The Election Issues As I See them

A statement from the leader of the Conservative Party outlining the policies on which he bases his case for election to the office of Prime Minister

HONORABLE R. B. BENNETT July 15 1930

The Election Issues As I See them

A statement from the leader of the Conservative Party outlining the policies on which he bases his case for election to the office of Prime Minister

HONORABLE R. B. BENNETT July 15 1930

I GREATLY appreciate the invitation extended to me by MacLean's Magazine to avail myself of its columns for the purpose of setting forth my views upon the problems today confronting the Canadian people, but the pressure of my commitments in connection with the campaign of the Conservative Party compels me to set modest dimensions to the use which I will make of the hospitality of its pages.

I have now been Leader of the Conservative Party for the space of nearly three years, and in that time I have been brought in contact with all classes of the Canadian people, and have been enabled to confirm my view that as far as human material is concerned we have the basis for as noble and well ordered a society as this planet can produce. Within our bounds we have resources which are capable of supporting a high standard of comfort and well-being for a great population; we have a climate which tends to nurture a hardy and enterprising stock, and we have inherited traditions and standards which should form the framework of an enduring civilization. We live upon the continent of North America which has in the present century become the most vitalizing centre of economic power in the universe, and upon that continent we are the repositories of the British traditions. At this point I should like to make clear my view in the matter of Canada's relationship to the British Commonwealth.

Imperial Relations

TO MY mind the British Commonwealth is the most valuable and useful political organization that the human race, as far as our knowledge goes, has yet evolved; it has given the same rule of justice to one fourth of the whole population of the world; it has carried the progressive ideas of what is known as western civilization to many of the backward peoples of the earth; and it has engaged itself in a persistent endeavor to educate them for the responsibility of self-government. It is true that its policies have not been free from error, but it may be fairly said that its record of accomplishment stands out as a stupendous achievement in social and political democracy. At present we Canadians are partners in that achievement and no feats of engineering skill or mass production can ever bring us the same glory in the pages of history. That partnership I will ever cherish, and I would fain see that it was given the fullest reality. One of my chief complaints against the Imperial policy of the Government of Mr. Mackenzie King is that it has been animated by a spirit of nagging self-assertion and a disposition to an attitude of irrational isolationism which was a breach of the unwritten understanding arrived at during the Imperial Conference of 1926. At that conference resolutions were passed giving formal registry to changes in the constitutional arrangement of the British Commonwealth, in the attainment of which one of my predecessors in the leadership of the Conservative Party, Sir Robert Borden, played a leading part. These changes represented a frank recognition by the Mother Country of the spirit of Dominion nationalism which developed during the war years. It was mutually agreed that the manifestation of the new status was to be a spirit of genuine and whole-hearted co-operation in every field of common endeavor between the several countries of the British Commonwealth. I have seen little evidence of that spirit in the recent Imperial policy of the government of Mr. Mackenzie King. On the contrary, I have discerned evidence of a disposition to create fissures in the structure of the Commonwealth.

It will be argued that the Government has just given proof of its Imperial zeal by a budget which extends the British preference and opens wider the doors of the Canadian market to British goods. And here I will explain the reasons why I take issue with this policy. Just because this North American continent is now the world’s chief centre of economic momentum, it is tremendously important that the partner state of the British Commonwealth which is situated upon its terrain should be economically powerful and self-sufficient. As world conditions exist today, a Canada economically strong which can operate as some sort of counterpoise to the United States in world affairs must of necessity be an infinitely greater asset to the British Commonwealth than a Canada which does not possess a well rounded economic society and has only a modest population quite incommensurate with what she should contain within her bounds. Therefore while I deplore and regret the difficulties and embarrassments with which British industry is struggling, I am more primarily concerned with the fate of Canada’s own industrial life.

The Tariff

TO ME, the measure of tariff revision embodied in the budget seems altogether inadequate to offer Canadian industry an equal opportunity with its competitors in a world where tariff barriers have been steadily mounting since the war. The changes embodied in it are founded upon no consistent economic principle and are a crazy quilt of higher protectionism and freer trade designed for the purpose of winning the goodwill of sectional interests and securing a political victory. Morever, a number of these changes like the countervailing duties and the denunciation of the New Zealand Treaty illustrate both the consciousness of the Government of the failure of its policies for the last nine years and its incapacity to initiate measures for the national good. Indeed, the Government in many items of its budget has brazenly cast overboard the traditional principles of the Liberal Party as well as abandoned many planks of its official platform. It has been driven to this course by the desperate exigencies of its political fortunes, but that course is none the less deserving of condemnation by all public-spirited citizens who appreciate the value of consistency in politics as an ingredient in the national life. In the long run, both from the purely party viewpoint and the wider interests of the Dominion it is better that a party should go down to defeat fighting bravely for its principles than that it should forswear these principles and adopt policies, which it has long denounced, in order to retain its hold upon office and the sweets thereof.

Mr. Mackenzie King and his colleagues are fond of preening themselves upon the possession of a certain moral superiority over the wicked Conservative Party, but in reality they are undermining the very foundations of political morality as it has been known and accepted in British countries, and for this reason I hold that the national interest demands urgently their exile to the shades of opposition where they will have time and leisure to repent of their backsliding and to set about the task of providing an opposition which will offer the country the prospect of a consistent alternative to Conservative administration.

The Conservative Party of Canada which provided the chief architect of Confederation, is more concerned for the preservation of the spirit of that great act than for any ephemeral triumph of some policy or idea. It flatly denies the favorite thesis of Liberals that they have been the sole promoters of progressive ideas and reforms in the history of the Dominion. On the contrary, to the Conservative Party belongs the credit of most of the major constructive measures which have been taken to transform this country from a group of separated communities of struggling pioneers into a compact and well-ordered modern society. The charge that it has ever set its face against reforms and the removal of abuses stands disproved, and its traducers condemned of their wanton maliciousness. It ever seeks to strengthen any weaknesses which may be disclosed in the national fabric, but insists at all times that such changes as are necessary must be undertaken as the fruit of mature consideration and on some well considered plan, and not carried out in precipitate haste for the sake of political expediency and vote catching.

The Agricultural Situation

I AM particularly concerned about the fortunes of the farming community which has in the past two years been adversely affected by a variety of factors. Agriculture is still the main buttress of our national economy and despite our great industrial development, will probably remain so for a long time to come. When it is prosperous the whole country enjoys prosperity; when it experiences adversity there is no urban interest which does not suffer with it. The troubles of our farmers have been partially due to Nature withholding the gift of a good crop during the past year, but other causes have operated as well. Today, in the disposal of our surplus agricultural products we are confronted with an increasing severity of competition in the importing markets of the world, and it may easily be aggravated if the present schemes of the Soviet Government of Russia come to effective fruition.

The certainty of heightening difficulties in our overseas markets is one of the primary reasons which impels me to support a policy of industrial protection, because I know that such a policy will afford both an increased domestic market for the produce of our farms, and enable a more effective development of foreign ones. As it is desirable and certain, however great our domestic consumption becomes, that a substantial percentage of farm produce must be sold abroad, we are bound in the interests of agriculture and of the nation as a whole to take every possible means to maintain and advance our position in the markets of the world. The conclusion of every expert who has studied the situation is that in international markets there must be a great improvement in our method of marketing. I have long been a convinced believer in the principle of co-operative marketing for farm products such as the co-operative wheat pool of the prairie provinces and other organizations have been putting into practical effect on a large scale. And I feel that while the pool may have made some errors in business policies, much of the criticism which has been directed against them has been unfair and unsound, and that it would be almost a national calamity if the great co-operative structure which has been built up in the west were to fall to the ground. When I am leader of the Government I will do my utmost to provide our farmers with a nation-wide system of co-operative marketing which will leave them with no handicap in international markets that is within my power, in the national interest, to remove. If I have the honor to represent Canada at the Imperial Conference I will firmly advocate a scheme of Imperial trade co-operation whose aim will be to secure for foodstuffs produced within the Empire, a preferred place in its markets. On the facts it must be agreed that some such action is now long overdue.

The Conservative Programme

I HAVE chosen to illustrate my contention as to the indifference and ineptitude of the government of Mr. Mackenzie King in relation to our basic problems by reference to our most unhappy agricultural situation. I have taken this particular case, having regard to the fact that the readers of MacLean’s Magazine may not have had the same opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tragic conditions of agriculture, as has been afforded them in the equally insistent problems of labor, manufacturer, and of the consumer.

To all of these problems I invite earnest consideration. It is our duty to enquire into them, and reach an unbiased conclusion as to the surest and speediest way of disposing of them. For they must be solved before this country attains that measure of greatness and prosperity which the character of her people and her boundless natural wealth have foreordained to her.

I sincerely believe that the solution of these problems lies in the fulfillment of the pledges given by me in the name of the Conservative Party, at Winnipeg, on the evening of June 9, 1930.

I said:

1. We pledge ourselves to a policy of protection for Canadians in the development of our natural resources, our agricultural and industrial life, and of our consumers from exploitation.

2. We pledge ourselves to foster and develop agriculture and the livestock and dairy industry.

3. We pledge ourselves to the stabilization of economic conditions and to continuity of trade, and freedom from the manipulation of home and foreign tariffs.

4. We pledge ourselves to the stabilization of interprovincial trade, of a Canadian fuel policy and the development of foreign markets.

5. We pledge ourselves to the improvement of the whole scheme of Canadian transportation; northward by the completion of the Hudson Bay route, and the construction of such branches as may be necessary to render it most readily available to every part of Canada; to the Pacific slope by a Peace River outlet; east and west by the development of the St. Lawrence Waterway; and we pledge ourselves to aid existing traffic channels and to increase port facilities on the Great Lakes, the Hudson Bay and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and to the establishment of a national highway system.

6. We pledge ourselves to foster and support a plan for greater Empire trade based on mutual advantage.

7. We pledge ourselves to a national old age pension scheme.

8. We pledge ourselves to provide such compensating adjustments as will ensure the benefits of the above policies to every part of Canada.