Canada for the Canadian People
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
As social and democratic views of life and government become more widespread, the idea prevails that governments exist for the good of those governed, and that the riches of the country exist for the benefit of those who dwell in it. This doctrine is so out of harmony with ideas once prevailing concerning the rights of the populace that other views have been woven into the very fibre of human nature. Consequently it is, perhaps, difficult for governments to be true to their highest duties, and equally difficult for the people to demand their just rights. Governments sometimes think of surpluses and revenues without much thought as to how they are to be obtained, and the people think of a temporary prosperity, with little idea as to its general effect on the nation, and thus both often support a short-sighted policy.
Privileges and resources involving present or prospective values to the citizens of the country are frequently disposed of to their detriment. A present temporary advantage is no compensation for privileges given which the people may shortly require and feel the need of for all time to come. For instance, at the time of the conquest of Canada, and by the Treaty of Settlement, certain rights on the coast of Newfoundland were ceded to France. These concessions at that time had no especial value in the eyes of the British statesmen who framed the treaty. They did not clash with the rights of any of her subjects, and were, therefore, readily acceded to. But the time came when these supposedly worthless privileges became of vast importance to the loyal citizens of the Empire, but they were deprived of the advantages of their own country ; besides it created a menace to international relations. Thus, we have an example of a short-sighted policy in the granting of treaty rights. The present hour, not the future century, was all these so-called statesmen seemed to think about, and in an evil hour they consented to that which has tended to handicap the oldest British colony for a century or more. It is truly good to be " the heirs of all the ages " when the inheritance is advantageous, but it is not always so. We have no right to place a mortgage on the inheritance of our children simply for our own benefit. It has been truly said "that the mark of a true statesman is his power to interpret the future, as well as to act for the present."
With this glaring example before us, we are warned not to fall into the same error, for the pathway of Canada's national life is not without its dangers in this respect. There are many of the natural resources of Canada, such as her fisheries and her forests, which, at the present time, are far in excess of our present needs, and there is, perhaps, a danger that privileges regarding these may be conceded without due thought for the demands of future generations. Some present temporary advantages may be gained by sacrificing these privileges, but when Canada is a hundred years older her own people and her own markets will need probably all she has, and any advantage that any nation could give us will then, for the very same reason, lose its value. It is earnestly hoped, should the Joint High Commission resume its sittings, that no change will be made in the treaty governing our Atlantic fisheries, as seemed likely to occur at its last sittings. Rather let this motto govern our statesmen with respect to this national franchise,
By taking precautions to protect our fisheries, and guarding against destruction by improper methods of fishing, they may be preserved as a permanent source of wealth for the Canadian people."
The same may be said of the lumber of Canada. No unnecessary sacrifice should be made to get free lumber into the markets of the United States, or any country. The home demand is increasing every day, and in a short time will afford all the market necessary. This growing young country is absorbing increasing quantities of manufactured pro-ducts of all kinds, and, of course, it cannot advance in any line more rapidly than in buildings. " Buildings are the most necessary accompaniment of any in a new land like Canada. The rapidly growing magnitude of our own market should therefore be present to the minds of our negotiators at Washing-ton."
There is still another danger which threatens to prevent the Canadian people from participating in the benefit of the natural riches of their country, and to which they have the best right. This threatened danger lurks in the unnecessary privileges likely to be granted to monopolists and syndicates, and in the formation of trusts and combines for the exploitation of our natural wealth, to the disadvantage of the masses of the people. This evil has possibilities even more serious and more certain than those arising from the granting of ill-considered treaty rights.
It is, of course, desirable, that the resources of the country should be properly developed, and for this purpose certain privileges should be given whereby capitalists would be encouraged to invest their money. But in every case the good of the country, as it is represented in the general good of the citizens at large, should be the controlling factor in' the granting of franchises by the government. Any revenue obtained for natural resources of any kind, which are to be looked upon for the purpose of controlling prices, or given on such terms that the capitalists would be chiefly benefited, is a crime against the country and the people who live in it. The strictest watchfulness can only prevent the perpetration of this evil against this young country. The greed of capitalists, the increased competition in production, the desire for revenue and populalation and the very vastness of our resources all tend to make this evil more imminent.
The history of the development of the United States has lessons for us. That great country has no love for the monopolist, and yet it has not been able to stay his hand or to withstand his power. Like the great octopus, by the consolidation of capital he has come to control almost every industry in the country, until the people are virtually at the mercy of the trusts. " The subject of trusts is justly regarded by the best minds of the country as to be the subject of consideration by the two great political parties of the nation, and has been the subject of Presidential messages, . . . and is now engaging the attention of various organizations of educated newspaper writers, and, indeed, may be regarded as one of the great problems of the time."
These great trusts or combines affect almost every department of trade in that great country—steel, oil, transportation, sugar, beef, and, indeed, all lines of commerce until it has become a sort of modern slavery.
" The serfs, vassals and villeins of Europe may not be able to appreciate the subtle superiority of the American type of serfdom, vessalage and villein-age, but it is there all right. The present generations of Europeans have inherited their bonds ; the present generation of Americans can proudly boast that they are a self-made people, and have them-selves forged the fetters strong enough and good enough for the purpose. The first step in forming a 'trust,' or ' combine,' is to go to the legislature, composed of representatives of the people, and ask for legislation to authorize the deal and when-ever there is found a link in the chain that needs to be strengthened or lengthened, resort is had to legislative enactment. Slavery there may be once more in the land of the free, but it will be white slavery, and the chains and fetters will not be rusty with age for a long time to come."
Let us be sure that if Americans have been enslaved in this way we are exposed to the same danger, and possibly greater, because we will have all the efforts of American capitalists with, perhaps, less power of resistance than the people of the United States.
There is another aspect of this question, namely, as viewed from the standpoint of foreign capitalists sharing in the earnings of the country. It effects the volume of our foreign debt, and if the country were weak might also menace its independence. The public press of the country has already warned the public of these dangers, and they need not largely be dealt with here, though a reiteration of them cannot be superfluous.
" As Canadians are a strong, law-abiding, self-governing nation, and a part of a great empire, there is not much danger in any case that United States men-of-war will be sent to threaten Halifax or Toronto, as recently one appeared off the coast of Venezuela, to enforce the subordination of that country to some American money combination. It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to keep clear of international trouble. . . . Canada's best course is not at all plain. The danger threatening her seems to arise out of the privileges granted to joint stock companies. Better control of these is certainly necessary. Certainly the strictest possible control of foreign corporations or combinations, or those under the control or direction of foreign directorates should be established and maintained. Foreign capital is necessary to the very rapid development of the rich resources of our sparsely inhabited but vast country, for which we are, perhaps, unwisely impatient, and it is not easy to see how it can be allowed free scope without giving it dangerous influence and power."
" Every share, bond and debenture, mortgage or lien upon any real property in Canada, which is owned by foreigners, is a part of the foreign national debt of Canada, no matter what its nature is, and the interest thereon has to be earned by Canadians. There is no difference between shares in the Canadian Pacific Railway held by a foreign capitalist and Canadian Government bonds held by the same capitalist; so far as the source from which the dividend in the one case, or the interest in the other, is drawn. In both cases that source is the earning power of the labor energy of the Canadian people. The difference between the railway share and the Government bond is that the railway share represents part ownership of s line of rail-way and part control thereof, while the Government bond is a blanket mortgage on the country, the ownership of which gives the proprietor no power of interference or control. In the case of government bonds, there is no danger of foreign interference so long as the interest is paid. When a defaulting country is irresponsibly squandering its resources and practically defies its creditors, there is likely to be pressure, and in cases where the defaulting country is weak and that of the creditors strong, even imperative interference. But alien ownership of controlling shares in railways and industrial enterprises introduces direct foreign control and manipulation. Were foreign owners mere individuals it might matter less, but now that they are liable to be enormous capitalistic combinations, able to sway governments, there is more reason for apprehension. " Let 'Canada for the Canadian people' be the motto of both legislatures and people respecting the development of our natural wealth, for in this matter eternal vigilance is the price of safety."