Mr. A. GOULET (Russell) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, it is the first time that I rise to address the house since 1925, when the people of the riding of Russell did me the honour of electing me to represent them in parliament.
I trust therefore that my hon. friends will be indulgent towards me.
With pleasure I join the hon. speakers who have preceded me in this debate in order to extend to the hon. Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb), my hearty congratulations-no less sincere for being somewhat late-for the clear and precise statement which he made on the financial situation of this country. The budget which he has just brought down in the house is,
I think, his eighth since he holds the strings
The Budget-Mr. Goulet
of the national purse. All have been received with evident and well justified satisfaction; the last introduced on March 1st is an additional proof of the efficient Liberal administration under the sound leadership of the Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King.
Under the Conservative regime, the Canadian people awaited with uneasiness the end of each fiscal year. They foresaw that the statement of accounts would but confirm their doubts on the good faith of their government, that the announcement of the increase of the debt and thereby the decrease of its credit, would possibly be followed up by a peremptory demand-under the form of additional taxation-to cover the accumulated deficits. The present Minister of Finance has changed this state of affairs. Uneasiness has made way for confidence. The Canadian people calmly await each year the financial statement, knowing that their affairs are administered soundly and economically.
The financial statement for the year 192829 is most satisfactory, and the general prosperity which it discloses highly justifies the trust of the people in the Liberal government. It shows not only that our national revenues have been sufficient to meet our obligations, including the payment of $125,000,000 in interests on the public debt, inherited mostly from our hon. friends on your left, Sir, but also that the debt itself has been reduced by $70,000,000. A surplus of $70,000,000 from receipts of $455,000,000 is by itself a remarkable feat, and I am sure that the whole nation-with the exception possibly of hon. members on the left-will be thankful to the present administration. But we have greater expectations. This sum of $70,000,000 applicable to the reduction of our national debt foreshadows the redeeming of this debt in the near future.
I have before me an article published recently in Willsons Monthly, a serious publication discussing public affairs in Canada and the British Empire, and I shall quote the following extract:
In his budget speech of March 1, 1929, Mr. Robb stated the present amount of the debt to be $2,330,835,086. For the past four years the average annual reduction of the debt has amounted to roughly $47,750,000. While for the past year alone it will amount to nearly $70,000,000. If we add together the amounts paid as interest on the debt and the amounts applied in reduction of the debt we find that for the past four years there has been applied to the debt an average amount of over $171,000,000. Taking the last year by itself, the total is over $190,000,000.
If we continue to wipe out the debt at these rates, how long will it take to retire it completely? It may come as a surprise to many to learn that if the rate of reduction for the past four years is maintained, there will be no national debt in 24 years. If we keep up the pace we went last year the debt will be wiped out in less than 20 years.
In twenty years our national debt will be extinct if our Minister of Finance continues to present us with budgets like the one which now occupies the attention of the house.
The hen. members on your left, sir, although admitting that the country is prosperous, deny that the present state of our finances is due to the good administration of the country. They make use of all possible arguments in endeavouring to ascribe this prosperity to an entirely different cause. Their acknowledgment that after eight years of Liberal administration the country is prosperous is something in itself if we recall the alarm they raised during the electoral campaign of 1925, when they were seeking power by attempting to have the people believe that rain awaited them if the Liberals continued to administer the affairs of this country. Forced to submit to evidence, they seem today more anxious for the future of their party than that of the country. They are aware that it is the Conservative party which the Liberal government is ruining by fostering national prosperity.
The hon. member for Laurier-Outremont (Mr. J. A. Mercier) quoted the other day certain statements given out by the leaders of our large institutions on the financial situation of Canada. The hon. member, I trust, will allow me to read again one of these statements, the one by the President of the Bank of Montreal, which is a further proof that the prosperity of the country is general and reaches almost every industry. Sir Charles Gordon says:
Canada as a whole has enjoyed more prosperity than ever before; our live stock industry has shown marked improvement. Cattle have been in better demand at better prices than for some years past. Between 1926 and 1927 there was an increase of about 25 per cent in the output of our dairy factories, and progress has continued in 1928. One of the' happiest developments has been the definite revival of prosperity in the maritime provinces, coming into line with the rest of Canada in this respect.. Canada is great in agriculture, but the glory of her heritage lies in the variety of her resources. Minerals are steadily growing in importance. The tourist trade is of the highest importance; according to government statistics tourists from abroad spent $275,000,000 in Canada in 1927. Reports from all provinces report an even larger number of tourists, and the amount spent has no doubt also been greater in 1928.
The general prosperity of the country spreads to our railways. It is true that here our hon. friends disavow Providence and consider the
The Budget-Mr. Goulet
financial situation of the Canadian National as their work. They congratulate themselves on the purchase of this railway. They now pretend to ignore what, in 1919, they were at great pains trying to convey, that state ownership of the Canadian Northern was not of their choice but that they were forced to introduce this measure to protect the shareholders. They forget to mention that it is thanks to the sound and honest administration of the Liberal government if the Canadian National is to-day in a flourishing state. The Liberal government neglected nothing to make a success of this enterprise of which it assumed the management when it was bankrupt. The Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning) and the President of the Canadian National (Sir Henry Thornton) are therefore entitled to our congratulations.
I aim pleased, sir, to note thaft the budget includes a reduction in the sales tax and I express the hope that this tax will gradually disappear. It is no longer required and its disappearance will not be regretted. The income tax is certainly far more equitable, since it reaches especially those who can most afford to pay.
I have closely followed the debate on the budget and I am sorry to note that members have devoted too little time, in my opinion, to the study of problems connected with agriculture. Other industries have 'had their full share of the discussion; but agriculture notwithstanding its importance, was but touched upon. We should bear in mind that probably half of our population is either directly or indirectly interested in agriculture, and that the problems which concern and interest such a large number of our people is entitled to a more serious study. I would even venture to say that a wiser and more appropriate expenditure could not be made than the one which would foster prosperity and happiness among our farming classes.
I take this opportunity to congratulate and thank the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell), for what he has already done for the welfare of the farmers. His task is difficult, but I am confident that he will bring to a happy issue what he has already so well begun. I wish to thank the minister, his deputy and also assistant deputy, for the special interest they have all taken in the beautiful county of Russell by endowing it with a demonstration farm for the preserving of home products, the first of its kind in Canada. This farm has given a great impetus to this industry in my county and its establishment has already been amply justified; it is only reasonable to hope that before long [Mr. Goulet.)
this industry will be flourishing not only in my riding but in all rural districts in Canada. You will no doubt be astonished to learn that the products of our demonstration farm are to be found already on the tables of our best hotels. May I ask hon. members, when they dine at the Chateau Laurier not to forget to ask for Indian corn preserved at Bourget. I guarantee them a real treat which will convince them at the same time of the excellent quality of this product.
Let me refer to another question. The hon. member for Athabaska (Mr. Kellner) mentioned the case of a young Canadian who, having begged for a meal on the streets of Edmonton, was arrested and brought before the magistrate Having heard that he came from eastern Canada, he was given twenty-four hours to leave the city with the option of one month in gaol. On the same day, a number of immigrants, arrested for the same offence, were sent to the railway company which undertook to feed them. I had no intention to discuss the immigration question: it is an intricate subject which requires much study and especially interests the western provinces. I admit, however, after hearing of this incident, that it is my duty to make a few comments on the subject. The immigration problem is very much to the fore at present; the press is continuously discussing it, the public is daily taking a greater interest in it and the government are seriously endeavouring to solve the problem in a satisfactory manner. Much money is spent each year in an endeavour to attract to our western lands European citizens and, according to an agreement concluded for some time past, youths from 14 to 17 years old hailing from Great Britain and the north of Ireland, who wish to settle in this country are brought over at the expense of the Imperial and Canadian governments. Adults, themselves, who come over with the intention of settling on the land have almost their entire travelling expenses plaid. I do not intend to criticize the government's policy, being of the opinion that this expenditure is justified; however, it seems to me that the first step to take in order to solve this problem of immigration and colonization would be to use every possible means at our disposal to keep in this county our people and thus stem the exodus of Canadians to the neighbouring republic. A practical way to attain this end would be to offer to the sons of our farmers the same material advantages that we beg immigrants from the British Isles to accept. I am convinced that the evil from which we suffer would not long resist this efficient remedy.
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Most of the young men who emigrate are sons of farmers horn and brought up on. the farm, and they need no further training. They are already acclimatized and are the proper people to settle our fertile free lands in the west. Our old Canadian parishes which should be the natural recruiting grounds for our settlers, are unfortunately but the recruiting grounds of artisans for the industries of large American cities. There comes, in the life of most of the young people of our countryside, a time when they must leave their native village to go wherever they expect to make a livelihood. They have heard of the fertile soil of the Canadian west, where labour is generously rewarded, and many of them are anxious to settle there; unfortunately their financial means are not sufficient to realize the dreams of their ambitions, they are therefore forced to take the roads leading to the large American cities which seem to offer them an easy means of living. This emigration of our young people is a serious problem which gives food for reflection to all Canadians who have at heart the welfare of their country, and I have no dioubt the government will give their kind and special consideration to this problem and that, before long our young farmers will choose the road thet leads to the beautiful western provinces in preference to that of flange cities.
After taking every possible means to stem this emigration of our people we shall endeavour to bring back to this country those whom we have had the misfortune to lose; that will be repatriation. If we place at the disposal of Canadians abroad attractive financial advantages, we shall obtain very happy results and the return to the native land of these prodigal sons will be of great benefit to us.
I do not intend, sir, to praise up the riding of Russell; my feeble voice would not suffice to describe the beauties of this corner of Canada where I have lived for over 30 years, or to enumerate the real and Stirling virtues of its people. It is an essentially Canadian population and they have at heart the expansion and progress of Canada first and all. The interests of my constituents are intimately linked with those of the citizens of the Capital. This means that what affects the government service affects them personally since a large number among them are members of the Civil Service, and I must frankly admit that many others would also wish to be included in this service. Unfortunately, they often find obstacles to their ambition, and these are legitimate for the most part. There is one obstacle, however, upon which
I want to draw the attention of the house because it seems not to have been foreseen by the authors of the Civil Service Act, and to-day it creates a situation prejudicial to the interests of Canadians. The preference in appointments granted by the Civil Service Act to the veterans of the Great war has my hearty support in so far as it applies to our Canadians or veterans of the allied nations who resided in Canada when they joined the army. But this preference goes much further and in order to explain its effects, I cannot do better than to cite the following incident. The Civil Service Commission some time ago advertised an examination for a position then vacant. Two candidates applied for the post, one of them belonged to my constituency. The latter, had all the qualifications required but had only done military service in Canada. He had voluntarily offered his services in the first months of the war, however, for reasons of health, the military authorities would not send him overseas and employed him in Canaria during the whole course of the war. According to the act, his services gave him no right to any preference. The other candidate had come from England three years previous and had, if my information is correct, been conscripted in 1918; his military service was limited to a few months passed in training camps in England immediately previous to the armistice. According to the act, England is considered as a seat of war, giving right to military preference; this gentleman was therefore given the position to the detriment of the Canadian whose qualifications were much superior to his. This case is probably not the only one. Other members no doubt could cite similar cases; it therefore seems to me that the time is ripe to remedy such a state of things. Canadians have a right to expect that they be placed at least on an equal footing with strangers. Our Canadian veterans find themselves displaced by people recently come to this country. Canada belongs to the Canadian, the latter is intelligent and industrious and must receive first consideration, especially when it is a matter of a position in the service of his country.
I am greatly interested in the Civil Service and I should have liked to discuss at length all questions connected with it. As I do not want to prolong this debate, I shall content myself with adding to what I have already said that I am entirely in favour of a reasonable minimum salary for all the employees of the Civil Service, in order that the most humble among them can live in a decent manner and provide for the needs of his family. This generous act of the government
would be not only to the benefit of the employee himself, but in the interests of the country at large.
I have, sir, spoken longer than I intended to. It was not in vain that at the outset of my speech I begged the indulgence of hon. members; they have granted me a very kind hearing and1 very sincerely do I thank them.
On motion of Mr. Casgrain the debate was adjourned.
Topic: S, 1929