Mr. E. A. LANCASTER (Lincoln and Niagara) moved:
That a humble address be presented to His Most Gracious Majesty the King, as follows: Most Gracious M ajesty :
We, your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Canada in parliament assembled, beg leave most respectfully to represent-
That in the year 1867 by Act of your Imperial parliament commonly known as the British North America Act, the then existing provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were federally united and formed into one Dominion under the name of Canada, and the constitution of the legislative authority of such Dominion provided for and the nature of its executive government declared, and since the said Act other provinces in British North America have also been federally united to the said Dominion and now form part thereof, with representation in this House of Commons, pursuant to the provisions providing therefor in the said British North America Act and amending, and other, Acts subsequently enacted;
That by the_ said British North America Act the executive government and authority
of and over Canada is declared to continue and be vested in Your Majesty and Your Heirs and Successors, Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Your Majesty is represented in Canada by a Governor General;
That by the said British North America Act there is also a council to aid and advise Your Majesty, styled the King's Privy Council for Canada, the members of which council are from time to time chosen and summoned by Your Majesty's said Governor General and may be from time to time removed by the said Governor General;
That by the said British North America Act the Parliament of Canada consists of Your Majesty, and upper House styled the Senate and the House of Commons, but with powers not to exceed those at the passing of the said Act held and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland;
That by the said British North America Act it is also provided that Bills for appropriating any jiart of the public revenue or for imposing any tax or impost shall originate in the House of Commons and that no such Bill or vote, resolution or address for such appropriation or tax or impost shall be adopted or passed that has not been first recommended to that House by message of Your Majesty's said Governor General in the session in which such Bill, vote, resolution or address is proposed;
That by the said British North America Act it is also provided that where any Bill passed by the House of Parliament is presented to Your Majesty's said Governor General for Your Majesty's assent he shall declare according to his discretion but subject to the provisions of the said Act and to Your Majesty's instructions, either that he assents thereto in Your Majesty's name, or that he withholds Your Maj esty's. assent, _ or that he reserves the Bill for the signification of Your Majesty's pleasure, and that where lie assents to a Bill in Your Majesty's name if Your Majesty in Council within two years after receipt thereof by the Secretary of State thinks fit to disallow the Act such disallowance shall annul the Act, and that a Bill reserved for the signification of Your Majesty's pleasure shall not have any force unless and until within two years from the day on which it was presented to Your Majesty's said Governor General for Your Majesty's assent he signifies to the Houses of parliament or by proclamation that he has received the assent of Your Majesty in Council;
That by the said British North America Act legislatures for the various provinces constituting the said Dominion of Canada are also established, each governed by a lieutenant governor appointed by Your Majesty's said Governor General in Council for five years, and whose salaries are required to be fixed and provided by the parliament of the Dominion of Canada and such provincial legislatures are empowered exclusively to make laws in relation to a large number of matters and subjects of great importance, subject to disallowance by Your Majesty's said Governor General in Council within one year, but not in any way subject to consent also by the said Senate;
That in regard to all matters and subjects not within the said exclusive power of the
said provincial legislatures it is provided by the said British North America Act that all laws to be made by the said parliament of Canada mnst be consented to and passed by both the Senate and the House of Commons, before beinw presented to Tour Majesty's said Governor General for assent and the members constituting the said Senate are appointed for life and not subject to election or rejection by the people, and the members of the House of Commons are elected by the people every five years or at any less period at which Your Majesty's said Governor General may dissolve the parliament;
That during the forty years since the said British North America Act has been in force much dissatisfaction has been caused from time to time to Your Majesty's loyal subjects in Canada by the actions of the Senate in regard to matters dealt with by the House of Commons and the rejection of laws sought to be made by the jjeojile through their representatives in the House of Commons and passed by the House, and by reason of the heavy expense and burden of taxation placed upon the people to provide the maintenance of that two-fold system of dealing with the making of laws by the parliament of Canada;
That in view of the many other provisions heretofore referred to for guarding against and disallowing any ill-advised or improper legislation which might by any possibility pass the said House of Commons, and of the aforesaid dissatisfaction of the people and heavy burden of expense involved and of the great advance made in education by the whole people of Canada since the passing of the said British North America Act, this House is of the opinion that the Senate is no longer required or advisable for the properly carrying on of resjionsible government in Canada, or safeguarding of Your Majesty's full rights and prerogatives; and that the abolition of the said Senate would greatly conduce to the welfare of the Dominion of Canada and promote the interests of the British Empire.
We therefore respectfully pray that the said British North America Act be so amended as to provide for the abolition of the said Senate.
He said: Although the form of the motion is new, the subject dealt with by the motion cannot in any sense be said to be new. At the outset, let me say that my object in making this motion is that the matter may be discussed freely, fully, and in a way entirely untrammelled by considerations of party politics. There is no reason why this should be dealt with as a party question; there is every reason why it should be dealt with in the very opposite way. It is a matter in which the interest of all Canada is involved; it is a matter upon which the leaders of all political parties ought to try to agree. Even the most humble member of this House should try to find a solution of what is known to be a serious difficulty and great embarrassment in this country. Therefore, I ask every hon. member who is in the habit of voting with me on party questions not to feel bound to do so on this question, but, if he speaks upon it, to declare what he freely thinks the best interest Mr. LANCASTER. ,
of the country demands. Likewise, I ask my hon. friends on the other side-who are in the habit of thinking, more or less, that the proposals that I bring forward are suspicious or not to be adopted by the party now in power-to forget that to-day, and if they are really in favour of this resolution, not to be afraid to say so, so that the matter can be dealt with in a manner entirely free from party politics.
Now, Sir, dissatisfaction with regard to the other Chamber ns no new thing in Canada. I will briefly mention some of the evidence of dissatisfaction. Fifteen years ago this dissatisfaction had reached such a point that one of the political parties in this country, the one now in power, put into their platform, upon which they appealed to the country, a demand for the reform of the Senate. That party attained power, and from time to time public men on both sides of the House have raised the question of reforming the Senate. We were very much indebted to a supporter of the government, in the year 1906-I refer to the present Deputy Speaker of this House, the member for South Perth (Mr. McIntyre)- for a very able address and the discussion which followed his address, calling for a reform of the Upper Chamber. Again last session we were treated to discussions of this kind by other members of this House. The member for South Perth brought in a measure for the reform of the Senate, the hon. member for South Grey (Mr. Miller) also brought in a motion, which practically agreed with the motion I am about to make.
The hon. member for West Huron (Mr. Lewis) also brought in a motion having the same object in view, but in a manner less direct than my motion. All these gentlemen brought forward much useful information, they^showed a lot of research and care in endeavouring to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in regard to the matter. But their motions and addresses all ended in nothing, that is to say, they were followed by no concrete action on the part of this House. In this respect my motion differs from all others that have been brought forward. My motion is a practical motion, and leads to some action if adopted. The other motions, if I may bej allowed to say so without offence, were merely academic, they were merely discussions of the ques tion, and accomplished nothing. Even it they had been adopted, they would have not brought us any further on our way to wards the desired goal. Therefore I have had the temerity, in drawing this motion, to ask this House to vote for a practical resolution, a matter of concrete action, that goes right to the foot of the Throne with a petition to the King, asking that the British North America Act be amended by the Imperial parliament so that the Chamber known as the Senate of Canada may be abolished. Of course if we are ever to have
an abolition of the Senate, this is the only course that we can take. We must apply for an amendment of the British North American Act, which Act constituted the Senate as it now exists. If any of these preceding motions had been carried, or if we could agree upon a measure of reform, even then we must have an Imperial Act of parliament passed to change our constitution. So it is absolutely necessary to approach the Imperial parliament, and I know of no better way of doing so than to petition the King in the words of this motion.
Now in the course of these discussions that have taken place I have noticed the absence of one very important point, which has never been mentioned so far as I know. Hon. gentlemen who have discussed this question have all assumed that the Senate of this country bears the same relation to our House of Commons that the House of Lords bears to the House of Commons of Great Britain. I cannot see the matter in that way. Hon. gentlemen seem to have forgotten that the constitution of this country provides for a veto power ultimately vested in the King in Council, whether you have a Senate in this country or not. It is generally assumed that we have the same safeguard in this country against hasty legislation by the Commons, as there is in Great Britain against hasty legislation by the Commons there. But there' is a considerable difference. If the Lords and Commons of Great Britain agree on any legislation, it seems to me that His Majesty the King would find himself in a serious constitutional difficulty if he did not assent to that legislation. That is not so here. If the House of Commons', and the Senate of Canada, or if the House of Commons alone, assuming we had no Senate, pass a legislative measure, and that measure receives the assent of His Excellency the Governor General, even then the measure may not finally become law, because it is subject to the veto power of His Majesty in Council, who may disallow any Act of the Canadian parliament. So that we have a veto power that may be exercised by the King in Council, even though we had no Senate in this country. For instance, supposing the Senate were abolished, that we had no second Chamber to pass upon our legislation, and supposing a piece of legislation was passed in this House which a large body of people in this country, or very important interests in this country, contended was injurious to them, they would not be without a remedy, even if we had no Senate, because they could appeal to the King in Council and ask that that legislation be disallowed. They would be doing no strange thing, they would be simply acting within the provisions of the British North America Act. There is therefore in the British North America Act a distinct limitation, that after
His Excellency has agreed to any measure passed by the parliament of Canada, still it does not become binding if the King in Council chooses to disallow it within two years. So I say that if any interest in this country or any portion of our people felt aggrieved at legislation passed by this parliament, they would still have no need to bemoan the! absence of a second Chamber, supposing we decided to abolish it; they would not be remediless, for they could approach His Majesty in Council by petition and might be able to get a disallowance of the Act. This, at least, is my opinion, and before this debate closes hon. gentle men will perhaps discuss that particular point and enlighten me with tfieir views upon it, if they do not agree with what I am saying, namely, that the Senate in this country does not exist as the sole necessary check on hasty legislation, and is not, in the last resort, a protection of minorities or any other interest that may feel aggrieved, because such minority or such interest will have a remedy by appeal to Great Britain within two years, and there would be no wrench of the constitution given us by the British North America Act.
Some people say that it is all very well to be wise after the event, but I ask every hon. gentleman in this House, in discussing this matter, or before he votes for or against this resolution of mine, to seriously ask himself the question if he were one of the fathers of confederation, or if he were making suggestions to Great Britain for the re-drawing of that Act, if he would seriously say that a second chamber was necessary. I do not wish to be understood as saying that if, forty years ago, I had been assisting to make that constitution, I would not have made it as it was, and I am not saying that our forefathers did not do what they thought best in the interests of the country. They had no experience! in Canada to guide them. They naturally would look at other constitutions and it probably occurred to them at once that as there was a House of Lords in England over the Commoners to check their legislation, it would be a good thing to have a similar body in Canada. But while I might at that time have thought that, if those very able politicians and public men who had a lot to do with the formation of the constitution, who were known as the fathers of confederation, and who were doing the best they could for the future of the country, had had forty years of experience in the government of this country and could have known then all that we know now, I believe that in view of the great safeguard I have mentioned-the veto power of the King in Council-against any hasty legislation, they would have said that in the beginning of the twentieth century it was not necessary to have a second chamber. There are great differences be-
tween the country as it was, then and as it is now. Take, for instance, the question of education. Would any one seriously say that the commoners elected in this country are not now as well educated as the senators are? Would any one seriously say that any constituency does not produce and does not insist upon electing the highest types of men obtainable in the country? Forty years ago education was sparse, so to speak in this country. The fathers of confederation, forty years ago, might very well entertain the thought that they could not always be sure that the House of Commons would contain a majority of members sufficiently well educated 'to conduct the affairs of the country properly without any check upon them at all. They might have been afraid that some matter of emotion or some radical movement might arise in the country and that from want of a higher standard of education, such as exists to-day, they would not be safe in entrusting this work to an elective body at the mercy of the great body of voters throughout the country. Am I not justified too m saying that the education of the people of the country to-day is of itself a safeguard against improper legislation by this House? What would happen if any solid interests in this country were affected by legislation passed in this chamber, assuming that there was no Senate? Has it not happened here over and over again, within the memory of every one who sits in this House, as it has happened during the last eight years to my own personal knowledge, that business men would come down to Ottawa, that those interested would send delegations here, that representations would be made, that the case would be presented in the ablest manner possible, and has it not occurred that legislation proposed in this House has been amended because of the representations coming from various intelligent interests in the country? Is any commoner going to be returned when he goes back for re-election if he has been merely sitting here and has not been attending to the interests of the country? If he takes an extreme position upon any question, if he becomes unreasonable and if he does not protect the interests^ of the country and of his constituency, is he not at once set aside by the electors as being unfit to represent that particular constituency because he is not broad or big enough 'for the job? In my humble opinion if the standard of education as we have it to-day had been equally as high forty years ago, I do not think that the fathers of confederation would have thought it necessary to have a second chamber, call it a Senate, or anything you like. That, of course, is only my town opinion and I submit it to the House for what it is worth.
The next matter I would point out is Mr. LANCASTER.
this: Supposing the commoners are hasty, supposing that they make mistakes, supposing that their judgment is poor, supposing, in other words, that they are not up to the mark demanded by the intelligent electorate, the electors may punish them when they return for re-election inside of five years. If they have been unreasonable in their conduct or judgment they are at the mercy of the electors every five years or less. But, supposing the Senate makes a mistake. Supposing the Senate refuses to consent to a Bill which is manifestly in the interests of the country, what happens? They block legislation. Can anybody reach them? There are no electors, there is no power that can punish them or that can make them account for their wrong-doing, or exercise any discipline over them. So that we have this position that an elective body representing the people to whom the government itself are responsible, can have their will thwarted by the Senate and the Senate need not care whether they are on the popular side of the question or not. The right hon. gentleman leading this House (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) last session, when the motion of the hon. member for South Perth (Mr. McIntyre) for the reformation of the Senate was being discussed, pointed out, in line with what I am saying, a very serious trouble as the matter stands, or a trouble that might arise at any time. The right hon. gentleman pointed out that if the Senate refuses to pass a supply bill which the commoners have introduced there may be a deadlock in the country and there is no remedy under our constitution for it. I agree with him and what the right hon. gentleman said is in itself ai strong argument in favour of my motion. But, I say that that very matter standing alone ought to be some reason, at all events, for some amendment to the constitution and, in the absence of a better one, for the abolition of a body that can cause such havoc in the country. A supply bill cannot be introduced anywhere but in this chamber. I am not saying that the right hon. gentleman said that last session or not, but I apprehend that he will not dispute that that is so. What the hon. gentleman pointed out was that if there wa3 a deadlock in regard to the supply bill there is no remedy under our constitution for it. Although the British North America Act puts it out of the power of the Senate to introduce such a bill, although it is a bill that must emanate from the Commons, yet, if they refuse to pass it, they can prevent all business being carried on, and there is no remedy under our constitution for that state of affairs.
Manifestly then something must be done; manifestly if we could agree upon some measure of reform which we could submit to the Imperial authorities as an amendment to the British North America Act,
we ought to agree upon it. For forty years and more, particularly the last few years, the people of Canada have shown that they are opposed to the Senate as it is now constituted, and we are in the peculiar position that there are probably not two public men in the country who agree upon any remedy as -suggested. If the people all insist that the Senate is defective and is not working properly, while public men all admit that this is so, then if we cannot agree on a proper remedy the next best thing would be to have it abolished, because if an institution is defective and we cannot devise and agree upon a remedy, surely it would be best for the country to abolish it. The Senate themselves of late years have realized and admitted that their House is not what it ought to be and stands in need of reform. We know from the newspaper reports that the ex-Secretary of State, the Hon. R. W. Scott, has publicly stated what he believes to be the proper remedy for the existing unsatisfactory conditions. His opinion cannot be regarded as extreme; it is the admission of a senator of many years' standing, of a cabinet minister and a student of constitutional matters. Whatever reform is agreed upon an amendment to the constitution must be made, some petition must go to the Throne in Great Britain. If we cannot agree as to the proper remedy to apply, but admit that a remedy is necessary, we ought at least to petition the imperial authorities to inquire into the matter and pass such an amendment as they in their opinion, assisted by our advice, think would be best for Canada.
Personally, I believe there is no longer need of the Senate in this country. There may have been a need for it thirty or forty years ago, but there is not to-day, and I believe the majority of the Canadian people are of the same opinion.
The Prime Minister (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) in a very instructive speech last session upon the motion made by the hon. member for South Perth (Mr. G. McIntyre) told us his views. He said that the only remedial measures he would suggest were the reduction of the number of senators and the term of their tenure. What good will it do to reduce the number and to place the veto power over the acts of 220 commoners elected by the people and in close touch with them in the hands of fewer men than it is now? The commoners come in close touch with the people who are developing the country; during their elections they hear the grievances and the ideas of all classes and all sections, and I would think, with all humility, that the argument in favour of reducing the number of those who hold the veto power would logically lead to the abolition of the Senate.
The Prime Minister also contended last session, and in this I agree with him, that
it would not be wise to have senators appointed by the legislators in the same manner as the American Senate is chosen. The hon. member for St. John city (Mr. Daniel), who also spoke last session, took the same view, and I quite agree with both of them. From the nature of our constitution the question of provincial as opposed to federal rights must always be a delicate and difficult one. If we should have our senators appointed by the provinces, and the House of Commons of Canada felt obliged, in carrying on the affairs of this country, to insist on federal rights contrary to the wishes of some provinces, then the Senate could be used by the provinces to completely override the will of this House on federal matters. This would^ be a most dangerous, improper and unfair condition.
I would refer also to a speech of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir Richard Cartwright) in 1896, just before the Liberal government came in power. He then declared in Toronto that the Senate, in his opinion, was a millstone around the neck of the Canadian people and he prayed Providence to remove it soon. He maintained that the Senate was so mendacious and contrary to the interests of the people that he prayed for its removal. The hon. gentleman I believe is still of the same _ opinion. I understand he has lately admitted that he does not think the Senate is what it ought to be, and that he more or less sympathizes with my motion to have it abolished.