British Columbia Legislative Council, 23 March 1870, Province of BC, Confederation Debates



Hon. Mr. WOOD rose to resume the debate on Tariff, and said :—Mr. Chairman, in speaking to the motions now before the House, it will hardly be necessary for me to say that I think this question of Tariff the most important of all that have been introduced during this debate. My object is, as I have said, to reduce to the utmost, in the event of Confederation with Canada, the chance of difference with the Dominion ; my objection to Confederation being that, however much it may apparently and at first tend to confer upon the Colony material benefits, yet there is every fear of consequent reaction and disaffection. In dealing with the matter it will be necessary to see whether the subject of Tariff now before us will have the effect of raising a direct question and difference between this Colony and Canada. Tariff is not simply a mode of collecting taxes; it is a system with a double object. The object of obtaining revenue, and in the obtainingr of that revenue the further object of promoting domestic and home industries by a just discrimination between the subject-matter on which taxation is levied. The question of Tariff directly tends to promote or depress domestic productions and domestic trade; consequently, the chances of difference and reaction depend on whether our interests are identical with those of Canada, or whether there is a conflict. The intended future Dominion of Canada is obviously divided, so far as this question is concerned, into two parts, that which is to the east and that which is to the west of the Rocky Mountains—the Atlantic   and Pacific portions of that Dominion; and to these several divisions there appertain distinct and several industrial interests, agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial. Let us run through in our own minds our own, the Pacific, interests, so to say,—the interests, in fact, of this present Colony. First. we have the agricultural interests. This is a material interest, as 1' trust it always will be considered in every Colony; it is an industry which a Government cannot well avoid materially to assist. I don't say "protect," but "assist," and this whether agricultural produce be a staple of the Colony or not. I may here remark that I use the word "staple" in what I understand to be the received acceptation of the word—produce, exportable produce, raised in a Colony with advantage and at a remunerative rate to the producer, and capable of being exchanged with advantage for the produce of other countries in the markets of the world. Our next material interests are our own staples, properly so-called as above defined—such, for instance, as the wool of Australia, gold anywhere, or fisheries, as in Newfoundland. Our particular staples are our fisheries, our forests, and our minerals, to say nothing of certain aptitudes for shipbuilding and the repairing of ships. Next, we must take trade and commerce; our local and geographical position being such as to give us some advantage in the distribution of goods, and, as such, is to be regarded as an element of wealth and one of our material interests. Let us now turn to Canada. Canada has manufactures, but not by way of staples, because she cannot undersell the Old World in manufactured goods; but with a population of, I suppose, over three millions she can produce sufficient manufactures of certain descriptions for her own use. Then her staples are agriculture, produce, lumber, and a certain amount of minerals, and perhaps horns and tallow. Agricultural produce is a staple in Canada; she exports it; therefore it requires no protection; it would be no good to inpose a tariff upon it. In manufactures there is such a tariff as will slightly protect manufactures, as with us we give the same turn of the market to the farmer by a slight tariff on agricultural produce. Following the common law of self- interest, British Columbia is bound to protect her own interests, and Canada the same. Let us see whether or not there is a manifest tendency to protection in the Dominion Legislature. It has been stated in this debate that Canada is adverse to protection, that she wants to follow England and the Old World in the direction of free trade. I say that those who make the assertion must prove it. [" Hear, hear," from Mr. DeCosmos."] Hon. Mr. WOOD I say that my sources of information tend to show that it is untrue that Canada favours free trade; she desires to protect her own manufactures. Right or wrong as a political theory, new countries will be found, as soon as manufactures are possible, desirous to protect their own native industries, whereas it suits old countries to have free trade. In England manufactured goods are in reality her staples. England can compete with the world in most classes of manufacturing goods, from her manifest advantages in having coal and iron in close proximity, moderately cheap labour, and established industries, to say nothing of the commercial energy of her people. Some of the writers say that America and many of the Colonies of Great Britain suffer from protection. I say that, suffer CONFEDERATION DEBATE. 133 or not suffer, they insist upon it. I say nothing now of my convictions. I think, however, that the theory of free trade goes too far. " Free trade " is quoted as if it were a golden rule. I believe that free trade is an exceedingly elastic idea; there is no orthodoxy in it. It is not a law of physics, like the law of gravitation, or some abstruse and elaborate theory like Sturn's problem, or the stability of the eccentricity of the planetary orbits, to which there is no exception. It is elastic, and suits one country and not another ; it suits old countries and not new ; it suits England for the reasons I have stated. Her manufactures are her staples. She can undersell the world. People may say that free trade is applicable equally to other places and to all classes of industries. As to this, I have my own opinions. But so far as this discussion is concerned, I deal with the world as I find it. New countries desire protection. Why? No matter why—they do desire it. Dealing with protection in a moderate way, I think it may be reasonably conceded that a moderate protection, in the way of customs duties at least, may he applied to staple productions and agriculture. But whether the opinion be sound or not, colonial experience shows us that this is the line of argument pursued and acted on. Taking it for granted, as admitted by some political writers of eminence, that we may reasonably protect staples until they can support themselves, let us see what legitimate protection may be afforded to existing interests in this Colony. Agriculture may be protected, or rather fostered, in numbers of ways—by facilities for the acquisition of land, by roads, by immigration of farm hands, by the admission of implements free, and by a moderate tariff 'on produce. Agriculture, it must be remembered, is not only the cultivation of the land ; it is bound up with local interests, and carries with it a local population attached to the soil. If you want population localized you must encourage agricultural interests. Besides this, it must not be lost sight of that it is a practical remedy against poverty. If a man has certain faculties for acquiring or being employed as a labourer on land, he need never go to the poor—house ; it humanizes men. It is the duty of every politician to protect agricultural interests in a new country, to the best of his power. Now, with regard to staples: I say they may reasonably be protected and fostered in their infancy, because they are the real wealth of the nation. It is said that at first the wool interest of Australia was carried on at a loss; and for a country like this, that can produce without limit, fish, lumber, and coals, to say nothing of gold, we must give all the facilities in our power to induce industry in these walks of life. Take the gold miner: We might give him his gold license cheap, and make the acquisition of claims easy; provide him with roads and trails; and in this way we might "protect" the miner and encourage mining interests. Fisheries—how are they to be protected? By the promotion of information as to markets for fish; by pushing those markets; by local knowledge of the haunts of fish; by cheap implements, and by cheap salt. To promote the lumber interest, we might give cheap machiney, so far as we can, by admitting it free, and let persons acquire land easily. Shipwrights might also be legitimately protected and encouraged by making implements and materials cheap, and by giving encouragement to docks. Let us do everything to promote the interests of ships. Where there are such natural inlets as ours, with coal at hand, and facilities for the importation of iron and steel for building ships, we could build cheaper than anywhere on this coast; not, of course, so cheaply as on the Clyde, but still we might attract some shipbuilders. Now as to trade—export trade. This is surely an item, though possibly a small item, in our wealth; yet still, if we export only to Puget Sound, we might encourage such commerce. It is an industry and a source of wealth; it causes foreign ships to come, and causes an expenditure of money in our ports; it adds to the number of merchants, drays, and labourers, and increases general business; a vitality is given by it which makes it an element of wealth; it seems to have been beneficial here, and certain it is that it is estimated in this Colony as a material interest. How is this export trade to be protected? Some say by free port, that is to say, no Customs duties; others say: "Reduce taxation to a minimum on goods in which there is a tangible export trade." Within these limits of what we may call moderate protection, we may reasonably suppose the Colonists of British Columbia to be desirous to legislate; and suppose we desire to have implements of labour and machinery, and some goods cheap and free, and put ten per cent. on imported agricultural produce. This is the reverse of Canadian policy. As regards machinery, I believe the Canadian tariff gives fifteen per cent. on manufactured machinery at least. There is nothing to prevent the Canadian tariff from being increased. Protection may run rampant in the Dominion. You have no guarantee. I say that in these fiscal questions we are at issue as affects some of our most important elements of 134 CONFEDERATION DEBATE. national wealth. There would be a conflict, not only between the tariffs of British Columbia and Canada, but between the protective policy of each Province. How is this cause of discontent and conflict of interest to be removed? Why, by a British Columbia tariff for British Columbia. This place has no commercial connection with Canada. Canada attords us no market. There is no frontier to cause a difficulty with Custom House Officers. Why not have different tariffs? In the event of reciprocity with the United States we might be compelled to sacrifice the farmer, but possibly he might be in a condition to support himself by produce for which we have some special aptitude. Assuredly we shall have discontent, or worse, if the tariff is made oppressive, if we have for it to suffer the extinction, or the disadvantage, of our own industries. I have said hastily, give us our own tariff and I am almost in favour of Confederation. I think I must take that expression of opinion back. There are so many other matters, so many points of differences between us and Canada, that under any circumstances there would be a continual struggle with the other Provinces. But, however this may be, if you wish not to provoke and keep up a sore question, have a separate tariff. Give to Canada and Canadian interests a tariff framed to meet their wants, and give to British Columbia its own especial tariff. If the tariff of Canada is to rule, I fear it will never be altered, for the feeble voice of our eight members would never be listened to in the Parliament of Ottawa, and the Canadian tariff, framed for the support and maintenance of Canadian interests, would assuredly prevail.
The Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER said:—Sir. after the very able abstract review of the whole question of tariff, customs, and taxation of the honourable gentleman who has just sat down, I will not add anything by way of dissertation. But I must recall the House to the practical consideration of the subject. I acknowledge the ability of the honourable and learned member, and quite agree with him that this is one of the most important matters connected with Confederation. Then why, it might be asked, was it not touched upon in the terms? Not because it has not been fully considered, but because the Organic Act puts it virtually out of the power of the Colony to prescribe what form of tariff we should have under Confederation. The scheme, as has been already pointed out by the Hon. Commissioner of Customs, is based on the transfer of the control of our Customs to Canada; therefore, it is not within our province, under the scheme submitted, to impose on the Dominion, or even to propose any special tariff for this Colony; but this is a matter which is left open for the consideration of this Colony on its merits, and is left open, as the Hon. Member for Victoria has told you, for this Council to make suggestions as to what tariff may be desirable under Confederation. I take this opportunity to set right the impression which seems to prevail as to the liberty of Government Members upon this question. It is not left open to us to complicate the terms by inserting any condition as to make it in fact a sine qua non; but it is left open for this Council to suggest what tariff would be suitable for this Colony. The Hon. Mr. Wood has discussed this matter on its abstract merits, as if it was in our power to dictate to Canada what tariff we should have; he has laid before this House very ably the pros and cons of tariff and free port. It is for us to consider what tariff would best suit us in or out of Confederation; but it is not allowed to us to prescribe to the Dominion what form of Customs duties they shall adopt in this Colony, or in this Province, as it will be. We have placed the control of the matter out of our hands. [No, no,—Hons. Helmcken and Wood.] The Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER Well, Sir,, I believe we have; I say that view is imposed upon us by the terms, and I think it is better that it should be so; and for this reason: We, as being acquainted with the wants of the place, are best able to point out in what respect we need protection, and where our interests are likely to suffer from the tariff of the Eastern Provinces. But I believe, Sir, that there are those in the Dominion whose larger experience, and mature views, will render them much better able than us to supply such remedy as will be most beneficial. I am perfectly willing to explain my views on the subject of tariff and free port in the abstract, and the Government invite the freest discussion on the point, both as regards protection to agriculture and manufactures, and free port. But I believe it will be better for the Colony to leave the decision and the remedy for the evils to those who will have the care of this Province, as well as the Eastern Provinces. I think it will be to the interest of statesmen in the Dominion to treat this Colony well. Instead of feeling any want of confidence in those statesmen, I feel sure that every possible measure to promote the interests of this Colony will be well considered. They are in a better position to decide what will be most beneficial to this Colony, even in regard to tariff. I would rather hear CONFEDERATION DEBATE. 135 more opinions expressed before I offer a suggestion. It is my intention to offer a resolution in general terms so as to suggest to the Dominion Government that our agricultural interests must be protected, and that certain things are required, and to ask the Dominion for such special provisions in regard to tariff as we think we require. We are not in a position, after having endorsed the scheme of the Government, and after having handed over the sole control of the Customs to Canada, to prescribe what tariff we shall have, or to impose conditions as to our local tariff.
Hon. Mr. ROBSON—Mr. Chairman, while I consider the question of tariff one of very great importance, it does not appear to me that it necessarily forms any part of the terms. It is, in my opinion, futile to imagine that we shall obtain power, under Confederation, to frame and regulate our own tariff. 'l'he Customs tariff is essentially a Federal measure, and the Dominion Government cannot very well permit a Province to make its own tariff. To do so would, in my opinion, be to admit a principle which would ultimately break up the whole Confederation. If such a concession were made to British Columbia every other Province in the Dominion would forthwith clamour for it. The Dominion tariff is of necessity a Federal matter, to be dealt with by the Federal Parliament, and it is unreasonable to expect that such an exception will be made in our favour. The Customs tariff is the main source of Federal revenue; and if any Province were permitted to tinker with it, the Federal revenue would, indeed, be precarious. History does not encourage us to hope for such a power. Taking the United States which, in this respect, presents conditions not dissimilar to those of the Dominion, we find that the Customs tariff has ever been a Federal question. To no State or Territory has it been conceded to deal with its own tariff. If the strongest reasons had not existed for this, we should certainly have found exceptions made in favour of Pacific States and Territories. Hon. Members will recollect the bitter complaints made in earlier times on this Coast against Federal tariffs; yet the people, while complaining, were never foolish enough to claim or expect the right to regulate their own tariff. They knew perfectly well that such a power was wholly incompatible with Union. It is as well that we should not cling to any such hope as that of being permitted to make and regulate our own tariff under Confederation. I quite concur with the Hon. the Chief Commissioner in the view that, notwithstanding the difference in existing conditions on this side of the continent, and on the Atlantic side of it there are many questions, even of tariff, which would be more successfully dealt with at Ottawa, and that our representatives would be listened to, and would have their due weight upon such questions. Probably through their influence the tariff would, in some respects, be made more conformable to our circumstances and interests; but the Dominion tariff must be altered and maintained by the Federal Parliament, and not by any Provincial authority. We occupy a very exceptional position, and shall do so for years, in regard to such questions, and this might justify us in asserting that the tariff of Canada, as a whole, is not applicable to British Columbia at present. But, Sir, permit me to say that this question, like most others, has two sides to it, and has not been approached with that fairness and candour which its great importance demands. We are very apt to estimate protection above its real value—to forget the price we pay for it. Even our farmers sometimes pay more for protection than it is in reality worth to them. Under free trade the products of this part of the Colony commanded a much more ready market, and higher prices, than they do now after three years of protection. I am willing to admit that a few farmers have thriven, partly, perhaps, on protection, but partly, too, I am apt to think, at the expense of other classes and other interests in the Colony. Let us remember that protection is not an unmixed good, and that it sometimes costs more than it is really worth. It should also be remembered that the importance of protection is somewhat localized in its application. Nature has given ample protection to the interior of the Colony; and it is, in reality, only on this Island and the Lower Fraser that artificial protection can be desirable. I venture to think that there is a great future before Vancouver Island, but I do not believe that it will ever owe its greatness to agricultural development. I believe that its commercial, maritime, mineral, and manufacturing industries will far outweigh its farming interests, and I do not think, therefore, that we would be justified in refusing Confederation upon fair and equitable terms, simply because we could not have power to regulate the Customs tariff. I regret that I am unable to agree with any one of the recommendations now before the Committee. The wisest course, in my opinion, will be to ask the Dominion Govermnent to withhold the application of the Federal tariff of Customs to British Columbia for a fixed period, say, until railway   136 CONFEDERATION DEBATE. communication shall have been established through the Dominion to the Pacific. Until that takes place British Columbia must continue to occupy a position so isolated, and so exceptional, as to render the general tariff, however well adapted to the Provinces to the eastward of the Rocky Mountains, scarcely suited to us. But with the opening of continuous railway communication these exceptional conditions will, for the most part, disappear. Look, for instance, at California. What a complete revolution the railway has wrought in the condition of that State. The moment the railway was opened, California was no longer separated from the great commercial centres of the Eastern States by thousands of miles of sage-bush and desert. It was practically set down alongside of them; or, to use the words of another, time and space were annihilated, and California became, for the first time, a fitting subject of a common tariff framed at Washington, and enforced throughout the widespreading Union. Similar results will be realized in our own case. Upon the opening of the Canadian Pacific Railway British Columbia will practically be set down alongside ot the Atlantic Provinces. We get over all constitutional difficulties by approaching the subject in this way. I do not say that the Dominion Government will assent to the proposition to postpone the application of their tariff to this Colony until railway communication shall have been established; but we will approach them with a much greater show of reason and success in this way than in the other. I shall, therefore, propose an amendment, or a recommendation, asking that the Customs tariff of the Dominion be not extended over the Colony of British Columbia until railway communication therewith shall have been established. Should this be agreed to on the part of the Canadian Government, it would then become our duty, upon entering the Dominion, to remodel our tariff with a view to protecting local industries on the one hand, and building up our commercial and maritime interests on the other. Canada might, possibly, sacrifice a little revenue in the first instance, but it would come back to her a hundred fold in the greatly enlarged prosperity certain to follow. In this way, also, would be presented a living recognition of the necessity for railway communication, it not an incentive for the speedy consummation of that great desideratum. The course which I propose will more fully meet the local necessities of the country, while it will be more acceptable to the people, and, I feel assured, more likely to meet with the concurrence of the authorities at Ottawa. It possesses the advantage of accomplishing more good than can possibly be attained in the way proposed either by the Hon. Member for Victoria District, or that proposed by another Hon. Member, and, at the same time, of steering clear of constitutional difficulties.
Hon. Mr. DECOSMOS—Sir, we have heard some very good and eloquent speeches. I intend to say a few words, and will begin with first principles. When the Confederation Delegates first met, they proposed to adopt a tariff similar to that of the United States; that the Federal Government alone should have the right to impose customs duties; that there should be no subsidies, and that each Province should raise its own revenue by direct taxation; but it was found that Local Governments were not favourable to direct taxation. At the Conference at Westminster it was at first proposed to give local legislatures power to make laws and impose direct taxation, but when the Organic Act was prepared that part was dropped out. I have desired to harmonize with the Organic Act. Whatever we may do we should harmonize with the Organic Act; by so doing we shall meet with less objection at Ottawa. In looking at this question I may come to the conclusion that there is a possibility for the Local Government to raise taxes, but if it was referred to the Privy Council they might say it clashed. I will illustrate my meaning: I think the Legislature of Ontario voted an additional sum to one of the Judges; the Privy Council said it was unconstitutional to do so. So it might be if the Local Government imposed a tax upon foreign produce and manufactures. But we must not clash with the Dominion Government. In case the Dominion enacted customs laws lower than our own, we would have the privilege to put direct taxes on those articles so as to give protection to them. Turning to the Year Book, I find that in New Brunswick the export dues on lumber amounts to $70,000. This is an export revenue for a source of revenue. If the Government of New Brunswick was able to except this item from the operation of the Dominion tariff, why should we not be able to get the same sort of difference? The Canadian Revenue will not suffer; every article will have to pay the Canadian tariff, and Canada will benefit by any prosperity that we enjoy.
Hon. Dr. CARRALL—For how long do you propose to suspend the operation of the Dominion tariff?
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS—I have said indefinitely—possibly for ten or twelve years. We may have the Railway completed by that time. The Hon. Mr. Wood put the question properly. The tariff is a thing that is changeable—it rises and falls. Suppose that Canada has to raise six millions for a guarantee for the Railway, they might have to raise the tariff. I think the tariff will probably rise for a long time. But this is aside the issue. My object in making this proposition is to prevent clashing between our Local Government and the Dominion. I include produce in my rccommendation,—which means stock, cereals, and vegetables. If a provision of that sort were added we would be in a position to get a certain degree of protection, and the largest interest, that is the agricultural interest, would be satisfied. But I maintain that beyond this we ought to protect certain rude manufactures; and in going into the Dominion we should go with as little friction as possible; there must be some friction, but we must keep things as smooth as possible. There will be, as I have said before, a revolution in labour and value. Now, we do not want too much protection. Let our agricultural interests be satisfied, and if those engaged in rude manufactures are protected the people will be satisfied. There are also a class engaged in trade who believe in protection; you will find them the agricultural interest, the manufacturing interest, and believers in protection, who will form a strong band of opponents to Confederation. Take away this subject of friction and you have the whole thing easier. If they are not considered there will be opposition before Confederation, and more after. If Hon. Members desire to keep up a feeling of loyalty towards Canada after Confederation, they will protect these interests. With respect to the Hon. Member for New Westminster, his argument is no stronger than his weakest point, which is—[Hon. Dr. Helmcken — His resolution]. Hon. MR. DECOSMOS Well, perhaps this is the weak point. He admits the whole point. I do not intend to follow the Hon. Member. I ask the Hon. Members to consider this question so as to consider industries and manufactures, so that the union may be lasting. I hope both sides will unite heartily in shaping our institutions with this end in view.
Hon. MR. RING —Mr. Chairman, I only desire to drop a few hints. I say that the Organic Act is wholly inapplicable to this Colony. Does the Hon. Member for New Westminster mean to hand us over under this Organic Act to swell the coffers of the Dominion? I hail any approach to free trade; I believe in it; free trade should have as free a course as the wind. Now, Sir, with regard to what has been said about protection to commerce; there are natural and artificial protections. I am for protecting the farmer by natural protections. Any attempt to shut out the surplus produce of another country must fail. The attempt to protect farmers by imposing a tax on flour and such articles, is a mistake. Any protection beyond harbour and pilot dues is a vicious system. Then, say others: free port is abolished, would you go back to direct taxation? I say, how can we ascertain what the people can pay by taxing income and property. The revenue would be smaller, but it is not fictitious. We must curtail expenditure, and having done so, I would abolish customs altogether as a source of revenue. I agree entirely with the proposition of the Hon. Member for New Westminster, that the tariff of the Dominion is a Federal matter.
Hon. MR. HUMPHREYS —Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the recommendation of the Hon. Member for Victoria District. I have listened carefully to the lofty arguments of the Government appointees on this question. It appears to me that the mistakes which the English generally make are attributable to their reading and studying great English writers too much, instead of considering what is practically applicable to a new country. Old countries are, in this respect, very different to new. Free trade may suit England and other old countries, whilst it may act very perniciously in a new one. Even in old countries a large proportion of the people whom free trade is calculated to benefit are against it. But in new countries protection is absolutely necessary. It is said by some Hon. gentlemen that the farming interests in the upper country needed no greater protection than nature had given them. I can mention an instance to the contrary. Flour was imported last year from California and sold in Cariboo at prices with which the upper country farmers could not compete. There ought to be some way of protecting the upper country farmers without clashing with the interests of the Dominion. I think it but just and right to protect the farmers above all other interests. I look upon this question as next to Responsible Government, and that I regard as the most important question in the Resolutions which are before the Council; all others sink into insignificance besides these two conditions.
The Hon. COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS —Notwithstanding that the Local Legislature after Confederation may not have a right to frame its own tariff, what we hope is, that the Canadian Parliament will deem it desirable, for their own interests, that a special tariff should be framed for this part of the Dominion. There is no law against this. It would not be a differential duty; it cannot be objected to on this ground. Differential duties are where the same articles from two different countries are charged differently. If the Canadian tariff was applied here taxation would he lessened. We must not lose sight of that fact. It would probably be lessened to the extent of $100,000 a year. I have estimated the difference upon one quarter's revenue, and I believe the difference to be at least $20,000 for the quarter. For all that, I think the tariff should be changed. A special tariff is required. I mentioned yesterday horses and cattle. I think the $15 on a horse and $10 on cattle would be a great hardship on this Colony; it would amount to a prohibition. Last year 1,700 head of cattle were imported into this city; are we prepared for the difference that the Canadian tariff would make in this item? I think this large duty would be most objectionable. With a tariff made especially to protect the farmers, over 40,000 pounds of butter were last year imported. If the Canadian tariff of four cents a pound were applied, 1 do not know that much more could come in. I think that the farmers must have sold all they had. I think that advocates of protection do not apply the principles of protection to farmers of the upper country, but those of Vancouver Island. The farmers will feel the weight of the protecting tariff without receiving any of its benefits. They will not feel the difference in the duty upon butter. I think that there will be a Treaty of Reciprocity between the United States and Canada, and I hope this Colony will participate in it. It would be a great advantage. [Hear, hear.] I think the opening of the United States' markets to our lumber would more than counterbalance the loss of protection on produce. I don't care for coal; they take as much as we can supply. I would suggest that this Council should send forward to Government a recommendation that we believe a special tariff desirable, nay, almost imperative. I do not believe that our eight members in the House of Commons, and four in the Senate, of Ottawa, will have no weight; if so, they had better come back. What in God's name good will they do? I think the question may be safely left to the Canadian Government and our representatives at Ottawa.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —With a view of bringing this to a vote, I will propose this recommendation: " That, in the opinion of this Council, it is highly desirable that the agricultural, horticultural, and dairy interests of British Columbia be protected." And I do this in order to divide the question into two parts. One Hon. Member wants the power of suiting the tariff to our convenience; and more than one Hon. Member has said that Confederation must come. I deny it. There is no necessity that it should come now. If the people vote against Confederation when the terms come before them, His Excellency will inform Her Majesty's Government. that the people don't want it.
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —We have always said so.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —I have so stated fifty times already.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I am glad it is so understood. The Hon. gentlemen must be very careful to make the terms suit; for if the terms don't suit the people we shall not have Confederation. I say that the people have been seriously told that Confederation was to be the destiny of this Colony. ["No, no,' from Messrs. DeCosmos and Barnard.] Hon. DR. HELMCKEN Efforts have been made to impress on the Colony that we must have Confederation on any terms. I do not consider that it is necessary for us to go in under the Organic Act. We did not expect to do it. To the Hon. Collector of Customs I would say, that much stress is laid upon the fact that under the Canadian tariff the people will save $100,000; that is, because the customs lose, the people save. I say this does not follow. Canadian goods don't come here now because they cannot compete. The only reason they will be used is, they will come in free, whilst others pay tariff. Possibly then the difference in price between Canadian goods and our goods may be very little; the Government may lose, but the people won't gain. Do you understand that? ["No, no," from Hamley and others.] Hon. DR. HELMCKEN People may have to pay as much for Canadian goods as for American goods now.
Hon. COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS —American goods would come in less the duty now paid. Don't you see?
Hon. MR. WOOD —The difference of transport would prevent Canadian manufactures from coming here cheaper.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I say the tariff would be almost the same on these American goods then as now. I grant there will be a loss on agricultural produce Hon. gentlemen say they may send agricultural produce. Butter, I believe, comes from cows; it costs money to buy a cow; there is the difference between raising agricultural produce and cattle. If butter could be grown from the ground I don't suppose that forty tons would have been imported. Farmers are poor; they have not money to buy stock. Keep up protection and they will have money bye and bye to purchase cattle. Experience of the agriculturalists in this Colony has taught me that farmers with capital come out at the wrong end of the stick, whilst those who have gone in to work for themselves have made money. I know most of the farmers on Vancouver Island, and I find that those who began with nothing are doing well. The Hon. Collector of Customs said that farmers in the upper country don't require a tariff. I went into that question yesterday. I think they will want it.
Hons. CARRALL and BARNARD—Prices are getting too high now.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —It is exceeding easy and pleasant for us who want to eat to say prices are too high, but let any man go to work on a farm and he will have experience of the difficulties. The Hon. Collector of Customs says a treaty of reciprocity would be of great benefit, and that we might give up the farming. interests of this Colony for it. Now, Sir, this Council said last year, almost unanimously, that agricultural interests must be protected. Why should Hon. Members think that we should require anything different under Confederation? The Hon. Member for Victoria District almost led me the way in saying that irritation would arise which would lead to a desire for annexation if the agricultural interests were not protected.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —The interests we want to protect would be annihilated under Confederation.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I say what we want now is what we want under Confederation. Now, Sir, what have we been trying for? What has been our policy? Why, to protect industry. I am told that the Dominion Government will not admit any alteration in our tariff; and the example of the United States is cited. It has been said that California wanted to alter her tariff, and was not allowed to do so. I say, in reply, that California was one and a part of the United States. British Columbia is not yet Confederated, so we are still in a position to make terms. California would have made terms if she could, but could not; and it was for a time a question whether she should not secede. It was only large subsidies and steam communication that kept California in the Union. There is this peculiarity in the Organic Act, section 95 enables Canada to make different laws as to agriculture in each different Province.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —I don't think that section applies to the tariff; it does not sound like it.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —Perhaps it does not, but I say that anything advantageous to the Colony may be enacted by the Local Government. We can ask for a separate tariff, and Canada has power to make different laws as to agriculture in each Province.
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —No, that is a mistake. The 95th section weakens the Hon. Member's argument.
Hon. Dr. HELMCKEN —I say it strengthens my argument. It does not mean merely that people may clean thistles out of their land. The simple issue is: Shall agricultural interests be protected or not? It is quite possible that those who regulate the treaty, when brought into contact with Canadian statesmen, may devise some means whereby this result may be effected. I do not mean to give up to Canadian statesmen that they know more than ourselves about our local affairs; but I do think we may utilize their experience. I do not think that people, when they know that Confederation will not be forced upon them, will accept Confederation. The question for the farmers will be: Shall agriculture be protected or not? I ask again. is agriculture protected by the resolution or not?
Hon. ATTORNEY—GENERAL —It is not a sine qua non.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —I think the idea to take a vote on protection to agriculture a good one, and I would rather that the resolution stopped there. Then I would propose a further resolution, pointing out the difficulties and ills we labour under.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I accept that alteration. We shall by it procure an expression of the opinion of the Council upon this point.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —I go further than that resolution. I stand here as a protectionist, and I want to see the manufacturing interests protected as well as the agricultural interests.
Protection will be a sine qua non with my constituents. If the Hon. senior Member for Victoria will divide the question into agricultural interests, manufacturing interests, and trade, I will withdraw my recommendation. I say that we want this question settled before Confederation. As for reciprocity it has, in my opinion, to be based on existing industry. The most important treaty of reciprocity was between England and Portugal, under which English goods were admitted into Portugal and wines into England. Reciprocity to be successful must be based on existing industries. If we enter into a treaty of reciprocity with the United States, we must build up our industries, such as coal. I take it that what our coal has to contend with is foreign and native coal in the San Francisco and Portland markets. Unless there is an extended market for coal it is impossible to increase the trade in it. Reciprocity would destroy the most permanent interests; that, for instance, of agriculture, and we would gain nothing by it. I say if Canada thinks proper to negotiate a treaty of reciprocity with the United States, we should be at liberty to negotiate a separate treaty, or to insert special clauses in the treaty.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —Let us clear the ground by getting the Chairman to put this resolution as an abstract proposition.
The Chairman then read the resolution as an abstract proposition for the vote of the Council :—
" That in the opinion of this Council it is necessary that the agricultural, horticultural, and "dairy interests of British Columbia be protected."
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —Mr. Chairman, I am prepared to vote for that proposition, but I do not go quite to the extent of beliving it necessary, although I think it very desirable. I don't think it of such importance as the Hon. Members for Victoria City and District, as to make it a vital question or a sine qua non of Confederation. I think it is desirable to continue protection under Confederation, and I do not see why we cannot. I think that the Dominion Government may, perhaps, be better able to provide the ways and means to effect that object than ourselves. We may not be able to provide a remedy, but we may advise. The protection that we ask for only partially affects the community. It is patent that it only affects Vancouver Island and the Lower Fraser at this time. ["No, no," from Mr. DeCosmos.] Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER I say that the farmers of the Interior have a geographical protection. The time is so distant when agricultural produce can come into the upper parts of British Columbia, or when the produce of the Upper Country can come into competition with the produce of the Island and of the Lower Fraser in these markets, without feeling the cost of transport as equivalent to a protective duty, that before that time arrives the tariff may be amended again and again. With regard to what has been said about the closer union with a foreign country. I said, and I repeat it, that if the interests of the farmers would be prejudiced under Confederation, they would be utterly annihilated under Annexation. I believe that if we were brought under the Dominion tariff they would be injured. I did not say that the Dominion would not give us separate tariff regulations. I think they will do so, but I say we have put ourselves out of a position to prescribe. We have put before them a scheme, and we have left the tariff out of the scheme. We can now point out that we want, protection, and leave it for the Dominion Government to point out the means. We have virtually put it out of our hands to dictate the means approved by this Council. I cannot agree in thinking that clause 91 leaves us free to impose our own tariff. I say we have made the British North America Act apply under the scheme which we have adopted under clause 16.
Hon. MR. RING —I differ from that.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —That is the whole strength of my argument. We have virtually given up the power over the tariff to Canada, but it is open to us, and the Council are invited to state what is wanted. It must he remembered that those terms are only memoranda for Confederation. Different terms may be sent back, and it will be left for the new Council to decide upon them; and I, for one, am ready to suggest to the Canadian Government that we should have protection, although there are objections, for if you protect one interest another must suffer. We pay for the protection of produce in the increased price of the articles we consume. I go to the length of thinking it desirable to recommend the Canadian Government to protect our agricultural interests.
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —I will ask the honourable mover of this recommendation whether he insists on the word "necessary"?
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I say this is one of those things that under Confederation will be necessary.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —Will the Hon. Member alter the word "necessary" to " very desirable "?
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —If you retain that word I must vote against it.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I retain the word.
Hon. MR. ROBSON —" Highly desirable " would suit my views better.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —I think the word ought to be retained.
Hon. MR. ALSTON —I believe all restrictions are false in principle, and Governments have no right to travel out of their path to dictate principles. It has rightly been said that protection to agriculture is at the expense of other things, and it is simply ridiculous to say that agricultural interests are the only interests in the Colony. Vancouver Island cannot be looked upon as an agricultural country. I would vote for protection temporarily, but as soon as good roads are made the farmer needs no protection; and, although free trade may be injurious to one interest, I believe it to be the correct principle. It strikes me that the Organic Act is a treaty of partnership between four countries, and where the terms are silent we can alter the Organic Act. If it be that we may make the laws, Canada still takes the revenue; and unless the resolution is altered I cannot vote for it.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —I may clear the ground if I make a suggestion. I think it would be better to take the subjects separately, and then I would embody the whole matter in one Resolution to His Excellency.
Hon. MR. WOOD —It would be desirable to have as unanimous a vote as possible. The Hon. Chief Commissioner and the Hon. Mr. Alston have said that a tax on produce would he likely to prove injurious. I say that protection is only to be extended until our agriculturalists can compete with the farmers on the opposite shore. If reciprocity eventually arise, I do not pledge myself to support protection. It may be necessary then to make some compensation to farmers, but I cannot say I would support it.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —We want a positive guarantee for protection.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER moved an amendment to change the word "necessary" to " highly desirable."
The recommendation, as amended, was carried.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS moved a Resolution, " That it is highly desirable that manufactured articles should be protected."
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —I would ask the Hon. Member to define "manufactured articles."
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —I would name boots and shoes. Now, in event of any reciprocity treaty, I should like to see our interests protected. A reciprocity treaty may exert a stimulating influence for a time, or it may be detrimental. We have confectionery and many other things; for instance, there is a proposition to erect a woollen manufactory. Furniture, at present, all comes from the United States. Our cabinet-makers could manufacture it here if they could import the raw material free. The same could be said of wheelwrights. If we are to have large public works we must have these interests protected. Harness may be brought in cheap under reciprocity; leather and soap likewise. I start out on this principle: if we can keep our manufactures at home we are doing our duty.
Hon. MR. BARNARD —The Canadian tariff applies to all the articles mentioned by the Hon. gentleman. I am mystified in regard to this protection. He says he wants protection for leather, and boots, and harness. Twenty per cent. is our tariff on waggons, and yet no class of waggons, such as is wanted, can be made here.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —We shall never have producing manufacturers if we do not protect them. With regard to waggon building: parties now engaged in the business were about to leave until the tariff was introduced. Competition lowers the price of home-manufactured articles.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —I shall support this Resolution; the Canadian tariff to some measure meets it.
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —I shall ask to have the words altered.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —Presently we shall have to protect British Columbian interests against Canadian interests. If the farmer and boot-maker are protected, other local manufactures must be protected also. Where you do not produce things admit them free. It is our duty to protect our own interests.
Hon. MR. BARNARD —And turn people out of the country.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —You keep them in. You send out $100,000 a quarter for goods, which ought to be spent here. That $100,000 ought to be invested in mines and in building up the country. Now, you want this country to be a garden and a manufactory. The people must do it, and it is the only way in which they can do it. Put your productions into competition with the whole world and you will ruin the producers throughout the whole Colony.
Hon. CHIEF COMMISSIONER —Another question is, up to what point are you to protect? What is the use of protecting produce if you protect colonists out of the country? I put this as an abstract proposition. There is no more moot point than the difference between free trade and protection. I see the Canadian tariff protects these things, and I don't feel inclined to ask for more. Under the Canadian tariff agricultural products are almost free, but manufactures are protected. I don't intend to assume that the tariff will be taken off—that protection is to be taken away from manufacturers, for, if so, it will be against the arguments of the members from British Columbia.
Hon. MR. ROBSON —Some members are growing protection mad. They want to build a wall around the Colony and keep out the entire world. You must come down to first principles. When honourable members talk about protection, I suppose we intend to protect that which we can produce. Are we to protect so as to force people into branches of industry unthought of before? Some honourable members have run to the extent of protecting population out of the Colony; another favours protection in order to keep prices low, and thus to secure our population. I maintain that protection has run too far, and the agriculturists have not benefited by it. ["No, no "—Mr. DeCosmos.] Hon. MR. ROBSON They tell me that the demand is so small that prices are less. I am not in favour of withdrawing protection from farmers, but let us see that it does not go too far.
Hon. MR. WOOD —Might I not turn the tables by judging some honourable members are free trade mad. No one ever dreamt of such high taxation. So far from sweeping oft population we secure it; and in England free trade is intended to benefit the manufacturer, and it does so. It struck a blow at agriculture, and if they had not gone into raising and spending more money it would have been an utter failure. High price for corn is now unknown, but free trade by way of dogma is absurd.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —There is a distinction between a tariff for protection and a prohibitory tariff. The Hon. Collector of Customs will set me right, if I am mistaken, but I believe the importation of arms from foreign countries into a Colony is prohibited.
Hon. COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS —Prohibited, I believe, altogether.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS —Precisely so; that the defence of the Colony may never depend on foreign aid. The Hon. Chief Commissioner asked the extent of the protection. I say during the infancy of the Colony. When we are able to run alone, protection will be necessary. With regard to farmers wanting free trade, I deny it emphatically.
Hon. DR. HELMCKEN —No doubt the Canadian Government will like this amendment of the tariff.
Hon. ATTORNEY-GENERAL —I shall vote against it because it says it is expedient to arrange it in the terms. If the Hon. Member alters the wording it would then become on the same footing as the last recommendation.
Hon. MR. DECOSMOS altered the wording accordingly, and on vote the motion was lost.
The motion of Hon. Dr. Helmcken was put and carried.


British Columbia. Legislative Council: Debates on the Subject of Confederation with Canada. Victoria: William H. Cullin, 1912.



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