

FORKE, The Hon. Robert, P.C.

Parliamentary Career

December 6, 1921 - September 5, 1925
PRO
  Brandon (Manitoba)
October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
PRO
  Brandon (Manitoba)
September 14, 1926 - September 24, 1926
LIB-PRO
  Brandon (Manitoba)
November 2, 1926 - December 29, 1929
LIB-PRO
  Brandon (Manitoba)
  • Minister of Immigration and Colonization (September 25, 1926 - December 29, 1929)
December 30, 1929 - May 30, 1930
LIB-PRO
  Brandon (Manitoba)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 593 of 593)


March 14, 1922

Mr. ROBERT FORKE (Brandon) :

Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that I fully appreciate the privilege accorded to me of having the opportunity to address the House at this particular time. I highly appreciate the dignity and importance of this, the Parliament of Canada, and I only hope that I may be able, in my small way, to maintain its past traditions and that I may be found worthy of the place which I occupy in this Chamber.

In commencing I desire to compliment you, Mr. Speaker, on your elevation to the commanding position of First Commoner. Your high character and great attainments as a public man are not unknown even in the remotest parts of this great Dominion of ours, and I am sure that you will brilliantly adorn the high position to which you have been promoted. I listened with a great deal of attention yesterday to the excellent speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address. I must compliment Mr. McMurray, who belongs to the same province as myself, upon the ability which characterized his speech, and I am sure that he fully maintained the reputation

The Address

which he enjoys in the west as a public speaker.

Topic:   THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH. ADDRESS IN REPLY
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March 14, 1922

Mr. FORKE:

I intend, to be, and I say so, with all due respect to the remarks the hon. gentleman has made, and I do not say it in any carping or criticising spirit. Some reference was made in the Speech from the Throne to the tariff. I agree with the leader of the Opposition, the right hon. member for Grenville (Mr. Meighen) in some of the criticisms he made in this respect. The reference to the tariff in the Speech may mean a great deal or it may mean very little. I have an optimistic temperament, and I have no doubt the Government will implement its promises,

The Address

and that we are to have substantial reductions in the tariff, more especially in the matter of agricultural implements and the materials we need in agriculture. If we do not get relief in this way, there is going to be disappointment in the West, and, more than that, there is going to be disaster unless some remedy is brought forward to meet conditions as they exist at the present time. The prairie provinces are in need of immediate relief; the situation out there is not good, and no one can face the circumstances without realizing that some relief must be afforded. We are aware of the fact that the climatic conditions have been unfavourable for a number of years, but anyone who knows the situation will realize that the overhead expenses of agriculture at the present time are far and away out of all proportion to the va}ue of the crops that are being harvested. Now, that sort of thing cannot continue; it must come to an end; you cannot carry on business year after year if the balance is on the wrong side of the ledger. Something will have to be done to remedy those conditions. The prosperity of these provinces depends entirely upon their natural resources, and the greatest of those natural resources is that three or four inches or more of fertile soil that covers the land from eastern Manitoba to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. This land must be developed, can be developed and will be developed if right conditions prevail and right opportunities are afforded to the cultivators of that soil. I believe the economic conditions can be made, will be made and ought to be made, that will afford to those people who are living out there and developing that country an opportunity to make a living and enjoy more of the comforts and decencies of modern civilization. The constituency of Brandon, which I have the honour to represent, is just about one half urban and one half rural; and yet, after all, we are all in the same bok, city, town, and country are dependent upon agriculture. The prosperity of one is the prosperity of the other, and, as I said before, we are all in the same box. Not only that, but I think the people in the House will recognize the fact that if the manufacturing centres, such as Brantford, Toronto, and Hamilton, are going to send their implements out there and are going to get paid for them, they will have to depend to a very large extent upon the prosperity of the western provinces. So that you will see, Mr.

Speaker, and hon. members, our interests are one; you cannot divide them. The Prairie provinces come close to the general interests of the Dominion of Canada, and we must have immediate relief.

We have listened to a very interesting address on the railway problem, and there is no doubt that this is one of the great problems we have to meet at the present time-perhaps the most pressing problem of all. We have on the one side excessive freight rates, on the other side large deficits on Canadian national railways year by year. How are we going to overcome the difficulties of the situation? Again, let me repeat here that I am in thorough accord with the consolidation of all the government-owned railways, to be worked as one system. In regard to the deficits on the national railways, I would like to say that I have had the privilege and opportunity of travelling on those lines to some extent during the last year, and I may say that there is a very great difference in the spirit, the movement and the arrangement of those lines from that which prevailed at one time. I noticed a different spirit among the employees and a different spirit in the public, who realize that this is their property, and that they have an interest in its development and prosperity. When speaking to a prominent Canadian Pacific railwayman the other day, he said that last year was the first year that they ever fully realized that they had a great competing system in the Canadian National Railways. Speaking to a mine owner in Drumheller, he made the statement also that the Canadian National Railways were out after business, and were looking after the business of the country in a way that was never done before. I can see daylight ahead. I can see hope in the future. We have a valuable property and we are going to maintain that property, develop it and keep it, and the day will come when we will be proud to have it.

Just a word in connection with freight rates. There is an old railway maxim that the rates should be made all that traffic will bear. I do not think it would be very difficult to prove at the present time that we have overstepped the mark, and that the rates are a great deal higher than the traffic will bear. It seems almost presumptuous that a layman should attempt to criticise railway management, and yet I think it is perfectly evident to anyone who knows the situation that freight is not being carried, business is not being

The Address

done, because it is not profitable to do it. Of course, the farmers in the West have to ship their wheat, and that, perhaps, is one reason why the rates in that respect can be kept up. But I was told the other day that in British Columbia a great many lumber mills were shut down a year ago because the business did not pay, they could not afford to sell lumber and pay the freight. Not only that, but in those mills that were running they were burning a great deal of stuff that could have been sawn up and used as building material for the farmers on the prairies had the freights been lower. Now it seems to me a reasonable proposition that it would have paid those railways to carry that stuff at a little lower rate, rather than have men thrown idle and wheels not moving at all. We have that situation, a most difficult situation-high freight rates and large deficits in railway operations. But whatever may be done, we cannot have freight rates any longer strangling industry and making agriculture impossible in this Dominion of ours.

I would like to say just a few words regarding taxation and immigration. We know that our taxes are very high at the present time. I am not going to enter into any discussion nor offer any criticism as regards the way in which this high taxation has come about. We are ail acquainted with the facts; we know how our Dominion taxation has been increased. We have gone through a long and terrible war and through sorrow, suffering and great financial loss. The country has great indebtedness which will have to be met, which we are bound in honour to pay. As regards the provinces, they have been anxious to develop their territories; they have helped to build good roads, they have given aid for public works. And our municipal corporations and our rural districts also have tried to build roads throughout their territories, thus bringing the farms into closer communication with industrial centres and marketing points. Perhaps, we might criticise a little just how this was done and why it was done at this particular time, but I will not enter into that now. The debts have been incurred. Besides other questions, we have the question of education which is one of vast importance in the Prairie provinces and, I believe, also throughout the rest of this Dominion. For this, we are incurring large expenditures of money, money which we are ready to pay, but which we find a difficulty in getting. These expenditures are going to continue, and as many of the debts which we have incurred are fixed charges, we can look forward to the years to come, knowing that our taxation is not going to become any lighter.

How are we going to meet the difficulty? The different speakers have spoken about immigration. Double your population, they say, and you will have no need of these taxes. Well, not exactly, but you are going to go a long ways towards reducing taxation. Double your immigration and you are going to help to solve your railway difficulty and your taxation difficulty; you will create traffic for the railways and lighten the burden all along the line. But then it might be asked again: Why increase your population When you find dissatisfaction and discontent amongst the people who are living here at the present time? The question is all one of remuneration. The farmers out on the prairies have a good deal of education handed out to them as to how they can improve their position; but let me tell the House that the first thing which will help to stop the flow from the country to the town is higher remuneration for the people Who are engaged in agriculture. We are living in a day when education is. easily got almost anywhere. We find our young people out on the farms becoming well educated, knowing w'hat conditions are in city, town and country; and, knowing the conditions, they make their choice, and they flock where the better living is to be got and where, perhaps, the conveniences and comforts of life may be more easily obtained. Until opportunities are equalized as between country and city life, we are going to have that flow towards the city of which we complain so much. I believe those conditions can be improved; that we can arrest that flow if we have the right country conditions. I know very well that if any one wishes to make a vast amount of money, he is never going to make it in 9 p.m. agricultural life. We all know that. But there are in life some things that are of greater consequence than money, and when we have found a congenial occupation,' When we have found a fair remuneration, when he have found independence of livelihood and conditions to suit us, that is wealth and all the wealth that anyone will want. That state of things can be brought about in rural life, and we are going to get it if we get proper economic conditions. I believe in that way alone we shall solve our rural problem. I know,

The Address

conditions at the present time are to a certain extent abnormal; that we are suffering in the West, in some sections at least, as I said before, from climatic conditions. But we have also certain economic evils that we believe can be remedied and will be remedied. I believe many of the conditions on the farm life are going to be improved in this way. The large farms on the western prairies are going to disappear, and we are going to have smaller farms. We are going to have more intensive cultivation and closer community centres, and a great many of the disadvantages of rural life are going to disappear.

What does the Government intend to do as regards this question of immigration? We need the people, but we want the right kind of people. There are in the British Islands, on the continent of Europe, more especially in Scandinavia and perhaps in some other countries, people who are suited to the land, who have been born and bred to that calling, and who would make the very best of citizens if we could get them to come out to Canada. I believe that, notwithstanding all our disadvantages, there are people over there with land hunger who would like to come out to Canada and have a piece of land that they could call their own, who would make the very best of settlers if we could get them to come to this country. We have had a large number of immigrants from eastern Europe. I would not be ready to condemn those people offhand, I know many of them who have made good; but I would not like to see a very large inrush from that portion of Europe at the present time. Perhaps most hon. members are aware of the fact that many of these people from eastern Europe are, in the second generation, taking the highest places in our educational institutions, in the West at least, and they are going to make good citizens. Those of us who are of French or Anglo-Saxon extraction will have to look to our laurels or we shall find many of those people enjoying the highest positions in the land, and if they are worthy of them they have a right to them.

What is the Government going to do to stop this trek from the land to the city? I have tried to point out what I believe to be, in part at least, a solution of that problem. We do not, however, want immigrants from the manufacturing towns of Great Britain. Perhaps, this is a hard thing to say; but I have had some experience in immigration work, and if you get

artisans from the banks of the Clyde or factory workers from the towns, when they come to Canada they will inevitably drift to the cities. We have plenty of those people in this country now. I have no fault to find with them, but when we want those people, we can soon get them. I have no hope of taking the city born-and-bred man and woman and turning them out to make a livelihood on the land. They are going to have an up-hill fight and, perhaps, they will never achieve any success. As I said before, they are most likely to drift back to the cities and help to build up a city population greater than is necessary.

We are passing through difficult times, and we must use our best endeavours to pass through them successfully. We have a great new country and I have riot lost faith in this land of wide horizons. We have our difficulties in the West; but it is a great land, and during the last thirty or forty years, notwithstanding all our difficulties, there have been many happy homes and happy households out on those prairie lands, and we are going to have them in the future. We have not lost faith in our country. Canada is a great land and we do not want a divided country. We do not want any "East" and we do not want any "West"; we want one Canada. We need to get together, forgetting disrupting differences, and finding our own prosperity in the common good and in the development of our country. I shall close with a quotation from Viscount Bryce, who said:

Canada is well able, by the character of her people, by their intelligence and law-abiding habits, to face whatever problems the future may bring, finding remedies for such defects as may have disclosed themselves in her government, and making material prosperity the basis of an enlightened and pacific civilisation.

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March 14, 1922

Mr. PORKE:

I am sorry to have transgressed the rules. I should have alluded to my hon. friend as the hon. member for North Winnipeg. Perhaps it would be only right for me to say that I am a new member and therefore unfamiliar with the procedure of this House. For that reason I would ask the indulgence of hon. members, and I can assure them that I will endeavour as quickly as I can to conform to Parliamentary methods and usages.

I was sorry that I was unable to follow the speech of the hon. member who seconded the Address. I have, however, read a short synopsis of that speech translated into English and have therefore familiarized myself to a certain extent with the views which he expressed. From the style of his speech and the sentiments which he uttered I should deem him to be an eloquent and able speaker. It is a matter of deep regret to me that I am unable to understand the French language. Let me say that were I a young man nothing would give me greater pleasure than to begin the study of that tongue and to acquire such a mastery of it as would enable me to follow the speeches of hon. members from Quebec when they use the language of old France.

I listened with a great deal of attention to the speeches that were made yesterday by the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). The former has certainly lost none of his old-time ability, and he can still drive with rapier-like thrusts at the enemy across the way. I am one of those who admire the ability of the right hon. member. He is a dweller in our province, and although we do not agree with his political opinions we are proud of his ability and glad to see him once more in Parliament.

I read very carefully the Speech from the Throne, and I was glad to observe that a good many of the things for which we have been hoping were promised therein. I trust the promises will come to fruition and that some day we shall reap the harvest that has been sown. For one thing we have been promised wider markets. The leader of the Opposition yesterday in his speech ridiculed the idea of reciprocity with the United States. I am sorry to observe that attitude on his part because in the West it is something unusual to find such a brand of opinion-as will be recognized from what happened there during

the recent elections. I can assure the House that one of the great problems that we have to meet in the West to-day is the getting of wider markets for farm products. The question has been asked: Of what

advantage would the United States markets be to the western farmer? Let me tell the House that last fall and during the early part of the winter, notwithstanding the emergency tariff, trainload after trainload of cattle left the St. Boniface stock yards, paid the American duty of 30 per cent and were taken to Chicago and St. Paul and there sold at a profit over what those cattle could have realized at Winnipeg. What would have happened had there been no outlet for that trade, with the cattle market in such a depressed condition? Had there been no market in the country to the south to take our surplus at that particular time our cattle would have been unsaleable during those fall months. So that, you see, even with the 30 per cent duty, that American market at the present time has been a great advantage to us in respect to the marketing of our cattle.

Then we have a mention of freight rates in the Speech from the Throne, and with this I shall deal a little later on. We need relief in that respect. I have listened with a great deal of attention to the speech of the hon. member, (Mr. Maclean, York) who preceded me. I should like to tell him that I am in thorough accord with him as far as the consolidation of the National railways is concerned, and I think he will get the support of this portion of the House in that policy. I am a new member of this Chamber, and do not know the position of the different members in the House very well yet, but I could not help wondering to what division the hon. gentleman who has just spoken belongs.

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