Manufacturers and Farmers Face Each Other Across Tariff Trenches

May 1 1919

Manufacturers and Farmers Face Each Other Across Tariff Trenches

May 1 1919

Manufacturers and Farmers Face Each Other Across Tariff Trenches


w, c© iir~

DISCUSSING the tariff—“the unhappy ghost that walks behind the scenes of our Canadian politics”—the Brockville Recorder and Times says: “There is no member of the House at Ottawa, in the Government or out of it, who knows exactly where he is at.” This statement, coming from that daily paper in which Hon. George P. Graham is chief stockholder, may be considered to have exceptional weight and veracity. And, in addition, it expresses the state of mind of the average Canadian citizen, whether he be manufacturer, Western farmer, laborer, or merely the ultimate consumer—who doesn’t seem really to count.

“The farmers of the West,” says the Montreal Star, “have declared that the tariff must come down, or they are ruined. The manufacturers swear that it must stay up, or it is all over with their industries. Organized labor clamors for high wages and the trampled consumer still sobs for low prices.”

“The result,” concludes the Star, “is a chorus of noisy dispute.”

According to the Recorder and Times, there are four distinct groups in the House of Commons:

A.—Members of the Government:

1.—A “group that is unwaveringly in favor of the highest protection that can be secured by legislation.”

2.—A group the “members of which believe in a fairly stiff tariff, with a few concessions here and there, more for the sake of peace than for the sake of political economy.” In this group the Finance Minister, and Acting Premier, Sir Thomas White, is classed.

3.—Another “group, composed mostly of Liberals, who believe in the fiscal policy enunciated by the Liberal party, and joined the Unionist party during the war period only.”

B.—Members of the Opposition :

4.—Liberals who have not joined the Unionist party, are avowed free trade advocates, and resent any attempt to form a “permanent Unionist party.”

^JpHE tariff question has loomed large since the commencement of the present session. “Business has been transacted,” says the Fort William TimesJour nal, but “there has been one eye on business and the other glued on the tariff.”

At the Unionist caucus on March 19, Sir Thomas White stated that “he saw no insuperable difficulties in the way of dealing with the tariff in such a manner as would carry the judgment of the Unionist party as a whole.”

This caucus was quite a love-feast, and the deduction made by Canadian edi.torial writers at its conclusion was, as the Toronto Globe remarked, that there would be “tariff changes this year; general revision later.” The Fredericton Gleaner confidently anticipates “something on account,” while the Vancouver Province announces a “tariff armistice—the postponement of general tariff revision until next year, with some immediate mitigation.” The Province reminds its readers, however, that “no tariff action or inaction will satisfy all Canadians.”

Colonel Currie, member for North Simcoe, livened up the debate on the speech from the throne by his tariff speech, in which he came out flat-footed for the highest

possible protection, and announced that he was “descended from the Covenanters, who never compromise.” Mr. Maharg, representing Maple Creek, Sask., followed, with the “demand of the Western grain growers for a general lowering of the tariff, and the free admission of goods which they buy.” The Hamilton Herald believes that such an appeal is an agitation for “class legislation.” “It is not,” says the Herald, “the Canadian people as a whole that Mr. Maharg and his constituents care about; it is their own interests only. As for other classes, let them look after themselves.”

TV/FANY newspapers, in the East as well as in the West, resented Col. Currie’s remarks. “Speeches of the inflammable nature of Col. Currie’s will not prove conducive to the peace of mind of the Western-

ers,” says the Belleville Intelligencer. “The attack on the Western farmers,” the Edmonton Bulletin points out, “is not an isolated incident. It is only part of a general effort that is being made to shape the process of reconstruction in such a way that the financial benefits will accrue to the manufacturing interests rather than to the public at large.”

The Saskatoon Star claims that:

“Col. Currie gave an indication of the weakness of his case when he charged the Western low-tariff advocates with Bolshevik ideals and with spreading Bolshevik propaganda. As Mr. Musselman, of the Saskatchewan Grain Growers, said the high tariff champions . . . . feel that their mighty walls of special privilege are tottering or they would not resort to the silly nonsense and gross immorality of associating the Grain Growers’ Association with Bolshevism and

East is East, and West is West; Where Shall the Twain Meet?

slandering the president of the Canadian Council of Agriculture as being an annexatioqist.”

“A campaign of flag-waving,” says the Edmonton Bulletin, “is designed to stampede the public into voting for a continuance of high tariff.” The Calgary Albertan has similar views of Col. Currie’s remarks and says: “When everything else fails, the manufac-

turers insist upon questioning the loyalty of their opponents.”

Mr. Maharg’s speech, demanding “immediate and substantial reduction,” met with almost universal approval in the West.

Many newspapers took occasion to counsel against any cleavage between East and West, or between manufacturer and farmer, or between producer and consumer. “The rift between the farmers of the West and the manufacturers seems to be growing wider,” remarked the Stratford Beacon as the session progressed, and the Hamilton Times warned the country that “this leads only to disruption.” “Canada will not prosper except there be unanimity,” points out the Manitoba Free Press. The Galt Reporter is of like mind, and says:

“Men who seek and inspire cleavages, who promote class feeling—these men are engaged in disruptive and discreditable work. Never was it more necessary for Canadians to show a united front than to-day.”

UpHE Toronto Star expresses relief that the “cleavA age” should be on such a subject as the tariff:

“After all, if we must have a ‘cleavage’ in Canada it is not so bad to have it on economic as on racial or religious lines. The conflict does not embitter social relations; it does not make such an appeal to passion and imagination; the quarrel is not handed down from generation to generation.”

Both East and West, manufacturers and agriculturists, claim that all they ask for is “justice.” The claim of the manufacturer is set forth concisely by the Sydney, N.S. Post:

“Canadian industrialism must feel assured of the conditions under which it will have to operate in the future, before making plans for expansion and engaging in production on a large scale, to meet the demands of the new markets opening up on all sides.”

The Montreal Gazette sets forth the manufacturers’ case in the following words:

“The manufacturers can neither desire nor expect more than to be fairly dealt with. All they ask is that their industries shall not be exposed to unequal competition, that the dice shall not be loaded against them, that capital shall be encouraged to investment in manufacturing, that labor shall find steady employment, and that a great home mai’ket shall be built up through the operation of a reasonably protective tariff, as in the United States.”

Sir Edmund Walker, in a widely-quoted interview, says that he :

“ . . .. is not a believer in that kind of tariff which enables maunfacturers to prosper in Canada without feeling the competition of foreign manufacturers, but he urges the necessity of sufficient protection to enable manufacturers in Canada to compete. Without some measure of protection several new fields of manufacture, made possible otherwise by our experience during the war, will still be impossible.”

The Montreal Gazette crystallizes the issue when it asks :

“Will Western farmers persist in their quest for free imports even though the consequence be the serious impairment of manufacturing industry, and possibly a resulting commercial crisis? Or will they adopt the

sane view that tariff protection should be high enough to encourage and stabilize manufactures and no higher? These questions are the root of the whole controversy.”

And, what sayeth the West?

T H. WOODS, editor and proprietor of the Calgary

* Herald, in an article contributed by him to Industrial Canada, the C. M. A. organ, discusses the question with exceptional sanity and commendable moderation. Mr. Wooas is a Conservative, and a former president of the Canadian Press Association. Above all, he is a “Westerner”—but not selfishly so. He says:

“Let me define our differences from a Western point of view.

“Some are fiscal, and these are mostly essential differences. We are an agricultural country, producing our earnings from the soil. The East must recognize our needs, and the tariff must be revised to facilitate the progress of agriculture in the greatest possible degree. But the East will find-—and this is important to realize—that the West does not want to tear down Eastern industry, nor to erect à selfish Western prosperity at the expense of Canadian manufacturers. The West only wants justice as it sees it, and, though its view may sometimes be distorted, it is quite sincere. The West w'ill respond readily and generously to fiscal claims that are justifiable in the interests of Canada as a w'hole. Nay more, it will make willing sac! ¡fices to maintain the integrity of Eastern industrial trade.”

The Lethbridge Herald, which voices the sentiments of its editor, W. A. Buchanan,

M.P., some months ago came out in advocacy of a “Western Party,” out has not pressed of late for its formation. But it still is emphatic that the “voice of the West” must be heard—and heeded:

“The voice of the West is loud in the land in regard to the revision of the tariff. It is uttered with an emphasis that cannot be unheeded. The farmers are not in the mood to brook delay in the way of urgent remedial legislation for the removal of the tariff burden.”

The Moose Jaw Times asserts that “politics have ceased to be a factor in the tariff question, so far as Western Canada is concerned,” and points out that,

• . . . from Alberta to the eastern boundary of Manitoba the farmers are of unanimous opinion, and the Legislatures of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have unanimously demanded substantial and immediate reduction of the tariff. All Western development and progress is handicapped by the tariff.”

The Edmonton Bulletin is loud in its protest against the present tariff, and demands “a reduction in the hold-up price demanded for manufactured goods.” The Saskatoon Star says: “The tariff issue has come to a ‘show-down,’ and promises and subterfuges will not avail.” “The days of procrastination are over,” is the Winnipeg Tribune’s warning. Each paper thus epitomizes the demands of the newspapers in its province.

The Canadian Council of Agriculture convened in Winnipeg early in April, and passed the follow ing resolution :

“The Canadian Council of Agriculture urges the Dominion Government during the present session of Parliament to incorporate in its fiscal proposals for the rehabilitation of Canada, following the expenditure of the economic power of the country during the war, provision for the removal of the TYz per cent, war tax and a substantial reduction in the present protection tariff, as set forth in the farmers’ platform, believing that no fiscal policy of reconstruction will be complete which does not seriously and specifically aim at adjusting the unfair burden of taxation upon the consuming and producing classes of Canada, developed out of the existing system of raising Federal revenue by indirect taxation.”

Commenting on their attitude the Toronto Times says:

“Canada must stimulate and develop both the home and the foreign market. Canada must raise an enormous revenue to meet war debt and pension charges. We believe that the program of the Canadian Council of Agriculture is impractical and visionary. If it were crystallized in legislation the result would be unemployment, widespread distress and chaos.”

'■pHE Kingston Standard remarks that “thoughtful A men must agree” with this view.

There are a number of evidences that friction is very close to the surface. For example, the Saskatch-

ewan Grain Growlers’ Association about the end of March declared that “the farmers’ platform is not intended to provide material for fine speeches by politicians. Trifling w'ith the Association’s tariff demands will mean trouble for someone. The farmers are apparently not in the mood for official sophistry; soft words must be replaced by action.”

These view's were communicated to the Western members at Ottawa by Secretary Musselman, and his message is harshly criticized by the Hamilton Spectator w'hich says: “An insolent telegram has been sent by

Secretary Musselman, of Saskatchewan Grain Growers, to Ottawa, threatening dire things if their overbearing demands are not complied with. He talks like a Turk and should be treated as such.”

The Ottaw'a Joumial-Press pooh-poohs the claims of the West as those of a youngster who is yet adolescent, but assumes the garments of manhood, asserting the rights of maturity. It remarks:

“Nor is a cry about ‘What the West Wants’ worth a darn as an argument i.: a discussion of this kind, either. The West is coming aio;.& fine, but it contains as yet less than one-third of the people cf Canada, and a great deal less than one-third of the business means of Canada, and if the West wants anything, the rest

of us have a right to be like the man from Missouri— we have a right to be shown.”

The Winnipeg Tribune takes exception to the Ottawa paper’s statement, and says:

“Why the use of the hot words found in the Journal article? Every full-fledged Canadian has a right to say, through the ballot-box, and then through Parliament, how' the nation shall be governed—what its policy shall be.”

The Montreal Gazette says that “in the opinion of self-thinking men there are times for all things,” and takes the Western low-tariff members to task for thinking that the present is the time for tariff changes. The West is called “obtuse.” and in an editorial headed “The ‘obtuseness’ of the West,” the Manitoba Free Press has the following remarks to make :

“To give w'ay to anger is usually an evidence of weakness in argument. Perhaps that is why the Montreal Gazette in a recent issue became abusive while simultaneously adopting an attitude of superior wfisdom towards ‘the prairie legislators’ who have dared to demand a lower tariff at a time when the Dominion Government is called upon to make large capital expenditures......

“The West, after all. sees farther and more clearly than the few' bigoted protagonists of high tariffs can be expected to realize. The ‘prairie legislators’ are blazing the trail by which the whole Dominion may escape from the morass of national indebtedness and commercial ineptitude into which the war and the selfish, short-sighted policies of the high protectionists have led it. To refuse to follow that trail will be to court disaster.”

'"P'HE C. M. A., in page advertisements in the press from one end of Canada to the other, initiated a campaign in which it asked the farmer to assist them in its endeavor to secure an adequate protective tariff. The C. M. A. also issued an interview several columns

in length expressing its reasons for objecting to a lower tariff. This roused the ire of the Regina Leader,

which says:

“It is questionable, however, if during all these years the manufacturers ever issued such a palpable dishonest, snivelling, disgusting appeal as that handed cut this week by the General Manager of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association by the direction of the Executive Council of that body. It is worthy of the despicable, unspeakable Hun who, having plundered, destroyed and mutilated to the limit of his ability, throws up his hands when the hour of retribution comes, and like an arrant coward shrieks, ‘Kamerad! Kamerad!’ ”

The Moose Jaw News takes the Leader to task for “such stupidly unnecessary language,” and adds that to hand out to the farmers of the West, “a level-headed class of men with keen business capacities, such language as quote above as arguments in favor of their claims is only to insult them.”

The “McMaster Resolution,” as it has been termed, created quite a tempest in the House, when A. R. McMaster, M.P., for Brome, Quebec, introduced just before the conclusion of the debate on the speech from the throne, an amendment suggesting that:

“The increase of duty of lYz and 5 per cent, be repealed, that the offer of reciprocity by the reciprocal trade agreement with the United States be accepted in its entirety, that all staple food products and domestic animals be admitted duty free from places admitting like Canadian articles, that all farm and garden implements, machinery, tools, raw materials entering into the manufacture of the same, lumber, fuel, oil, cement and fertilizers, and lastly a substantial reduction of the tariff all round.”

The amendment was defeated by more than two to one, the “rump Liberals” polling only sixty-one votes. Its defeat is held by the low'-tariff advocates throughout Canada to be due solely to its untimeliness. Free traders of the calibre of Michael Clark, Levi Thomson, Crerar and Carvell supported the Union Government, preferring to express their views at a later date. The Lethbridge Herald, W. A. Buchanan’s paper, heads an editor'al the day after the vote, “a crafty move frustrated,” and goes on to say:

“The line in the National Anthem, ‘Confound their politics,’ was put into practice in the House at Ottawa wrhen the McMaster tariff resolution was given a short shrift. This not so much with regard to the resolution itself as the spirit in which it wTas engineered.”

rPHE Toronto Globe asserts that the vote an the amendment was in no way indicative of the feeling throughout Canada; and final action, it believes, will be quite different. The Globe says:

“Were the removal of the War Surtax, for example, to be voted upon on its merits there are probably not sixty members in a House of over two hundred and thirty w'ho would vote for the retention of this no longer defensible tax, which took over $45,000,000 in customs duties from the pockets of the Canadian consumers last year, and probably twice that amount in excessive profits on goods manufactured at home under shelter of excessive duties.”

The Saskatoon Phoenix sums up the opinion of those papers in the West who support Union Government, but insist on a lower tariff, and forecasts a general election with the tariff as the issue:

“The McMaster amendment was not well-timed. The Opposition could not expect low-tariff supporters of the Government to side with it at this moment. Liberal Unionists can justify their action in voting to avoid an electiçn ju*fcHow.

“The hour for an election has not struck. Let the Finance Minister bring in his budget; let the country learn what the Government proposes to do with the tariff; then, if its proposals are inadequate and the Liberals on the Government’s side, and the country as a whole, are convinced that no more can be secured, a vote which would be tantamount to a vote of want of confidence can properly be given. Mr. McMaster did not promote the cause of tariff revision by bringing in his amendment at this juncture......

“ ... in the opinion of the Phoenix low-tariff votes will dominate the House of Commons following a contest fought on that question.”

The Saskatoon Star, an avowed low-tariff advocate, endorses the attitude of the Western members in voting

Continued on page 74

Continued from page 37

against the McMaster amendment, and

adds :

“Western Unionist members, having served notice on the Government of their intention of taking what steps they can to bring about tariff reduction, took the proper course of waiting to see what the Government decided to do. The Government’s decision could not properly be announced in advance of the budget speech.”

A/IANY newspapers throughout the 1 country, both low and high tariff

advocates, condemn the amendment in the following phrases:

‘Tooling with Free Trade”—Charlottetown Guardian.

“Very much a part of the game of politics”—Calgary Albertan.

“Tactics dictated by political considerations”—Saskatoon Star.

“Playing politics”-—Quebec Chronicle.

“Rump Liberals. . . showed their weakness”—Moncton Times.

“Mr. McKenzie’s. . . mistake in strategy”—Montreal Gazette.

“Cheap and not very clever political play”—Edmonton Journal.

“The Opposition har not s.-oied. . . in the eyes of the country”—Kingston Standard.

“Tactical mistake”—Hamilton Times.

A few papers express keen disappointment because the amendment was lost.

The Quebec Telegraph says:

“The rejection by the House of Commons of the McMaster motion to revise the tariff downward shows clearly where the Unionists party stands. Practically every Liberal-Unionist in the House reneged on his professed principles in the vote which he cast against this reso\ lution for freer trade.....The coun-

try now sees clearly what measure of fiscal relief it can expect from the present authorities at Ottawa.”

The Edmonton Bulletin also despairs of a change under Unionist Government, and says:

“Clearly there is only one way to change the tariff policy of Canada, and that is by changing the Government out of the control of Big Business into the control of the people.

“The West is under the heel of the profiteer, largely through the present tariff. It is there because its representatives in Parliament keep it there.”

The Moose Jaw Times blames Western Unionists for “smothering the tariff resolution,” and looks at the situation in the following fashion:

“The Western Unionists in the House of Pretence at Ottawa, at the bidding of Borden Impotence, smothered the McMaster resolution for Tariff Reform, proved traitors to the principles they profess to believe in, but true to their pledge to support the Borden Government above everythingelse in return for ihe support they received through the corrupt manipulation of the soldiers’ votes under the iniquitous War Time Elections Act.

“This, we believe, is a brief but correct summing up of what took place at Ottawa.”

HELVE serious tariff alterations until the reconstruction period is past, counsel several newspapers. “It is a question if it can be done during the reconstruction period,” believes the Nelson News. “Not the proper time,” says the St. Catharines Journal. The Government should “courteously decline presently to meddle with the tariff,” says the Kitchener News-Record. The Toronto Star, Kitchener Telegraph, Quebec Chronicle, and many others urge a

speedy settlement by compromise in order to clear the boards for “a whole armful of problems that the year 1919 must dispose of for better or worse.”

Professor Leacock, humorist and Political Science Professor at McGill University, in the Montreal Star advocates a Tariff Commission in the following words:

“In the highly organized world in which we live it is possible to get together about a dozen men who can speak for the manufacturers of Canada; another dozen who can promise that the farmers will do this or that, and another dozen who will assure us that organized labor will accept such and such terms. I do not refer to authorized representatives duly elected. That plan is useless. That would be as bad as the Canadian ParliamentI mean small groups of men, officials or unofficial leaders, who have got sufficient prestige and practical control of the class they represent to be able to make an informal bargain in its name.

“The Government need take no thought to the matter other than to shut these people into a room and let them wrangle it out like dissentient jurymen. There let them stay till they came out with a tariff made and completed, suiting nobody but accepted by everybody. The only understanding should be that the tariff when made was made to stay, and that the nation might turn its mind to higher things than the more greedy wrangle of conflicting selfishness that is called the Canadian Tariff Question.”

The Canadian Railroader, Galt Reporter, Kitchener News-Record, and other papers also favor a tariff commission. The Fort William Times-J ournal is skeptical of its success; the Toronto Times and others claim the “tariff is essentially a political issue,” and the Saskatoon Phoenix sees only an excuse for “further delay.”