SIR ALFRED MOND
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--It is indeed a great pleasure for me to meet such a large and representative gathering of the business community of Toronto once more on an occasion of this kind. It is now some ten years since I had the pleasure of addressing the Canadian Club in this city on the question of the fiscal controversy at home. Ten years is a long time under any circumstances. It is a long time in the life of a man, or in the development of a new country, but still longer when we think of the momentous events in the history of the world and of the Empire between 1913 and 1923.
The question of Empire development is one of great interest to the Dominions and the Empire, and it has been much in the minds of those at home and throughout the Empire. We have the Imperial Conference sitting now in London considering many of the problems on which I wish to speak. It is under the Presidency of Mr. Baldwin, the present Prime Minister of England, an old friend of mine, and a colleague for some six years in the late
Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Mond, P.C., M.P., has held many important public offices in England, has written much on economic subjects, has extensive business interests in Great Britain and Canada, and is head of the great Mond Nickel Company.
Administration. He is a man trained in business, of upright and sterling character, and a very sincere patriot. The Economic Conference is being guided by my friend, Mr. Philip Graham, with whom I also worked intimately for many years, a man 'of ability, resource, initiative and energy. I can only hope, and I am sure that everyone irrespective of party sincerely hopes, that those conferences will lead to large and fruitful and beneficial results for the British Empire. (Applause) The British Empire is not a question of any party, either at home or outside; it is a great trust and a great heritage--a world trust, if I may so call it; and he would be a small and critical person who would utilize for political purposes any difference of opinion on an important subject under the British flag. (Applause)
There is a problem which has been occupying us for many years, which has become more urgent and important than perhaps it was in pre-war days, for reasons which I will give you. The after-effects of the war have thrown out of gear the economic and financial system of a great many of our largest European countries. That financial and commercial condition is unprecedented since the industrial system came into vogue, and the end is difficult to see. There are repercussions on the English industries and employment, but also on Empire trade generally, for the want of purchasing power on the Continent of Europe is widely felt in very serious consequences, especially to us. Situated as you are here, with a relatively small population and an endless magnificent country full of resources of all kinds, abounding in wealth and energy, with progress visible to the naked eye, the problems have not come home to you with the same force as to us in the motherland, for we have had a struggle now for three years with the problem of unemployment unparalleled in our industrial history. We had at one time over 2,000; 000 of our population unemployed. We reduced that figure to something over 1,000,000. That means that for the third or fourth year in succession we have to face the winter with something like a million men of our working population without work to be found for them.
Our problem is not the unemployment of the old, not of the unemployable, not the casual unemployment of people who do not want to work; it is largely the unemployment of many of our best and most skilled workmen, men who have not known all their lives what it was to be out of work, men of steady habits, fine character and good heart. I have been connected closely with this subject and for some years. I was chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Unemployment under Lloyd George's Administration, that was charged with the task of endeavouring to find means to alleviate such a disastrous state of things, for they could not abolish it. We devised many schemes and methods to employ perhaps 100; 000 or 200,000 on local schemes, road work, trade facility schemes, export credit schemes, and a variety of others.
But the great question of our overgrown population and our small island still remains. It is difficult to visualize it. It has been calculated that if the United States of America was populated as closely as England is today it would have a population of 105,000 million people instead of 110 millions. Canada is larger in proportion than the United States, therefore you can work out for yourselves the proportion of population we have to sustain in that little bit of an island set in the midst of the ocean as compared with the population you have to sustain on this vast continent.
How does the problem relate to Empire development? Everyone who has studied the problem comes to one conclusion. Great Britain lives by exchanging manufactured goods for raw material and food with countries outside. We cannot support enough manufactured goods to obtain this food and raw material, especially food. We have a large population for which we cannot find work. The obvious remedy would seem to be that those people should go to countries where food is produced, and produce it for themselves, if the food is no longer reaching their shores.
Now, survey the vast extent of the British Empire. Important as Canada is, it is after all only a part of the Empire. There is South Africa, the vast Continent of Australia, New Zealand, and there are other parts of the world. In Africa there are millions of square miles of fertile soils long untouched by the plough, where no corn is being sown and no cattle are grazing, still waiting for the awakening hand of man. Look around the Empire; look around your own country, and you find enormous timber resources still untouched. You have enormous mineral resources, far greater than can even be computed by the most eminent mining engineers, waiting in the ground to be turned into wealth. In fact, throughout the British Dominions there is every possible material that any community may desire. The problem is how to organize and get together in one economic plan the vast resources within its borders.
We have two great assets in this matter. Great Britain is still the financial centre of the world--(loud applause)--and British credit today stands high, and Great Britain is proud and capable of redeeming its obligations to any country that asks it, and still capable of financing great enterprises. (Applause) This is in spite of having sustained the brunt and burden of the greatest war in history, in spite of having sustained the financial organization of our weaker allies, thus incurring on ourselves a debt unprecedented and almost unimagined, in spite of taxation amounting to nearly fifty percent of our income. We have made great sacrifices, deliberate sacrifices, to bring about this result. We have run great risks. We have developed our currency; we have even counted unemployment a financial strength; we have gladly borne taxation in order to secure that financial strength. The securing of that financial strength is a great weapon which needs to be utilized boldly, courageously, largely in helping to finance Empire development.
I will go further; we have another asset. We have a population of men and women of the same race, of the same language, the same ideals, the same views of citizenship, the same capacity for work as you find here and in other parts of the Dominion. We are not offering and we would not ask you to accept men of no value to your community. We can offer you people who are of great value to any community they enter, and we are passionately anxious that they shall not drift away and drift out from under the British Flag into other communities, however friendly disposed we are to them and they to us, which are outside the Empire. (Applause)
If the war taught us anything, it surely is that every Britisher who leaves the Empire and quits living under the shadow of our common flag is lost to us as worker and fighter in the hour of need.
Gentlemen, before the war there were many who always predicted the decay and fall of the British Empire, who always assured us that the men overseas no longer cared for the Motherland; that when troubles came they would split away, as they were thinking only of their economic advantages and their business ends. I never believed it, and I do not think any of us did; and when the war came the British Empire stood as one rock--free men in free countries, with no tightening fetters of any kind. The thing was spontaneous; the sons of the Empire rushed to defend the Mother Country on the fields of Flanders, and one of the greatest things the world had ever seen was the loose-knitted and yet firm bonds which united us. (Applause) Well, how can we manage? We have credit and men, land resources and opportunities. This is one of the great problems which the Imperial Conference has to solve. The last Government made a beginning. The British House of Commons, for the first time in its history, passed an Empire Settlement Act, under which Government money was donated to assist immigration from the Mother Country to British Dominions, that money to be spent in conjunction with Dominion Governments in developing their countries. The amount voted was small; I think it was something like £5,000,000 we managed to get out of a reluctant treasury, but it was the principle that mattered, in order to make the beginning. In the past, in our individualistic way, our emigration has been a failure; people have gone to one country and another and found a job or not found it, as things came along. Now we feel that we want something better organized than that. We want to prepare the way for the man who is coming, and see that his job is there when he comes, and that he is going to become a permanent resident within your borders.
There are difficulties to contend with, and there is no use disguising them. It is not easy to take a dweller from a town and turn him on the land of any country. It is not easy for us, and it is not easy when you get him over here; but I would point out that many of those men have been dwellers on land, as were their fathers, and they can be trained back to the land. The practical question is how this is to be best accomplished. We have had some discussions on that subject on our P side. The suggestion has been made to establish training farms in elementary agriculture for men before they come out. I think it would be much better to have those training farms on this side than on our side. I am a farmer myself in England, and therefore I know something about this. Our ideas and systems are naturally very different from yours in farming, and a new man trained with us would learn many things he would have to unlearn here, yet would not learn many things that you need here. Therefore the training should be undertaken by Governments on this side. The men should be taught sufficient before they go on the land to enable them to succeed on it. That is a practical point that should be settled at the earliest possible day, to give such men some training.
Another important point is that we have large numbers of young boys, and youth is the best time to attach people to a calling or to a country. Quite a number have gone to Australia at ages of fourteen or fifteen. By organization of Australian Government, those boys have been apprenticed to farmers, and have been developing extremely well. In London we have the Salvation Army and many other organizations who will co-operate very fruitfully in that work. British boys would love to live out West in Canada, and by the time they reached manhood they would be useful citizens of this country.
I think another thing would be to bring people out in communities. You can understand a man leaving England with his family, even if he finds in Canada the welcome which the English find, he is still strange, and conditions are new to him, and there is always danger of him becoming unsettled and drifting away again to town centres or across the border. By bringing people out and settling them in communities together, you would give them a solidarity which would tend to make their life easier. They would feel more at home among their friends, and take a pride as a community in developing the local territory, and I think by that plan they would be more rapidly useful to you than in any other way. This continent was first built up in that way; the Pilgrim Fathers and their successors came as a community and settled on the coast. I have talked to many men on our side who have taken great interest in this matter, and they all share the view that people from Staffordshire or Worcestershire would be better settled in communities, because people are very clannish in England, and often in Scotland, and even in Toronto. (Laughter)
These are some of the broad outlines on which we want to work. This question is vital to us, and I think equally vital to you, for population is what this great continent needs, and capital. (Hear, hear) Every time one comes here one is more and more staggered as resources disclose themselves on this vast continent. I have been interested for many years in our little range in Sudbury. Years ago we started a development there which is continually progressing. Far from becoming exhausted, more and more tonnage is being disclosed. Look at Cobalt, at Porcupine, at all those vast territories which have all been started within the last fifteen or twenty years. Indeed, your possibilities here are so vast that no one can predict the future development of this great continent, yet the growth of your population is small. You want the right kind of population. I quite agree that you do not want your country to develop over-rapidly at the expense of your citizens; you can afford to wait for the right citizens, because the character of the citizen is more important than the prosperity of a country. (Applause)
You have an opportunity now which may not and business revives you will find it more difficult to tempt them away. Time is of the essence of this great contract; and I have been a member of a Government long enough to be able to say quite frankly that I would urge Governments to cut red-tape and come to business. (Applause) The amount of infinite delay which Government Departments in all Governments in the world can put between decision and action is almost unlimited, and I imagine you are not much better off in that way than we are. (Laughter) I spent six weary years as a Minister, cutting red-tape from morning till evening, and still it seems to grow and grow again like some weed in our fields, and the more you cut it down the more it flourishes. I speak very seriously, for I have been bitterly disappointed that more has not been achieved under the scheme whose foundation we laid. I know that one cause of delay is that instead of men meeting men, papers meet papers, minutes answer minutes, departments respond to departments. I want men to meet men, and I sincerely hope that the Conference in London, where men are meeting men, will get rid of a whole lot of entanglements which the underlings of Government are so fond of wrapping around the legs of their principles. (Laughter) You in this country are in a great position to help. I must congratulate Canada on the brilliant success of its conversion loan, showing a financial strength of which you can all be proud.
When the war was on, in some of its more critical periods, some people skilled in what was supposed to be finance kept assuring us that the war could not go on longer because there would be no funds with which to fight; but while such people were skilled in figures and used to drawing up balance sheets, they had overlooked that one great human psychological fact that where there was a will there was a way. (Hear, hear) I remember discussing the problem with Mr. Lloyd George in 1916, and he said, "I am told by a financial expert that the war must come to an end because we cannot find the money; but I am determined that we shall win the war, and I do not care what money it costs or what we pay for it, because if Britain does not win the war there will be no money left in Britain to pay anything with." (Laughter and applause) Well, you found money, and we found money, and we found money far beyond the dreams of even the greatest experts in the world. Surely those who could find money for war can today find money for peace. (Applause) If we could find huge sums for purposes of destruction, for the wasteful use of ammunition, for things that brought in nothing, why cannot we find the sums required for those things throughout the world which shall not be wasteful but which shall be dividend-payers and human dividend-payers as well. (Applause) Of course it can be done, and with the same energy, the same decision, the same will-power as was displayed by the British races throughout the war.
Schemes are being adumbrated. Some are being worked out. I remember Australia had a very big scheme which Mr. Hughes was working out when he was premier, by which they were going to raise a loan of £50,000,000 if we did the same, in order to carry out railway building, land settlement and irrigation in Australia over a number of years. That is the kind of scheme we want. For a long time I have advocated an Empire Development Loan. We have the unemployed, we have vast territories to develop, we want trade, we want people to settle. Europe lies there half-paralytic, chaotic. I have turned my eyes away from there sometimes and looked around the rest of the world, and overseas to the countries where there are settled people with settled governments, purposeful people with good objects. Let us turn our attention more to them. Look through the length and breadth of the British Empire from Atlantic to Pacific and along the shores washed by the African seas-prairie, mountain, farms, pine trees, rubber, oil, copper, anything you want can be found within its boundaries. Our great Crown Colonies girdling the earth, depending on us for administration and finance, capable of producing to an enormous degree the raw materials we all want--all waiting for development. That is our harvest, and we ought to tackle it at once with no uncertain hand. We ought to create the opportunity for our people. You in Canada can assist us in this great task. You know your part of the problem as we know ours. Through four long and weary years Canada and Britain stood together, as did Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, in the trenches of Flanders, on the heights of Vimy, on the rocks of Gallipoli. Why should we not stand together today?
I have not entered on another phase of this question which is a very vital one, that of inter-imperial free trade. Personally I am a proven and convinced believer that inter-imperial free trade would produce one of the greatest complexes of economic power that the world has ever seen. Across the border I see a continent stretching right away from New York to San Francisco--a vast stretch of country with an energetic and virile population, without a customs barrier; they are developing right down to the Mexican Front the greatest free trade area the world has ever seen, abounding in prosperity. I see the British Empire cut in sections, building walls against each other, stopping the natural economic flow of trade from one part to the other with terrific barriers. Looking around into the whole Empire, regarding it as a unit, I wonder what the result would be if those barriers were taken down and trade were allowed to flow according to the best economic conditions, from Australia, from New Zealand, from British India, or into the British Empire. (Applause)
Why are we cut into little pieces? Merely because we axe separated by seas. You have no tariff barrier between Montreal and Vancouver. If anyone proposed that you should put a tariff against the Province of Quebec you would think that man was a lunatic. (Laughter) And what is the matter with Liverpool. It is no further from Montreal than is Vancouver. If Liverpool were attached to Nova Scotia you would no more think of putting a tariff against Great Britain than you do against Quebec; and you would simply be wanting in imagination, if the sea were away, if it were land, and you began to feel that you were cutting the country in half. But the Empire is a great complex, and our seas run the dividing lines of a great highway through which our produce passes to and fro. (Applause) But into the highway you put a barrier, stopping the highway from operating the cheapest transportation system to give us the goods at the cheapest possible price. If we could only think imperially instead of thinking even Dominionally or Britishally, we could realize and feel that we are hampering ourselves, stopping ourselves from progressing when we are meant to deal with this method in the most powerful spirit.
I have thought about this subject a great many years, because Mr. Asquith did me the honour of asking me to serve on a committee of which the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh was President, to deal with problems after the war, and I put a proposition of this character before it. In the war when I saw the Canadian Forces at Vimy Ridge, there was no division between them and the British on one side or the Australians on the other. We were not foreigners to each other then; we were comrades. Why have we become foreigners since? Why are British goods hostile? Why are Australian goods hostile? Why are they not all imperial goods in one group? That is the idea that I want to place in your minds. I do not say the practical application is immediate or easy. Many things have grown up to make it difficult. You cannot dislocate economic systems in order to fit in with any theory of any country. But let us aim towards it as much as we possibly can.
I saw a proposal the other day which seemed to result in burdening the people of this country with a high tariff, and gave a preference which would be higher than the tariff that is levied against us today, that in some way you would have conferred a benefit on British trade. Speaking for myself, and I am sure for many with me, I want to say that the British people do not want the Canadian people burdened with any higher taxation or tariff in order to give them any advantage. Neither are we prepared to burden our people with any duties which are not wanted or which are not beneficial for our people, in order to give somebody else an advantage. That is not the way to Empire development; that is the way to Empire disruption. If people of the Empire feel in their different parts that they are being burdened in order to advantage another part, you would introduce a corrosive sulphate into this structure which some day will bring it down to the ground. It is not by monkeying about in that way that we are going to develop the Empire.
Give us the best assistance you can, and think about the thing as a whole rather than of individual schemes in any individual part of your country; and by that line of progress I am perfectly certain we will get closer and closer together. There is a preference of heart in business as there is in ordinary life. The other day I walked into an office in Montreal. A company, of which I happen to be a director, is carrying out a large engineering contract, and the manager said to me, "I was glad to give that contract to the British firm." I did not expect him to give it to me at a better price than he could get elsewhere, but that spirit--that he was glad,--cheered me; it was a cheery thing to hear. Let us have as much of that spirit as possible, to give ourselves to each other with preference of heart which is not always calculating the last cent; in that spirit of service which is so essential in all modern commercial transactions. In these great matters it is most important that we should not always keep our eyes fixed on the ground.
I have been accused in my own country of being a very hard-hearted person who looks at the business end of every proposition. I do. I have been in business all my life, and I have been in politics most of it. (Laughter) My firm, the Mond Company, has been in business in this country since they started fifty years ago. I am interested in the works of that company down at Morrisburg; I am interested in your nickel deposits; I hope to sell you some Welsh anthracite to keep you warm this winter (laughter) and I want to take a further interest in the development of your great mineral resources. I have seen the problem from a good many aspects, from the side of a Canadian manufacturer and as a British exporter; but we should never lose sight of the greatness of an ideal. If we cannot carry it through altogether, at any rate try to carry it and keep it before you.
Nobody would have thought of the sacrifices men were capable of till the great war came. Nobody would have thought of the exertions which nations are capable of until that period came. We all did much more than any of us ever thought we could have done. I remember that just before the war I felt that I must go away to a rest-cure or I would have a nervous breakdown, but we had the war instead, and I had no holiday from that time on, and I never worked harder in my life, for I had a few years of office in which one had to incur responsibility and strain which comes to men only rarely in their lives, and yet we stood it. Now we have peace to develop, and we must put the same energy, resolution, idealism and the same venturing into those problems. My subject is one of the greatest possible importance, for on its solution within the next few years will depend the fate of this mighty Empire, and a great deal of the trend of civilization in the entire world. The British Empire is not a self-seeking body of egos. The British flag is not a flag of exploitation, but a flag of inclusion, of development, of liberty and freedom. The stable civilizing element in the world today is the Anglo-Saxon British-speaking Races. (Applause)
Knowing the position of Europe as I do, I know the rock on which white civilization stands and the way that civilization has been built up through these centuries. Therefore I say it is not merely a selfish question of development of Empire for which we have made great sacrifices, and of which we have reason to be proud, but it is also a question of developing something that stands for all that is great and good in the progress of the world-law and order, civilized progress, economic development, free peoples under a free ideal.
Any one who helps with his hand and mind to further the building of this great edifice, any one who is privileged to lay one brick in this great building, has reason to be proud that he was born and is allowed to be alive. I speak in 'this great city, philanthropic, energetic almost beyond the cities of any country, and as a man who has seen this city grow from small to bigger things and will see it grow to greater things yet, I would earnestly enlist your co-operation. Do not let us merely exchange phrases; or do not let us merely pass resolutions; do not let our Conferences in London merely pass resolutions; not virtues but deeds are what is wanted, and it is time for the men of action to arise and do them. (Loud and continued applause)
SIR EDMUND WALKER, on behalf of the members, expressed in happy terms the thanks of the Club to Sir Alfred Mond.