“The Tariff Under Debate”, The Globe (14 July 1866)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Tariff Under Debate”, The Globe (2 August 1866).
The Tariff Under Debate
Mr. Galt can hardly congratulate himself upon the way in which his proposed tariff stood the test of debate. The anxiety of members not to disturb the Government, while Confederation is pending, restrained many of those who disliked his scheme most from voting against it, but no one who had paid attention to the subject under discussion ventured to defend Mr. Galt’s scheme in its integrity. Even his own speech was not a defence of his measure, but a complaint respecting the conduct of his opponents. If any member found particular features of the scheme of which he could approve, he was, by that very fact, compelled in consistency to condemn the rest of it. If there were items of which the free-trader could approve, there were others which he must, in virtue of his principles, most heartily oppose. The protectionist, be he moderate or extreme, found himself in the same predicament. If in one portion of the resolution he found his views carried out to an extent that would delight Mr. Morrill himself, in another he was certain to find all his notions outraged.
The crudeness of the scheme, the reckless lisp-hasard way in which it was evidently prepared; were well exposed during the debate. It was remarked by Mr. Holton that the Minister of Finance had given four versions of his scheme, all differing from each other—and it might very safely have been added that it would undergo sundry other amendments yet. That of itself was proof how little thought Mr. Galt had given his scheme before launching it upon the country. As details were discussed, the carelessness with which the measure had been prepared was illustrated at nearly every point. Mr. Rose and others pointed out anomalies which no one can pretend to reconcile, and which no one attempted to explain or excuse. Mr. Galt has amended or promised to consider some of the absurdities which appeared in the earlier versions of his scheme, but in doing to his not kept clear of creating new anomalies. In some cases complaint has been made by manufacturers that while they were robbed of a portion of the protection which they have hitherto enjoyed, they are on the other hand made to suffer by new duties chargeable upon articles which they use in manufacturing. Mr. Galt, in his new-born zeal for free-trade might have turned this admission of the evils of protection against his persecutors, but in place of that he has yielded to them, and has placed or promised to place the manufactures which constitute their raw material in the free list. But what will he say to those whose protection he thus takes away? Why should he protect the shoemaker, and refuse to protect the tanner? Why should he, on the other hand, exempt raw material for one class, and put new taxes upon that used by another? Why should he admit wheat free for the benefit of millers, and put an increased tax upon petroleum, to the detriment of oil refiners? Why should he discriminate against the sugar refiners? How is he to defend his discrimination between the makers and the workers of iron? Why should the one get protection and the other be refused it? How is he to defend his course upon the tobacco question? Why [text missing] withdraw protection from that interest, when he is building up new protected interests? Why does he reduce the tax upon tobacco, while is increasing that upon tea? Does he mean that people should use less tea and more tobacco? We are told that his taxes upon whiskey and more expensive liquors are arranged in such a way as to discourage the consumption of the descriptions of liquor which Mr. Galt deems most hurtful. Are we to understand that he had the same principle in mind when he made the changes in tea and tobacco? We remember that in 1859, Mr. Galt made a great many apologies for his high taxes upon tea, and arranged a sliding scale, by which the duties were to be gradually reduced. Now he taxes the article of tea enormously without the slightest excuse. In defence of his tea tax, Mr. Galt ventured to remark, on Thursday night that it affected no article produced in the country, but was simply a question of taxation. It so happens, however, that tea as an article used by all classes cannot be heavily taxed without doing gross injustice to the less wealthy portion of the community. Upon that ground the high duty upon tea is utterly indefensible, and when contrasted with reductions elsewhere, simply outrageous.
The absurdity of raising a free trade cry on behalf of Mr. Galt’s scheme, h[text missing] been tolerably well exposed before the debate upon the tariff. Mr. Rose took occasion to show that equally unfounded is the cry which has been raised that the proposed tariff is calculated to conciliate the Lower Provinces. When Mr. Galt asked free-traders to rejoice at his adoption of their principles, he expects them to look at only one aide of his tariff. He expected them to overlook the corn laws and the special bits of protection which he had devised, and of which Canada is to have experience for the first time. No, when he pleaded that the Lower Provinces were to be constituted by his scheme, he expected that the country would only look at the items in which his new tariff approached nearer to the rates existing in the Lower Provinces. He expected that no notice would be taken of the important items in which he had made the difference much greater than before. Mr. Rose exposed the weakness of that plea, and some of the points touched by him prove to be the very points which are seized upon by the Halifax anti-Union papers for a new outcry against Confederation. A comparison of the two sides of the scheme must convince any one that, while it will furnish the opponents of Union with some effective cries, it will do precious little to furnish even the most sanguine Unionist in the Maritime Provinces with a new weapon.