Re-Constructing a New Canada

Document 1: The Farmers’ Platform, 1918

Source: Canadian Council of Agriculture. “The Farmers’ Platform: A New National Policy for Canada” Winnipeg: 1918.


Explanatory Notes

The Farmers’ Platform first came into existence when it was drafted and published by the Canadian Council of Agriculture in December, 1916. It was subsequently unanimously endorsed at the annual conventions of the United Farmers of Ontario, the Manitoba Grain Growers’ Association, the Saskatchewan Grain Growers’ Association, and the United Farmers of Alberta. During the past two years several of the planks of the Platform such as woman suffrage, prohibition, income tax, and corporation tax have been adopted in full and others partially, by the Federal Parliament. This fact, as well as changed conditions arising out of the war, necessitated some revision and extension of the Platform. These were made by the Council which met at Winnipeg, on November 26 to 29, 1918. The platform as finally adopted is presented herewith.

The Farmers’ Platform

Following herewith is the official
draft of the Farmers’Platform.

1. — A League of Nations as an international organization to give permanence to the world’s peace by removing old causes of conflict.

2. — We believe that the further development of the British Empire should be sought along the lines of partnership between nations free and equal, under the present governmental system of British constitutional authority.* We are strongly opposed to any attempt to centralize imperial control. Any attempt to set up an independent authority with power to bind the Dominions, whether this authority be termed parliament, council or cabinet, would hamper the growth of responsible and informed democracy in the Dominions

The Tariff

3. — Whereas Canada is now confronted with a huge national war debt and other greatly increased financial obligations, which can be most readily and effectively reduced by the development of our natural resources, chief of which is agricultural lands;

And whereas it is desirable that an agricultural career should be made attractive to our returned soldiers and the large anticipated immigration, and owing to the fact that this can best be accomplished by the development of a national policy which will reduce to a minimum the cost of living and the cost of production;

And whereas the war has revealed the amazing financial strength of Great Britain, which has enabled her to finance, not only her own part in the struggle, but also to assist in financing her Allies to the extent of hundreds of millions of pounds, this enviable position being due to the free trade policy which has enabled her to draw her supplies freely from every quarter of the globe and consequently to undersell her competitors on the world’s market, and because this policy has not only been profitable to Great Britain, but has greatly strengthened the bonds of Empire by facilitating trade between the Motherland and her overseas dominions — we believe that the best interests of the Empire and of Canada would be served by reciprocal action on the part of Canada through gradual reductions of the tariff on British imports, having for its objects closer union and a better understanding between Canada and the Motherland and at the same time bring about a great reduction in the cost of living to our Canadian people;

Fosters Combines

And whereas the Protective Tariff has fostered combines, trusts and ‘‘gentlemen’s agreements” in almost every line of Canadian industrial enterprise, by means of which the people of Canada — both urban and rural — have been shamefully exploited through the elimination of competition, the ruination of many of our smaller industries and the advancement of prices on practically all manufactured goods to the full extent permitted by the tariff ;

And whereas agriculture — the basic industry upon which the success of all other industries primarily depends — is unduly handicapped throughout Canada as shown by the declining rural population in both Eastern and Western Canada, due largely to the greatly increased cost of agricultural implements and machinery, clothing, boots and shoes, building material and practically everything the farmer has to buy, caused by the Protective Tariff, so that it is becoming impossible for farmers generally, under normal conditions, to carry on farming operations profitably;

And whereas the Protective Tariff is the most wasteful and costly method ever designed for raising national revenue, because for every dollar obtained thereby for the public treasury at least three dollars pass into the pockets of the protected interests, thereby building up a privileged class at the expense of the masses, thus making the rich richer and the poor poorer;

And whereas the Protective Tariff has been and is a chief corrupting influence in our national life because the protected interests, in order to maintain their unjust privileges, have contributed lavishly to political and campaign funds, thus encouraging both political parties to look to them for support, thereby lowering the standard of public morality.

Definite Tariff Demands

Therefore be it resolved that the Canadian Council of Agriculture, representing the organized farmers of Canada, urges that, as a means of remedying these evils and bringing about much needed social and economic reforms, our tariff laws should be amended as follows: —

(a) By an immediate and substantial all-round reduction of the customs tariff .

(b) By reducing the customs duty on goods imported from Great Britain to one-half the rates charged under the general tariff, and that further gradual, uniform reductions be made in the remaining tariff on British imports that will ensure complete Free Trade between Great Britain and Canada in five years.

(c) That the Reciprocity Agreement of 1911, which still remains on the United States statute
books, be accepted by the parliament of Canada.

(d) That all food stuff not included in the Reciprocity Agreement be placed on the free list.

(e) That agricultural implements, farm machinery, vehicles, fertilizers, coal, lumber, cement, illuminating fuel and lubricating oils be placed on the free list, and that all raw materials and machinery used in their manufacture also be placed on the free list.

(f) That all tariff concessions granted to other countries be immediately extended to Great Britain.

(g) That all corporations engaged in the, manufacture of products protected by the customs tariff be obliged to publish annually comprehensive and accurate statements of their earnings.

(h) That every claim for tariff protection by any industry should be heard publicly before a special committee of parliament.

Taxation Proposals

4. — As these tariff reductions may very considerably reduce the national revenue from that source, the Canadian Council of Agriculture would recommend that, in order to provide the necessary additional revenue for carrying on the government of the country and for the bearing of the cost of the war, direct taxation be imposed in the following manner : —

(a) By a direct tax on unimproved land values, including all natural resources.

(b) By a graduated personal income tax.

(c) By a graduated inheritance tax on large estates.

(d) By a graduated income tax on the profits of corporations.

(e) That in levying and collecting the business profits tax the Dominion Government should insist that it be absolutely upon the basis of the actual cash invested in the business and that no considerations be allowed for what is popularly known as watered stock.

(f) That no more natural resources be alienated from the crown, but brought into use only under short-term leases, in which the interests of the public shall be properly safeguarded, such leases to be granted only by public auction.

The Returned Soldiers

5. — With regard to the returned soldier we urge : —

(a) That it is the recognized duty of Canada to exercise all due diligence for the future well-being of the returned soldier and his dependants.

(b) That demobilization should take place only after return to Canada.

(c) That first selection for return and demobilization should be made in the order of length of service of those who have definite occupation awaiting them or have other assured means of support, preference being given first to married men and then to the relative need of industries, with care to insure so far as possible the discharge of farmers in time for the opening of spring work upon the land.

(d) That general demobilization should be gradual, aiming at the discharge of men only as it is found possible to secure steady employment.

(e) It is highly desirable that if physically fit discharged men should endeavor to return to their former occupation, and employers should be urged to reinstate such men in their former positions wherever possible.

(f) That vocational training should be confined to those who while in the service have become unfitted for their former occupation.

(g) That provision should be made for insurance at the public expense of unpensioned men who have become undesirable insurance risks while in the service.

(h) That facilities should be provided at the public expense that will enable returned soldiers to settle upon farming land when by training or experience they are qualified to do so.

6. — We recognize the very serious problem confronting labor in urban industry resulting from the cessation of war, and we urge that every means, economically, feasible and practicable, should be used by federal, provincial and municipal authorities in relieving unemployment in the cities and towns; and, further, recommend that adoption of the principle of co-operation as the guiding spirit in the future relations between employer and employees — between capital and labor.

Land Settlement

7. — A land settlement scheme based on a regulating influence in the selling price of land. Owners of idle areas should be obliged to file a selling price on their lands, that price also be regarded as an assessable value for purposes of taxation.

8. — Extension of co-operative agencies in agriculture to cover the whole field of marketing, including arrangements with consumers’ societies for the supplying of foodstuffs at the lowest rates and with the minimum of middleman handling.

9. — Public ownership and control of railway, water and aerial transportation, telephone, telegraph and express systems, all projects in the development of natural power, and of the coal mining industry.

Other Democratic Reforms

10. — To bring about a greater measure of democracy in government, we recommend: —

(a) The immediate repeal of the War Time Elections Act.

(b) The discontinuance of the practice of conferring titles upon citizens of Canada.

(c) The reform of the federal senate.

(d) An immediate check upon the growth of government by order-in-council, and increased responsibility of individual members of parliament in all legislation.

(e) The complete abolition of the patronage system.

(f) The publication of contributions and expenditures both before and after election campaigns.

(g) The removal of press censorship upon the restoration of peace and the immediate restoration of the rights of free speech.

(h) The setting forth by daily newspapers and periodical publications, of the facts of their ownership and control.

(i) Proportional representation.

(i) The establishment of measures of direct legislation through the initiative, referendum and recall.

(k) The opening of seats in parliament to women on the same terms as men.