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The great issue to be resolved: the time has come to render a clear verdict: September 30, 1921
Today it is my duty to address an impressive assembly of my fellow Canadians in the largest city in Canada. I undertake this task not with the confidence of possessing the extraordinary talents that might garner me an hour of triumph, but with the satisfaction of having faithfully discharged an important public duty and of always being ready to meet, with the clearest language and the fullest defence, any challenge and any adversary which may come forward. As a Canadian whose home is far from here, I come to Montreal with a sense of pride for the stability and importance of this metropolis, this capital without a parliament, this centre of education and finance, this city which has earned the honours of perfect maturity, but which finds in its progress only the promise of even better days.
Honourable and Patriotic Gesture
The pleasure that this visit gives me is augmented by the presence on this platform of three French-Canadian ministers belonging to this province and of Mr. Ballantyne, representative of the English-speaking minority. Regardless of the political opinions of the people of Quebec, they must all be open-minded enough and fair enough to admit that Messrs. Belley, Normand and Monty made an honourable and patriotic gesture when they entered the Ministry in order to give this province and Canada�s French-Canadian population the representation to which they are entitled in the nation�s council and which should continue to exist to the greatest advantage of the entire Dominion. You will also admit, I am sure, that these three French-Canadian ministers represent their compatriots with honour, are cultured, have records of service in public affairs and, by their very integrity, command respect from all. I was very happy to see that their names were greeted with favour, not only in this province but throughout Canada.
The time has certainly come when we must encourage the existence of better sentiments and conduct the public debates on a higher plane. If we do not take advantage of this election to raise our thinking to the level of the truly Canadian issues, far from the shouts of race, we may as well admit right away that the present generation will hardly be able to hope for these better days. I believe that the people of the province of Quebec fervently wish the improvement of present conditions: that is to say, that they want to have harmony and good understanding. I have had abundant proof of such a desire. But some people seem determined to prevent this from being achieved. There are some who appeal to the people in a language which borders on treason, for the purpose of arousing feelings of revenge against the other parts of Canada. I ask you, I implore you not to forget that the men who make such appeals are politicians. My advice to you, as well as to the people of the other provinces, is this: do not take them too seriously. Through these appeals they are, above all, trying to capture votes. But their conduct is nevertheless blemished by treason, whether or not they are accountable under the Criminal Code. It betrays Canada, the country we love. It is important for me to say this evening what I believe is to be the attitude of the other provinces. They do not believe and nothing will ever make them believe that there is reason for revenge on one side or the other. They want to unite with the people of Quebec, and they want to resolve with you the issues of today and not those of the past. They want to follow this course of action not in a spirit of servility and not by making apologies either, but because it is in the best interests of Canada. I hope it will not be in vain that I ask you to respond to these aspirations. I ask the best men in both political parties to join me in this appeal and to conduct this struggle on a field that would leave no relics of the lamentable divisions of the past. If this hope can be achieved and achieved now, the worst of our dangers will have been avoided. If there is failure on one side or the other, we will perhaps be witness to irreparable calamities. The ministers who are here are veering towards sincerity for their compatriots, as devoted friends of their province, resolved to work to make Canada a united and prosperous nation. I hereby let them know my recognition for the promise they made to lend their assistance in this crisis. They are worthy successors to those men of another generation whose names are revered in all the homes of this country, those men who appeared in this province when leaders were needed and whose work made possible the existence of the Dominion, which we are called upon today to preserve.
Our Participation in the War
Can we not summarize the past in a single word? We took part in the war because our honour demanded it, because it was obviously in our interest, and because each of the public leaders and each political party agreed that we should take part in it. It became a gargantuan battle; pressing appeals were made upon this country and upon all who were engaged in it, appeals surpassing everything we had anticipated and taxing the national strength to its utmost limits. During this period, we managed the government�s affairs, as immense as they were, and we did it with all possible devotion. Having taken the bull by the horns, we worked with all our energy to win the victory. I personally know of no other means of bringing to a proper conclusion a war or a battle after the appalling suffering that the entire world has endured, after sacrifices unprecedented in the annals of the entire world, sacrifices which we have endured and from which we are suffering today, but which other nations have endured more than we, after all that, the glorious flag of victory flew on the side of the Allies. All the nations of the world now admit that Canada fulfilled a noble role and I am able to say without vain conceit that the work required to lead Canada well during the war was well achieved and is an honour to us.
Achievements of Peace
The war is over and now we are enjoying peace. Let us join together to complete the works of peace. We find ourselves beneath the weight of an enormous debt, but we can carry this weight and we are proud to bear it because it was accumulated in a good cause and because it is ten thousand times lighter than would have been the loads and the oppressions of defeat. Today we count ourselves among the most fortunate people in the entire world. Our finances are the most secure and the most sound with the exception of perhaps those of only one other country. Our trade, even though disrupted and experiencing some trying days, is solidly maintained. We have high unemployment but we must not forget that we have proportionately less and less suffering than any other country that went through the war. We must concentrate our first and finest efforts on helping the unemployed and finding them jobs; but do not allow the gravity of our task to make us forget that, while some other countries have accepted erroneous concepts and adopted a false policy and while millions of their citizens are coming to grips with family and death, while we see desolation, disruptions and despair everywhere, and while we hear appeals for help, for our part we are capable of coping with our difficulties, and the future that faces us is not sombre, but brilliant. I say again: Let us turn our spirits and direct our energies vigorously towards the work that awaits us.
Canada�s Fiscal Policy
What is the first thing to do? At the very foundation of any hope for stability and prosperity is Canada�s fiscal policy. What will this policy be? Each province in the Dominion has a great deal to gain or lose in the near future through a wrong decision on the tariff issue, but no province has more to lose than the old province of Quebec. Now, what is the tariff issue and what should you do about this issue? There is one tariff issue and it is very vital, and, in my opinion, it is replete with dangers and must be decided by the Canadian people without delay.
The Crerar-Wood Party
There is a party led by Messrs. Crerar and Wood, or perhaps I should change the order of precedence, who have conducted for several years, and energetically over these past four years, a determined campaign aimed at the complete reversal of this country�s fiscal policy. This party is confident it will succeed in this election. Those who form it know what they want. They have written it in black and white. In the last few years, they have built a powerful organization. They have grain companies and all types of commercial enterprises and they use their resources in their political propaganda. They have practically exterminated the Liberal Party in the West and they have achieved a great deal along similar lines in the province of Ontario. They will do what they want to do if they have the majority and neither Mr. Crerar nor Mr. Wood will succeed in having them back down from their position or modifying their intentions, if their candidates are elected to Parliament. I have never tried to diminish and I do not want today to belittle the strength of the farmers� political movement or the insidious danger of their appeal to the classes, and I am asking you, as I am asking all Canadian audiences, not to belittle it but to rise up and contemplate the facts. Right now, as in the past, they are trying to gain strength through an alliance with certain elements in the labour circles, and you only have to read about what is happening to see that they hope to employ the radical school in order to secure greater vigour for their federal campaign. I already drew the public�s attention to this fact several months ago and I was severely reprimanded, but what I said was true and the events of the past few weeks have proven that it is absolutely true, and anyone who wishes to be believed cannot deny the truth today. I know they are only trying to reach some understanding with their workers in order to satisfy their own purposes against the interests of the latter, but I do not think that this will take them very far. I also know that thousands of their own members do not want an alliance with the extremists because the farmers are more interested in agriculture than in politics and above all they want security in ownership. They are also more vehemently opposed to the �isms� -- communism, socialism, etc. -- than any other person in this country. Now you ask me what it is that this political movement is determined to obtain. Here is what they are engaged in and what each of their candidates is committed to support, as I understand from the program they have published: (a) Protection is denounced in three separate paragraphs as bad and evil; (b) �Immediate and substantial reduction of customs duties�; (c) �Increase in British preference to 50 percent and free trade with Great Britain in five years�; (d) �Unlimited reciprocity with the United States�; (e) �Duty-free entry of all agricultural implements and kitchen utensils, of all cars, of coal, wood, cement,� and quite a long list of other items. I submit this to the people of Montreal this evening, just as I submitted it to the people of Portage-la-Prairie, Tuesday evening. Do you want this to be Canada�s policy? Do you not recognize that this policy means the removal of this country�s tariff protection? This is indeed, above all, what it means because it is a denunciation of the whole principle of protection. Furthermore, you cannot remove the tariff from all manufactured implements, household utensils, food provisions and a dozen other general classes of merchandise, in fact from almost everything we are obliged to consume in this country and maintain protection on other things at the same time. How can a responsible man or woman think of destroying the protection for this country�s vital industries and leaving the other smaller industries without any protective measures? Such a thing has never been done anywhere, will never be done. It is unfair, it is biased, it is impossible, it is harmful. So, I say that this program carries in it the abolition of this country�s protective system and I say that the people of Canada, here and everywhere else, must decide now whether we are ready to abandon protective tariffs or not. I will add only this: if you are not prepared to do this, would you not be better to adopt the straight, open and sure way of supporting protective tariffs by fighting those who fight it? Is this not the necessary strong, honest and fair course of action? Is it not the safest thing to accomplish? I ask this question of all who are listening to me and I ask you not to forget it, and to keep it in your mind until election day. That is the real question you will decide when you vote in this important campaign.
Protection Is Necessary
Why talk of protection, you ask me? Are not the Mackenzie King Liberals who are standing in this city all in favour of protection? Well, I am going to tell you why I am talking about protection. I am talking about it because in this battle I am absolutely and flatly opposed to the adversaries of Canada�s protection and because I know that these adversaries are strong enough that, to vanquish them, it is necessary to carry out a direct, open battle without double-talk. I am talking about protection here because I talk about it in the Prairies. I fight the opponents of protection in the Prairies. It is the only way I know to defend any cause and it is the only way I know to ensure success. You know, and all who have studied this issue responsibly and at length know that protection is suitable and necessary for this country; it is more important than any other political issue or measure; without it, we do not stand a chance of succeeding in the industrial foray. You are not unaware of it, I know, and if you are not unaware of it, I say that it is essential you express this opinion so that no man and no party can be mistaken about your decision. You know this and, so, do you believe you are doing the right thing giving your trust to men who, on the battlefield and in the camp of the enemies of protection, never dare to fight these enemies, deny themselves and pretend, while smiling, to be the political friends and allies of those who openly and vehemently attack this country�s entire protection system and who want to destroy it?
I hope I have said enough to prove to you that there really is a battle over this point, a true and major battle. If there are some who do not grasp the whole picture and do not understand all the significance, they will certainly be more informed about the subject before many months.
The Mackenzie King Group
What can I now say about Mackenzie King's Liberal group? To hear about this point in the province of Quebec, you would believe, if you were not better informed, that they are committed and generous protectionists and that, in their hands, everything is secure. I can prove to you just as clearly as if it was a matter of the addition table, that either they intend to strangle and destroy protection or that nothing is secure in their hands. I do not like to read in the middle of a speech, but it is necessary tonight because if someone does not read it to you, you will never know, here in the province of Quebec, that there exists a program called the Liberal program. Over the course of numerous sessions of the House of Commons, the opposition has proposed first one thing and then another as a tariff policy; one day it asked for duty-free agricultural implements, the next day, it asked something else and all its Quebec MPs, or almost all, voted in favour of these resolutions. Lastly, in August 1919, exactly two years ago, the opposition called a cross-Canada Liberal convention and the following tariff program was unanimously adopted at this convention:
�That it is in the best interests of Canada that the burden of customs taxes be considerably lightened so that it is possible to achieve two projects of the greatest importance.
First - to reduce the very high cost of living that hangs over the majority of the people.
Second - to reduce the cost of production tools in the industries whose basis are the Dominion�s natural resources, resources it is absolutely necessary to develop in the interest of our country�s progress and prosperity.
That, to this end, wheat, flour and all wheat products; the principal food commodities, the agricultural implements and machines, tractors for the farms, machines for the mines and flour mills and the saw mills, as well as the parts required for repair, raw and milled lumber, gasoline, fuel and lubricating oils, the nets, ropes and material necessary for fishermen, the cement and the fertilizers, be duty free, as well as the raw material that goes into them.
That the tariff be lowered and provision be made for considerable reductions in the cost of clothing, shoes and other general consumer items, other than luxury items, as well as in the cost of the materials used in manufacturing.
That the preferential British tariff be adjusted to 50 percent of the general tariff.
And the Liberal Party hereby pledges to implement, through legislation, the terms of the this resolution when this Party returns to power.�
Liberals and Farmers Have the Same Program
I am quoting word for word. While I was reading this program, you could only have been struck by its similarity to the Agrarian Party�s tariff policy. Mr. Wood and Mr. Crerar�s program asked that coal be duty-free and the Nova Scotia Liberals refused to accept this and so they removed coal from the program. Messrs. Wood and Crerar had pledged that vehicles were to be duty-free. The Ontario Liberals objected to that and the duty-free vehicles were shelved. However, except for these two items, they have swallowed almost the entire program of the agrarian politicians. You ask me why they acted this way. Everyone knows. They acted this way to gather into their fold all the antiprotectionists in this country. They acted this way to gather the Agrarian political party into their ranks. That�s why they acted this way; but what is important to remember is that they did act this way and that their program on this matter is now in black and white. It is not a statement of principles. It is a series of precise commitments on the fiscal issue. It is a set of authentic promissory notes on which all the blanks have been filled. To make a clearer statement, they added at the end that they would put this well-defined program in the form of a law when they returned to power. Some �duty-free tools�, this has only one meaning. It cannot mean anything else. Some �duty-free food commodities�, this has only one meaning. It cannot mean anything else. �Duty-free wheat and wheat products�, this has only one meaning.. It cannot mean anything else. The �duties on shoes and clothing�, this has only one meaning. It cannot mean anything else. These promises, the promissory notes, they must be honoured or they must be denied.
I now ask you, citizens of Montreal, I ask you, citizens of Quebec and I ask the citizens of Canada: Do you expect them to honour them or deny them? On which alternative are you relying? I know what most of you are thinking. You are not expecting them to come into power. As for Mackenzie King�s program, the program he accepted in becoming his party�s leader, I say the same thing as I said to you about the Wood-Crerar program. You cannot remove the protection for Canada�s major and vital industries.
Protection Cannot be Dropped
You cannot drop the protection of Canada�s large vital industries, the many industries engaged in the manufacture of production tools, things that are essential to us; the producers and manufactures of food commodities that are a basic necessity for us. I say that you cannot treat the large essential industries this way and maintain an ordinary protection system. This is inequitable; this is wrong; this has never been done anywhere and cannot succeed because it is unfair, faulty in principle and wrong. When you decide for or against the Liberal fiscal policy, you are choosing between protection and its complete removal. The battle line is therefore clearly drawn. They have chosen their position and must abide by it. In other parts of the country, they are waging the battle on this program, preaching these doctrines and binding themselves to its fulfilment. The position that I take, that of the Government and the party which supports it in all the provinces of the Confederation, is opposed to this program from the leading ranks all the way to the rear guard. We are battling in the whole country against the policy of Mr. Wood and Mr. Crerar and all those they represent, and we are waging the same battle against the sworn policy of Mackenzie King and all that it represents.
Strange State of Affairs
It is pointless to argue here against Mr. Mackenzie King's fiscal policy and the commitments he is assuming.
This evening I am in the province from which he expects his strongest support, but at the same time, in the province which, I know, has the least sympathy for the policy he advocates. How can this strange state of affairs be explained? There is only one way to explain it, and it is this: There seem to be many who believe in the Government�s policy and have no doubt as to its sincerity, but who are led by habit rather than reason to vote against the Government. They do not want any part of the Mackenzie policy. They see only disaster in the fulfilment of his party�s commitments. On what then, do they base their ideas? Here is what seems obvious. They have no faith in the commitments of King and his partisans, solemnly sworn at the convention, but they have every confidence that these pledges will be broken. They have no confidence in the program of these men, but they are relying on their duplicity. This confidence can be explained to a certain point. The leader of the Liberal Party devotes half his time to soliciting a merger with the Agrarian Party, begging it pitifully to help him and insisting on the fact that the two parties� promises concerning tariffs are practically the same. He re-reads to them the Liberal convention program and pleads with them to let him join them to topple the Government. He makes the Liberal convention program the instrument of his appeal. He uses the rest of the time for the colossal ineptitudes of this program. He is now and has for the past two weeks been making every effort to explain to the population of Toronto and the Eastern provinces that the removal of taxes on agricultural implements does not at all mean a tax removal; that the rebate for food commodities is not a rebate; that the clearance of cement is not a clearance, but that all this means something else which he does not specify. In a word, it is a brazen renunciation of his commitments and promises. The free rate of duty, he says, is only in the �letter�. The well-defined promises in his program are promises, he says, only in the �letter�, and he states to the Canadian people that �the letter kills but the spirit gives life�. I side with him in that the absolute removal of taxes on agricultural implements kills, just as the abatements on food commodities do. They kill not only hundreds of industries making these products, but they just might kill him too. But think quietly for a moment: about the �spirit� of the removal of the duty on cement. It is possible to form an idea of the �spirit� of a principle, but Mr. Mackenzie King and his followers at the Liberal convention committed themselves not to a principle but to actually follow a precise and tangible course of action without beating about the bush. For the leader of the Liberal Opposition and for his partisans, there remain only two alternatives. All they can do is publicly repudiate their statements of two years ago. They have to repudiate the commitments so - at ease. What can be said about those who speak of the �spirit� of abatements on agricultural implements; of the �spirit� of removing taxes on food commodities, about their convention, or, failing this, to declare publicly to the country that they intend to give the force of law to their commitments. Any other conduct is disgraceful and dishonest. I doubt that the people of this Dominion wish to see the Liberal program become the law of the country and I know they do not approve of dishonesty. They do not want quibbling. As a nation, they assuredly do not want to place their seal of approval on an act of flagrant and obvious duplicity.
The Two Opposition Parties Are on the Wrong Track
Now you know the Opposition�s principles. I have read to you their statement of faith. You also know what the Wood-Crerar Party is seeking. I have read some of the articles in its program, what it is committed to, what it has decided to do. Yet we have arrived at a stage in the country when, as I will explain shortly, it would not only be absurd but disastrous to enact laws consistent with the commitments of either of these two parties. Both are on the wrong track, absolutely the wrong track and the wrong track in the same direction, from which it follows that everything about them is wrong and that the country can in no way take the chance of dealing lightly with this question. All I am asking the Canadian people, all Canadian people, is to vote for their true convictions. Study the question realistically and vote for what you deem to be the truth. Vote for those who are pointing to the right road for the solutions to today�s vital issues. Vote for the policy which you sincerely accept as the true Canadian policy and vote for those who wage the battle against the enemies of this policy, whoever and wherever they are.
The Present Tariff is Laurier�s Tariff
I notice that the Leader of the Opposition calls the present tariff a protective tariff for schemes, monopolies and trusts and states that he advocates a tariff for �the producer and the consumer�. But, the present tariff is the tariff of the Laurier government to which the Leader of the Opposition belonged; if then, this tariff protects the schemes, monopolies and trusts, he is among those who bear the responsibility. This tariff has been lowered since 1911 and on average it is substantially less than it was then, but, except for the reductions, it is the Laurier tariff. What a joke, all this nonsense about a protective tariff for schemes, monopolies and trusts. It would be much more honest and surely much more courageous on Mr. King�s behalf to detail these schemes, these monopolies and these trusts. His duty would be to name them, one after the other, and then state that he means to remove some duties on the items that they manufacture. Is that not his course of action in black and white? In truth, and every businessman sees this if he stops and thinks for ten minutes, major industry will suffer much less from a tariff reduction than the small industry which manufactures the same product. None of our industries is comparable to the American industries that compete with them, and it will be the small industries that will disappear first if the tariff is insufficient to allow them to compete. Small industry, not large industries, is therefore, in one word, the factor which must determine the duty to be charged on a given item. Were a major industry to see the tariff on its products removed, its trade in Canada at zero profit, it will increase its production in the United States or will build its factories beyond the borders and ultimately the owners will have much less to lose than Canada if they have been forced to leave.
It Is Time to Render a Clear Verdict
The tariff is the means through which, in a world where protection prevails everywhere, a country can keep at home a system of industries which provide work for the people by ensuring preference for its own markets, by keeping and favouring its population, by avoiding becoming the dumping ground for the surplus production of other countries whose markets are protected and, at the same time, by not being for these countries only a supply source for the raw materials that are the foundation of their industrial life. The time is now or never to rise up against the enemies of the protective system, whatever banner they follow. The time has come to render a very clear verdict and settle this question forever.
On the border that separates us from the United States, we must face a situation which requires that Canada openly reveal its attitude. In 1913, the United States decided it was better for them to reduce the tariff. They reduced it, but by still leaving it higher on average than the Canadian tariff. Even after this reduction, they sold nearly two dollars of merchandise in Canada for every dollar of products they bought from us. In the past five years, they have sold us on average $773,000,000 per year and have purchased only about half this amount. Changing their attitude this past spring, they adopted the Fordney tariff, the most formidable barrier they have erected against us in a long time. It is therefore obvious that they do not want to purchase from us even as much as they have since 1913. They closed the door to the more than $168,000,000 per-year of farm products which we were selling to them. They also refuse some of our other products. The Wood-Crerar Party, the party that knows what it wants, tells us that the way to react is to reduce the Canadian tariff and buy even more merchandise from them. Mr. King, after burning his program in effigy, declares that we must have a general tariff reduction. His policy, as he defined it recently, is to say to Canadian farmers: you have to stop shipping the products of your farms to the United States. You cannot enter it except for a heavy tariff, and $160,000,000 of your products are excluded. The right way, he says, is to reduce our already very moderate tariff again and open our doors to the immense flow of American agricultural products, which will be sold here in competition with our own farm products. This cannot be fair. I do not believe that this can be the right, the worthy policy. I am convinced that it is not in our interest. It is unfair to this country�s agricultural industry, unfair to everyone. We buy so much from the United States right now, compared to what we sell to them, that our dollar is worth no more than eighty-eight cents at the border. So great is the demand for their currency to pay for the excess merchandise we purchase from them, that the exchange for this currency rises continually and the exchange we pay them each year amounts to $50,000,000. There is only one remedy of which I am aware for this state of affairs: this is to reduce our purchases and increase our sales, and I know, as everyone knows, that the means of not achieving this is to reduce the tariff, for, by this fact, our purchases will increase fatally to the time when they remove their tariff, which will only reduce our sales.
New Avenues Open to Trade
Our goal now and always is to open trade avenues between our country and the countries which consume our products. Those will be the permanent avenues which will ensure true markets on which we can rely and which will grow. The United States is our natural competitor, the strongest competitor we have. It buys quantities of our goods and uses part of them but the greatest portion it simply distributes to the final consumer, and the more it uases, the more it has to sell and the more it multiplies its trade opportunities. Nobody preaches or has ever preached the doctrine of �neither exchange nor trade with the Republic�. This is invention pure and simple. But every Canadian, I believe, must admit that what is best to do is to devote our energy to shipping our products, directly to those who need them and consume them, and to rely as little as possible on American fiscal policy, on the American factories and on the American means of distribution. It is this more informed policy that we have wanted to follow for forty years. Numerous lessons have proven to us that it was the only good one. Let us face the American tariff with the resolution to follow faithfully the path we have mapped out over these long years. That is the spirit which drives Canada and which will be confirmed on election day.
Our situation today is not such that some legislation by the authorities in Washington must make us alter our goal, and we have no intention of putting ourselves in such a position that Canada�s vital interests can be annihilated by the variations in the United States tariff.
The Government Was Not Unfair to the Farmer
Our Government has not and has never had, any more than any other government in Canada, the desire to be unfair to the agricultural population. This Government has reduced to the lowest possible figure the duties on agricultural implements. It has reduced them from an average of 20 percent to an average of 14 percent since 1911. They are the lowest in all the customs scale. To bow to the desire of many farmers, we accepted three years ago the United States� offer of free trade for wheat and wheat products. However, because of the war, this project was finalized only last fall. Six months later, the United States rescinded this agreement and imposed a duty of thirty-five percent on wheat and twenty percent on flour. We stopped a similar agreement for the free trade of potatoes, an agreement which the Fordney tariff reversed by taxing potatoes at 25 percent per bushel. Similar reciprocity was granted with regard to fishing rights, but this spring the United States again changed its mind on that and our fishermen had to modify their way of trading. Every Canadian must be convinced today, if he was not already, that our development and our pride demand that our tariff legislation be based on Canadian interests; that our tariff remain free of any entanglement with that of our most powerful competitor; that we push ahead with the development of the existing and permanent markets in the countries which today consume our surplus products and which themselves do not have the same kind of surplus. That is the policy I am submitting for the approval of the Canadian people.
The Right Solution
If the 1921 election brings the right solution to this issue, then everyone will know that it is finally settled and that the country can march forward. We cannot progress before we have made a decision about it. An unclear victory will bring instability and stagnation, the intrigue that pits the groups against each other and the sterility that results from such a state of affairs. What the country needs above all is a precise, reasoned statement on Canada�s tariff policy. May this question be finally settled and business everywhere resume its growth and industry its development; the uncertainty and hesitation will disappear, energy will put the gears into motion, unemployment will cease and we will once again be headed towards the greatest and longest phase of progress that this country has ever entered. It is my intention that we speak of other issues than that of the tariff. Until recently, only the tariff existed. Today we speak of economics and railroads; I am accused of autocracy and the importance of these questions is proclaimed. The present Government fears no question.
The railroad deficit is definitely a large figure which will stay that way for some time to come, because in 1903 and the following years, the federal government ventured into railway enterprises that required colossal expenditures which this country must pay off since there is no one else to pay them. Do they have good grace, those who, after having accumulated against this country the debts for their railway policy, debts we must meet today, rise up to lament the deficit which is, after all, only the consequence of their lack of foresight when they were at the helm of public affairs. They appear in a very tragic light those who, after having equipped this country with a transcontinental railway, come to beg the Canadian people to restore them to power so that they can practice economics.
The Cost of Government Has Remained Stationary
Except for this inevitable expenditure, with which we must cope bravely, we have been trying from year to year to lighten the burden and I am confident that it is possible except for this expense and the extraordinary disbursements to meet our obligations towards those who fought our battles, to close the books on the interest on the war debt and to maintain the new administrations born of the war, the cost of government has remained almost stationary for ten years. We have cut back considerably, albeit regrettably, on public works. We have reorganized a variety of the administration�s services, and by so doing, achieved great savings, and I dare say that the ordinary administration of the government today does not cost more than three percent more than ten years ago. I doubt very much it could have limited its spending to the figure of ten years ago.
Ready to Meet their Adversaries
We are ready to meet our adversaries on any field they choose on the spur of the moment; but it is difficult to respond to demagogic accusations of autocracy without clarification of the specific action being charged. [It is a] waste of time to deal seriously with such vague idle chatter. The important thing is to let nothing cast a shadow on the issues on which the Government has been attacked in the course of these past years; the important thing is to proclaim our policy in a straightforward and clear manner so that all can see what it is they are to decide; the important thing is to square off openly and solidly on this field, and put an end to all suspense, as well as to the insidious and treacherous attacks, and to extinguish once and for all the hope that one can triumph by simultaneously claiming the two principles which are at stake here. Render a verdict in favour of a straightforward, clear and honest policy. Let Canada proclaim its decision so loudly that no one in the world fails to hear it or risks misunderstanding it.
The Government has Fulfilled its Duty
The administration of Canada�s affairs during and since the war was a gargantuan task. It was necessary to improvise, launch and administer organizations one after another, and more than one of them has required as much effort and created as many difficulties as the entire public administration of twenty years ago.
The conduct of ordinary affairs cannot be exempt from mistakes and sometimes, serious mistakes. There is not a single businessman who has not made decisions that he himself would criticize today. The government of a major country is an immense and complicated responsibility. Sincerity of intent, straightforward political principles, courage and devotion to the service of the country will produce the best results. Perfect results or nearly perfect results are impossible. They are but the predictions of charlatans. I ask you, as reasonable men and women, to apply this proof; it is the only one that is worthy. Take whatever sphere of government activity you wish for the past eight years. Take the organization of our armies, the supply service, the mobilization and the leadership of our troops and lastly, the demobilization. Examine our institutions for caring for our invalids, for establishing our soldiers on the land. Look at all that and consider the administration of our finances and the endeavour to advance our trade. Take the trouble to do this and you will find nothing that cannot be improved; but I say with assurance -- and I want to see my challenge met -- you will find nothing that does not compare favourably with the same effort by any other nation which took part in the war. I would like the Canadian people to be aware of the judgment made by the foreign observers who briefed themselves about what is happening in Canada. Our deeds and gestures over the course of the past few years will be in praise of the country in the coming years -- whatever certain critics may think today.
Turning Towards the Future
No, we are not repudiating the past. We have fulfilled our duty, but we must turn towards the future. We ask the electors in this province to follow in our footsteps and to give us their best people to help us lead the march. Let us start out with the same buoyancy, hearts high. Let us make sure that we are taking the secure and straight roads, and not idle fancies and perilous roads; that our sights are set on better things, a better era, a future filled with hopes, instead of being mired in the discord and dissension of the past.
Unity, Stability, Progress
Today they no longer have a reason to exist; they can only undermine and drain our energies. In the midst of the agitation and tumult of a world given over to unprecedented disorder, in the midst of the suffering of innumerable peoples, prey to the ravages and calamities of the war or victims of error, the slogan etched more deeply than ever on the heart of every Canadian should be: Unity, Stability and Progress.
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Source: Meighen, Arthur. The great issue to be resolved: the time has come to render a clear verdict. Ottawa: [Office of the Prime Minister], 1921.