Mr. JOHN BEST (Dufferin).
This question, Mr. Speaker, is one of the most important that has ever come before the people. What strikes me as very inconsistent on the part of the hon. members on the government side is that while they insist on telling us that there is not the slightest danger of any nation going to war with Great Britain, still they want to put this young country to the enormous expense of building a navy. The reason why I rise to oppose their policy is that I believe it is the first step towards separation. In the first place the cost to be incurred will be enormous, and then the navy, when built, will be of no use in time of war, and we certainly shall not need it in time of peace. If I could go east to the rising sun and west to the setting sun, north to the north pole, and south pole, I believe it would be almost impossible to get the opinion of any man which has not been already expressed in this House at least a dozen times; and in almost every case, the opinion would be that Germany was preparing to go to war with Great Britain. That is another reason why I want to oppose the Bill of the right hon. the Prime Minister; and the reason why I intend sunnorting the amendment of my hon. friend the
leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden) is that I believe in the imminence of that danger, and that we should help Great Britain in time of war. From nearly every hon. member opposite, we have heard that there is no danger of war, but that is an opinion which is not concurred in by Englishmen of prominence. The majority of English authorities believe that war between Great Britain and Germany is imminent, and that opinion is largely shared by Frenchmen. Already the greatest military power in the world, and having no proportionate commercial interests on the ocean, and no extensive and important colonies demanding overpowering naval strength, Germany is building a navy which, it is her avowed intention shall equal-i. e. excel-the British navy; and this, in the face of a long standing explicit warning that Great Britain shall regard any challenge of her command of the seas as a menace. And if the storm breaks, and when it breaks, we shall, nolens volens, be within the disturbed area. Every hon. member of this House believes that Germany is building a powerful navy.
We cannot maintain British connection and stand aloof from Europe. Nor can we turn Turk and run at the first note of the bugle and thereby escape the consequences of the war! What says history? In 1775 Canada was attacked. Why? Because England was at war with her New England colonies. In 1812 Canada was attacked. Why? Because England and France had offended the United States by issuing the Berlin Decrees, and the Americans struck a blow at England by invading Canada.
What then? Shall we surrender our connection with the mother country, and take independent rank among the lesser powers? That will avail nothing! The weaker powers are under the aegis of the greater, and exist on their sufferance! Practically it would mean transferring our allegiance from the mother to a stranger! And would the stranger's hand lie lighter than the mother's? Weakness has never saved a nation from attack. Civilization has not reached that point where it is counted immoral for a strong nation to attack a weak! In the wars that have occurred between two white peoples, in the last quarter of a century, the inequality in the strength of the combatants has been enormous. There is no comer of the world so remote that we could retire thither, live at peace, and escape the notice of the spoiler!
In dealing with the main question, ' Shall Canada possess a fleet?' Let us note, first, that Canada u young, and in her growing time-that all her energies, all her resources, all her wealth of men and money, are needed in laying her foundations secure and well, and building up her nationality. She needs railways and canals, and docks and harbours-she has to secure settlers for her unoccupied territory and build roads for the pioneers! To make surveys and prepare maps of her lands, and charts of her water-courses; to light her coasts and streams, and make them safe for her merchantmen; to draw closer together the outlying boundaries of her scattered population, by an efficient and frequent mail service; to open up new markets and avenues of trade; and to commission swift ships to carry her commerce and correspondence across the seas. She must provide the means for carrying on the work of government, and for carrying out government undertakings. She must build and endow colleges and universities, hospitals and asylums, and provide for the destitute and maimed; she must administer justice, redress wrongs, relieve the oppressed and punish the evil doers, to the uttermost ends of her Dominion. She must care for and support the native race whose heritage she has usurped. She must protect her people from pestilence and the ravages of infectious diseases attacking man, and beast, and tree.
Farther; It is of the gravest importance to Canada that Great Britain should maintain her ascendancy at sea. We would emphasize the fact, that we have but one market for our agricultural produce-our most valuable exports. Close it, and our farmers become impoverished, our whole industrial system paralyzed. We know too well that the United States, in the arranging and adjusting of her tariff, has ever done so to our annoyance and loss. We know that no other country than Britain stands for an open door and equality in trading in her home markets, in the markets of her dependencies, as well as in the markets of the world, and that no other country requires so much of what we have to sell. All oui interests centre in the conservation of the British markets. In 1908 our exports by sea were $156,000,000, by land (United States) $90,000,000. Apart altogether from any feeling of loyalty, or gratitude, we are compelled in our struggle for existence, to keep open the British markets for our produce. Let us ever bear in mind that what we do to aid Britain, we do primarily for ourselves; and if, in our endeavour to secure buoyancy fox our own life-boat, we aid Great Britain in breasting the storm, we are none the poorer. We have but to contemplate for a moment the condition of affairs if Great Britain were defeated, and, assuming the impossible, that we survived. Where could we place our wheat, our beef, and our dairy produce? We well remember how our markets were paralyzed, in so far as they were affected by the McKinley tariff-and how prices fell to the vanishing point before we secured a footing in England, and that because of an increased duty on a few minor commodities.
This is the situation that faces the people of Canada to-day, and recognizing its importance, and importance which may at any moment become very acute.
And here, I think, will be found the key to the position. Canada cannot hope to be able to engage, successfully, in a naval contest with any first-class power that is likely to attack her. She has not the men; she has not the money. She cannot build battleships, ton for ton, with the United States or Japan, or any of the greater European powers. And so far as the United States is concerned she can never hope to overtake her, either in population or wealth; or to excel her in the skill and energy of her citizens. And, if a quarrel is put upon her by her greater neighbour, which can only be settled by the arbitrament of war, whether the attack be by sea or land, the result can at no time be in doubt. Should that unfortunate event ever occur, we may rest assured that the whole power of Greater Britain will be sent to our assistance; and that we shall not be vanquished while a gun and a man remain under the British flag.
I believe, Sir, that the government should not assume such a large expenditure without first submitting it to the people in some way.
The hon. the Prime Minister tells us that this proposed navy will cost the people of Canada $15,000,000, and the annual maintenance will be about $3,000,000, and that it will not be of much use in case of war for at least five years; $3,000,000 a year for five years will be $15,000,000, and the initial cost of $15,000,000 will be $30,000,000. And if the cost increases the way it has since the 12th of January until the hon. Minister of Militia spoke a few days ago, and the way the expenditure on the Grand Trunk Pacific railway and the Quebec bridge increases, at the end of five years the people would have to pay between one and two hundred million dollars.
I believe that the farmers of Canada are willing to aid Great Britain in time of war. And our best way is to send either a money contribution, or Dreadnoughts. The farmers of Canada pay fully two-thirds of the taxation of this country. Last year, about $1,000,000 was spent in agriculture. I claim, Sir, that the government should try to build our canals and make railways so that farm produce would reach the consumer as quickly and as cheaply as possible. I have been taught from my youth that we are British subjects. I have always believed that a man was free while he was on British soil so long as he obeyed the law. Imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, I heard the hon. member for Pictou (Mr. E. M. Macdonald) throw it as a taunt across the floor of this House that we on this side were thinking for our-
Topic: *FEBRUARY 28, 1910 QUESTIONS.
Subtopic: NAVAL SERVICE OF CANADA.