POST-WAR CONSTRUCTIVE PERIOD
FROM A WESTERN VIEWPOINT
AN ADDRESS BY R. C. HENDERS, M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
May 22, 1919.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: It is with considerable fear and trembling that I stand before this audience at this important period in our history. We people in the West have been apt to entertain strange notions about the people living in the East, and from mootings in the press I presume you people in the East have entertained similar notions concerning the people who live in the West. And yet when I come to look into the faces of this audience this afternoon I can discover no difference between your looks and the looks of a western audience. I do not even see the sproutings of horns,- or abnormal ears, and if I were transplanted to Winnipeg, and standing before the Canadian Club in Winnipeg, with our inimitable gentleman who occupies the high position of honor in our province, the Lieutenant-Governor, making a toast on Empire Day, and a curtain intervened between me and that gentleman, if it were not for some of the cadences in his voice, I would have imagined that I were listening to the inimitable Sir James, when I was listening to your honored friend who gave the oration on that patriotic subject this afternoon. (Applause.)
I was reminded while sitting here of the story I read of a lady living in Northwestern Ontario, who came to this country from the Old Country in the early days of
Mr. Henders as President of the Manitoba Grain-Growers' Association, is actively in touch with the point of view of the West. He is a man of broad education and experience and has made special studies in connection with the tariff and trade questions from the point of view of the Western farmer.
her youth, and hewed out from the bushland in the wilds of northern Ontario, a comfortable home. In her declining years, the husband having fallen out by the way, and some of the children having passed on before, she lived with the remaining children. One of the daughters said very affectionately to the old lady on her birthday, "Wouldn't you like to go back to the old land and see some of the old folks and the old scenes, and live over again your early life?" After a few moments reflection the old lady said, "Na, na, I have learned lang syne that folks is just folks, and it doesna matter much whether you live on this side or that side of the water." That was about the feeling that seized me as I looked over this audience. Folks are just folks, and it does not matter whether you live in Toronto or in Winnipeg, or whether you live in the rural part of Ontario or the rural part of Manitoba or the West. Folks are just folks, and if we can reach that point and carry it with us through life, approaching the study of all our questions, political and economic, from that standpoint, it seems to me we shall get over a great many of the difficulties with which we are struggling at the present time. (Hear, hear and applause.)
Permit me to say that I esteem it a great honor, as well as a privilege, to have this opportunity of appearing before this splendid gathering of business men of the city of Toronto, representing the Empire Club of Canada. On your shoulders, as on the shoulders of all sister organizations rests a very great and serious responsibility at the present time. Canadian life, Canadian ideals, are in the melting pot. Your organization will be expected to contribute your full quota of progressive thought and activity toward the solution of many intricate and involved problems which now confront us. In the accomplishment of this work, bodies such as yours must play the part of public benefactors, performing a real service, and if that service is faithfully rendered, both present and future generations will reap the harvest, the rich harvest of your patriotic and public-spirited endeavor. I wish to thank you personally, Mr. Chairman, for the very kind references made to myself, far more than I deserve; but coming as I know they do from your heart, I accept them in all good faith and tender you my hearty appreciation for the same.
The role that I am expected to fill today is rendered difficult by two facts: first, I know that I am treading in the footsteps of many distinguished speakers, who have brought to you a wealth of thought and diction, which has both charmed and instructed you; and second, the subject which I hope to bring before you this afternoon takes us into the realm of present day life and experience, with its objects and its ideals, and invites us to look out into the avenues of the future, into the new way that is opening before us. I am conscious that I am only in the wake of the thought of progressive thinkers, all over Canada, and as a man representing rural life, I must only hope to make a feeble contribution to the great thought that is being given to these important questions.
I wish at the outset of my remarks to disclaim any intention to pose as a dispenser of a panacea. Neither do I come to you as the spokesman of a class, or the retained defender of any school of thought. We are met in this club, as I take it, in the simple status of citizens; and as a citizen of Canada who makes no greater claim than this, I come to you to speak as from a Western viewpoint, only because by the accident of location my lot has been cast in the western land. The late Henry George, when he appeared before a New York audience on one occasion, was introduced by the chairman as the friend of the workingman. As George rose to his feet to address the audience, he somewhat startled them by making the statement, "Mr. Chairman, I am not the friend of the workingman." He paused for a moment, and a tremor went over the audience. He then made the statement, "I am not the friend of the rich man. Mr. Chairman, I appear before you as the friend of man." (Applause.) It is in that capacity that I would like to appeal to your sympathy while I address a few words to you on this important subject.
The clash of arms is past; the glorious days of peace with a complete and everlasting triumph of the forces of justice and liberty, are here. Thank God, the unprecedented sacrifices that Canada and the other free nations of the world have made during more than four years, the heroism of her gallant sons who by their glorious deeds have written an imperishable chapter of history, and the steadfastness and devotion of her people at home, have not been in vain. Autocracy has received a blow from which it will, please God, never recover; democracy is completely triumphant; and the real reign of the people is beginning to be established in the world. It is to this new era that we must give our thought and attention on this occasion. It will be recognized, however, that when we come to consider post-war problems, the large general outline of these problems will be the same no matter from what part of Canada one may come. Probably, it is true that the outstanding problem that impinges on the Canadian mind everywhere may be stated as the economic problem, the problem of paying the cost of the war I have no doubt that that is the thought uppermost in the minds of a great many at the present time. We are proud of what has been accomplished; we would not have it otherwise, even to the sacrifice that has been made, if that sacrifice had to be conserved at the loss of one jot or tittle of our liberty. (Applause.)
When we turn toward the other side, the aftermath of the, war, and look over the large expenditure that has to be made, and the population that is here to meet it, sometimes the question arises in the mind of the thoughtful, "How are we to meet this responsibility, how are we to overcome these difficulties?" Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist, and looking over the possibilities that we have in Canada,-our magnificent resources, our splendid opportunities, and best of all that magnificent asset we have in our manhood--I say without hesitation that, if we face the aftermath of the war as we faced the war issue itself, there will be no difficulty at all. (Applause.) When the war call came, our boys listened to the call. They came trooping in from every corner of the Dominion, from the ice fields of the north, belated it is true because of the length of time it took for the message to reach them, but when their ears caught the sound of war and they heard that Britain was at all involved in it, they forsook everything, and with -their dog sledges or whatever they had, they made their way toward the frontier line that they might join up . with their brother soldiers in Canada and do their bit in the interest of the Empire. (Applause.) Every man in his place, every woman in her place, the uppermost thought, sacrifice and service. Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, if we can carry that thought into the aftermath of the war the solution of the problem of meeting war indebtedness will be found.
We sometimes hear it said-I do not like to think much about it-but we hear it said in some quarters that people were rather willing to sacrifice their sons. but that they were not so willing to place their wealth on the altar. I would not like to think that of any Canadian; I would not like to think that we had forgotten so quickly the lesson Providence designed to teach us in the war, for I believe Providence did intend to teach us a lesson there. I read an incident in a paper the other day of a man who met one of our practical hard-headed business men, and asked -him: "Do you believe in the Brotherhood of Man, and in ,the Fatherhood of God?" The answer came back: "Yes, I believe in the Brotherhood of Man, and in the Fatherhood of God, except in business." Has not that been too much in evidence during the generation that is past? Has it not been that we have been so materialistic that -the god of gold has seized us to such an extent that we have well nigh excluded our better selves and our better nature? I would that we could realize that we have failed to learn the lesson intended to have been given us by the war, -if we have not brought it down into our business relationships, and that the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God extend to us in every ramification of our lives. (Applause.)
A strong pull and a long pull and a pull altogether is what we need. I remember an incident that occurred in my boyhood life illustrative of the point we are laboring with just now. We were building a large grist mill, not more than fifty miles from where we stand, and the time came for putting up the frame work of that building. Some of you old men who come from the country know, what it is to be at a barn raising, at one of these gatherings. Of course the timbers of that grist mill were very heavy, and it required the united effort of all to perform the duties that had to be done that afternoon. They got the bents in shape, they got everything in order, and they began lifting. When they got the first bent lifted breast high, it stuck solid. The captain gave the signal "Heave, Yo Heave," and they lifted; it raised about an inch and sank back about an inch and a half or two inches. He gave another call, and it lifted a little higher; he gave a third, and it did not move. The congregation of women stood by looking on, and the Captain turned and said:
"Women, if you would have husbands; young women, if you would have brothers and sweethearts, come," and they all flocked to the position. All got under the bent, and then the Captain gave the great "Heave, Yo Heave," and it went up and up and up, and finally sank into its resting place, and the situation was saved. (Applause.) I want to say, Gentlemen, that that is the spirit that we want to seize the people of Canada today. The load is there, the load is a heavy one, but it is not too heavy for us if we marshall our forces and lift altogether.
Another of the post-war problems to which I would like to call attention this afternoon is the restoration of industry to a peace status. We heard so much a few months ago about longings to get back to the pre-war days. Gentlemen, I want to make the statement this afternoon, that I do not expect we shall ever get back again to the pre-war days. (Applause.) I will go farther and I will say I hope we never shall get back to the pre-war days. Pre-war days are not good enough for us today. We have gone through a baptism of blood that ought to lift us into a higher plane of living, that ought to fit us for a bigger and a nobler service than ever was rendered by any man at any time previous to this present war. Pre-war days will not suffice us. Pre-war days had a mighty struggle to carry us up to our times, and pre-war days were in the balance previous to the days of the war. In my judgment the testing time had come with regard to conditions that obtained previous to the war. You have only to cast your minds back a short time and recall the circumstances through which we were passing previous to the war. Come with me out to the mountain districts of British Columbia and up through our great timber limits there. Pass through the milling industries out in British Columbia in the year 1913-14, and learn what was the experience we passed through. The lumber yards were filled with the cut timber, ready for practical uses, but it was stored away in the mountains. The holders of that lumber were wrestling -with the banks and holding on to that lumber to keep it out there. But the time came when the banking interests stepped in and said, "You shall hold on no longer, we will carry you no longer, your credit will not be good for any greater length than it takes to unload." Why? Because a monopoly had control of the great lumber interests there, and the price was so high as to be prohibitive down on the plains where that lumber was needed. The result of that was a loosening up, and the hamlets that were needing that lumber to make shelter and comfort, were able to secure it at a reasonable price. Homes were built, the milling industries were made to move, and what seemed to the lumber interests to be a loss proved ultimately a great gain. Come a little nearer; come down to the city of Winnipeg; the. Provincial Legislature is in session. They are acting as Parliaments sometimes do-they are doing a lot of talking. and a certain amount of legislating. But while they were talking and legislating there was a crust of unrest over the city of Winnipeg that was breaking up here and there and yonder, and by-and-by we saw mobs assembled in the streets, somewhat similar to what I fear are there today. They marched down to Government House, they surrounded the Parliament Buildings, and what was their cry? "Give us work or give us bread." I am not so sure but you had a similar experience here at that time. These conditions obtained previous to the war. Do we want these conditions to return? Do we want that absorption in self and selfish interests that makes us exclude the interests of our fellow men, or are we going to have inculcated by the war that broader spirit that will lead us to get a little closer together than we were in pre-war days? If the lesson of the war is to mean anything to us, it is going to mean this, that when we set the economic machinery of this country in working order in post-war times, it will be on a higher plane and a better plane than the plane on which it existed in pre-war days. (Applause.)
In those pre-war days people were groping about for remedies. It is true they were groping in classes, and I fear that, unfortunately, we are holding too closely to our classes today. The labor element was working along their line, and while they were denouncing class distinction and class legislation and class privilege, they were organizing a class as autocratic as any class ever was. The rural population, I like to place as the great intermediate class, standing between capital on the one side and labor on the other, the great middle class; and they were organizing with the idea of bettering conditions, end while they put up their motto, which was a good one, and I think a great many of them tried consciously to live up to it, yet all did not live up to it; an element of that class manifested its class consciousness a little too much. But they were struggling out toward common ground. They were not satisfied. Unrest existed, and in their struggle through years of study along economic lines, they reached a platform that they put out, claiming, and I believe with a great deal of honesty, that there was in that platform, ,perhaps not an ideal solution but a foundation at least for a solution of this great economic unrest. In putting out that platform they enunciated certain principles, they set forth a certain policy. I am satisfied that a great many men before me may not have found in that policy just the thing that would be to their liking. I am not so sure that they themselves found in that platform all that was to their liking, but it was a struggle, an honest struggle, I will say, out into a larger life and into a greater liberty. They had the temerity to place that platform 'before the people and to say to them: "Let that platform, if you like, be the basis or common ground for calling together all the people representing the different classes, and let us go through its different planks carefully, and if we can make improvements upon it in the interests of all, let us do it; but in any case let us get together and let us meet these difficulties, in order that we may get on some common ground that will bring well-being to the greatest number of our people."
I will not deal with the different planks of that platform this afternoon, but I would like to mention a few of them. When I do so, I do not do it in any dogmatic spirit, or with any idea of dogmatic teaching along that line; but I want you to think about them, and I hope that, if need be, when we get through with this meeting today and you think them over, at some future time if you think well of them as some of us do, we may get together for a conference with another object in view than that of inspiration, a bringing together of the people of Canada on common ground.
Now I suppose I am bearding the lion in his den, when I state that one of the planks of the platform is that we ask for an immediate, and substantial, and all-round reduction of the customs tariff-a substantial, immediate and all-round reduction of the customs tariff. (Applause.) That is good. (Laughter and applause.) It is belated but it is good, Gentlemen. I do not think that ought to scare anybody, in fact I have been trying to follow the press in the east very carefully for the last two or three years, and I am not so sure but I strike a note of approval in this audience, when I make a statement of that kind, that even among those who have profited by that protective tariff, some have reached the conclusion that perhaps, take it all in all, it could be improved upon. (Laughter and applause.) Of course if I were to let loose, I could make a free trade speech, but I do not think we have reached the time when we want ultra views or opinions expressed. (Hear, hear.) The sentiment I gave utterance to in my opening remarks was that this is a time for conciliation, a time for bringing together all the forces of our great people in this country; and the way to do that is to get your feet under a common table and meet the questions as they come, get all sides before you, and then come as near together as you possibly can. (Applause.),
Now I have a lot of stuff here-(referring to notes)that I think is valuable. (Laughter.) I would like to give you another plank out of that platform. It is that all foodstuffs be placed on the free list. Perhaps there is no one class as much affected by that plank in the platform as the agricultural class. We simply throw down the challenge and say we do not want a tax put on the food of the people of Canada or of the Empire. (Applause.) All we ask as producers along that line is an open market and no favors. We believe we have possibilities in Canada, that, if we are not handicapped, will enable us to go into any market in the world with the product of our labor, and compete successfully. (Applause.) And we believe we are large enough in our hearts not to want the privilege of taxing the bread baskets of those who are not as well off as we are. (Applause.) But we do ask something; we ask for a free show and no favors. What does that mean? It means this, that in the production of these foodstuffs, if we are to go out and compete in the markets of the world, we shall receive in connection with the production of these foodstuffs, the elements that enter into that production, without any tariff restrictions. We want our fertilizers, we want our farm machinery, we want our vehicles, our coal, our lumber, our cement, our lubricating oils, on the free list. Are we asking for privilege when we ask for this? I answer, No. We desire that every manufacturer in his business shall have his tools free; we ask further that every manufacturer in his business shall have his raw materials free. Then we say, if we have our machinery and our raw materials free, and the other classes have their machinery and their raw materials free, we in Canada ought to face the world and say we can win out. (Applause.)
We hear a good deal said about adjustment of the tariff, and it comes to us continually. "Well, we cannot live unless we have a certain amount of protection." Granting that, is it unreasonable for us to ask that any concern making that request be asked to give us more than the bare, bald statement to that effect? We believe in the development of home industry, where home industry ought to be developed. We do not believe in putting a protective tariff around bananas so that we may grow them in Toronto, and we do not believe in fostering an industry in Canada that is not indigenous to the soil of Canada. For the sake of manufacturing, we do not want to manufacture in Canada what naturally ought to be manufactured somewhere else; because every time you do that, you increase the cost to the consumer and at the same time you minimize the capital of the laborer. We are not getting for that labor the full value that is in connection with it. Therefore, we ask that, when any industry desires an increase of tariff' or a continuation of the tariff, it shall not only say, "We want it, we must have it," but that it shall be prepared to put its cards on the table, and show the facts in connection with it, and show these facts before an impartial, governmentally appointed board, and before the eyes of the public; and if, in the eyes of the public and of that governmental board, it is found that the industry is essential to Canada, and that it cannot live without this amount of protection, we are prepared to say then, that we will stand by that industry. But the time is past when the people of this country are going to say, that they will take the word of anybody or any concern when these ask for privileges without showing the reason why. (Applause.) We have developed a lot of Missourians in Canada, and you know the Missourian wants to know why when you put a proposition of that kind up to him. We therefore make that reasonable request.
What I ask for from Canada is this: That we shall go out into this new era, meeting the conditions that confront us, and act fearlessly, and act quickly, or we shall have in Canada what they have in Russia at the present time. I ask that the interests concerned may take the initiative in getting together along broad co-operative lines, and see if we cannot evolve a platform that will unite the forces of Canada--capital, the agricultural interests, and the laboring interests--so that we can have a common council that will look at all the interests of the different classes represented, and will bring out of that a common-platform that will bring the greatest good to all. (Applause.)
A vote of thanks was moved by Mr. Parsons, of the Manufacturers' Association.