December 14, 1909

THE SAVINGS BANK ACT-AMENDMENT.

?

Mr. G.@

BOYER (Vaudreuil)-(Translation)-moved for leave to introduce Bill (No. 76) to amend the Savings Bank Act. He said: The object of the Bill is to promote the opening of branches of banks in the rural municipalities, namely, to empower the Postmaster General to cancel the existing savings banks in the localities where "they are already established and where the funds deposited in those savings banks would be sufficient to warrant a bank in opening a branch on a similar basis as the branches established elsewhere.

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Motion agreed to, Bill read a first time.


THE CANADA SHIPPING ACT-AMENDMENT.

?

Mr. G.@

BOYER (Vaudreuil)-Translation)-moved for leave to introduce Bill (No. 77) intituled: ' An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act.' He said: The object of the Bill is to enlarge the power of the Minister of Marine in granting certificates of competency to masters and mates of ships trading on the inland waters of Canada.

Motion agred to, and Bill read first time.

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AMENDMENT OF RULES OF THE HOUSE.

LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER moved:

That a special committee of nine members be appointed, with instructions to carefully examine the rules of the House, to report what changes in their opinion might be adopted with the view to simplify, accelerate and expedite its business; and that the said committee be composed of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr. Brodeur, Mr. Pugsley, Mr. McKenzie, Mr. Carvell, Mr. Borden (Halifax), Mr. Hag-gart (Lanark), Mr. Barker and Mr. Doherty.

He said: I do not think this motion requires any explanation. There seems to be a general opinion on the part of the members of this House that our rules can be improved in some particulars; and, after a conference with the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden), I propose this committee of nine members to consider the rules with a view to amendment.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I see no objection whatever to the appointment of this committee and to some revision of our rules. I dd not know that there is anything in present conditions that especially calls for amendment. I do think that some time might be saved in our proceedings, particularly in the answers to questions. Sometimes we take up an hour or even an hour and a half with answers to questions which are inaudible to abopt nine-tenths of the members of the House and are not really available to any member until next day. I think that our rules might be well amended in this respect. On the other hand, I do not believe that any amendment of the rules will avoid what is sometimes called waste of time. In a deliberative assembly composed of over 200 members, there will be a certain waste of time so long as human nature remains what it is; no revision of the ruNs will prevent it. We must also remember that parliament is a place for debate and discussion, as its very name implies. It is proper that every member of the House should have reasonable opportunity to discuss _ any matter that he thinks is in the public interest. It would be very undesirable to bring about any condition of affairs in which that would not be prac-46

ticable. So far as the working of the present rules is concerned, I would point out that last session, which occupied exactly four months and in which a considerable amount of work was done is proof that under the rules as they are at present, the House of Commons has done and can do its work within a reasonable time. However, for the reasons I have given, and especially in view of certain amendments which I think might properly be made, I concur in the motion of the Prime Minister.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN (South York).

I hope that this committee will in no way attempt to interfere with the liberties of parliament, and especially with the liberties of individual members of this House. In the United States to-day, we see that the popular chamber has lost its liberties, and has passed under the domination of a speaker who is now known as a czar, and consequently that chamber, which should have been the model chamber throughout the world as a place of debate, has lost its prestige and its power, that power having passed to another body. I do not wish to see a repetition of that history in this country. We have revised our rules to a certain extent with the result that business has been facilitated. I am glad to see business facilitated, but I put in a protest now against any interference with the liberty of this House and the right of free discussion. It is a great right, and if we once part with it -we may not get it back. The liberties of this House have always been upheld-at least, so I have read-by the Liberal party, and I hope that that party will be the last to in any way interfere with those liberties. Let us simplify the rules if we can, let us make shorter speeches if we can, let us have questions answered in some other way. For instance, petitions that are presented might just as well be put into a receiving basket on the table;

I have seen 15 minutes of good time occupied in presenting petitions. The reading of petitions and all those things could be eliminated, and in that way facilitate business. But I do trust that this House will preserve every liberty of free discussion and of raising questions, and that they shall not be parted with in any re-* spect.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

I would ask the Prime Minister if^ this has any wider range than simply taking up the present rules and revising them. Does it go so far as to inquire into the making of any improvements with reference to the work of the committees of the House, as to their number, and the like of that? An intimation made by the Prime Minister some time ago when another question was being debated here, would lead me to think he had that in view. I wish at this stage to say, that whilst I have no

objection to any elimination of what is useless in the House, any abbreviation of what now may be somewhat too lengthy, I for one have no idea at all of submitting without protest to any of the well defined liberties of this House as a parliamentary body being infringed upon.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES.

It is true that on going into Committee of Supply every member may raise any subject in order and discuss it. But going into Committee of Supply is a very irregular procedure. So far as I am concerned, I heartily concur in all that has been said as to the necessity of preserving liberty of debate in this House, and I would impress upon that committee the view I hold, at all events', and I think it is in the interest of parliamentary procedure and of the country at large, that there should be an opportunity on any occasion, even though the House be not going into Committee of Supply, to discuss freely matters relevant and important to the country. I trust that in revising the rules there will be no attempt to curtail the liberty of debate, or to hamper members from expressing in a proper manner the views they may w i sh to utter concerning the welfare of the < ountry.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

Rumours have been prevalent for some time past in the government press that the government intended to revise the rules of the House at an early date, and to introduce what is known as the closure. I would like to ask the First Minister if that is the intention in this revision of the rules. 1 would like to say that so far as J can judge the temper of parliamentarians generally, they regard the freedom of debate as one of the dearest rights of the representatives of the people, and if any attempt is made under the guise of amending the rules to prevent the freest discussion of all public questions, I can only say that in my judgment the government will invite a good deal of trouble.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I can assure my hon. friend (Mr. Sproule) that the government has no intention of using the majority now supporting it in this House to curtail any of the rights and privileges of members of this parliament. We prize them as highly on this side as hon. gentlemen do on the other side. I propose that the rules of the House be referred to this committee in order to have a discussion upon them, particularly by those minds in the House who I think are the most entitled by their long experience to give a practical opinion. If it had been the intention to introduce at once what my hon. friend calls curtailment of the privileges of parliament. we might have done it as it has been done in England, though I do not think it was a curtailment of the privileges of parliament. There is such a thing as M. FOSTER,

abusing the privilege of debate, as there is of abusing everything else. In asking for a committee of this kind, we want to have a discussion on the subject with a view to arriving at a unanimous conclusion on such matters as we can, though there may be some other matters as to which we may not agree. But when we come to the discussion of the report of the committee, it will be time enough for the House to make up its mind.

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Motion agreed to.


EXPULSION OF A CANADIAN FROM GERMANY.

CON

Martin Burrell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURRELL.

I desire to invite the attention of the Prime Minister to a despatch which appears in the Ottawa 'Free Press' of yesterday:

A despatch to the New York ' Herald ' from Dresden says:

The Canadian colony here wants the British minister resident to make representations in the Scott case. Mr. Scott, who was a Canadian student, was expelled from Saxony after paying a fine for an alleged attack upon a peasant. Mr. Scott said he acted in self defence, but he paid the fine. The order of expulsion was in the nature of an alternative-leaving or going to prison.

Freiberg students, when thS order of expulsion was issued, telegraphed the London Foreign Office, asking what could be done, to which the reply came:

* Consult the British Consul at Leipsic, who is in charge of the Freiberg district.'

Up to the present no single official step in the shape of a protest has been made. Mr. Scott had to leave on Wednesday morning. Mr. Irvine Roberts, of Toronto, a solicitor now here, says British subjects appear to be absolutely without protection in Germany because the consuls are German themselves and are disinclined to prejudice themselves by strong action. An American citizen could not be so arbitrarily expelled without a vigorous ' kick ' from Washington.

Then we have another despatch to the Canadian Associated Press, which appears this morning to the following effect;

Berlin, Dec. 13.-A Canadian student, G. S. Scott, Toronto, having received notice of expulsion from Saxony after being convicted of inflicting serious bodily injury on a peasant, some fellow students appealed to the British Foreign Office to intervene. The British of Cologne and Dresden also entered a protest, but the British Consul General says he has received no information enabling him to intervene.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the press reports I have read are substantially correct, I think the ease is well worthy the attention of this government. Some of us personally have had occasion to take knowledge _ of the bureaucratic methods in operation in Dresden, particularly, and in other German states, where a man can hardly invite

a friend to come and see him without the whole transaction being bared to official eyes. It is a singular fact inconnection with this despatch, that inlooking up the Foreign Office list, Ifind that something like fifty per cent of the consuls general and vice-consuls are German, and in the particular case referred to, the consul general at Berlin is Paul von Schwabach and at Leipsic Baron von Tauchmitz. Now, we are accustomed in Canada very frequently to assert our pride of birth and our dignity as a Canadian state, and also to assert sometimes very strongly the foremost position we occupy in the councils of the empire. We had a little while ago a very dramatic recital

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LIB

James Kirkpatrick Kerr (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

The hon. gentleman has no privilege at this time to discuss a question. * .

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CON

Martin Burrell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURRELL.

Then I ask the privilege, I was just going to remark that we had a very dramatic recital of an episode that occurred in Rome, given to us the other day by the .Prime Minister, and which bears on this very subject; because if it is a fine thing to be protected by the British flag in Rome, I think Canadian citizens have just as good a right to be protected in any other foreign country. I trust the government will look into this matter.

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THE AUDITOR GENERAL'S REPORT.

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I would ask the Prime Minister when we may expect the second volume of the Auditor General's Report. It is desirable that it should be placed on the table of the House this week, if possible, in order that it may be available before the Christmas vacation.

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December 14, 1909