MY CONFESSION OF FAITH
T. A. CRERAR
LEADER OF THE NATIONAL PROGRESSIVE PARTY
TO-DAY thousands of Canadians, to whom public affairs a few years ago were either a jest or the subject of a ceremonial process at stated intervals, are taking a serious interest in the management of their country and its future.
Thousands of men and women are sternly determined that the old political order with its jobbery and corruption; its prostitution of the public interest for private pelf; its vicious political machines and cynical “bosses;” its shameless patronage system in the matter of offices and contracts; shall be banished to the limbo of forgotten things.
The sacrifices and sufferings of the war have opened many eyes to a new vision of public service and responsibility and to a daily growing number of people who realize that the only monument worthy of our dead is a newer and better Canada the idea of any reversion to the old political standards is an intolerable thought.
It is perhaps an exaggeration to give the whole credit for this wholesome change to the war alone. Even before its grim advent we were beginning to blaze new trails and reach out, often blindly it is true, for improvements in our political and economic life. But the war crystallized and brought into full activity in a few short years impulses and ideas whose fruition would under normal peace conditions have been of slower growth.
But, say some of my older friends, you make too little allowance for the difficulties which confronted the country’s leaders in earlier days and the peculiar conditions which they had to face.
There is, I admit, something in the contention. Until the beginning of this century Canada was more or less a pioneer community whose inhabitants were mostly engaged in a desperate challenge with the wilderness and were attempting to provide half a continent with the physical machinery of civilization. A large element of our population had come from other lands to better their personal fortunes and were engrossed in the task. Under such conditions disinterested idealism and clear political thinking does not flourish and close attention even to the elementary duties of citizenship was pot a settled practice with any great proportion of our citizens. Save in one or two localities, they were thinly dispersed over a vast area. Communications were difficult and the freedom of intercourse, the mutual understanding and the regular interplay of ideas which are indispensable to a healthy state of public opinion were simply not available.
A Government can rarely rise above the source from which it derives its origin and though many able and disinterested men freely gave their talents and energies to public life, the level of our governments in both the Federal and Provincial spheres has been deplorably low and their efficiency and foresight have often left much to be desired.
Our Painful Railway Problem
' I 'HE richness of our natural resources gave ample opportunities to the scheming exploiter and his political tools to advance their private fortunes at the public expense and the apathy and indifference of the electorate
allowed them a clear field for their operations. It would be an invidious task to rake up and catalogue what I regard as the prime errors of the past but our present railway problem is a sufficiently painful example. What defence can be offered for the statesmanship which in the last 80 years has poured over one billion dollars into the maw of reckless promoters and selfish contractors and left us with a railway muddle whose reasonable solution presents a baffling problem? The wanton exploitation of our public lands and other resources, and the scandals attendant thereon, could easily have been averted or minimized under better standards of government and citizenship. So though the blame must be shared by the people as well as the politicians, of both parties, my main indictment stands.
The first manifestations of the new spirit were visible
quite naturally in the prairie provinces and, likewise naturally, among the farming communities there, for in areas where the process of settlement is going on the population inevitably is composed of people of a critical and radical temper, the effects of misgovernment are most keenly felt and exploitation of various kinds is always at its worst. It is about sixteen years ago since there first were discerned on the horizon the signs of a political uprising which has been commonly referred to as the farmers’ or agrarian movement, but has now assumed a wider significance, justifying the adoption by its supporters of the title National Progressive party.
This western movement had its origin in a protest against existing economic conditions which denied the farmer any control over the machinery of the marketing, financing and transportation of his crop, and allowed selfish interests to interpose themselves between him and his markets and to exact a toll quite out of proportion to any services rendered by them. The Grain Growers’ Association came into existence and their early energies were concentrated on securing certain reforms in the conditions under which grain was marketed.
Due credit must always be given to the pioneer efforts on Parliament of enlightened members like Dr. J. G. Rutherford, but it was the process of organization by the farmers which quickened interest at Ottawa in their grievances. The members of the associations soon realized that selfhelp was the best kind of remedy for their ills and accordingly founded and developed thegreatco-operativeorganizationsthrough which a large proportion of their business is now handled. When men have become accustomed to work together in business, the transition to concerted action in politics is easy and natural.
When it was realized, as it soon was. that there was a definite limit to the expansion of their co-operative schemes as long as antagonistic forces were in control of the various governments, it was inevitable that the farmers should begin to give consideration to public policies and the whole political system. It was equally certain that they would feel the need for manifold reforms in this sphere and lay plans for their accomplishment.
Circumstances naturally brought the tariff to the forefront in all discussions of future policy by the farmers of the West. Selling as they do their products in the open markets of the world and buying in restricted markets, they feel its burdens more acutely than any other class. And nothing could or can to-day shake their conviction that the profits which would help to reconcile men to the climatic hardships of pioneer life on the western prairie have been seriously decreased by the toll taken by our protected manufacturers. My views and those of our organizations upon this subject are too well known to bear elaboration at any length, but one or two points I would like to emphasize.
We are quite unrepentant in our hostility to the existing tariff system. We believe that protection is morally wrong inasmuch as it permits a particular group of people to enrich itself at the expense of the rest. We deny that it is economically sound, holding that it has neither added to the aggregate wealth of the country nor improved the condition of Labor. What is responsible for the disappointing growth of our population revealed at each census and for an annual exodus which reaches appalling dimensions for a new country, unless a wrong economic system? We believe that Canada like all other countries has certain basic capabilities; in our case they lie in the direction of the production of grain,livestock, lumber and minerals and our greatest chances of permanent prosperity lie in concentrating upon those particular
But the protectionist policy, which both the historic parties have sponsored and maintained since 1878, has loaded and weighed down these natural industries with the burden of sustaining a long string of secondary and artificial industries which are often merely of the fabricating type and are also often dependent on foreign countries for their raw material.
These artificial industries have drained labor from the land and are largely responsible for the serious rural depopulation which is now visible.
As long as these protected
industries have plentiful orders and can run full time, the workers in them can contrive an existence but what is their lot when through adverse business conditions factories have to close down or reduce their staffs? Why are so many thousands of hard-working people on the border-line of starvation to-day in this country of such natural riches? Go to Prince Edward Island, the most purely rural community in Canada, and then cross over to the industrial area in Cape Breton and judge which is the healthier and happier society. Can it be seriously argued that John Thomson, growing grain, and Marie Guerin, making butter on an Eastern Townships farm, are not both happier, healthier and greater contributors to the national wealth than the same pair of people making tire fabrics or cheap jewelry out of imported raw material in a Sherbrooke factory?
There is great lamentation about the amount of our imports and the state of the exchange but it should not be forgotten that raw materials for our manufacturers comprise a large part of our imports. Does anyone think our fiscal position healthy? Our imports far exceed our exports and we have to send millions yearly abroad to pay interest owed to external creditors for bonds, mortgages and other forms of their investments. The fact is that as a nation we cannot hope to reach a stable economic basis until a change in our fiscal system gives freer play to our natural industries. When they are allowed to flourish as they might, our export figures will increase and our urban industries will prosper as never before.
Agrarian Leaders Not From U. S.
IT IS a gross travesty of facts to assert as some ill-informed critics do, that the leaders of the anti-protectionist movement in the West are for the most part American immigrants whose sympathy with British and Canadian institutions is rather imperfect. I think I may claim to know the chief personalities in the agrarian movement as well as anyone. Former citizens of the United States have played their part in it but I think I am correct in saying that the main force of criticism of the protective principle has come from British-born farmers and that the majority of the leaders are of undiluted British blood. The attempt to meet economic arguments by the cry of disloyalty is cheap and unworthy of intelligent people.
My manufacturing friends often lament the bitterness of the western protest against the tariff and profess great mystification as to its cause. Let them recall the past. In 1911 there was offered to the country the chance of concluding a reciprocity treaty with our neighbors on most favorable terms. The western farmer saw in it the opportunity of free access to a market offering infinite advantages to him. The measure, moreover, made no real inroads upon the protection which our manufacturers enjoyed. But they bent their whole energies to defeating its enactment and by a combination of circumstances and methods, which are scarcely a happy memory to some of their devisers, succeeded in their purpose.
The western farmer at once interpreted the hostility of the Canadian manufacturers as clear evidence that they were determined to keep him in thorough bondage not only in regard to the conditions under which he could buy what he required, but in regard to the conditions under which he could sell what he produced. Such a threat was a challenge which any free community was bound to take up. My friend, Premier Drury, warned the opponents of reciprocity
Next—Labor’s Political Views
“]V|Y CONFESSION OF FAITH” is the third of A the series of signed articles by leaders of the chief political parties in Canada, which is appearing in MacLean’s—Premier Meighen and Hon. Mackenzie King have contributed their views in preceding issues. Mr. Crerar’s article is, perhaps, not the least interesting, owing to the fact that he is the leader of a brand new party—a party which is challenging with increasing virility the supremacy of the old-line parties. There will be a fourth article in this series shortly, when the views of a prominent Labor politician will be given.
what would happen if they defeated it and they know him now as a true prophet.
The western farmer formed the resolution to put himself by organization in a position to secure a square deal and every year he has learnt to use his political strength with increasing effectiveness. Since the Underwood Tariff
came into effect he has realised the enormous advantages of the American market for his grain and even more for his livestock and dairy products. Now that it is being jeopardised, he is not inclined to feel any greater affection for the interests which, in 1911, thwarted an arrangement containing some possibilities of permanence.
It affords the friends of reciprocity some pleasure to see that even hide-bound protectionists view with apprehension the revival of dutiesagainst our agricultural products on the scale of the McKinley Tariff. I hope their restoration may be averted but under the circumstances I cannot blame the American Congress. There are however not wanting signs that the present protectionist mood will not be permanent with our neighbors who now need export markets and have reached the same economic position as Britain in the forties cf last century.
How the Resentment Has Spread
THIS feeling of resentment at the domination of our national life by certain selfish urban interests first developed among the western farmers but it has now spread to the rural communities of Ontario, the Maritime Provinces and British Columbia, and is beginning to be clearly visible in Quebec. But as no movement can exist merely on the discussion of sectional wrongs and grievances and plans for their removal, our associations soon came to adopt a wider purview and deal at their meetings with the wider phases of national life.
The time has gone by when inhabitants of our cities can look down upon the farmer as hopelessly ignorant of public affairs.
His education has been proceeding at a rapid rate.
Our climate makes the occupation of agriculture somewhat seasonal and thousands of our farmers have used the long winter evenings for reading and reflection. In hundreds of places they have held regular meetings and discussed thoroughly the numerous questions of the day.
This healthy process enabled delegates to come to our annual conventions with definite ideas on these questions and the mass decisions of the associations were there embodied in concrete resolutions, which in due course formed the basis of the New National
T. A. Crerar Says:
“JT is with no small trepidation that / avail myself of the invitation of MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE to make a confession of my political and economic faith for the benefit of its readers, and in view of the high cost of paper 1 will spare them any superfluous personal preliminaries. It is a trite saying that the Great War, perhaps the most momentous event in history, has changed, the face of the whole civilized world and left a permanent impress on the mural and mental outlook as well as on the political and economic Heals of countless millions of men a ml women. It. was impossible that Panada, which has played so art me and glorious a part inthat war. could remain immune from, the universal consequences and nut provide in common with many other countries marked evidence of a nor political among her citizens.'
February 1, 1921
Policy. Their discussions covered a wide field and wer« not confined to the tariff and purely agrarian interests: they embraced such subjects as education, taxation, control of the liquor traffic, our railway problems, our constitutional position and Imperial relations, the better organization of the social side of rural life and subjects of a similar character.
Admittedly much that was vague and indefinite emerged in the discussions and the remedies advanced were often Utopian in character but on the whole the intellectual activities of the farmers’ movement have represented a clear and definite aspiration for betterment in our government and civilization. If ¿hey had done nothing else, they have made a valuable contribution to our national life by quickening public interest in many pressing questions.
There are people who deplore the present ferment and see a Bolshevik in the mildest-tongued critic of our existing system. But was not Sir Auckland Geddes right when he declared the present unrest to be a healthy sign and told an Ottawa audience that abuse of reformers and even of agitators was about as effective a means of suppressing democratic discontent as swatting mosquitoes was of abolishing malaria?
Drastically Reform the Senate
DO NOT imagine that our program and aims are merely confined to reformation of the tariff. It is exceedingly important but will take us only part of the way to the goal which we have in view. We have a very fair machinery for the free expression of public opinion. Our criticism is not directed against our Federal Parliament so much as against the methods which party managers, fortified by campaign funds derived from the purses of privileged interests, used to manipulate it for their own and their patrons’ ends. We believe it could be substantially improved by a drastic reform of that strange political workhouse, our Senate, and by the adoption of the system of proportional representation. We believe that there is more real happiness to be derived from the creative impulse and the co-operative impulse than from the possessive and acquisitive impulse and the impulse to authority and dominion over others.
The co-operative movement, great though its recent progress has been, has been hampered in the past by the absence of the legislation which is necessary to give proper encouragement to this ideal and is on all the statute books of really progressive countries. One of the great flaws in our national equipment is our faulty machinery of distribution. In this very year of grace, when food prices in our cities were abnormally high, apples were rotting by the million in Ontario orchards and the fishermen of Nova Scotia could not get a market, even at miserable prices, for their catches. We believe that the application of the cooperative principle on a wider scale than is now being attempted would help to solve the cost of living problem which makes life a constant financial crisis for so many people. Its extensive development can also be made to serve as a useful link between the city and country; in Toronto for instance the U.F.O. are helping members of the Labor Party to establish a cat-operative store in the city.
Our Relation to England
THE question of our national status and relations to the other units of the British Commonwealth presents some difficult problems and must be settled in the near future. The idea of any centralized Parliament in London welding the British nations together in a close bond to defy the rest of the world and pursue a policy of Imperialism is repugnant to all progressive minds in Canada and our view is that the permanent unity of the British Commonwealth and its best services for mankind can best be evolved by strict adherence to the principle of voluntary co-operation in the solution of matters of common interest. Our belief is that there is no department of our national life which Canadians are not able to manage themselves as well as any other people can do for them. The independent course of our representatives in the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva has a welcome significance that our day of tutelage is over and has evoked no criticisms from our movement.
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But one difficulty is that the growth of the outward forms of nationhood finds us still lacking much of the common consciousness that is the core of the best type of national spirit. To one whose duties usually take him each year to every province of Canada nothing is so deplorable as the comparative ignorance of the inhabitants of different parts of the Dominion concerning the views and needs of people in other sections. In one sense the new political movement offers great hope of becoming a unifying force. The farmers of the West have abated much of their hostility to the East when they realise that a very large element of the citizens of Eastern Canada fully endorse their views and policies.
Then the case of our foreign-born population must never be forgotten. We have invited and welcomed to our shores people of many varied races; most of them have found security and comfort in our midst but in other directions our treatment of them has not always been generous or wise. There is much that we can learn from them and with proper encouragement they can be made most valuable citizens. Many of them are pathetically anxious to become Canadians in the fullest sense and any policy such as electoral disfranchisement, which might drive them back into sullen racial groups, is an error of the first magnitude. These foreign settlers in the West are generally ready to throw themselves into any progressive movements in their communities; for instance, a large number of the co-operative societies registered with the Provincial Secretary in Alberta have been formed by Ukrainians or other groups of immigrants from Continental Europe.
The Real Ideals Behind
NO COUNTRY needs for its successful welding into a true nation such a measure of mutual toleration among its different racial elements as this Canada of ours and no country has been so cursed in the past by cowardly and unprincipled appeals to racial passion and religious prejudice. As long as appeals to these vices were the staple currency of our political life, it was equally hopeless to dream of any sane discussion of our grave economic and social problems or any progress to decent national idealism. But happily that unpleasant atmosphere has either disappeared or is disappearing and it is not unlikely that the Canadian people will visit with prompt punishment such mischief-makers as seek to revive it, for they have no greater enemy.
If I were asked to sum up the real ideals behind our program, I would say that we
aim at the abolition of all’privileges conferred by legislation on one section of the community at the expense of the rest; at the complete fulfilment of our aspirations, internal and external; for true nationhood and at the establishment of a real democracy in our economic and social life without which mere political democracy is too often a mockery. We also desire by the better organization of our national life to make an end oí!; the greatest of all our scandals—that this great Dominion, with all its vast resources, should fail, as it visibly does to-day, to afford ample security against want for any but a very meagre proportion of its eight or nine million inhabitants. '
But I will be asked was it necessary for the farmers to create a new political party to accomplish these things. Could they not have been effected by bringing pressule upon or working inside one of the old parties?
My own view is that this method of approach would have involved us in many disappointments, setbacks and delays. Prior to the war there was a distressing unreality in the conflict between our two historic parties. This atmosphere might have been indefinitely perpetuated but for the appearance of the agrarian movement; one Of its effects has been to produce a real cleavage in our politics which will, in time, result in the development of parties representing real views and divergencies of opinion rather than mere sentiments and family traditions as in the past. Our party aims at peace and not at war. It began its agitation for reform among a certain social group which was atrociously handicapped by the existing system. It took this course because it was compelled to. It hopes to build up among them and then to spread by the conversion of other elements of the community a new social philosophy and with it as a basis to create a new economic system.
No Class Warfare
IT IS easy to unload airy epigrams about class warfare and bewail the advent of what some of our critics call occupational politics. But the actual fact is that the farmers have been the last of all classes to organize for the protection of their interests; the manufacturers, lawyers, bankers and urban workers were in this field long before us. Class cleavage has spread because our present economic system is too largely a system devised for the benefit of a small privileged class and the existing state a one class state.
Liberals of the older school have always had a touching faith that popular selfgovernment would prevent any monopoly of the state by any one class, but our electorate has in the past been too gullible and careless of its real interests to make this cure reliable. The one-class domination, which has hitherto existed, has also managed to poison the system of political democracy which was expected to effect the cure for all our ills. They cannot be permanently remedied unless political democracy is accompaniedby social and industrial democracy.
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Our aim, however, is not to substitute the domination of one class, the farmers, for that of another, the financial and manufacturing interests. I think the Government of Premier Drury in Ontario provides a standing refutation of that charge; he and his colleagues have already remedied many grievances of the farming community, but they have shown them no special favors and have never been wanting in their consideration for the general interests of the whole province. They stand to lose electorally by the introduction of P. R. but they are pushing forward plans to bring it into operation in several areas. The measure of goodwill and commendation which they have already earned for themselves among the cities and towns of Ontario is sufficient testimony that they have not pursued class policies in their administration.
I completely share Mr. Drury’s view that there exists in our cities a large leaven of admirable progressive minds chiefly in the ranks of the educated and comparatively prosperous professional classes, whose aid and alliance the farmers cannot afford to despise. The view that the urban communities were a solid unit against our policy has always seemed to me erroneous and I have insisted that the realisation of our programme might well prove impossible without the co-operation of these progressive urban elements.
The truth is that, just as with urban labor, points of contact are often difficult and there are many suspicions to be overcome on both sides. But intelligent members of our party look upon themselves and their brethren not as a selfish group seeking to exact the maximum of blackmail from the rest of the community, but as blazing the trail for another lap in the march of human progress and liberation.