January 20, 1909

ELECTION OF SPEAKER.

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Right Hon. S@

Mr. Flint, I have the honour to invite the House to the performance of its initial duty at this, its first meeting for this parliament. Of the importance of the duties which attach to the high office of Speaker it is superfluous to say a single word; of the qualities which that office demands from its occupant it is superfluous also to speak. The fact that the member chosen to fill that responsible office has already had experience in the discharge of similar duties, gives us an additional security that integrity, dignity, fairness and impartiality will distinguish his tenure of the Speaker's chair. In the British Parliament, which is the mother and model of all parliaments, there is an unwritten law, unwritten, but absolute and certain, and never varying, that once- a Speaker always a Speaker, and so the Speaker of the House of Commons is reelected again and again until his removal by death, or his incapacitation through illness or advancing age. This custom is well calculated to produce, and it has produced in the British House of Commons, the highest measure of efficiency in Mr. Speaker. For my part I have often regretted that we have not adopted such a rule in Canada. I remember when in the commencement of my career as leader of the Liberal party, I suggested to Sir John Macdonald, then Prime Minister, that such a practice would be expedient, but my suggestion was not accepted. In the same line of thought, shortly after the general elections, I consulted with the hon. member for

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

Mr. Flint: The Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid

Laurier) has described very fully and very accurately the position of the First Commoner in the Imperial House at London. I am inclined to share the regret he has expressed that the traditions which have surrounded the office of Speaker in that House have not in all respects been adhered to in this House. I refer to the continuance of the Speaker in office from one parliament to another. I recollect very well being in Great Britain in 1895, when there was a great deal of discussion in the British press as to whether or not Sir William Court Gully, who had been elected as Speaker in a previous parliament, should be continued in that office under the Conservative administration which had come into power in 1895. There were a great many arguments pro and con. Mr. Gully had held the Speakership only a very short time. But, in the end, the immemorial traditions prevailed, and he was re-elected without any opposition whatever. I, of course, realize that, in this country, our conditions are somewhat different in many respects to which 1 need not further allude. And, possibly, it has been in view of these that it has not been regarded as practicable to carry out in every way the traditions of the Imperial House. But I trust that in another respect, in respect of the dignity which surrounds the office, and the impartiality which must be observed by any Speaker if he is to retain the respect and maintain control of the House, I trust that in all these we have not at any time-been behind-at least, not very much behind-the traditions of the Imperial House.

The Prime Minister has referred to the nature of the office of Speaker. It has been described in a recent very elaborate historical account of the British House of Commons and the proeedme therein as predominantly a judicial office. And it is a judicial office. The Speaker must have re-

gard to the rules, must interpret the rules; he must interpret the rules, not as a member of the political party with which he has been associated in the past, but as representing, not only the majority, but the minority in this House.

So far as the hon. member for Bonaven-ture (Mr. Marcil) is concerned, I can only say that in the course of my experience of him as Chairman of Committees, and, on occasion, in the exercise of the functions of the office of Speaker during the absence of the Speaker, he has conducted himself with dignity and impartiality; and, upon more than one occasion, of a rather trying character, I observed him to use a great deal of tact.

Now, there has been a subject brought to the attention of the public of this country in connection with the hon. gentleman (Mr. Marcil). I refer to what is well known to every member of this House-the allusions that have been made to his methods of campaigning.

I do not propose, this afternoon, to affirm or deny any statements which have been made in the press; I have not the evidence at my command which would enable me to do so. But, so far as the system itself is concerned, I say that the system of offering bribes to constituencies in this country is a vicious one, and that, so far as I am concerned, I lifted up my voice during the last parliament in favour of the prohibition by statute of such acts; and I hope some day to see this wrong righted in Canada by statute. But, so far as that is concerned, the whole subject will undoubtedly be discussed later on in this House from a very much wider and more comprehensive standpoint than would be possible to-day. I do not consider it fitting that I should say more on that subject at this moment.

It would perhaps be permitted to me to say, without in the slightest degree desiring to be disrespectful, or to be understood in any offensive sense, that the very judicial quality with which the Speaker of this House is invested would negative any idea in the mind of any one of us, and I am sure in the mind of the hon. gentleman himself, that the person filling such a position could be a suppliant for favours from the administration from day to day in respect of his constituency. I take that for granted. To take any other view would be derogatory to the dignity of parliament and would lead inevitably to the decadence of our parliamentary institutions. I trust that I shall be understood in these remarks as laying down a principle which ought not to be gainsaid by any hon. member of this House. And, having said so much, I dismiss that part of the subject with the assurance that the whole question, so far as it deserves discussion, will be brought forward before the end of this par-11

liament. I have nothing further to say at this moment.

The motion being put to the House,

The Clerk of the House (Mr. T. B. Flint) declared the motion carried in the affirmative, nemine contradicente, and Charles Marcil, Esquire, member for the electoral division of Bonaventure, duly elected to the Chair of the House.

Mr. Marcil was conducted from his seat in the House to the Speaker's chair by Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Hon. Wm. Paterson.

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LIB

Charles Marcil (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Hon. CHARLES MARCIL (Speaker-elect).

I beg to tender to this House my sincere and hearty thanks for the high honour it has conferred upon me by electing me as its Speaker. It will be my pleasure, as well as my duty, to endeavour to deserve that high honour by dealing with all questions which come before me in my official character with firmness and impartiality. I am fully sensible of my unfitness for the position, but I rely confidently upon the co-operation of hon. members on both sides of the House to assist me in maintaining our rules and regulations, in vindicating our rights and privileges, and in preserving the freedom and dignity of debate, according to ancient usages.

(Translation.) I beg to tender to this House my most sincere thanks for the high honour it has conferred upon me by electing me to the high office of Speaker.

It is my most ardent wish to deserve that high mark of confidence by discharging with fairness and impartiality the duties of the office entrusted to me.

I rely confidently on your co-operation to assist me in my endeavours to uphold our rights and privileges and also in safeguarding the freedom and the dignity of our debates, according to our established rules and parliamentary traditions.

This House could have called to the Speaker's Chair a member more deserving of such a favour.

I am fully confident, however, that my colleagues will continue to favour me, as in the past, with their kind co-operation and allow me .to rely on their indulgence.

The Sergeant at Arms then placed the Mace on the Table of the House.

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ADJOURNMENT-INQUIRIES FOR PAPERS.


Sir WILFRID LAURIER moved the adjournment of the House.


CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

Before the House adjourns, might I inquire of the Prime Minister whether or not the report of Mr. Justice Cassels in respect of the matters entrusted to him by order in council during last session has been presented? I would like also to inquire what is the cause of the delay in the printing and distribution

of the second instalment of evidence taken before Mr. Justice Cassels? The first instalment of that evidence was received early in October last in printed form. The xesolution passed by this House last session provided that the evidence should be printed from day to day for the use of the members, but we have not received 'a second instalment of the evidence. I have made inquiry of the proper officers, but I cannot obtain any very satisfactory explanation except that the delay is due to some difficulty in the Printing Bureau. I would like to know when it is anticipated the balance of the evidence will be placed before the House in printed form.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I am informed that the report of Mr. Justice Cassels has not yet been received, but is expected either to-morrow or the day after. I have this information only at second-hand, but I believe it can be relied upon. I shall have to inake inquires before I can satisfy my hon. friend as to why the balance of the evidence has not been printed. I understand that no evidence has been printed since the early part of October. It so happened that in October we were all so busy that we would not have had time to read that evidence, but that busy time is now over and we will be able to read it.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

That busy time was over some weeks ago. When do the government propose to lay on the table of the House the treaties of which we have had some notice through the public press? Have those treaties been signed and will they be presented at an early date?

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

All treaties which have been signed, except the last treaty, were laid before the House last session, I think in July. The last treaty which has been signed, relating to the international waters, will be laid before the House as soon as we have received an *official copy.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Only one treaty has been signed recently?

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Only one, with regard to the boundary waters.

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Motion agreed to, and House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.



Thursday, January 21, 1909.


January 20, 1909